Buy the Book

To order from Amazon, click here. or from Cedar Fort, click here. or from B&N, click here.

To read the first 15 pages, click here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another Book Review

LDS writer Angie Lofthouse recently praised my book on her blog, calling it "compelling, beautifully written and quite poignant."  Few compliments are higher than that.

You can read the full review here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mormon Times Book Review

Mormon Times, a prominent LDS publication, gave a short review of my book.  For some reason, the online review is shorter than the review in the paper, but I can't complain.  I was very excited to get this story in the paper. 

Check it out!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday Song (on Monday): "A Heart Like Mine"

I heard this country song on the way home, and it's been in my head ever since.  The chorus emphasizes Jesus own humanity, which is juxtaposed with his divine miracles.

I recently heard a Franciscan priest say that one reason God became flesh was to share an intimate union with his creation.  By making Himself one of us, He became visible, thereby, a little easier for us to understand and reflect.  He experienced humanity and what it means to be human, and therefore knows our struggles and concerns in an intimate way.

The song also brought these scripture verses to mind:

Luke 5:30-32
30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”
 31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

Instead of writing a long blog, I'll let the song speak for itself.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Author Talk: The Hook

I spoke to a creative writing class this week at the University of Maine Augusta, and it was awesome.  I only prepared a 40 minute discussion, but the talk lasted 1.5 hours.  The students and instructor were enthusiastic and had a lot of questions about my writing and how I got published.

I spent part of my presentation talking about the hook.  The hook is the first sentence or two of the story, but in fiction, I will sometimes say it includes the entire first page.

The importance of the hook never caught me when I was younger.  Back then, I thought it was perfectly fine for my story to "get good" on page 20, 15, or even 50.  The reader was going to be patient, right?


Editors I met at workshops admitted that when they get an unsolicited manuscript from a newbie author, they give the story 3 pages or less.  If it doesn't catch them in that time, they stamp a "reject" on it.

We have to remember that editors get tons of manuscripts every month--affectionately referred to as the "slush pile."  

When I first heard this information years ago, it seemed cruel. Three pages wasn't enough to tell if the story had potential, right?

Well, experience teaches us a lot.  As I've grown, my patience--like those editors--has thinned out.  I now realize how important the first page is.  Coming up with a good first sentence and paragraph for your story should be on the radar of any serious writer.

One thing writing for newspapers has taught me is how important the hook is.  It's the first impression for the reader.  They often read that and the headline to decide to read or skip your piece.  I spend more time on my hook than I do on most other sentences.

Here's the example I used in the class:

After interviewing pro-wrestler "The Franchise" Shane Douglas, whose real name is Troy Martin, for my newspaper article, I wanted to mention how he used to get in trouble with his mom for wrestling with his brothers and sisters.

So I wrote this:

Troy Martin used to get in trouble for being rowdy with his brothers and sisters.  Now he gets paid for the same behavior.

The hook was all right, but I took three issues with it.  1) His brothers and sisters were irrelevant to the rest of the story.  2) What was meant by "used to?"  Last week, last month?  3) The vernacular phrase "get in trouble" could mean "jail."

So I eventually re-shaped the sentence to read:

As a boy, Troy Martin was scolded by being rowdy.

This new hook added a descriptive verb "scolded" to highlight that the "trouble" he faced wasn't serious.  It was rambunctious play, not petty crimes.  I also added the "As a boy" clause to provide a clear time.

The second sentence still annoyed me because I didn't like ending with "the same behavior."  The phrase felt too technical, and I wanted it to be fluid.

This is the final version of the hook I created for the piece.

As a boy, Troy Martin was scolded for being rowdy.  Now he gets paid for it.

This felt like a fun, but narrow hook that focused on a single idea.

My only problem was that the first sentence was passive voice.  To make it active, I would have to include his mother in the sentence because she had performed the action of the verb: the "scolding."  I debated this back and forth, but in the end, I thought the passive voice read fine in this instance.

I was right.

My editor liked the hook and the story enough to put it on the front page of the newspaper.  As the lead story for the entire day, it took up most of the front page.

I shared this anecdote with the class to show the kind of thought process that goes into creating a hook.

It's something I do every time I write for the paper, but I've never shared it with anyone until now.

On a personal note, despite having nearly 200 articles published and making the front page of a weekly newspaper 22 weeks in a row, I had never been on the front of a daily.

So I reached a new milestone in my career where the front page of the daily was possible.

To commemorate this, The Franchise signed my article, and it's now framed in my home. 

Just in case you don't know who "The Franchise" is, he's worked in every major wrestling promotion in the U.S. including WWE, WCW, and ECW.