Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My entry for the Christmas story contest on LDSPublisher

I got a 26.5 out of 38. I feel really good about it.

U16: A Real Tree

“What does he think he’s doing?” I asked my twin sister, Ellie. Outside the front window, my father wrestled with a gigantic pine tree. I sat at the kitchen table, my homework piled in front of me. Christmas break started yesterday, and I had work to do if I wasn’t going to be behind when school started again. My twin pulled a sheet of sugar cookies out of the oven and placed another sheet in. “Couldn’t we just have a hologram tree like everyone else?”

“Kai, you forget. Dad lived on Earth. He likes to do things traditionally,” Ellie said as large mechanical hands washed the dishes in the sink, and placed them in the dishwasher. An old scratched record belted out a choir singing Christmas tunes. My mother was upstairs wrapping presents. The house was stocked to bursting with holiday food. The family was arriving like a steady trickle of water.

“It’s stupid,” I said. “Doesn’t he know what he looks like fighting with a tree that is bigger than him?” I leaned back and pulled at the blond hair that kept falling in my face. While I looked like my dad, down to the green eyes, my twin was a striking image of my mother, dark red hair and blue eyes. Her pale skin rivaled my mothers in whiteness.

“You hate everything lately, little brother. What’s gotten under your skin?” she said as she opened a large can of white frosting. The Christmas colored sprinkles were all ready lined up on the counter. I really hated that she can read me like a book.

“Nothing,” I replied, but I knew part of it was that my friends thought my dad was old fashioned, and I heard about it all the time. Noble Standing, the Head Elder of Caledonia, and object of jokes among my friends. Ellie dipped her knife in the can and pulled out a gob of sweet white goo.

“I’m frosting cookies, want to help?” she asked as she smeared the blob onto a bell shaped cookie.

Where in the world did they find cookie cutters in Christmas shapes any way? I thought.

“Nah, I’ve go to get this stupid homework done if I want to go flying with Ash and Doran over the break,” I answered. I turned back to my electric reader where my Astro-Physics book was loaded, and pulled my writing pad and stylus toward me. “Ash said he’d teach me to fly his glider if I aced my Astro-Physics class.”

“Well then, you better start studying.” Ellie turned back to the cookies. There were three more trays of unbaked cookies on the counter. I touched the button that turned the page and began to read.

“Some help here?” I heard my father ask. Outside the door a storm blew in, rain pelted the windows and I could hear thunder. There was no such thing as snow here in Hollis.

“Let me help you, Dad,” I heard Ash’s voice and I restrained myself from getting up and going to see my brother. I needed to pass the quiz when I got back to school to pull an A in the class. Physics bored me to death, but it was required if I was going to be a Star Captain like my brother Doran, Ash’s twin. After being gone for years, Doran and Sarah his wife and their kids, would arrive early Christmas morning.

I finished my studying and gathered my school books in my arms while Ellie arranged cookies on platters. In the living room, I heard my father and brother working on the tree. Last week, much to my friends’ amusement, my father had wrapped everything in the yard and the eaves of the house in colored lights. I didn’t live that one down all day.

“It looks beautiful, Noble.” I heard my mother’s voice as she descended the stairs. I looked up and watched her step onto the black marble of the foyer. She wore her long red hair up; I remember playing with it as she rocked me to sleep.

“I’m glad you like it, Lyris, It took me hours to find the perfect tree.” I turned to look in the living room on my way up the stars to my room. My dad was somewhere in the middle of putting lights on the tree. He had the strings laid on the floor and wrapped around his arms. I had to admit, the smell of real pine was much more convincing than the scented plug-in things that came with the holograms. Dumping my school bag on my desk, I shut my door only to be startled by the ring of a million jingle bells. I opened the door to find a wreath of red bells now hung in the place I used to have my keep out sign.

“Ellie,” I groaned. She hated that sign. She took it as a personal offense that I, her twin, wanted her to knock before she invaded my personal space. I saw that across the hall, she had adorned her door with a matching wreath. Sometimes, I think she wished that I were a girl like my oldest sisters Madi and Meri. I shut the door again and lay on my bed.

Why did my family have to be so weird? I asked my self. I breathed out hard and listened to the rain as I let my eyes fall closed. I rested as I went over the equations that were most likely to be on the quiz in three weeks.


I woke to the sound of rumbling. Opening my eyes, I saw my book bag teeter on the edge of my desk and then fall to the ground. Thankfully my reader and note pad were still on the desk. Leaping out of bed, I made it to the window as a large space ship flew over our house. It was so close to the ground that I could see the large black letters IPX 100 stenciled on the bottom.

“Doran!” I said and opened the window. The rain still fell, not a surprise in month ten, and I was soaked in seconds. The IPX flew away from the house toward the station flanked by two smaller ships as escort. Lights flashed in the distance until they disappeared behind the buildings of Hollis. I wanted to be in one of those ships at the helm. I wanted it so bad, that I suffered through all of the classes I hated in order to get into the academy next year.

“Doran’s home!” Ellie shouted downstairs. Making my way to the living room, I heard the commotion as my mother directed the family members in last minute preparations. I could smell the salty sweet aroma of baked ham and cheesy potatoes. It smelled so good. Much better than the instant food that seemed to be so popular lately.

“He said he wasn’t going to be here until tomorrow morning,” my mom said as she added two more plates to the adult table. “I hope I have enough food.” She turned. “Ashby, do me a favor. Go get two more chairs from the downstairs storage.”

“Lyris,” my dad said as she whirled to shout more orders. “Lyris,” he took her shoulders turning her to face him. I saw their eyes meet and something passed in between them that I had witnessed before but didn’t understand. “Relax, it’s Christmas Eve. Don’t stress about it.” She closed her eyes and sighed.

“You’re right.”

Ashby came up the stairs with two chairs under his arms. He wore his scrubs, his long black hair tied back in a braid like my dads. Although my dad kept his blond hair cut at around the middle of his back, Ash’s was to his knees.

“Hey, squirt,” he said. I winced. He had called me that since I was a kid. He rubbed my head after setting the chairs down.

“I’m almost as tall as you,” I reminded him.

He laughed, “Your height has no bearing on your nickname.”

“Are you going to work?” I asked, hoping he was not going to miss another Christmas.

“Nah. I stopped at the clinic this afternoon. Everything’s calm for now. I thought I’d come early to see if Mom needed help.” His wife, Kira, some of my fourteen siblings, mostly twins like Ellie and I, were talking in the living room where the now encrusted tree stood. It looked so gaudy—I liked the more simple looking trees my friends had. One of my friends had decided that they weren’t going to have a tree this year. They said Christmas was an old Earth holiday and wasn’t relevant to us Caledonians.

“You’re still going to take me gliding right?” I asked. I couldn’t help myself. The thought of it made my fingers tingle in anticipation. “I’m getting an A– in physics.”

“A deal is a deal. I’ll talk with Doran and we’ll find a day that is best for both of us.”

“Smashing!” I said.

Ash raised an eyebrow. “Go help Mom and I’ll see what Dad needs.”

Ellie rushed past me, her long red curls bouncing as she stepped. “Mom wants you to make up the bed in Doran’s old room. They should be here any minute,” she said, dumping a load of clean sheets in my arms. I was happy to oblige.
It was noisy in here with all the gathering family.

“Anyone home?” Doran’s voice boomed through the house. “Merry Christmas!” I turned from placing the pitcher of water on the table to see my brother step in the door. He was pale from living in space and his stride looked fluid from the lesser gravity in the ship. Behind him a pale woman with brown hair and eyes stood. She held a baby in blankets. My mom was the first at the door and while my dad took their coats, she took the little bundle in her arms and started cooing. Behind them, four kids looked around timidly. I have to admit I don’t remember which one is which, they spend most of the year in space and I don’t think Doran even got time off last year to visit the family.

“Merry Christmas, Mom,” he said as he kissed her forehead. “Are we going to eat?” Doran asked. “I’m starving for something that isn’t space rations.”

“Well then son, let’s have you lead us in a word of thanks before we sit,” my dad said and everyone bowed their heads.


I lay on the floor of the living room, among my nephews and nieces. The lights twinkled on the tree in between the plethora of ornaments. My stomach was full and I was feeling pretty sleepy in spite of my late afternoon nap. Ellie lay next to me, braiding my hair as the adults settled the youngest ones. I let her do it. It made her happy for some reason. I guess it’s the wishing for a girl twin thing again.

The scent of pine mixed with the smell of sugar cookies and hot chocolate. It had stopped raining and the night was still. Doran had spent dinnertime telling us his adventures of the last few years. Now, with dinner done, the family found places to sit or lay with the tree as our only light. My father returned from his office with a large picture book. He sat on the piano bench next to my mom and opened to the first page.

“T’was the night before Christmas,” he began.

I closed my eyes. Dinner was delicious. I think I ate too much. I was excited that my brothers, Ash and Doran, were here.

“And all through the house.”

I was going gliding in a few days. I finished my homework. Ellie’s cookies were really good this year.

“Not a creature was stirring,”

Maybe my friends were wrong. It was great to have a traditional Christmas.

“Not even a mouse.”

Monday, August 24, 2009


Its been ten days since I posted!
What happened?
Well Wednesday - Friday we dealt with the funeral of my little neice born stillborn. Before that I don't quite know. I know getting ready for school took some time too. Either way there's no excuse.

I'm glad school starts tomorrow, this has been a summer of distractions--much more than last year. I'm sure some of it is from my kids knowing more people and being more involved in things. Last year, I wrote 116,000 words from July to September. This year, I wrote about 11,000 words and edited 4 chapters. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. But I was everything from entertainer to taxi this summer and I was gone alot.

Tomorrow is a "new leaf" in my year. I will only have one at home and he is a realy good baby. I have some clear goals as to what I want to acomplish in this next nine months. I have new plots for some rough drafts, and I am looking forward to writing some awesome stories. :) I will also finish the edit on emergence and re-submit it too.

Ah, school is starting and we are heading into my favorite time of the year, autumn. A time of sweaters fuzzy slippers homemade bread and soups and writing.

Have a wonderful evening.

Friday, August 14, 2009

You've got to read this!!!!!!!

Okay, my friend Jaime Theler posted a link to this really cool series of posts about story structure. It's really awesome. It's amazing. Serious go read it.

You can find it here!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Randomness . . .

I am sitting here with really nothing to say. I dont have any desire to write but can't stand to let me blog sit there with the same post for weeks. (Sorry Mark) I can say this, I have had near constant headaches since I rolled my truck 2 years ago. I know I did dammage to my neck, heck who wouldn't rolling a truck down a huge hill. I wish my chiropractor was cheaper.

More randomness I watched "Batman Begins" lat night with the family. (We watched "Taken" a few nights before.) I'll admit that I think Liam Neison is a cutie. I really liked the movie but it made me think of a few things.

First I didn't like that he had all the money in the world to do whatever he wanted. it seemed too Deus E Machina to me. He had the armor, the car, the weapons, everything he needed and it was too convienent. Yeah I know the origional story. I know that Bruce Wayne had tons of money and was able to be Batman because of it. Still it just seems too convienent.

I also seem like a huge hypocrite because in my book Antony/Noble is rich, he has Gage his friend and Mat the computer to design technology for him to make things easier. Perhaps it's good that I am thinking this as I am editing that first book. I think part of it is that Bruce walks away with almost no injuries. That first meeting with the scarecrow where he panics and is actually defeated made me smile. I was thinking okay, he is vunerable and can get hurt and has setbacks. THAT is what I think bothered me the most. He was too perfect and impervious. Whereas Antony is not.

I loved the training that Bruce recieves at the monastery. I'd actually like to watch that part a few times to get a feel for it. I did recognize moves that I am leanring in Karate and it makes me feel really good. I am also begining to see why we do certain moves in our training. I now see that as I do a high block here or round kick there I am actually defeding myself. Maybe its because I am a writer I can see the bad guy in my head and it helps me train better.

Either way I am a sucker for martial arts and I enjoyed the begining of the movie the best. I liked that the "society" that Liam was in was there to protect the world even if I didn't like the idea of the mass dectruction of Gotham in the end. I especially liked the discussions about fear and hatred. one of my characters needs that talk. :)

I love it when a movie makes me think and my muse goes into overtime. Even if I have no desire to write. I guess I did have something to write afterall.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

“Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story” By Mark Shurleff. And a really cool contest

Utah State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s ground-breaking new novel, “Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story” is now available for preorder at a reduced price.

An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.

You can order your sale-priced, signed and numbered limited edition copy of “Am I Not a Man” by visiting before Labor Day. There are only 5,000 copies of this special edition being printed and once they’re gone, they’re gone … and the sale price ends on Labor Day. You can request that Mark personalize your inscription, and your book will be mailed to you before the stores even get their copies. For more information, visit

Win dinner with Mark L. Shurtleff at the Market Street Grill and a free copy of "Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story"
Valor Publishing and Mark L. Shurtleff, Utah's Attorney General and the author of "Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story" are excited to launch the following contest:

The first paragraphs in the "Am I Not a Man" The Dred Scott Story" echoes the cry of the oppressed and enslaved:

"To him, the river sang. It intoned but one word, repeated with every ripple, and lap, and tide. One word that began with a gurgle far to the North, crescendoed through the heart of a nation, and climaxed in the Deep South with such force that no power on earth could hold it back. One word that bled from every pore. One word: FREEDOM!

"The "Father of Waters" sang, not with the splash of waves lapping against the levee, for the Mighty Mississippi was wide, and thick, and slow. It slid like a solid mass of glacial mud that had been moving toward the sea since before the Fall of Adam. It was ancient by the time Moses led the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. No, its melody was something more profound and ancient, and it harmonized with something deep inside Dred, and filled his very being so that he was powerless to ignore it. He turned toward the river, closed his eyes, and whispered the song of the slave."

To enter, please submit a 600-word essay on the concept of Freedom. Pay attention to your spelling and punctuation, and email your entry to the contests link at Our Selection Board will review the entries and select the winner, which will be announced here on our website on October 1, 2009 by 5:00 p.m. MST.

Prize: The winner will receive an autographed and personalized SPECIAL LIMITED FIRST EDITION of Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story along with dinner for two with Mark L. Shurtleff, Utah State Attorney General, at the Market Street Grill in Salt Lake City, UT. (If the winner is located out of Utah, or otherwise not able to attend the dinner in Salt Lake City, a gift card will be awarded for a local restaurant.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Just a note . . .

As you see on the right. I have a new logo. My good friend Weston Elliott offered to make me one when I complimented hers. Since my theme is metamorphosis and the symbol is a butterfly. She came up with the butterfly symbol in my sidebar. The kanji symbols stand for storyteller. I love it! Thanks Weston!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

If you are a writer . . .

You need to at least try this workbook! When I recieved my preview package of The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook by Weston Elliott I was extreemely pleased. The workbook is extremly comprehensive. The information that accompamnied it (bookmark, brocure and letter) were beautifly designed. I love her logo!

Okay back to why you need to at least try this book. This workbook is something a writer of any level and of any plotting style can use. This is why. The book has diferent sections. Each of the sections are dedicated to specific areas of plotting and writing.

The first section is world building, Although fantasy writers rely the most heavily on world building, every writer can use it. Even if your writing a mystery or western you still need to know where your characters are. This section also includes grid paper for mapping.

The next section is all about characters. There are pages dedicated to the main character,secondary characters and incendental characters. If your writing a book with more than one character you NEED a place to keep track of them even if they live in you head. :)

The third section is Plot and Conflict, this is where the "meat" of the workbook is. There are conflict and resouloution pages, a section on cronology, and a section where every chapter can be laid out. With notes on POV, timeline, setting details, character notes, and plot ploints. This is where you can get as involved or not as you chose. Some writers plot everything out and would use every page to its fullest. Some people would use this section after the first draft is written and use the pages to revise and edit.

I tend to fall in between these two. I go into my story's with a basic knowledge of what I want and where it's going. When the serious first draft is done I fill out the plot pages and then mess with them untill the story is good and then I revise and edit untill I am pleased with it. Here is the area where you can do as litttle or as much you want its perfect for any type of writer. The last few pages are a progress tracking section and a submission record.

This book is put together with locking rings so you can take it apart and put the pages in the order you like. It's half page sized so it can easily fit in a handbag backpack or a alphasmart or laptop bag. It comes in beautiful attractive colors too.

You can get one here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My take on Feng Shui

I just finished reading a book on Feng Shui. As my life is greatly influenced by eastern things I thought I would at least see what it was about. The book itself is interesting; based on star charts, and when your home was manufactured or remodeled. Using the charts to identify areas where you would have good Chi or bad Chi, and what to do to minimize the bad and accentuate the good. Alot of the information in the book makes sense some of it I was raising an eyebrow at.

An example of the things I percieved as odd is: you should never sit stand facing or sleep in certain directions based on the presence of certain elements. Also, these elements change through out the years. Which means that you should move all of your furniture around to avoid this direction. My house faces west and which means this year no one in my house should face east. Sorry with six kids there's going to be at least two or three people facing east every night at dinner time.

However, something I liked about the book is that the dining room, wherever it is in the house is a central point and is a place for celebrating and happiness. The book says that you should eat at home as a family often and protect the area with good ventalation and lots of light. We all know that studies show that eating together reduces the chance of drug use and trouble in children.

At first I was drinking all of the information in and analyzing every corner of my home. Now, after reading the whole book and having time to ponder it, I have come to some interesting conclusions for myself. And for those of us that are Christian building an area in our home where we have brass statues, crystals, and other objects might look or feel idolatrous. Although the author says that symbols of our own culture are equally effective. Ex. a fishhook is a symbol of good luck in New Zealand.

Those that believe in Feng Shui believe that Chi energy is what gives you and your household good or bad luck. That areas in the house control that, and things can be done to change or enhance that Chi.

In some ways I believe that they aren't that far off the mark. The earth and our bodies emit Chi (energy). Our bodies are electric, the nervous system is ran with electrical impulses, the heart can be helped or hindered by electricity. The earth is constantly moving, and changing. Plants grow and die, creating oxygen as they absorb carbon dioxide, plants also feed us and animals as well as harm us and kill. Animals also live thier life cycle and contribute to the food chain. Water is allways moving, the oceans surge, rivers run, rain falls and water evaporates. Wind blows and spreads pollen, cools us, and destoys. Weather can be helpful and harmful. We and the world around us is Chi.

I learned some things, or firmed my own beliefs by reading about it. Some of the things I took from my study are as follows.

The book talks about clutter and dirty areas as bad chi or places where chi becomes stagnant. Aren't we all happier when our homes are clean and free of clutter. Isn't it easier to think and relax in a home that is clean and organized? Stairwells should be well lit, clean, and decorated with artwork. All rooms should be balanced, No room should have an overabundance of any element. A room that has a wood floor and furniture may seem stark or overwhelming. Adding elements such as metal, glass, fabric and plants will break the domination. Likewise a room with minimal furnishings or stark white walls is equally overwhelming. Candles and warm colors like red add warmth. The sound of water promotes tranquility, as does windchimes. Moving the furniture and cleaning under and behind is supposed to stir good chi. It also makes us happy.

Living in our enclosed temperature controlled homes, we remove ourselves from the majesty of the world around us. I believe we should have the elements of the world in our homes to connect us to nature. Plants and flowers, stones and crystals, water fountains, natrual wood objects and candles or other red objects to represent fire bring the majesty of the world around us into our homes and add to the ambiance.

Just for fun, I read that salt lamps are extreemly harmful that they absorb good chi and emit bad. Interesting huh? Also, if you are having a hard time concieving you should sleep with your heads in the direction of the guys nin yen direction. For example, if he is born in 1979 you add 7+9=16, then add 1+6 =7 take seven from 10 10-7=3, your number is three and therefore the head of your bed should be facing southeast. You should also have two elephant statues with thier trunks down and pictures of babies in your room. Pomegranites are also a fertility symbol.

In no way is this post intended to disregard or discount those who believe in Feng Shui. I still find it facinating, and respect the beliefs of those who practice it. This is my interpretation of what I learned.