Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Race Against Time is On!

As some of you know, I've been working lately on sample chapters for a memoir with Jake & Erin Herrin titled "Conjoined at the Heart" about their family's experience following the birth of Kendra and Maliyah, conjoined twins who were separated at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City on August 7, 2006.

As often happens in the world of publishing, unexpected deadlines can pop up, and what seemed like a leisurely amount of time to finish a book can suddenly turn into a harried race to cross the impossible deadline.

Well, that is certainly what is happening here. I had word this weekend that the Herrin's will not only be appearing on the Discovery Health channel in October, but also on Oprah! The air date for Oprah is October 23rd. That means the book has to be finished, and it has to be finished NOW!

A publication contract has been offered through BookWise Publishing, and I'm off to the races trying to take my 10 sample pages to a finished product in record time. Watch out critique group, here I come. Pages will be flying at you as fast as they come from the printer. It's a good thing I've always worked well when writing under a deadline.

But still, wish me luck!

Congratulations to Devin Davis - As Magic Shifts

"When the world is at war, even enemies will unite against the rising evil."
The Headmasters of a magical institution receive the prophecy that a demon threatens the peace in their land. The institution’s soldiers march onward with the aide of the magic of the forest, the energy of the mind, and the mystery of the dark arts. Just one army and one group of wizards go to fight the war of the century!

Congratulations to Devin Davis on the release of his first novel, As Magic Shifts. I had the opportunity to edit this manuscript, and Devin tells a great story. If you like fantasy, and you'd like to help launch a brand new author's career, you can order his book by visiting his website: The Works of Devin Davis

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Words of Wisdom

"You can't make a poor person rich by making a rich person poor. Instead you must teach them the concept of abundance to help them reach that goal."

Mark Victor Hansen

If only we could teach this idea to Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Harry Reid, and the rest of the Democratic party.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not Entirely British - a Guest Blog

Just letting you ll know I'm the guest blogger today on Anne Bradshaw's blog, "Not Entirely British." My topic is "For Reading Out Loud," an essay on using reading aloud in your home like teachers do in school. There is also a suggested list of books to read aloud to your family.

You can find the blog at:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Part 2 of the Blog Tour for Surprise Packages

I had the chance to interview authors Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Morris via e-mail, and found out some background about not only Juneau, Deene, and Erin, but also each of the three authors. This is that interview.

Lael tells me, “For years Nancy, Carroll, and I vacationed together on writing retreats and worked on our own writing projects. Then in 1998 Nancy said, ‘Why don't we write a book together?’ It didn't matter that a novel with three authors had seldom been done. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, we said. So we figured out a character apiece, had them meet at BYU Education Week, and gave it a go. Nobody was more surprised than we were when it worked!” Carroll added, “At first, we approached writing the book in a casual manner. When we got together, we would read to each other what we’d written since the previous vacation. But we finally got serious when all of a sudden, it seemed, we had enough text generated that it began to look like a real book!” Nancy says, “I was just trying to think of ways to keep us vacationing together. And look where it has taken us. What an adventure.”

Each author has taken on the role of one of the characters in the books. Lael says, “We each wrote from the viewpoint of a single character with her own life and problems, then we intertwined those stories to show the influence the three women have on one another's lives.” Carroll recalls, “I still remember how Lael’s character, Juneau, showed up full-blown during our initial conversation! It took longer for my character (Erin) and Nancy’s (Deenie) to make themselves known.” Nancy adds, “It was great fun to write Willadene and to work with Carroll and Lael on the joint scenes. But to develop Deenie's story completely, I wrote what was essentially a whole novel. Chopping it down by 2/3s was surgery without anesthetic.”

I asked what the authors felt they might have in common with their characters, and Lael jumped in to say, “Quite a bit, probably. I think we've all three earned the title of Crusty Old Broads, which is in no way derogatory. It came up in the first book, when the mouthy grandson of Gabby, the woman Juneau, Erin, and Willadene are staying with for Education Week, gets angry at her and calls her a crazy old broad. The three women are shocked, but Gabby says, ‘To tell the truth, I don't object to the old broad part. There's something of longevity and strength in those words. It's the choice of adjective I don't like.’ They all consider what would be a more appropriate adjective, and Juneau suggests ‘. . . the oft-used and respected crusty.’ Deenie approves and says, ‘Like a fine sourdough bread. Warm and nourishing with some real texture.’ So that's what a Crusty Old Broad is, a term of honor.” Keeping their sense of humor about the title, Carroll says, “We actually use crustyoldbroads as our blog name!” Only women who are almost like sisters can get away with a nickname like that for each other.

Almost Sisters, as well as the other two books in the trilogy, almost didn’t come to exist at all. Nancy explains: “I never really thought as far as having the book published. I thought we'd go on and on forever just writing about the lives of these women. It was quite a shock to me that Lael queried Deseret Book and started the ball rolling. Making our gigantic manuscript into three books should have been easy, but by the time book two was finished our characters had changed so much, the material we had for book three didn't work any more and we had to start from scratch. That was a shocker!” Lael adds, “When our one book grew to be longer than the Encyclopedia Britannica, we got worried. I had been reading Dean Hughes's Children of the Promise series and suggested we try it as a trilogy.” And Carroll adds, “It was either that or a 1200 page book! it takes a truly dedicated reader to turn that many pages.”

Just because this series is over, doesn’t mean the three women are finished writing together. Lael says, “We are cooking up another book, but with different characters and in a different time period. We enjoy working together, and there's some kind of synergy that sets in when we brainstorm.” But Carroll says, “I think we’d have to reconsider another book though if Juneau, Erin, and Deenie start keeping us awake at night. So far, I’m sleeping well.”

Writing a book alone can be a daunting task, so I was curious what it was like to write with three women, all living apart from each other. Carroll said, “Technology was a challenge in the beginning, when we had computer and document compatibility issues. Nancy and Lael were writing in WordPerfect, and I wrote in Microsoft Word. They are PC users and I’m a dedicated Mac user. Also, Lael’s computer was so old, it didn’t even have a USB port for data transfer! But by the time we were on the second book, we were all using Microsoft Word, Lael and Nancy had new laptops, and we all had thumb drives for data transfer. What a relief!”

Lael talked about the positive aspects of writing together. “It's exciting when we work together and the ideas begin flowing and events connecting so that they lead somewhere. I don't know that it's more rewarding than writing a book alone, but it's lots of fun to be together, especially when we meet for a week at a nice resort. I have a couple of timeshares, and since my husband is dead, I like to invite people to use them with me. Nancy, Carroll and I have been all over the country for our writing retreats, which are actually thinly disguised vacations. Except when a deadline is imminent!” And Nancy agrees, adding “Writing alone is work. Working together is entertainment.”

As for other future projects, Nancy tells me, “Who knows what characters will present themselves. I have a young adult fantasy bubbling in the back of my mind that Carroll has expressed interest in working on with me.” Lael says “We're working on separate projects right now, with Nancy and Carroll doing another women's novel and me building another YA novel, which is what I did for decades before I met Nancy and Carroll. I wasn’t anticipating writing another book together, but one day three characters moved into my head, which was pretty well vacant at the time. They arrived almost fully developed, and when I told the others about them, Nancy and Carroll immediately began building onto these newcomers. So we have an excuse for more writing retreat/vacations together.”

Because many of my blog readers are jr. high school students and teachers, I was curious about books each of these three women loved from their own childhood, or books they have recently read that touched them in some way. Lael says, “My very favorite novel when I was a teenager was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My mother gave it to me when I was 13, and totally loved it despite the fact that I lived on an Idaho farm and Francie lived in Brooklyn. I knew her inside and out because she was I. She was me. I was her. That book had a tremendous influence on the writing style I developed in college, and during the ten years I lived in New York City, I spent a lot of time in Brooklyn. As for a recent YA book, I liked Hattie Big Sky, probably because it took place in a Montana farming community, a familiar setting for me, and I liked its strong anti-prejudice theme.

Carroll says, “As grade schooler (a long time ago!) I loved Wilder’s Little House books and The Secret Garden. Other favorites (now and then) include A Separate Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Light in the Forest, and the Great Brain series.

Nancy worries that her junior high school favorites are outdated for today’s readers. Because I teach there, I’m here to assure her, they are not. She says, “I loved reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially the Martian series. I was hooked on the novels by Jean Stratton Porter, published around 1910, as well, like Freckles and The Girl of the Limberlost. (My own personal favorites.) When my children were growing up I discovered Chronicles of Narnia and the Swiftly Tilting Planet series. I liked The Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Giver. My grandchildren introduced me to Harry Potter—a great read aloud. My granddaughter who is in her first year of high school recommended a series called Percy Jackson and the Olympians for fun and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to make you think. She especially liked the challenge and the story of The Odyssey.”

Their advice to writers who would like to enter the publication world has a similar theme to what we’ve heard from so many others. Lael says, “Go for it. Overcome rejection letters. Read a lot. Study. Develop your craft. Most of all, persist!” Carroll encourages writers to, “challenge yourself with new experiences. Meet all kinds of people. Ask ‘What if?’ Read, read, read. Write, write, write.” And Nancy says, “Keep on reading and writing in the genre that you like the most and don't let a rejection stop you!”

And that’s the same advice I would give as well. Thanks ladies for sharing more of the story behind the story.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alum wins Utah “Best of State” Educator Award

Indiana University School of Education
Alumni e-newsletter

Alum wins Utah “Best of State” Educator Award

Teacher for nearly thirty years honored during gala on May 31. By her own count, Lu Ann Brobst Staheli has taught reading and writing to more than 4,000 students. The Utah award is part of the annual Utah Best of State program, which honors excellence in a variety of fields.

Posted On: September-15-2008

How has an IU School of Education graduate turned out students proficient in reading and writing and instilled a love of literature for 29 years? To quote from a loud used-car commercial of days past, “Volume, volume, volume!”

“Until I’ve given them a million words, I can’t teach them how to write,” said Lu Ann Brobst Staheli, B.S. ’76. On the staff at Payson Jr. High School in Payson, Utah since 1984, she says she puts a lot of words in front of her students to help them overcome fears of reading and writing. “The more words I can put in front of them, the more likely they will discover something—a book, short story, poem, or piece of non-fiction—anything that will hook them, giving them a reason to get excited about reading.”

Her passion and her success earned accolades from the annual “Utah Best of State” awards, a program which annually recognizes excellence from a variety of fields across Utah. Staheli won the Best of State Educator K-12 award for her work over the years in teaching English, Writing for Publication, and Reading Options. “At first I didn't realize how big this award was, but I was excited to be nominated and chosen winner of my category,” Staheli said. “I had won other teaching awards before, and assumed this was similar in scope. Then I read the judging criteria and listened to stories about some of the other winners in various categories. I realized that winning Best of State was a wonderful honor.”

Staheli estimates she’s taught more than 4,000 students, many of whom she sees often. “Once my student, always my student,” she said. Many come back to visit the classroom or contact her for book recommendations or just to talk. She said the students develop a sense of connection with her by sharing literacy, which she said helps them value books and writing as adults.

And her work is very visible on the internet, where she maintains several blogs related to reading and writing. “ has become the gateway to all my blogs and evolved into a place where I write about my life,” Staheli said. “ allows me to share author interviews and book reviews with teachers, librarians, students, and friends; started as a place to share info with librarians and those in my technology classes; has tips for parents, teachers and students about literacy; focuses on adult literacy issues; and started in my graduate class as a place for school librarians to share info.”

Staheli points with pride to being a “teacher of teachers.” Two former students also teach at Payson Jr. High, another is an administrator, and several others are in education elsewhere. She says she’s also moved students toward careers in creative writing and journalism. In all students, she’s hoped to encourage a lifelong love of reading.

“People who read succeed,” she said. “If a student reads well, school is easier. Eventually my students leave the junior high school. Most of them graduate from high school. Obviously, those who leave with reading and writing skills will move on to successful careers that add to the economy."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Me? A Jane Austen Heroine?

Those of you who know me, know I'm not a Jane Austen fan, but it was fun to see the comparison when I took the quiz.

"You are Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice! You are intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive. You have a good head on your shoulders, and oftentimes find yourself the lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness. You take great pleasure in many things. You are proficient in nearly all of them, though you will never own it. Lest you seem too perfect, you have a tendency toward prejudgement that serves you very ill indeed."

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Take the Quiz here!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Winner Winner Winner!

Congratulations toEric Shelley who wins a copy of Farworld Water Keep. The correct answer to the trivia questions was the J. Scott Savage likes to browse the library shelves to discover new books. Your copy of Farworld is on it's way, Eric. Thanks to those who participated on both blogs and via email for the contest.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rockville Rox!

A quick "shout out" to all those former students from Rockville Jr.-Sr. High School who have recently sent me an email and been reading pages from my blog and website. It's great to hear from all of you after so many years. It's also super to hear about the things you've been doing with your lives. You are all so accomplished and talented, as I always knew you would be. Drop me a line anytime. I'd love to know what the rest of you are up to!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage --- Blog Tour

Six years ago a new member joined my writer’s critique group. Back then his name was Jeff Savage, and he only had one published book, Cutting Edge from Covenant Books. I’ll admit, I gave him a hard time on that one. It was a great story, but there were things about the writing that just bugged me, and if anyone has been a regular reader of my columns and reviews, you’ll know when something bugs me, I’m sure to let people know.

Today I’m happy to say, that Jeff’s (okay, J. Scott’s for this one) writing has improved, and his storytelling has become spectacular (listen to the jealousy and pride in my voice). Many a night I have come home from a late meeting of critique and not been able to sleep because of some scary scene that Jeff read from his latest horror novel, or I’ve found myself jumping at some noise because his latest Shandra Covington book had me seeing the boogie man around every corner.

This time though, we didn’t really have to worry about bad things that go bump in the night—well, there is the Thrathkin S’Bae, Bonesplitter, and the Dark Circle, but Kyja and Marcus can handle them. After all, this is young adult fantasy, and like Harry Potter and his friends, these two likable protagonists should be able to handle anything, especially since we know there are more books to come in this five book series.

Farworld is the story of a girl, Kyja, who wishes she had the use of magic in a world filled with spells, charms, and potions; and Marcus, a crippled boy who escapes his cruel surroundings by dreaming about another world. Together they take on the Dark Circle, prepared to keep Master Therapass’s secret and protect Farworld, while seeking the Elementals, and convince them to open a draft between the both worlds that will save both the children’s lives.

Because I know Jeff so well–and because I didn’t want to embarrass him too badly—I’ve asked him a few questions to let all of you know more about both his book and its author.

1. You know all your readers love that little ishkabiddle. What is your take on the reason why and why was that single scene at the beginning so surprising to you?

Well first of all, the ishkabiddle was a last minute throw-in. It was originally just a rabbit. But I needed the reader to understand we were not on Earth. But I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the ishkabiddle became such a hit. One of the first rules of writing a thriller is to put an innocent in peril. And what is more innocent than a funny mother animal with cool little spinning thingies that come out of her feelers?

2. I've always wondered, did you write about the scenes where Marcus is being bullied so clearly because you were the bully or the recipient as a child?

I was bullied like you wouldn’t believe. But that’s probably what pushed me into reading, which in turn pushed me into writing. So, thanks—jerks! Plus I got some good advice on the initial dialog for an amazing writer who shall remained unnamed. Lu Ann.

3. You're committed to a five book series, and I would imagine Shadow Mountain intends that to extend over a period of five years. How do you, as an author, think you will be able to keep your momentum going for the series? Do you plan to write more than one "episode" each year or to wait and write them a book (and a publication year) at a time?

I will write more than one book a year, but not in this series. For me, at least, the story needs to stay fresh. When I’m writing a book, it’s the coolest story ever. But it’s hard to keep that enthusiasm once you are done writing. I’d hate to write all five books now and be bored out of my skull with the series by the time the last book comes out. The nice thing about this series is there is a clear progression in my mind. I know about the cool things that will build in each book. It’s not like, “Sammy goes to school,” “Sammy makes a friend,” “Sammy goes to prison.”

4. I hear you're planning a nationwide motor home book tour. That says to me you're planning to make enough money to pay for the gas (tee hee!) What fabulous cities do you plan to visit and will the school and bookstore visits also allow you enough time for sight-seeing?

Well. It can’t happen until book two at the earliest, and probably book three. But my wife and I would like to take our youngest boys on an RV tour of all 48 states. I would do school tours three days a week. We’d travel one day and week. And the rest of the time would be spent exploring this amazing country. I think it would be a one-in-a-lifetime chance for all of us.

5. I know you well enough to know you write fast and frequent, what do you plan to work on to keep your writing habit flowing freely between the segments of Farworld?

Yeah. I’m the ADHD author. I’ve got tons of other ideas. I’ll still keep my mystery series going, of course. But I’m also really excited about a series where a hit man/PI gets sent to hell and has to earn his way out. Kind of an urban fantasy with cool magic and weapons.

6. You've had a successful run as an author in a local niche market. What changes---both positive and negative---do you anticipate as you move into the national fantasy arena?

From a positive side, suddenly the whole world is your oyster. It’s great to be a bale to drop into a bookstore in Boston and say, “So do you have my book on order?” I even had a book ordered from Amazon.UK the other day. How cool is that? Plus I really like hearing from people who have never read a book by me before. I think it’s the truest test of whether your writing is any good when someone just picks your book off a shelf with no idea of who you are. On the other side of the coin, you’re swimming in deep water now. You can’t just be as good as the other regional authors. You’ve got to be as good as the big boys and girls or people will not try you again. It’s a challenge, but I think every author wants a chance to compete with the best.

7. What are five pieces of advice you've learned from other authors that you wish you had listened to more carefully?

I actually listen pretty carefully. I value the insights of other authors a lot. The problem is I didn’t really talk to any authors before writing my first book. But here are some good pieces of advice I’ve received:

★ Don’t quit your day job.
★ Find a good critique group.
★ Understand what each POV buys you and choose carefully.
★ Write for kids instead of to kids.
★ Don’t use back and that so much.

8. What are five pieces of advice you'd now share with other authors, now that you're among the ranks of those publishing?

Other than the whole SASE and prologue debates?

★ Don’t waste the first page. That’s where you win or lose your readers.
★ Avoid flashbacks unless they are absolutely vital.
★ Don’t break the rules of good writing unless you really understand them. (The first time you think you understand them, you don’t.)
★ Write because you love to, not to be published. That way, you’ll enjoy writing no matter what, and when you do get published it will be icing on the cake.
★ Don’t ask for feedback on your writing unless you are prepared to throw out anything and everything that doesn’t work. A good writer learns not to be defensive.

9. How does your wife really feel about you hanging out with the "Ladies of Wednesday night"?

Well at first, she was a little jealous about me spending one night a week with six beautiful women. But once she met them and saw that they are great people, she was totally cool with it. Plus I’m not real fond of pizza so she and the kids make that their pizza night.

10. Come on, we all know there's one question you've been dying to answer, but that none of us have been astute enough yet to ask you. What is it? And what would be your answer?

Hmm. How about, “Did you ever take a girl on such an incredibly creative date that even after she got married she said it was the best date she ever went on?” Answer yes. “Did she kiss you good night?” Nope. She totally blew me off.

11. Tell everyone one more time, just how important was I to the final process of your getting this book published and in having such great discussion questions at the end.

I hereby testify that without Lu Ann’s incredibleness Farworld would never have happened!!

And without Jeff (Scott) as a member of my writing group, I wouldn’t have gotten as far myself as a writer or an editor. I think you’ll all love Farworld, and I hope everyone who reads this book goes out and buys a copy. Of course, maybe I am biased. (Having my name in the Acknowledgment section of a nationally published book is a little heady—see page 419.) But it sure is nice to see such a nice guy make it good in the book market.

If you’d like to know more about Jeff, or just hear what his voice sounds like, listen to the podcast I did with him Saturday, April 28, 2007, by going to my blog for that day titled “It's a Techno-World, After All!” and clicking on the podcast icon.

If you'd like to win an advanced reader's copy (ARC) of Farworld, listen to the podcast and correctly answer this question in a reply to this post on either of my blogs. He gives the answer during the podcast, so only that answer will do. I'll draw a winner from all correct answers on Tuesday, September 9, 2008. Good luck.

The trivia question is: "What is one of Jeff's favorite things to do?"

To buy a copy of Farworld, visit here: