Upcoming Good Things Utah Appearance!

I'm super uber excited about my invitation to be on Good Things Utah! So, all my Utah friends, set your DVR's, Tivo's, and other recording devices for Wednesday, November 2nd at 10 am on ABC4. I'm teaming up with the awesome Heather Gardner to talk about how to help kids with autism and other cognitive disabilities at church. It's going to be awesome!

One quick question - does anyone have a way to record the show, then burn it to a DVD for me? If so, I'd love to have a copy!

Have a fabulous and safe Halloween!

Bye Bye Nasty Germs

Ucky yucky stomach bug germs invaded our house and for the past week, my family has been dropping like flies . . . one by one falling prey to these nasty germs. It’s hit five out of the six of us.  Who hasn’t been hit yet? You guessed it. Me.

And I hope it stays that way. After all, who’s going to continue taking care of the munchkins (including the biggest sick baby of them all – my hubby), if Mama isn’t healthy? Volunteers? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Maybe it’s sheer determination that keeps moms healthy . . . sometimes anyway.

Well, this Mama has teamed up with some awesome germ fighters, all with the first name of Lysol. I’ve resolved to clean, scrub, wipe down, or spray everything in our house over the next day or two. Kids will be enlisted to strip sheets and remake with fresh bedding. Open up the windows and let fresh air into our house. It’s time to stop living with my kids’ heads in the toilets (literally).

It’s time to kick those nasty germs out and post a sign –

Germs Beware.
Mama Ferguson & Her BFF Lysol Live Here.

What do you do to keep the fall/winter germs away?

NaNoWriMo: Plot and Conflict

The count down is on. One week left before your sprint to 50K begins. Are you ready?

If you're like me, then the answer is, well, not quite.

You see, I've been going through my story files and it's taken forever to narrow the choices down to THE ONE.  But now that I have THE ONE, I'm looking at it and all I have is a blurb about the main character and a couple of scene ideas. Which means I'm so not ready for NaNoWriMo.

What to do? What to do?

The answer:  PLOT & CONFLICT

To succeed at NaNoWriMo, you need to have at least a general outline of the book's plot. Just to know where the story is going. This outline is not set in stone. In fact, it will probably take some twists and turns you weren't expecting as you write and get to know your characters better. But believe me, that general outline is a life saver when you're getting ready for a word sprint, but you aren't sure where the next scene needs to lead you.

I did some Googling and found some excellent resources to develop plots for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Plot Development and Profile Worksheets, Visualizing Collage and More by Iconclastic Writer
  • This blog post has AWESOME worksheets you can download for free. Isn't free such a happy word?
Tools to Help You Plot Your NaNoWriMo Novel by Jennifer Blanchard @ Procrastinating Writers
  • On this blog post, you'll find a bunch of different plotting techniques, including using index cards & the fabulous Larry Brooks Story Structure series.

Now, on to conflict - the wonderful device that drives your story. This is when you call up your writers group and host a brainstorming session. Write down gobs of conflict ideas - both internal and external. Josi Kilpack once said (and I'm totally paraphrasing & adding some of my own words - but it's her concept) that you need to put your character up in a tree. You start off by throwing rocks at him, then even bigger rocks, until you bring in a catapult and launch boulders at the poor sucker. Bring in the soldiers and shoot arrows at the dude. And just when you think he might surrender - set the tree on fire!

Conflict, Conflict, Conflict.

That is what you need to keep your story moving, flowing, and interesting. And if you need some inspiration, check out this sweet little puppy.

Now, I need to get moving on my plot outline and call some friends to set up a brainstorming session. How's your plotting going? Are you ready?

NaNoWriMo: What's Your Goal?

I love National Novel Writing Month. It's a great way to kick your tush into gear and challenge yourself. The traditional goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

But what if you already know life isn't going to cooperate so you can acheive it. Does that mean you should just ditch the challenge all together?

No way!

Set a goal that works for YOU. 

If something major is happening that will require the majority of your time and attention, then adjust your word count goal. Maybe it will be to hit 25K. Setting a goal and putting a word counter on your computer desktop, blog or website, will motivate you to take 30 minutes to get out a couple hundred words. If you do that four times a day, you could average 800-1,000 words a day. Multiply that by 30 and you've reached your goal! If that still sounds like too much, then adjust the word count.

If you don't set a goal, then you may put your writing aside for the whole month. Give yourself the opportunity to take on the challenge.

What if you just finished another manuscript and don't have another one plotted out yet?

Well, you have two options: 1. You've got about 10 days to do some plotting and brainstorming, then just jump in and see where it leads you, or 2. You can set your goal to edit, rather than write. That's perfectly fine.

The important thing about National Novel Writing Month is to be working on your novel. Whatever stage your in, set a goal to give you a kick in the pants.

So, what's your goal for NaNoWriMo?

Prepping Your Family for NaNoWriMo

I consulted with my hubby, John (aka John Waverly), before writing this post. You see, last year he was the one who picked up the slack and took care of our family while I wrote like mad. He had some very good points that NaNoWriMo participants and their families should consider before November 1st hits.

Be Realistic

If you already schedule 4-5 hours a day for your writing, then you can probably stop reading this post right now. But if you're like the majority of writers out there, your writing time is probably more sporadic. Achieving your NaNoWriMo goal of 50K in 30 days takes a commitment equivalent to adding a part-time job into your schedule.

Think about it: If you write an average of 500 words an hour, then it will take 100 hours to hit 50K. But wait! We need to add in time for writers block, brainstorming, and, if you attend any write-ins, potty breaks and socializing. Let's say that's about another 20 hours of time. So now we're at 120 hours to achieve your NaNoWriMo goal. Which equals a 4 hour time commitment every day. Now me, I don't write on Sundays. I leave that day for church and family, which is especially important when I'm cramming so much writing time in the rest of the week. I try to write about 6 hours a day during NaNoWriMo.

Reprioritize Your Schedule

If you already work a full-time job - and face it, we all do no matter whether it's inside or outside the home - then you, personally, need to be willing to give up a lot during those 30 days.

  • No TV
  • No books
  • Cut back on the gym
  • Take the month off from volunteering at kids' schools
  • Postpone any Girls or Guys Night Outs
  • No movies (yes, this includes the next Twilight movie. Trust me, it will still be playing two weeks after the release)

You'll find a good chunk of writing time just by doing this. But it's still going to take more. And any free time you do have, should definitely be spent with your family and helping around the house.

Get Your Family on Board

During the writing challenge, you'll spend a lot less time with your family. The further you get into the month, the more tired, frustrated, and emotional your spouse will get. Trust me, I know. My hubby is THE most supportive writer's spouse I have ever met. Last year, I started out November by hosting a writers retreat out-of-state. I was gone for a week. Then the rest of the month, I went to write-ins 3 times a week and had online write-ins the other nights - not to mention the writing I did during the day. I slacked on laundry, have a very dim recollection of helping clean, and it was a happy day if I remembered to put in a meal in the crock pot. By the time the 20th hit, he was totally read for November to be over. Here's how we survived without getting a divorce.  =)

Before NaNoWriMo kicks-off, sit down with your spouse to go over both of your schedules together. Keep in mind that you don't get to take over the schedule just cause it's NaNoWriMo. Your spouse has commitments, too, and needs support as well. My hubby is the Cub Scout Master for our church. Each month he plans a pack meeting, hosts a committee meeting, and has a district meeting to attend. I made sure to be home to take care of the munchkins so he could fulfill those important commitments.

Both of you need to come prepared with lists of activities. For you, that will be regional write ins you want to attend, work schedules, and commitments you can't cancel. You'll need a list of activities for your kids and your spouse, too. Now figure out how you can juggle home and family responsibilities in a way that's agreeable for you and your spouse. Be sure to plan time for family time and work out a meal schedule. Our family budgeted extra money to eat out. Each week, we planned two crock pot meals, ate out twice, had two left-overs/whatever nights, and made pancakes each Sunday for dinner. We tried to make things as simple as possible to keep stress levels down.

If you have older kids, get them in on the meeting too.They are much better with schedule changes when they've been in on the decision making and are more willing to help out with extra chores. Usually. If the moon and the stars all align just right . . . or if you provide the right incentives. Which brings me to the best part . . . 

Set Goals & Rewards

No one wants to mess up their happy routine, but they'll grin and bear it for someone they love . . . especially if you create rewards that include your spouse and kids.

Pull together a family meeting and together set rewards for when you hit certain word count goals. For example, when you hit 10K host a root beer float party. Might I also suggest that when you hit the halfway point (25K), that you let you kids have a movie & popcorn night while you take your spouse out on a celebratory date night. Both of you take a break - no talking about writing or schedules, just a night of fun and laughter. And of course, there's the big pay off when you hit 50K. Plan something that your family loves, but doesn't get to do very often. Maybe it's a night at the movies, a new family Wii game, or taking a weekend vacation. Make NaNoWriMo as fun for your family as possible.

The Most Important Things

Communication is key. Talk often with your spouse and munchkins. Express your appreciation for their support. If someone is stressed out or upset, be willing to set aside your writing for a few minutes and let them vent. Give them hugs. When things are settled again, get back to work. Nothing is more important than your family, but your family can accomplish anything when they work together.

Motherhood and Me

Growing up, I was focused on either school or reading. I never really thought about being a mom. That is, until I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Being involved in such a family-centered church changed some of my views and goals in life.

Originally, I planned to go to college, stay on the dean's list, graduate near the top of my class, then jump into building my career. Marriage and family were something that would come along eventually . . . mostly likely after I was well establishing in my chosen profession.

This is how my life played out instead. I married my sweetheart after one year of college, then became pregnant during the next college semester. I'm still four classes shy of graduating. Just when I felt ready to go back and tackle those last four classes, our son was diagnosed with autism. So I set aside college and put all my energy into helping him.

My son is 12 years old now and has two sisters and a brother. We have a quirky, goofy family. Our home is filled with laughter and love . . . and the typical sibling squabbles. We run 5K's together, make up silly songs, tell totally corny jokes, help each other clean our house every Saturday, and are always ready with hugs anytime one of us is in need. We not only love each other, but we're best friends. And that's more valuable than any college degree out there.

Motherhood brought an unexpected, but completely fulfilling dimension into my life. Each day I know I'm in for a mixture of laughter and problems. I also know at the end of the day, four munchkins will snuggle up with me while I read a chapter from our latest Junie B. Jones book.

Being a mom is not at all what I thought it would be. It's hard, challenging, sometimes disgusting (especially during flu season). But if it were easy, then it wouldn't been nearly as fulfilling. I love being a mom. It's the best job ever!

Oh the Suspense! A Contest Winner and a Book Review

Life is flying by this gorgeous autumn day. I want to go out and jump in the leaves with my munchkins, plant my front yard full of colorful mums, and eat pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. And I will . . . just as soon as I finish this blog post.

Who's John Ferguson Contest

So, how many of you nabbed Bloodborne by Gregg Luke just to read it and find out who "John Ferguson" represents in his book? I told you it's a fabulous book! I had gobs of entries. The contest answer is John Ferguson is also Sean Flannery. What? You're confused? Then I suggest you get the book and find out how that's possible.

The winner of the contest is . . .LemarLuke!!!  Please let me know if you prefer the yummy Stephen's Gourmet Milk Chocolate Cocoa or the French Vanilla Cocoa.

The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack

Jacey's eyes narrowed. What were these men trying to imply? She felt sick with shock. "No, I never really--John and I never discussed work. He never felt a need to include me in his business affairs." Jacey's heart thumped as the agents eyed one another.

After a long and difficult divorce, Jacey thinks the worst is over. Little does she know she'll soon be forced to go undercover to protect her family, and in the process, she'll risk losing her identity, her future, and her heart. With a lightning pace, a good dose of humor, and a plot that's full of suspense, this thrilling novel is an edge-of-your-seat read.

My Review

I enjoyed The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack. It's definitely a suspense novel that sweeps you right into the action and Jacey's life. If you liked the Julia Roberts movie Sleeping with the Enemy or the book Without a Flaw by Michele Ashman Bell, then you should definitely put The Alias on your to-read list!

The Alias is available at your local bookstore and Amazon.com.

Interview with Author Jennifer Hurst

Today I have a fun treat for you. An interview with author Jennifer Hurst. Jennifer's new book, Fall, recently came out. You can check out her blog tour here.

QOTC: Jennifer, thanks for joining us! Now, your main character, JD (short for Julia D.), works in construction. What intrigued you to come up with JD and her job?
Jennifer: I worked for 12 years in the construction industry – first as a drafter and then later as a project manager.  Often times, I was the only woman in the employ of various construction and construction related companies.  A lot of JD’s experiences in the book are based on my own.

QOTC: Very cool! What was your favorite part of the book to write?

Jennifer: In the original draft, JD spends a lot more time exploring Torrey and meeting its interesting residents.  I had a lot of fun developing the supporting characters, but due to constraints and to keep the book flowing at a steady pace, I eliminated those parts.  However, these other characters will appear in the sequel.  My other favorite part to write that did make it through the final edits, was JD's developing interest in Matthew.

QOTC: Ugh! I hate cutting scenes. On the flip side, what was the hardest part to write?

Jennifer: The hardest part to write were the action scenes.  I could see it so clearly in my head, but getting the right words to convey the fierce battle – was very hard. 

QOTC: Are you working on another novel? If so, can you give us a short teaser?

Jennifer:  I am working on the sequel for FALL – but I can’t give you a teaser.   Sorry.  Ya’ll will have to wait. I am, however, working on a YA fantasy/romance with a working title of Muddy.  And here is a short excerpt from Muddy.

Claren knelt in the mud and drizzling rain.  His long gray hair hung in dirty strands around his haggard face.  He leaned protectively over the body of a young man sprawled on the ground.  The young man wore light armor and a blue and white striped cloak. A wicked gash in his chest plate revealed torn flesh and white bones beneath. 
Fighting down the rising bile, Claren hefted the young man up by his arms, and cradled him against his chest.  Claren brushed away the young man’s long white hair; a mark of his ancestry and lineage.
A few faithful men-at-arms stood round about, glancing anxiously at the surrounding misted woods.  They were ready for anything or anyone who might discover their secret; the King of the Vale had fallen.
A stinging wind swept through the glade, biting menacingly at reddened cheeks and exposed hands worn raw from days and nights of hard battle.  A cold unrelated to the wind or the season, ebbed deeper into Claren’s soul as he struggled to keep from weeping over his young friend.
Claren reached for his satchel hanging across his chest at his side.  Fumbling within it, Claren withdrew a small dark vial, and bit the cork off.
“Drink this, Eron,” Claren urged, swiping away his long grey hair from his eyes with the back of his wrist.  He pressed the vial against Eron’s blue lips.  Eron moaned and writhed in pain from the gaping and bloody ruin of his chest.
“Eron,” Claren said forcefully, trying to capture his attention. “Drink this now; it will prolong your life until Voluthra arrives to tend you.” 
Eron turned aside his head and groaned, “Lilath.  Where is my Lilath?”
“She is away,” Claren said hoarsely, feeling his face redden with frustration. “She is safe.  Now drink.”
Eron resisted.  The sounds of battle were drawing closer.  Claren glanced up at the armored man standing nearest.
“Hold his head,” Claren ordered. 
The battle weary soldier, who was wounded himself, dropped to his knees and held Eron’s head steady as Claren forced the potion into the king’s mouth. Eron gagged and coughed as fresh blood gushed from his wound.  Claren felt the warm fluid soak into his pant leg and dampen his sleeve.  The smell of death nauseated him, but he was satisfied that most of the vial’s contents had been consumed.  Claren held Eron close as his breathing slowed and his movements and groanings gradually came to a stop. A few moments more and the king lay as if dead.
Releasing a long shuddering breath, Claren looked over at Feeg, taking in the man’s tormented expression.
“He lives,” Claren said, “but we will…” he paused and looked around as if noting the other men for the first time.  Desperation clouded Claren’s mind.
“Go!” He said suddenly. “Go, leave this place.  Raise Eron’s banner as if he is with you and escape to the boats.  Now!”
“But Master Steward,” the soldier protested.
Claren cut him off with a sharp wave of his arm. “Do as I say!” 
“Yes sir,” he replied meekly, but his expression betrayed the distrust he had and Claren saw it. 

QOTC: Tell us a little bit about you . . . What's your favorite dessert? Biggest pet peeve?
Jennifer: I was born in Idaho, but spent most of my childhood in the South Pacific.  I’m the oldest of 8 children and I have 3 of my own.  My favorite dessert?  Fruit smoothies.  Although, I’ve been known to lose all will power when it comes to any kind of cookie.  My biggest pet peeve is when someone leaves their phone number at the end of a long message and they say it so fast you can't understand it and have to listen to the message multiple times to figure it out.

QOTC: Thanks again for the interview, Jennifer. Before you go, how can readers contact you?

Jennifer: Thanks, Danyelle for the questions.  They were fun! 

Follow me on twitter HurstJennifer
Find me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/hurstjennifer
Email: jchurst@rocketmail.com or fall.jenniferhurst@gmail.com

NaNoWriMo: It's Time to Step Up and Accept the Challenge

It's that time of the year when the air is crisp, roads are lined with a gorgeous flaming foliage, and writers worldwide prepare to be thrust into the hellish adrenaline rush of National Novel Writing Month, affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo.

30 days of scraping every single spare moment to reach the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words.

What? You think this doesn't sound like that big of a deal? Did you miss my reference to hell?

My friends, we're talking about a brand spanking new manuscript. A novel the writer has done nothing more than (hopefully) plotted out. When November 1st hits, writers everywhere glue their fingers to the keyboard and create the very first sentence that will lead them on a journey to fill over 100 typed pages. 100 pages! When was the last time you heard a student complain because he had to write a 10 page report in three weeks? They are wimps compared to the awesomeness of NaNoWriMo competitors.

But . . . but. . . . but . . . 

No excuses! You CAN do this! And over the next few weeks, I'm going to blog about HOW you can reach, conquer, and surpass the NaNoWriMo 50K goal. Now, repeat after me:




Now get your mouse over here and click on this link to sign up for NaNoWriMo!

There are a few important things you need to do while you're on the NaNoWriMo site:

  1. TIME ZONE: Under the tab "My NaNoWriMo", go to "Edit User Settings". It's very important that you set your Time Zone. If you don't set it correctly, it can totally backfire on you. Especially if you're in the final hour of NaNoWriMo and finally hit your 50K goal, then go to verify your win on the official website . . . and you realize you put in your time zone wrong and your account is closed. I know people who've had this happen and it's major, major suckage. So do it now, do it right, and then you can do the Happy Happy Dance and claim all your fabulous prizes at the end of the month.
  2.  YOUR REGION:  "Set My Home Region". Here you can choose the region closest to you and join. There are a couple of reasons to do this. It's fun to see how many writers are in your area. You can also track how many words your area has written compared to other areas. The best part is your region sets up Write Ins. These are locations where the region captains have talked with businesses, libraries, etc to set up times for NaNoWriMo participants to come together. There's quiet writing time, a bit of socializing and - my favorite part - writing sprints! Last year, my goal was to attend two Write Ins each week - and they were totally worth it!
  3. NOTIFICATIONS: Under the tab "My NaNoWriMo", go to "Set My Notifications". The automatic settings have you unsubscribed to all notifications. I recommend that you subscribe to the Prep Talks, NaNo Videos, and your region emails.

There are some fun things you can do while on your NaNoWriMo account, too. You can fill out your author info, give a blurb about your book, and connect with other Writing Buddies. Towards the end of October, check out the Fun Stuff tab. There you'll find updated badges to post on your blog or website, a word count widget, and other great stuff.

Update from NaNoWriMo website:

Drumroll please.... On October 7 at 10 AM Pacific, we are merging the user databases of the old and new websites in preparation for Monday's launch. (Ten Ten! Fist pump!)
That is a fancy way of saying that if you update your profile, novel info, or user settings after 10 AM Pacific on Friday, your changes won't show up when the site launches on Monday.

So, if you haven't signed up for NaNoWriMo yet, wait until Monday morning. Be sure to put it on your phone's calendar, sticky note attached to your monitor, or whatever works best for you to remember to get it done!  =)


Hang 'Em High: A Secret Sisters Mystery by Tristi Pinkston & a Contest!!!

Hang 'Em High: A Secret Sisters Mystery by Tristi Pinkston

When Ida Mae Babbitt receives an invitation to visit her son Keith's dude ranch in Montana, she's excited to mend their broken relationship, but not so excited about spending time with cows. Arlette and Tansy go along with her, ready to take a vacation that does not involve dead bodies or mysteries of any sort - one must have a break from time to time. But it seems a no-good scoundrel has moseyed into Dodge City and is bent on causing all sorts of trouble for the ranch. Unable to keep her curiosity in check - especially when it seems her own son is the most likely culprit - Ida Mae decides to investigate. Can she lasso the varmint and get him to the sheriff in time? 
- "Move over, Miss Marple, Ida Mae Babbitt is on the case! Tristi Pinkston's endearing sleuth in sensible shoes is at it again, this time at a Montana dude ranch. With a clever plot, great ensemble cast, and the unforgettable image of Ida Mae on a midnight gallop in her flannel pajamas--who could ask for more?" Liz Adair, Whitney Award-winning author of Counting the Cost

My Review

I have sincerely enjoyed every single one of the Secret Sisters Mysteries by Tristi Pinkston. Each book has it's own unique twists, but really, Ida Mae on a dude ranch? Seriously? The characters just make me laugh out loud! And that's really the best part, because life is just stressful. I love to pick up something to read that will help me laugh and relax - and laughter is guaranteed when Ida Mae Babbitt and her friends are involved! 

You can purchase Hang 'Em High at Deseret Book, Amazon, and your local bookstore.

Blog Tour Contest

To celebrate the release of Tristi's eighth book, she's holding a contest!  If you leave a comment on this review, you will be entered into a drawing for a free manuscript evaluation, done by Tristi Pinkston Editing http://www.tristipinkstonediting.blogspot.com   In fact, you can leave comments on all the blogs participating in this virtual book tour!  Go to Tristi Pinkston's blog at http://www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com for a list.  The deadline is October 5th at midnight MST.  If you win and you're not a writer, you can give this evaluation to a friend.

Writers Retreat 1st Chapter Contest: The Results Are In!

I am so excited for the upcoming Writers Retreat I'm hosting in Heber, UT the first week of November. It's going to be awesomeness! Here's a picture from our 2010 Writers Retreat group.

In conjunction with this year's retreat, we hosted a 1st Chapter Contest.

When I announced the contest, there were two types of entries: National Market or LDS Market. All of the entries for the 1st chapter contest were marked for the National Market. Lisa Mangum, editor at Deseret Book, has graciously said we could save her prize for another contest to be held sometime between January-March.

So, I'm sure everyone who entered the contest are now gripping whatever is nearby, wondering if he or she was the one to win the grand prize - A 1st chapter review by the fabulous Sara Megibow from the Nelson Literary Agency.

First, let me send out a huge thank you to everyone who entered the contest AND to our awesome judges!!! Also remember, each person who entered the contest will receive feedback from the judges - which is always my favorite part of entering contests. I love getting reviews so I can improve my manuscript. Emails with feedback from the judges will be sent out today.

Just to keep the suspense going, let's do a 3-2-1 countdown.

The 3rd place recipient 
is . . .

Newtimber by Karen Hoover!

The 2nd place recipient is . . . 

Colorless by Wendy Swore!

And the Grand Prize Winner of a 1st Chapter Review by Sara Megibow is . . . 

Song for Anna by Annette Lyon!!!

Congrats, Annette! I'll email you about how to redeem your prize.

And for everyone attending the retreat . . . 
only 31 days to go!