Monday, September 30, 2013

Welcome Fall!!!!

So you think you want to write a book – Creating a Villain  
This is actually harder than it sounds. Unless you are writing about a sociopath (contrary to what you see on TV – there really isn’t one living on every block in America) your ‘bad guy’ has to have a reasonable explanation for doing something unreasonable (murder or another felony). Normal people just don’t kill (or rob or burn buildings down). So if you are going to have your villain do one of those things (or something similar) you’ve got to create a scenario that is believable. All fiction readers agree to suspend reality to a certain extent – but you’d be surprised how little suspension they will actually give you. So make it realistic. Also, I hate it when I get to the end of a book and the villain is some barely mentioned character that no one would ever suspect. I feel cheated and resentful that I’ve spent so much time reading a book that I had no chance of figuring out. So if you want me to read your book (and not get mad at you) your villain has to be introduced to the reader in such a way that when they later realize he (she) is the bad guy they aren’t surprised. But the villain can’t be obvious or there is no suspense in your novel. There are several ways to cloak the villain. One is to make them seem suspicious at the beginning and then explain away the suspicion so that the reader forgets about them (or at least about their suspicions). Then when the ‘reveal’ takes place the reader has one of those V-8 hit-themselves-in-the-head moments, thinking ‘Of Course!’. You can also make your villain seem so sweet that no one suspects them or so awful that they look too obvious. You can have multiple villains so that there is no one guilty party. Or you can really have the ‘murder’ explained away at the end so there is no villain. If you use one of these ‘tricks’ you’d better have a really good plot or readers are not going to like it. Or you can let the reader know from the beginning who the villain is and it’s up to the characters in your book to prove it. Another tricky way to introduce a villain is to lead the reader to believe that one person is the villain and one is the victim and in the end reverse the roles. I cannot recommend the book I am about to site because it has objectionable content, but “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn is an example of this last technique.

Recipe of the Week –
Chicken Enchiladas

10 soft taco shells
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese ( I like the Kraft Tex Mex)
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 (4 oz) can diced green chillies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan. Mix chicken and 1 cup cheese. Roll up in tortillas and place in pan. In a sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add broth and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium heat until thick. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and chilies. Pour over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese. Bake 25 min.

September Book Give-Away –
We will draw the winner in the morning to give people a chance to post a comment through tonight. Then tomorrow will start the drawing for the October Thanksgiving Gift Box – which also includes a book!!! So keep commenting! And remember that there is a delay between when you post and when it shows up on my blog – so don’t worry if you don’t see it immediately. If it still doesn’t appear after a day email me at and I’ll enter your name in the drawing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Planning ahead for Christmas, Kids' Quotes, Book Give-a-way, Recipe

Things to do in November to get ready for Christmas
  1. Deep Clean your house – It’s not fun to decorate a dirty house. So start now – especially with big projects like cleaning the carpets. Take it one room per week and by the first of December your house will be clean and ready for decorations.
  2. Get haircuts for all the kids, yourself and your spouse
  3. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule -  Get big calendar and write down EVERYTHING that is already scheduled for you – school parties, family parties, church parties, parades, pageants, band concerts, etc. so you won’t commit to something else on a date that’s already spoken for. Be sure to include family traditions (and reserve time for them). Review your calendar at least weekly during the holidays so you can adjust for last minute things that always come up.
  4. Stock up – Buy extra staples like flour, sugar, butter, etc. that you'll need for holiday baking
  5. Whenever you cook – double the recipe -  Then freeze half for busy December days
  6. Kick off the Holiday season in style – On the last day of November have everyone dress in pajamas and watch a favorite Christmas movie while sipping hot chocolate.
September Book Give-A-Way –
This month I am giving away a Halloween Gift box. The winner will receive one of my books – autographed – that can be used as a Christmas gift if you already own it! It will also have some Halloween goodies to help you get your house ready for the FIRST upcoming holiday.

All you have to do for a chance to win is comment on my blog at least once during the month of September. NOTE: When you comment on the blog there will be a delay before it posts (it has to be approved to avoid SPAM posts). If you check back and your comment still isn’t posted just send an email to me at and I will enter you in the contest.

Good luck!!!!

Kids say – and do – the darndest things… Quotable Quotes from my Grandkids

Abbie called me to get information about my parents for a genealogy project. Once she had asked for their birthdates and places she asked for death dates. I gave her my mother’s information but reminded her that my father is still alive. Our conversation continued and when we were hanging up she said, “Gram, I’m sorry that I thought your dad was dead.”

Recently several grandkids spent the night. The next morning during breakfast Andie had Cocoa Krispies and her milk turned chocolate. When she proudly showed the others Abbie said, “Well chocolate milk isn’t very healthy.” Andie said, “Yes it is. It still has protein and Vitamin D.”

When I was in Idaho this summer Harrison asked why my teeth were green. We all laughed and then I didn’t think anything else about it. A few weeks later Banx invited me to go swimming with him. Then he added, “But you need to brush your teeth first.” Needless to say I purchased some tooth-whitening strips immediately!

One day Scarlett took some money out of her mom’s purse. Grace told her she had to put it back because, “That’s my money.” To which Scarlett replied, “But remember we’re supposed to share.” Awkward.

Banx told Butch that they were going to ride on his Papa’s boat and Butch thought he said tomorrow (which would have been Sunday). Banx said, “No silly! We can’t ride the boat on Sunday. We have to go to church!”

And last but not least – Emily took Harrison, Atticus and Scarlett to the media room at her apartment complex to watch Lion King. Atticus got scared and Scarlett told him “It’s okay, I’m right here.” To which he replied, “I love you, Scarlett!”

What would I do without them???

Recipe of the Week

Corn Casserole –
1 box of cornbread mix
1 pkg of cream cheese (8 oz. softened)
1 stick of butter (melted)
1 can of cream corn
1 can of whole kernel corn-15 oz size (don't pour off the liquid)
Mix all together with a spoon, pour into a 9 x 13" pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and bake in a preheated oven on 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.
I haven’t tried this but it sounds so good to me!!!!

Next installment of Writing Tips next week!!!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Week of September 16h - I'm a grandmother AGAIN!!!

Sadie Olivia Acker was born last Monday, September 9th at approx. 8:15 in the evening. She was 7 lbs 13 oz and absolutely beautiful. Her mom, Grace, did a great job with the delivery. Her dad, Aaron, is very proud and her sister, Scarlett, likes her a lot. I held the baby as much as possible – partly to let Grace rest and partly because I was leaving soon and wanted to get in as much time with Sadie as I could. Apparently Scarlett thought I might have the wrong idea because finally she told me, “This is our baby.” Yes she is. I left early on Saturday morning and rode the shuttle from Rexburg to the Salt Lake airport (a 5 hour ordeal). Then I flew from Salt Lake to Oakland, CA and on to Houston where I changed planes for my final flight to Birmingham. So I arrived at home around 9:00 on Saturday night – 17 hours after leaving Grace’s house in Rexburg!!!! I’m starting to wonder if flying is that much better than driving…

Anyway, I found all well at home – for which I am thankful. I miss the Idaho folks, especially tiny Sadie who will be very changed when I see her again in 2 months. And I worry about Grace who – in addition to recuperating from childbirth and caring for 2 babies – started back to school today. But I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to go and be there when Sadie joined our family.

So You Think You Want to Write a Book . . . (Part Six)
Characterization Continued – Setting and Plot are very important parts of a story (book) but it is my opinion that the best setting and/or plot in the world are wasted if the characters are not compelling. If I don’t care about the people – then why should I care what happens to them? So if you’ve written your biographies of your major characters – you should know them pretty well. The next challenge is to make sure that as you lead them through the intricacies of your plot that they stay true to the character you’ve assigned them. For instance, when I wrote Hearts in Hiding and created Miss Eugenia she had a definite 'voice'. An editor going through the manuscript added a dialogue tag saying that Miss Eugenia ‘giggled’. I knew my character and I knew that while she might laugh or snicker or smirk – she would not giggle. So that had to be changed. I love character details – especially repetitive details – that help the reader get to know them. Maybe your character sighs in exasperation often like Hunter Ezell does in Proceed with Caution (and the sequel Danger Ahead that is almost finished finally!!) Or maybe your character keeps a hankie tucked in the neckline of her floral print dress like Miss Polly (and uses it to dab perspiration). But if you choose a quirk or habit – stay true to it. The character doesn’t have to sigh continuously, but often enough to make it memorable. If you make your character scared of the dark – don’t send her outside in the middle of the night. That would be against her character. If your character is messy – don’t have her cleaning her house constantly. These things are very important – but can be checked and double-checked during your self-editing phase so don’t stress over them too much now. Pick a quirk or habit for a couple of your characters now – but later if you need your character who is scared of the dark to go outside in the middle of the night – just change that quirk (or remove it entirely).

Now, a little about plot. You have the basic idea for your story – so get it written down. I like to go with an expanded outline. That means I put down the major events in the order they will occur (or when I think they will occur). I don’t put any dialogue, very little description – this is just what is going to happen. The first draft of this outline is difficult for me. I have to control myself from rushing ahead or from over-developing a small part of the outline. This is bad for several reasons. One is that you may later decide to take this part of the story out and then you’ve wasted time. Worse, if you dedicate a lot of time to writing a description or dialogue for under-developed characters in a vague scene – you’re going to get frustrated. So just push ahead, writing the major plot points. Once you get to the end, go back to the beginning and start filling in a few details. I like to think of it as a clay statue with chicken wire for the base. First you have to bend the chicken wire into the basic shape you want (this is your outline). Then you put the first layer of clay onto the wire (this is the first layer of details). You have to have this clay on the wire to hold future layers of clay in place. So it is very important – but not the finished product. So don’t get frustrated with the lack of polish your manuscript suffers from at this stage. It’s just part of the process. Get the clay on that wire and then you have something to work with!!!

September Book Give-a-way –
Remember to comment on any blog post this month to be entered into the drawing for a free Halloween gift box (that includes a free book!!!)

Recipe of the Week - Butterfinger Pie
8 count package of mini Butterfinger bars
1 tub of Cool Whip
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
Graham cracker crust (premade)

Crush up the Butterfinger bars. Mix together cool whip & cream cheese. Stir in the most of the crushed butterfingers (reserving about ¼ cup for garnish). Pour mixture into graham cracker crust. Top with the other 2 crushed up butterfingers. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

Monday, September 9, 2013

In Idaho for birth of granchild #10!!!!

I'll be back to blogging next week - with pictures of Miss Sadie!!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Preparing for Christmas (Yes, I know it’s only September!!!)

The holidays (especially Christmas) should be times of joy and peace and love and appreciation for the Savior. But often times those good feelings are overwhelmed by gift-buying anxiety and activity-scheduling stress and over-taxed finances and impossible demands on our time/energy/patience. SO I thought I would give a few tips I have learned over the years that might help you to have a more “Happy” Holiday season!!!

1.         Start buying gifts or putting aside money NOW. (Those of you who buy your gifts throughout the year – you’re way ahead of me – skip to suggestion 2) I saw an idea the other day about buying a gift card each week when you buy groceries. These can be used later to purchase gifts or can actually be given as gifts (my preference – takes out a step in the gift-giving process). Sometimes you can find sales, but even if you pay full price for what you buy you’re spreading out the expense (and the shopping) over four months instead of trying to do it all at once.
2.         If you still do Christmas cards, go through your list now (if your list is not on a computer – transfer it now – this will take longer this year but will save you hours in the long run). Make additions and deletions. And if you don’t know how to print labels, learn – both return address labels and ones addressed to the people on your list.
3.         Look through the winter clothes and pull out all the Christmas items. Determine what fits (all family members) and what doesn’t. This will reduce shopping for Christmas outfits later. I recommend that you discard the things that don’t fit (unless they will fit someone else in the future). But if you throw things away remember to hold out a few old-timers in case you get invited to an Ugly Sweater party!)
4.         Go ahead and have a family picture taken. That’s especially important if you have kids going off to college in the fall. The picture on your card doesn’t have to be in front of a Christmas tree. If you want to add a touch of the holidays you can have one of the kids hold a big candy cane or a sign that says Merry Christmas. Or if you really need a Christmas tree in the picture – go ahead and set it up. Then you’re about three months ahead of schedule!

New Book Give-Away for the month of September –
This month I am giving away a Halloween Gift box (yes, I know Halloween isn’t until October!!!) The winner will receive one of my books – autographed – that can be used as a Christmas gift if you already own it! It will also have some Halloween goodies to help you get your house ready for the FIRST upcoming holiday.

All you have to do for a chance to win is comment on my blog at least once during the month of September. NOTE: I have heard from several people that they were unable to comment. I don’t know what the trouble is (and I’m honestly not equipped to figure it out) but if you try to comment and can’t – just send an email to me at and I will enter you in the contest.

Good luck!!!!

Recipe of the Week -
Fresh Peach Dessert
Powdered sugar (2/3 cup crust) and (¼ cup whip cream)
1 cup butter, softened
2 pkg. graham crackers; crushed
10 medium fresh peaches; peeled & sliced (2 pkgs frozen can be substituted)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 pt. whipping cream
½ tsp vanilla

Mix cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, & butter. Save a small amount to sprinkle on top, press the rest into the bottom of a glass 9 x 13 pan. Whip the cream until almost set. Then add ½ tsp vanilla and ¼ cup powdered sugar and set aside. Mix the sweetened condensed milk with lemon juice. Place the peaches on the crust and pour the milk/lemon mixture on top. Spread the whipped cream on top of that and sprinkle with remaining crust. Refrigerate. (Does not store very well so only make what can be eaten within 24 hours – half the recipe if necessary)

Sorry there is no writing installment this week – I’ll pick up with Installment 6 next week)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

WINNER of my Book Give-Away for August...

Lauren Brightman!!!!! Please contact me at so I can get your mailing information. Congratulations and the new September contest starts with my blog post tomorrow!!!!