Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reduce & Simplify

Yesterday a friend asked me why I have two blogs.

You and I have had this discussion before; you might remember we talked about Cross Blogination. I thought, at that time, that I ought to keep both my blogs going because I didn't want to snub the followers I had on this blog. However, it is a bit complicating.

So, I've decided that I ought to stick with one blog.

It pains me to say it, but I really do need to stick with one blog, and in this case, I'm going to make my alicross blog the one I stick with. I'm not going to altogether delete this blog, but I am going to make a go at just one blog and see how I do with that.

Long story short . . . if you're crazy enough (or love me enough, which I might argue are the same thing) to follow me over there, come on over and, if you don't mind, become a follower there.

Thanks so much for reading my blog and being my friends!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Reasoning of the Spirit

I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately about my writing and where it ought to go. I came up with ideas that really seemed great. I told my crit buddies about them and they thought the ideas were great too. Everything seemed to say "this is the way you should go."

Until I had the opportunity this week, to resubmit some of my work to a publisher with only a few changes to the original manuscript.

I honestly thought my answer would be "no thank you," because the new ideas I'd had for my work made so much more sense. I could go on and on about the why's and wherefore's of my ideas and how they would benefit my book.

Nevertheless, it was a big decision (as in: Do I stick with my new plan and burn the bridge with that publisher? Or do I throw away all the good ideas I just had--and that sounded so darn good--in favor of giving this publisher another shot?) so I thought I ought to ask Heavenly Father about it.

I have found that the best and most reliable way to receive answers in prayer is to go with your decision already made, and then ask to know if you have made the right decision. I laid it out for Father, then told him I had decided to kindly pass on the opportunity and stick with the new changes I had been outlining.

And He disagreed.

At first, I thought maybe I'd misunderstood the answer as I felt it. But the next day, I continued to feel good about working on the changes the publisher had requested. I saw in my mind how the book could be improved, and more importantly, how the story, while less tantalizing perhaps, would have the potential of more clearly delivering the story I wished to tell. And, the more I tried to think about the changes I had just the day before loved, the more I found them hard to hold on to--they just wanted to slip from my mind.

I prayed again, just for clarification, and was relieved to be well and truly educated about the best path for this book. I had thought, previously, that the best path was the one that would lead to higher readership and sales. And boy, that sounds good, doesn't it? But now I know that success can be measured in more than one way.

So now I have to go to all my friends and take back everything I said about why I needed to change my story. I got the advice from the one Person who's opinion really matters and I'm going to go with what He said. So there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Silence is Golden

Come see my blog at the LDS Writers Blogck about the importance of daydreaming in your writing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thanks For The Memories

Where do memories come from? Do they come from the special, once-in-a-lifetime experiences? Or are they found in the mundane?

Would your favorite lifetime memory be the time you went to Sea World with your family and got soaked to the skin? Or would it be the leisurely Saturday mornings you enjoy every week, laughing and joking over brunch?

Would you remember most the time you stood at the top of the Eiffel tower and surveyed the beauty of the Paris lights at night?

Or would it be the moment your child climbed into your lap, and looked at you, his eyes shining with love, and you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would give your life for him?

I’ve spent the last few days on vacation with my family. We’ve done things we’ve never done before, and have experienced things we may never experience again. Lots of money has crossed hands in order to provide my children with memories they could cherish for a lifetime.

And yet it was today, the most simplest of days, that has been my favorite.
Today we spent a few leisurely hours on a beach in La Jolla. The sun was warm, the sand shining with crushed sea shells, and the waves crashed with rhythmic intensity. And my children, my children were alive with happiness.

Where do I think memories come from? They are moments you share with someone you love. It doesn’t have to be a million-dollar-day. It can be every day. Just be present, be with someone you love, and be ready to remember . . . because it could be that moment, that fuels your imagination for the rest of your life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Do or Do Not

Come read what I had to say about the immortal words of Master Yoda on the LDS Writers Blogck.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Those Who've Been In Darkness

As you probably know, I’ve written a novel called The Devil’s Daughter. As one might guess, it tells the story of a girl whose dad is Satan, and as you may have figured out, sometimes the story gets kind of dark. Twice now it’s been rejected by LDS publishers because of that very thing—too dark, they said.

The last time the manuscript was rejected, I took it kind of hard. I thought perhaps it was a statement about me. I wrote the words on those pages—they came from my heart. If they were too dark, wouldn’t that mean that my heart is black, that I am dark?

I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and it’s been rather enlightening.

My life is my own. I have made my choices and they have shaped the woman I am today. I have experienced pretty bad things, and it’s because of those experiences that I have felt to cherish the light when it has come into my life. The contrast of light and dark has made the wonder of the light all the more sweet.

I love the song “Hold On,” by Michael McLean. In it, he says . . . “And those who’ve been in darkness for a while, kneel much longer when the light has come.”

I had hoped that the LDS publishers would see that, would know that in order to examine the beauty of the light, we had to walk in the darkness, just a little bit. But maybe now I have the greater opportunity of sharing this story with people who are in darkness, who need to know there is hope.

That I can show these things in the stories I write doesn’t make me bad, it makes me lucky. Lucky to have seen both sides in this world. Lucky to have emotional resources that perhaps not all people do.

I will write the stories of my heart. I will share what I have learned so that maybe I can lift another. If I have the chance to show someone, just one person, the way out of the darkness, then everything I have suffered, all that I have experienced will be worth it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Together We Are Beautiful

I love the moments with Dr. James Dobson on my local radio station. In just a few minutes, he offers wsdom and advice on parenting and relationships, that I often find uplifting and insightful.

Recently he shared the story of a grocery store that underwent a social experiment of sorts. The store manager challenged his employees to come up with their own personal signature and use it to improve customer relations.

Nicholas, a bagger with Down Syndrome, took the instructions to heart. The next morning he came to work with a stack of notecards. The front of each card featured a thought for the day, and Nicholas had signed the back. He put a card in each customer’s bag.

A few days later, the manager of the store noticed a long line at one of the registers. He opened another lane, but the customers refused to move. They wanted to have their groceries bagged by Nicholas, because they wanted one of his notes. One customer said she came in every day, just so she could have a new note.

News of what Nicholas had done, and the customer’s reaction, spread through the store. Soon the florist was handing out a carnation to each customer that walked past. The butcher put snoopy stickers on each of his packages of meat.

In a short period of time, the environment of the store changed from something mundane to something extraordinary—an experience that customers loved and returned again and again to enjoy. All because its employees sought to discover who they were, and to share the gift of themselves with everyone who came into the store.

Far too often we hold ourselves apart. We hide our light under a bushel, if you remember that old Sunday School song. And what are we saving ourselves, our light, for? And if we are saving ourselves, will we recognize our moment to shine, when it comes?

Like Grandma’s precious china that goes unused over a lifetime because no moment is special enough to warrant its use, it’s possible our own best selves may also be wasted.

For any of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have issues with being myself. I am constantly worried that myself simply isn’t good enough, that if a friend knew the real me, they’d be sorely disappointed. Who am I, after all, if not just me? Just me, is not that special. Just me is insecure, sometimes lonely, sometimes unsure of my beliefs or who I really am.

But, to be fair . . . there is more.

Just me is loving, kind and generally thoughtful. Just me has spiritual gifts that bless my life and have, on occasion, blessed the lives of others. Just me has learned to treasure love, to cherish it.Just me can often recognize the beauty in others, even if I don’t always see it in myself.

So what would happen to the world at large if all of us sought to share ourselves, to let our lights shine? It doesn’t have to be in spectacular acts of selfless generosity, it can be as simple as a thoughtful note, like Nicholas did, or a sticker of our favorite cartoon character shared with some neighborhood kids. What would happen if we told the people we met that they were beautiful? Or told a mom, when we have overheard her talking to her child, that we were touched by the love we saw there?

Would we be shunned? Pushed away? Possibly.

But would we make a difference? Almost certainly.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

After a lifetime of feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, I’ve recently discovered that I do have a place. There are people, strangely, who are willing to love me and accept me. And they are desirable friends, they are people I admire and for whom I have so much respect.

But there’s a catch.

If I want to keep these friends and be worthy of their friendship in return, I cannot hide my light under a bushel. I need to shine. Because in letting my light shine, I reflect the light of others, and together we are beautiful.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tools of the Incompetent

Sometimes you find pearls of wisdom in the most unlikely places.

Last week while watching So You Think You Can Dance, one of those pearls dropped into my lap. The unlikely giver, the unlikely setting, left my mind reeling. It was brilliant. Pure wisdom on a reality dance show.

A girl who had high hopes of getting into SYTYCD’s Top Twenty was cut from the competition. She was beautiful, shining, and while tears glistened in her eyes, she smiled, and offered wisdom:

“Excuses are the tools of the incompetent and I will not use them."

Holy Guacamole. Was that a pearl she just flung out there?

I had to hurry to write down the words, and then I spent some time googling them—wondering if the dancer had authored them herself, or perhaps she was falling back on wisdom someone else had given her.

There seems to be some dispute as to who the author of this wisdom might be, and in fact I could not find record of the exact line quoted above. Stephen Grayhm said “Excuses are the tools with which persons with no purpose in view build for themselves great monuments of nothing,” but I like the dancer’s line better.

I cringe whenever I hear dancers on the show, singers on American Idol, or people in regular every day life, offer excuses as a way to avoid consequences for their actions or choices. I used to be an excuse girl—who among us hasn’t tried them, right? But eventually I learned that I made so many mistakes that the excuses started to sound flat, even to my own ears.

The truth is, mistakes happen. As human beings, we are far from perfect and it shows. We make glorious, huge, life-altering mistakes. But the awesome thing about mistakes is that if we own them, claim them, and if we are willing to take a good, hard look at them, we can learn from them.

Learning never happens when our minds have built up walls of excuses around the truth.

Strangely, I am grateful for the mistakes I have made. Because of a poorly written first book, I strove to write again, to see if I could do it better. And again, and again. I am getting better, and it’s only because I haven’t hidden behind excuses as to why I wasn’t awesome to begin with.

Because of mistakes, I have felt the sweet swelling of love and forgiveness of my Savior and Father in Heaven. If I’d hid behind my wall of excuses, I might never have known how much They loved me.

And because I no longer making excuses for the poor choices my mother made, I’m able to see how I can pilot my life better.

No good comes from making excuses, while so much joy awaits beyond them.

Possibly Stephen Grayhm, but I’m not certain, wrote a poem related to the line given by the dancer on SYTYCD:

"Excuses are monuments of nothingness,
They build bridges to nowhere,
Those of us who use these tools of incompetence,
Seldom become anything but nothing at all."

I, for one, plan on being something, warts and all. How about you?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Don't Bother Me. I'm Writing.

Come see why I haven't been blogging much lately . . . hopefully, you'll agree with me that I had a good reason.

Come read my blog today at the LDS Writers Blogck. See ya there!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Book Review ~ Dead Man Rising

  rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have become a FAN of the Dante Valentine books.

Dead Man Rising is the second in the series and I thought it perhaps better with the first book. My only beef with it, was that it suffered from the same thing many in-between books suffer from. It felt a bit like a connector book, getting us from book one to book three.

But I was okay with that. I WANT to get to book three :)

This book had a much better story arc, a much more tangible antagonist and in general a more satisfying read. 

What it lacked, and that I missed, was a strong love connection. 

But again, I kind of guessed that from the name.

However, book three promises to give me more of that demon love I enjoyed so much from book one. Oh yeah baby!