The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

For details, see www.amazon.com/abna or www.createspace.com/abna

Basically, it's a contest for unpublished novels. I decided as of this morning that I am going to enter. The entrance period starts Monday at 12:00am, and goes for a week or until they get 10,000 entries, whichever comes first.

I will be honest when I say that I have always been terrified of submitting my work. Part of the purpose of this blog has actually been to encourage myself to talk about my writing. You see, there are literally thousands--perhaps millions--of people who consider themselves to be "writers". And many if not most of them are absolutely terrible. A lot of time its a maturity thing: they just don't have a maturity of themselves or of their writing style. I've been there. And I have always feared being considered part of that group--the nerds, the socially awkwards, the people you look away from and roll your eyes behind their back.

So talking about my work to other people has always been a challenge for me, entirely besides the fact that I--like anyone else--fear rejection, particularly over something I invest myself so fully in. A novel is like a baby, flesh and blood and soul.

To submit writing is equally challenging. I never feel like its ready, like its good enough. There is always more polishing to be done, always more revisions that could make it better.

When I heard about this contest, though, it struck a note with me. It's nervewracking--I mean, how do you make your novel stand out against 10,000 others?! There are so many factors working against me and my work, so many things that are not in my favor, so many things left unfinished, unpolished.

But finally, I took a step back and said, What the heck?

Today I have been stressing over a cover letter/pitch. Basically, I have to sell my book and myself in 300 words or less. I would like to thank the dozen or more people who read said pitch over the course of the afternoon, as well as the handful that took a gander at my Author Bio. Let me tell you--there is nothing more challenging than talking about yourself in the third person without sounding like an absolute prig. Guh!

Over the course of the weekend I shall be making some last minute revisions as well as solidifying my submission package. It's a challenge, but I'm just going to give it a go and see what happens. Wish me luck!



(I would recommend clicking on it and watching in the Facebook window, then you don't have the funny blog background.)


The Roadshow: Part Z

It's over! It was marvelous. Pictures to come.


The Value of Hard Work

Today is Friday. Normally I am a great lover of Fridays. There's just something about them that makes them seem infinitely brighter than the rest of the week. Maybe it's the imminent freedom of the approaching weekend. Or maybe the sun just shines more on Fridays (not that it seems that way on this rainy day!!) Today's Friday seems particularly bright, however, because I am pretending the roadshow does not exist. That's right. Today there is no roadshow. It will come back tomorrow in full force, but for today I am blissfully ignoring its existence.

What I really wanted to write about today is the somewhat abstract concept of hard work. It's been on my mind as I watch people and society around me. Our society has grown remarkably lazy, as no one will hesitate to point out. People (I use the term in its most vague and general terms) seem to expect rewards to simply be handed to them. Jobs. Diplomas. Money. I see this at work a lot--people who call in wanting refunds, because times are hard, and expecting to get money just for the asking. Well, friends--times are hard for us, too.

Hard work is not a concept I have appreciated in every part of my life. I have had my lazier periods--still do, in fact. There are a lot of nasty or difficult tasks that come through a persons' life.

However, I am coming to appreciate just how beautiful and important hard work really is.

There are plenty of platitudes out there about hard work; I will try to spare you. But with utmost sincerity I can tell you that when you really work for something, when you work so hard you think you'll explode with the stress of it, when you've given everything you have and still you are asked to give more...well, I believe that's when you really find the value in it, whether it's a job, education or church, a relationship or a friendship. Putting in the effort gives these things value.

I look at my college experience, particularly in the theatre. My last show there, Henry V, was immensely challenging. It required hours upon hours of effort, and every last drop of ingenuity I had. I gave it my all, everything and more that I had to give. There were other shows like that too, but Henry V truly stands out as the crowning jewel of my experience there. I loved that show. And it's because I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to be happy, working as hard as I was. And amazingly enough, it worked.

I look now at my singles' ward experience. Through college, I never had a ward that I really cared about. I always wanted cool callings, and was regularly disappointed by the things I was asked to do. My efforts therefore were lackluster--I went to church, I played the piano in Sacrament meeting or whatever my calling was, but that was the extent of my efforts. But my current ward...I went in with the desire and intention to challenge myself. I asked for a challenging calling--not a glory-filled one like I had always imagined that I 'deserved', but something that would stretch me and my skills, something that would take effort and preparation. I was called as a gospel doctrine teacher. Since that calling, nearly everyone I have told of it has sympathized, bemoaned my fate. And yet...I don't find myself complaining. It's difficult. It's a lot of work. It scares the crap out of me every single time. But...I wouldn't give it up for the world.

I look at this roadshow. I have been commended for taking it on, but honestly, I didn't think about it twice when I was asked. And it has been so rewarding--challenging, certainly. Frustrating at times. Chaotic and maddening. But I've gotten to know more people, I've gotten to write and direct, to teach a little and to enjoy these wonderful people who have sacrificed of their time to participate. Throughout the entire experience, I have not begrudged the work and the time and the effort, because it is so worth it!

I don't mean to be self-righteous, and I don't mean to preach. This is more a self-exploration of these things anyhow--realizing that when I have given of my efforts as selflessly as possible, I have enjoyed the experience more. I want to explore the things that I have realized are important.

My point here is that the joys of hard work apply everywhere, to everything. Nothing in this life is going to be easy, and if it is you're probably doing it wrong. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was not meant to be easy--we have to work for it, every moment of every day we have to restore our faith and our desire to follow the direction we have been given. Our daily life was not meant to be easy--we should find ways to challenge ourselves, to force ourselves to grow and improve. Whether its through work or hobbies or friendships, we will be happier if we are active and involved and seeking to challenge ourselves. And when the trials come--hardships through family or finances, through personal challenges or deep questions, my response to you is the same: just keep trying, and have faith. The same goes for relationships, whether with spouses or siblings or children or aunts or cousins or friends, close or the barest acquaintence. Relationships are not easy. They take work, hard and something grueling effort, whether to overcome anger or to overcome apathy, to fight the little annoyances, or to win their heart each and every day. Nothing worthwhile is easy, and if you stop working to keep the things that are important to you, you will lose them, more often than not simply through your own indifference.


The Roadshow: Part Y

I'm really mad at myself, because I meant to take pictures at rehearsal tonight and I totally spaced it. There was even a great moment where, exhausted, J.T. and I were still up writing song lyrics and arranging a reprise. Oh yes, dear reader, we are ADDING a musical number--ANOTHER musical number--with the performance less than three days away. Oh yes we can! And I totally should have gotten a picture, at least of the musical rehearsals this evening. I am an utter failure as a historian.

Other than that, rehearsals are going fairly well. Tonight was hard, people were tired--I certainly was--and the energy wasn't quite where we wanted it to be. Hopefully tomorrow is better--it had better be, or I'm going to kick some booty, I'll just say that here and now! Then we have Friday night off (Hallelujah!) and then Saturday is the big day. So keep your fingers crossed folks we are counting down the days!


The Roadshow: Part X

I think I've discussed the roadshow here and there, but let me reintroduce you to this madness that has been consuming my brain power for the last month. My stake (a local chapter of my church, a grouping of the smaller wards) is having a roadshow, which is this Saturday evening, and I was asked to take charge of my ward's portion. During December, I wrote the script and lyrics around the theme of service and in the mandated setting of a garage, among other prerequisites. Starting after the new year, I have been dragging various ward members by the scruffs of their necks to get them to practice and learn this mini-musical. Even though I'm a theatre regular and know how the thing goes, I was starting to feel nervous there for awhile. Fortunately, things are finally starting to come together, as I knew they would.

I happen to have a fantastic musical director, who just seemed to appear right when I needed him and possessed of the perfect skill set for the job. I don't think this would have happened without J.T., and I'll say that with a perfect frankness.

It's been a long time since I've been in a directorial role--since taking Directing II in the spring of 2007--two years ago now. (Wow.) It's a totally different mindset than being a stage manager, as I am accustomed to, and it's been a very nice stretch. This is a relaxed setting. It doesn't have to be perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. There are no judges here, of any kind. No grades or reviews hang in the balance. This has been FUN. It's sort of a mockery of theatre, but then, what musical isn't a bit tongue-in-cheek? Tonight I spent half my breath telling the girls to "Keep giggling!!" (the other half was telling them that I couldn't hear or understand them, but that improved as the night wore on.)

God knew I needed this. He knew that I needed to stretch my theatre legs, but not too much. He knew that I needed a chance to get to know more people in my ward. He knew that I needed something to occupy my mind and my time during this period of my life, brief though it is. He knew I needed a goal to work toward, and people to chivvy toward it with me. So yes, it will be a relief to put it behind us, but I don't intend to take much time off afterward--I'm getting used to having church business to keep me busy.

Look for more roadshow updates as we get closer to the big day!

The Inauguration of Hope

I have to agree with Jen to say that I'm looking forward to four (and hopefully more) fabulous years of fine First Lady fashion. {Photos courtesy of MrsO.org] Michelle Obama is already becoming well-known for her taste (and frugality) in fashion, for her and for her two girls. I watched the Inauguration today while at work--amidst the complaints and speculations of my Republican coworkers. Actually, I sat down for a meeting with the CEO, which became a half-hour discussion of politics that I was not expecting, but which I nevertheless enjoyed. We agreed that we--like much of the country--are falling less toward left and right, and more toward centrist politics, and that President Obama will most likely find his policies more centrally-located in order to please and accomplish anything among the American people over the next four years. The Inauguration today was fascinating to me--I kept CNN.com Live on for nearly four hours, watching the dignitaries and the events. I particularly enjoyed the performance of John Williams' piece. I have a special place in my heart for Yo Yo Ma, which we can blame entirely (like so many other random things) on The West Wing. I did enjoy President Obama's speech, though it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Don't ask me what I was expecting though, because I can't really say. I particularly enjoy the concept of the Age of Responsibility. President Obama spoke truly when he said that we as Americans are going to have to pick ourselves up out of this low spot we've gotten ourselves into. I guess today I'm just grateful, like so many others, for hope and the possibility of change. My Republican friends would say I'm blindly following. Whatever. At least there is potential here. We have an engaging new President, who has a wonderful and supportive family who are equally engaging for varying reasons. I am looking forward to what the future is going to bring.



I will post more later, but for now I wanted to let you, my dear reader, know of my triumph. I have completed a draft of my novel, monstrous beast that it is. Hopefully I can now regain some of my brain power, which will let me blog about all the OTHER wonderful things in the world.

Final word count (for this draft):
Word: 168,704
Scrivener: 169,471

Oh yes. It's enormous. Much revising to come, but not until I get some time away from it to regain that aforementioned brain capacity. Perhaps I will return to the neglected revisions of my SF draft...

Have a wonderful weekend!



I absolutely LOVE writing at home.

These days, I do most of my writing at work. Because, gifted human being that I am, I can accomplish most of the tasks set to me in a day within the first two hours of the morning, on most days, I then spend the afternoons just waiting for emails to come in and the phone to ring. This leaves me free to occupy myself--which, when I can make myself focus, leads to literary production.

Because I'm on a PC at work, I use Microsoft Word. I will state here and now that for the purpose of novel-length writing, Word is terrible. And in general, I still despise Word 07, it's so hard to find anything. ANYHOW, when I'm at home, I get to use the wonderful, amazing Scrivener, which is the absolute perfect software for my creative flow.

An added albeit misleading benefit is that Scrivener counts words different, so I get a significantly longer wordcount at home than at work.

So this evening I came home, and uploaded the text I wrote at work today, inputting it in Scrivener. And lo and behold, my word length at home has passed 160,000 words.

I also just have to tell you that I am utterly overwhelmed by how entirely massive that is.

At any rate, this evening I embark upon a journey, which I hope is successful. My five-day challenge ends tomorrow, and I am so close I can smell it. So, dear friends, wish me luck. Me and Scrivener have a date tonight, and it looks to be rocking!


Life could be a lot worse

I get asked a lot, as I'm sure most people do, how I'm doing, how's my job, what I'm planning to do next. Not so very long ago, I got pretty uncomfortable whenever these questions arose (and this was magnified by the fact that, like most people, I get asked those questions on a fairly frequent basis).

I have come to the conclusion that life could be a lot worse. I look at my life now, and it's certainly not everything I want it to be. But I have a lot going for me, and I find that I can't really complain too much.

My job may not be the thrilling career that I hope to one day have, but on the other hand, I really enjoy the people I work with, AND it gives me plenty of time to write (when I can focus...ever the problem, I'm afraid). It gave me the freedom to buy a car that makes me immensely happy every time I think about it. And hopefully I can save up some money so that I can go BACK to school and pursue that thrilling career I'm hoping for.

I absolutely adore my singles' ward. It's by far the best ward I've ever been in, helped by the fact that for the first time in my life I was really ready to dedicate the time and energy to it that allowed me to reap the benefits I'd always wanted. My calling is challenging, but I'll tell you what, teaching Gospel Doctrine has already improved my life, and I look forward to it every time. Scares the crap out of me every time too, but I don't think that can be helped. :) OH! And the silly roadshow has been an immense challenge, but I'm getting to know people whom I wouldn't otherwise had the opportunity to work with. It's still going to be nightmarish to put all together in the next week and a half, but I look forward to the adventure.

So, I guess today I'm just grateful for all my blessings. I can work a little harder, and I can always improve things for myself and for others. But today, I'm grateful for what I have. And I'm grateful for all you unseen readers, and hope that you can find a little sunshine today. And may the heavens help me for spouting such awful cliches! :) God bless!


Milemarker and another goal

I have just passed 150,000 words in my novel. And is it done yet?

As I discussed earlier, I did not make last week's goal as set for me by my friend Michael. However, I've been given a new deadline, one which is significantly more feasible. Yesterday afternoon, Michael gave me five days to finish my novel. When exactly those five days start or end is questionable, but I've taken the goal to heart. Last night I stayed up far too late writing, and here I am at work writing again. Fortunately for me (but not maybe for my sense of focus) it's a slow day at work, which hopefully means lots of writing time--even a few minutes to spare for my neglected blog. So, basically--wish me luck!

P.S. On Saturday I saw 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' for the second time, and I just cannot express how much I enjoy it. It made my best friend weep for about twenty minutes. I didn't cry the second time, but it was still equally beautiful. I highly recommend it if you're in the mood for a drama or 'artistic' film. It's lovely.


Rock Band

I just immensely enjoy Rock Band. I have no idea why. But after leaving the party tonight, I turned DragonForce up really really loud and had to resist the inclination to drive really really fast. I love music. And I just love Rock Band.


The wheels just keep grinding

One of my good friends has been reading my novel-in-progress, which I just have to say is one of the more nervewracking things in my little universe. Letting someone read my unedited, unrevised work is like handing over a piece of my soul--especially to someone like this particular friend, whom I consider to be a relatively difficult person to please. The fact that he is still reading (ten chapters in!) means I must be doing something right, or else that he's getting to be a softie in his old age.

At any rate, this friend being the sarcastic, demanding person that he is, challenged (ordered, more like) me to finish my novel in three days' time. This was in an effort to keep ahead of him in his reading, so he wouldn't be left hanging when he caught up to where I'm at with the manuscript.

Fortunately, he hasn't quite caught me yet, though he will in the next few days because unfortunately, I did not finish my novel by tonight's deadline.

I did try, though perhaps not as hard as I might have. But I spend this entire evening writing away. I finished over a chapter and a half today, far more than my usual daily quota. And I am indeed getting close to the ending now. Tomorrow I shall write the section which was the earliest bit of this novel I ever imagined--a scene that came to me back in August, driving home from Melissa's sister's wedding. I tried to fit the scene into a different story that I started the next day, which didn't work, so I trashed the story. And now five months later, I am finally going to write this scene, and I'm just hoping I can do it justice. Five months is a long time for a discovery writer like me, five months of mulling on a single set of images, building an immense story around it until that image becomes almost insignificant when compared to everything that has come to pass because of it.

This evening, I passed 140,000 words. This behemoth is now 50k longer than anything I've ever written before, and it just keeps growing. And as it presently consumes about 90% of my brain power (the other 10% being eaten by the roadshow!) I'm hoping to finish it soon so that maybe I can regain a few other things to talk about in everyday conversations. :) Good night world! To bed go I.


Interesting thought...

A former professor of mine suggested to me yesterday that rather than pursue a second bachelor's in social work, to instead proceed as directly as possible into a Master's program. This is coming from a man who got a bachelor's in biochemistry, an MFA in acting, and I believe a third degree in library science.

Interestingly enough, the MSW program at the University of Utah (currently my school of choice) does not require as a prerequisite a degree in social work or a related field, but rather, simply, a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university. This is, of course, among their various other prerequisites, however, the point is that there is a definite possibility here.

I would definitely have to take at least a semester's worth of prereq classes, but after those are out of the way, the way is open. My professor suggested going up to the meet them and let them meet me, and see how we all felt about it. So...I guess we'll just see what happens, now won't we?

PS: This week I've also accepted an invitation to return to Pennsylvania for the summer, to work at the Governor's School for the Arts. And I'll tell you, that alone was enough to spark my old desire to bang on the system long enough to get one started here in Utah...oh the passion is rising in my soul once again...


Missed one goal, but there's another

I'm not sure how much a believer I am in New Year's resolutions. We kind of got talking about it at my birthfamily's house today, and a lot of my family just don't care, or don't want to make resolutions, for whatever reason. As I drove back down to Orem, I pondered about whether I should make some resolutions or not, and found myself indifferent to the idea as attached to the 'new year'.

However, I do have some goals that I would like to accomplish, and a new year is as good a time frame to set as any. Some are personal, some are goofy. Some include things I have already set out to do, like going back to school this fall. But I also have some very important goals that concern my writing.

It HAD been a goal of mine to finish my novel by the end of 2008. As you probably know, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month, which sets a goal to write 50,000 words of a novel within the month of November. This I accomplished and more. After November ended, I set a goal to finish my novel within the month of December. At the time, I imagined that my novel would be finished somewhere around 100,000 words--the average length of a fantasy or science fiction novel.

I met the 100k goal, and passed it. (I was at 118k by the time midnight hit, and wrote another 2,500 words between 1 and 2am this morning, and even more this afternoon. What a New Year's!) However, the novel is still not close to being finished. Which, of course, means there will be extensive editing once I DO finish it.

So my goal for the new year? Finish the silly thing, of course, but I also want to get over my various sundry fears, do a thorough revision, and begin submitting to agents and publishers, for both this novel, and the SF I wrote in 2007. This is the next step in my writing career--getting my work out there. I hope and am beginning to believe that my work is finally approaching a professional quality, and hopefully with a little help and some polish, will be ready for publishing. But we'll have to see, so for the moment I'm just pressing ahead with the writing.

May you all have a wonderful 2009! I'm hoping for one, myself. Best wishes!