Monday, December 7, 2015

Shadows of Angels - a conversation with author L.G. Rollins

Excerpt: Shadows of Angels

"Stay calm, her father’s words echoed in her head. When you find yourself in danger, above all, stay calm. Aerbrin took a deep, steady breath and leaned down, reaching for her bow. one of the Forest Dwellers charged. It collided with her and knocked her to the floor. Raising a knotted fist, he bashed her head.Sparks exploded across her vision. She tried to raise an arm, tried to call out. Her body wouldn’t respond. The Forest Dwellers grunted again. The creature above her raised its fist again. She looked up. This was the end, she knew. When these monsters attacked, they killed everything. Animals, plants, and particularly humans. No one survived.Closing her eyes, Aerbrin forced her body to relax. This time, there was no pain."

I met Laura (L.G. Rollins) at several author and writer events, the most recent in September at a writer's retreat where I was doing a workshop. I knew immediately that she was my kind of person - fantasy writing book lover, who dreamed in worlds with dragons, fairies, and folklore. I was chuffed to bits when I heard about her book release. I get so excited when writing friends join me in the publishing world.

Shadows of Angels, published by Cedar Fort, is right up my reading alley.

After the forest dwellers destroy her home and kill her father, Aerbrin sets off on a journey to find the trith about her people, her kingdom, and the mysterious Zaad stone that contains a power she never imagined. Magic and mystery join forces in this intriguing fantasy world. Full of shifting alliances and twists you won't see coming, it's a can't miss read. 

I jumped at the chance to talk with Laura about her journey into publishing...

cjt: So, Laura, have you always wanted to be a writer?  
lgr: Yes. I started by writing quirky stories and sappy poems when I was only seven. I wrote a bit during High School, but then decided to 'grow-up' and do something 'real' when I got to college. After becoming a mom, I needed a creative outlet to stop me from going insane, and writing just came naturally. At first it was just a hobby, something I loved doing. But, it wouldn't stay small. Writing fills my life with a passion that I would be hollow without.

cjt: What started your journey in writing?
lgr: My parents were going through some old boxes back when I was very young, and we found a story my dad had written when he was in elementary school. It was several pages, all stapled together, with his hand-writing and hand-drawn pictures of a boy and his dog, named "Bow-wow". Seeing his book made me think, "I could do this. I could write a story".

cjt: Who helped inspire your path? Any books? Authors? People? lgr: Yes. Yes. And Yes. Many books, many authors, and many people. As I said, my dad was my first inspiration. He's a natural story-teller and always told me that I could become anything I wanted to—even an author. If I tried to list all the book and authors that inspired me, I'd miss a bunch, or put you to sleep. There are just so many. Truth be told, every story I have ever read/seen/heard has impacted my thoughts and changed how I think, how I see others, how I weave tales.

cjt: I find inspiration hits in random daily occurrences. What inspires you daily?
lgr: Other stories. I love stories. I'm a total story-junkie. Doesn't matter if it's a novel, movie, or TV show. I love stories and how they take the disorganized matter of reality and mold it into something completely fictional—and yet, in creating the fiction we better see the real.

cjt: And last question, what makes you happiest in life? lgr: My family, particularly my husband (aka. Superman). My relationship with my Savior. And, yes, writing. Writing certainly makes me very happy. After a good day of writing, doesn't much matter what else happens during the day, I feel on top-of-the-world happy.

Congratulations Laura on the release of your book. I'm so delighted. And if you are interested in learning more about Laura, check out her website at:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Other Side of the Door - My Epic Journey from Writing to Publishing

In preparation for the SLC "Compel, Polish, Pitch, and Sign" Writer's Conference on Nov. 13-15, I've been reflecting on my own journey into publishing. For those who are attending the conference, just plug your ears :)

Becoming published is a mystery to many writers. Even when I started getting serious about publishing, I had NO CLUE how to get started. Google search can get you places of course, but in many cases, it's the wrong place. Networking with other writers can also help - people who have actually published.

But it's never the same, each author has to find their own way to publishing, their on path.

So, imagine a door, whatever kind of door you like. See my door? It's fanciful and unique and extremely interesting. All I ever wanted, in this entire world, was to see what lay beyond this door.

Here's the problem - there's no path. And there are stickers and briars and thorns of all kinds here and there. Some people find a good path and only get a few scratches, some get lost at the side of the house peering in the frosted glass, and some, like me, got scratched and bruised and bled a little before they got to the door.

I think this is the more typical answer you will find among those who are published. I really feel like I earned my passage to what's beyond the door.

Bruised from Queries


My first attempt to get published was through querying agents, and was a pretty miserable failure. I made some huge errors. I am a Young Adult Fantasy author and my manuscript was 170k words.

So, let's look at the mistakes I made:

  • I queried Young Adult agents. 
  • I had never written queries before.
  • I didn't understand the difference between synopsis and summary
  • I had no publishing credits, no awards, no articles, nothing. 
  • I had a big word count.

So, I'll quickly breakdown some things for you. In a fantasy genre, a manuscript with 170k might be acceptable for an epic journey, but I was querying the wrong people. I queried YA, where they are looking for 50-100k tops. If they see a 170k word count, all they see is Edit! Edit! Edit! I'm not going to waste my time with this author who obviously doesn't understand how to write for YA.

Also, research how to do a proper query. A candid - "Hey, I'm a writer, and I got this super cool story with fairies and dragons, and I think you'll really like it," is going to get a quick DELETE. During my failure years I joined a local writers chapter and attended a class about writing queries. Boy, what a difference that made. I think the worst person to sell a book is the author. We know too much of the story, what do you focus on? The query class helped me narrow what publishers and agents are looking for. A unique hook, some angle - however slanted, that gets you in the door.

And the meat of it, I needed some kind of proof I was worth time and money. I had nothing. So, I entered a few small writing contests. I ended up getting an Honorable Mention in a state wide competition and a First Place in my local chapter. This greatly helped my confidence and proved my worth as a writer. When you received multiple rejections you can start to doubt your abilities. Don't ever doubt your talent!

So, research your agents, enter some competitions, and take time to do a proper query.

The Scratches Came From Releasing my Book Too Soon 

After feeling hopeless, feeling no agent would ever pick me up, I looked into Self-Publishing. My dad is a self-published author, granted he writes books on process improvement - very different from me. And at that time (2010 - so long ago) self-publishing was a scary endeavor. But, as a favor to my dad, I looked into it.

Createspace makes everything so easy. They have templates, ISBNs, cover images, formats, pricing guidelines... geez, I was overwhelmed at how much I had to do. I edited down my manuscript to 140k, formatted it, had my sister design my cover, had beta readers test it and write reviews, I swear, I put soooo much work into it and what I came up with was, what I thought at the time, had to be a work of art.

Yet, this went nowhere. I mean, NOWHERE! The book was still too big to make money. The cover was pretty, but crafty, I couldn't get it into book stores and I had no idea how to market it. As an ebook is flopped in format I knew no other authors. In many ways I felt like a bigger failure.

A good friend and very avid reader bought it and read it. She liked it, but offered me some advice. "I think you released it too soon." But, I had a finished product! What did she mean "too soon"?

But she was right. I was in such a hurry to get my book out, that I didn't stop to think if it was ready. Would it be marketable? Would it find readership? If I'm building a brand, would this help me or hurt me? And I STILL didn't know what was beyond the door.

Self-publishing may work for some, but not for me. You need a lot of confidence in your talents in order to be self-published. I didn't have that. I wanted someone, a professional editor in the business, to tell me what was wrong with my story. I knew there was something, but couldn't see it. So, I yanked it.

(Side note: I found a copy on Amazon for $800. Fools. All previous copies should be burned.)

Signing Made Me Bleed . . . A Lot

What? What do you mean? It's the dream, right?
This is absolutely true, and I think several authors would agree with what I'm about to tell you - editing IS the key to the door. 

So, I shelved my novel and went on to write other things, other projects. I did NaNoWriMo and had some great success there. Summer 2012 I came back to the idea of maybe trying to find a publisher. I had written the sequel and loved it and regained hope in the writing world. This time I took a risk and sent it directly to some publishers, knowing I would be in the slush pile. I re-edited it down to 135k, a slight improvement. 

I received one rejection before I found my publisher. Xchyler Publishing was the first to acquire my entire manuscript. The acquisition editor, a fine girl named Lissa (who later became my content editor) fell in love with my story and absolutely insisted they have it. I was nervous. I mean, was this the right place for my story? But they were the first to read it. If others read it, maybe they would react the same way. The deciding factor was something that made me think, and something also, that I appreciate to this day - They didn't want to lose the integrity of the story. That was so important to me. I was afraid bigger presses would make me change the story into something that it wasn't, make me add the swearing and the sex that I tried so hard to keep out of it. The whole team wanted this story, my story, to succeed, so I signed with them, and have never regretted it. 

Here is where I bled.

Editing was an eye-opening experience. I had a main content editor, a line editor, a proof-reader, and then everything had to go through the Editor-in-chief. They did this to refine the story at various levels. It really is magic. In content, they decided to hack a large portion because it slowed the pace (they were right); I had too many POVs and needed to narrow it down to four - so I had to rewrite a lot of the book to accommodate this (and it was a great idea); they asked that I write more chapters from a specific POV of a main character, who was super mysterious, and explore what happens with him to layer the story (wow, okay); and they then asked me to do a writing exercise about this said character, where he grew up and how he got the magic in the first place, something that would NOT appear in the book, but for me to understand my character better (you want me to do what?).

This was a mountain of work with a pretty intense deadline. I tried hard to keep up with the intensity. I even took a two week LOA from my real job to finish it. I worried about the cover design and stuck with my gut about changing it to a talisman, which turned out beautiful and I love. But, with everything, it was very hard - like ulcer-inducing hard.

Then three weeks before my book release, I received notification that the company was changing hands. I nearly died. The change was definitely for the better, but at the time, after so much hard work and sweat and blood, I didn't know anything about its future. Even at the time of the release, because of the changing in tax documents and everything that I don't understand, it was slow coming out. But it did and it was beautiful.

It had been out for a month or so when I thought I would enter it into the League of Utah Writers Novel award that would be announced at their annual conference. I thought, well, it took an Honorable Mention a few years ago here, maybe it might go somewhere. Obviously, I didn't get my hopes up, because I didn't even attend the awards banquet. When I arrived at the Writer's Conference the next day a friend from my chapter ran up to me and said "You won!" my response, "I won what?" "You won Novel of the Year!"

A photo posted by Candace Johnson Thomas (@candacejthomas) on

WHHHHHHAAATTT???? Turns out my novel took TOP PRIZE, the Diamond Award. It won over all the other novels that year, my little fledgling was the best in the whole state!

This helped me open the door.

What I found on the Other Side of the Door


I'm going to tell you, just in case you thought I would keep it a secret from you. It's been a slow-creaky door to open. But I'm most-definitely on the other side.

There is a room full of people, other authors, packed full - all looking for another door.

Some are desperate, some are casually looking, but there are some that I have found who are willing to help one another find the mysterious hidden door. That's what I'm most impressed by, the cooperative effort made by others to help me succeed. Seems backwards, right? I mean, aren't they also your competition? Actually . . . No, they aren't, they are my peers. I've found better success through a healthy community of authors. It could have been a nasty bludgeoning of jealous rage at the success of one who finds the door, but instead, its the opposite - it's a celebration!

However you make it to the door will be the right way for you.
It is an epic journey - remember that, and should be one that you are proud of, one that made you bleed a little. Don't be afraid to bleed.
There should be sweat - and heavens above, there better be tears.
Wear your scars with pride.
Don't let the briar patch get you stuck.
And when you get there, push hard on the door.
And never forget - inspire others to find the key.

I'm just behind the door waiting for you. I have a place reserved at my table and I want to see you there.

Welcome. (first drink's on me)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rebel Yell - Local Authors Unite at Salt Lake Comic Con

Being an Author is Hard

Local author Johnny Worthen and me
Am I saying that it's not sunshine and kittens after you get published? That's right - well, there is still some sunshine and some cuddly kittens, but most of the time it's really hard work, especially in such a talented community we find in Utah.

It doesn't matter what type of author you are: Indie, Small Press, Large Press, whatever means you choose - the life of an author is tough stuff.

In Utah, there is a melding pot of authors - resembling something like a Petri dish as we're surrounded by mountains, isolated from the breathing world, suffocating under the inversion. It's a wonderful world to be a part of, as we feed each other ideas, care about our struggles, cheering successes.

It can also be a very difficult place to be. As much as we need each other, we are each others' competition, selling to the same small population. There can be jealousy at times, cheering for others, while your own rejection letter still sits in you Inbox.

But there is still understanding

As our community of authors grows, so has our support system. If I've learned anything over the past few years after being published it's how much I NEED other authors, those who understand how difficult it is to write out your soul, have it ripped apart, stitched back together into something pretty, then bound into paper just for you.
Photobombing Local Author Adrienne Monson

TRUTH IS - it is a difficult world regardless of how you've been published. Getting your name out and getting your book into readers hands can be agonizing, humbling work that stripes you down to your core. It's extremely hard for us authors to talk about our own books and why you would love it. We are basically taking our newborn baby, the wonderful thing we've created and asking YOU to take care of it, help it grow, show your friends, trusting YOU with its livelihood.

You READERS hold our fate in YOUR hands

What YOU think MATTERS

Meeting Jess Harnell at FanX 2015
Over the last few years Salt Lake Comic Con has become very important to us. It's become a place where we can find readers - OUR readers. You can find several LOCAL authors, some absolutely terrific people with tremendous talent. As a strong community of authors, we are banding together and uniting ourselves as REBELS, and we are looking for readers to join the alliance.

There are several things you can be a part of at this year's SLCC:
  • Find the REBEL BASE #3441 - Enter to win a Chris Evans Photo OP
  • Find several local authors on PANELS - SLCC Schedule
  • We've created a catalog with several titles in it, full of QR codes for easy look-up
  • Hashtag fun with #slcc15writers
  • A Treasure Hunt - search for the REBEL INSIGNIA among local authors to be entered for prizes
  • Find several of the Rebel Alliance in AUTHOR AVENUE and SHADOW MOUNTAIN

Writing is not about us, it's always been about YOU - the reader. You are who matters most to us. It's you we are looking to inspire, you who we make worlds for.

Local authors SLCC 2014 Photo courtesy of Jessie's Photography

Come FIND us.
     Come JOIN us!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Faking Steampunk - The Sophomore Edition

Steampunk still baffles me.

It's not as weird as it used to be. I got a great education of it last year at the Salt City Steamfest. I learned this was not something that I could just go to in my usual Think Geek tee. This was COSPLAY hardcore. I quickly came up with a costume consisting of my lace-up boots, a Heidi top, and my black back brace turned around for a corset. 

These are the basics I could tell you from my novice experience:
  • Steampunk is like fantastical alterna-history. 
  • Cthulhu is king!
  • Steampunk cosplay is epic and serious cosplayers live for the "IMMERSION" experience.
  • Boots BEFORE corset.

My first day at Steamfest I couldn't help but giggle while sitting in the bathroom stall listening to two girls, trying in their best British accents, complaining about walking the plank on a dirigible. I didn't know a time capsule like this existed. What a gem!

Our booth was not far from oodles of corsets. I thought I would try one on for the fun of it. It was hilarious and surprising that people would wear this hellish device. But after considering what I was doing, and knowing I had one more day of this immersion festival, I BOUGHT said corset and decided to wear it the next day. 

Things learned about corsets:
  • Boots BEFORE corset. I was warned but didn't think about it until I tried to get on my boots. I couldn't bend over. An eye-opening experience that taught me a lot about WHY people had dressers in the 1800s. 
  • Corsets were invented before cars. It was seriously difficult to drive a stick.
  • Using the bathroom is NO JOKE! It's seriously hard. How do you even sit? I applaud every woman that knows the trick to this. 
This year I was by myself, no longer the Steampunk virgin, I knew what to expect and how to play it. I couldn't shy as I did before. Steampunk is something you have to dig into and commit. The more you commit, the better the outcome.

So, I searched through out my closet looking to dust off my corset . . . NOPE! Can't find it. I had to impress. This was important. Right? I start searching for anything that will work. I'm scraping of course, but I think I did okay.

Steampunk, I learned, is about characters. So, this is my character, "Darla Windratchet, my Diesel Punk Pin-up Girl."

From head to toe:
  • Hat made from husband's old khaki's with Mockingjay pin for style
  • ugly old army green shirt
  • brown socks cut for gloves
  • Big fat belt accompanied by Cat Woman Utility Belt
  • volleyball shorts over tights OVER stretch pants (yes, I'm that self-conscious)
  • My husband's hand-stitched field notebook pouch.
  • Thrift store steampunk secretary shoes
  • and mascara smears on my face like grease. 
A complete look. I felt very floozy-esque. I felt pretty proud of the costume.

Everyone else would be dressed up, I would blend in, nice and easy.

So, deep down, I was struggling bad. I was very uncomfortable, but tried to wear it well. I still blame the shoes, since I haven't worn heels since my wedding day.

Oh, and did I mention, I epic-ly tripped on the corner of 4th and Main, while getting honks by passing "sailors"?

While eating (IN COSTUME) with my fellow writers at P.F. Chang's, I stupidly decided to take off my Cat Woman Utility Belt while I ate my Lo Mein. And YES, as you would think, I had to walk back later to ask the wonderful waitress if they had FOUND a Cat Woman Utility Belt left be this lame girl.

I had several times people tell me, "I think there is something on your face," not knowing it was there on purpose. I had many think I was a rebel from District 13, referencing the Mockingjay pin in my hat. And when it came to the having my photo taken, I didn't even know what to do.

Needless to say, (though I will say it anyway) I DON'T STEAMPUNK. I failed yet again this year. And even though I feel proud of myself for wearing the heels the entire time, I still can't pull it off.

HOWEVER . . . That doesn't mean that it isn't COMPLETELY fascinating. It is really fun to watch others and interact with them and people watch like crazy. What a fun world (for them). Many who I know love this genre and play it up in epic steampunk fashion. I am mind-blown by some of the originality and creativity that goes into some of these costumes.

If you are curious about this strange world you have two really amazing opportunities.

Sept. 4th is the Gangrene Comedy Film Festival: FULL STEAM
At the Ed Kenley Amphitheater in Layton. Follow the link to know more.

There is also something SPECTACULAR happening at Salt Lake Comic Con this year. The profoundly talented Paul Genesse and his crew and putting on The Steampunk Rock Opera - an event you do not want to miss. Not only is it loaded with extremely talents actors and singers, several are friends: Callie Stoker, Scott Tarbet, Terra Luft - just name dropping here) but there will be audience participation. Ah! Who wouldn't want to do THAT? (besides, obvious... me, because I suck)

Please don't miss it. It will be groundbreaking and enormous fun.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Understanding Joy - A Deeper Meaning of Pixar's Inside Out

DISNEY PIXAR may have down their best work here with INSIDE OUT, and I'm not just talking about the stunning animation, brilliant cast, witty dialogue, or the John Kratzenberger cameo we all listen for. These are all things we have come to love about any Pixar movies, but Inside Out is something else, something more brilliant.

When the movie was over and I was still soaking in the visionary splendor I turned over to my 11 yr. old and asked her if she liked it. "Oh, sure mom, it was good."

Good? What do you mean GOOD? It was amazing! But then an idea hit me... "Mia, do you know what this story is about?"
She shrugged. "I don't know."

Typical 11 yr old. I mean, didn't we just watch HOW the 11 yr. old brain works?

"This movie is about understanding joy. To truly understand it you have to feel sadness in some form."

She smiled as if she understood what I meant . . . but she doesn't. And I tried as I could to explain how the movie made me feel, understanding the importance of memories and imagination.

As I was spilling out my own thoughts my beautiful 8 yr. old said to me, "Well, mom, I understand the movie. I'm a really smart girl."
"Of course you are, but you don't know what it's like to be 9."

Me, on the other hand, knows exactly what it's like to be 9 or 12 or 16 or 21. And every heartbreak and disappointment and emotional meltdown that comes from those years. That's one of the beautiful things about growing older, the trials that make us and define us and have molded us into who we are.

The Science of Thought  

In my 10th grade health class I once did a class presentation on Inner Voices and had my brother draw some seriously creepy illustrations of who these inner voices were and how we could cope and learn to live with them. It went over really well and I think it was the art that helped convey what I was talking about. Feelings or emotions are not specifically physical objects. As a visual learner I need to see something to understand it.

Disney Pixar took this gift of memory and conceptually engineered it into a tangible thing - a functioning machine. Seeing this visualized on screen opened up my own mysteries of collective thought. I felt like I was back in my college psych class learning about the different theories of psychosis. Believing and applying these psychological concepts paints a picture for us, so we don't have to wrap out brains around the deep hidden meaning of something that doesn't physically exist. The "Train of Thought", room of "Abstract Thought" and the "Subconscious" (where the scary clown lived) are just excellent representations of theory. But seeing it with my eyes connected the dots and made a picture for me to follow and understand.

My 11 yr. old came home and immediately started researching (she is a smarty pants) psychological theories on feelings and emotion, because she kept asking about feelings that were not represented there. We talked about different theories and I told her that not one is wrong, but should study and understand all of them, because each has something to offer. Disney Pixar did the best storytelling with five, that's good writing sense and character arc. For Disney Pixar to tackle such an out-of-the-box topic of feelings and behavior in children wrapped up in a beautifully animated movie is ground breaking.

CORE Memories

The message behind INSIDE OUT was not just "It's okay to be sad" or "Look for the positive in bad situations". What I connected to was "You have to feel SADNESS to UNDERSTAND JOY." This is a concept that several youngster do not know yet, because they haven't lived long enough to understand what a gift hindsight really is. Those are our Core Memories, the inner structure of who we are and how we got here.

Everyone has trials. Everyone goes through them. No one misses out on the things that test our strength or increase our knowledge. We all have a foundation in which we built on, becoming stronger with every trial that comes.

Getting personal now, this movie has made me reflect on my own core memory strength building - my own way that I learned to understand JOY.

Infertility is the hardest trial I have faced. It was a daily battle with myself. When the only thing you wanted in life was outright denied you. When others were overly blessed with children, I sat and watched and cried to myself and wondered - how is that fair?

We went through a cycle of Trying Not Trying, because every time we went through another infertility treatment I had to mentally prepare myself because of the emotional damage it caused, and every month thinking I was pregnant, absolutely - this is the one, this time it worked - to complete devastation that it didn't, I'm broken, I'm stupid for convincing myself that I was. This went on for six years.

Do I look on those years as a waste? No. Where they hard? Absolutely. Would I trade that experience? Not a chance! Many trials that define us are things that we wouldn't give up. We EARNED that badge. We earned that REWARD!

The Gift of Hindsight

This was a blessing not a curse. I could say the time prepared us, got through schooling, bought a home together, but that's not what I learned. I learned the VALUE of life, my OWN life, and a feeling of JOY that I couldn't understand until I looked at that little thing I created.

This is where the deep underlying message may get missed by the kids - they just haven't lived long enough to appreciate the blessings that come with trails. But what Pixar illustrated to theses kids is that trials will come and your feelings will learn how to deal with them. That is SO POWERFUL for them to understand. There is no easy fix when it comes to such core building problems, but the pain felt will add another brick to their foundation. You are stronger than you think you are. You can do hard things.

I wanted to thank Disney Pixar. Thank you for this beautiful example of how we function. It was pure magic imagining with you. And thank you for the insightful look at ourselves from the INSIDE OUT!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mutant Power Strikes Again! The Tony Awards Edition

I don't share my mutant ability with everyone, but I have one, I DEFINITELY have one. Over the last 20 plus years I have retained this mutant ability with impeccable clarity, to the point that I feel a little embarrassed.

I am a Broadway Musical Information Magnet, 

specifically "The Tony Awards."

I got interested in theater my 8th grade year. I pursued it pretty vigorously until my college years when I started focusing on writing instead, a decision I don't wholly regret, but sometimes makes me wistful. In those tender years of youth I got very involved with the happenings of Broadway, feeling that was the pinnacle of a stage performer's career, a MUST! And as a result I was fed on a diet of Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim with a side of Lloyd Webber, (I say side because Evita was my favorite and I never truly loved Phantom - that is how I know people know theater like me - Phantom is NEVER their favorite), sipping it down with the newest thing to hit the Great White Way.

So somewhere in my brain holds a storage of information that is basically useless, unless you care about musical theater.

I know, not great for saving the world, but an impressive party trick, possibly, if people cared enough to listen. The power does have limitations. My first time in New York was last summer, so experiencing Broadway was a totally different magnet collecting thing, and can I say, totally mind blowing - and completely drives my husband crazy.

Marrying a NON-musical type has kept (some might say rescued) me from full blown Broadway maniac, but my mutant power has not gone away, it tends to come out in strange spontaneous moments...

For Example:

A few years ago I watched the Tonys, because I do (no apologies), and thoroughly enjoyed the little production number for "Spring Awakening" knowing Barely Breathing's Duncan Sheik, (which, BTW did win Best Musical 2007). Later, a few YEARS later, a little show started called Glee. I half-watched/half-listened to the commercials, thinking in the deep recesses of my mind that it would be something I would go for. (Singing and dancing down the school halls? Of course I'd love something so ridiculous.)  I see or better yet, HEAR the lead girl and instantly I knew her, I had seen her somewhere before. It took my brain about two seconds to connect that I thought she may have been on Broadway, possibly Spring Awakening. Thank goodness for You Tube or I would had to research my hunch. Yes! Lea Michelle was in there singing her heart out about sexual freedom in Germany. I remembered her because her voice was unforgettable!

Does this sound familiar to anyone???

Little things like this happen all the time, and I find conversations with my family rather silly.  

Who is that? "Don't you know her? That's Patti Lupone!" Who? "She's Broadway royalty! She was in the original cast of Evita with Mandy Patinkin." Who? "You know, Inigo Montoya - You killed my father, prepare to die." Oh, okay.

What else was that guy in? "He was in The Book of Mormon Musical."   ...crickets...

"Wait? Kristen Chenoweth is coming to Deer Valley?" Who? "She's in everything." Like what? "She was the original Glinda from Wicked with Idina Menzel." Who? "Umm... she was Elsa." Oh, cool. 

This kind of thing happens all the time. . . unless I am with theater people, then the exchange instead delves down into Nether Broadway, where only the true mutants survive. 

This again happened last Sunday watching the Tonys. Like everyone else, I was stunned by how amazing Fun Home was and how spellbound I felt listening to little Sydney Lucas sing. And as they went through the awards the Male Lead for a musical came on and I thought, "well that guy looks familiar." I recognized his name "Michael Cerveris." My Sherlock brain kicked in and I started deducting. I'd known that this wasn't someone I had seen recently. This had to do with my past life - as an actor, on stage. That pushes it back into the 90's, college, maybe high school. Where did I know him from? Something important. Something different. Wait . . . a moment in time flashed through my vision. I had a hunch and quickly picked up my phone and began to search.

I went to IMDB - I have the app you know, very, very useful and which I praise the collective that created this wonderful website, and looked him up. He was in various TV shows that I wouldn't have seen, but it did mention TV spots... like the 47th Annual Tony Awards. Bingo! This was what I needed, the little spark that my hunch might be true. I clicked the link and was transported in time. I remember very vividly watching this specific awards show at my friend Kirt's house. Liza, yes - THEE Liza, hosted and the musicals were very diverse. That year a lot of my friends were rooting for the Goodbye Girl starring Bernadette Peters and Martin Short. Me... ME? No, no, no, no... for me I wanted THE WHO'S TOMMY!

DING! Mutant power again! The Who's Tommy the Musical! I knew it! I remember secretly praying that they kept in the Baked Bean scene for the movie. I wanted it to win the entire night even though my friends thought I was crazy. Kiss of the Spider Woman won, and Chita Rivera also won (who, btw, didn't win on Sunday - boy, she's in everything!). This was the first listed show for Michael Cerveris on IBDB and though he had been on Broadway several times after, it was that first impression of him in my youth that stuck with me. I would always remember him. I bought the soundtrack and have loved every minute of it.

My mutant power may be about something utterly ridiculous, but it's important to me. Those details in our lives that happen at fundamental times shape us and define us. I wonder what your mutant power is.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Liebster Award! Passing the Torch

My great friend and fellow Sherlock enthusiast (has nothing to do with this award, promise - wink!) Alyson Grauer started a blog not too long ago, and through it has inspired others, not just me, to live out their dreams. The nature of this award is to acknowledge those I admire and respect through their courageous efforts expressed in blog form.

The Liebster Award was bestowed upon me from her and I promised not to let her down. I have in return nominated Laurieann Thorpe, Becky Halls, Terra Luft, Michael Bacera, and Johnny Worthen, all of which have inspired me.

A quick review - The Liebster (not Lobster as my daughter read it) Award is passed friend to friend, blogger to blogger, to those whom have in some way influenced your character, changed the way you think or feel, and/or let your mind fill with inspirational MAGIC! And to help introduce other readers, writers, or authors to share in the fun.

From Aly's website, here are the RULES:

1. Acknowledge you belong in the blogging community, and that you ROCK!

2. Nominate influential bloggers that you have admired, read, love, and let the world know it!

3. Give these lovely people a few questions.

4. Answer said questions.

5. Watch the world ignite with excitement. Share!

First... Thank you Alyson, for thinking that my little blog is worthy of this. I can't say it is worth any special praise, but it has become important to me. I like writing and sharing what happens to me in my crazy world, but I also like the spontaneity of writing a blog, the way the words flow fluidly out of my brain through my fingers. Writing is a passion, and this little blog has helped keep my brain active, creative, and sane.

So, without any waiting, here are the questions my lovely friend has asked:

1. If you were a protagonist in a novel, what genre would it be, and who is the author? Great question. This one kept me thinking for quite a while. It's hard to pick. My life is a sequence of comic sitcom hi-jinx, laced with calm moments of clarity. It would have to be fantasy - no doubt there, but not Tolkien, that's too predictable. If I could put my finger on it, my novel would be much like the situational comedia and heart-felt lessons of Anne of Green Gables written by the fantastical Garth Nix. This mash-up works nicely. It's what I live and breathe.

2. What is your favorite classic fairy tale (Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Perrault, etc)?
Funny that I have my copy of Grimm's fairy tales resting right next to me... hmmmmm..... let me see.... actually, I know this without looking it up.

My favorite since I was a child - Grimm's Snow White and Rose Red.

I have one sister, if I can mention it, and as we grew we were much like Snow White (tender, gentle) and Rose Red (free-spirited, adventurous), need no explanation (wink!). We lived in the country near groves of trees and mountain streams, with only each other to play with. If we would happen upon a dwarf with his beard stuck in a log, well of course, we would try to help him out with whatever we had. And, let's say, if a bear found its way to our small country cottage, cold and wet, well of course, we would let it come in and warm by the fire.

Truth. I love this tale because it's about sisters. Sisters are important, and let me say... AMAZING! It's like I was given a best friend I can hang with forever, sharing experiences together. I didn't always think this, but I do now. A sister is one of the best gifts I was ever given. (and watch Becka cry right... about... now...)

3. What color is your magic? Be specific. I don't think it would be any secret that my magic is green. But it is not any green, this green is the first green awakened by spring, fresh like wet clover, grasping energy from the sun and building strength as it grows. It lives in the tallest trees where only a few can find it, but every so often catches a swift breeze, sweeping down past hills and fields, to lay on the shoulder of one who dreams of impossible things and is ready to believe.

courtesy of Becka Thomas - pie face extraordinaire
4. Would you rather have cake or pie? PIE!!!! If you didn't know, because I'm surprised that some people DON'T know, pies need faces. Every time my mother made a pie when we were growing up she cut a cute smiley-face in the top. I grew up thinking all pies had faces until the dreaded day - some time when I was about fifteen - when I went to a friend's house and had pie WITHOUT a smiley-face. It was like eating sadness. SO, please, for the sake of those you love and who love pie, put a smiley-face on it and EAT the JOY!

5. If you were an Animagus or able to transform into an animal, what creature would you be? Very clever. Of course I already have this all planned out, being the Potter Dreamer that I am, but there is a fundamental problem - I don't really like animals. But... if we are playing by Potter rules then I think it is clearly... A UNICORN!!

Unicorns have special magic and live beyond what people believe. I think this represents me very well. I would like to think that I am that rare creature, chained to a world that doesn't want to believe that I exist. BUT I DO! And the mystical world around me suffers because of the ones who are too realistic to remember being a child and living wide-eyed. I live dreaming of things beyond reality and always have that flicker of wonder in everything I do and see. If I see a white horse on the mountain side - I've spotted a unicorn. If I hear the tinkling of wind chimes - a fairy must be near. Don't give up on that world, it exists. I'm here! Come find me!

And there you are. To the lovely friends I have selected -

Laurieann Thorpe - Open Book Open Heart

Becky Halls - Thoroughly In Earnest

Terra Luft - View From the Crystal Ball

Michael Bacera - Qualified Opinions

Johnny Worthen - Blog Mansion

And here are the questions I ask of you:
  1. Who has been a constant in your life, making you the person you are today? 
  2. What song would play at the quintessential part of your own movie? 
  3. List three literary characters who best represent you or wished you had created? 
  4. How do you inspire those around you? 
  5. What is the tagline for the book of your life? 

There you have it world - one Liebster thanked and now navigating to others. 
God speed little award. Take wings!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chicken in a Biskit and Easy Cheese: A Memoir

A strange thing happened to me last night. It was snowy (in April? - boy, don't I know it), my husband was gone on a trip, the kids were asleep, and I was snacky. I wasn't interested in a bowl of cereal (having that for dinner - probably why I was snacky) and I opened several cupboards looking for that special something just right to satisfy my nightly craving.

If you assume my comfort food is Chocolate you are wrong. There are a few foods that come to mind, but none more so than Chicken In A Biskit with Easy Cheese!

Foo Man Choo and manly Van Dyke!
If I try to remember back to the first memories of this incredible snack food, I can’t. It was always there. I remember it in our small country home as a child, in our pantry when we moved as a teenager, and something I carried on to college. It is like an unofficial member of my family, watching me, keeping me company on sad days, giving me fuel when I didn’t want anything else. I’d draw designs with the cheese, make cheese stack sandwiches of three or four or twelve crackers at once. I also remember spraying the cheese on my face and pretending to be Hulk Hogan. Who knew how magical spray cheese could be?

I REMEMBER in tenth grade I decided to throw a party, nothing completely grand or anything, just a small gathering with new friends. It was the start of my sophomore year and my first taste of high school. I met new people from different schools and I loved this new atmosphere. So, I invited a few people to my house to play games and watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I had Shasta, Twizzlers, Doritos, and of course, Chicken In a Biskit with Easy Cheese. This is instant party food in my mind, knowing nothing different, but the Biskit had to be there. This was a defining moment within my high school experience, a template for several parties to come—no drinking shenanigans, just united friendships locked in experiences surrounded by junk food.

MY BROTHER Josh has a talent for “Cheese Art”. Chicken In a Biskit crackers are shaped like little picture frames or postage stamps. Josh would often ask, “Okay, what do you want me to make?” And I would say something like, “The Mona Lisa.” Within a few small sprays of the cheese, Josh would create – and I kid you not – an amazing replica of the classic portrait for my eating pleasure. He liked the challenge. Among some of the brilliant works of art were Sunday on the Island of Le Grande Jatte, Sunflowers, American Gothic, Whistler’s Mother, Picasso’s cubist period, the Scream, and Michelangelo's Finger of God and then of course, the cutest Batman I’d ever seen - always my favorite. I know this is a talent that he has kept up over the years. He’d make me The Last Supper if I asked.

This blue box with the goofy chicken accompanied with a can of processed spray cheese were the first foods I bought after I was married, in celebration of my new life; when we bought our house I immediately found a home in the cupboard perfect for crackers and cheese; when I was pregnant I could sit and eat a whole box; I'd load up when my husband would leave town for work; and it always accompanies all of our family camping trips.

I KNOW... I'm placing a lot of importance in a lightly dusted cracker and processed cheese.

IN FEBRUARY my husband found out they were terminating his job. This was COMPLETELY unexpected. We had some low moments trying to figure out what direction our life would lead. We've been scrimping living on my measly income and haven't thought of extravagances like canned cheese - it's up to $4. So when I looked in my cupboard last night contemplating what to eat, if anything, in the small corner sat the goofy chicken and the orange lid. It was then when I thought about how something so insignificant like crackers and cheese can make me smile and remind me of thousands of memories that define who I am, who I have become, and where I am going.


I know there are several snack foods if we think about it, that have come and gone from our lives. And seeing them or tasting something like them brings us to the time and place of the first taste; Ironport, Apple Slice, Zanys, Tato Skins, Strawberry Shortcake cereal, Punkies,.. Memories get trapped in our senses, smells, tastes, things beyond our sight.  Because my staple is still here I've simply forgotten the basic wonder that came with it.

So I ask you now, reach back and find those memories tucked away in your corner grocery. Seek to remember who you were and what made you happy. Those memories still exist – go find them!

And never be afraid to wear a mustache made of cheese!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"So, You're An Author... Now What!" - The Beginning of the UFG

This year so far has been one hill after another, and though I'm still climbing I can see the summit... and it's going to be spectacular!

Last year changed my life, serious. For a long time I did things on my own. With a small press publisher I really needed to get myself out there and learn the game. I dealt with both triumphs and failures. I could write a complete book on all the things I tried, "SO, YOU'RE AN AUTHOR... NOW WHAT!" I didn't know many others like me, struggling as I was, to get their book out and into readers' hands. I needed to find others who understood what it takes to be an author, the hellfire of editing, the late night revisions and the sleepless early mornings. I knew these people existed I just couldn't find them.

Then, in the randomness of Facebook, I stumbled on a group that was putting together a vendor booth for Salt Lake Comic Con. This was just what I needed. I had done the two previous cons by myself and it nearly killed me. It's so much work. But. I had the experience of doing this before, and thought I would be of value to these people. This would be a great opportunity to meet up with some other local authors, network a bit, and why not... make a friend or two. I had no idea what would come.

The experience was hard, but rewarding.We went to Mordor and back, and the experience bonded us closer than anything could. These authors were trying, as I was, to change the world. The idea of fostering a community of writers and authors resonated with me. I was the cheerleader from the start. And not only did I meet these terrific people, I discovered there were others, several others that had a more global perspective, something I never imagined.


These were the first threads of the Utah Fantasy Guild, a newly formed organization that just joined the United Authors Association (UAA). What we are trying to do is not only make others improve their writing, but succeed, build confidence in their craft, build relationships within the community, and survive as an author.

I'm more than excited, I'm elated to be voted in as President. And I'm glad to venture through with my comrades-in-arms.I wonder how I got here, but I'm honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with these great people.

Come join the Dark Side... We have Cookies!!!

UFG Join Us!  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March Forth! Changing Lives One Book at a Time!

Last year I made one of the most profound and life-changing decisions    I decided to share my house with a stranger. 

Alyson Grauer, a fellow author through my publisher Xchyler Publishing posted in our Facebook wall that she had decided to come from Chicago to Salt City Steamfest at the end of July and asked if there was anyone she could stay with. I only knew Aly from her online presence and a story that she had penned in Mechanized Masterpiece's a Steampunk Anthology. She seemed lively and funny in all her comments. I liked her by all respects. But something screamed inside me, "She HAS to stay with me!"

At the UP house. The only thing Aly requested we see.
I messaged her that day and told her she could stay at my home in Salt Lake City. I don't have a huge house, but it happened that at this time my girls were sharing a room and there was a spare bed in the toy room. I did warn her she would be sharing a room with the Barbie Dream house. She seemed excited, even delighted that I would offer her such LUXURIOUS accommodations.

When Aly arrived my first response was, "She's wearing a bowler hat! I love it!" I IMMEDIATELY liked her. We hit it off instantly. Driving back to my house she kept saying "Whoa! Mountains!" I forget how amazing the mountains are here.

Over the course of just a few days we discovered we had a LOT in common, but beyond that it was more a paradoxical kindred connection that could not be rationally explained. The invisible forces that mystically guide our destiny intersected, creating an inexplicable cosmic event. By all accounts, we were meant to meet.
Aly is about to meet a fox

She is an actor - so am I.
She plays the Ukelele - So do I.
She grew up with shelties - Really? So did I!
She plays D&D? - I LOVE RPG!
She loves all things fantasy -Me too!!
. . .  and she writes?!?! I DO TOO!!!

We would talk and share and talk more and laugh and goof off like teenagers. We would stop and goo at the same things. We bought identical pens without knowing it. 

It was like a part of me, a part of who I used to be, the happy, joyous part of me . . . returned. The young, carefree spirit, nymph-like in origin, of who I always believed I was but lost between marriage, kids, job, life . . . came back in the form of a person I had never met.

Since then we have stayed in contact and grown as friends. Her novel ON THE ISLE OF SOUND AND WONDER was released in November 2014. Aly's family has hit some hard times as her father was diagnosed with cancer and she is forging forward with a fundraiser to help with the medical expenses. As a way to help support her family Aly has set up a GiveForward account and Xchyler Publishing is GENEROUSLY giving ALL proceeds from her book made on MARCH 4th to this cause. I've always loved the support my publisher has given to us authors. It's a unique and wonderful partnership. 

When I decided to be an author I always had the goal of changing lives for the better, I didn't expect mine to be changed as well. 

Thanks Aly! 

There is always a room ready for you when you need it!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Review - On the Isle of Sound and Wonder

On the Isle of Sound and WonderOn the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will admit Steampunk intimidates me. I’m afraid of gadgetry and mechanization that is, basically, over my head. My imagination is so fanciful I need magic in my stories. So, I was slightly intimidated when I picked up On the Isle of Sound and Wonder. But I’m a sucker for covers and LOOK AT THE COVER!! I’m in AWE!

My fears quickly vanished. Grauer marries both magic and mechanics into an intelligent, well-crafted, seamless retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I was immediately drawn into a vivid world of mysterious voodoo magic, flying airships, and intellectual automatons, who if I can say this, reminding me a lot of adorable Baymax.

In comparing the Shakespearean work, Grauer’s love and understanding of the original text shines through with her careful crafting and storytelling. There is more intensity with both relationships, depth of characters, and heightened danger among the island that cannot be translated to the stage. As a novel, the back stories of several characters can come to light, which I really enjoyed and kept the action and story moving. She didn’t veer so far from the play that you wouldn’t recognize it, but highlighted its potential, pleasing the Shakespearean connoisseur in me.

Grauer’s clever play with names, places, and features complement the original text. Mira (modern Miranda) proved a strong interpretation of a growing young woman facing the harsh island life, and is a valiant example of a sacrificial heroine any girl could aspire to.

I had the delightful pleasure of meeting Alyson Grauer at Salt City Steamfest last July and she is just as colorful and lively as her book.  I loved... LOVED this book!


View all my reviews