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1. 30 Days: "Jonny Forget Your Gun" by Randall McNair


By Randall McNair


Jonny loved his staple gun.

CACHUNK

He bought it at a yard sale from the old lady next door.

CACHUNK

Where a little cripple boy sold lemonade from his wheelchair.

CACHUNK

Jonny named his new gun Buckshot.

CACHUNK

Every time he added a new bass to his collection.

CACHUNK

Buckshot got another notch.

CACHUNK

It didn't take long

CACHUNK

before Jonny had almost every kind of bass in the world

CACHUNK

pinned to the wall

CACHUNK

of his barn.

CACHUNK CACHUNK

and his collection was world famous.

            People the world over would come to Rustburg and shovel a nickel from their pocket to be allowed past the giant red barn doors. Inside it was dark as tar except for a hundred pin pricks of light coming through the slats and nail holes in the ceiling.

            When the barn was full, Jonny would collect his jar spilling over with nickels, and close the big doors.

            It took a few moments, with only the soft slits of sunlight falling down like a thousand stars. Then, one by one, each observer would gasp as his or her eyes adjusted, revealing the monument of fish stapled before them.

            Filled with wonder and amazement the crowds would whistle, holler and stamp their feet.

            "Bravo! Incredible! Encore!" would ring inevitable exclamations. Their excitement drifting for miles across gold and green hills. Scarcely could Jonny bow, or open the doors before he was swept up on the shoulders of the passionate crowd.

            It didn't take long before every person on the planet, it seemed, had come and come again to see Jonny's extravaganza of bass and come away a better person for it.

            Every person on the planet that is, except Jimmy. The little boy who lived next door.

            Jimmy was too weak to leave his small little bed up in the attic room of his grandmother's farm home. Although she would have liked to very much, Jimmy's grandmother was too old and frail to carry her grandson the scanty yards from where he lay, over to Jonny's bass barn.

            So every day Jimmy watched.

            Week after month he watched Jonny carry bass into the barn, would catch glint of the sun reflecting from Jonny's staple gun, and if the wind blew just right, he might hear a distant but resolute:

            Cachunk.

            Day after day he cheered and waved at Jonny as the ecstatic masses burst from the red barn doors; but Jonny, caught up in glory, never saw the frail little ghost of a boy, smiling at him from the window.

           He never saw how day after month after year, that smile never faded, even as the little waving arm grew weaker and weaker.

             Then one day, just one, nobody knows how or why, no one came to see Jonny's barn.

            No one dropped a nickel in Jonny's jar or came to lift Jonny on their shoulders. Everything was so still: so quiet, that one could almost hear the sound of the peanuts growing in their fields.

            As he sat on his milk stool in front of his barn; as Jonny looked out over the empty horizon, he saw the farmhouse next door, where a yard sale sign had once stood years before.
He noticed a little attic window again for the first time, and in that window a smiling little face.

            Slowly he walked across the yard, then through the back porch into the old woman's home, up the stairs, and without knocking, softly turned the knob of the boys attic room. Jonny looked down and smiled at the boy he'd not seen since the year he'd brought home his first bass.     Where had each of those days gone?

            Taking Buckshot from its holster, Jonny handed it to Jimmy. Then carefully he picked up the frail, broken body and without a word carried Jimmy down the stairs, and out to his barn.

            Reaching into his own pocket Jonny picked out one of his own nickels and dropped it in the jar.

            His whole soul alive with wonder Jimmy was layed in the fresh new straw, clutching buckshot in his lap, While Jonny closed the doors.

            Pin-pricks of light poured down all around filling the barn with heavenly light.

Then,

as Jimmy's eyes adjusted to the darkness

each fish,

one by one

turned their head towards the light,

and began to sing.

0 Comments on 30 Days: "Jonny Forget Your Gun" by Randall McNair as of 4/16/2014 11:33:00 AM
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2. 30 Days: "Going Home"

By: T.J. Reed


Brent’s dusty boots thumped on the hardwood floor of his father’s home; the same boots that Brent had stood on the streets of Baghdad in. He carefully closed the door behind him and shifted the cardboard carrier that held his and his dad’s coffees back to his strong hand. He had practiced this scenario every morning for the past two months since they had called a nurse in to take care of him. Every morning, at 7:30 am, Brent would arrive with their coffees and that day’s copy of USA Today. The coffee needed to be black for his father which matched his personality; strong.
He had served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, then had spent several years working as an armored truck driver after that, and that is when the cancer came. It had hit him quickly, much more quickly than Brent had anticipated. He had always assumed that he would have more time with his dad, one more day, one more hour, a minute. But, that all changed when Orville called and told him that they had found cancer, “running all up in me,” as he had put it.
“He has been waiting for you this morning.” The short nurse in the kitchen said.
“Yeah, I am a couple minutes late. The lady at the coffee house tried to put sugar in dad’s coffee. Had to wait while she brewed a whole new pot.”
“He has been talking to Big Tiny again. He says that he is going home today.” She said with a smile.
Over the past week, Brent’s father had been telling him stories about a young man that had been coming to the house to visit him that went by the name Big Tiny. The doctors had told Brent that he would slowly start to slip into this sort of state; speaking to people that was not there or forgetting who people was all together. Brent had just gone with it. He would sit with his coffee and listen to Orville tell him about the glorious things that Big Tiny would tell him of Heaven. Brent had decided that if this was how his father was going to lose his mind, he was ok with it.
Brent slowly opened the door to his father’s bedroom to find him staring at the ceiling, his eyes bright and wide with excitement.
“Good morning son!” His father tried to shout hoarsely from the confines of his bed.
“Hey old man. I got your coffee. You sure look happy this morning. You feeling better?”
“I don’t feel a thing son. Big Tiny said today I get to go home. He told me I get my retirement papers for my service here.” The old man tried to laugh and began to cough. Brent pulled a napkin from a box next the bed and handed it to his father which he then used to dab the speckles of blood from his lips and then just stared at his son.
“Big Tiny says that he has a job for me.” His father, though his eyes were bright with excitement, Brent came to the quick realization that his father was telling him that he was slowly slipping away. He could see it in the color of his skin and in the way he labored for breath. They had assumed that this would have happened a week ago, but Orville had proved too tough for death, as he did in Vietnam, and had fought it out for one more week.
“He does?” Brent said as he fought back tears.
Orville looked up at the ceiling again as if staring into Heaven itself, tears of his own slowly cupping the corners of his eyes and then streaking down the many creases and wrinkles on his face.
“Yep. Says my service is requested. Feels good to be wanted again, to be able to serve again, you know?” Orville smiled and looked at his son. “He says that you don’t need to worry about me and we will meet again.”
“He said all that, huh?” Brent said smiling now as he took his father’s hand. In the moment that his fingers touched his dads, it was as if a lightning bolt had struck Brent. The room flashed white, his hair stood on end, and then everything was as it was. Brent blinked his eyes several times and looked at his father.
“Can you see him now? He is talking to you.” Orville said to his son.
Brent looked at the foot of the bed and seen a soldier standing in his desert fatigues, full body armor, and his helmet held in gloved hands as he smiled a goofy smile that Brent knew all too well. The man possessed the face that had been in his dreams for the past 7 years since he had been killed in an ambush in Iraq.
“Tony?”
“Hey buddy.” Tony said. “You got one heck of an old man. This guy will talk your ear off if you let him.”
“Tony?” Brent repeated.
“Yep.” Tony started laughing.
“Why does he call you Big Tiny?” Brent said laughing as a mixture of tears of joy and sadness flooded his eyes.
“When he first asked my name, I said Big Tony. The old man is hard of hearing, I guess he heard Big Tiny and I just haven’t had the heart to correct him.”
The two laughed. They laughed like old friends do when they have not seen each other in a very long time and Brent noticed that his father was not laughing. The grip on his hand had lightened and his fingers were slipping from his grip. Brent looked at his father, his eyes nearly closed but he was smiling.
“Don’t worry Brent. I got this. I will make sure your old man gets where he needs to go. That is my job now. I am a courier; a courier for the poor tortured souls that is us. We give everyone a gentle welcome into their ever after and bring them to their families.  Remember how we always joked that we would be guarding the gates of Heaven or the streets of gold. Apparently, those things don’t need any guarding brother. What they need is us collecting up our brothers and sisters and bringing them home.” Tony smiled again.
Brent used his free arm to wipe the tears from his face. “He said you had a job for him.”
“Well, I don’t. The old man upstairs does. He is going to make him a courier too. I already have a man to train him up for the task.”
Brent turned his head to look back at his father and found that his eyes were now closed. The weak grip that he had held on his hand was now gone but his body was lying with his arms stiffly placed alongside his legs as if he was in the position of attention. There were two young men now standing at the far side of the bed dressed in an older style of military uniform that Brent recognized from a few pictures that his father had shared with him of Vietnam. The dark green uniforms looked like they were fresh out of the box; crisp and clean without speck of dust on them.
“Brent, I would like you to meet Bryan Meeks. I haven’t seen this young man in fifty years!” Brent’s father said as he laughed and hugged his long lost friend, a friend that he had lost in Vietnam and had worn a bracelet every day of his life to remember that friend. Brent looked down at his own wrist and stared at the thin metal bracelet he wore for Tony. A bracelet that he never took off and that was a constant reminder of a friend he had lost in a foreign land. Brent looked up and all of his new friends were gone along with his father.
He cried.
He let the tears for his father fall to the floor along with the tears of closure for a friend that he had always hoped that he could see again someday. He knew that whenever it was his time to go, there would be a young man in uniform prepared to escort him to the other side and he hoped that his name was Big Tiny.

Written for the memories of my fallen brothers:
Pfc. Alva L. Gaylord May 5th, 2006
Spec. Matthew F. Straughter January 31st, 2008
Staff Sgt. Bradley J. Skelton February 6th, 2008
Sgt. Denis D. Kisseloff May 14th, 2010

Rest in peace brothers and I hope you enjoy your new jobs. I cannot wait to see you all again when my time comes and I hope that you all show up to escort me home.


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3. 30 Days: "The Thoughtful Zit" by Tabitha Thompson

It was right in the middle of my first real conversation with Josh that I noticed the zit on the right side of my nose. It was as though it grew there instantaneously.

Why now?

Just minutes before I had been standing in the sun. Flirting and enjoying myself.

Then, from the corner of my eye I could see the bright red splotch. First I thought there was something on my face (there was, but I thought it was a bug or a splash of ketchup from lunch or something equally mortifying, yet wipeable). So I tried casually brushing it away.

Not going anywhere.

Of course, I had to maintain some composure. I couldn't just look. I mean, apart from the obvious reasons, I couldn't just go cross-eyed in the middle of the conversation to gawk at it.

But there it was, the stoplight to all dating possibilities blinking at me from the edge of my peripheral vision.

Was it even possible that it had just appeared so quickly that Josh hadn't seen it? Perhaps he was currently so engaged in our clever verbal dance that he failed to notice the middle of my face.

It could happen.

I tried to remain calm.

I cocked my head to the right, hoping the good side of my nose would obscure his view of the blemish, and with a slight hair flourish, I used the new angle to appear as though I was looking coyly at him.

"Jeez, are you okay?" he asked.

"Uh. Neck cramp," I blurted and rubbed at the phantom pain.

"Oh," he said. "When did that happen?"

About thirty seconds ago.

"Old dance injury," I said.

No response.

"Comes and goes," I added.

Silence.

Josh studied me for a minute as though he was trying to work out what had just changed. Yes, I had gone from a normal person to a weirdo in six-point-two seconds.

In face, he cocked his head and began looking at me though the corner of his eyes—the difference between us being that he actually looked adorable doing it.

"You sure you're okay?" he asked again with a slight smile, as though unsure whether I was being an idiot on purpose or if he should be in on a joke.

"Oh yeah. No biggie. So ... what were you saying about the dance?" I tried steering him back to the part of the conversation I had been enjoying.

"Right. Yeah. Well, just that I've got this killer paper to finish for chemistry before I can even think about going." Josh looked down at his watch. He wore it backwards, so that the dial was on the inside of his wrist. It was another one of those quirky things about him that made him so—"Speaking of which, I'm going to be late for class. Hey, it was nice talking to you. Seeyaround."

Crap. I'd been staring at him. Staring. Like an idiot. My mind raced to catch up. "Yeah. Yes! See you later." And then before my mind had caught up, my mouth got desperate and I heard it saying, "I do my homework on this very bench every Tuesday. After class. About this time." But I said it too fast and too late because he was already walking away.

My mind was going to slap me across the mouth when it caught up.

I rolled my eyes as he turned a corner and out of view.

And I caught sight of the zit on my face again.

He had seen it. And if he hadn't, my own stupidity would have driven him away.

I closed my left eye and looked in, crossways, with my right, to ogle the huge cranberry-like profusion exploding from my nose. I was hideous.

I began rummaging through my book bag. Surely I had some back-up face powder or something.

But after some digging all I came up with was an almost empty box of TicTacs and three gnarly looking gummy bears.

Who was I kidding? There wasn't enough make-up on the planet to cover this. What I needed was a small tent.

Who cares? Besides, its not like I have to go to every dance at college. It was still my first year. I would know a lot more people next year. Just through some mathematical odds process I was bound to go to a dance at some point with someone. Right?

I sat down to read and to forget my misery. But the volcano kept poking up into view. After a while I achieved some sense of peace by closing my right eye and reading with my left. But since I wasn't wearing my contacts, I had to squint the one good eye to get the words into focus.

That was the lovely face I was making when I noticed Josh standing in front of me again.

I looked up, right eye closed tight, left eye squinting, red nose glowing. And there he was.

"Josh!" I cocked my head to the side so fast I think I gave myself whiplash. "Ow."

"They cancelled class," he said. "Still got that kink, huh?"

"Yeah," I said, and found myself rubbing the opposite side of my neck that I had last time.

"Let's see if we can't fix that up for you. Scoot up."

I sat forward on the backless bench and he came around behind me and began to rub my neck and shoulders.

What?! How could this possibly have worked out in my favor like this?

Little squeal inside. Mental text to BFF: Holy crap! Josh is touching me!

Finally an answer to my problem: a faceless, yet brilliantly stimulating hands-on conversation. (He was definitely stimulating. I should try to be brilliant. But best not to talk and screw it up.)

Josh cleared his throat. "Hey, if I did finish my paper, would you be interested in going to the dance a little late?"

Total geeky dance throw down on the inside.

On the outside: "Yes. I'd love to."

See? I can be normal. And calm. And normal.

I just hope there's enough makeup in the store to fix me up by Saturday night.

Or I may have to wear a neck brace.

But then I'd have no excuse to not look directly at him.

Mental note: Text BFF to find an excuse to wear an eye patch.

Still, if it weren't for this zit, he might not be rubbing my shoulders right now.

Huh.

Thanks, little zit.

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4. 30 Days: "The Savior's Gift to Me" by Annie Bailey


The Savior’s Gift to Me

By Annie Bailey

From the children’s album: There Is Joy


Long ago in Gethsemane
The Savior gave a great gift to me
He paid the price for all my sins
He suffered just for me

Chorus
He wants me to take His gift
And try to do better
Try to do better each day
When I make a mistake
The Savior still loves me
He always loves me
Loves me and wants me to grow each day

Long ago Christ went willingly
To give up His life, to die for me
He paid the price for all my sins
He suffered just for me

Chorus
He wants me to take His gift
And try to do better
Try to do better each day
When I make a mistake
The Savior still loves me
He always loves me
Loves me and wants me to grow each day


To hear “The Savior’s Gift to Me” please visit: http://www.anniebailey.com/music.html.

Copyright by Annie Bailey
Used by permission

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5. 30 Days: "Twelve Days of April Fool's" by Elliah A Terry


TWELVE DAYS OF APRIL FOOL’S
by Elliah A. Terry
 
I have a little brother who’s sneaky as can be.
He likes pulling pranks on me.
He knows that April Fool’s Day is really just one day, 
but this year, he got carried away . . .

On the FIRST day of April, my brother gave to me—a shoe full of stinky blue cheese.

On the SECOND day of April, my brother gave to me—two left hand gloves and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese.

On the THIRD day of April, my brother gave to me—three trick pens, two left hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese. 

On the FOURTH day of April, my brother gave to me—four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese.

On the FIFTH day of April, my brother gave to me—five slimy things, yuck! Four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese.

On the SIXTH day of April, my brother gave to me—six squirt guns spraying, five slimy things, yuck! Four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese.

On the SEVENTH day of April, my brother gave to me—seven snakes a-swimming, six squirt guns spraying, five slimy things, yuck! Four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese. 

On the EIGHTH day of April, my brother gave to me—eight socks
a-missing, seven snakes a-swimming, six squirt guns spraying, five slimy things, yuck! Four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left-hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese.

On the NINTH day of April, my brother gave to me—nine ants
a-prancing, eight socks a-missing, seven snakes a-swimming, six squirt guns spraying, five slimy things, yuck! Four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese.

On the TENTH day of April, my brother gave to me—ten spiders creeping, nine ants a-prancing, eight socks a-missing, seven snakes a-swimming, six squirt guns spraying, five slimy things, yuck! Four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese. 

On the ELEVENTH day of April, my brother gave to me—eleven pigeons pecking, ten spiders creeping, nine ants a-prancing, eight socks a-missing, seven snakes a-swimming, six squirt guns spraying, five slimy things, yuck! Four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left hand gloves, and a shoe full of stinky blue cheese. 

But . . .

On the TWELFTH day of April, my brother GOT FROM ME—
twelve paybacks coming, eleven pigeons pecking, ten spiders creeping, nine ants a-prancing, eight socks a-missing, seven snakes a-swimming, six squirt guns spraying, five slimy things, ha! Four rubber turds, three trick pens, two left hand gloves . . .  

And then my brother begged me, “Oh please, oh, please, oh, please—
I’ll do your dishes for a week,
I'll give you my chocolate milk,
I’ll walk your dog every day,
and I won’t play any tricks on you ever again, I promise!”
. . . so I dumped out his shoe full of cheese.

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6. Swampgheist


The man had played the corpse very well up to this point, lying carrion still where the water merged with the mud. He could feel hours worth of water-wrinkles in the fingertips of his right hand, which drifted limply in the brackish water, clutching a stinking mesh bundle of rotting alligator guts. He had been disturbed only by the fish... until now. 
He had the swampgheist coming to him.
After years of endless chasing, watching it dart away into the swamps time after time after infuriating, maddening time... he hadit coming to him, like an eel to a glowstick.
And he was ready for it. His other hand, the one that wasn't holding the alligator guts, laid hidden by his side, clutching his revolver. Thumb on the hammer, finger on the trigger guard. He had unbuckled the snap on the sheath knife he had strapped to his leg. 
A weapon was no good if you couldn't get it out fast enough.
The night was so quiet he could hear the monster breathing. He heard the slightest slosh in the water. In his mind he could see it stepping closer to him. He didn't dare to look, for that would betray his purpose.
The excitement was sickening.
Then... he felt a ripple, a movement in the water, by the gut bag. It was sniffing him out. Alligator flesh was it's favorite. And it didn't mind human flesh, either. Caught live, or found dead.
No dogs, you beast, he thought. No motorboat. No spotters. No sonar. No men for you to disembowel... no nest for me to hack through. Just you, my dear scaly swampgheist, and me.
Whatever the taxidermist wanted him to pay, he would pay it. He wanted a museum quality piece, something that would last, something that he could show to his family, his enemies, and to all the fearful who had begged him to give up the hunt. Madness, they had said. 
He heard a gurgling rumble...as though it were growling through a windpipe full of water.
With utmost care, he pulled back the hammer of his revolver.
Click.
There was another slosh, then another gurgling rumble.
One smooth move, aim, fire every round. He would shoot the throat, severing arteries, the trachea... and at this range, the spinal cord. As long as he didn't damage that beautiful skull.
He had pulled his finger past the trigger guard, and placed it on the trigger, when it's enormous beaked jaws fasten around his left wrist.
It could snap his wrist and his hand would be gone in a second.
He readied his revolver hand.
It didn't bite down.
It just held him.
He felt it's heavy, scaled paw, with claws like giant fishhooks, moving along his arm, feeling him out. It stopped at his throat, and rested there, on the side. It reminded him of someone feeling for a pulse.
He held his breath.
His pulse?
Was it feeling for his heartbeat?
No. Impossible.
It froze. It released his arm.
Then, it growled, a hideous, rising, unending growl, and the paw of the creature wrapped around his neck.
It HAD felt for his heartbeat... and it knew he was alive.


I wrote this story for a Utah Children's Writer's flash fiction contest a few years back, before I was one of the writers who posted here. The contest? 500 words or less, and you had to include the phrase 'he had it coming to him' somewhere within the text of the story. This was one of three stories that I came up with for the contest, and in the end, I chose another story over this one due to the other story having a much better arc. I tweaked a few things before I posted 'Swampgheist' here, and as a result there are probably a few more than 500 words now, but the contest phrase remained. And what, you ask, is a swampgheist? I actually have no idea, sorry. :)


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7. 30 Days: "Oath and Covenant" by David Hulet


 Oath and Covenant
            Zelek shut the door quietly and looked at his wife, concern clearly etched into his worn face. “Where is he?” She motioned to the boy’s bedroom, the unspoken tension thick around them. Zelek sighed as he raised his hand to knock on Teaum’s door. He rapped lightly; then opened it. His son was in the middle of the room, adjusting the leather straps on a breastplate. “Teaum…”
            “Forget it Dad, I’m fighting.”
            “Can we talk about this?” Zelek shut the door and moved to the bed.
            “No, we can’t talk about this. My mind’s made up.”
            “Teaum, think for a minute.”
            His son looked at him fiercely. “I already did. That’s why I’m going.”
            Zelek sighed again. “Teaum, please!” He tried to maintain his composure. “You’re barely sixteen and my only son. I can’t afford to lose you.”
            “Stop Dad. Don’t try and get sentimental. My mind’s made up. And that’s final.” Teaum started putting on his boots.
            “Son, can you help me understand why this is so important to you?”
            Teaum glared. “It has to be. If for no other reason than because it’s not to you.”
            “That’s not fair, Teaum. Why would you say that?”
            Teaum moved to the door and opened it. Looking back, he said, “The Lamanites are coming whether you accept it or not. Too many Nephites have already died to protect us. And our people just sit here and let it happen! Someone has to fight. If you refuse to be man enough to step up when your people need you, then I will.” The door slammed behind him as he left.
            Zelek buried his face in his hands. Teaum’s word stung him like scorpion barbs. Teaum didn’t understand the oath they’d made to never fight again. When they had been faced with continuing to either shed blood or help substantiate their faith, his people had heeded Ammon’s suggestion to bury their weapons. Zelek remembered clearly the day he threw his blood-stained sword into the earth and turned his back on that gaping pit, content to never shed blood again. He looked now at the closed door and tried to stop tears of frustration. The war was escalating; many of the youth were fed up with their parent’s lack of commitment to the Nephites. If the adults wouldn’t fight, they would. But Teaum. This was his son, his only son.
            Zelek stood up and left the bedroom. His wife pointed toward the front door, not saying a word. Zelek went outside and found Teaum sitting nearby, sobbing.
            “Teaum!” He said, moving to console him.
            “I’m scared, Dad.” Teaum lifted a hand to wipe at his tears.
            “Teaum. Don’t be scared. You’ll be fighting for a just cause.” He put a hand on his son’s shoulder to reassure him. “I can’t fight because I promised God I wouldn’t. In the days before our conversion, there were also wars; fighting was our way of life. Bloodshed and murder was all we knew before Ammon came. In his teachings we found new purpose; a different path, one of peace. The Lord became the most important part of our lives, as you know He still is.”
            Teaum nodded. He’d stopped crying and was listening intently to his father. “Mom teaches me daily about God and how important He is. You teach me too, through your example.” He flashed a smile and Zelek smiled back.
            “Trust me Son. Since the Lamanites attacked Bountiful, I’ve thought endlessly about my covenant to not fight. My heart aches whenever I hear of fallen Nephites. I’ve wrestled many nights on my knees with the Lord desiring to intervene. But a promise is a promise, and the ones I have with the Lord are the most important promises to keep.”
            Teaum understood. “I didn’t make any promise to God about fighting, so I can fight for you. My friends say that a righteous man named Helaman is going to be our commander. And I have the Spirit to guide me, so everything should be fine.”
            Zelek pulled Teaum close to him. “I know it will be. I just can’t bear the thought of losing you; you’re all Mom and I have to keep us going.”
            “I’ll be careful. I can do it, Dad.” Teaum paused, seemingly to collect his thoughts, then said, “Do you have faith in me?”
            Zelek looked at Teaum in disbelief. “What kind of a question is that? Of course I have faith in you. I always have.”
            “Good, because I need that, Dad. I know I’m young but I can be a man. I can.” Teaum looked off into the distance, preparing to go.
            Zelek followed his gaze. “Son?”
            “Yeah, Dad?”
            “I’m proud of you for being brave.”
            Teaum flung his arms around his dad’s neck. “I love you, Dad.”
            “I love you too Son. You know we’ll pray for you.”
            Teaum nodded. “I know. Thanks Dad. I’m not scared anymore.” He stood and hugged Zelek again. Sensing something was wrong, Zelek’s wife appeared in the open door. Catching her eyes for a moment, as if to say ‘I’m sorry, and I love you,’ Teaum turned to leave.
            She called after him. “Teaum!”
            He looked back briefly and hesitated; then kept walking. Zelek moved to embrace his wife as she burst into tears. “It’s okay, Honey. He’s a brave boy and we’ve taught him to trust in the Lord. He knows who to rely on and that will bring him back to us.”

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8. 30 Days: "THE FURRY CAPER" by VS Grenier

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“Mom!” Jennie shouted from her room, “I can’t find my lucky rabbit’s foot.”
     “Check your sister’s room,” her mom called from the kitchen.
     “I looked everywhere!” Jennie pulled her blonde hair back into a ponytail. Walking into the kitchen she said, “I only found Max’s rat toy.” She threw it to the over sized black cat, Max, who pounced on it.
     “You’ll do fine at the spelling bee without it,” said her mom. “You were the only 1stgrader to ever win the Riverdale Elementary spelling bee championship.”
     Jennie’s ears reddened. “What if I lose this year because I don’t have my good luck charm?”
Hearing the doorbell, Jennie raced out of the kitchen.  She knew it had to be Peter, her best friend who was the greatest detective in the second grade.
     “Peter, I need your help,” begged Jennie closing the door behind him. 
     “What do you need help with?  You already know the words for tonight,” he replied.
     Jennie fought back tears. “It’s my lucky rabbit’s foot.  I can’t find it.”
     “What? You’ve never taken a spelling test without it!” Peter rubbed his chin. “You’ll need it for tonight, where did you see it last?”
     “On my dresser, last night,” replied Jennie.
     “Let’s start there,” he said.
     Peter paced Jennie’s room. Trying to think he rubbed his chin again.  Pushing his glasses up on his nose he stopped.
“What do we have here?” He picked up a tiny red plastic shoe and turned to Jennie.
     “That’s Beth’s Barbie doll shoe.  How did it get here?” replied Jennie.
     “Your sister needs to answer a few questions,” said Peter.
They headed outside to question Beth.
     “Beth why were you in my room!” demanded Jennie.
     “I wasn’t in your room,” said Beth.
     “What Jennie means is...We found a red Barbie shoe under her bed.” Peter handed Beth the red shoe.
     Beth looked at it. “Why did you smash it?”
     Jennie’s eye widened.  “I didn’t do anything to your shoe. Maybe you should stay out of my room!”
     “Beth,” said Peter pushing his glasses back, “you didn’t go in Jennie’s room?”
     “I said I didn’t,” replied Beth.
     “Do you know how it got under her bed?” he asked.
     “I don’t know. It looks like someone chewed on it.” Beth tried to put her Barbie’s foot in the shoe.
     “I think I might know who did,” said Peter grabbing Jennie’s hand.  He headed back inside the house.
     Jennie stopped short pulling Peter backwards.  “You don’t think Trent, my baby brother...” Jennie burst out laughing.
     “Maybe he thought it was something to chew on,” Peter said shrugging his shoulders. “Who else would chew on a Barbie shoe?”
     Jennie stopped giggling. “Mom would have stopped him, Peter.” 
     Trent was sitting in his high chair eating.
“Raisins,” said Trent.
     “Oh yuck!” shouted Jennie.
     Peter spun around. “What’s wrong with raisins?”
     “Not the raisins—Max just ate the raisin Trent dropped.” Jennie looked at Max, “Gross cat.”
     “Your cat eats raisins?” Peter looked shocked.
     “He’ll eat just about anything.  Beth even feeds him green beans when Mom’s not looking.” Jennie picked up Max and put him outside.
     Peter rubbed his chin. “I’ve been looking in the wrong place,” he said taking Jennie’s hand and walking outside to watch the cat.
     Max strolled over to the tree by the swing set. He stretched his front claws out and started to climb. Peter watched Max disappear into the tree house.
“I’m going up for a look,” Peter said.
Peter started to climb the ladder. He paused to look inside before entering. Max was lying on top of a small white furry object. 
Peter pulled himself up into the tree house half way. He gently tried to push Max aside. The cat rolled over playfully batting Peter’s hand.
“I hope this isn’t a dead mouse,” he said reaching his hand under the cat and pulling out Jennie’s rabbit’s foot. 
“You found it, Peter!” she shouted.
“Jennie! Peter! It’s time to go,” called Jennie’s mom.
“Coming Mom!” Jennie called out happily. 
Peter climbed down handing her the rabbit’s foot.
“Thanks, Peter,” she said with a smile, “now I’ll have good luck tonight.”

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9. 30 Days: Undeaditorial

Dear Editor:

With great interest, I read your special issue about biometric computer authentication (March, 2014). My firm has been looking for a viable biometrics solution for quite some time and several of the products you reviewed look promising.

However, we have one question that remains unanswered by any of the articles in this otherwise excellent issue: Do any of these products work for the undead?

You see, we take being an equal opportunity employer quite seriously. Hiring the undead keeps us in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and contributes to a diverse work environment. We also recognize that there are certain advantages to hiring people who have risen from the grave. For one thing, they seldom object to working the night shift. In fact, they prefer it. As long as the shift ends before sunrise, you can count on zombies to remain alert and productive way into the wee hours of the morning. They also tend not to require expensive health benefits or group life insurance.

But for these prized workers, traditional passwords don't do any good because people tend to forget them when their brains rot and leak out of their ears. Unfortunately, biometric authentication often brings its own set of problems.

It's hard to log in to the network with a fingerprint reader when your fingerprints have decayed and your finger tends to remain in the reader after you pull your hand away. Likewise, iris recognition devices are problematic when the eyes keep falling out of the head and dangle well below the beam from the reader. Face recognition? Forget it. As the face deteriorates, new patches of mold or the continual changing of the shape of a rotting face with its sagging skin and ever-more-deviating septum renders such systems useless.

Some of our employees have suggested that it might be useful to have a device that allows the employee to pull the bowels from his belly and run them through a scanner. This might help solve the problem, but it raises an obvious security issue: What's to stop somebody from pulling the guts out of a coworker and using them to gain access to a restricted system? DNA-based devices have similar security problems. We even tried odor-based biometrics, but quickly learned that this type of device overloads and fails when the workplace houses more than a small number of rotting corpses.

As you can see, current biometrics don't work for an organization like ours. In this economy, more and more people seem to be dying every day, and as they venture forth from their coffins to seek suitable employment, biometric authentication seems like the way to go.

If the research you did for your special issue provided insight into how to use biometrics for this under-appreciated segment of the workforce, we would love to hear about it.

Thank you,

Rip Morguenstern,
VP of Security
Liquid Putrefaction, Inc.

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10. 30 Days: "Spiral" by Marion Steiger

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This picture, posted in Authors by Designs (AbD), was a Picture of the Month. All members are welcome to respond and enjoy the responses of others. ABD is where my online critique group, The Pen, posts and critiques our stories. Below shows how this picture inspired me to venture outside my comfort zone and write in a genre foreign to the writer in me.

~

Andrew tightened his grip as Sara squirmed against his arm. He leaned them back, resting them snug against the huge oak tree. Too late he reached for her hand intending to caress it and ask what troubled her.

Sara moved fast, avoiding his grasp, dusting crumbs from their spotless blanket. She wanted to explain, nodding when words eluded her, and clamped her lips tight. Knowing it would be the last time if she left, she took a long look at the man she loved. He would be her husband in seven days if she stayed, the father of her earthly children.

The choice was hers they said. She knew better.  

Without a backward glance, she stood and headed toward the spiral stairs. Through misty-wet vines woven into the staircase, she raised one foot then another, climbing, expecting the stairs to crumble behind her. She gained knowledge as each step fell away. Worlds shimmered and spun round her, guiding her, ascending the spiral, easing the climb. To where? There.

She was there. So was he. Waiting, one arm extended, beckoning her until he could reach out and gather her close. His name was Nineteen. She was Twenty. There to take his place. Not as a wife. She would be the last leader taken up to the new world. To protect them but never again be one of them. And the clock said it was time.

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11. 30 Days: "When the Forces of the Universe Combine...."










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12. 30 Days: Pioneer Chrismas

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Ma, where will we be for Christmas this year?
In the Salt Lake Valley.
Will we get there before Christmas?
I hope so, little one.
But isn’t it Christmas right now?
No, dear, not yet.
But there is so much snow.
I know. Come along.
My feet hurt.
Let me see. I have a little flour sack. Let me wrap them.
I’m hungry too.
We all are. I have a little leather left. Chew it as we walk.
Will Pa be home for Christmas?
No, love, he can’t be with us anymore.
Where is he?
We had to leave him with the others.
Will the wolves hurt him?
We covered him good with sage brush.
Will we see him again, Ma?
Yes.
Will he miss us?
I think he will be sad to not be with us. Do you know who was born on Christmas?
Jesus?
Yes. And His Mother and Father loved Him very much.
Did He grow big like me?
Yes, He did. And one day Jesus had to leave His family even when He didn’t want to leave.
Just like Pa.
Yes, and Pa is with Jesus in Heaven.
Pa gets to spend Christmas with Jesus?
He does.
He gets to have the best Christmas.
I think you’re right.
I still wish Pa was with us, pulling me in the handcart.
Do you want to get in the handcart now?
May I? The rocks are hurting my feet.
Let me put you in with sister.
Sister is so cold, Ma.
Wrap your arms around her and hold her close.
Will she spend Christmas with Jesus, too?
I would miss her terribly if she did, dear.
Can you hear the singing?
It must be the other Saints singing.
I can’t see no other handcarts. Didn’t angels sing when Jesus was born?
Yes.
I think the angels are singing for us tonight so we are not alone.
I believe you are right, little one.


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13. SCBWI critique sessions

Elissa Cruz is the ARA for our local SCBWI chapter. Please don’t ask what an ARA is. Basically it means she’s the head honcho for Utah. Neysa Jensen is in charge of the Utah/Southern Idaho SCBWI and Elissa helps her with the Utah end of things.

Elissa is wonderful. She has tried scheduling monthly writing events, last year rotating the locations between Weber, Salt Lake, and Utah counties. This year she is pulling in the southern Utah writers. A while ago she asked for volunteers to head informal critique sessions. Silly me, I volunteered to do the Salt Lake one. My critique partner, Travis, conducts the Utah County session. We run them the fourth Wednesday and Thursday of the month. I must say it has been educational.

These informal critique sessions are unique. A  normal writer’s group has regular writers with a set format and established procedures and expectations. Anyone can show at these SCBWI ones.

Since we started in January, the Salt Lake people have included PB and short story writers, illustrators, and a poet. I’m an MG guy, now dabbling in YA, so I have critiqued PB before. I had never critiqued a poem until this year. Story telling from the illustrator’s perspective in a unique was to think about a tale. The commonality is precision of language. This is a must for the poet and the PB writer. Succinct language is a must for other genres as well.

At each session, there have been people new to writing, new to the writing community. They’ve come out of curiosity, perhaps with a piece to share. It has been a pleasure to watch them observe what I’ve experienced since I became a writer. There is a genuine concern for the effort of other writers in a critique session. Like-minded people gather for the sole purpose of helping each other become better writers. 

Critique is the way our writing blossoms and grows.

This and That:
With April just around the corner, look forward to something different from this blog. The annual 30 Day, 30 Stories will feature a different story every day from a host of writers. There may be days still available. If you have an interest in contributing, leave a comment.

I’ve been made aware of two other writing events since I posted last week. Follow this link for a full list of events, minus these two:
SCBWI Northern Utah Monthly Event Series: Sara Zarr – time and location TBA - https://utahsouthidaho.scbwi.org/events/northern-utah-monthly-event-series-sara-zarr/ - Fri. 4/11

Tell Me A Story: Annual Regional Conference – Boise State University, Boise, ID - https://utahsouthidaho.scbwi.org/events/tell-me-a-story-annual-boise-childrens-literature-conference/ - April 25-26

WIFYR registration is now open. Carol Lynch Williams’ amazing conference is a must. More info can be found here.


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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14. The Dream Press

Benjamin Ehlert and Mitch Stevens sit down to lunch with wide perfect smiles. Seriously, these guys both have perfect teeth. But they aren't just smiling to be polite. They are smiling about their newest venture: The Dream Press.

The concept was first brought to my attention by Rick Walton, and it piqued my curiosity. So I thought I'd meet up with The Dream boys for more details.

"Initially it was hard to find just the right name for this project. But this is our dream: to produce other people's dreams," says Ehlert.

The dream to which he refers is a hybrid type of crowd-sourced publishing of children's picture books that have a focus on inspiring kids to reach for their highest potential and become better people.

Ehlert, who has his degree in business management and strategy, and Stevens, who has worked on ad copy for the likes of Taco Bell and Vitamin Water, came together to create this business venture in "market-sourcing."

Think of it as Facebook meets Kickstarter meets Scholastic.

Here's how it works: authors and illustrators set up profiles on thedreampress.com. Authors choose how many pages of any number of inspirational picture-book manuscripts to put up for consideration, illustrators provide a mini portfolio of work that would target that same audience. Visitors to the site vote for their favorite ideas and artwork.

There is a Dream Press publishing board who take the "likes" into consideration, then offer to put into print the best and brightest offerings.

"That way the market is pre-built into a project. People are already [emotionally] invested," they explain. But financially invested, too. Like with Kickstarter, interested readers may pre-purchase the book of choice (funds only taken once the book is created and shipped).

In time, Stevens and Ehlert would like that one-time payment to include not only the physical book, but videos, ebooks, and/or apps associated with it—something to ease the physical-vs-digital debate. And while picture books are the focus now, they may expand to MG and YA as projects come forward and the brand and its audience are built.

"We are building this brand to industry standards. We don't want to be just a small vanity press," they say. And they are getting some key players in the kid-lit market on board with them.

The concept is interesting on its own, but what caught my attention was that these guys are already taking it to the next level.

The official launch of The Dream Press this May is called "Dreamathon," a week-long promotion focusing on kid's literacy. Some 150 artists are expected to get involved with creating a dream-like sanctuary of murals and wall-hangings wherein short classes on writing and drawing will be offered to 1500-2000 school children. (They already have a donor providing funds to bus the kids to the event.)

In the evenings, keynote speakers, well-known musicians, and workshops will be available to the public.

Currently five books are in the works and will be part of the initial launch.

Details can be found on their website (which is being updated as the whole company continues to take shape).

And while you can't quite yet set up a profile, you can send story and art submissions to stories@thedreampress.com now. Selected stories submitted by May 25th will receive a thumbnail illustration by a professional artist to accompany the author's profile.

So polish up that inspirational picture book and get in on the ground floor of the dream.

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15. The Best 30 Days of the Year

April is rapidly approaching, and that means it's once again time for this blog to host our annual 30 Days, 30 Stories event.

It's always fun to see the talent our little blog community possesses. It's one of the highlights of the year.

If you would like to contribute a story or a poem or memoir or cartoon, or drawing or whatever it is you do, leave a comment below and we'll make sure you get on the schedule. Sarah Southerland will get in touch with contributors about how to post your material.




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16. What Would You Re-read for the First Time

By Julie Daines

I've been thinking recently about all the books I love. I re-read book a lot. A LOT. And there's something different I get out of each re-read. Some books never get old to me.

But at the same time, there are certain books I wish I could go back in time an re-read for the first time. If that makes sense.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to get sucked in to the world of Harry Potter all over again.

And what I wouldn't give to be able to experience The Road again for the first time.

To discover Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë for the first time.

If you could go back in time, what books would you want to read again for the first time?


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17. Spring has sprung...

…the grass has ris.

We had our winter early and hard and the east has been clobbered, but it feels fresh in Utah.

Just wanted to extend a thank you to Julie Daines for an enlightening talk at the Pleasant Grove Library and to those who arranged it. That’s how some writers greeted the equinox. First chapters are first impressions and Julie gave us tips to make them shine. 

Other Utah writers were in attendance, several of them contributors to this blog. It is said our writing community has caught the attention of New York and other publishing circles. After months of knowing these writers online, it was enjoyable meeting them face to face.

Our community is strong because we are engaged in sharing it. This UCW blog has speakers scheduled monthly into the fall. The next one has Carol Lynch Williams, a friend to children writers and a strong influence in the raising of craft of Utah writing. SCBWI runs informal critique sessions the fourth Wednesday and Thursday and meets in both Utah and Salt Lake County. LD Storymakers is an annual event that comes up in April and Carol’s superb WIFYR conference runs again this June. Sherry Meidell held her illustrators session this year and there was a writing retreat last this month at Sundance.  And, if you read this in time and have nothing to do, make your way to Shannon Hale’s Writing for Charity at the Provo Library. It happens today and probably has already started.  Details can be found here. There are a lot of writing events going on in the state. 

Because there is so much going on, it would be nice to see them all in one place. Perhaps the Facebook page Scott Rhoades set up would be a better place to share them. For now, here is a list of events through spring and into summer. I’ve probably missed some; please leave comment to share others you know of.

Local Up-Coming Writing Events
-Wed. 3/26 - SCBWI Salt Lake critique session - 7:00pm Millcreek Library
-Thu. 3/27 - SCBWI Utah County critique session - 7:00pm Orem Public Library
-Sat. 3/29 - Southern Utah SCBWI Spring Workshop - Cedar City, UT
-Thu. 4/18 - UCW blog event: Carol Lynch Williams and Cheri Earl Pray on writing partnerships - Pleasant Grove, UT
-Wed. 4/23 - SCBWI Salt Lake critique session - 7:00pm Millcreek Library
-Thu. 4/24 - SCBWI Utah County critique session - 7:00pm Orem Public Library
-April 24-26 - LDStorymakers Writing Conference - Layton, UT
-Thu. 5/15 - UCW event: editor’s panel - Pleasant Grove, UT
-Wed. 5/28 - SCBWI Salt Lake critique session - 7:00pm Millcreek Library
-Thu. 5/29 - SCBWI Utah County critique session - 7:00pm Orem Public Library
-June 16-20 - Writing and Illustrating For Young Readers 2014 Conference - Sandy, UT (If I may interject a personal bias, WIFYR is one of the best things writers can do for themselves.)
-Thu. 6/19 - UCW event: Angie Lofthouse on dialog - Pleasant Grove, UT
-Wed. 6/25 - SCBWI Salt Lake critique session - 7:00pm Millcreek Library
-Thu. 6/26 - SCBWI Utah County critique session - 7:00pm Orem Public Library

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris, Utah’s where the writing is.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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18. Southern Utah SCBWI Spring Workshop

by Neysa CM Jensen


Down in Cedar City next weekend (March 29), you have the amazing opportunity to learn from some of the best writers in the state. SCBWI (that stands for Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is sponsoring the workshop.

I always recommend that writers and illustrators attend conferences as often as possible. First, it's great inspiration. I almost always come home ramped up and ready with new ideas and techniques. Second, it's a great way to meet others in the writing community, and we all need our tribe. Whether you form a critique group or just have someone else to talk to, writing friends are essential. And third, you will always learn something. And writing is one of those crafts where we never stop learning. Sometimes a speaker will explain a concept you've heard 100 times before, only now it finally clicks. Often, I find that progress I have made leaves me open to the next rung on the ladder that I wasn't ready to really hear in the past.

Here are some of the highlights:

Featured Speakers: 
Ally Condie, #1 NY Times author of the Matched trilogy
Ann Dee Ellis, critically acclaimed author of This is What I Did and Everything is Fine
Ben Sowards, illustrator of Christmas Oranges and the Levan Thumps series
and Robison Wells, critically acclaimed author of VariantFeedback, and Blackout.


Conference Features: 
         Get tips on improving your writing from bestselling authors and our featured illustrator.
         Discover publication paths from current authors and illustrator.
         Learn techniques for getting and giving feedback, and receive feedback on your work.
         Eat with participants and speakers. Catered buffet lunch included.
 
When: Saturday, March 29, 2014, 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Where: Cedar City Library in the Park (303 N 100 E, Cedar City)

Book signing by authors and illustrators:
Saturday, March 29, 2014, 7-9:30
Main Street Books (25 N Main, Cedar City)

Participants will also have the opportunity to sign up for a small conversation group with Ally Condie (where they can ask questions about writing and publishing), a one-on-one critique with Ann Dee Ellis or Robison Wells, or a portfolio critique with Ben Sowards. These spots are limited and are $40 each.


To register, go  here and click on the March 29 on the calendar. 

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19. Sculpting from the Writer's Block

Whenever I feel like I'm hitting writer's block I try to remember that a block is a vessel. A block of wood, a block of ice, a block of marble; they contain all the elements needed for the sculpture that awaits within. I just have to start chiseling at it. So it isn't that I don't have any ideas when I think I have writer's block. I'm not blocked by something. I'm just looking at the possibilities of everything and feeling overwhelmed by it.

Sometimes I just pound away at it. Chisel without thinking. Start writing more and more ideas, more and more possibilities. Like doing improv. Just keep acting out the situation on paper until you find the right one. (See also Jensen girls' great March 7th UCW blog post on "Facing Failure.")

I like to do that, but first I like to (if you'll excuse my using the incredibly popular phrase):
Let. It. Go.

For me, walking away helps.

Walking away doesn't mean that I'm not working on it, though. I recently read that the mind spends nearly 80 percent of its time reviewing experiences and creating hoped-for scenarios (both the way we wish things had happened in the past, and how we hope things will happen in the future).

So while we walk away, our subconscious is doing a great deal of work. (I wish it worked the same way with the treadmill.)

Ever notice that if you try to look at a specific spot at a distance when it's dark, that it is hard to see that spot? You have to look to the side of your desired object, and "see" it through your peripheral vision.

One of my favorite activities for taking my mind away from staring at that issue that I don't know how to fix, is reading poetry. The tight language, the exquisite imagery, that combination of brevity and beauty, does magical things to my brain. It makes walking to the mailbox become an internal iteration on the loveliness of nature. It's a mental breath of fresh air. A cleanse, as it were. Like blowing my nose. Except it's my mind. So, I guess I'm blowing my mind.

So, take a minute. Breathe deep. Take a walk. Read some poetry. Wander through a gallery. Take a few days to do other things. And then go back and just write. Anything. Write it all. Write a million versions of what could happen. Write it in the style of The Muppets, Andy Warhol, Republicans vs Democrats. Write it as a haiku. Write it as a poem written by each character. Blow it all out there.

Blow your mind.

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20. Shfting POV

Writers should be readers, we’ve heard that before. Not only can  superb writing strategies be observed, we can see poor techniques to avoid. A book I read last summer I was told in third person POV. It was was quite good except for one glaring problem. Somewhere, a quarter or so through the tale, the author shifted POVs. We were in MC’s head along then a minor character takes over. The change was so jarring, taking me out of the story. I vowed never to shift POVs in anything I write.

Fast-forward to now and the current WIP faces same problem. The story is told mainly through MC #1’s POV, but there are times when he cannot be in the scene. MC #2 and #3 will have to narrate. What to do to make a smooth transition?

A cruise on the internet referenced two experts, Renni Browne and Dave King and their Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I pulled out my copy and quickly re-read the chapter on POV. The whole thing gets rather involved. They say point of view is how you show who your characters are. It allows authors to convey emotions and readers to share a character’s concerns and to see the world as that character would see it. 

I became aware of point of view at my first WIFYR in an afternoon session. Can’t remember the speaker, but it was when the conference was held at BYU and she said writers need know who’s story it is and which character can best tell it. Most of us write in first or third person. There is also omniscient and others. 

Browne and King place first person on one end of a continuum with omniscient at the other. Third person falls in between. First person allows intimacy with your viewpoint character. In third person, intimacy is sacrificed in favor of a larger perspective of things going on around the MC. Omniscient widens the angle even more, allowing readers into the minds of other characters. Authors can vary the narrative distance and get in close to the character or not.

The best example I’ve seen of a use of an omniscient point of view was an MG book I used to read to my fifth graders called Bat 51. (I’m not sure of the author and a Google search won’t pull it up.) Set in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington after World War Two, it is about graduating elementary school girls preparing for an annual a baseball game against another town, this one in 1951. Each chapter is told by one of several girls who advance the story while adding backstory of their lives affected by the war in which some of them were interred in detention centers or had relatives killed by the Japanese. Each voice distinct and compelling.

I was concerned about shifting POVs in my story but Browne and King say it can be done. They present examples of point of view shifts done poorly as well as those of writers who have pulled it off successfully. A shift in POV is best down with a new chapter. The writer can also end the scene, insert a linespace, and start a new scene from the point of view you need. 

Point of view is a powerful tool and one of the most fundamental means for crafting a story, according to Browne and King. Effective writers learn to master POV.

On another note, registration is now open for WIFYR. Go here to learn about the options for attending this year’s conference.


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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21. Knowing Your Premise Before Sitting Down to Write


Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books sent to me from authors that have both traditionally and non-traditionally (be it self-published, P.O.D or any other format out these days) published books from children to main stream. Many I have enjoyed, while others I have walked away with thoughts of how the story could have been better. But the one thing I noticed no matter how the author went about publishing the book is this…the stories I truly enjoyed, related to and found myself lost in as a reader all had a well defined premise.

All well told stories start with a premise. This isn’t me just stating my own belief about writing or how it works for me as an author sitting down to write. This is a hardcore truth we all must face and if we as writers sit down without knowing this premise to our story before our fingers hit the keys—we need to be honestly open to feedback we get before and after we publish our work.

For those new to writing or still learning the ropes, let me explain what a premise is and why it is important to this before sitting down to write—if you truly want to be like the “Great” authors we all cherish—be it Dickens, Wolf, Pearson, King, Rice, Tolkien, Rowling and so on.

In a writing meeting I attended, one of the authors shared the following about premise and I liked it so much, I wrote it down. I now share it with you.
In How to Write a Damn Good Novel, it is explained, “Writing a story without a premise is like rowing a boat without oars.” To go a bit further Carol shared the following:
• The premise is the reason you are writing what you are writing. It is the point you have to prove, your purpose for telling this particular story.
• The premise is NOT a universal truth. It is true only for that novel.

I do need to stress however not to confuse your premise with your stories them. There is a really good article by Rob Parnell at http://easywaytowrite.com/theme_and_premise.htmlthat addresses this.  

When you think of your premise, keep what Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” This quote has always really hit me as an author because as we sit down to write, we are opening our soul to the world. We are sharing bits of ourselves with each word, thought and action our characters take. Each story comes from something deep within us that we either need answered or feel we need to share with others—our original idea or premise.

 You may also notice a premise can be used as your pitch line to an agent or publisher. Premises are also used has the “Hook” on the blurb of most books. Most readers when asking about your manuscript or published book want to know the premise, even if they don’t use this term. As you can see, knowing your premise, keeping it at the front of all your writing and truly letting it guide you through your plot will help you create an original work that will engage and bring your reader deeper into your story.

****
VS Grenier is an award-winning author & editor, founder of Stories for Children Publishing, LLC, chief editor for Halo Publishing, Int. and also the founder & host of blog talk radio's featured station The World of Ink Network. Learn more at http://vsgrenier.com
 

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22. MG contest

I wanted to share with you a contest for MG fiction that Writer's Digest is running in conjunction with Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog. 

The contest is for middle grade works of contemporary fiction, set in our present world and time. The contest closes tomorrow so you need to act fast to enter.

More details can be seen at Chuck's site: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/14th-free-dear-lucky-agent-contest-contemporary-middle-grade-fiction?et_mid=664049&rid=239167764

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23. Free Professional Writers Series with Julie Daines!

Pleasant Grove City Library presents: 2014 Professional Writers Series

Come meet local authors from a variety of genres. These authors will share their views on the creative process. Discover what makes a storyline, how to write historical fiction and what drives writers. You could come away from this exceptional series with a new sense of purpose and direction, not to mention ideas that should spark your imagination for days to come.

Mark your calendars for all these free presentations now! Each presentation will begin at 7:00 p.m. and will be on the lowest level of the library. There will be a Q&A after each session.



Julie Daines - "First Chapter Perfection: Learn the Elements Necessary to Make your First Chapter Shine"

Thursday, March 20, 7:00 p.m.


Julie Daines was born in Massachusetts and raised in Utah. She spent eighteen months living in London, where she studied and fell in love with English literature, sticky toffee pudding, and the mysterious guy who ran the kebab store around the corner.

She loves reading, writing, and watching movies—anything that transports her to another world. She picks Captain Wentworth over Mr. Darcy, firmly believes in second breakfast, and never leaves home without her vervain.

She is the author of A Blind Eye (published February 2013), and has won several awards for her writing.

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24. Wake Up!: A Writer's Nightmare Comes True (Almost)

I'm almost ridiculous when it comes to backing up my writing. But I was reminded this week that no matter how careful I think I am, I can do more.

I use a program that automatically syncs all of my writing files between three computers and the Web. That means that, at any given time, all of my precious words are on a desktop, two laptops, and a Web site. Not only that, but I have the files in two folders, all synced. At the same time, my writers group routinely posts our critiques on Google Drive, so my latest changes are all backed up there, mostly in 10-12 page chunks. 

If a hard disk crashes or a computer dies or is stolen, I'm covered. I can get my files from one of the other two computers. If something weird happens, and all three computers are killed by a solar flare or zombie invasion or fry sauce flood or whatever, I can get the files off the Web. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Ha!

So last week I go into my files to prepare the next section for my group. I open the directory for my current WIP.

It's empty.

I go to the directories for My two previous manuscripts.

Gone.

Short stories.

Gone.

Poems.

Nope.

Over ten years of writing, wiped out.

I go to backup directories.

The two older manuscripts are there. The current WIP?

Not a trace.

Somehow, most of my writing files had been deleted, probably when I switched to a new computer at work. At some point in the process of moving files from the old computer to the new one, I think, my writing folder was deleted. Unfortunately in this case, the syncing program worked perfectly. How ever the files were deleted, the empty folders were synced across all systems. That meant they were empty. Everywhere.

Panic sets in. I start figuring out how to reassemble my WIP from the files on Google Drive. It would work, but some sections are missing for weeks when we didn't post, so I need to assess the damage and see what's unrecoverable. I have visions of giving up on this story, which I've been working on for a couple years and am starting to like, because too much is missing, not knowing yet what the damages actually are.

I shoot off an email to tech support for the company whose software does the syncing for me, fully expecting the dreaded "Once it's gone it's gone" return email, then start typing a chapter I have in hard copy but not on Google Drive, just to do something to ward off a total mental collapse.

I check email, figuring it's after hours and I won't hear anything.

I hear something.

Deleted files can be recovered. They sent the instructions. The instructions could be more clear, especially in my frazzled condition. But they work. Shaking and drowning in adrenaline, my brain still in panic mode, I recover my files and immediately copy them into two other directories.

But for a while, I thought I had lost everything I had written, despite my excessive (or so I thought) back up policies.

Seriously. This did not make for an enjoyable evening. It's been several days, and I'm shaking as I write this.

My backup strategies worked this time, but it was a frightening experience that pointed out the drawback of relying on a syncing program like DropBox or Syncplicity: deletions are synced too.

It was a reminder to back up at frequent key times onto a flash drive or disk, and to use backup software that regularly backs up the synced directories to a location that is not synced.

To protect against fire, flood, or aliens, you might want to give backups to somebody in another house, like a trusted writers group member. You might even want to send them to a friend or family member in another location. One flaw in most backup systems is that the backups are usually kept near the computer, and a major disaster that damages everything gets the backups too.
No matter how diligent you are, something could go terribly wrong. And let's face it: many of us would rather lose our skin than the writing we created.

I'm still feeling the shock and pain I felt when it looked like I'd lost everything. When it comes down to it, almost nothing that doesn't breathe would cause me more pain if I lost it. Just about everything else could be replaced. And even some of the things I can't replace are ultimately just stuff. But what I write is more than stuff. And I thought I was going the extra mile to make sure I didn't lose it. Turns out, what I was doing was fine and worked as it should have, so I should feel good about that, but for my peace pf mind, I'm going to add a couple more layers of security.

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25. From print to screen

Books are always better than their movie adaptations. Always. Sometimes I've been devastated by the director's interpretation of a favorite book *cough* Percy Jackson *cough*. Other times though, the movie offers a different interpretation of the story that doesn't detract from the image I formed in my mind, but add another view I hadn't considered before (The Book Thief!).


2014 is a great year for movie adaptations. 

The Maze Runner, by our own James Dashner, a Utah native, comes out in September. 





Divergent, by Veronica Roth is out in theaters right now.
Here's the trailer as well:





And finally, The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is also coming out.




What do you think? Are you planning on watching the movies? Have you read the books? What book would you like to see on screen?

I've read all three of these books and I'm REALLY excited about the movies. I would also love to see The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, both by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

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