By day I work 60 hour weeks. At night I am a devoted father and husband to the world's greatest family. Somewhere in the non-existent time between the two, I am a writer. Join me from the beginning as I chronicle my adventures to become a successful published author.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 50 - Interview with Tristi Pinkston, Blog Bash Winner, and More! - Writing Wisdom

Alright, so there are four major things to cover today, but one one is lengthy:

1) It finally happened. For the first time since this blog was created, I missed a blog post! Yesterday, day 49, I simply could not get an interview quick enough. However, the ever awesome an wonderful Tristi Pinkston, author of 6 books and the Secret Sisters mystery series agreed to do an interview. As I knew the interview was in progress, I made the decision to post it today. So yes, I missed a day... but I was working on it, so I count it as a tardy!

2) Interview with Tristi will be below. She has some really great answers and in the midst of my hard day today, she made me laugh. So thanks a million Tristi!

3) Blog Bash Winner! I am two days late, and I apologize. I think me saying it's been crazy busy is probably redundant now, as it should be apparent that my life is... interesting. To top it off,  I drowned my work phone in water yesterday. No joke. Was submerged for a good 20 minutes before I realized what was happening.

Anyway... drumroll.... the winner is...:

Renae W. Mackley!

 Congratulations Renae! You have won two all natural bath bombs/fizzies from Serendipity Gourmet Bath! Contact me at to arrange for your prize!

4) Another "it finally happened" moment. I lost my first follower. No idea who it was, other than I believe it was one my the new people from the blog bash. I am totally comfortable with this, though there is still a very tiny twinge of sadness. However, the Blog Bash brought people from multiple interests in the blogosphere, and I certainly understand that perhaps a dedicated writing blog isn't everyone's cup of tea.

As an FYI, the writing wisdom for today is short and sweet due to the interview and other items:

One of my favorite quotes growing up was from Mark Twain. He once said:

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
I think it would be hard to argue this point, and he said it so beautifully too. Sometimes lightning bugs are beautiful. They are beautiful if you don't look too closely, and there are tons of them. Lightning on the other hand is not just a pretty glow, it's an illuminating blast that can light our path and shake our world. We don't always need to have lightning, but sometimes we know there is "the right word" for a certain segment in our writing. Don't get lazy or frustrated. Mark it in red to come back to later if you must, but don't let it go.


Tristi Pinkston is the author of six novels. Originally beginning in historical fiction, she has since expanded to mysteries and romantic suspense. Additionally, she has taken the experience she has had with publishing and editing and turned it into a side business as an editor, virtual book tour coordinator, and online writing instructor. Further, she sends out a weekly email to those who have signed up for weekly writing tips. You can visit her main website at, where you will find links to her books, services, blog, and more!

Matt: When did you first fall in love with writing?
Tristi: When I was about five.  I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer—it’s just always been a part of me.
Matt: When did you begin earnest work on your first novel?
Tristi: In 1999.  I had dabbled with writing up until then, but I hadn't hit on an idea that felt really right to me.  The plot for my first novel, Nothing to Regret, actually came to me as part of a dream, and when I woke up, I knew I’d found something I could work with.

Matt: Did you have much support from those around you initially?
Tristi: Yes and no.  My parents were supportive, but my husband wasn’t so sure at first.  He wondered if it would actually bring in money, but then he started to notice how happy it was making me, and became supportive because he knew it was bringing me joy. I’m sorry to say that some of my friends didn’t take it too well, but I’ve made wonderful new friends through the writing community.

Matt: What struggles did you face trying to finish your first novel? Do you feel it's easier now? Why?
Tristi: When you’re first writing, there’s so much to learn.  I had to get a handle on plotting and transitioning, and that was a struggle for me at times.  I also dealt with self-doubt, the fact that my research hadn’t uncovered certain facts I needed to know, etc. Now it’s easier because I know how to keep from making certain mistakes in the first place—I can now write in three drafts instead of eight—and I have the elements down.  But there are still struggles.  I worry that my next book won’t be as good as my last one, I worry about how to effectively market, I worry about having enough time to write.  I’d say that there are challenges at every stage.  They just are a little different.

Matt: How many rejection letters did you go through at first?
Tristi: My story is unique in that I actually didn’t go through too many.  I was rejected by Deseret Book, Covenant had it for a year and a rewrite before deciding against it, and then I had an offer from another company, but they needed me to help pay for the printing, and I decided not to go that route.  Then I approached Granite, and they picked it up.  So I didn’t have
to look as long and as hard as some others.  I did literally have a baby while I waited for Covenant to get back with me, though.  J
Matt: You've written six novels, but the last two have been the beginning of a mystery series (I love mystery series!) called Secret Sisters. Had this idea been boiling for a while?
Tristi: I hadn't intended to write mysteries.  In fact, when I started out my career, I thought I’d be happy for the rest of my life writing historical fiction.  I still love historical fiction and will continue to write it, but when the idea for Secret Sisters hit, I knew I had to run with it.  Let’s see … I got the idea probably four years ago.  Our former stake leadership had asked us to find out who in our wards had food storage and 72-hour kits so they’d know who needed help in getting prepared, and some ward members felt that was nosy, that they were being spied on.  My husband and I were talking about the situation, and suddenly
I said, “What if home teachers and visiting teachers really were spying on people?” That sparked off a hysterical conversation that became the basis for the book.

Matt: What are your plans for the series?
Tristi: The series is all written and just waiting for publication.  The next book, Hang ‘em High, takes Ida Mae and her friends to a dude ranch in Montana.  That one will be released at the end of July/early August.  The fourth book, Targets in Ties, will come out in November and is set in Mexico.  When Ida Mae, Tansy, and Arlette travel south of the border to pick Ren up from his mission, you know something wild is going to happen.  The fifth book, Till Death Do Us Part, concludes the series and ties up all the plot arcs,romantic and otherwise. I don’t know exactly when it’s coming out yet – I would presume spring of next year.

Matt: Where and how do you write (ie, in a recliner, outside, whenever you can, block time, listening to music, etc)?
Tristi: I have a laptop and I sometimes write sitting up in bed, but my most effective writing takes place right here at my desktop computer on my ball chair and with my ergonomic keyboard.  I can’t listen to music when I write—I have to sing along when there’s music, and I can’t sing and write at the same time.  I usually write late at night after the kids are in bed.

Matt: What is your favorite moment you've had as an author?
Tristi: I’ve had several.  I love it when people tell me I kept them up all night because they were reading my book and couldn’t put it down.  I’ve gotten to meet amazing people that I’ve looked up to for years.  One was meeting John Bytheway – he’d read one of the manuscripts I submitted to Deseret Book and really liked it, so he was excited to meet me, which was new and unusual for me.  Usually I’m the one excited to meet famous people, not the other way around.  I’ve also gotten to see several authors that I’ve mentored become published – that’s so neat.

Matt: The most embarrassing?
Tristi: Any time I say something stupid when I’m presenting.  One was while teaching dialogue to the League of Utah Writers.I was trying to demonstrate chit-chat and how it doesn't work in a book.  I asked one of the audience members (Keith Fisher) how he’d arrived at the meeting.  I meant to ask, “Did you fly in a plane, or did you come by boat?” What I actually said was, “Did you fly a boat?”  Um … yeah, that one got Tweeted pretty instantly.

Matt: The worst? 
Tristi: Some of the worst moments are when I feel I’m not living up to my potential, or when I feel I have and I still didn’t quite hit what I was trying for.  It’s hard when you’ve given your absolute all to something and it wasn’t quite good enough.

Matt: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Tristi: Shut the mouth and open the ears.  In my work as an editor, I have seen the difference between authors who listen and implement, and authors who want to defend every little thing and never make changes for the betterment of their book. The more you listen to sound advice from those who know what they are talking about, the stronger your writing will be. No one writes perfectly out of the gate, and you need to be willing to continually work to hone your craft.

Matt: What are you working on right now in terms of writing?
Tristi: I’m working on several things, actually.  First is a YA contemporary novel—something I never thought I’d write, but I got the idea and here I am.  Second is a nonfiction inspirational book geared toward women which will be released around Mother’s Day next year.  My other project is a new series, a spin-off of The Secret Sisters Mysteries.  Two FBI agents go to Utah to bring down a Mafia family, and they have to learn how to act like Mormons so they can blend in.  Oh, and there’s a cookbook that goes along with the Secret Sisters series, too.

Matt: Can you share a short piece? 
Tristi: Oh, sure.  Why not?  This is a snippet from Marigolds and Murder, the first book in the new series. Jack and Molly are working undercover in a floral shop.  They are FBI agents, not shopkeepers, and Molly isn’t even remotely craftsy.  This is what happens when she can’t arrange a dozen roses in a vase:

            After twenty agonizing minutes, all twelve roses were in the vase, and Molly was in tears.  No matter what she did, the arrangement looked terrible.  She wasn’t cut out for this.  She had tried to tell Agent Blevins, but he seemed to think it was the easiest thing in the world.
            She grabbed one of the bows Esther had left behind and jammed it into the vase.  It was like putting a silk negligee on a Jersey cow—didn’t matter how you dressed it up, it was still ugly.  She pulled her gun out of its holster, took a stance, and leveled the barrel.
            “So, you’re gonna be a wise guy, are you? You’re gonna mess with my head, are you? Well, go ahead. Make my day.”
            She heard the back door to the shop open behind her.  Jack came to her side.  “Honey, we can’t shoot the flowers.”
            “Why not? They’re behaving illegally all over the place.”
            “I’m sure they are, but I don’t think shooting them is the answer.”
Matt: Any final words for our readers and your devotees?
Tristi: Never give up.  Never surrender. And thank you for this fun opportunity, Matthew!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 48 - Scheduling Interviews - Monday Musings

So I have a confession to make. I haven't done an interview for tomorrow. To be honest, I have yet to schedule an interview for tomorrow's blog. To be completely truthful, I haven't even thought about it all week. *breathe*

It's true, I forgot. Somehow though I am going to pull through. I know lots of great authors and bloggers, and I know I'll get a great interview. I have some extra time to do it tomorrow too. So who will be interviewed? It's a surprise... even to me!

This is definitely the biggest thing I am trying to work on. I don't mean just the interview scheduling. I mean working ahead in general. We'll see how it goes as I take steps to get ahead on all the blog days I can!

***Cindy Hogan Blog Bash Winners: I am running behind. The winner will be announced tomorrow!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 47 - Blog Tweaks - Self Improvement

My wife kept pointing out that I had failed to update the progress meter on the blog, so I went ahead and made the adjustments today. I also made some slight modifications to the original coding to make it easier in the future to make adjustments, plus I added the commas for sets of threes in large digits. Minor things, but still long term time-savers.

Also, after much searching and trial and error I have rectified the worst of the stretched image issues on the front/summary post page. Now book covers and similarly sized images look clean and are small. Unfortunately, wide images, such as panoramic photos, are now squished. I have some ideas on how to resolve it, but after spending 20 minutes figuring out how, I am done for the night. If anyone has any ideas, I appreciate it. Here is the coding in question:
<p><script type='text/javascript'>
summary_noimg = 800;
summary_img = 500;
img_thumb_height = 145;
img_thumb_width = 90;
<script type='text/javascript'>
Originally, thumb height was something like 350 and width was 640, or some such. I adjusted those numbers until a book cover looked good and was thumbnail size. What I would like is for it to have a min/max range such that it auto-sizes images within certain parameters. Again, if you read this and know what to do, let me know! I know it's something simple, but I simply can't figure it out right now!

Finally, twitter is moving along. Learning the ropes more. This week I'll start following more people, including those who've followed me. I promise it's a time issue, not an ignoring issue.

Day 46 - So Sleepy - Week End Report

About to pass out here, so let me simply update on writing progress:

9,172/80,000 as of my writing today. That puts progress at 11.47%. Not bad.:-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 45 - Writer's Weekly World Review - Week Ending June 24, 2011

Welcome to Writer's Weekly World Review for the week ending June 24, 2011.

It was hard to narrow it down to just the top five for the week this time around, but check out what's happening below:

1) What happens when you combine low eBook prices and a great review in a newspaper? Try a 2,000 % increase in sales over just a few days:

2) Many of us don't have the time nor ability to go to myriads of writing seminars, conventions, and more. Writer's Digest however has just announced they are bringing back their tutorials, which are online. Continue you education, broaden your literary ability, and all from the comfort of your pajamas! Note, it's not cheap, but compared to conferences, pretty good. Also, there are lots of "previews" so you can still learn in bite sized pieces:

3) Do you like book signings? Have you ever happened upon one by sheer happy accident? Well, the days of easily accessing your favorite author may be ending as a more European approach is on the horizon in the US: Paid author signing and readings. That's right. Want to see you favorite author? Pricing begins at $5. Are we going to stay free and accessible, or follow Europe? The market will decide:

4) St. Marks is an iconic bookstore of American literary culture. And it looks to be on its way out. They just let go all part-time employees and cut hours back on the full time. Now they and others are pleading for people to not buy online. I don't feel comfortable with the begging personally. I am sorry, but innovation has come, and most people prefer ease of access online more than they would the expertise of a great book store clerk. I love book stores, but I don't see that begging will help many of them:

5) One of the biggest news items was the announcement by J.K. Rowling of "Pottermore", an online community and marketplace centered around a single franchise. I was speaking with someone about a similar concept just the other month (maybe even posted about it here?), so I find it interesting to note it was already being developed. That is to say, the next big experiment would be marketing a franchise AND social media into a single comprehensive website and shop. There are many possible outgrowths of this, so we'll have to see how they play out. There are many news stories on this, but if you haven't already seen it, why don't you get it straight from J.K Rowling in a very creative 2 minute video:

Like I said, lots happening this week!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 44 - Tweet Deck and Book Lights - Hard Knocks

Okay, so normally I post on Thursday's about some difficulty I have faced, some challenge I need to overcome. Today though, I thought I would briefly talk about how little things have made a big difference in my time this week, giving me a few less knocks.

The first is that if you read my Sunday post, you would know I signed up for Twitter, then installed TweetDeck. This software is, to put it simply, awesome. I have it on my laptop and my phone. Now, rather than go to multiple sites and view extended versions of items, I have this great one stop shop for all of my social media (which at this point in time is Twitter and Facebook), and everything is in shorter form and list views, making it super easy for me to get all of my updates. Before I spent more time than I liked trying to read through Facebook, and twitter would only have added to it. Now I do one minute here and there throughout the day, and I've freed up half an hour to an hour to write and spend family time. Hard to beat that, and it was free!

The second "life hack" that I am using is a classic: a book light. I hadn't had time to read books for quite a while. Now, each night when I go to sleep, I flip on the book light and read at least one chapter of a thriller. What a difference it makes! I'm not committed to nightly chapters per say, but it feels great to read and remember why I love thrillers again! Thankfully, my wonderful wife is either sleeping past the light or she is sweet and tries to ignore it. Either way, I've made my day that much more efficient.

What tools and techniques have you been using or heard about to make your life easier?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 43 - How Morals Affect Our Use of Technique: Part II - Writing Wisdom

I finished off last week's Writing Wisdom with the following:
The question with all of these techniques is when and how do we use them in our own writing? Should it always be purely what suits us at the moment or what will get the most sales or start the most conversations? I believe that after a story forms itself in our minds, the very next step we should take is to decide if it can fit within our moral framework. This is not to say that the world, characters, and storyline need to be set in Christian or Muslim setting. It is saying that if you believe in the importance of chastity, you won't be promoting infidelity and teen sex even if your characters may engage in it.
Continuing on this path, after we decide if the story fits within our moral (or lack thereof) framework, we are then presented with the questions of how to write the story. 1st person limited, 1st person omniscient, dark and brooding, light and humorous, thoughtful, action packed, etc. The same story can be told in a myriad of ways. It could actually be quite the fun short story collection... hmmm...

Then, while writing the story, we will repeatedly encounter the question of what type of description we will use and  how far we will take it. So how do our morals affect this decision?

One of the classic examples of how morals affect writing is The Twilight Saga from Stephenie Meyers. There is a lot romance and some violence events. The book series was wildly popular, especially in the Young Adult age group. And yet how many scenes used the technique of graphic realism to describe sex or violence. Did you read detailed descriptions of werewolves eviscerating their prey, the texture of their human prey's pulsing intestines while they were consumed and the victim's reactions to this? No, of course you didn't. And why was this? Certainly there were plenty of opportunities to do so!

The answer is that the morals which are held by Stephenie Meyers, both in what she would write and for what audience, precluded such descriptions. Instead, she used realism to create a mythos that felt plausible despite it's fantasy aspects. No graphic realism of blood, guts, and sex needed. Additionally, there was no hyper-fantasy. The world was real and relatable, so using it to describe the world was not needed.

Now, it has been argued by some that Mrs. Meyers did create an unrealistic emotional ideal, one that some have claimed is dangerous in setting the wrong expectations of what love feels like. Perhaps this is so, though many of the same people happen to hate Barbie, Cinderella, and other such characters who live enchanted lives (or have magically impossible proportions...). I would argue that love and a new element to your world may cause intense feelings, and the series doesn't deal with the marriage a hundred years later, it deals with being young and in love.

However, Twilight does use an element of graphic realism in the emotional side. This fit in fine with Meyer's personal moral boundaries, but for some it has been called emotional pornography. Think the teen version of a romance/bodice ripper. She does occasionally spend a lot of time on emotions and what Bella is feeling, perhaps more than is normal. It's hard for me to judge, because some women I have talked to said it was too much, others have said they analyze their emotions and put that much depth into them all the time. I'm a manly man, so hard for me to relate, but I think it's apparent it varies person to person.

I chose Twilight to apply these techniques because it fits multiple categories that began this whole series: it is a YA novel, geared toward the older YA. It is dark. It is paranormal. It is edgy. And it is by most standards clean and clearly does or does not use the descriptive techniques we have discussed over the last few weeks.

I am personally working on an political-action thriller. I have already had many opportunities to use hyper-fantasy and graphic realism. But I don't. It would make the setting and people unbelievable if I tried either in most of the novel, messing with pacing and believability. For my novel, that's important. I know it is less important in other genres. This is not to say it will not have dark moments, violence, and seedy underpinnings in part (though I don't see too much of that in this novel due to the setting). People will die. Already there are terrible scenes of women and children being shot and killed. A hundred million die across the globe and it highlights the human suffering of children, infants, and parents. There is corruption. There is betrayal. There may even be love.

And thus ends this mini-series on the Morals in Writing, part of the weekly Writing Wisdom feature on Wednesday. I am certain it will have a second mini-series later, but for now I hope it has helped some readers clarify how morals can affect their writing and what a few options are to describe what their characters are seeing and feeling.

A final question for the readers of this blog: How have morals affected your writing? Has it affected the story, how you describe events, or have you simply not cared?

*** Contest Reminder: Today is day two of the Watched  Blog Bash. If you haven't already, visit the other blogs and support an author! Go to for more information!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 42 - PRIZES and Blog Blast with Cindy M. Hogan!

Cindy M. Hogan, who was interview last Tuesday, is doing a special Blog Blast with many prizes involved for participants in celebration of her book release for Watched and it's amazing success. Support a new author in Cindy and let's keep her momentum going!

You could win lots of awesome prizes and learn about the hottest new teen novel while making new friends! The following is the contest summary from Cindy herself! Oh, FYI... comment about my blog on her blog... a lot. If you think my blog is awesome, take 30 seconds and say why on Cindy's blog and spread the word.

Each of the following blogs is offering a different awesome prize (That's 14 prizes)!

And the Grand Prize is... a $25 dollar gift card to Amazon.

 Quick, Fast Entry
Pick a blog, any blog to get started
(just click on the underlined name)
Better hurry! There's only 4 days to enter -Tues., June 21st-Friday, June 24th
 **(Need more details? More complete entry details at the bottom of the page)

1.   Follow Rachelle Writes and leave a comment.   Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Rachelle's blog. (If you do both you get 1 entry into Rachelle's contest and one into the Grand Prize contest-You Must do both to enter either)
2.   Follow A Writer's Reality and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Melissa's blog.
3.   Follow Day Dreamer and leave a comment.
Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Christine's blog.
4.  Follow The Queen of the Clan and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Danyelle's blog.
5.   Follow Jordan McCollum and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Jordan's blog.
6.  Follow The Crazy Daze of Motherhood and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Jane's blog.
7.  Follow I am a Pistachio and leave a comment.
Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Rebecca's blog.
8.   Follow Chasing Dreams and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Tamara's blog.
9.   Follow Ramblings of a Random Writer and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Betsy's blog.
10. Follow Matthew Tandy-The Working Writer and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Matthew's blog. Matt will be giving away two full-sized bath bombs from Serendipity Gourmet Bath.
11 Follow Weaving a Tale or Two and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Donna's blog.
12. Follow Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Tristi's blog.
13. Follow My Yellow Sandbox and leave a comment. Then follow  Cindy M Hogan and leave a comment about Abby's blog.
14. Follow Watched and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M Hogan and leave a comment about that blog.
13. Enter all 14 contests and you get an extra 5 entries into the Grand Prize Giveaway. (19 entries)
14. That's not all! Get 6 extra entries by buying Watched here (print book) or here (e-book) and sending her a copy of your confirmation cindymhogan at yahoo dot com. Easy peasy.   Wow! That's 25 entries!
Have fun and good luck!

* Summary Details on How to Enter
  • Click on the blog name
  • Follow that blog
  • Leave a comment that you were there 
  • Jump over to Cindy's blog
  • Leave a comment about what you liked about the other blog. 
  • Congratulations! You've entered that blog's contest and earned one entry into the Grand Prize Drawing!
Enter one. Enter two or how ever many you like, but...
If you enter all the blogs' contests you get a bonus 5 entries into the Grand Prize Drawing.
That gives you a total of 19 entries to win the
Grand Prize- A $25 gift card to Amazon.

Don't forget to get your copy of Watched for a bonus 6 entries (25 total).

Remember- you only have 4 days to enter (Tues, June 21st-Friday, June 24th at midnight) and you must comment on both blogs for entry into each contest.

* Individual blogs will award prizes on June 25th
* The Grand Prize will be awarded on June 28th on Cindy's blog.
* Check back to see if you won! You have 2 days to claim your prize.


A big thanks to my awesome friends for joining in on the fun.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 41 - Learning to be More - Monday Musings

To add to the complications of life, I began night classes today. It's Monday and Wednesday, 5-7 PM. Then add in about 3-4 hours of homework and an hour of travel. Now, if you aren't aware of why I am still in school, I assure you it is not because I am finishing up my doctoral thesis. I am still working on my Bachelor's degree. Eight years and I am almost done. 

The reality is that I have always been a worker. I tried the full-time student thing while my wife worked, which made sense up until she had our son. Bills were to high, we were going to lose her insurance, etc. Plus I am one of the many sad people who have the habit of treating fake "free" money like it's really free, and so wasn't always being judicious in its use. I also blame that last part on the foibles of youth. So here I am, going part time, including some evening classes, hoping to finish up in April or June of 2012. 

The hardest part for me is that my desire to remain is minimal. I have a full time enjoyable career with people I love working with. My degree, Ancient Near Eastern Studies with a Hebrew focus, is very cool (how amny of you can read the Old Testament in Hebrew, eh?) and yet it has absolutely no relevance to the business world (though I have some book ideas...). I have a wife and a kid, I own a home, and taking even a single class is draining on my already limited schedule. And that was before I dedicated myself to writing. 

So the temptation arises to drop something to free up my schedule. But what would I drop? I can't drop work. I would certainly never in eternity decide to stop being a husband and father to the world's greatest family. Do I drop school? The thought has certainly occurred to me multiple times, and it definitely creates tension at work when I can't take calls with clients while in class. But I am less than ten credits away, only a maximum of eleven months from finishing. After eight years, I am definitely not stopping now, even if it has zero meaning other than to say "I finished the race, I have fought the good fight." Writing? Never.

So it leaves me with only one option left: find ways to become more than I am. It means better time management. It means making the most of my time with my family. It means really being a rockstar at work so that when problems arise over the interference of school, I am too invaluable to be forced into making a deathly either/or choice. And it means possibly even later nights. 

The good news? I can keep telling myself "Just one more year, one more year". It's much better than before at "just three more years" or anything of that ilk. And then I am done. Unless of course I decide to get an MBA, which I might. Or a Law degree, which I would never do, but is amusing to think about. Maybe a literary degree? Hmm... probably not. I'll already have a degree with little market value!

So we press on. All of us. Each day. We keep moving forward, knowing that if we stop for a breather on the escalator of life, we will move backwards and down without even trying. And we learn to be more. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 40 - Learning to use Twitter - Self Improvement

Today I am learning how to use Twitter. I am logging the process in this post from signing up to my first post and anything else I do with it today.

7:00 PM - Go to to sign up for an account.

7:35 PM - Finally have a user name. Don't laugh, it was hard to choose. All normal variations of my name were taken. MattTandy, MTandy, MatthewTandy, MJTandy, Matt_Tandy, etc. Read a blog post about Twitter Handles Dos and Don'ts. Settled on: MatthewJTandy. It's a bit longer than I would like, but it maintains the branding of my name I am going for.

8:23 PM - Finished looking for things/people to follow. Tried to be selective. BradThor (one of my favorite thriller authors). Also SarahW, who is connected to Publisher's Marketpalce, WSJ, etc. The Blaze (a conservative and pop info news aggregator). FBN Stossel (ie, John Stossel, one of America's greatest investigative reporters alive today). The Science Channel. Chris Anderson (@TEDChris.. is a fantastic site of some of the greatest speeches).

I know there are individual people to follow that I know, but I haven't made it that far yet. If you have twitter and want me to follow you, just let me know your user name!

8:24 PM: Just a note: The site is sluggish when searching for people. They need to optimize their front or back end, whichever is slowing it up. I've had to reload several pages due to it being buggy. Maybe it doesn't like Google Chrome?

8:34 PM: After ten minutes on the set-up phase of "Friends" where it searches my email contacts, it's still "thinking". Time to move on from that. I'll have to give it a go later. So far I am not impressed with the stability of the Twitter website itself.

8:40 PM: Still trying to click "Finish". Reloaded the page several times. No luck. Twitter must be a bird that sleeps at night.

8:43 PM: It completely crashed my browser. Awesome. Switching to Internet Explorer for now. Found a confirmation email was sent to me to confirm my account. Did so.

8:47 PM: Ran Friend Connect for Twitter on IE. Worked instantly. Twitter sucks on web compatibility.

9:04 PM: Finished adding the few people I instantly recognized via my email that have twitter accounts: James Blevin, Tristi Pinkerston, and Cindy Hogan (via Watched1).

9:19 PM: Working on my Twitter profile. Tried adding a photo after putting in a brief bio and website, but it said Twitter is over capacity. Then it crashed when I tried to click back. Went back to the homepage, noticed the photo worked when I did a test tweet.

9:35 PM: Spent 15 minutes searching for a background I would like and had color consistency with my blog. Then I found out that no matter what site I used, in order to put the background up they all wanted access to my twitter account, including reading my contact, my messages, and... posting for me. Nice. Not. Guess that's a no improvement until I find a workaround (ie, create and load my own).

9:44 PM: Enabled Twitter by phone. Set the hours to not send notices between 10PM and 7AM. I have a feeling I'll need to make adjustments as I go.

10:17: PM: Installed TweetDeck and set it up. Cannot figure out how to get it to show my Facebook items on there, so functionality is limited. Going to take a break and come back alter tonight to it.


10:37 PM: Figured out how to add Facebook. I see TweetDeck as being way awesome as a time-saver source for social networking via multiple accounts!

10:48 PM: Installed TweetDeck on my Android phone, Much niftiness.

I think that about concludes it for me tonight! I still need to learn more about trend topics and more, but I think for now I am all squared away and ready to get going!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter! User name is MatthewJTandy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 39 - Blogger Friends, Tough Progress, and Prize Winner! - Week End Summary

Another long week behind us! Progress has been spotty in terms of writing and blogging this week. For writing, I literally had to force myself most of the time by sheer willpower I didn't even know I had just to write a single line. I actually lost track of where I was at in the story, realized a few timeline issues, and spent most nights making corrections and additions to the brief novel outline for the Militia. All was not muddy waters however! I still had some great non-sequential scenes running around my head, so the other night I plopped down and started writing. It's amazing how much you can write so quickly when you aren't worried about timeline! I know some editing may be needed later to ensure a smooth fit in the narrative as a whole, but hey... can't get to the editing without the first draft. 

On blogging, you may have noticed that my posts were shorter this week. I gave general reasons why already. So many changes are happening right now it's hard to keep up with it all. Add on top of that the ridiculously gorgeous weather and a family I can never get enough of, and you end up with me posting well after the midnight oil has been spent. It's that tough sacrifice writers sometimes have to make! So yes, I am tired, but it's worth it on all counts. Additionally, this has been the first week that I have not gained a single follower to the blog. *GASP*. I am not worried, but instead motivated. I have a lot of ideas for this blog yet to be implemented, and there is a lot more networking to do. A challenge is before me! Can I gain 29 more blog followers in 21 days to keep at my one a day 30/day average set in my first month? It's a tough one, but hey, shoot for the stars and you may just land on the moon.

And... I was pleased to have my first interview and contest this week! They generated a record number of comments, especially for the interview with Cindy M. Hogan, who has been wonderful to assist in promoting her phenomenal achievements. Look for an awesome blog blast and contest next week with Cindy, myself, and multiple other blogs. Lots of prizes everywhere!


Donna K. Weaver, a fellow writer and blogger (you've seen her comments here too) also passed on a cute award to myself and a few others: The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. The award of course has no value, but it is a recognition award and therefore pretty cool. And the photo has strawberries. You can't beat that, and you know it. See for yourself: 

As a minor note, I am going to bet that 99.9% of you do not recognize the dessert that is shown. I recognized it right away because of my time in Australia and because it is my favorite dessert ever. I am also a master of making it. It's called a Pavlova, and is, to put it mildly, sweet. It's essentially a baked meringue: Crusty on the outside, marshmallowy on the inside. Cover it with freshly made whipped cream, add fruit. I like sliced grapes, strawberries, bananas, and kiwis. If I can find it, dribble passion fruit juice over the whole affair. You will die, both from taste and from calories. Just had to share how cool it is that a pavlova was used in the photo. This means whoever started this chain-mail style prize was probably from Australia or New Zealand. Cool beans! 

So there are a few criteria with this to play along. Because of this, you'll get to learn some really unique things about me!

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
Check. View her blog, which has great videos and grammar moments (among other things) at
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.

    1. I was born in a chicken coop. No, really. My dad was in the Air Force and my family was stationed at Misawa, Japan (that's in the Aomori prefecture for those who care). In WWII, the hospital had been destroyed, so when the base opened up, they put together a bunch of chicken coops previously used to feed the Imperial troops and made it the temporary hospital. about 30 years later, it was still the (run-down) hospital. It's gone now, but it gives me a great introduction.
    2. Not a big fan of skiing, but I love to snowshoe. That said, I can't stand living in snowy weather, and this year in Utah has been... difficult. When it snowed heavily again in April and May, I almost moved back to the south (namely Texas) right away.
    3. In the course of my work as a property manager, I have been called the Devil, son of the Devil, sold my soul to the Devil, told I am murdering children, threatened fairly regularly with lawsuits (never with any legal merit, just people puffing themselves up like peacocks), and in general take it in stride and laugh. I have a very high level of tolerance for stress and insults. 
    4. I read biblical Hebrew proficiency (but not fully fluently... some words only occur once in all of the Tanakh!)
    5. I have a dog (dachshund), two cats, and an awesome son. All of their names are tied to the middle east in some way. My son has a solid Jewish name for the first and middle. My dog is named after a Persian emperor, Cyrus. One cat is named Asherah, which is the name of the Canaanite (and possibly Hebrew) wife of El/Baal/Yahweh. The other cat is named Archon, which has multiple roots in the Middle East, but in this context is taken from Zoroastrianism (a Persian religion) where they represent demi-gods, both good and evil. 
    6. have visited most of the states of the US (some stopping, some driving...), spent a few weeks travelling around Turkey, two years in Australia, had automatic rifles waved at me by screaming soldiers in Dubai (in the United Arab Emirate) airport who apparently were unhappy my shoes set an alarm off (of course, I couldn't understand a word they were saying, but their actions were fairly clear...), escaped from a secured area in Istanbul's international airport with the help of a baggage claimer where I was being held in customs (it wasn't dramatic, just sneaky and time saving!), was born in Japan, and so much more. The world is an awesome and exciting place.
    7. I love Celtic music. A lot. It helps me work and write. My favorite radio station for it is Celtic Moon on It's free, and it's awesome.

3. Pass the award along to 5 deserving blogging buddies. Please check out their blogs and follow them if you're so inclined: There are so many great blogs I follow, so if you're not here, don't feel bad! It said limit it to five, so these are the five most recent that stuck with me for a few days. I always read these blogs when they post something new.

    1. Ted at He's done some great interviews. He deserves more followers! Plus, he's a pretty cool guy.
    2. RaShelle Workman - Colorful, full of pictures and photos, and she just has a great posting style. I might also mention she has fantastic tastes in books and games.
    3. Deirda Coppel - You can tell she sees the humor in life. Again, great interviews, good info for writers, and more. Everything she posts is fun or useful to read.
    4. Two for one: and Canda and Deanna write together often, hold contests together, and really I think are a shining example of how writers, friends, and family can work together to create awesomeness. Check them out. They are doing book giveaways right now too!
    5. Shelly - The post about Disney Land and It's a Small World makes it all worth it. The rest is pretty cool to! 

And... Finally... WE HAVE A WINNER for our first contest!

And the Winner...



The drawing was performed by little slips of paper accidentally scattered everywhere rather than being mixed in the hand. Random chance has chosen! 

Canda, send me an email to and I'll send you info about scents and arrange to get you bath bombs or shower tablets sent to you!

Thanks everyone for participating! There will be another prize given out next week in conjunction with Cindy Hogan's blog blast, so be sure to keep stopping in.

* Correction: I had initially stated the award came from Deanna Henderson, which was an error. It came from Donna Weaver. I listed the correct blog (, but mixed up names! Sorry Donna! You are awesome! I blame it on the fact your and Deanna both post here, names start with a D, and end with "nna"!

Day 38 - Writer's Weekly World Review - And Last Contest day!

Today (well, Saturday really) is the last day of the contest! Who will win? Last chance for comments!

I am short on time, so I won't do much stumping on the news items, but here are the major pieces I found this week.

1) What is the biggest selling genre in eBooks? Think chiseled chests, heaving bosoms, and lots of euphemisms.

2) What happens when you take a classic childhood storybook style and art, then lace it with profanity and make it relatable to nearly every single parent? You get this: Now, I am not a fan of profanity, especially excessive. But the concept is brilliant. I first saw this with a Dr. Seuss book for the retired, and it used all the same whimsy to talk about doctors, illness, and age related problems and concerns. I loved it. I won't be buying the book in the video due to it's excessive swearing, but there is a lesson to be learned: barely released, it's sold over 150,000 copies. Hit the right chord, and you'll stand out in a crowded market.

3) A sequel is in the works for my beloved childhood book The Wind in the Willows. Books of that slower, sophisticated world are what I cherish the most from my childhood. The classic Winnie the Pooh stories are in the same class. That deep seated philosophical tone in each story made a big difference in how I saw the world around me, and still do. The sequel is more for modern audiences, but I am bound to pick it up anyway:

Only three stories today... I am tired! Taking my youngest sister to a teen writing conference tomorrow morning.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 37 - Stress, the Beast of Many Faces - Hard Knocks

By now, it must be apparent I live a rather stressful life in many respects with crazy things happening at work at any hour, long hours of work no matter what, and am in a period of transition with home and church. Last night was no exception, but it reminded me of an ever important lesson: Write it down.

Here's what happened. About a month and a half ago, a renter called and said they were sorry, they would have to break their lease. They were very urgent about the need to move. I explained that was fine, they would lose their deposit and would need to assist in finding a new tenant. Within an hour it seems they had the ad I used with them before up on the internet, but with their contact info and the availability date of June 15. Fantastic! They get lots of calls, several of the viewers call me to run applications, and we select a great family. I have a conversation with the current tenants right before creating the lease for the new people to verify when the home would be ready for move-in. No problems yet.

Move-in date is scheduled for this Friday. However, we were having a hard time reaching the current tenants for status updates. I swing by yesterday because word was that there were no signs of efforts to move. Sure enough, I knock on the door and can immediately tell no packing of any kind had been done. I confront the tenants, who have been great tenants, about why they are still there. The claim? "Well, we've had a hard time finding a place we like, and we never actually said in writing when we were going to move." Wow. They never called to let me know they were having problems. They did put it in writing in the ad and tried to say they had no idea they could be held to that. So now the new family is going to be homeless for a couple of weeks while I make a monumental effort to get them out of there. The icing on the cake? The new tenants happen to be great people, but the husband is also a litigation lawyer who is none too happy with them, and in a lesser part us.

So what is the moral to this story? Write it down. Normally I do this anyway, so this is exceptionally unusual. Between the original ad, the fact they told the date to multiple people, including myself, and we used that for creating a contract, etc. I simply assumed I had it recorded. But I didn't. A tiny mistake, and yet huge consequences. Had I verified that such an important piece of information was correctly recorded, it would have been a major headache saver all around. I could be moving a great family in rather than spending time searching for properties I won't get paid on, and helping the lawyer to understand that suing the first family (and tangentially possibly us by implication) is not productive and vengeance is not productive. I'm not concerned about our case in particular, but that I am having to spend time on these things when I have other important tasks is a little stressful to say the least. Three parties involved, all good people. Mistakes on two sides. Writing it down would have prevented it.

So why do I bring this up? Because sometimes we each have great ideas for scenes, characters, or even whole plots and books suddenly appear in our heads. We often get busy and say we'll remember it, or even think later we surely wrote it down. Then later that day, or someday in the future, we realize that award winning scene is completely gone. You know it existed. You remember the feeling of when it first came. But it's lost to the ether forever. This happened to me two weeks ago. I had a brilliant idea for a sci-fi book. It was so amazing and (possibly) original , so vivid, I thought that surely I would remember it later! Predictably, that was not to be. I'm left with a sense of amazement at my genius and my stupidity, and not quite sure about why I felt either one.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever lost a great writing idea or had any other blunder happen in your life because you forgot to write something down?

*** Today is the second to last day for the contest! Be sure to leave a comment. Every comment gets you an entry! ***

Day 36 - How Morals Affect Our Use of Technique - Writing Wisdom

Last week we discussed Hyper-Fantasy, that over-the-top technique of describing that which is not real in a very lucid way, often involving as many senses as possible. As I said in the comments, it's like reality on LSD. It can give a very false and dangerous notion of how things in real life actually are, and it can also be used to immerse us in alien worlds.

Think of the wonder when you saw the world of Pandora in Cameron's Avatar for the first time in all of its stunning detail. Then convey that in the written word and add in equally vivid descriptions of the tastes, the smells, etc. Go over the top. That's Hyper-Fantasy. If you can pull it off, make something seem truly fantastical and yet believable even in its excesses, you've got great talent.

So far, we have discussed Realism, Graphic-Realism, and Hyper-Fantasy as techniques in writing to describe an experience, environment, or person. There are many more sub-types and a few more basic archetypes which I may write about later in the Writing Wisdom series. There is poetic form as a descriptive technique, tactile and other sensory methods, emotional, color hues (part of hyper-fantasy and even poetry), and the list could go on. Maybe I'll write a book about all the methods of description someday.

The question with all of these techniques is when and how do we use them in our own writing? Should it always be purely what suits us at the moment or what will get the most sales or start the most conversations? I believe that after a story forms itself in our minds, the very next step we should take is to decide if it can fit within our moral framework. This is not to say that the world, characters, and storyline need to be set in Christian or Muslim setting. It is saying that if you believe in the importance of chastity, you won't be promoting infidelity and teen sex even if your characters may engage in it.  

*** This will continue next Wednesday night. I began this post in the morning and planned on finishing it tonight. Unfortunately, at around 8:00 PM a rather large work problem reared its ugly head, which I have just partially resolved at 12:30 AM. Thanks for understanding!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 35 - Cindy M. Hogan - Author Interview

Today is our first author interview! To celebrate this debut, I am interviewing a debut author who is currently on cloud nine with her fantastic start: Cindy M. Hogan, originally a self-published author of the newly released Watched, the first in a series, who picked up a distributor when they saw great potential in her work. You will see more from Cindy here next week, where this blog will be participating in a Blog Blast in honor of this major milestone in her writing career. There will be prizes here and elsewhere, so stay tuned!

A Short Introduction to Cindy M. Hogan: Cindy earned a BA in secondary education at BYU. She has spent the last nine years teaching and is inspired by the teens she teaches. She ahs two teenage daughters who she loves at their current age and who in return love her writing and urge her on. If she isn’t reading or writing, you’ll find her doing something outdoors or watching a flick with her "astoundingly patient and fun husband" (her words!), Bill. Cindy's debut novel, Watched, arrived on e-Book mid May and had a hard-copy launch June 6th. She has been featured in the Deseret News, was in the top 250 finalists out of over 10,000 entrants in powerhouse's Breakthrough Novel Award contest, and during the June 6 multi-author signing and debut at the Layton, Utah Barnes and Nobles became the biggest seller at an author signing that location had ever seen.

About Watched: It takes more than a school trip to Washington, D.C. to change fifteen-year-old Christy's life. It takes murder. A witness to the brutal murder of a Senator's aide, Christy finds herself watched not only by the killers and the FBI, but also by two hot boys. She discovers that if she can't help the FBI, who wants to protect her, it will cost her and her new friends their lives.

Matt: What prompted you to create the story surrounding Watched and the main character Christie?
Cindy: The idea for Watched came from a dream. The funny thing is that the vivid scene that drove me
to write about Christy doesn’t show up until the end of Book 2-Protected!

Matt: Was it an easy process for you?
Cindy: Not at first. I wrote my first book on paper and then transferred it all to the computer. It was a very slow way to write a book. Now I write everything right onto my laptop. It took me about 4 years to totally complete Watched. Experience speeds things up. I finished Protected [the next book in the series] in only six
months and hope to have it completely edited in another six.

Matt: When did you know your story had a shot at success?
Cindy: I knew I was born to write when a group of teens, including my own daughters, who were
reading rough versions of Watched, begged and begged me to keep writing.

Matt: Most of the time we hear of family being too nice to critique, but not begging for more. What a great compliment! Did you have any help while writing Watched?
Cindy: Aside from my daughters and other teens, I am a part of several critique groups and writers’ groups. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. They are an invaluable resource.

Matt: What methods do you use to write?
Cindy: I have to be able to see outside in order to write. Actually, I need to be able to see out to do just about anything. I’m quite claustrophobic! I never outline—I’d never finish a book. I write what I see in my mind and then let my critique groups help me fill in the blanks. I also talk to myself. I can’t help it. My characters just pop up and take over sometimes. I think all writers suffer from this to some degree.

Matt: I think talking to ourselves is normal. It really makes those quiet alone times that much more interesting. I've actually been tempted to create a split personality just to keep things interesting. I hope me saying so makes you feel a bit less odd in comparison.

So what advice would you offer to budding authors?

Cindy: My advice to unpublished authors is two-fold: Go to a writers' conferences and get in a critique
group. Writers' conferences put you in front of editors and agents as well as fellow writers. They also help you hone your craft. After writing my first chapter, I went to my sister, who, surprise, surprise, had just finished a middle-grade book, and she told me about a writers’ conference that she was going to in the near future. We went together and that’s all she wrote. Ha ha. Critique groups take your manuscripts to a higher level.

Matt: Can you share what you are working on right now?
Cindy: I just finished the sequel to Watched, Protected, and have started the first chapter of the third
book in the series (still unnamed). I also have this awesome adult contemporary suspense idea. One day I will write that book.

Here’s a peek into Protected:

“Over the last three weeks, I’d moved like a ninja through the halls of Helena High— Invisible, stealthy—going from class to class. At least that’s what I’d convinced myself. It took the horrible, sing song voice of Katie Lee to realize I was no ninja master. More like a giant target with a bull’s eye painted on my forehead.”
Matt: Sounds great. I like the use of both physical size and stealth being juxtaposed to an audible sense unmasking our perceptions. It's great that you haven't hung up the hat after your first success.

Matt: Any final words for our readers and your devotees?
Cindy: I am most passionate about creating real characters, that people identify with. I want my readers to FEEL what my characters feel. You know, cry when they cry, be scared when they are scared, worry when they worry and laugh when they laugh.

My target audience is young adult. I hope they are able to see themselves in my writing. I love it
when a reader says, “That is me in your book. It’s me you’re writing about.” While I will always write about real events in teenagers’ lives, my books will be safe for all teens to read. Parents won’t have to read my books first to see if they are appropriate.

Matt: Cindy, thank you for putting the time in to write down these answers. You've done amazing things with your writing and I hope to see you continue to do so for many years to come

You can purchase a copy of Watched at and Barnes and Noble Online. It is also available for the Kindle and the Nook as an eBook at the fantastic price of $2.99.

You can follow Cindy at and visit the Watched blog at

*** Contest Day 4: Entries are low, so if you enter (ie, you comment on any day) each day, your chances of winning are pretty high! Lest anyone feel that I am shocked with low commenting levels, I am not! I am actually quite pleased with the amount of comments to followers so far! Just keep commenting. An awesome prize awaits one lucky winner! ***

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Musings - Like Ariel, I want more - Day 34

*** Day 3 of the Contest is Today! Remember, each time you comment, you get an entry. Invite someone to follow and you get two entries. Contest ends Midnight on Friday! ***

Today I was driving with some co-workers through one of my favorite areas of Utah County, being the western rural area of Lehi. There's some great land that has been farmed for generations there, classic style homes, and space for everything I want in life: farm animals, crops, a wood shop, a pond, and generally a quiet home not too far from and not to near the major urban centers. Like Ariel in the Little Mermaid, I have various pretty things and even visits to the country, but I want more. I want to be there, to live that life, even at the cost of much of the conveniences of living in the city or suburbia.

More than anything, I want that rural life, enough to comfortably raise my family, teach the value of hard work to my kids, and still be able to find time to write in a beautiful setting. I know the country life isn't for everyone, but for my wife and I, it's our favorite dream. I might add it wouldn't make us in the least bit sad if it were in the southern US where there are quite a few less months of cold...

Becoming a successful, published author is thus both a means to the end and the end. I am in no way delusional enough to believe the chances are high that I can subsist off of writing, at least not until many books in print later. Certainly my blog and my constant efforts at improvement in marketing myself and improving my writing style, combined with a rigorous schedule help increase my probability of both publishing and financial success over time, but really, the reality is that I view my writing as three things:

1) Therapeutic. Since I started writing, I enjoy life so much more, even though I have less time. I find I am less stressed, I have joy in constant learning, and I simply love to craft a good story and see it progress.

2) When I become published, initial proceeds would go towards paying off whatever debts we may still have at that time. Even if it's only $500 of income in a year, it's that much less debt or that much more in savings.

3) When we have the land we want, writing income, even minor, assists in having multiple sources of income (assuming I  haven't hit the writing jackpot and have that dreamy early retirement wherein I can write all day or lay in the grass and it won't make a difference in paying the bills). Thus, I can live my dream of land and writing with far less pressure on either.

Ultimately then, I view my writing as relaxation now and in the future, even if it never makes me independently wealthy. As long as I can write and a few people love my stories, and doing so helps me to have a bit more time to write further, then I've found the perfect balance.

So for my readers, I pose a few questions: Why do you write? Where do you see writing in your future ideal life? And what is your ideal life?

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