Friday, July 31, 2009

Interview with Cami Checketts

After a tragic fall leaves her sister in a coma, Savannah becomes the prime suspect in the investigation. Desperately hoping to prove her innocence, she convinces detective Noah Shumway to stay by her side at all times. But the close quarters prove too much for them to handle. Can Savannah find the proof she needs to show Noah she s not a monster? And how can she rely on her faith and keep her family safe when it seems all hope is lost? The Sister Pact is a thrilling story of action, suspense, and love. Full of unexpected twists, this book will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I've only recently met Cami and am excited to spotlight her on my Friday Author Interview. She's a delightful woman who is extremely energetic and fun and I know you are going to enjoy getting to know her.

Cami Checketts is a wife, mother, exercise scientist, and avid supporter of Cold Stone Creameries. Although clean toilets are a wistful memory, she adores her husband and three wild boys. Sometimes between being a human horse, cleaning up magic potions, and reading Berenstain Bears, she gets the chance to write fiction. Cami has a BS in Exercise Science from Utah State University. She currently has a thriving business as a pro bono fitness trainer. She fuses her two passions by writing health and fitness articles for The Christian Pulse and Your LDS Neighborhood.

Cami s blog,, offers fitness advice and strength training routines for busy women. Cami lives with her family in the beautiful Cache Valley of northern Utah. During the two months of the year it isn t snowing, she loves to swim, run, and bike.

Cami’s third book, The Sister Pact, will be released in July by Bonneville Books.
For fitness advice and strength training routines please refer to her blog –

Here's my interview with Cami.

M.B.: Tell us about your current release and where you got the inspiration for it.

Cami: The Sister Pact is an inspirational romantic suspense.
Savannah Compton is devastated when her sister and best friend, Allison, falls into a coma after a tragic accident. Or was it an accident? Even with a charming and handsome detective at her side, it seems Savannah may never discover the truth. But if she doesn’t her family could be in even more danger. And Savannah’s past holds its own secrets that could change everything.

Now she must prove her innocence to the one person who is beginning to matter most. Join Savannah as she struggles to summon faith and rely on hope, even in the darkest of circumstances, and learn how the bond between sisters can overcome anything.

The inspiration for The Sister Pact is, of course, my sister. When I had a nightmare about a man pushing my sister down the stairs, I had to write about it. Nightmare therapy.

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Cami: I’ve always loved to read and dreamed of writing, but never dared try. After my second son was born, I suffered from post-partum depression. My very wise mother declared I needed a hobby and I should write a book. I started writing that day. Now I’m no longer depressed about babies, just agent rejections.

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Cami: My first two books are buried in my computer and will never see publication. After many rejections I started on my third book, The Fourth of July. A friend of mine referred me to the publishing company she was marketing for. It was a good fit for the book and a nice way to get my foot in the door.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Cami: I think I cried over the first twenty rejections. Then I ate a lot of chocolate, grew a thicker skin, and realized that nobody could stop my dreams. I worked on improving my writing and kept trying, what else can an author do?

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

Cami: I have three young sons so I only write if they are at school, asleep, or on a play date. Basically, if the stars align I get some writing in!

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?

Cami: Every book I’ve written originates from a nightmare. If the idea won’t leave me alone and the characters start popping into my head all hours of the day, I know I have to write about it.

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to
have their manuscripts become books in print?

Cami: Just the usual – don’t give up! I also would say, focus on the writing. It’s so easy to get distracted by Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc. If you don’t have a quality product to sale, all the promotion in the world won’t do much for you.

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit
down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline

Cami: I’m a pantser. I dream up a scene, write it and keep writing until I get stuck. Then I go for a run and usually the next scene pops into my head. It makes for a fun writing process for me, but my original manuscripts are a mess. I lose track of how many rewrites I do.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's
block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Cami: If I’m stuck and running doesn’t help I just sit down and force myself to start typing something that the characters might do. Quite often, these scenes get thrown out, but it usually gets my manuscript moving again.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when
you are writing?

Cami: I prefer quiet.

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Cami: Like I said earlier, I just start writing the scenes that come to me, those are usually my story creation periods.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Cami: Noah Lukeman – The First Five Pages. I re-read that book often.

M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?

Cami: I have a fabulous critique group, but we struggle to get together. When we meet they help me tremendously.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

Cami: That is such a rotten question. It’s like asking who my favorite child is! Of course right now my favorite is The Sister Pact because I’m so involved in it and I feel I’ve improved as an author since my first two books were released. Plus, I’ve got a serious crush on Noah, the hero. Don’t tell my husband.

M.B.: What are you working on now?

Cami: A book about a mom who blogs against television and one of the television executives sends a hit man to stop her.
Yes, it’s a bit out there, but it’s so intense. I’m afraid to sleep alone anymore!

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share

Cami: Thanks so much Michele for spotlighting me on your blog. You’ve always been one of my favorites and it’s quite an honor to be on your blog.

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Cami: My first two books, The Fourth of July and The Broken Path are available through Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon. My third book, The Sister Pact, will be released August 1st and be in stock at Deseret Book, Seagull Book & Tape, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart and Costco.

If you go to Cami's web-site,, you can enter to win a free book! Good luck!

Friday, July 24, 2009


I will be out of town this week so my regularly scheduled author interview will resume next Friday. If there is an author who would like to be interviewed for my blog, please email me at and I would be thrilled to include you in my author interview lineup. For those of you who are fans and would like to request an interview with an author (within reason, I doubt I could get JK Rowling, but I'm willing to try) please email or post your request and I'll do my best to pin that author down for an interview.

Have a wonderful weekend. I'll be back next week and will post some pictures of our trip to New York, my new second home.

Also, HAPPY TWENTY FOURTH OF JULY. I will be having a pioneer experience next week when I go on TREK with our stake. Go ahead, laugh. I can hear you. But it's true, I'm going on trek. I'll be sure a share my experience here on my blog. With pictures of me in my rockin' bonnet. Not a good look for me I assure you.

Love and best wishes!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Writing a New York Times Best-selling Novel, or, When Do I Get To Have A Dream That Turns Into A Bestselling Novel? by Michele Ashman Bell

It hasn't happened yet. Every night I go to bed and think, "Will I have the dream tonight? The one where I wake up and have a brilliant idea that becomes a best-selling novel series that turns into box office hits starring hunky male leads and smolderingly beautiful female leads?"

Yea, right.

I may be a fiction author but I do live in the real world. These "success" stories are far and few between. Yes, they do happen, no question about it. But until you have that career-boosting dream, there are a few things you can do to make it happen the good old fashioned way, with hard work and imagination.

So, what exactly goes into a best-selling novel?

I've researched this question and have come up with a few ideas. Please feel free to add more. Believe me, I'm open to all the help I can get.

#1: Plot should be the driving force of your story. Characters and background are secondary. A good plot will pull the reader in and not let go of them until the last word of the last page.

#2: Have passion for your characters. Write characters that readers can love, at their best or at their worst. Make them human, give them flaws, let them show their humorous side as well as their neurotic side. They will be irresistible to readers.

#3: Find a way to appeal to the reader's wildest dreams and fantasies. People read to escape. If your character is dull and boring and they do ordinary things, readers are going to be disappointed. Write about the impossible that becomes possible. Let the reader escape into the wonderful world you've created.

#4: Keep the tension high all the way to the end. Make the reader crazy if you have to. Readers actually want to bite off all their nails, hold their breath, groan in agony and stay up all night reading. Hold them off, clear to the end, then . . . . give them the ultimate, satisfying ending.

#5: Have your background information so believable it becomes a character. When you decide on a setting for your story don't forget to look at what's right in front of your nose. You may be able to use material from your own life or surroundings that will add a deep level of authenticity that only you can offer.

#6: Use the details of place and time as tools to create your characters. Make characters an extension of their world; how they dress, how they speak, what they eat and all other ways they interact with their surroundings. Books become magical when the reader believes that characters and their world are real.

#7: Be unique. Everyone one of us comes to the table with a set of experiences, interests and abilities. Taking advantage of our own personal uniqueness will allow us to write stories that no one else can write. Embrace it. You really do have qualities that will set your story apart from everyone elses.

Perhaps what we can learn from this is that we don't really need a dream. Maybe where we get our ideas isn't as important as what we do when we get an idea. We really can make magic happen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Interview with Clint Johnson author of Green Dragon Codex

I'm so excited about this interview today. I've really enjoyed getting to know Clint Johnson, not only through the interview questions, but I spent some time snooping around on his web-site to learn more about him. I would suggest you do the same. He claims to not be a very interesting person, but I beg to differ.

A little about Clint (as copied and pasted in part from his web-site):

Be warned that I am not an interesting subject (not even to myself). In compensation for this, I have used a little creative license. Not lied; oh, certainly not. Everything you read here is perfectly true---it merely isn't always factual. And, in certain circumstances, its truth may reside in persons, places, and concepts other than myself. But everything is true in some way, shape, form, instance, and time, and for the present this is my truth.

I write novels. It's hard to be definitive beyond that because there aren't many more consistent characteristics of my writing. I write for adults, teens, and children in any genre that strikes my fancy, though I mostly write fantasy and historical fiction. (I suspect my consistent devotion to fantasy in particular stems from the liberating inconsistencies it allows me as a storyteller.) In that past I've written and published everything from academic essays and journalistic articles to short stories and commentaries on writing and literature. I've also worked as an academic editor as well as a professional technical writer and freelance editor of fiction. Now I'm completely devoted to my novels, where I write about Olympic penkrationists suffering marital trouble, and obsessive-compulsive robber barons committed to mental asylums at the turn of the twentieth century, and redneck fairies, and demonic angels patronizing towns in puritan America, and cows falling on dragons, stuff like that.

Born and raised in Utah, I still live in the Salt Lake area. In addition to my writing, I work at Salt Lake Community College tutoring writing, predominantly in one-on-one sessions with students. As I work at an open-enrollment college, I've met with every make and manner of student imaginable, including many non-native English speakers at different levels of language acquisition and students with disabilities, significant health problems like cancer, and other tremendous challenges. The range of different writers I've worked and interacted with in my roughly 2,600 sessions has been invaluable to my own progress as a writer and teacher of writing.

Other things that may be of interest: I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the LDS or Mormon Church. If this is irrelevant to you, well and good; if this is relevant to you, I hope it is in a positive way. It is positively relevant to me, which is all that matters. I also belong to the following organizations: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and The League of Utah Writers (I'm a member of their Oquirrh chapter).

About Green Dragon Codex: Scamp has spent his whole life finding trouble, and it's all worth it when he discovers a treasure so priceless a dragon died to protect it.
But as he seeks to uncover the mystery of the dragon's chest, he is hunted by evil wizards and supposedly good dragons, meets odd strangers who have power over his fate, and is forced to confront a terrifying question: do good or evil ever really let us chose between them?

Here is my interview with Clint:

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

CLINT: Not until I’d written my first book, possibly later. I don’t think it was a moment of realization. I was twenty-two when it happened, however it happened. Previous to that moment, I’d never felt the need, impulse, inclination, or even an itch to write. Growing up, I didn’t keep a journal or write letters or anything that involved putting ink on paper. I was a voracious reader of many genres—though I did keep mostly to fiction—but that appetite never translated into a desire to write. It was only after nearly a decade of chronic insomnia, a condition that turned my entire teenage years and young adulthood into a desert of lethargy, isolation, and depression, that I first felt an inexplicable need to DO something. Reading was no longer enough; I needed to create something, anything that would challenge my mind to wake from the static torpor of sleep and social deprivation. Why I decided to write a story, I don’t know. Maybe because my reading had become my only real connection to the world and people in it, even if only through dramatic distillations of reality. Whatever the reason, I challenged myself to write three hundred pages, all the while certain that was impossible. Roughly nine hundred pages later (280,000 words) I finished my first novel, which is also the first story I ever wrote. At some point around this time I realized I wanted to be an author, or perhaps needed is a more appropriate term. For the first few years my writing became the only relevant and material thing in my life. Now I can’t imagine not telling stories through words.

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

CLINT: Long and squiggly and paved in tiny bricks of bald luck. The first five books I wrote—not to mention three novellas and a dozen or so short stories—earned me about a hundred and fifty rejection letters (and zero cents). During this wasteland stage of my career, I sought to commiserate with other writers, which proved the finest professional decision I ever made. I joined the League of Utah Writers (LUW) after seeing an ad in a small city paper by happenstance. Within a few months I received in invitation to Sara Fitzgerald’s first book release party. At this time I hardly knew her, so I have no idea why I went but I did. At the party Sara introduced me to Rebecca Shelley, who would become a person of interest in the publishing world about a year later, and to me particularly a year after that. In the meantime, I started to send my writing to the LUW’s annual writers’ contest and win awards. Over a three-year period I won first-place awards in non-fiction and fiction, both short and long forms, for both adults and YA. As a fellow member of LUW, Rebecca saw this. Then I heard she’d gotten a contract for a middle grade novel from Mirrorstone, an imprint of Wizards of the Coast (publisher of the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game). I didn’t think much of it beyond getting green with envy (you may consider this a foreshadowing of happy future events) until I learned that Rebecca’s editor in the Dragon Codices, Stacy Whitman, was going to be a guest at a conference I would attend (LTUE at BYU every February). Marshalling every shameless bone in my body, I asked Rebecca if she’d introduce me to Stacy, which she very kindly did. Rebecca’s advocacy resulted in an invitation by Stacy to send her a proposal. I took about two weeks, as I recall, plotted out a unique trilogy, wrote the sample chapters and synopsis, and sent it off. A month or two later I received an email from Stacy. She said she didn’t have a place for the trilogy but she liked the sample chapters so much she wanted to give me a shot at a series they already had slated for release. As my book included a green dragon, she told me to cut my three books down to one—as my first book was 280,000 words, you can imagine how much I love cutting—and submit it as a proposal for Green Dragon Codex. Seven months later (and I swear each of those months had at least six weeks in them) Mirrorstone offered me the contract. That’s the long version. I can also express it in numbers: my path to professional novel publication spanned five books (eight prior to release) totaling well over 1,000,000 words in rough draft. Oh, and after all that, I’d never written anything for children when I was contracted to write a children’s novel. Big hint: don’t do that if you can avoid it.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

CLINT: Only every other day, plus Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings, and every day of the month with a one in it. It wasn’t so bad, though. Coming from the zombie-state of insomnia, any interaction with living beings was refreshing—even getting form letters from computers rejecting you in pretense of a human. Rejection letters are like falling boulders though; they keep coming but at some point they stop hurting. I thought I was rejection proof until those seven months (or 42 weeks) waiting on Mirrorstone, which I spent whining and stomping around like a petulant elephant. Getting the contract purged me of that childishness. Now I’ve had a publisher sitting on a requested manuscript for six months, and I only stomp like a rhino. That’s half as petulant, maybe less.

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

CLINT: When I’m writing a draft (and I don’t write every day), I start writing very first thing when I get up and don’t stop until I have at least 1,500 words. Typically, this will take between one and a half and three hours. I write Monday through Saturday, sometimes taking a day off between chapters to conceptualize what comes next. If I don’t get 35,000 words a month I’m really in a slump. While I can’t write for much more than three or four hours most days, I can edit pretty much any time on any schedule, so that’s much easier to fit around my other job. I write books beginning to end without breaks other than those days between chapters and Sundays off. Now that I have a web site with a blog and have to write content from promotion and the like, I’ll be doing much of that writing in the odd moments I have in the morning, but mostly in the evening after work.

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?

CLINT: My ideas come from two places: anywhere and everywhere. There is no facet of my life or experience that doesn’t give me ideas for stories. It isn’t a matter of getting ideas, but of filtering out mediocre ideas and shaping those with the potential to be good. And we do shape our ideas; they don’t come in grade-A story form, and they never come complete. My stories are the result of percolation. I get ideas—fractured, isolated bits of dialogue, or theme, or archetypal emotion, and other stuff—that I write down on scraps of paper that eventually make their way onto my computer. They stay there and in my mind, where they bounce around and accrete until a genuine story concept is born. That concept I then work and build consciously, stressing conflict and the inherent emotive theme of the story. I do this until I become confident enough to begin writing.

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to
have their manuscripts become books in print?

CLINT: 1) Set goals. Any real goal means making a firm choice, which entails sacrificing other options. To know how to approach your writing career, you need to know what you most want and what that will mean giving up. If you want to publish profitably, you’ll have to compromise on your stories and write, to some degree, according to market demands. You won’t be able to write in certain genres or forms, or be too adventuresome or experimental in your composition. And you’ll have to do an awful lot of marketing and educating yourself into publishing. Finally, you’ll have to accept that fact that as a professional artist you’re competing with the best in your field, not so different from a professional musician or athlete. If you aren’t confident that you can work yourself into the truly elite, you may never reach your goal. If none of this dissuades you—and nothing else I or others could say will—then decide to publish and work until you do. If other things are more important, such as creative control or not sacrificing time and other aspects of life for your writing, then accept that you probably won’t publish to the degree you’d like, or at all. Whatever your choice, make it and accept it, good, bad, and all. 2) Read. Read inside and outside the genre you write. Read classics and current bestsellers and whatever catches your eye. Recognize what you like and don’t like, then try to figure out why. Learn to read like a writer. Evaluate a text as a performance, and try to understand why you applaud or pointedly do not. Read and don’t stop. 3) Write. Write what you want to publish and experiment in ways you’ll never seek to publish. Write fiction and non-fiction, short and long form, in every perspective and tense, with point of view characters of different genders. Write to the best of your ability, totally invested in the product, then be dissatisfied with what you end up with and revise it. Revise it until it gets good, then edit it. Then write something new. 4) Educate yourself into publishing. Research agents and publishers and how to communicate in their world. Learn the language they use, such as SASE and simultaneous submission, then become fluent in its use. 5) Submit. Start with the best agents and houses five at a time, if they allow simultaneous submissions, and move down your list. When you get form rejections, send out another round. When you get personalized rejections, use their information to refine your pitch. Keep sending. Enter contests and other opportunities, anything respectable to gain you some acclaim and legitimacy. (And keep writing. And keep reading.) 6) Network. Go to conferences, listen to what people say and mark who they are, then go home and record everything in a database. Join writers groups and attend them. Get to know people. Don’t bother professionals when you meet them, but do greet them, have them sign books, and tell them you enjoy their work (but only if you really do). 7) Always, always be professional. Publishing is a really small world with a lot of dreamers and aspirants who, quite frankly, aren’t serious enough to realize how competitive and laborious it is to make it in this industry. There is no diploma you can show others that verifies your credentials as a professional writer; there is no club card to open doors. The only things you have to distinguish you from the vast majority that will never make it and conduct themselves accordingly are your writing and your professionalism. Take the business seriously, as you would any other occupation. Respect those in the field whether or not you like them. Always behave in a way that makes you stand out as more serious, respectful, and professional than other aspiring writers. Finally, be nice. Genuine niceness will get you a long way.

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit
down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline

CLINT: It depends on the story. I find that the more experience I gain the more consistently I outline, though usually not to a great extent. I structure my stories according to payoff points, or elements that motivate me to write the story and which I feel will really reward a reader. By lining these up I get a series of dots that I connect as I write, usually not knowing what comes in between beforehand. I do outline in much greater detail between chapters when I’m finalizing what to write the next day, but these outlines only extend for a single chapter or, sometimes, a single scene. Now that I’ve published my first novel and am looking to sell on proposal, my synopsis usually becomes my first outline. I never write an outline prior to my synopsis anymore.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's
block? If so, how do you deal with it?

CLINT: Snags, yes; writers’ block, almost never. A snag can be pushed through and overpowered, and I do that all the time in writing. I have more instances where my rough draft is like chewing through granite than I feel inspired, but I don’t let it stop my production of 1,500 words a day (and NEVER less than 1,000). Writers block, on the other hand, is most commonly when we’ve let our inner editor out of his cage during the drafting phase. We’re trying to do creative and analytical thought simultaneously, and it just doesn’t work. I’ve written long and deliberately enough that this doesn’t happen unless I’m doing something really, really difficult. For example, my most recently completed book has a climax where the protagonist is imprisoned so she can’t act and also can’t speak. All I could do was show her thoughts to keep her involved in the conflict, so it was all internal, which was very, very hard. I wrote the first eighty-five percent of the book in three months and the last fifteen in two, all with a head acquisitions editor having asked to see the manuscript. That was the worst case of writers’ block I’ve ever experienced, and really the only instance worthy of the term.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when
you are writing?

CLINT: I need quiet, but it doesn’t have to be absolute. I never listen to music, as I feel it would influence the emotional pitch of my writing. I don’t want or need inspiration or promptings; if the story isn’t alive enough to come out on the page, then I craft it according to set techniques. I never want to depend upon extremes of emotion, as they can’t be sustained over the course of an entire novel. Additionally, I’ve worked hard to get to the point where I can block out a lot of my momentary emotions to write without them affecting the product.

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

CLINT: I don’t do anything different from my standard life. When I’m working a story I do consider possibilities and craft them for affect, and I often research as I write in the intensive world-building genres of fantasy and historical fiction. But I don’t consider these factors inspiration as much as refining. What I don’t do is read anything similar to what I’m writing. Again, I’m looking to avoid cross pollution, though I doubt I’d be as susceptible to that as I was as a novice.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

CLINT: I can’t think of a single person, but I can think of at least seven. Tracy Hickman for his works I read and loved as a boy. Jerry Cleaver, founder of the Writers’ Loft in Chicago, from whom I learned my foundational storytelling techniques. Joseph Campbell for his ingenious work on archetype and myth. William Shakespeare for being as good a storyteller as there’s ever been, and for telling those stories using lots of made-up words. Charles Dickens for writing stories that made statements against ambiguity and changed the world because of it. Dr. Seuss for making language fun from my childhood. And Neil Gaiman for being the best storyteller we have now in the English language.

M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?

CLINT: I haven’t used a critique group for several years. I used to and it was a great help, though mostly because of the critiques I did for others. It really trained me to read as a writer, which gave me tools to analyze the best in our field. I no longer use such groups for a number of reasons, primarily because I am a very private drafter. I never show anything I’ve written to anyone until I have it as polished as I can get it. This is one reason I can hit my daily word count; I always know that I can write horrid material as no one will ever see it until I’ve revised it to a level of which I can be proud. Also, I’ve found an alpha reader or three that I trust to read my work, and these opinions are more worthwhile than groups of people less familiar with my work. Finally, I don’t use critique groups because my creativity is very independent, as is my entire personality. I’m very comfortable and confident working on my own.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

CLINT: My first two books are a series, and they’re my favorite because of the grand scale and intriguing theme of this greatest epic I currently have planned (despite the fact that the books stink). My Greek historical Beyond the Marble is my favorite because it’s an epic Olympic tale that’s really about marriage and family, and nobody ever believes that I, as a single guy, wrote it. My comic book graphic novel is my favorite because I finished the 150,000 book in three months and it’s better than what’s being published in that shared world now. My period thriller Dark Side of the Moon is my favorite because an obsessive compulsive point-of-view character is really challenging to write, and because the particulars about the asylum system in the US circa 1900 were terribly tragic, which makes for a wonderfully tragic story. Green Dragon Codex is my favorite because I’ve been a Dragonlance fan since my boyhood, because this is my first children’s book, and because people can actually buy and read it. My next children’s fantasy (the title’s a secret until it’s accepted for publication) is my favorite because it’s all in the perspective of Molly Morrison, who is the coolest little girl to ever grace a page (or so I hope). And Two-Spirit is my favorite, despite not being finished, because I have no idea how to describe it other than to say it will blow quite a few minds, either in a good or bad way. Maybe both.

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share?

CLINT: Yes, Lilliputian, because there’s no more fun word in English, for which we have Jonathon Swift to thank.

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

CLINT: Green Dragon Codex is a national release that you should be able to find in most major and independent bookstores, as well as online retailers. It isn’t in LDS dealers, to my knowledge. To make it easy, simply go to my web site,, where there is a list of online sellers, as well as annotated chapters, essays I’ve written on writing, study and curriculum materials for teachers, my blog, and much more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Seriously So Stupid!

Man! I hate it when I do stupid things. Especially when it sets me back for days.

Here's what happened. I am expecting some serious pity comments, okay people?

As per my last personal blog (a week ago) I was telling you that I was busy resurrecting a manuscript so I could submit it. My goal was to have it done and sent yesterday!


Why? Because Miss Brilliant here didn't save about ten pages of awesome changes and brilliant writing (I write fiction, therefore I live in a fictional world . . . OKAY!) and I lost it! My computer did some sort of blip and I was left with nothing! Did you know that crying, stomping,pouting and mass consumption of chocolate does not restore lost documents on your computer? Aghghghgh!

So, I am in the process of trying to remember what the heck I wrote and how I had changed things and because my brain cells are dying daily at an alarming rate, I can't recall any of it. I am now rewriting and trying to dredge up something else that is equally as brilliant and wonderful and to be honest I'm not sure I'm having much luck. We'll see.

Sorry to whine, but (to quote my amazing friend Cheri Crane) "this really inhaled!"

Off to rewrite . . . again!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Interview with Gale Sears author of THE ROUTE

It is such a privilege to have an interview with Gale Sears on my blog today. I've gotten to know Gale the past few years and cannot begin to adequately describe what a wonderful, talented, classy, friendly, amazing, and beautiful woman she is. Her books are filled with incredible and rich settings and characters and her plots are gripping and satisfying. After you read one of her stories you will want to read them again and again.

Gale Sears grew up in Lake Tahoe, California, and spent her high-school years in Hawaii. After graduating from McKinely High School, she went on to receive a BA in playwriting from Brigham Young University, and an MA in theater arts from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Utah, where she celebrates life with her husband George, and her children Shawn & Chandler.

I spent some time on her awesome web-site and found out a little more about the extensive research she puts into her writing and thought you might find it interesting.

Here's what Gale says about research:

I wanted to give you a little insight into the process I go through when writing historical fiction. I am very particular about the accuracy of the research, and although the story may be fictionalized, the historical setting, events, and ambience must be true to the time period. These exacting standards (I put upon myself!) require me to invest hundreds of hours researching online, in library stacks, at archives and historical museums, and sometimes in the locations themselves. It is an amazing opportunity and joy to be able to go to the country where the novel is set. Such is the case with my current novel. It takes place in 1917 Russia during the Bolshevik revolution, and I should be finished with the writing prior to the holidays. Wish me luck!

Gale also provides beautiful pictures of her trip to Russia. I highly recommend you visit her web-site, you won't be disappointed.

Here is my interview with Gale:

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Gale: I liked writing stories and reading them to my mom (a captive audience) when I was eight or nine. Later in life, I became intrigued with the theater, and began writing plays. This inclination lasted into my adult life. As I neared middle age several stories began bumping around in my head, and the content of these stories seemed to fit more neatly into a novel rather than a play.

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Gale: My first novel was sent out to 8 to 10 national publishing companies, and turned down by all. I became quite discouraged and set it on the shelf. The second book I wrote was titled, Autumn Sky. It was historical fiction, and the first book in a series for the LDS market. I sent it to one publisher who looked at it for several months, then declined. I sent it to a second publisher who accepted it fairly quickly.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Gale: Prior to writing books, I wrote plays. I’ve written fifteen or so. Eight out of the fifteen have been produced (which is like being published in the book world). The others have been rejected, critiqued, and pulled apart, NUMEROUS times. This painful process is part of the work of being a writer: rethinking, revising, and not taking rejection personally. It is discouraging when you’ve put so much of your time, effort, and heart into a project. I take a breath and move on. Think of rejection as the refiner’s fire. Your work will eventually be gold…or charcoal. Humor is defiantly a good way to cope.

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

Gale: I begin writing in the morning, work about an hour, then stop to get something to eat: cold pizza, Wheat Chex cereal, tuna sandwich. I go back to work for another hour or two, break to stretch my back, grab some almonds, papaya juice, Junior Mints, and watch a few minutes of Fox news. I go back to work for another couple of hours. Then I break for a late lunch. I take a walk, and then get back to another two or three hours of work. Of course, each writing day is unique, but you get the idea.

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Gale: I mainly write historical fiction, so if some incident in history grabs my attention, or an historical character steps forward to fascinate me, then I begin to think of a story to weave within that framework. I also latch on to ideas that touch my heart. I will tell you quite honestly that this approach to writing in the current marketplace is a tough sell. I have to be true to my writing sensibilities. I cannot write a vampire book just because vampire books are the momentary craze.

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Gale: Write something you feel passionate about. Don’t just write what’s popular at the moment. Start small: blogs, short stories, essays. Send articles into magazines. Keep writing and READING. Join a critique group. Hone your skills. Take a creative writing class. Attend writing workshops. Be persistent and patient. ALL writers have had setbacks and rejections.

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

Gale: I take the core of the idea that’s stuck in my head and put it down on paper. Then I think of the main character and formulate their personality. How are they going to react to these set of circumstances? Often in historical fiction many of the challenges are already outlined and I weave my characters through that labyrinth. When the main story is out of my head and down on paper, then I rough out a map of each chapter. The content in the chapters may change, or the chapters themselves may be rearranged, but the basic form of the story is there: beginning, middle, and end.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Gale: Writer’s block is part of the game. I walk away for a day or two. I’ve learned to do this from putting together puzzles. Many times I can’t find one piece to fit. I walk away for an hour or two. When I return; inevitably I’ll reach down, pick up a piece, and plunk it right into place. I also remind myself that this is the first draft. The book will be revised many times. I have to keep telling myself this, because I want to write it clean and beautiful in the first pass, and that’s a sure way to get writer’s block.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

Gale: Absolute quiet. I don’t mind the sound of wind or rain, but no music and no talking.

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Gale: I find my creativity is stirred by Nature. I take a lot of walks. I bicycle. I hike in the mountains.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Gale: Other writers have made a great difference not only on my writing, but on the way I see the world. Because of the words and thoughts of another person, I can reevaluate life. A.A Milne, E.B White, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, Dickens, Chekhov, Shakespeare. The list goes on and on.

M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?

Gale: I don’t have a critique group, but I wish I did. It would be so great to have a group of creative people I trusted, to not only help with the content of the story, but to encourage me along the way. Writing is a very lonely business.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

Gale: Hmmm. This is a tough question. It’s like asking which child is your favorite. I like them all for different reasons. I like the final book in my series, Upon the Mountains, because it brings together all the elements of the story. I like my Christmas book, Christmas for a Dollar, because it’s based on an actual Christmas my father and his siblings spent during the depression. I like my latest book, The Route, because it brings back memories of all the amazing and spunky older folks to whom I delivered meals-on-wheels.

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share

Gale: Thanks to you, Michele for this interview. I’d love for people to visit my web site. and my new blog site

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Gale: You can find my Autumn Sky series: Autumn Sky, Until the Dawn, and Upon the Mountains, at Seagull and Deseret Bookstores and through their online stores. They can also be found at Amazon. The same is true for Christmas for a Dollar. The Route can currently be found at Deseret Book, Amazon, and by contacting Walnut Springs Press at

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Resurrecting a Manuscript

I wrote a Young Adult book fifteen years ago. It was before cell phones were standard accessories for teens, before internet social networks, and before caller ID.

I really love this story and the characters in it, but it never was accepted for publication. Consequently, it's been "gathering dust" so to speak, saved in the recesses of my computer storage.

Recently I was given an opportunity to dust this story off and give it another chance to get published.

The first thing I needed to do was to address all the technical advances that have occurred since I wrote this story. In the last fifteen years the whole world has changed when it comes to communication. I've had to update and integrate all of these wonderful gizmos and gadgets into my story. It's been rather interesting to see how much daily life has changed and how much we rely upon these devices every day.

For instance; when I work out, I would die without my Ipod. I don't think I could take one step on the treadmill without some music to motivate me. I have my Blackberry with me so, heaven forbid, I miss a phone call or an email. My husband hid my phone the other day, just for fun. I was in a frenzy! NOTE TO HUSBAND . . . NOT FUNNY! Yes, I am addicted.

Having said that, computers at home. Not only do I stay in touch with friends and family through the internet via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc... But even in my callings we rely heavily on email. We've been able to eliminate some weekly meetings because of email.

How about our phones at home? How many of you check caller ID before you answer and, if it's someone you don't have time to talk to or don't even want to talk to, let the answering machine pick up. This is a great timesaver and eliminates having to deal with crazy salesmen. In fact, my incoming calls flash upon my television screen. This is a feature I don't even know we had, nor do I know how we got it, but I love it and am glad we have it.

I know many people have GPS in their cars. I do not have one of these yet. Nor do I have a DVD player in my car, although I want one for my kids really badly. I tend to be the GPS for my kids when they are driving around and get lost. They'll call and say, "I don't know where I am but I need to get to this place right now!" and they'll expect me to figure it out. No pressure there.

Oh, back to my manuscript. I'm hoping to get this manuscript done this week and get it sent in. I'm excited to see my baby hopefully get born this time. Writers have to develop a great deal of patience because it's very much a hurry up and wait kind of life. We have to hurry and get our books written, meet deadlines, make revisions, then we wait for committees to make decisions and for the book to get published and then finally to end up on the shelf. Patience never was my greatest virtue.

I'll give you more info about this story once I find out its fate.

In the meantime, what are some of the technical gadgets you can't live without?