Entries in It has turned her brain (70)


Secret Revealed!

The cat is out of the bag. The beans are hereby spilled. The Amazing Secret Project can now be shared with you!

A long time ago, I blogged about the web series The Book of Jer3miah as a fan. Now I get to tell you about it as a participant! It's very exciting to me. 

The first season of Jer3miah will be released on DVD by Excel Entertainment in March. The novelization I have written follows in August. 

I know; it feels like a long time away to me, too. But it will be here before we know it. In the meantime, feel free to head over to Tinder Transmedia if you want to know more about this fun and suspenseful series. Watch the webisodes! Play the Alternate Reality Game (ARG)! It's immersive and intriguing and there's a whole lot more to it coming in the months ahead.

Oh, and here: read the New York Times review. It's awesome. My favorite line: "Hey, when celestial smackdowns are a plot possibility, things can get pretty hardcore. And that makes for good web drama."

And then, on February 11, should you happen to be in or near Orem, Utah--join Jeff Parkin, Jared Cardon, and me at UVU at noon as we discuss Jer3miah and transmedia storytelling as part of the famous Life, the Universe, and Everything symposium on speculative fiction. The bonus is that people like Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Dave Farland will also be at LTUE--so come for the day if you can. I would love to see you there.


A Crack in Everything: The Best of 2011

This time last year, I characterized 2010 as my most difficult year ever.  2011 was much better: still hard, but with lots of good stuff, too. I don't regret the trials I've experienced over the past two years. Looking back, I am reminded of those lines from Leonard Cohen's "Anthem": "There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." I've been blessed with many glimpses of light in past months, which means I have to be grateful for those cracks, right?

Anyway, here are my highlights of the past year.

Best Books Read:

This year, I’ve decided to rank only books I read for the first time (no re-reads, as in years past). I’m also only ranking books by writers whom I don’t know personally.

1. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

2. A Dance with Dragons, By George R. R. Martin

3. Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, by Wendy Watson Nelson

4. Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card

5. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua

6. Matched, by Ally Condie

7. The Healing Spell, by Kimberley Griffiths Little

8. Little Elvises, by Tim Hallinan

9. Sweater Quest, by Adrienne Martini

10. Save the Cat!, by Blake Snyder

Now I’ll list some outstanding books written by people I do know.  These are in no particular order—but they’re all worth your time.

Band of Sisters, by Annette Lyon

Keep Mama Dead, by S. James Nelson

I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells

Not My Type, by Melanie Jacobson

The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner

Pumpkin Roll, by Josi Kilpack

Variant, by Rob Wells

Special Mention: Unwound, by Lee Ann Setzer—This book isn’t published yet. Lee Ann is in my critique group, so I got the immense privilege of reading this YA historical fantasy a few weeks ago. What. A. Joy.  Definitely one of the best books I read this year. My prediction: Lee Ann is the next Shannon Hale. Remember, you read it here first.

Best Music Purchased:

1. “Noisy Birds” (and so many other fantastic tracks), by Fictionist

1. “The Bird Song” (and the rest of the new record), by The Wailin’ Jennys

1. “Born on a New Day,” by The King’s Singers

4. “Sweet Bells” by Kate Rusby

5. “This Little Light of Mine,” by The Lower Lights

6. “You’re My Best Friend,” by The Once

7. “Baby We Were Young,” by The Dirty Guv’nahs

Best Movies Seen (I am wayyyy behind on movie viewing right now):

1. Jane Eyre

2. Midnight in Paris

3. Harry Potter 7.2

4. Super 8

5. Moneyball

6. The Help

7. Cowboys and Aliens

8. The Adjustment Bureau

9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Most Disappointing Movie:


2011 Movies on my To See List (See? Wayyy behind):

We Bought a Zoo


The Adventures of Tintin

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Kung Fu Panda 2

Queen to Play

The Tree of Life

Dream House

Yarn of the Year: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Woobu in the Ravenscroft colorway

Best Meals Eaten:

1. Private party at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

2. Craft, NYC

3. Maze, NYC

4. Thanksgiving Dinner, Cold Spring, NY

5. Em’s, Salt Lake City, UT

6. Café Cluny, NYC

7. Bernard’s Inn, Ridgefield, CT

8. Keens Steakhouse, NYC

9. Shake Shack, Citifield, Queens, NY

10. Valley, Garrison, NY

Best Theatre of the Year:

MusicalHugh Jackman: Back on Broadway—DIVINE.

PlayThe Mountaintop, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett—TRANSCENDENT.

ConcertGreat Big Sea—AGAIN and ALWAYS.


Amazing Secret Project

For the past six weeks, I have been writing something new. It's something I was hired by a publisher to write--something super fun that will be published in August 2012. It's a derivative work. Think something along the lines of this:

Except I will share authorship credit on the cover. (Trivia: sci fi veteran Alan Dean Foster actually ghostwrote the novelization pictured above.)

Let me state now for the skimmers that I am not writing a Star Wars novel. The photo above is just an example (and happens to be a book I treasured when I was ten years old).

But this project is very, very cool, I promise.

I am having the time of my life writing it and have learned a ton about both myself and writing as I've worked. 

First, since it's a derivative work, I have an incredibly detailed outline with which to work. What I have found is that this has not been the limitation you might think it to be. I actually have a ton of leeway within the outline for my own creative expression. Because the creators of the original work are gracious collaborators, they have been enthusiastic about the new things I have brought to enhance and enrich their story.

Precisely because the original outline is so structured, I have found a huge amount of freedom and energy for creativity. It reminds me of that analogy that Madeleine L'Engle makes in the beginning of A Wrinkle in Time about the strictures of sonnet writing. The form gives you freedom. This is something I have been learning over the past couple of years, but this project has really hammered the lesson home: I will never write without a solid outline again.

Second, this is a project with a very quick turnaround time. Someone unacquainted with how publishing with a major house works might think that since the publication date is sometime next August, that I would have tons of time to complete the writing.

Not so. The publisher needs the finished novel by February 1st in order to get it into the book production pipeline. That means that I need to have a polished draft to the original authors by January 1st so that they can review what I've written and we can make any changes necessary. That means that I need to have a very good draft ready for my few trusted beta readers by the day after Christmas. These brave and generous souls have agreed to read my manuscript very quickly and point out any flaws they find so that I can incorporate their feedback in those last, dark days of December. That means that I need to be DONE by Friday, December 23rd, due to the simple fact that my family needs me attentive and relaxed over Christmas weekend.

Writing a 70,000-word book in 8 weeks is something of a challenge. That is really, really fast. Oh, I know you have all heard about those intrepid souls who pump out 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo--and I respect that achievement. But these 70,000 words need to be a very polished, near-final draft--not the raw first draft that a NaNo participant finds herself with at the end of November.

But I have learned that I can do this. Amazing things have dropped into my way to help me, like this post by Rachel Aaron--which built beautifully on what I learned and described in this post. Granted, I'm not producing 10,000 words per day. With six kids--one still at home during the day--I don't have the 6-7 hours of time that Rachel has to do so. Someday.

But I have been far more productive than ever before.  Yesterday I set a new personal record, writing over 7,000 words. I also had time to feed and interact with my family, study scriptures, tidy the house, do laundry, go to breakfast with two fun friends, and read several chapters of a fun mystery novel. I have learned that I can write like a maniac and still have a life. A really great life, in point of fact.

Last, I've learned that I can keep a secret. When I was first asked to be a part of this project, I was so excited that I wanted to shout it to the heavens--or at least post about it on every form of social media known to man. NOT doing so these last six weeks has been difficult! But all shall be revealed very shortly. In fact, I apologize for this post. I know it is akin to my taunting you about how wonderful your Christmas presents are going to be. I know something cool, and you do not--yet. But you will. Stay tuned, faithful friends. Stay tuned.


What Think Ye?

I have a large collection of Christmas-themed picture books; there are at least thirty different titles in the stack on my shelf. One of our December Family Home Evening traditions is to read two of those books every week--one of which tells the Christmas story. Whether it's through my repeated readings of the four Gospels, or having memorized and sung various Christmas cantatas, or from having participated in many lesson-and-carol-style Sacrament Meeting programs--I have the story of Jesus' birth as told in the scriptures memorized. And I want my children to know it by heart, too.  So we read the Christmas story, in as close to the original form as we can get.

The book we read next can be silly or spiritual, as the mood strikes me. We might read a version of Clement C. Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" or one of Hans Christian Andersen's Christmas-themed fairy tales. (If that last happens, Patrick has to read. I can't get through "The Little Match Girl" without sobbing--no exaggeration.)

This past Monday, we read a gorgeous book with text from the King James Bible with photographs of medieval triptychs for illustrations. That was a treat to ponder.

But then we read one of the loveliest books in my entire collection, What Think Ye of Christmas?  Ester Rasband (who happens to be the wife of my former mission president) wrote the thought-provoking words, and her neighbor, Jana Winters Parkin (who happens to be one of my dearest friends in the entire world) painted the exquisite illustrations.

This book is special, and not just because I am privileged to know the co-creators. What I love about it is that it turns the familiar complaint of observant Christians--"Christmas has gotten so commercial," or something similar--on its head.  Yes, the secular nature of the world's December festivities--and sales and promotions--can overwhelm. But with a little thought, we all can "put Christ back in Christmas," as the Knights of Columbus remind me via billboard every year.

I read the book slowly to the family, pausing frequently so that they could examine the illustrations. We then had one of the best Gospel discussions we've ever had during Family Night. We talked about how Santa Claus can be seen as a type of the Savior; we marveled over how Jesus is both Shepherd and King. I loved the insights my children had and shared, sparked by the words and pictures before them. It was a truly memorable experience.

So--if you were at my house looking through my pile of Christmas books, and you asked me which of them I would most recommend that you buy--it would be this one. Buy a copy to treasure; buy a copy to give to someone you love. We bought several copies last year and gave them to the families whom we caroled last year on Christmas Eve--and every single one of those families (whether religiously observant or not) told me later how much they loved this little book.  It truly is a gift that keeps on giving.


Book Bomb Contest Results

You people amaze me. I feel honored to be associated with you. The online community has great power to do good, and yesterday you did a lot of good for Rob Wells. He posted last night on Facebook that he felt a little like George Bailey, and I can see why.

I checked Variant's Amazon ranking on Wednesday night before I posted my contest post. It was listed at #7,643--which is not bad for a debut national hardcover. Last night, when I went to bed--just a little over 24 hours later--Variant was at #56.

#56!!!!! That is more than a 10,000% increase! Rob Wells surged up the Teen sub-lists as well, ending up well into the Top Ten company of Suzanne Collins, Christopher Paolini, and Stephenie Meyer. Finally, Variant ended the night at #1 on Amazon's "Movers and Shakers" list.

Any book that breaks into Amazon's Top 100 gets noticed and has great potential to gain sales momentum, so your purchases have helped in more than one way. HUGE thanks to all of you for every hardcover purchased, every Kindle edition downloaded, every post and tweet and plurk. You made a difference.

Counting up the contest numbers this morning, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for your generosity. Some of you chose to email me your report, feeling shy about posting in public. That's fine; if you did that, I happily included your entries. Altogether, I counted almost 200 entries, which floors me. When I came up with the contest idea on Wednesday evening, I didn't know whether anyone would enter. I wondered whether the $50 I would put toward the grand prize would be better spent on just buying four more copies of the book.

Um, no. Participants in this contest bought a whopping 104 copies of Variant--and those are just the folks who reported to me. I know that your spreading the word generated many, many more sales. Thank you. I am near tears as I type this. Thank you.

Now, to announce the winners! I used the random number generator at RANDOM.org and came up with the following results:

The Grand Prize winner of a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate is Karen Merrell!

The Runner-up Prize winners of a signed copy of my cookbook Comfortably Yum are



Emily M, who contributes at Segullah!

Congratulations! And thanks again to all who entered. Winners, I will email you privately for your addresses.

Now that the Book Bomb is over, there is more you can do. Read the book and post your reviews of it on GoodReads, LibraryThing, and Amazon. Choose it to discuss in your book groups. Recommend it to your librarians and the English teachers at your middle and high schools as a great book for reluctant readers--especially boys. And above all, continue to pray that Rob finds complete and lasting relief from his Severe Panic Disorder soon, so that his life can get back to normal.

All yesterday, as I saw Rob's numbers rise, I thought about what Camilla Kimball said often, "Never suppress a generous impulse." Bless you all for taking her words to heart and living them.