Saturday, October 19, 2013

Not Like My Good Neighbors: How This State Farm Ad Aligns with Rape Culture

Something's been bothering me for awhile now, and what's a blog for if not to air your thoughts?

State Farm Insurance.

I hold no ill will toward the company as a whole. I also understand that marketing is in the business of selling, and it's a tough business. In fact, I like the Jake from State Farm commercial. It's funny and we don't take it seriously:

Perhaps it fits my demographic.

This ad, the Girl From 4e, seems to be targeted at a different demographic and I do take it seriously.

I can't blame State Farm for wanting to appeal to such a demographic, but I can question their judgment for how they market to men ages 18 - 25.

Why do I object to this commercial?

1) There's the whole thing about referring to an adult woman as a girl. That conversation has been going on for decades. I don't think I need to say any more about it in this post.

2) It caters to a sense of entitlement, specifically men entitled to women. Do we really think that the woman in 4e is happy about being summoned from her space at the whim of this guy? She does give a coquettish smile when she "appears," but I attribute that to the director.

".  . . State Farm is there. With a sandwich." Does this sound at all like, "Hey woman, go make me a sandwich."? (while I sit on the couch)

3) Rape culture is based on the idea that men are entitled to do whatever they want with women and, to a somewhat lesser degree, women are compliant and even happy to participate.

You might make the claim that Unilever is doing the exact same thing. Unilever owns both Dove and Axe. If you are familiar with their ad campaigns it may seem dichotomous. Unilever wants to sell soap. To do so, they have to cater to the demographics, just like any business. Within the context of selling soap, they do a pretty good job, but does anybody over the age of thirteen actually believe bikini-clad women will become entranced and flock to you simply because of your body wash? It's overt and over-the-top.

"The Girl in 4e" is subvert and subtle. It goes beyond selling insurance and instead promotes chauvinism and rape culture. Don't agree? Think I'm making mountains out of mole hills? I just need to chill out? Let's ask Steubenville what they think.

4) The agent. When the hot tub is introduced, with the implicit purpose that the "girl in 4e" would like nothing better than to strip down with these three men she doesn't even know (you'd think if they even had a passing acquaintance they'd at least use her name) and jump in, the agent gives a nod of approval and says, "Nice."

Filing the claim and fixing the window in a quick and efficient manner? That's selling insurance. The sandwich, the girl from 4e, and the hot tub? That's selling something else.

Again, subversive and subtle.

To bring this full circle, my good neighbors are in fact good neighbors, raising conscientious families that don't align at all with this State Farm ad.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Awakening: Book One of The Geis

About the Book

. . . because some Celtic stories won’t be contained in myth.

A little magic has always run in sixteen-year-old McKayla McCleery's family—at least that’s what she’s been told. McKayla’s eccentric Aunt Avril travels the world as a psychic for the FBI, and her mother can make amazing delicacies out of the most basic of ingredients. But McKayla doesn't think for a second that the magic is real—it’s just good storytelling. Besides, McKayla doesn’t need magic. She recently moved to beautiful Star Valley, Wyoming, and already she has a best friend, a solo in her upcoming ballet recital—and the gorgeous guy in her physics class keeps looking her way.

When an unexpected fascination with Irish dance leads McKayla to seek instruction from the mute, crippled janitor at her high school, she learns that her family is not the only one with unexplained abilities. After Aunt Avril comes to Star Valley in pursuit of a supernatural killer, people begin disappearing, and the lives of those McKayla holds most dear are threatened.

When the janitor reveals that an ancient curse, known as a geis, has awakened deadly powers that defy explanation, McKayla is forced to come to terms with what is real and what is fantasy. A thrilling debut novel based in Celtic mythology, Awakening is a gripping young adult fantasy rife with magic, romance, and mystery.

Awakening (The Geis, #1)

Praise for Awakening

"AWAKENING is a wonder and a delight. Christy Dorrity is a talent to watch."
~David Farland, New York Times bestselling author of Nightingale

"I thoroughly enjoyed AWAKENING, a captivating and unique debut novel that creatively integrates Irish dance."
~ CHRIS NAISH, Riverdance member and Creative Director of Fusion Fighters Irish dancers.
About the Author

Christy Dorrity lives in the mountains with her husband, five children, and a cocker spaniel. She grew up on a trout ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming, and is the author of The Geis series for young adults, and The Book Blogger’s Cookbooks. Christy is a champion Irish dancer and when she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably trying out a new recipe in the kitchen.

Purchase Awakening by Christy Dorrity:

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Love, Hugs, & Hope: A Message of Healing

I'm very pleased to welcome Christy Monson to C.O.A.L., perhaps I can get her to confess something! She is a fellow logophiliac. Christy is one of my favorite authors. With a career as a therapist, specializing in family counseling, Christy always shares great insights to human behavior.

She has two new books out:

Written after the tragic Newtown, Connecticut, shooting, this book is an invaluable tool to help  children work through feelings after a tragedy. Our kids deal, not only with national tragedies, but every day ones like death of a grandparent, loss of a puppy, or divorce. This book guides readers through emotions of fear, sadness and anger, then offers constructive ideas for managing these feelings. The message of the book is that love chases away hate and light banishes darkness. Lori Nawyn's engaging illustrations help the reader know that hope is only a hug away. 

 An abundant and happier life can be yours, but you must identify and release the obstructions that keep you from the wisdom and wealth you want. Christy Monson, a successful family therapist for over thirty years, has written Becoming Free to help you achieve your goals and find deeper happiness in your life. Becoming Free is a step-by-step book to help you to shed your armor, expand your optimistic thinking, and enhance your ability to give and receive. Once you become free of the armor you’ve built around you to protect yourself, you’ll find the abundant life you have always sought.

Buy it Now!

Here's a few minutes, one-on-one:

Love, Hugs and Hope

How did you meet Lori? How did your collaboration work?

Lori Nawyn did the art and I wrote the script for this picture book, Love Hugs and Hope, and we are both very happy about it. However, we didn't start out to work together. Lori and I knew each other from a couple of SCBWI Conferences. We had formed a picture book critique group that met each month so we were friends. But it was the publisher that teamed us up. Lori is a darling, and I love her art. We never collaborated on the book at all. I turned in the manuscript and Lori and the publishers did the rest.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing about 7 years and loving every minute of it.

Do you have children? If so, did you draw on your own experience as a mother in writing this book?

My experience as a mom has really helped me in writing this book. Children just need to talk things out a lot of times. They want love and reassurance.

You're a retired family counselor. How did your training and/or years of practice help you with this book?

I kind of had a sense about how to process with kids from being a mom, but my training as a therapist really gave me the knowledge I needed to help children heal. In my practice I saw a lot of kids that were dealing with tragedy of some kind or another. Talk therapy is good for kids, but art is a wonderful way for them to release feelings.

How long did this book take to create?

It took me about a week to write the first draft of this manuscript. I felt so sad for those who had experienced loss in the school shooting at Sandy Hook. Shortly after that a gunman shot up the Clackamas Towne Center in Oregon. Our daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters live about three miles from the center. The parents monitored the events carefully, but turned off all media to protect the kids from knowing about it. However, the next day at school the children were all talking about it, so you can't protect children from knowing about tragedies like this.

As I thought about these two catastrophes, I felt something needed to be written to help parents and children look at disasters like these, be able to share their feelings, and find hope in the world around them.

Do you have other book ideas along the lines of children's self-help/picture books?

I love writing picture books. I have many other book ideas I'm thinking about, but right now I'm focused on  a series about children's feelings.

How did you find a publisher for the book?

I am so fortunate to have found my publisher, Christopher Robbins, and Familius. At LDS Storymakers Boot Camp, Rick Walton was conducting  out picture book section. He began talking about Familius and what a great new company it was. When he found out I was a retired therapist, he suggested I contact Familius, and I'm so happy I did.

Becoming Free

I see you have another book coming out for electronic book format. How is writing for ebook different from a regular "paper" book?

Writing an ebook is the same as writing a paper book. In fact, I didn't know that Becoming Free would be an ebook at first. But I'm excited for the new experience. I'm looking forward to promoting it.

What gave you the idea for this women's self-help book?

My clients were the ones who inspired me to write Becoming Free. I learned so much from them and was so impressed by their hard work in therapy, I wanted to share their stories and their healing process with everyone.

How do you envision women use this book?

Understanding the concepts in this book can benefit all of us. The discussion on motivation and work ethic (First Section) is something I think we all need to review often. The chapters on understanding of self and communication (Second and Third Sections) are skills everyone uses daily. I love the last part (Fourth Section) on healing techniques. It a compilation of the most effective concepts and procedures I have gathered together over the years--methods that will lead us all to live a life full of peace and positive energy.

You can read the book straight through, but it's really designed to create change by being used slowly over time to alter your habits and establish positive thinking skills. Enjoy! Happy Reading!.

Both books are published by Familius.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Write Epic Urban Fantasy with a New Adult Literary Romance Horror Edge

Confused by what makes New Adult different than Young Adult? Contemporary Fantasy v. Urban Fantasy? Well, you're not alone.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a book launch for Sarah M. Eden held at the King's English bookshop.

Aside from the terrific address Sarah made to throngs of adoring fans, and the delicious authentic Irish cuisine (no, there was no haggis, besides, that's a Scottish dish), I had the opportunity to mingle with other like-minded folk. 

During this mingling, I got into a conversation regarding the differences between urban fantasy and contemporary fantasy. I read a fair bit of both but tend to write contemporary. Not only is it good to know what constitutes one genre over another so you can speak to a particular ilk, as a writer, you have to know your audience if you want anyone other than your mom to read your books. That starts by knowing your genres.

The fine people over at Book Country have created an interactive map to help you navigate the more than sixty genres of literature. Credit goes to Lisa Mangum for sharing this groovy resource.

Click here and wander/wonder no more.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gates' Gears: Gearing Up For Those Who Can't

This is the new slogan for our Bike MS team. My father-in-law passed away due to complications from MS, and this was back in the day when they didn't have any therapies other than, "try to make him as comfortable as you can." The ramifications of his illness on his family are evident even a generation later. Now, thanks to funding and research, there are eight therapies.

Last year Gates' Gears received the Rookie Fundraising Award. We raised the most funds of any rookie team. Since we are no longer rookies, our fundraising goals have increased dramatically. To that end I want to share a couple of fundraising events.

1) On Friday, June 7th, I am cutting my ponytail and donating it to Locks of Love. I do this every two - three years. My grandmother always said I had no business having hair like this. It should be on a pretty girl. The minimum donation length is 10 inches. For every minimum donation of $25.00 to my Bike MS fundraising page, I'll add a centimeter to length. There are 2.5 centimeters in an inch. I'll keep adding centimeters until we reach the back of my head. At that point there's only one place left to go--the Yul Brynner.

That's right. If the total donated from June 3rd to June 7th reaches $750.00, I'll bic my head. Please, help me go bald.

2) Our Bike MS team is named Gates' Gears after my late father-in-law. Gates' Gears has teamed up with the Utah Youth Soccer Association to host a tournament on Saturday June 29th. Go to to register. A portion of the entry fee will go toward the MS Society. All participating teams will qualify for the Rapids Regional, July 14th at Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Denver, CO.

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that attacks the myelin sheath around our nervous system, which means it can attack pretty much any part of the body. There are commonalities for all who suffer from MS, but it affects nearly everyone differently, which is one reason it's so hard to treat. Utah has one of the highest rates of MS in the nation, with one in every 300 affected. Help us create a world free of MS. 

Thank you!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's All In The Voice

Time for a spot of fun.

I'm participating in the It's All In The Voice blog hop. Here are the first 250ish words of my WIP. It's adult contemporary fantasy, titled: PIGMENTS.

Chapter 1 -- Black

I need a tattoo.

Jeff Graham looked at his watch. He’d been standing across the street from the Voodoo Tattoo for an hour. He’d chosen it not by reputation or recommendation, not even by its most recent Health Code inspection, which he got from a guy at work who knows a guy. He chose the Voodoo Tattoo because he liked the way it sounded.

Jeff leaned his back against the wall of the Java Jive and ran his hands down his sweater vest, smoothing out invisible wrinkles. A white T-shirt poked out underneath­.

The legal age to obtain a tattoo was eighteen. He’d thought on-and-off about getting a tattoo, but once he turned eighteen, the possibility became real. Now, ten years past that point, he was still debating.

Jeff shook out his hands and made them into fists—opening and closing them several times. He pulled off his sweater vest—no Argyles or stripes, just a solid blue as per the interpreter’s dress code—folded it once, and hung it on a bike rack in front of the Java Jive. Guys with tattoos don’t wear sweater vests.

An envelope made from heavy textured paper fell out of his back pocket. He snatched it up and he stuffed it back in.

He pressed his back against the uneven brick of the coffee shop, put one foot on the wall and propelled himself toward the Voodoo Tattoo only to halt at the curb.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Fart in Your General Direction: Taking Criticism

If you are a sad creature who has not experienced Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail, then my intro is lost on you. Get thee hence and seek out Netflix with due haste!

Recently I participated in a first chapter contest. This is one of the better contests of its sort because the judges give you detailed feedback via a score sheet. Not only do you get a rating, you get comments. These forms cover things like: hook, conflict, characters, pacing, and setting, among others. 

I'm going to share with you some comments I received from two of the judges.

Judge #1 
This judge gave me 18 out of a total 40 points.

Overall Enjoyment: Was this a story you'd recommend to others?
Comments: It's a little early yet for me to tell, but I would have to say that yes, I would. Because of the uniqueness of the story. I'm really curious about where it's going to go.

Additional Notes: I'm afraid that everything I've said will discourage you. That certainly isn't what I want to do. I hope that you keep writing. You have an interesting idea. I could see what you wanted to do and the kind of story you want to write. What you need to do is learn all the intricacies of the craft. Unfortunately writing right now is very competitive. If you have the dream go for it, but you have to learn and read everything you can get your hands on. That's how you'll get better and you'll be able to write for the rest of your life. What I hope you'll do is get some how to write books, take a lot of classes, (even established authors continue to take classes from others*) and practice your craft. That's the reason I gave you some things here that will help you with your story. Keep working and make this the best story out there. I think you've got what it takes. 

Judge #2
This judge gave me 38 out of a total 40 points.

Overall Enjoyment: Was this a story you'd recommend to others?
Comments: Yes, I would recommend this story. The characters seemed real and had diversified personalities.

Additional Notes: I enjoyed the unique personalities of the characters. I enjoyed the idea of having an ability to read the land and go barefoot to feel vibrations through the earth. I had fun speculating that "Name Day" was a birthday. The action was appropriate, the mannerisms believable. This was a rewarding piece of literature to read.

What am I to think of these two reviews?

They are both positive. Judge #1 is encouraging even if s/he feels the writing is inferior. Clearly, we didn't click. Judge #2 is also encouraging while praising the writing (CLICK!).

This experience can be summed up in one word: subjective. Writing is art. Like any art form, it's subjective. What you put on the page will never be received in the manner you intend it to be. Every reader receives your art via his own perspective and applies the lens of his own life experiences. 

I hold no ill will toward Judge #1. S/he gave me some great advice. I'll review it and incorporate it as I see fit. Conversely, what I wrote resonated (in a good way) with Judge #2; and, despite my school girl crush on Judge #2, I can't let myself get too carried away.

In the end, it doesn't matter what I intended to convey with what I wrote. All that matters is the reader's response to what I wrote, and that response is wholly and completely his. I have no claim on it or rights to it. 

Where do I go from here? I'll keep writing. I'll keep reading (both how-to books and books in my genre, and even some not in my genre), and I'll continue to attend classes and hone my craft. You should do the same.

*One of my favorite authors, John Brown does this at every conference where  he presents. When he's not presenting, he's attending classes taught by other writers. Aside from his writing, and his classes, this is one of the things I love about him.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears

A Story of Sacrifice and Unyielding Devotion

Descended from the Hawaiian royal line, Jonathan Napela became one of the first—and most influential—converts to the Church in Hawaii. A man of intelligence, social status, and wealth, he used his considerable position to further the gospel in his native land. He developed a lifelong bond of brotherhood with Elder George Q. Cannon, helping to translate the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian and establish a gathering place for the Hawaiian saints in Laie, Oahu.

That much alone is enough to convey a compelling story. There are numerous less pithy books on the history of the LDS church; but, wait, there's more.

But when his beloved wife, Kitty, was stricken with leprosy, Jonathan made the defining decision of his life. He would leave his life of privilege to become her caretaker and spend the rest of his life on Moloka'i, the island of lepers. To those who suffered similar heartbreak and banishment, Jonathan’s self-sacrifice became their lifeline. Based on a true story, this is an extraordinary novel of a man who chose love in the face of death.

As interesting as this story of missionary work in the Sandwich islands (aka the Hawaiian islands) is (and I would wager it's one of the more interesting tales, given the local and the exhaustive reseach done by Gale Sears) it's the second half of this book that truly elevates it.

The book starts with a prologue that takes place in 1843 on the island of Maui. The section depicts the royal wedding of Jonathan Napela and Catherine Keliikuaaina Richardson. The historical backstory of life in this culture is interesting but the concentrated detail bogged things down a bit for my taste. I would have liked to have seen this prologue interspersed in small chunks between latter chapters in the book, or maybe even as chapter headings. This is a minor complaint. Keeping reading; it’s worth it.
Chapter one begins in California in 1850. Elder George Q. Cannon looked forward to his mission call, like most young elders, anticipating where the Lord might call him to serve. He hoped that perhaps it would be to his homeland of England, or a number of other exotic locales.
“Brother Cannon, I wish to call you on a mission to the goldfields of California.”
That’s right. He was called to mine gold to help support the young Church. Despite his devotion, his efforts yield little precious metal--little, until, his assignment changed. When he is reassigned, to the Hawaiian Islands, the ground yields up enough gold to pay for their passage.

It’s during his time on the islands, while struggling to learn the local language and customs, that he meets Jonathan Napela. Along with his royal lineage, Jonathan has become a district court judge. Jonathan eventually gets baptized and he and George go about establishing the Church as well as translating the Book of Mormon. As I said in the introduction, there are enough stories of faith, charity, and determination just to this point in the book to leave you satisfied.

Gale’s exhaustive research shows through again as she describes the island of Moloka'i and the day to day lives of those living with leprosy. Jonathan’s wife, Kitty, contracts leprosy and instead of sending his wife to the leper colony to live out his days, he goes with her. With the help of a Catholic priest, Father Damien, the two care for the colony. Along with their physical care, Jonathan presides over the Saints of the colony as well, until he too passes away of leprosy.

Belonging to Heaven is not a quick read, but it’s satisfying and deeply moving, especially for those of the LDS faith.

Book Details:
Author: Gale Sears
Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: Deseret Book
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Poison? Um . . . Yes, Please.

Bridget Zinn and Poison, her first and last novel.

It is my great pleasure to take part in a blog tour today for Bridget Zinn and her debut novel, Poison.

First off, just look at that cover! It does everything a cover is supposed to do. Even if fantasy is not you genre, I'd bet my lunch that this cover would at the very least catch your eye, and probably get you to pick it up.

Before we talk about the book, let's talk about the author: Bridget Zinn.

Bridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the "summer of love" and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was "Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect."

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers' copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads.

That's right--her first and last novel. In the spirit of this blog tour, we were asked to share a first of our own. I'm 40-years-old and I just published my first book, By Blood Bequeathed. But the real first I want to highlight was my first book launch/reading. I've been to countless author readings and for me to finally be the author was thrilling. There were about twenty five people there for no other reason than to support me and my first book. It's an experience I will never forget.

Much like Bridget, I espouse the idea of doing what you were meant to do.

Now, about this fantastic book:


Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

Check out some of the reviews:

Don't let the title or cover fool you! No grim dark teen fantasy or angst-y heroines here; just a frothy confection of a fairy tale featuring poisoners, princesses, perfumers and pigs, none of whom are exactly what they appear (except maybe the pigs)…. Good silly fun—a refreshing antidote to a genre overflowing with grit and gloom.
Kirkus Reviews

The late Zinn's debut novel unfolds as a romping, fairy-tale quest with more than one twist up its sleeve. The story is vivid, headlong, and occasionally tongue in cheek, and the narrative's dark moments never get too scary because everything else is so much fun. Ages 12–18. Agent: Michael Stearns, Upstart Crow Literary. Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly Article

A wonderful article written by Alexis Burling in Publishers Weekly, Promoting a Late Author's Debut Novel: 'Poison' by Bridget Zinn

Recommended for anyone who loves fairy tales, memorized The Princess Bride, or has always dreamed of saving the kingdom (with a piglet).

Do yourself and your young teens a favor and purchase your copy today: 

Barnes & Noble 
Indie Bound 
iTunes Bookstore
Powell's Books
Add Poison to your Goodreads Pile!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Inciting Incident and Story Worthy Problem as Conflict: Can You Tell the Difference?

The Inciting Incident
The Initial Surface Problem
The Story Worthy Problem. 

These are all examples of conflict, but they do different things. Use them in the wrong place and your story is dead in the water.

I've started reading Les Edgerton's Hooked.

I know what a hook is. I understand the concept. I also understand that hooks come in many shapes  . . .

 and sizes. 

(now that I think about it, the items in the last two images, along with having hooks, could also be considered lures--but that's a whole other topic) My point being that hooks don't always have to be in-your-face explosive to be effective.

Thus I was reluctant to buy and read a book devoted entirely to openings. Well, I'm about a fourth of the way into it and I already want to talk about it. In fact, I applied what I've learned so far and created an exercise we can share.

But first, some definitions, from Les Edgerton, (so we're all on the same page:)

  • The inciting incident is the event that creates the character’s initial surface problem and introduces the first inklings of the story-worthy problem.
  • This is the action part of the story, the part that is plot-based. This happens to the protagonist then she does this to resolve it then this and so on.
  • The inciting incident is NOT the protagonist’s current situation, no matter how deplorable or dramatic it may be. 
  • The Inciting Incident is what alters the day to day existence (or situation). This can be something large and obvious or small and subtle.
IMO, small and subtle is usually more powerful.

  • This is the problem that occurs as a direct result of the inciting incident. And while it may seem at  first glance that solving this problem is what the story is really all about, it’s not.
  • Every story is ultimately about solving the deeper, more complicated story-worthy problem.
  • The inciting incident sets the stage for the story-worthy problem, which functions just beneath the surface of the story on a more psychological level. Consider it the driving force behind the initial surface problem as it’s ultimately what the protagonist must reconcile at the end of the story. 
  • A true story-worthy problem is closely associated with the protagonist’s inner self, while a surface problem is merely symptomatic, a derivative of that larger problem. 
  • The inciting incident introduces this problem by either bringing to the forefront a buried problem or creating a new one, thus beginning the gradual revealing process that will encompass the rest of the story as the protagonist’s—and the reader’s—understanding of the true nature of story-worthy problem deepens.
Les also gives us a great example of subtle conflict and overt conflict, using the movie Thelma and Louise:

The Inciting Incident – Thelma is about to ask Darryl if she can go on a trip with Louise. He replies condescendingly, “What?” She decides not to ask and just go. She has never openly defied her husband. This decision leads to the subsequent decisions (road house, dancing, flirting) that leads to the Initial Surface Problem.
The Initial Surface Problem – Harlan tries to rape Thelma. Louise kills him.
The Story-Worthy Problem – Thelma allows all men to dominate and take advantage of her. This she must overcome.

Les gives us some great instruction and follows it up with perfect application. To further cement the concept in my head, I decided to replicate the example with some of my favorite movies. I tried to use older movies to avoid spoilers. If you haven't see any of these and think you may still, then scroll past that example.

Aliens (1986 Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn)

The Inciting Incident – Lost contact with the colonists on LV426
The Initial Surface Problem – Colonists are farmed as alien hosts and the marines get attacked by aliens and get their butts kicked.
The Story-Worthy Problem – Trapped in the base, horde of attacking aliens likely to attack at dusk, emergency venting means the base will explode in 14 hours killing everyone—survive.

Stranger than Fiction (2006 Will Ferrel, Emma Thompson)

The Inciting Incident – Harold’s watch stops working and he hears the narrator say that the act of resetting the watch will bring about his imminent death.
The Initial Surface Problem – Harold must find out the other parts of the story the narrator is telling him in hopes of finding a way to change the ending, thus preventing his death.
The Story-Worthy Problem – Harold must leave the calculations and all the rules and all the precision behind and instead learn to suck all the marrow out of life. If he can do that, then it doesn’t matter if he dies.

The Matrix (1999 Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne)

The Inciting Incident – Mr. Anderson’s computer tells him to follow the white rabbit—and he does.
The Initial Surface Problem – Mr. Anderson is taken into custody by Agents where they plant a bug in him, via his navel.
The Story-Worthy Problem – Mr. Anderson needs to become Neo—the One who can save Zion.

Ladyhawke (1985 Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer)

The Inciting Incident – Philippe escapes the prisons of Aquila.
The Initial Surface Problem – He must help Navarre break into Aquila to kill the evil priest who cursed the knight and his lady.
The Story-Worthy Problem – Break the curse.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 Harrison Ford, Karen Allen)

The Inciting Incident – Army intelligence recruits Jones to find the Ark of the Covenant
The Initial Surface Problem – Finding/obtaining the headpiece for the staff of Ra (from his ex, Marion)
The Story-Worthy Problem – Find the Ark before the Nazis do. Prevent them from using it.

King Arthur (2004 Clive Owen, Keira Knightley)

The Inciting Incident – After 15 years of bondage, Bishop Germanius refuses to release the Knights from their service to Rome unless they do one more task.
The Initial Surface Problem – Save a prominent Roman family from the approaching Saxon army (located deep in the north of England and Woad territory).
The Story-Worthy Problem – Arthur’s journey to find his true self and become King of England (starting by defeating the Saxon army).

Star Trek (2009 Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana)

The Inciting Incident – Commander Pike appeals to Kirk’s ego and conflicting feelings about his father, prompting Kirk to join Star Fleet. “Your father was captain of a star ship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives including your mother and yours. I dare you to do better.”
The Initial Surface Problem – A distress call from Vulcan, all cadets called to duty.
The Story-Worthy Problem – Prevent Romulans from obliterating Earth.

The Hunger Games (2012 Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci)

The Inciting Incident – Katniss volunteers.
The Initial Surface Problem – Don’t die.
The Story-Worthy Problem – Win the Hunger Games and keep Peeta alive.

And as all good lessons go, here's a little homework for you.

Your Story: ________________________________________

The Inciting Incident --
The Initial Surface Problem --
The Story-Worthy Problem --

Do you agree with my conclusions? Let me know in the comments or share Your Story with us.

Again, this is what I've gleaned from only a quarter of the book, much more awaits us. Go forth and procure a copy for yourself.

Monday, March 11, 2013

National MS Awareness Week

Burgers and Books for MS

March 11th - 17th is National MS Awareness Week. If you live in Utah or southern Idaho, then there's a good chance that you know someone with MS--this region has an usually high concentration. MS affects one in 300 people in the Utah/Idaho area.

During MS Awareness Week, our Bike MS team Gates’ Gears will be @ Wendy’s on 500 S and 200 W in Bountiful on Wednesday, Mar 13 from 5PM – 8PM to raise funds to eradicate MS. A percentage of all proceeds will be directly donated to the MS Society.


My wife and I have been involved with the Multiple Sclerosis society for many years and in recent years started riding in Bike MS.  A quick plug for Bike MS, you can ride 40, 75, or 100 miles and the course is relatively flat with plenty of rest stops--if you think you can't do it, I think you can. Click here to see a bit more about our story.

Additionally, my most recent book, By Blood Bequeathed is currently available for the Kindle and in paperback. I'm donating all sales from my book during MS Awareness week. It's a great read (if I do say so myself--see the side bar for reviews) and an even greater cause.

Help us create a world free of MS.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Remembering Calvin Blossom

            I’m a young author (in terms of experience) and so much of what I do is geared around building a platform and creating an audience: Facebook, Twitter, this blog, at its core it’s about self-promotion. I hope that I do it in a manner that is rewarding for people and not annoying. But today, I wish to put all that aside and reflect for a moment on a man who was quite the opposite, whose every thought and behavior was geared toward promoting others: Calvin Blossom.

            Calvin worked as a security officer at my business, my day job. It’s with a heavy heart that we mourn his passing. Calvin excelled in his profession, even having won national recognition, but that’s not what he will be remembered most for. Calvin lived not so you would notice his presence (though he certainly noticed yours--more on that in a minute) but lived in a way that you noticed his absence.  He went around doing everything that needed doing, whether it was in his job description or not.

            He was much like the center on the offensive line of a football team. It’s not a glory position, there are no sponsors or sports drink promotions for centers, but without him the core of the football team falls apart. That was Calvin. He felt that his job was not just to preserve the work environment, but to preserve the people who worked there. He knew everyone by name and for many of us, knew about our spouses and children. I said he noticed our lives. It was common for him to hold not only the outer door open for someone but follow them up the stairs to open the inner door as well and you didn't even realize he was there. That's just one example of many. He cared for your well-being, not just as an employee, but as a person, and that’s not in a job description, but it is how I describe Calvin.

            I can’t think of one person who touched more people on my work campus than Calvin did. He was the most genuine and sincerely kind person I've ever known.  As I write this, I keep thinking I need to say more, I need to go on about him and list more and more affirming adjectives and accolades, but the truth is they would all fall short of the greatness of this man. He would be the first to downplay all that I've said, and not so we would look at him and marvel at his humility. He wasn't wired that way. What he did for all of us was not an act or to further an agenda, it was a way of life, an identity.

            Sir, you have more than earned your place in the heavens. Our world is a little darker and a little more grim without you in it, but your memory will burn brightly. I’m sure you won’t heed what I’m about to say. I’m sure you’ll go on watching over us as you always have, but I’ll say it anyway: rest in peace, my friend.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Ain't Nobody Don't No Its National Grammar Day!!!

You like that title? I do (especially the exclamation points) and I think it's perfect for a March 4th post.
In honor of National Grammar Day (March 4th) I'm wearing the shirt depicted below:

You can pick one up for yourself from here.

Much is made of grammar, its uses and misuses and you can draw some very distinct lines between groups: Team Oxford Comma vs. Team Death to the Serial Comma. One of my most visited blog posts was the one I wrote called, Punctuation: Why It Matters and Why It Doesn't second to that is my post on Prescriptive Grammar vs. Descriptive Grammar.

I'm an author, so when it comes to language usage and punctuation, people tend to watch their Ps and Qs around me (and draw assumptions about my ability to play Words With Friends, which I'm not half bad at, but it has less to do with my love of language as it does with a lot of practice at the game).

People who know me like to think of me as an ardent supporter of proper grammar, but my grammar-loving self does these things for myself. I enjoy rolling around in letters and words and the rules to which they subscribe.  I think it's fun. I love word games, I love knowing that the word pulchritude exists and how to use it, and wearing shirts that relate to language, and I'm an ardent student of paronomasia but I do these things for me. There's some weird chemical concoction in my brain that releases endorphins when I engage in such activities; but, I wouldn't begin to hold anyone else to the standards I set for myself (except maybe my kids).

I know the difference between their, there, and they're but sometimes my fingers type out one version quicker than my brain can interject. It doesn't mean I'm in an idiot (there are other indicators for that) it just means I'm human. When I'm preparing a manuscript, I adhere to such prescriptions because there's a professional level of expectation I must meet, but I don't apply that expectation to everything I read or write.

Kory Stamper of harm·less drudg·ery · life inside the dictionary, wrote a great post called A Plea for Sanity this National (US) Grammar Day. I highly recommend it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

We Were Meant to Be Awesome

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I want to be when I grow up. My degree is in American Sign Language. As such, I worked as an ASL Interpreter for a number of years. I've since gone down a different path and although I don't interpret anymore, I consider my years as an interpreter as some of the best years of my life.

In 2006, I started exploring writing. Two thousand seven, I was fortunate enough to land in Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp. There I met other writers who are still my friends today. Outside of my immediate family, the people I care most about are the members of my critique group.

I don't write full time, not yet, but about three weeks ago, I achieved a goal: I published my first book. I bill myself as a writer of contemporary fantasy & horror. Imagine my surprise when my first book is traditional fantasy.

I'm really happy with how it turned out. It's got all the elements that, as a reader, I enjoy. Joss Whedon would approve, I think; the story has a total kick-a** female protagonist. Now, I've got to finish book two--a good problem to have.

As I consider the road that led to where I am today, I ask the question: What am I meant to be? An interpreter? A writer? A . . .

A friend of mine, Robison Wells, recently wrote an article on mental illness: Understanding Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and OCD. He explains how his life changed from Business/MBA/Marketing professional to awesome author who happens to have a mental illness. He gives a unique perspective that many more people need to read. It got me thinking, and I took it to a bit of an extreme--did he need panic disorder, agoraphobia, and OCD in order to change his life path and become what he was meant to be? Is it a fair trade off?

Then I decided--no. I think all we're meant to be is awesome.

Thanks for that lesson, Rob.

Now, let's go forth and be what we were meant to be.

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