Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another David Bowman Picture!

Some of you may remember the gorgeous prints of David Bowman's drawings that I posted about a few months back. Well, he has another picture out he's titled 'Joy.' Here's what David says about this print...

Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. 3 Nephi 17:20

"This is one of my favorite moments in the Book of Mormon. After stating this, Jesus simply spends some time blessing and interacting with the children, while angels descend out of heaven. In this piece, I wanted to depict our Savior in that moment of "full joy". I see Him smiling and laughing spontaneously, filled with so much love for those young people, to the point of weeping for joy (as it mentions in the record He did). If its human nature to manifest feelings of joy and love in that way... then I have to believe that would especially be the case for the One who is the embodiment of every good and righteous instinct of human nature."~Dave Bowman~

To see more of his art, visit his web site This piece is so new it isn't even on his site yet, but if you contact him and ask about the Mother's Day special, you can get a special discount. Just email him at bowmandavid at frontiernet dot net. If you order by May 4th the picture should still get to you before Mother's Day!

Better yet, he's providing some free copies for a giveaway. If you want to win a free 8x10, go here, and follow the directions, um, tonight.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The source of inspiration

Just a quick note since I really have to get to bed if I'm going to work out before dawn tomorrow. My friend Christine Bryant wrote a beautiful blog about the importance of having the spirit with you when you write, or preparing yourself before you sit down at the computer. I had to share it because it's so true, and something I totally need to work on. You can find it here. Thanks again, Christine!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't Quit!

I promised more information about the awesome writers conference I attended this past weekend. First, let me say that I have been to all six of the LDS Storymaker's conferences, starting way back in the Little Brown Theater in 2004. There were 42 attendees that year, and it made me feel inspired and excited to write. Every year it has only gotten better and better. This year there were 260-ish attendees (you'd have to ask one of the Storymakers for the exact number, but I know that's super close), and the quality has only improved every year.

During one of our meetings Friday where the whole group met together (forgive me, I can't remember which time slot it was), Jeff S. Savage (aka J Scott Savage writer of the terrific YA fantasy adventure series, FarWorld) who was the conference chair this year had us take out the bandanas they had included in out bags with the other materials for the conference. Then he showed a short video on the projection screen (it may have been powerpoint, but it included music). It was all made of headlines about publishing companies going out of business, and others having to cut back. Then he inserted the below video. It's only six minutes long. Take a look.

Edited to add that the video has apparently been pulled? Anyway, the scene is from a movie called Facing the Giants about a high school football team. One guy told the coach that they wouldn't win their game that weekend, and the coach had him do a death crawl (walking on hands and feet across the field with another player on his back). They had been doing them in practice for 20 or 30 yards, and the coach asked the kid if he could do 50 yards. He didn't think he could. The coach pulled out a bandana and wrapped it over the kid's eyes and told him to do his best. All down the length of the football field he encouraged the player, telling him to keep working, don't quit. The kid cried out that it hurt, that he couldn't make it, that his muscles burned, but the coach told him not to stop, to keep pushing.

When he finally gave out, the coach removed the bandana and showed the kid he was in the opposite endzone, he had gone the full 100 yards. then he asked the kid to keep a positive attitude, to encourage the other players, because with his leadership, the team could do far more than they thought.

When the video ended, Jeff told us to hang the bandanas near where we write. On our desks, on the wall, wherever we were. When we get discouraged--because the day will come when things look bleak, when we would think we couldn't do it anymore, when we would get rejections and it would hurt--to look at the bandana and remember the video. The truth is, if we keep going, keep fighting in an industry that guarantees rejections, difficulties, budget cuts, publishing dates being postponed (if not cancelled outright, which has happened to some authors), then eventually we will succeed even more than we thought possible.

Actually there were several speaker who mentioned this. Julie Wright spoke about how she was rejected from her publisher after putting out a couple of books--something that was a terrible experience for her--but because of that, she was picked up by a bigger publisher. Several of the Storymakers have had that happen.

She has now been accepted by a national agent who will be shopping around her latest manuscript--and knowing her, it's terrific! She urged the people in her class not to listen to those who would tell you that it can't be done, that it's not worth the effort. You never know when one rejection or stumbling block night actually turn into the stepping stone you've been searching for. Also, never forget that your Heavenly Father wants you to succeed. He knows you can do it, that if you give it all you've got, you will get where you want to be. It's not going to be instant--that's not how the business works. But with enough effort, you can succeed.

I have lots of other great tidbits to share from the conference, but they'll have to wait until later.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quick Update

I've been extremely busy this week because I had lots to get settled here at home before I went to the LDS Storymakers conference this past weekend. The conference was wonderful, much bigger than any they've held before, and it was fabulous to see everyone again, not to mention the great things we learned. Also, my friend Danyelle and I took a first place for the first chapter of the non-fiction book we're working on, and she took second for her first chapter in the romance division--I told her she would place with it, it was a truely awesome bit of writing!

The Whitney Awards was entertaining and exciting. To see a blow by blow of the events, go here. Jaime Theler, Hilary Blair, Tristi Pinkston, and Matthew Buckley did constant Twitter updates throughout the evening. I sat one table over from Jaime and it took half the evening before I realized that the funny chiming I kept hearing was her posting updates. Congrats to everyone who won at the Whitney's!

I will definitely be posting more about the conference later, but I need to get ready for church.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great Book Giveaways and Writing Update

Annnette Lyon is giving away free copies of All The Stars in Heaven by Michele Paige Holmes, the sequel to her first book Counting Stars, which won first place in the Whitney awards last year, and a copy of When Hearts Conjoin, a story of conjoined twins written by Lu Ann Staheli. Go to her blog to find out how to enter!

I've been deep in the middle of coop building, editing, and preparing for the LDS Storymaker's writer's conference this Friday and Saturday. And if I can get my new printer to work right, I'll be dropping a copy of my finished manuscript to my publisher tomorrow. It's funny, I would have thought that once I got an acceptance my anxiety over submitting would lessen. After all, they liked what I wrote last time, and my writing has improved (after all, I only wrote 10 versions of this story instead of 15, and it's way more publishable now than the Ball's in Her Court was at this point.)

Instead, I find myself more nervous. They liked the first one, what if they don't like this one? What if I missed something important and it falls flat? No one has read it in at least....two months (and a solid edit), what if the changes I made are awful? Even though I know thw writing is solid, I'm still tied up in knots about it, and it has occured to me more than once that it is just plain awful! Which means, it's probably past time for me to submit it--hating your book is a classic sign that you've edited it enough, after all. At least it's supposed to be a sign if you've really liked it once, and now you've grown to hate it.

And I have another I'm supposed to be turned in to my friend Danyelle so she can critique it for me, but I'm finding more scenes that need to be written and angles that need to be developed better, so I may not get it finished TONIGHT to print for her. I guess we'll see. And if you'll be at the conference, stop and say hi, would you?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tops Again!

Every year my sister organizes an annual family game day. My dad pays for Little Ceasar's pizza, everyone leaves the kids with sitters, and the adults who can get together crowd into Kristi's house. She organized sets of games with rotating players so we had a chance to play with almost everyone during the afternoon. Some of the games were simple like Candyland (my brother was a wizz at this game!) up to Pahse 10 and Chinese checkers (which as least require a modicum of skill or planning.) Pictured here is my mom, brother and brother-in-law.
We also have a great tradition started last year where the winner gets to take home the trophy-and Kristi provides both a booby prize for the lowest scorer and a celebration prize for the highest scorer. You can see I hit the jackpot and miraculously came away with the best score--thus the play money. And the fun 'trophy' has bits of game pieces glued to the top of it (my sister tells me she labored hard and long on this--for about five whole minutes). When we are awarded this priceless trophy, we get to put our names on it in marker and take it home to display with honor for the year.
I think my sister Pauline was secretly relieved not to get it--how would she explain to her roommate that she was required to give this miraculous trophy a place of honor in her
living room? Thankfully, I have no such qualms.
Long live Family Game Day!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Much Ado About Mulch

Spring rains and light snows have given the weeds a serious head start in the garden this year. If pulling weeds is not your idea of a fun activity, but you just can't give up your vegetables and flowers, mulch is your best friend. Just remember to weed before using it.

Mulch can provide many different functions, and the type you use can determine how effective it is for your yard. It:

*Blocks weeds when laid sufficiently deep

*Keeps the soil cooler in summer, slowing evaporation, and warmer in winter.

*Slows or prevents erosion

*Protects plants from soil-borne diseases that can be splashed up during watering.

*Mulched plants have healthier, more complex root systems

*Prevents crusting of the soil surface, so water will soak in more effectively instead of beading up and rolling off

*Organic mulches break down over time improving soil structure and adding nutrients to the soil

Organic mulches include:

Grass clippings--these are best left on the grass when you mow using a mulching mower if you have a choice. If you have too many to leave down, or if you have access to extras from someone who bags theirs, they can be used around plants. They should be placed after they have had time to dry a bit to prevent matting, which will cause water to shed instead of allowing it to soak in. Always make sure the grass clipping have not been treated with an herbicide in the past two weeks if you are going to use it around your flowers and trees.

Straw or hay--hay has a lot of seeds in it, and should not be used, but straw can be a great mulch. Straw is not very pretty, so it may be best to use it on vegetable beds or on new grass seed. It decomposes quickly and will improve the soil.

Newspaper--makes a great mulch--and it's free! Use several layers thick and then lay a prettier mulch on top to keep it from blowing away. Applied thick enough, it will keep almost any weed at bay for a couple of years. Over time it will break down into the soil, helping the condition and adding nutrients. Most newspapers now use vegetable-based inks in their printing, which are perfectly safe to use on vegetable gardens. If you have any question, call whomever prints your paper and find out. Slick ads or fliers printed with toner should never be put on edibles, and slick ads or magazine pages shouldn't be used in compost or gardening at all as the chemicals on them cause mildew and can leach into the soil.

Pine needles--a two-inch layer makes an attractive covering and allows water to pass through easily. There is a theory that it makes the ground more acidic and should be used around acid-loving plants (which would be a bonus in Utah as most of use have extremely alkali soil.) However, studies have been done that shows they don't make soil more acidic, so I wouldn't count on it.

Wood chips--Large wood chips can be placed up to four inches deep, smaller ones and shredded bark should be no more than two inches deep so it doesn't prevent penetration of water to the soil. Smaller pieces decompose more quickly too, which can tie up nitrogen in the soil so an extra shot of fertilizer is a good idea.

Leaves--should be shredded to prevent them blowing away. You can use a lawn mower to shred them coarsely. Finely shredded leaves tend to mat instead of allowing water through. The advantage of leaves is they look nice, are readily available, and improve the soil quality over time. Apply two to three inches to start. As they decompose you can dig them into the ground and add a new layer, or simply add more to the top.

Live ground cover--Have you ever thought of using plants as mulch? There are lots of great ground covers out there that will block weeds and allow passage of water to the soil. Things like Ivy and periwinkle, among other perennial ground covers, do a great job at this. The only caveat is to be aware that many perennial ground covers are invasive (ivy and periwinkle have been known to attempt garden domination if not restrained).

Inorganic mulches include:

Plastic sheeting--black plastic heats the soil, which can allow you to get your garden beds ready to plant earlier. It keeps evaporation down, which is a plus and minus. In a well-draining area, this isn't a problem, but in gardens with clay soil, this can cause root rot. Black plastic will disintegrate quickly in the sunlight and should be mulched over. Clear plastic will not block sunlight, therefore may increase the number of weeds in the garden unless covered with a good layer of other mulching materials. Holes may sometimes have to be poked to allow water to pass through plastic.

Landscape fabric--does a good job at blocking weeds, and because it is woven it allows water and water to pass through it. It can decompose rapidly if exposed to air, needs to be fastened down to prevent perennial weeds from pushing it up, and the cost can be kind of high, but it is a great solution to a perennial planting area, such as around trees where you don't intend to use annuals.

Rocks or pebbles--can block sunlight to keep weeds down, but won't block stubborn ones like the weedy morning glory. It can be purchased in many colors, but heats up under summer sun. It is also hard to get rid of once you've put it down, so it is best for permanent plantings. I'm going to be mulching paths in my garden with landscape fabric and rocks to keep weeds down this summer.

Ground rubber tires--This is a relatively new option. They don't decompose, so they never have to be replaced, but the effectiveness is still being studied. I wouldn't use this on any edibles, just in case it leached chemicals into the soil, but it could be an attractive mulch for perennial borders and beds, especially if your yard is shady. I would be concerned about sun heating this up too much as it does with rocks in hot, sunny areas.

A few tips: Mulch should not be placed within three inches of plant stems or trunks to prevent decay caused by wet mulch. The extra space will also lessen rodent damage. Wood mulches should not be used against house foundations, as it can provide a bridge for termites, so six to twelve inches of room should be planned in.

If a mulch smells like vinegar, sulfur, ammonia, or silage, it can be toxic to plants and possible kill them. If you are buying new mulch, or if you have a pile, it needs to be turned regularly if it is larger than 4 feet in diameter to prevent 'souring' of the mulch.

Spores from wood mulches can give fungus a place to live, so in wet areas (or yards that get watered really frequently) it should not be placed near houses or cars. One solution to this is to spread pine needles over existing hardwood mulches to prevent black spots from appearing on your home.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Read Any Classics Lately?

So my writing group has been discussing classics lately, what everyone liked, what they plan to read, etc. Rachelle linked to a list of 100 classics she posted on her blog, I'm not sure where she got it, but she put a star by the ones she had read. When I looked at the list I was pleased to see I had read more than I thought, though admittedly my high school and college teachers are responsible for most of that. Apparently I still have a long list ahead of me, and there were a few I couldn't remember if I read for a class or not--so I didn't count them.

Here's my list: