Author Archives: CLW

Ten Minute Monday–Family

This morning (it’s Sunday as I write this), after I stepped out of the shower, I heard singing. Sort of marching singing. Coming from outside.

It was Ann Dee. We live a couple of blocks from each other (I know! I can go and visit her, like, any time!). Sam was on her back and they were one person. A happy couple. A mom and son.

I couldn’t yell to Ann Dee as I was nekkid, but I watched them turn the corner and I thought, “Ann Dee is a terrific mother.”

And she is. So kind. So good. So always there for her sweet family.

Now that I’m grown I know lots of strong women who have raised, or are raising, their families well. They seem to do it all. But most important are the children they have decided to raise into competent, loving, smart, good, amazing people.

This makes me think of our characters.

Who has raised that character?
What was that history, that we may never see?
What did Momma love?
Who did Daddy tolerate?
Was Gramma a part of the child rearing?
And Granddaddy, how has he helped?

While we don’t need to know everything about the family our characters come from, knowing some family history gives us reasons for the way our characters may do things.

I almost always write my grandmother into my novels. She’s in nearly every one. Nana was a terrific grandmother. This is no lie, I was her favorite grandchild (Sorry, Kel.). Nanny told a story about how my mom and dad and I came back from Nebraska where I was born. I was tiny and scrawny and weak. My mother handed me to her mother to hold and I wouldn’t let lose. I had ahold around her neck and held so tight Nana actually changed my diapers while I hung from her neck. Don’t ask me how. I don’t know. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know that either. But I wonder if it’s because there was something in that baby who knew that for many, many years she would only be safe with her grandmother.

I miss Nana.

The novel due out next year from Simon and Schuster includes the names of my grandmother and all her siblings: Evie, Lucy, Pearl, Carol, Jimmey (this is Nana!), Buddy and Odie (who was a woman who’s real name was Horton. HORTON!). There was also a baby who lived only a few days (I want his name in the book) and another sister who died from throat cancer when she was older. I don’t know her name, but as soon as I do, she goes into the book, too.

For me, my writing is all about family. Always. The bad and the good. The ugly and the joyous. The icky and the sweet.

So think about the families in your characters’ lives, even if they never show up. I promise this information will answer a lot of questions you may have about your character. And as you dig into your own past you’ll find pieces of joy (or sorrow) to help support your work.

The. End.


Filed under CLW, Exercises, Family, Life

Three Things Thursday


I owe you an apology. I’ve let my life get int he way of posting. I will try and do better, but know if I don’t, this should change next semester. So, since I owe you a TTT or two, let me see what I can find and add it here!



Sometimes, I just need to “get away from it all.” Don’t you? At home, there are so many things to distract: the laundry pile which is growing, the plants wilting, the burgeoning email list that seems never to end — and often needs replies. The TV which blasts in the next room, the interruptions of taking out garbage (or at least gathering it), picking up the mail, the newspaper on the sidewalk. The noise of the community’s gardeners with their mowers, blowers, and electric trimmers. The growing list of items “to do” which grows longer daily, no matter how much I accomplished yesterday. The “to be read . . . later . . . list” which haunts my every waking hour . . . and far too many of my sleeping hours, as well.
How about if, even once a week, I just drive away: Drive to a park. Drive to a river or stream — I even have a couple almost within walking distance. If I haven’t “made time” to write, take my computer and only the most necessary of notes, papers or research materials. If there’s been no time to read, confine my take-along to one book that I’m really anxious to read/finish. If I haven’t stolen the time to “smell the roses,” drive to a walk along the Jordan Canal, or a garden area like Thanksgiving Point or a local park — preferably of the “botanical” ilk. Once a week. Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, calls that an Artist Date. And you’re only allowed to take yourself. Not your kids. Not your hubby. Not your neighbor.
Take yourself on an Artist’s Date, and feed the part of you that’s starving for want of attention!
Children seem to love stories. That’s one of the reasons we adults bother to write. Books can excite, intrigue; elicit laughing, crying or a sudden catch in the breath of surprise.
While we’re writing all those varying emotional responses, I believe we should also be teaching. (Of course I do! I’ve been a teacher for over 50 years!)
As your MC conquers his fears — or even his foes — how does he do it? Does he push the bully off the swing? Or go make friends with him? As s teen, does your MC try to find out what is troubling his now-distant, one-time friend? Or does he take his father’s gun to the school?
How does your MC treat his “enemies” after the battle is won? Does it reflect what we see in today’s headlines or on the local news? Or does it reflect the lessons s/he’s learned through reading, through the example of his parents, or other responsible adults? Maybe even a Sunday School teacher.
I hate heavy-handed “lessons” brought to fiction. Fiction should be intriguing, helpful, fun. It should not always end with “The moral is . . . ” But that doesn’t mean we can’t contribute to another way of dealing with our friends, and even our “enemies.” Who does your MC rely on? Who does s/he emulate? How does s/he solve a problem peaceably? How do you want your daughter or your son to behave in “polite company” — and especially in not such “polite” company?
Giving examples of alternate ways to handle problems should not sound like a lecture, but it could certainly employ fun — and even funny — ways to “win” and still be inclusive, kind, careful, giving, intriguing, and occasionally uproariously funny and likeable!
Lately my daughter has been requesting Pixar movies non-stop. I don’t really mind (okay, maybe I could do without the 100th viewing of Toy Story 3) because I love the Pixar version of storytelling. 

I’m always clear on the motivation of each character. Every choice the characters make are the best they can make under the circumstances, and the complexity of the plot develops because of how extraordinary those circumstances become. And the dialogue is brilliant.
Basically, when I grow up I want to be as good as the writers for Pixar. I want my characters to come alive for my readers. I want them to be loved and remembered. I want to write the kind of novel that will be passed around and read again and again until it’s worn down and torn up. Too much to hope for? Maybe. But we all need something to strive for, and that’s mine. What are your goals in writing?


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Three Things Thursday

In literature, I’ve always been a fan of romances that are more of a “slow burn” than “love at first sight.” Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy rather than Cinderella and Prince Charming, if you will. 

I think part of the reason is that the reason I love books is that they are the only medium in which you can truly understand a character, heart and soul. And because of that, I want to learn to love them as a person, not just as a pretty face. Don’t get me wrong, I love staring at Channing Tatum’s abs as much as the next girl, but it’s just not the same as longing for Mr. Rochester and wishing he’d stop flirting with that stupid Blanche Ingram.
What do you think? Are there brilliant literary romances that work as love at first sight?
UNwrite Your Way To Success ! ! !
Many years ago, as a great fan of Irving Stone (think The Agony and the Ecstasy, Lust for Life, Men to Match My Mountains, etc.) I found out that he, TOO, was an over-writer.  It’s one of my biggest problems.  I know this story is true, because I heard him tell it myself: he had a layover in Salt Lake and came to speak to the League of Utah Writers.  He said he’d offered The Agony . . . to a number of publishers but was always turned down.  Desperate for help, he gave it to a secretary he knew and asked her to take a look at it and tell him what the problem was.  She insisted she knew NOTHING about writing, but he insisted “fresh eyes” might help.
She read the manuscript and told him he’d said everything three times.  She went through it again, trying to see where he’d said it best.  After they UNwrote great segments of it, he sent it out again . . . and it SOLD!  (The sweetest part of his story: he took the advance and used it to marry her — and she edited all his books after that.)  How’s THAT for UNwriting?
So a check-list for me —maybe it will help you to UNwrite too:
CUT as much as possible in 
 1.  Redundancies
 2.  Deliberate repetitions for “special effect” if it’s NOT special
 3.  Over-explanations
 4.  Words/ideas/sections I wrote for the “literary effect”
 5.  Now look at the pacing to be sure it’s clean, crisp, quick
Thank you for coming to my signing last night. It was no where near as terrifying as the last one.
Thank goodness.


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Three Things Thursday


The last two books I’ve read have both had the same problem…they chopped the climax in half in order to make room for a sequel. 

Every novel should have a main conflict. The climax is the culmination of that conflict in which the problem is resolved. It doesn’t need to be happy, but it needs to be satisfying. But when you take the conflict and try to splinter it into small problems and then only solve half of them, it is not a resolution.
A true sequel occurs when the characters are so well-developed that we want to know what happens next in their lives, even if all of the problems we know about are finished. If you want to have sequels, focus on characters, not on splitting your plot.
What in the arts enriches your life?  Utah is becoming well known for its talents: dancing, for instance.  Many of our young people have been cast members in such shows as Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  In fact, Nigel Lythgoe, one of the producers/judges in the latter, has been known to say if you need skilled and dedicated dancers, go to Utah.  Groups like the Ririe-Woodbury dance troupe have flourished here since I was in college (and THAT was a good, long time ago!).
David Archuletta did well in the singing department — and even that was years and years after the Osmond clan hit the musical circuit.  America’s Got Talent showed the wonderful talent of Alex Boye. We can hardly ignore the Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony.  Additionally, a number of our municipalities have such musical groups of their own.
Artists from many venues have thrived in Utah: painting, sculpture, music, theatre, writing.  What arts do you depend on for solace?  For inspiration?  For fun?  For entertainment?.
Do your characters also lean on the arts for support?  Which types of art feed their souls?  Where do they turn for comfort, solace, sustenance?
3 Writing Exercises to Get to Know Your Character Better:
1. write her obituary.
2. Write a commercial starring YOUR character.
3. Have your MC love interest write a song about her.

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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

Writing Routines.

Last night I had drinks and great gossip with a fellow writer. We talked a bit about writing, but mostly gossiped which I very much enjoyed.

But it made me realize that my whole “routine” for writing has changed in the last year.

With this latest book I’m working on {almost finished THANK YOU BABY!}, it’s been a lot different.

I like to make my bed, {most of the time}. I like to turn on a playlist of angsty girl music. {I would recommend a lot of Chelsea Wolfe, Widowspeak, Meg Myers, and Lana Del Rey, when writing a book with a crazy lead character}
The I make myself a cocktail. {wine, or some gin and juice} {sorry Mom}

Bundle up, and start writing.

Try not to think too hard about it, the hard thinking comes with rewrites. For the first draft, just go with the flow and type the words that pop in your head first. {even the swear words. you can take those out later!}

Next thing you know, you’re done! and you’re famous! and everyone loves you. {okay so that’s a lie but at least you’re done!}

So that’s my bit of info for the week.

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15-Minute Monday–Double Dog Dare

What is the meanest thing you have ever said to someone?

How about your character?

What is the scariest thing you have ever gone through?

What about your character?

If you could do anything, anything at all, what would it be?

What about your character?

We all have at least one deep, dark secret. What’s yours?

And your character’s?

Who is the person you love most? Loved most? Who is that love you missed and are sorry, still to this day, that you missed?

What about your character?

What is the most shocking thing anyone has ever said to you?

Your character?

Who’s hurt you the most?

Your character?

What’s the most painful thing you’ve had to do in life?

What about your character?

What thing will you never tell anyone?

What thing will your character never tell?


The cool thing (the awful thing) about life is it makes you uncomfortable. It changes you. Shapes you. And you have a lot to do with that shaping depending on the choices you make, your reactions, feelings etc.

When our characters are real, they connect our reader to the story, and to us.

So push yourself, push your character, to something a little darker, a little funnier, a little more secret.

Don’t stand at the edge, dive in.

Scare that character of yours.

Make her feel.

Surprise her.

And surprise yourself at the same time.



Quit reading this.

Go write!




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Filed under Character, CLW, Exercises, Plot

A Late Three Things Thursday (no paragraphing this time–WHY?????)

Brenda Again!
Saw this on something-or-other online and thought it was GREAT:
 “Tired of starting over?  Stop giving up ! ! !
It was without attribution, so I don’t know who came up with it, but it was funny, sad, hurtful, and encouraging all  at once.  And how about these gems?
“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” ~ Amelia Earhart
or “You’ve got to take the initiative and play your game . . . confidence makes the difference.” ~ Chris Evert
and “When one door of  happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. ~ Helen Keller
and,  again: “The distance is nothing: it’s only the first step that is difficult.” ~ Mme. du Deffand
still others: “It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.” ~ Sister Elizabeth Kenny
“All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
“Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~ Muriel Strode
I’m not sure what YOU needed today, but I needed all of these!

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