Brandon Mull joins Writers for Life

Mull, BrandonI’m very excited to announce that New York Times bestselling author Brandon Mull will be presenting at the WRiters for Life workshop on June 7.
I’ve been working with his scheduling agent for some time now and was surprised and pleased that he can work this into his schedule.
Brandon is the author of the Fablehaven series, the Beyonders series, The Candyshop War Series, Pingo, Pingo and the Playground Bully, Spirit Animals: Wild Born, and the newly released Five Kingdoms Book 1: Sky Raiders.
To register for what is going to be an amazing workshop, go to tinyurl.com/w4lregistration,
But act quickly. Seating is limited to 100 people.

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Josi Kilpack has joined Writers for Life

This workshop is going to be fabulous. Josi Kilpack is the latest speaker. She’s going to teach about internal and external characterization at the Writers for Life Workshop on June 7.

Josi S. Kilpack

ImageJosi grew up in Salt Lake City, graduated from Olympus High School in 1992, and was married not quite a year later to her high-school sweetheart. She began her first novel in 1998 and hasn’t stopped. Her novel, Sheep’s Clothing won the Whitney Award 2007 for Mystery/Suspense and she was the Best In State winner for fiction in 2012. Book eleven in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery series, Fortune Cookie, was released in spring 2014 with the final book in that series, Wedding Cake, to be released in Fall 2014 along with a cook book containing all the recipes featured in the series. Josi currently lives in Willard Utah with her husband Lee and three of their four children—the fourth lives on campus at the University of Utah.

 

More about the Writers for Life Workshop

You’ll learn how to improve your writing and marketing from some pretty awesome authors. All money raised through the workshop will go directly to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to fund research and treatment for those fighting this horrible illness. The cost to attend is a donation of $35 or more to the Huntsman Cancer Institute through my fundraising page. Below are some of the authors who are attending. You don’t want to miss this. Attendance is limited to 100 people so register now! will be held on June 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium of the Northwest Plaza at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (map).

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Writers for Life Workshop

Mark June 7 down on your calendars. It’s a special day when you can do good and learn from some pretty incredible people at the same time. That’s why you need to participate in the Writers for Life Workshop.

You’ll learn how to improve your writing and marketing from some pretty awesome authors. All money raised through the workshop will go directly to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to fund research and treatment for those fighting this horrible illness. The cost to attend is a donation of $35 or more to the Huntsman Cancer Institute through my fundraising page. Below are some of the authors who are attending. You don’t want to miss this. Attendance is limited to 100 people so register now!

The event will be held on June 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium of the Northwest Plaza at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (map).

Here are a few of our presenters. More will be announced as I can.

Brandon Mull

Mull, Brandon

Brandon Mull is the author of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall
Street Journal bestselling Beyonders and Fablehaven series. Brandon resid
es in a happy little valley near the mouth of a canyon with his wife and four children. He spent two years living in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile where he learned Spanish and juggling. He once won a pudding eating contest in the park behind his grandma’s house, earning a gold medal.

Jenni James

Jenni JamesJenni James is the author of the Jane Austen Diaries and the her Faerie Tale Collection. She is a mom of seven rambunctious children (including teenagers!).  They live in Utah. A few years ago they moved back to the States after living nine awesome years in the Azores Islands of Portugal and England!  Her kids love the USA!
When Jenni’s not writing up a storm, she enjoy reading, acting, portrait painting, directing plays, cooking, planning eleborate parties, and chasing her kids around the house. She also finds time to practice her awesome ninja skills and expert pirating techniques—She secretly dreams of becoming a master at both.

Josi S. Kilpack

ImageJosi grew up in Salt Lake City, graduated from Olympus High School in 1992, and was married not quite a year later to her high-school sweetheart. She began her first novel in 1998 and hasn’t stopped. Her novel, Sheep’s Clothing won the Whitney Award 2007 for Mystery/Suspense and she was the Best In State winner for fiction in 2012. Book eleven in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery series, Fortune Cookie, was released in spring 2014 with the final book in that series, Wedding Cake, to be released in Fall 2014 along with a cook book containing all the recipes featured in the series. Josi currently lives in Willard Utah with her husband Lee and three of their four children—the fourth lives on campus at the University of Utah.

Lisa Mangum

author photoLisa Mangum has worked with books ever since elementary school, when she volunteered at the school library during recess. Her first paying job was shelving books at the Sandy Library. She worked for five years at Waldenbooks while she attended the University of Utah, graduating with honors with a degree in English. An avid reader of all genres, she has worked in the publishing department for Deseret Book since 1997.

Besides books, Lisa loves movies, spending time with her family, trips to Disneyland, and vanilla ice cream topped with fresh raspberries. She lives in Taylorsville, Utah, with her husband, Tracy.

She is the author of four award-winning books: the Hourglass Door trilogy and After Hello.

J. Scott Savage

bioscottsJ. Scott Savage is the author of the Farworld middle grade fantasy series and the Case File 13 middle grade monster series. He has been writing and publishing books for over ten years. He has visited over 400 elementary schools, dozens of writers conferences, and taught many writing classes. He has four children and lives with his wife Jennifer and their Border Collie, Pepper, in a windy valley of the Rocky Mountains.

The Writers for Life Workshop will help writers hone their craft while raising money for a worthy cause. The event will be held on June 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium of the Northwest Plaza at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (map).

This is a great lineup and the awesome will keep on coming. Register now.

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Married white male seeking companionship

I’ve been cruising the personal ads behind my wife’s back.
I’m looking for someone with a quiet temperament, who loves the outdoors, and preferably someone who has already been spayed or neutered. I want a dog.
That may sound silly from a grown man, especially from one as ambivalent as man’s best friend as I am. But I do.
I like the idea of a dog, but I hate drool, poop, and dog food. I’ve written columns about neighbors who let their animals do their duty in my yard. I’ve also written about the abominable punt dogs that have bitten me over the years. I’ve never been bitten by a big dog, just by yappy little ones. I can’t stand those kinds of dogs.
I had a dog when I was a child, a dog of undetermined heritage that wandered onto my dad’s farm. I saw that dog every other weekend and two weeks in the summer. My wife had a dog that was part German shepherd, part wolf. She has stories about that dog that border on the supernatural, especially when it comes to candy.
About a decade ago I started trying to get a dog for our family. I could see myself taking this animal out on hikes with me, sleeping next to it, playing with it… You get the idea.
The first two my wife didn’t like–don’t buy a dog when you’re wife is pregnant and she’s home all day with it. Trust me. They were out quick. About nine years ago my wife took the children to the shelter and brought home Hawkeye, the world’s smartest dog. He’s part Aussie shepherd, part border collie. He takes commands in two languages, finds children when asked, tattles on children and keeps them on task when cleaning their room.
He’s almost perfect–except I can’t touch him. If I touch Hawkeye he pees all over. There will be a huge puddle, and he’ll run off leaving a trail of wet child’s cursive on the carpet behind him. I’ve tried working with him. For awhile we had special treats that I was the only one who gave them to him, I have taken him running with me, I’ve tried waiting for him to approach me, which he will. But, it’s always a game of Russian roulette of I try to pet him. He’s not really my dog. He fears me, but loves my wife.
Shortly after getting Hawkeye I went to an animal shelter to do a story. My contact wasn’t there yet so I wandered through the cages looking at the dogs. I wandered up and down the aisles as dogs jumped and barked. One dog caught my eye. He was a medium-sized yellow dog. He sat quietly watching me. I knelt down in front of the cage and he pressed his head against the cage. I scratched his ear for a few minutes. I looked at my watch and realized it was time to meet with my contact. I stood up to walk away. The dog turned around and put his paws up on the cage. With his eyes he said, “No! Wait! We made a connection.” I knew he was right, but I didn’t dare bring home another dog. I’ve missed him for years.
So, that still leaves me wanting a dog. Part of me wants to go to the shelter hoping for another such experience. Another part would love to find a wolf hybrid and raise him to be my dog. Either way, I’m cruising the listings on KSL hoping my wife doesn’t check the browser’s cache.

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On learning to write well.

It’s been a little while since I last wrote. I’ve been to Scout camps and trying to catch up. Someone recently asked me for advice about writing, and I sent the following. I thought it was sound advice (but we usually feel that way about our own work) so I thought it could go here.

If your goal is to sell a novel, you’ll need to improve your craft. As far as time management is concerned, take something with you everywhere you go. I write my novel for 45 minutes each day on the bus. I use my iPad with a wireless keyboard. I read books on the elevator, at lunch, even when I’m walking.
What I’m going to suggest won’t sound like writing, but if you sharpen your ax first, it cuts the tree down faster.
1- When it comes to spelling, look it up. There are two kinds of really good editors. Those who know everything, and those who check everything. If you’re not certain, look it up, and don’t trust spell check. I think that’s how captor became capture.
2- Read a book on style. Just pick one and use it. I started off learning Associated Press style. Now I use Chicago. I’d suggest buying a Chicago Style manual and reading it. Mark everything you don’t know. Underline, write in the margins, make it yours. Don’t worry about the important principles you already know. Just mark the things you don’t know but should. You’re not going to remember all of this, but hopefully when you come across the situation as you write, you’ll stop and say, “I know I saw something about this,” and go look it up.
3- Keep a notebook. Make a list of words you commonly misspell. Write them in the notebook and look there. It will be faster than using the dictionary. Write grammar rules in the notebook, too.
4- Study the craft of writing. Read books about writing. Read books about grammar and usage (Eats Shoots and Leaves is a great one, so is Lapsing into a Comma).
5- Read good books. These books will help you learn how to write. You’ll absorb phrases, turns of language and characterization and plot development.
6- Read in your genre. If you’re a YA fantasy writer, then read YA fantasy. See what successful authors are doing. Don’t copy them, but see what works. J.K. Rowling is a master of internal consistency. Trivial details in book 1 are hugely important in book 3. Throwaway comments in book 5 are vital clues to book 7. Don’t write Harry Potter. Learn to add such great elements of foreshadowing in your own novel.
7- Read critically. You should read like you eat. Make it varied, and really taste it going down. Once you do, you’ll realize you really like certain things, and really hate other things. Stop and ask yourself why. Analyze what you’re reading. Ernie Pyle is a master of show don’t tell. Neal A. Maxwell was the king of alliteration. If something really bothers you find out why. I detest Claire M. Poulson novels because he artificially creates suspense by withholding details from the reader—details that are painfully clear to the reader. I can’t stand Tina Monson’s Liahona Legacies because none of the children in the books use contractions. It’s like they were all raised by Data from Star Trek.
8- Copy the style of the masters. If you’re stuck, ask yourself how Hemingway, Faulkner, Muir (or even Poulson if he’s you’re hero) would write this passage. It will help you uncover a distinctive voice. I’m not telling you to go rewrite a book by Dickens. I’m telling you to borrow his voice to find yours.

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Getting high

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I like to get high – preferably about 12,000 feet or more above sea level.
I love to hike in general. But there’s something special about hiking to a peak. There’s a process that cleanses the grime of civilization out of my soul. Last year I finished hiking to the highest peak in each of Utah’s counties. Kind of cool since Utah means “people of the mountains” in Ute.
I usually start out in the early morning while it’s cool. The sun isn’t up yet, or it has just barely started peaking over the nearby mountains.
Before starting a hike, I usually warn my partners that I don’t like stopping to rest. I’m the tortoise on these treks. I pick a pace and stay with it. It’s usually a fairly quick one because when I go slowly my legs itch and I can’t take it at that speed. I usually save my rests for the summit.
These hikes usually begin in a pleasant forest and the trail is usually pretty flat at this point. Everything is cool, fairly green and generally pleasant.
Eventually the forest gives way to scrub oak, sagebrush and other plants. The trail becomes hot and dusty and starts to rise up the face of a mountain. I usually cross back and forth on switchbacks
as the day starts to heat up.
At this point the hike usually isn’t so pleasant. I push on, knowing what awaits me, and eventually I’ll arrive on a shoulder of the mountain. I continue my walk. The trail is a little flatter now.
The view improves. I can usually see for miles at this point.
I’m usually high enough that the contours of the land become clear. The valleys and mountains blend together like a 3-D topographical map on a computer. I was 12, walking on a ridge with my dad as he hunted for deer the first time I noticed this. I have no idea why this view strikes me so. But at this point, all my troubles and problems seem small as the cars that look like gnats moving on little black lines a few thousand feet below. I know the air is thinner up here but my lungs feel full and I feel lighter as I leave the carcasses of my troubles lying beside the trail.
Usually the trail starts rising again but it’s not as nice as it was the last time.
The switchbacks are more of meanders that go almost straight up. The trail is rockier and now I’m in scree and talus. I don’t like either of these things. But if I had to pick, I’d go for the talus. They’re both rocks. But talus are larger boulders you can walk on. You
have to be careful, because one can shift and leave you with a twisted ankle. Scree, which really is a four-letter word in my book, is nasty.
It’s small and when you take a step up on it, you slide back down half a step. It’s
dusty, hot and hard to deal with. Your shoes fill with pebbles and you end up feeling like you’re wading through the rocks more than hiking.
But eventually you get through this part and arrive on the mountaintop. It’s usually kind of chilly here. I once started a hike in 80-degree weather. About 5,000 feet and 6 miles later it was 28
degrees with wind-chill factor.
I usually bring a sweatshirt, a hat, gloves and a windbreaker. I sit and enjoy the view. I can now see for miles and miles. I don’t know for sure, but I sometimes imagine I can see the curve of the earth. I think that this is how God sees things. I can see the cities and the freeways full of cars hurrying along, but there’s no sound here.
The chaos is gone and I can see how the cities and roads fit together. I usually eat a meal on the summit. It’s a chance to sit and enjoy the view.
My friends and I will usually try to call our spouses to say hi, and to see if we get service. We forego this activity if there are other people on the peak. There’s nothing more obnoxious in nature than someone yelling into a phone.
Of course, that’s only half the hike. I eventually start back down. My goal at this point is usually getting back to the car. I’m even less likely to stop for a rest. My goal is rest at this point. Not the kind that ends with another hike ahead, but my final rest in my car.
A couple of friends and I have a tradition to stop afterwards at a cafe. You know, the ones that smell like Folgers and bacon. Not fresh, but after decades of serving up breakfast, it smells like that all day long. They also have about six calendars hanging on the walls. We’ll grab a well-earned meal and head home with heads and hearts rejuvenated and ready to change the world once again.
That’s why I have to head for the hills every so often.

 

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140 miles of pain, sweat, and triumph

Now that I’ve had a few days to think about what happened, it’s time to talk about the Huntsman 140.
In December 2009 my mom had cancer. She had decided against treatment because she had gone through chemotherapy once before and decided she had no interest in doing that again. I told her at that time that I would do something to raise money for cancer research. That made her pretty excited. She passed away six months later. The following year my grandfather died from pneumonia. I laid that at cancer’s doorstep because he had spent the past 20 years with only half a lung. It strengthened my resolve.

Mom’s necklace, which I wore during the ride. I also carried my grandpa’s pocketknife.

I have always enjoyed riding my bike, and I thought I’d try to find something that involved that to keep my promise. I found the Huntsman 140, a noncompetitive ride from Delta, Utah, to Salt Lake City. It sounded challenging, but doable. Besides, it wasn’t a race. In high school races made me so nervous I couldn’t handle it.
I broke down and bought a pair of bicycle shorts, something I had felt embarrassed about wearing. Doing that bought me membership into the cyclist’s club. Now other cyclists wave at me as I ride by. I was in, even though I can’t afford a nice bike. I rode around on a red Fuji Arcadia. It’s a 10-speed bike that’s almost 30 years old and wore a triathlon T-shirt I got from an auction at a newspaper.
During my rides I learned to dread headwinds. I watched the weather all week, concerned that it said “breezy,” but consoled that it said the winds were south-southwest. Then I changed the location to Delta. Winds from the north at 10 mph. Ouch. Headwinds.
On Saturday I gathered with dozens of other cyclists and received an official jersey. Now I really looked like a real cyclist—that or a low-grade superhero. The group was a mix of those wearing orange jerseys (ride participants) and yellow jerseys (ride participants who were cancer survivors). I like yellow better than orange, but the price for that jersey is much more than I want to pay.

Me, proudly sporting my new jersey and ready to ride.

So at 7 a.m. we headed out of Delta. I was in a large group and the winds didn’t feel quite as bad. I stayed with the group for the first 35 miles. I don’t know exactly what happened at that time. It may have been that the hills got steep, it might have been that my legs got tired, it may have been that I didn’t react well to the Gu energy gel I tried for the first time, but started falling back in the pack. Soon I was spit out the back like a quarter passing through a snake.
Once you’re out of a paceline the wind is worse. I kept pedaling and started passing others who had fallen out of the pack. We rode together until the final hill before Eureka when it became every man for himself as we just tried to get up it.
I arrived at the aid station and saw that everyone was still there. I filled up my water, grabbed a little food and took off, determined to get as far as I could before they passed me again so I wouldn’t be so far behind. I figured I could rest as I rode downhill to Elberta. Unfortunately, the headwind was blowing so hard that it wasn’t a great rest.
I trudged up the west side of Utah Lake, still dealing with a headwind. Now I was by myself. Five and a half hours in, my back was aching, and the pedal clips were killing my toes. I was in a fair amount of pain and knew I was running out of time to get to the lunch stop before the cut-off time.
A sag wagon came by and I got in, glad to get away from the drudgery. But I was ashamed I hadn’t made it in time to do it on my own.
After I ate I took off ahead of the pack again, hoping to keep somewhat near them. For the rest of the ride they would zoom ahead, and I would catch up at the next rest stop. Many thoughts went through my head. Why was I doing this? Would a better bike make a difference? How could I ride the whole way?
I caught up the final time as they started Echo’s mile. I joined the pack for a very slow ride up the final hill to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. As we came into view of the medical center the crowd roared. A band played “I’m Gonna Be” by the proclaimers, one of my favorite songs. Cyclists began pounding each other on the back, which was fairly dangerous since were were all wobbly from the slow pace. I rode around the circle to the finish line. My children cheered as they ran up to me, but I was overcome. I handed my bike to my oldest and sat down under a tree.

It had been so hard. I poured my water over my head and started feeling better. So many emotions washed over me: relief at having finished, gratitude for all the support and the cheering after so many empty miles, amazement at all the cancer survivors who kept pushing through greater pain and tribulation than I had experienced that day, and a real desire to do those last few miles. I was still nauseous as I laid out my plan to my wife.

Me at the finish line.

After the party and the dinner, I got back on my bike and rode out to Sandy. I stopped once my bike computer read 140 miles. I finished.
Two days later my muscles were still sore, but my brain started talking to me, convincing me that I could complete the Lotoja. The hardest part would be getting in. Maybe I could even enter as a Hometown Hero and raise more money for cancer. I could rent a nice bike from a shop for the actual race. So yesterday morning I got on my old ten-speed and started up American Fork Canyon.

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