"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Friday, September 28, 2012

This Year You Write Your Novel

I just finished reading This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley. This book is short (less than 25,000 words). While it is going to be more beneficial to a beginner, there are some nuggets of gold and inspiration for veterans.

The process of writing a novel is like taking a journey by boat. You have to continually set yourself on course. If you get distracted or allow yourself to drift, you will never make it to the destination. It's not like highly defined train tracks or a highway; this is a path that you are creating discovering. The journey is your narrative. Keep to it and there will be a tale told.”

Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than 37 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

$30 Writers Conference

The Bayou Writers Group ninth annual conference, A Bridge to Publication, is set for Saturday, November 10, 2012.

REGISTER NOW FOR ONLY $30 - Good Until Oct. 12

The following Authors, Agent and Editor are currently scheduled:

1) D.B. Grady - Master of Ceremonies - http://dbgrady.com/

2) Hope Clark - Funds for Writer and author of Lowcountry Bribe will be speaking on how to make money as a writer. http://chopeclark.com/    and     http://hopeclark.blogspot.com/

3) Deborah LeBlanc – Fiction writing. For more information: http://freshfiction.com/author.php?id=15743

4) Dr. Stella Nesanovich – Using the Local and Personal in Poetry.”  Her website: http://www.nesanovich.com/

5) Linda Yezak – Writer and Editor will speak on “The Importance of the Editing Process.”  Her webpage: http://lindayezak.com/    She will also be taking pitches at the conference: http://www.bayouwritersgroup.blogspot.com/2012/06/editor-pitch-with-linda-yezak.html

6) Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy – Will be speaking on Folktelling and poetry. She will also be giving a reading. Her website: http://www.monalisasaloy.com/Welcome.html

7) Brooks Sherman – Literary agent will take pitches - sign up at the door. He will lead an interactive session on how to land/keep/work with an agent.

If you are interested in attending the BWG conference, please send $30 (check made out to "Bayou Writers Group") with a note showing the name of the individual attending the conference, their address, phone number, and email. The cost is $30 if you register by Oct. 12, then it becomes $40. If you pay at the door, it will cost $50. You can mail payment and information to:

PO Box 1402
Lake Charles, LA 70602

*Students - high school, home school, or college - can pay $25 with a valid ID

For more information: http://www.bayouwritersgroup.blogspot.com/p/2012-bridge-to-publication.html

Friday, September 21, 2012

Author Interview: Sophia L. Stone

Sophia L. Stone has written a very moving, powerful and open account of her struggles and questions of faith.

Brought up in a religious home, Sophia believes the only way to have a forever family is by following church leaders and obediently choosing the right. She goes to the right school, marries the right man in the right place, and does the right thing by staying home to raise her children. But when she starts asking questions about grace, love, and the nature of God, she realizes her spiritual struggles could rip her family apart.

1.            Why did you hide your faith struggles from those closest to you? I was afraid my faithful Mormon family and friends would think me either prideful or influenced by Satan if I admitted to doubting The Church. There’s a common phrase faithful Latter-day Saints use to explain away uncomfortable issues: “The Church is true. The people are not.” Those who leave the church are often labeled as angry, easily offended, prideful, lazy, or deceived. There’s no good reason to doubt, no good reason to question, no good reason to stop believing. Faith yields loyalty and obedience.

2.            How is your family coping with this? Do they support you? Well, it depends on what part of my family you’re talking about. My kids have been great, but they’re pretty young. I’m continually amazed by the open mindedness and trust of small children. I really think Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said that unless we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. My husband, on the other hand, is having a really hard time. We’ve had to do some negotiating about the kid’s religious education. He wants them to believe in Mormonism and is very much attached to the outcome. The thought of his kids choosing to leave the LDS church is absolutely devastating to him. There are certain things that (for him) are non-negotiable. The kids WILL get baptized at age eight whether I want that for them or not. The kids will continue to go to the Mormon church each Sunday until they turn twelve. (He’d said eighteen originally, but has since softened). 10% of his income will continue to go to The Church whether or not I agree with that particular donation. We’re a single income family so that’s a pretty big deal, but he’s frightened, truly frightened that if he stops paying a full tithe, he’ll lose his job. Although, in fairness, he say it has nothing to do with fear. Rather, he has faith in the principle of tithing. God will bless him for his financial sacrifice. As for the rest of the family, my mother is struggling, the brother just younger than me acts as if he doesn’t know, my older brother has been accepting, and my sister is unpredictable. I’m not even sure how to characterize that relationship at this point. So overall it’s been a mixed bag where tolerance is concerned. As for support—no, I do not have family support. Nor is it something I can reasonably expect.

3.     How do you get someone who thinks you’ve been influenced by Satan to consider your point of view? Short answer: you don’t. Long answer: It’s odd to be on the other end of the “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric. I always considered myself a fairly good, honest person. And I have to admit that I don’t feel like a different person just because I don’t believe in Mormonism like I used to. Certain things just don’t change, you know? I still like chocolate milk shakes. I still like people. I feel, in many ways, closer to God than I did a year ago. So it’s been kind of shocking to have people who always trusted me assume the worst.
4.      How has your change in beliefs affected your marriage and children? I think it has benefited my children in a number of ways. First, by showing them that goodness isn’t based on legalistic rules, they are more accepting of themselves and others. Second, by helping them see that there isn’t one right way to be a decent human being, they are able to think the best of people. Third, by opening up to other ideas and spiritual philosophies, they are more open as well. As for my marriage, my change in beliefs has brought to light problems I’d been ignoring for years. Things having to do with power dynamics, issues with inflexibility, and some fundamental disagreements in parenting styles between my husband and I. My marriage has suffered and I worry about it often. But I also know that without the insights I have now, the relationship would continue to grow more unbalanced and necessary change would never occur. I’m crossing my fingers and holding out hope in the marriage department.

5.      How has writing about your struggles helped you? There’s a saying that writing is cheaper than therapy, and I can attest to that. There’s no time limit on how long I can type away on my keyboard when I’m having a bad day. I don’t have to worry about the paper judging me. Plus, it’s helped me to put things in perspective.  

6.      What are the best ways to support someone going through a faith crisis? The most important thing is to listen. Don’t distance yourself. Don’t shy away. Don’t give advice, and definitely don’t judge. Just be a friend. Period. Sometimes it really is that simple.

7.      How did your falling away from Mormonism affect your view of the religion? Hmm, well, when I believed in Mormonism with my whole heart, I rationalized away any issues I had by saying members were human and made mistakes. I believed The Church was as close to being a perfect institution as anyone was likely to find. God had made it. He had ordered it. Who was I to question what He had formed? Now I see all kinds of problems with the institution. Not with the hearts of members or leaders (who I believe are honest people acting on faith) but rather with group think. It shuts down a lot of voices that threaten the status quo. There’s not much tolerance for free speech where church policy and doctrine are concerned. Speaking against the leadership is taboo, and there are lots of unwritten rules about not exposing the flaws of the organization to the outside world. It’s a lot like a dysfunctional family that way. Loyalty to the church trumps personal spirituality.    

8.  What kinds of reactions have you had from your Mormon author friends? This has been similar to my family response—lots of condemnation, lots of avoidance, lots of judgment, and lots of gratitude. Yes, I know, it seems odd that I’d hear gratitude from LDS author friends who are faithful in the church. But apparently there are people who struggle in silence, unable to tell a soul how they feel without losing those most dear to them. That’s the reason the Disaffected Mormon Underground (DAMU) exists. It fills a palpable need.

9.  Do you ever feel angry . . . if so, why? On my bad days, I feel more disappointment than anger. Mostly because I believed with all my heart the promises found in Mormonism. I thought I was happier than other people, that I had greater access to spirituality, that I knew my most important and fulfilling role. I believed I had divine knowledge and purpose. Now I’ve found that many of these promises are smoke and mirrors. And I’m further disheartened when I see religion hurt families. You’d think a family centered church would shout from the rooftops not to shun family members who’ve fallen away. You’d think they’d allow non-believing parents to see their believing kids get married in the temple. You’d think they’d support all different kinds of families, not just those that meet one definition. But all too often an ideal is promoted that benefits the church over families that are struggling. “Traditional gender roles” and “conservative family values” are taught as religious principles.

10.  Who should read your book? Anyone who wants to better understand how religions indoctrinate children, how they can unite and separate families, how they can bring peace and turmoil at the same time. Anyone who wants a more personal understanding of how it feels to grow up in a legalistic religion that values trust and obedience more highly than free thought, or anyone who wants to understand Mormonism. Please don’t misread that to mean my book is factually perfect. It’s not. It is based on my experience, and everyone’s reality is different. But I stand by my claim that people who leave Mormonism are often in an isolating place. It’s hard for an orthodox believer to understand why anyone would leave. It’s hard for those who’ve never been in a fundamentalist religion to understand why leaving one is such a big deal. To both these groups, I’d say, “please read this!” Understanding is vital.

For a chance to win a free copy, check out her goodreads giveaway: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/33223-mormon-diaries
You can buy the book from Barnes&Noble or from Amazon. You can also find the book trailer on You Tube.
You can find Sophia on twitter: sophia stone@ask_a_mormon and she will take any questions about Mormonism and answer them under the hashtag #mormonquestions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Freebies for Readers

Available for free download from Amazon and Barnes&Nobles:


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Results and a Winner!

The winner of the Unending Devotion Giveaway is Ann. Congratulations! I'll be in touch soon about receiving your book.

The results of my "How Did You Hear" Poll: How did you hear about the last book you purchased?

Friend, Colleague, or Teacher - 15%
Writer's Group, Critique Group, or book Club - 12%
Advertising - News show, Interview, ad in magazine etc. -  7%
Saw it in a bookstore - 40%
Saw on blog or other social media - 17%
Other - 7%

Approximately 40 readers voted in this poll.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We Will Never Forget: 9/11 Writing Prompts

We were all “somewhere” when America was attacked eleven years ago. Chances are, even your children will remember some of that week. (Today’s high school seniors were in second grade when the attacks of 9/11 occurred.)
America’s motto following the attacks “9/11: We Will Never Forget.” Where were you when the planes hit New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, and what is different today (if anything) about the way you felt a decade ago?

Take some time to write about your feelings, memories and what you think needs to happen in the future. Here are a few ideas…

1)      Write about your reaction to and activities the day of the September 11th attack
2)      How have your feelings and understandings about the attacks of 9/11 changed?
3)      There were many heroes during the September 11th tragedy. Write about a hero or a heroic event that made an impression
4)      September 11th is a Day of Remembrance. As we honor those who lost their lives on this day 2001, make a list of everything in your life that you are thankful for.
5)      Did the events of that day change your thoughts about your life? In what ways, if any, did you change?
6)      Sometimes a mistake becomes an opportunity. Explain…
A)    The terrorist mistake of bombing on 9/11 became an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate it is the strongest nation on earth.
B)    9/11 offered America the opportunity to learn from its mistaken efforts to dominate the globe.

Obviously your answers to #6 will offer diametrically opposed positions depending on how you view the United States' role as a world power, and on the extent to which you believe America should fight terrorism.

7)      BuddyProject.org offers suggested activities that your children can do as they research the events of September 11, 2001. Explore the various sites with your children and discuss with them the information that you find. Encourage older children to write about their findings and feelings.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: Unending Devotion - Jody Hedlund

I must admit I wasn’t expecting much from Jody Hedlund’s newest novel. Even though I greatly admire the author and enjoyed her previous two books, a string of recent disappointments by other writers left me pessimistic.
Unending Devotion became a rejuvenating balm to the injured book worm within. I was so enveloped in the 1883 world of logging towns and the worries of these beautifully crafted characters that I found myself stealing minutes to read when I should have been watching the dinner I burned, the street light that turned green and finally the sleep I should have gotten before beginning a full day.
Hedlund’s newest release was everything I enjoy in historical fiction. Just as with her previous two novels, she weaves true places, characters and actions into a beautiful story with wonderful examples of God’s love for us.
Lily Young is on a mission to save her lost sister, or die trying. Heedless of the danger, her searches of logging camps lead her to Harrison and into the sights of Connell McCormick, a man doing his best to add to the hard-earned fortunes of his lumber baron father.
Posing during the day as a photographer's assistant, Lily can't understand why any God-fearing citizen would allow evil to persist and why men like Connell McCormick turn a blind eye to the crime rampant in the town. But Connell is boss-man of three of his father's lumber camps in the area, and like most of the other men, he's interested in clearing the pine and earning a profit. He figures as long as he's living an upright life, that's what matters.
Lily challenges everything he thought he knew, and together they work not only to save her sister but to put an end to the corruption that's dominated Harrison for so long.
Lily is a strong, sympathetic and heroic girl with real desires, dreams and flaws. Connell’s patience and devotion make him a man any woman would be proud to call hers. Their faith in God, each other and friends helps them develop into the best version of themselves.
I highly recommend you read all three of Hedlund’s books. However, Unending Devotion is my favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and am anticipating the release of her fourth book in the spring.
For a chance to win a copy:
1. Leave a comment with this post by September 14, 2012.
2. Each mention of this post on Twitter, facebook, your own blog/website etc. will earn you an additional entry. Again, this must be done by September 14, 2012. Just leave me a link in the comments below.
3. A winner will be announced here by September 17, 2012.

To learn more about Jody Hedlund, her books, or some of her other giveaways, please visit her blog.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Poll: How Did You Hear...

In case you have not heard the debate about paid reviews or the discussions on the credibility of reviews in general, check out the articles on The Kill Zone.

In conjunction with them I decided to poll my own readers to see what influences your purchases. Please take a moment to click the survey to the right and/or comment below.

My most recent purchase was Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell. I saw it on a recent family vacation to DisneyWorld. I'm still awaiting delivery from Amazon. However, I have also recently purchased books recommended by friends or by writers I respect.

How about you?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Five Literary Inspired Recipes

by Aniya Wells
I think food and literature are one of the most exciting pairings. In fact, whenever I stumble upon a passage in a book that beautifully describes certain foods or libations I can't help but want to read the passage over and over again. This particular scene from Hunter S. Thompson's "The Great Shark Hunt" is one of my favorite food passages of all time:
"I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon; anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every 24 hours, and mine is breakfast.  In Hong Kong, Dallas or at home--and regardless of whether or not I have been to bed--breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crêpes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon or corned beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelet or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert."
Food is one of the most enticing, intriguing topics in all of literature. One of my favorite hobbies is to track down recipes that remind me of my favorite books and create literary-inspired dinner parties out of them. For those of you who want to sample some dishes inspired by beloved classics such as "Harry Potter" and "The Old Man and The Sea," check out these intriguing recipes below.
1) Gumbo from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Gumbo is a quintessential Southern, Cajun dish. Although gumbo is never ever mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the story itself takes place in Louisiana, which is reason enough to tie this recipe to the story. Fitzgerald greatly appreciated Louisianan culture and often referred back to it in many of his other writings, including briefly in "The Great Gatsby." There are a lot of gumbo creations in the culinary world, but Paula Deen's recipe incorporates a whole host of powerful, flavorful ingredients that will have you reaching for more than one bowl.
2) Butterbeer from Harry Potter - If you're a diehard Harry Potter fan, then chances are you've already tried Butterbeer – a cider drink made famous by Harry Potter. This sweet, winter-esque drink reminds us of the good ole' days of Harry Potter, when the series was still unfinished and we had something to look forward to. Alas, both the book and movie series are finished, but that doesn't mean you can't recreate a Hogwarts-inspired feast full of Butterbeer, Cauldron Cakes, Chocolate Frogs, Licorice Wands, and Pumpkin Pasties. 
3) Beef Stew from Oliver Twist - Who could forget that heartbreaking moment when Oliver Twist cautiously walks up to the man in charge of the workhouse and says, "Please, sir, I want some more." This is one of the most famous lines from "Oliver Twist," as well as all of literature, and every time I hear or read this sweet line I start to crave a hearty bowl of beef stew. The soup served to Oliver was probably a broth-based vegetable soup, but fall and winter are around the corner, and there is nothing more wholesome than a hearty beef stew to get you through the cold months ahead. Check out this beef stew from allrecipes.com and eat it while reading Charles Dickens' beloved classic!
4) Turkish Delight from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - I'm not the biggest fan of Turkish delight, but for whatever reason, I start to crave this exotic candy whenever I read the beloved classic "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" every winter. In case you don't remember, whenever Edmund Pevensie encounters the evil White Witch in Narnia she attempts to lure him to her wicked castle with promises of Turkish delight and a royal title. This liquorice, powdered-sugar candy is usually mixed with nuts, such as dates, pistachios, hazelnuts, and walnuts. It's not necessarily the most delicious candy, but it certainly brings you back to those childhood days of reading C.S. Lewis' most famous book.
5) Mojito from Old Man and the Sea - Whenever I think of Ernest Hemingway, I rarely ever think of a mojito. Yet according to NPR, one of Hemingway's staple alcoholic drinks was in fact a mojito. Havana – where Hemingway lived – is famous for creating this popular cocktail, which is probably why Hemingway drank them so much. I'm not sure if a mojito makes an appearance in "The Old Man and The Sea," but since this book is a quintessential Hemingway novel that draws upon many of his emotions and experiences, I think it is a perfect pairing with the novel. There are hundreds of ways to make a good mojito, but here is one of my personal favorite recipes.
It takes a certain literary gift to weave delicious descriptions of cuisine into writing. You may not know it, but the passages of some of your favorite novels and books likely include their very own tantalizing, mouthwatering descriptions of food.

A freelance blogger and writer for over ten years, Aniya Wells now regularly contributes to the Onlinedegreeprograms.com blog. She is passionate about giving potential students advice as they embark on an online or traditional degree program. Aniya is very excited about the latest advances in technology that have made a comprehensive education more accessible to all! Please direct questions or comments to aniyawells@gmail.com.