Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cheers and Other Bits, like What Makes Your Character Special?

Summer has been on its crazy roll. I've been out and about with the family through three different states the past few weeks, so that explains why it's been a while since my last post. Our first stop was in Cedar City for the Utah Summer Games where my daughter competed in a soccer tournament. Her team did well with a win, a tie, and a close loss, but the highlight was seeing Jo on the front page of the Daily News on day 2 of our trip.

Here's the photo that was published with her (in orange) running down the ball (and winning it from the opposing team).

She plays sweeper and forward, and does a great job getting the plays done in both positions. (That's me -- the proud mom!)

While tracking down this photo for my post, I also found another shot of her on The Spectrum website, which was taken during the same game.

After we returned from Cedar City, my husband announced we should plan a trip to Yellowstone. The fact that he wanted to take this trip the following week didn't seem like an insurmountable problem to him. Then again, he wasn't the one who would take the task of planning it. I was. So, I spent the next couple days figuring out the wheres, whats, and hows of making a few days with the whole family a reality.

As it turned out, planning a trip on short notice wasn't such a big deal, especially since we would be camping. We spent a couple days in Teton National Park, then a few days in Yellowstone, and had a blast horseback riding, hiking, boating, and yes, camping. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for mountain camping. The days were warm and the nights cool, but not unbearably cold.

Speaking of "unbearably" -- we did see a bear. Two, in fact. Little black bears, about 2 years old. One in the Tetons and one in Yellowstone. They looked so cute and cuddly, they seemed practically pettable, as in, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could pet them?" No. Not. I'm not that silly. We kept our distance for the most part, and kept our food properly stored at night, far away from our tents to keep wandering bears from getting any sort of ideas that our tents held a smorgasbord of flavorful offerings.

En route to our camping site, my ten year old tried to convince me that letting him "mark his territory" around the tent was a good idea. ...... Marking as in . . . ? Let's not go there. ..... Needless to say, I thought NOT, and nixed that idea in the bud, and told him that Wandering Bear might turn into Snarling, Growling Bear if he started sniffing around and found that there was a territory worth fighting for. Boys. They never cease to make me smile.

All in all, I'm happy to say we are pretty much home-bound for the next month, so I'll be able to work on my novel, and get a few other things done like, mowing the lawn and tending to the vegetable patch, which is looking a little worse for the wear in some parts. Usually I spend a Handful of Saturdays at the Cache Valley Gardeners Market selling my bounty of produce.

One customer from Arizona who spends his summer here actually called while I was driving from Cedar City and asked when I'd be back at the market with my gooseberries. Since I'm one of the few that grow and sell them here in the valley, and since they are worth their weight in gold as far as taste in Gooseberry Pie and jam goes (Snow White really did know what she was doing when she won over those dwarves), I assured him that from one gooseberry-lover to another that I'd be back in July. That's right around the corner!

Oh, and I wanted to share the good news! Have you heard about the book, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen? Janet was my co-author for The Book Lover's Cookbook, and her novel has been snagging all sorts of awards and recognition. The latest award was given at the Book Expo in LA for best new religious fiction. I couldn't be happier for her. Hooray! Check out more for yourself at her blog, where you'll find lots of good posts, and other news and tidbits, like her cool new book trailer.

As for the rest of what I've been meaning to post, I wanted to write about characters. All my driving/traveling of the weeks past gave me lots of time to think and mull, and basically I decided that when it comes to writing, one of the most important questions you need to ask and answer before you start writing is, "What makes your character special?"

While it's true that characters can be anyone or anything, the truly captivating ones are those that have something special about them. When we first meet Harry Potter we see that not only is he an orphan, but he's an orphan with a mysterious scar and strengths/powers yet to be discovered. Primrose Squarp from Polly Horvath's Everything on a Waffle is also an apparent orphan, who believes to her core that her parents are still alive--despite the fact that everyone else believes they are dead. She also has a penchant for interesting recipes. And Joey Pigza, a likeable boy with a sense of humor, in Jack Gantos's Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, cannot, cannot sit still no matter how hard he tries. The list goes on and on, but I'll stop there. I mention it here because this was something I struggled with in beginning my latest novel--trying to figure out what was missing--and with my latest drive-time/down-time, I think I've worked it out.

Have a great day!

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