Saturday, 26 February 2011

This and That

It has been another crazy week here. I still feel like I'm behind on just about everything, but I am slowly catching up. It's all about taking things one day at a time.

1. My oldest daughter turned 18 on Thursday. The years have flown by so fast, I can hardly believe it. She is beautiful, talented, and kind. I am so proud of her and can hardly imagine how strange it will be in our home when she goes to university next year.

2. I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at girl's camp. Yes, it was snowy and cold, but we didn't feel any need to prove how tough we were. We stayed at a cabin so we were out of the bitter weather. There were only two very small bedrooms, so most of us slept on the floors around the wood burning stoves. There were several tables set up with different crafts, cross country skis to use, a pond to skate on, sleds to ride and a ping pong table. We let the girls pick the activities they wanted to do and didn't really schedule anything. It was about relaxing and spending time together. I have to admit that I was glad to return home to my own bed, though.

3. The last three days, my husband took some scouts up to Camp Impeesa for the Senator Buchanan Winter Camp. Temperatures that dipped into the -40 C range kept them from doing many outdoor activities, but they had fun anyway and everyone returned safe and sound. I'm sure they are all glad to return to their own beds, too.

4. Did I mention that I am more than ready for spring to arrive? Temperatures are still dipping to -20 C quite regularly. Seriously, I'd be happy with a balmy 0 C.

5. I finally started my daughter's grad dress. The pattern making part of the job is driving me crazy. I just wish the pattern companies would produce designs with shoulders and sleeves so that I wouldn't need to draft the missing pieces in every time I sew a dress. Once I get the pattern just right, the rest should go together smoothly. I'll post pictures of the finished product in a month or two.

6. I finally finished Double Deceit and submitted it. Now the fun of waiting begins.

7. The Whitney Awards are quickly approaching and I'm working on reading all the finalists so I can vote. So far I've read 16 1/2. I should be able to catch up now that I'm finished my own revisions. Just looking at Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings is intimidating. That is a lot of pages to read, especially considering how many other books are on the list. I'm determined to finish it though.

So that is my week in a nutshell. How was yours?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Interview with Marie Higgins

Today, I'm excited to have Marie Higgins as my guest. She is the author of Winning Mr. Wrong, Heart of a Hero, and her newest release, Hearts Through Time. 

SH: When I was exploring your website, I noticed that you have many different books listed under your works in progress tab. Do you work on more than one project on a time? If you do, how do you keep them straight?

Marie: Once upon a time in the beginning of my writing career, I did work on more than one project. I usually had one modern day romance, one Victorian, and one American historical going on at the same time. I wish I knew how I kept them straight. All I know is when I started back on each story, it was as if I’d never left. All I had to do was read the previous scene – and my characters were talking to me again. The only bad thing about doing it this way was that it took so long to write the story. If I start on a story and don’t get distracted, I can write it within six weeks…and that’s even with me working a ten-hour day job Monday – Thursday.

Currently, I have two historicals trying to be told, two contemporaries, and one YA. Really, I don’t know what’s wrong with me… lol

SH: Wow, being able to keep all those stories straight at the same time is amazing. What author has had the most influence on your writing?

Marie: The author that made me fall in love with romance was Kathleen Woodiwiss. I could not get enough of her stories. I don’t know if she influenced my writing, but she definitely made a mark on me with the romance genre. In the past couple of years, my critique partner, Melissa Blue (who is a published author) has had a lot of influence on me…and that’s a good thing, because I happen to think she’s an awesome writer.

SH: Critique partners are so important. I don't know what I would do without my critique group. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Marie: NEVER GIVE UP! The writing world is a hard business. Authors get all kinds of rejections – either from critique partners or from editors and agents. After a while we all get that urge to give up. But I’m telling you not to do it! If writing is what you love, then don’t let anyone bring you down.

SH: That's good advice. Tell us about your latest book. What is it about and what inspired you to write the story?

Marie: My newest release is titled Hearts Through Time. Three years ago, I wanted to write a paranormal, but vampires and werewolves didn’t interest me. However, ghosts did. I didn’t want my ghost story to be scary. How could it be when I love writing humor? So one idea led to another…and I started my story. I’d written three chapters and then stopped, realizing there was a complicated mystery in this story that needed to be plotted. I’m not a plotter, so I let the story sit for a year and a half before one of my friends started bugging me. In one night, I sat down and forced myself to plot this book, and I’m so happy I did!!

When a beautiful woman claiming to be a ghost from 1912 appears in Nick Marshal’s new office and begs for help in solving her murder, he’s intrigued enough to consider her plea. A scandal that rocked Hollywood almost destroyed his law practice, so taking on a client who insists she’s dead seems a good way to refresh his career. The more history he uncovers, the deeper he falls for the ghost. Abigail Carlisle believes Nick is her heart’s true desire, but how can happily ever after happen when she’s already dead?

SH: If you were to write an autobiography, what would you call it?

Marie: The Goof – the amazing tales of Marie Higgins. hahaha  Yeah, I’m silly and I love it!

SH: I like it. It sounds like it would be a fun read. What hobbies do you have?

Marie: I used to call writing my hobby, but now I’m living my dream. I really don’t have any hobbies. I don’t have time. I enjoy spending time with my husband, my daughters and grandchildren, but when I’m not doing that, I’m writing. I don’t have time for anything else. J

SH: And just for fun, chocolate - milk or dark?

Marie: It’s got to be milk chocolate! I don’t like dark at all. Funny you’d mention this, because in my story Winning Mr. Wrong, my heroine tries out a theory she learns from an internet article. “Dark chocolate is for falling in love – the chemical Phenethylamine found in dark chocolate mimics the feeling you have when you’re in love.” Does it work? You’ll have to find out when you read this story. heehee

Thanks, Stephanie for interviewing me. Readers can find me at my blog, or on Facebook!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A Question

A recent comment by my brother got me thinking about handwriting. He said he couldn't understand why school wasted any time teaching cursive writing to students. He feels that with the available technology, cursive is an archaic skill.

It's true. Most of us rarely write with pen and paper anymore. Some of the younger teachers at school can't write in cursive and certainly aren't comfortable teaching handwriting to children. When I was in grade school, penmanship was part of the curriculum, and I can remember the endless pages of oooooos and llllllls we wrote to help us develop the fine motor skills needed to form the graceful loops and whirls of handwriting. Now, students get about fifteen minutes a day and teachers don't feel the skill is important because so much of what a student does is on the computer. I can understand how people would feel that handwriting is uneccessary and with all the new things teachers need to fit into the school day, there really isn't time to teach this old-fashioned skill.

Still, I can't help but feel that society loses something valuable if cursive writing becomes extinct. This spring I spent many hours typing my grandmother's journal into the computer so every family member could have a copy. The first half of the journal was handwritten and the second half typed on a typewriter. I enjoyed the whole thing, but it was more interesting reading the first half. At first we couldn't figure out all the extra periods, but soon we realized Grandma had an interesting habit of resting her pen on the page after writing a word while she thought of what she wanted to say next. In her handwriting I could see her personality and often her mood as she wrote.

The potential death of cursive writing is extending to printing as well. While I was subbing at the school recently, I had a conversation with some of the teachers. It began when I observed how the children all held their pencils in different ways. I remember learning to print and how holding the pencil properly was so important. The teachers told me that they that they didn't have time to worry about proper form and as long as the child could make legible letters, it didn't matter.

My own children are all in junior/senior high school and well beyond the grades where good penmanship is encouraged. They are asked to submit all their papers typed rather than handwritten.  One of my daughters even struggles to read some cursive writing. I always tell them they better learn, because that is the only way I write. Some college entrance exams in the United States still have handwritten essay components which can be graded with an automatic fail if the person grading the test can't read the handwriting.

I listened to an fascinating interview on CBC the other day. They were discussing the importance of handwritting and some interesting studies that had been done. It has been found that students who write an essay by hand before typing it into the computer express themselves better, have more creative ideas and, overall, write better essays. I've always maintained that writing by hand engages a different part of the brain than typing on the computer. If I am typing, I can watch TV, talk to someone and still type at the same time. On the other hand, if I am using pen and paper, my entire focus needs to be on what I am writing and I tend to think through what I am saying a lot more thoroughly.

Don't get me wrong, I would never give up my computer. If I had to write novels by hand, I don't know if I would ever finish. But there are times when I put the computer away and get out my notebook and pen. It helps me get past writer's block and brainstorm new ideas. When I write in my journal, it is always by hand. There is something so much more personal and intimate about expressing ideas one elegant loop at a time. And there is nothing better than receiving a hand written note in the mail. And, as the CBC program pointed out. . .what happens during a power failure or when the batteries die?

I can't change what is taught in the schools, and can't even convince my kids to improve their handwritting skills. I won't give up my computer but I won't give up my pen and notepad either. But maybe I am part of the last generation that will write letters, grocery lists and journal entries by hand. I find that a little sad.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Show Your Love Contest

If you are attending the LDStorymakers Conference in May, then you will want to head over the LDStorymakers blog and enter this contest. The prizes are awesome. Three winners will win a reserved seat at a table with James Dashner, Larry Brooks, Sara Crowe, Marcia Markland, and Becca Stumpf for the Friday night dinner. One grand prize winner will receive a 30 page manuscript review from Sara Megibow. Can I just say. . .those prizes are all amazing!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

LDStorymakers Conference

Yes, it is that time of year again. The annual LDStorymakers Conference is quickly approaching. It Will be held from May 5-7 in Salt Lake City. If you are interested, you need to register soon. Many of my friends are busy getting their entries for the First Chapter Contest ready, since the deadline is Thursday, Feb 17th. This will be the first year I attend as a published author (which means I can't enter the First Chapters Contest). At least I can relax and enjoy the meal this time instead of sitting on the edge of my seat with my fingers crossed.

There is a long list of talented and dynamic presenters. Many agents and publishers will also be attending, including Larry Brooks, Becca Stumpf, Marcia Markland, Sara Crowe and Sara Megibow. I'm especially looking forward to a class I'm taking that will be taught by Larry Brooks.

This will be my fifth year attending the conference and I look forward to it every year. I always learn so much and I love seeing all my friends. Hopefully, I'll see you there.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

2010 Whitney Award Finalists

 Outstanding Achievement Award
Rick Walton

Lifetime Achievement Award
Susan Evans McCloud

Band of Sisters - Annette Lyon
Blink of an Eye - Gregg Luke
The Cross Gardener - Jason Wright
Finding Mercie - Blaine Yorgason
Lucky Change - Susan Law Corpany

Alma The Younger - H.B. Moore 
Oh Say Can You See? - L.C. Lewis 
The Sheen on the Silk -  Anne Perry 
Trespass - Sandra Grey
The Silence of God - Gale Sears

Courting Miss Lancaster - Sarah Eden 
Cross My Heart - Julie Wright 
The Legend of Shannonderry - Carol Warburton
Luck of the Draw - Rachael Renee Anderson 
Meg’s Melody - Kaylee Baldwin

Cold as Ice - Stephanie Black 
Crossfire - Traci Hunter Abramson 
Murder by Design - Betsy Brannon Green 
A Time to Die - Jeffrey Savage 
Wrong Number - Rachelle J. Christensen

Imprints - Rachel Ann Nunes 
Mr. Monster - Dan Wells 
Pathfinder - Orson Scott Card 
The Scorch Trials - James Dashner 
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson 
Youth Fiction - Speculative 
Fablehaven 5 - Brandon Mull
Matched - Ally Condie     
Paranormalcy - Kiersten White 
The Forbidden Sea - Sheila Nielson
The Fourth Nephite - Jeffrey Savage
Youth Fiction - General 
Glimpse - Carol Lynch Williams 
Missing In Action - Dean Hughes 
My Double Life - Janette Rallison 
The Healing Spell - Kimberly Griffiths Little 
Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me - Kristen Chandler
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