Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cheese is the New Chocolate (and leaving behind being a pantser)

After days and days of holiday gluttony, I have finally stopped snacking on mixed nuts long enough to put my fingers on the keys and finish up the remainder of the outline of my NaNo novel. For the first time in years of writing novels I was a "pantser" this fall as I wrote, just creating outline-enough to get the daily word count down. I GREATLY prefer a road map for where I'm going next. It could *feasibly* be finished by the end of January. A first draft, that is.

Ooh! And on my morning run today I even figured out who the bad guy is going to be (amazing that I could write 185 pages and not quite know who the villain was, haha), AND how and where to write in the scene to introduce him and all his cronies.

It's a Christmas miracle.

For weeks I've had to put my mind to the details of this holiday mania, which is wonderful, but it's nice to start to possess my own brain again. That's kind of how I think of writing, of what a gift it is to me--a place and way I can be just myself, my own thoughts, my own creativity, myself. Without it, I don't know where I'd find that. At a gift-giving time of year, it's one I'm so very grateful for.

Speaking of gifts, I have a child born on Christmas, my oldest, so it's even MORE mania than just the Christmas mania and cooking. We also get to celebrate another birthday on that day. For years I loved it because I'd ask what his favorite meal was so I could fix it on Christmas, and we got macaroni and cheese or refried beans on tortillas. (Way easier than a turkey!) His gift to me this year was his favorite meal, a frozen lasagne. Does Christmas dinner get much easier than that? The other kids were kind of confused when they heard him make his request and I shouted "Yes!" and threw both arms in the air in victory.
His cake was a homemade chocolate cake. Have I mentioned a thousand times how great the recipe is on the can of Hershey's Cocoa? It's the BEST. (Just remember to sift the flour!) But you HAVE to make it with the frosting recipe on the can. It's amazing. It's so amazing that when I ate half a slice, I got an enormous sugar headache--that's what I get for "going off sugar" for eight months. Can I express how troubling that is? I cannot. I am the girl who used to polish off one of those super-syrupy orange sodas at the doctor's office during a gestational diabetes test and say, "Can I get another one of those?" while women all around me were wincing in pain at the tongue-numbing sweetness of it.

I guess I'd better go back to eating muenster cheese as my sugar substitute. I haven't had a grilled muenster cheese sandwich for three days. I might be going through a different kind of withdrawal. I might be getting a "cheese headache."

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Guest Post--DeAnn Huff's New Novel, free first chapter!

I've never had a guest write my blog post, but today I got an email from a writing friend of mine, DeAnn Huff, and she has just released her debut novel. The proceeds from her book are going to a great cause, and I'd feel like a total Grinch if I didn't jump right in and support her. I love the cover of the book, and the premise sounds really exciting. I'll probably download this later today (when I get the Christmas caramels wrapped--the ones from batches 4, 5, and 6. I'm planning to do 12 batches this year. I hope we can get by with that few.)

Welcome, DeAnn, and I hope everyone who reads this and loves to read checks out your book!

Hey Friends,
I'm releasing my first novel as an e-book. Here's the information if you are interested:
Beau’s getting loads of attention lately. Whether he wants it or not. Even if it’s his worst nightmare.
Announcing the release of Master of Emotion, a YA paranormal romance by D. Ogden Huff.
When a reclusive teen with the enhanced ability to read others’ emotions finds more teens with similar powers, he must confront his fears before a budding romance and his twin brother’s life fall into the hands of the devious doctor who created them all.
For a longer summary of the novel and to see the winning book cover, go to the following sites:
All proceeds of this novel (after taxes and tithing) will be donated to a tax deductible charity benefiting my nephew who has a severe, often life-threatening, form of Celiac Disease. See his story at . You can also go into any America First branch (in Utah) to make a Tax Free donation. The account is listed as, "Mark Jeanes Charitable Donations Account".

This is the same novel that was a Quarterfinalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards under the previous name of“Walls.”
Here’s another reason to read it—check out my experiment. Movies have soundtracks. Why not novels?
Within the text of the novel, when you find something that looks like this:
“(Listen to the unofficial Master of Emotion Soundtrack – Song Title”from Secondhand Serenade’s “Album Title” album at title-#)”
I invite you to follow the link and listen to one of Secondhand Serenade’s songs that fit the emotion of that moment in the novel. I’ve included a website address or two where you might be able to listen to the full song.
Here’s a short preview of the novel, but if you go to the Smashwords site at you can read 20% of my book.
Chapter 1 – “Sorry.”
It was the same feeling every time. My legs wouldn’t move.
He stood at the end of the crowded middle school hallway, his lifeless eyes boring a hole into me. Eyes of the walking dead. Body of any other pre-teenager. Everyone around us hurried and bustled, completely unaware of him.
He staggered toward me, his head hung low and the hood of his sweatshirt now shrouding his face. Methodically, his feet dragged with every step, as if he forced them on, using perpetual motion to push down the hall. He walked like a pallbearer carries the casket of his dead mother.
I wanted to run, to hide, to get as far away from the school as I could, but my feet had sunk down into the tiles of the hallway as if I wore cement shoes. They wouldn’t even budge. Not even a single crack.
He adjusted the strap of his backpack as we passed. I stood there, unable to move, as the boy’s exposed hand brushed against my bare shoulder. The touch only lasted a millisecond, but it hit me with the force of a collision that ripped through me and doubled me over.
My chest was imploding. Darkness filled my head and my limbs, the pit of my stomach, and choked down my throat.
“Sorry,”he mumbled as passed.
The hallway pushed in on me, squeezing me like a python suffocating its prey, but the world felt distant, like all its inhabitants had turned their back on me. The darkness consumed me, seeped through my skin like thick, cold tar. It filled me with uncontrollable grief and isolation that weighed down my whole frame and soul. I could feel my eyes drying, cracking, from the months of crying the boy had endured. My whole body wanted to escape itself.
I couldn’t live like this. There had to be a way out. I would do anything to make this feeling stop.
I clutched my chest, holding my insides in.
I sat up in bed, panting, my shirt soaked with sweat. The nightmare seemed as real as that evening, six years ago, when my twin brother found me curled up in the corner of an abandoned classroom, still sobbing and wanting to die.
But I was alive. He had found me in time.
Unlike the boy from the hallway, who they found the next morning, sprawled on his bathroom floor with his stomach full of pills from his mother’s medicine cabinet.
Me? I haven’t touched anyone since.
I hope you enjoy the novel!
DeAnn Ogden Huff
Master of Emotion (Book 1) (release date 12/8/11)
Supreme Chancellor of Stupidity (Book 2) (expected release date January, 2012)
Once Upon a Tour (expected release date February, 2012)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

So Exciting--I feel like I ate too much candy

Got some grrrrreat news yesterday (yes, that's my Tony the Tiger impersonation. I have to include it because not only did I get grrrrreat news, I also ate three bowls of Frosted Flakes.) The book I've been slaving over for 2 years, *Big in Japan,* has been selected by a publisher, Jolly Fish Press, for their fall 2012 list!


I started shopping it around in September, and found Jolly Fish shortly thereafter. The minute I read about them, I had a gut feeling this was going to be a great fit. They were my first choice.

Doing a jolly jig over here.

So, about the book. All these months I've been writing it, I've been asking myself this question: is the world really ready for a novel with a love story plot for a sumo wrestler?

I guess we'll see!

Big in Japan is the story of an overweight nobody guy from Texas who goes to Japan and accidentally becomes the first blond sumo wrestler. He has to defeat his biggest enemy and win the Emperor's Cup to get the girl.

I had a ton of fun researching and writing it. I loved finding out all about sumo--a sport we Americans have a tough time imagining as being as amazing as it is. I watched a LOT of youtube videos of sumo matches. The power, people! They are just enormous and strong! It was fun to get to troll through my fun memories of living in Japan and to get to use some of my Japanese language again (although I excised most of it as drafts progressed.) I spent a lot of time outlining it and using the tips I learned as I studied writing guides like Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, and How to Write a Damn Good Novel, by James Frey. I holed up in my writing lair and did major rewrites while my kids watched waaay too much TV and decimated the blue carpet. Now, I'm so excited! So thrilled! It's so sweet, it almost feels like I just ate too much candy.

(If there is such a thing. I'm not sure.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

National Cotton Candy Day

My good friend Tory pointed out to me that today, in addition to being Pearl Harbor Day and the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian naval base, is also National Cotton Candy Day. I'd call those two "strange bedfellows," indeed, but I submit it might just be possible to solemnly consider the historic events while savoring a sweet, puffy bite of cotton candy.

Last February my husband and I took our first ever trip to Hawaii. On the Sunday that we were there we visited Pearl Harbor and went to see the sunken hulk of the U.S.S. Arizona. The swirly petroleum rainbows on the surface of the water above the ship (due to the enormous stash of sunken fuel still extant in its tanks) and the lichen and the rust and the sheer mass of the thing--it all attested to me of the sad waste it all was.

Both my grandfathers fought in World War II. My paternal grandfather was a member of the Army Air Corps (later called the U.S. Air Force) and was a pilot trainer, arguably the most dangerous job in the service. (Lots of fatal crashes.) He later spent time in Japan and became acquainted with a General Genda (he often spoke of Genda) who was one of the architects of the attack, and whose name I found figuring prominently in the newly completed Pearl Harbor Memorial.

My maternal grandfather served in the U.S. Army (though he was born in England). He was a cook. He was also at the Battle of the Bulge, a bloody German offensive that the Allied forces deflected successfully near the end of the war. has free access to WWII records through today. I found their enlistment records. It is good to think of them as young and brave and willing to defend freedom--my freedom and the freedom of my children to eat cotton candy and to write vapid things on a blog and to write stories and get an education and speak my mind about political matters and to vote and to live my religion and so many other things I can't list.

So, today I'll go over to the dollar store and pick up a bag of spun sugar and appreciate the sacrifice it represents.