Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Texting Through Time: John Taylor and the Mystery Puzzle

I'm very glad thrilled to host Christy Monson and her new book:

This is the second book in her smart phone time traveling saga. In the first book, we went to the frontier and met Brigham Young. This time the new adventures of Micah and Alicia take them to England to meet John Taylor.

The theme of this book is missionary work. The events of John Taylor's life are not nearly as well known as Brigham Young or Joseph Smith. Fortunately, Christy has remedied that with some amazing stories from his life of faith, courage and conversion from both sides of the pond.

In order to find their way back home they must solve a pictogram, or as the Phone calls it, a scripture picture. They must either draw or snap a photo from John Taylor's life that represents prayer, courage, faith and love, plus a secret center piece.

Once again, the superb illustrations were done by Rose Ledezma. To see more of her amazing work, hop over to her website. Here are a couple more of my favorites from the book.
Learning to make candles
Harvesting watermelons

The Texting Through Time series is a fun way to learn about Church history for children and adults. John Taylor and the Mystery Puzzle doesn't feel like a biography, just a great read.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Microsoft Word and Your Critique Group: Share the Love

A phrase I often employ in my day job is "share the love." It means I want people to have all of the tools they need to succeed. Pretty simple concept right? Unfortunately, you find those who want to miser away information for their own purposes.

I'm a share the love kind of guy. 

A few months ago, my critique group decide to change our approach from hard copies to soft copies. For me, this is awesome, because a) I hate to write anything in long-hand. I really think I just don't have the patience for it which leads me to b) I have penmanship that makes doctors look like they're writing in Times New Roman. 

If you've critiqued in Microsoft Word and added a comment, you know that the font is teenie-tiny and if you try to change the font size using the font selection in ribbon at the top of the screen (as you would in the body of the work) you know that has absolutely ZERO affect. The result of trying to do this only serves to increase my frustration. The irony runs thick here because Word wasn't really made to be effectively used by writers (I've heard it said many a time).

I did some searching and figured out how to change the font in the balloon text. You can make your critiques go from this:

To this:

Please note, the examples here are from Word 2010. Open up the Word doc and make sure the HOME tab is showing in the ribbon across the top. On the far right side, look for the two letters A and the words Change Styles with a down arrow. Don't click on the down arrow, click on the diagonal arrow just below the down arrow that looks like it's kind of got a box around it:

This will open up a Styles box. Jump to the bottom of the box where there are three small square buttons with that same double A image. Going from left to right, click on the last one.

That will open up the Manage Styles menu with the Edit tab on top. You'll see, Select a Style to Edit and a bunch, yea even a plethora, of things you can change. From this list, you'll want to find Balloon Text. The list is not necessarily in alphabetical order and the options won't necessarily be in the same order each time you do this.

Select Balloon Text then the Modify . . . button just to the right of the current font style and pt. This opens up the Modify Style box. It is here that you can set the font style and size for the Balloon Text, or your comments. 

Next, repeat the above process, but instead of Balloon Text, select Comment Text. It's a mere thirteen clicks below Balloon Text.

Notice at the bottom, in the purple box, you have the option to select for Only in this document or New documents based on this template.

If you select New documents based on this template, then anytime you open a NEW doc from within MS Word, these predetermined settings will apply. If someone sends you a Word doc and you download, well, MS Word does not see this as a new doc, so whichever settings they had when they created the document will be in effect and you'll have to manually set them. You could also open a new doc and copy paste the text from the downloaded doc into your new doc. That will work, too. 

Click OK. Then OK, again.

That's it. Now when you click on the Review tab and New Comment:

You'll get your desired font style and size. And if you want to include a star for the stuff you really like, and we all know that you should because it's a part of a good critique, then hold down the ALT key and using the number keypad on your right, type 9734. Don't use the number keys that run across the top of your keyboard, it won't work. To repeat, that's ALT 9734. Often I can do it once and then just copy and paste it for any additional uses (and I have many additional uses 'cause the writer's in my critique group rock!).

Got any Word doc tips you've come across that make you more efficient or less frustrated? Then share the love! ♥ (for the heart it's ALT 3)

♥ Share the Love ♥

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Value of a Story Well-Told

I’ve seen this image floating around a certain social networking site and let me first say, I totally agree.

Yes, support Indie eBooks, there are some gems out there. The legacy publishers (traditional publishers) don't always get it right. You've heard all the stories about Johnathan Livingston Seagull, Dr. Suess, etc. etc. A certain trilogy about the multiple ways you can render art using only a combination of white and black (wink,wink) was an Indie book. Now you can find it at the grocery store. Regardless of the content it's sold more than a few copies.

Even Richard Paul Evans, who's had 21 New York Times Bestselling books, couldn't get a legacy publisher to pick up his new YA series Michael Vey. Clearly they were wrong and have since mended ways with Evans and Vey. He related this story as part of his key note address at this year's League of Utah Writers conference.

The above image got me thinking about the price of eBooks.

I love books, in all their incarnations: paper, digital, audio, makes no difference to me. I have them all. In fact, for some of my most favorite stories, I have a paper, digital, and audio version.

Do a quick search and you'll find myriad debates on the state of the publishing industry, digital v. paper and just as many people bemoaning the state of books. I say, suck it up. This is the way of the world. I download countless songs and albums from iTunes with nary a thought to the record stores, their owners, and employees that are no more.

It happened to them and it’s happening to us.

Free? $.99, $1.99, or $9.99 – there’s much talk about how much an eBook should cost and a lot of that is based on how legacy publishers priced their hardcovers for years and years. Just because a book is digital instead of printed on layers of pressed pulp which have been dried, collated, and bound does not diminish the true value of a story well-told.

And if you’ve ever tried to create a story well-told, then you know it’s not easy.

I don’t have an unlimited source of income, so I like buying eBooks from $.99 - $4.99. I'm a regular visitor to the Nook Deal of the Day. If an author chooses to sell at $0.99, that’s his/her choice, but I also don’t mind paying $9.99 for an eBook, because in the end, I’m not paying for the mode in which the story is delivered so much as the true value of the item: a story well-told, and to me it’s worth it.

I recently read another blog post over at the Book Garden about this same image. It gives a nice explanation of how this argument is a bit flawed but ultimately ends up on the same side of the arguement as I do, totally worth it. It includes a keen observation from a commentator about the value of a good book versus other forms of entertainment.

Oh, and when the EMP strikes and kills all the eReaders, you'll be glad you've got some dried pressed pulp lying around.

Monday, September 17, 2012

League of Utah Writers: A Revolution

A few thoughts on the League of Utah Writers Roundup 2012

Roundup is a writers’ conference that hosts key note speakers and workshops over two days and allows for the growth of our craft and the ability to network with other writers, agents, and editors.

Roundup happens annually in September. LUW and Roundup have been around for a long long time. In the not too distant past, another conference started from a mere seed of eight LDS authors looking to help each other build their genre. That group became known as LDStorymakers. LDStorymakers grew from eight people to a conference that welcomed 400 people last May plus a waiting list. Although it still has a strong LDS vibe running just under the surface, they’ve since evolved to a more mainstream group including all genres and nearly all tastes.

As Storymakers gained in popularity, the old guard, Roundup, began to wane in attendance. Phrases like, “There’s no spark,” or “It feels like something is missing,” began to creep into the halls of Roundup. Storymakers is still as popular as ever, but with regard to this year’s Roundup, well, like George Costanza said after a bite of mango, “I’m back, baby!”

This year’s Roundup was a pleasure on all fronts. The key note speakers, Richard Paul Evans and Barry Eisler were both terrific. A host of talented authors offered workshops and panels that left me excited and frustrated since I pretty much wanted to attend them all yet they forced me to choose. But overall, there was a real sense of camaraderie that’s been missing. A feeling that we’re all in this together. As Barry Eisler said, a feeling of revolution.

Special call out to Precision Editing Group

They hosted Bootcamp, an extra service you had to sign up for at a very reasonable cost. We were divided into groups of five and critiqued each other’s pages along with an editor/author. I was lucky enough to be at Annette Lyon’s table. Along with all the other great stuff that came out of the session, I think I solved a problem in my WIP that’s been vexing me for six months.
Bootcamp really is the best part of every conference for me. You get fresh eyes on your work, from an experienced editor and/or author, and four or five genuine reader responses. Why is genuine reader response so valuable? Because when you write, it matters not one iota what you meant, it only matters what the reader understood. You may be brilliant in your own head, but readers don’t have security clearance to that zone.

The other reason I love Bootcamp? Networking. What a terrific way to meet other writers. People who think like you do.

People who get it!

Speaking of people who get it, it's a unique genre of people who can create a pick-up game of Dominion in the lobby of the hotel.

For reasons that may only be known to me, here are some callouts. For one reason or another, these people made a particular impact on my weekend (in no particular order):

            Annette Lyon
            Maxwell Alexander Drake
            Margot Hovley
            Marion Jenson
            Barry Eisler
            Richard Paul Evans
            Cory Webb
            Christy Monson
            Carol Shreeve
            Chadd VanZanten
            Martin Meyers
            Lucas Hunt
            Howard Tayler
            Emily Sanderson
            Shanna Hovley   
            Cynthia Loveland                                                              
            Sariah Horowitz  
Bruce Richardson
Nathan Croft

With any list like this, I’m sure I overlooked someone. If I did, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to resolve the matter.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Here There Be Dragons

If you're familiar with this phrase, then you know who I'm talking about. Superman's alter ego--no not Clark Kent--James A. Owen. I don't jest when I say Superman's alter ego. You'd have to read his book,

Drawing Out the Dragons: A Meditation on Art, Destiny, and the Power of Choice

to know what I mean. And I recommend that you do just that. I read it regularly. That is all I'll say about Drawing Out the Dragons, for now.

The point of this post is something he mentioned on his Facebook page recently. I don't know anyone who embodies the idea of a purpose-driven life more than he does. He lives his life courageously. He is a constant inspiration.

Here is what he said on July 9th, 2012:

There's really not much more I can add to this. I was discussing some details of a publishing deal - the subject of a forthcoming press release - with a friend, and his response was, "You're crazy - they'll never go for that." I replied tha...t it was already a done deal, and that the contract was already in progress. He commented that I just got lucky and I shouldn't count on it happening again - so I told him that the second - and larger - deal was forthcoming, and his response was again that I was lucky, followed by a remark that I was also blessed, because other people had to work for a living. I smiled, walked him to the door, ushered him out, wished him good luck, and said he didn't need to come back. Ever. Then I went back upstairs and wrote seven thousand words of a novel and drank a Perrier. It was a good night.

Followed by this quote from Mark Twain:

[Note: the first two sentences are Twain's, the rest by Thea Westra - http://www.forwardsteps.com.au/article/LifeSuccessFromMarkTwainQuotes.htm]

The culture in which I've grown up is admired for its devotion to work and industry. Yes, we strive to be industrious. As noble as that is, I wonder if it doesn't in some way squelch the creative spirit. Be busy, work hard, and everything will work out. I'm not saying that artistic endeavors like art and writing don't require hard work--quite the opposite--I just thing that the immediate results of a paycheck is often appreciated, at least initially (and perhaps realistically, by some) more so than the time, effort, and struggles that go into art, which often are not considered industrious and for which we often don't see the payoff until years later.

I wish I'd had a mind more towards art in my formative years than a "traditional" career.

My wife and I are about to change that about ourselves. We'll replace one F word with another, Faith instead of Fear. We will live deliberate lives.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bike MS 2012: A Purpose-Driven Life

Me and Kate at the end of day two.
On June 23rd and 24th, I was fortunate enough to take part in Bike MS Utah: Harmons Best Dam Bike Ride to benifit the Utah chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

I was fortunate on many fronts. Bicycling is one of the few forms of exercise that I really enjoy. To be able to pair that with this great cause gives me tremenous satisfaction. It adds value to my life.

I got to share that weekend with my wife, Kate, and about a dozen of our friends.

Team Gates' Gears, named after my father-in-law who died of MS, was comprised of ten riders and two volunteers. Together we managed to raise $6000 for the MS Society. I can honestly say, I've never been so proud of a group of ragtag friends and family as I am of this group. There's nothing special about us. We're just like anyone else. But with some organization (thanks to our awesome team captain, Lenise,) a little effort, and a lot of heart, we achieved more than any one of us thought we would.

On that note, I have to take moment to thank all of those who supported me and donated to my cause. I could not have achieved what I did without you. Your generosity and compassion surprised me, moved me, and impressed me:

Josi K., Meredith G., Mike B., Margot H., Randy C., Rose L., SusieDee M., Teresa D., Dave M., & Jason P.

We did something new this year that made it even more memorable. We took part in the Bike MS Champion program.

The Bike MS Champions program pairs people living with MS with cyclists who ride in their honor. The champion pairs exchange e-mails ahead of time and often are able to arrange to meet at the ride’s finish. They will share their story with you and offer you encouragement as you fundraise, train and ride in Bike MS. You can share your Bike MS experience from training to finish line with them.

We were fortunate enough to welcome two MS Champions to our team: J.D. Early (read his story here) and Angelina Kump (read her story here). Connecting with these two amazing people and sharing this experience with them made our efforts all the more significant and personal.

J.D. and his wife MaryAnne

This was only our second year riding in Bike MS, but I know there will be many more to come. Participating in this event is part of how we live a purpose-driven life.

What's your purpose?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Because There's So Much Good to Be Done

Harmons Best Dam Bike Ride 2012

Why I Ride

I barely knew my father-in-law.

He passed away in December of 1994 after battling MS for nearly 15 years. I became his son-in-law seven months later.

Don was a husband and father of five. Early in their marriage, doctors told them that they would not be able to have children. At the time of his diagnosis, his oldest child (now my wife) was 12. He was a teacher and a soldier.

His MS was the progressive degenerative kind. Once a teacher, he lost the ability to comprehend the written word. One horrible afternoon while driving with his kids, MS took hold of the muscles in his legs and wouldn't let him step on the brake pedal. One child ended up with a broken jaw and the other spent a month in traction. He went from walking with a cane, to a walker, to a wheel chair, to bed ridden.

I took an active role in the family, probably more so than many sons-in-law. I've watched how this disease affected his family and the rippling effect it's had a generation later. If I can help prevent one family from going through what my family did--it's totally worth it.

This disease lies firmly in the grey area. If you know what you're up against, if you know the odds you can steel yourself and maybe even overcome, but this one's wily. The symptoms change regularly--today you're blind, tomorrow all you can see is the ceiling because you can't get out of bed from the sheer weight of the fatigue. One day it's on and you're debilitated and miserable, the next day it's off and you can even look "normal," or it's off provided you "don't do too much." It teases you with windows of health then slams the pane on your fingers.

I knew my wife and my wife's family for six years before we got married. After our nuptials, we went about building our new life. We always said, one day we'd ride in Bike MS for Don . . . one day. Days turned to weeks, which turned to months and years, but one day we'd ride.

Last year, 2011, we decided that enough days had come and gone. We joined a team and rode in our first Bike MS in memory of Donald Gates Kilpatrick, Jr. It was the best thing I did in all of 2011--spiritually, morally, physically--the high point of my year. I'd never ridden a Century before, but I did that day. When complete strangers run out and give you a high-five as you're riding by and say, "Thank you. Thank you for what you're doing." The feeling is nearly overwhelming.

This year we've formed our own team, Gates' Gears, and we're well on our way to meeting our goal of $4000.00, but it's not enough. It's never enough until we can eliminate the phrase, "You have MS."

As we drove up to Logan that year to take part in our first Bike MS, I said to my wife, "One of the reasons I'm excited we're doing this is because we're doing. We're not sitting in front of the television watching life go by--we're doing and there's so much good to be done."

This is why I ride.

Why You Should Sponsor Me

One out of every 300 people in Utah lives with MS.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society will use funds collected from the Bike MS: Harmons Best Dam Bike Ride to not only support research for a cure tomorrow, but also to provide programs which address the needs of people living with MS today. Because we can fight this disease by simply riding a bike, because we have chosen to help thousands of people through a contribution to the Bike MS: Harmons Best Dam Bike Ride , we are now getting closer to the hour when no one will have to hear the words, "You have MS."

$50, $25, $10, $5, $1--it all adds up. Click here to donate. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Crystal Illusions by J.E. Taylor

Today I get to do one of my most favorite things--promote a fellow writer.

It's my great pleasure to welcome J.E. Taylor as part of her blog tour for her new novel Crystal Illusions.

Before we talk about her new thriller--which has received nothing but high praise--let's take a few minutes to get to know our author.


I want to thank Chris for hosting me here at Confessions of a Logophiliac for my Crystal Illusions blog tour. I talked earlier in the tour about how I tend to craft a story and Crystal Illusions is certainly different than my previous experiences. Today, I want to cover where I write.

It’s a little unorthodox but this is my comfy chair in the middle of my family room. It’s mine – no one else in my family sits here on a regular basis and when they do, all I have to do is level an unhappy gaze in their direction and they skedaddle.

This has gotten to be quite the joke with my husband and kids. “OOO – you’re sitting in Mom’s chair.” “I wouldn’t sit there if I were you…” “I think we should bury Mom in her chair.”

You get the gist. I have a little lap desk and my mini-notebook and when I sit down, the world around me disappears. The noise of the television silences, the bickering of the kids becomes white noise and for all I know, the house could fall down around me and it wouldn’t phase me one bit when I’m in THE ZONE.

There is a downside to this. I don’t always get left alone while I’m trying to write. More often than not, the continuous chant of Mom pulls me from far lands and I begrudgingly come back to the real world. So my chair in the family room is both good that I’m not physically away from my family and bad that I’m not mentally with my family. Sometimes getting devoted writing time is a challenge.

Along with some of the writing challenges, my “mine” mentality of the space sometimes does create issues, because, after all – it IS a comfy chair. I know my kids use it when I’m off at my day job and it’s quite humorous to come in and have them scramble out of my space like they’ve been caught in the act of a major crime.

Territorial much?

Maybe a little and when a guest comes over and they sit in my chair, I don’t say a word, but like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, I feel a little lost because someone is in “my spot”.

Thanks for taking a glimpse into my writing space and here’s a little teaser from Crystal Illusions for you.


Assistant D.A. Carolyn Hastings has an uncanny knack for putting away criminals. With one of the best prosecution records in recent history, her future as Manhattan’s next District Attorney looks certain. But her sixth sense for winning cases threatens to work against her when she starts seeing a string of murders through the eyes of the killer.

With suspects piling up as fast as bodies, and the motives of those closest to her questionable, Carolyn doesn’t know who to trust. When the FBI assigns Special Agent Steve Williams to the case, Carolyn discloses her deepest fear - that the man she loves may be the one responsible for the city’s latest crime spree.

The only thing Steve knows for sure is Carolyn has an inexplicable psychic connection with the killer, and all the victims have one thing in common…a striking resemblance to Carolyn Hastings.

And he knows it’s only a matter of time before this psychopath knocks on her door.


“Taylor has a strong thriller where every single character has reasonable doubt flashing like a neon sign hanging over them, and right from the beginning you are trying to guess who the killer really is. Gripping, rich and magnificent - crime whodunnits don't get any better than this!” Author Poppet / Gemma Rice – Author of Quislings, Blindsided, Djinn and Dusan


Jason interrupted her train of thought when he entered and dropped the paper on her desk. “Looks like we have a serial killer.” He pointed to the front page.

The headline jumped off the page.


Carolyn picked up the paper glancing at the copy. A third victim was found in the early hours of the morning with the tell-tale scarlet lipstick mark on her forehead and her throat slashed wide open.

Carolyn took a deep breath. “So I was right,” she said, tossing the paper onto the desk and looking at Jason as she bit her lower lip.

“They didn’t release the lipstick mark information to the press until this morning.” Jason slid into the seat across the desk. “He’s targeting a specific profile.”

“White, between twenty and thirty, brown hair, blue eyes, average height,” Carolyn said as she kept eye contact with Jason.

Jason tilted his head. “You have an inside track with the police?”

Carolyn smiled and made no comment. She looked at the paper and continued reading. The pictures of the women were on the next page and the resemblance of all the victims lined up side by side was startling.

“They all look like you,” Jason said.


“Watch your back.” Jason stood and left Carolyn staring after him with shivers traversing her spine.


Crystal Illusions is available here.

Thanks for joining me on this blog tour venture – and remember – I’ll be on tour throughout the month, including a giveaway over at Bitten By Books (www.bittenbybooks.com) on April 20th, where you have a chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. I’ll be asking questions relating to my tour posts – so check out my Crystal Illusions blog schedule for a chance to win. (http://jetaylor75.blogspot.com)

J.E. Taylor is a writer, a publisher, an editor, a manuscript formatter, a mother, a wife and a business analyst, not necessarily in that order. She first sat down to seriously write in February of 2007 after her daughter asked:
“Mom, if you could do anything, what would you do?”

From that moment on, she hasn’t looked back and now her writing resume includes six+ published novels along with several short stories on the virtual shelves including a few within eXcessica anthologies.

In addition to being co-owner of Novel Concept Publishing, Ms. Taylor also moonlights as an Assistant Editor of Allegory (www.allegoryezine.com), an online venue for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She has been known to edit a book or two and also offers her services judging writing contests for various RWA chapters.

She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and during the summer months enjoys her weekends on the shore in southern Maine.

Visit her at http://www.jetaylor75.com/

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