Monday, June 27, 2011

Passed off my poem yesterday. Whew!! And, yes, I had to sing it to get it all. Wanna hear it sung? I thought you did. Sorry, I'm not putting up a recording of me singing it--Robert Burns deserves better than that. Here's "Old Blind Dogs" (a great group out of Scotland) singing last week's poem, A Man's a Man for A' That or Is There for Honest Poverty (it's known by both titles) to its traditional folk tune (and after they get through the lyrics, listen to them totally rocking the bagpipes!!):

And, for those of you who read the whole "Is Scots a language or a dialect of English" thing in last Monday's post and were all like "Dude. That's not even that different from English. It's totally not another language." listen to this--it's sung in Scots:

Okay. Back to poetry.

This week's selection is shorter than last because, quite frankly, I'm exhausted.

Here ya go:

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking
Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Follow along with the summer reading challenge over on Twitter. The hashtag is #PoetrySummer

Friday, June 24, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Today's INFF guest is the wonderful Robin Weeks. Robin is another of my literarily minded cyber friends (we have attended a couple of the same conferences, but I mostly know her via twitter and blogs and stuff like that). She can be found online at her blog, on twitter (her handle is @Robin_Weeks) and over at David Farland's Authors Advisory, of which she is an organizer/host/doer of great deeds.

SME: Cool. Alright... Welcome to INFF!

Robin Weeks: Thanks! I'm excited to be here. And nervous. What if I'm not funny?

SME: That could be funny in and of itself. Think about it.

Robin Weeks: Also, what if the insane rainstorm that just started knocks out the power?

SME: Again, humor comes in many different packages.

Robin Weeks: Well, you're funny and in a small package....

SME: Oh yes. Like a travel-size joke book.

Robin Weeks: LOL
So are you recovering okay from your fainting spell?

SME: Barely.

Robin Weeks: And do you now relate more to the Victorian ladies who (I've heard) faint lots?

SME: They probably fainted more eloquently than I did. I've never once read a romance in which the heroine swoons and lands on her face.

Robin Weeks: Well, they had fainting couches then.

SME: This is true. Maybe I should consider having one of those installed on my front porch, just in case.

Robin Weeks: Given everything, that'd be smart

SME: And, instead of a "No Soliciting" sign, I'm thinking of hanging a "I Pass Out A Lot. You've Been Warned" sign. Effective, no?

Robin Weeks: That'll put em on the run. Maybe I should put up a sign like that just because....

SME: It's going to be the latest craze. Mark my words.

Robin Weeks: Better hurry and patent it. You'll make a mint!

SME: Good call.
So, tell us a little about yourself, Robin. Feel free to make it laugh-out-loud funny. No pressure.

Robin Weeks: Um, if I start with an LOL, that works, right?

SME: Sure. I'm easy going about these things.

Robin Weeks: So, yeah, I have a theatre arts degree and I work as an attorney while dreaming of best-sellerdom And a daughter. Which I'll convince my hubby to try for as soon as I can stay-at-home

SME: Theatre arts, eh? I loved theatre in high school. Haven't done much since then.

Robin Weeks: I never had a clique until I joined the drama club in high school. Those geeks will accept anyone.

SME: Tell me about it. All I had to do was agree to play every character under the age of 12 and I was totally IN!

Robin Weeks: LOL--I bet you played a lot of "young boy" parts

SME: Tiny Tim. Boo-yah!

Robin Weeks: I'm sure your "God bless us, every one" was Oscar-worthy

SME: I also broke their hearts with my "I have several fatal diseases" limp. It was spectacular!

Robin Weeks: I'm crying now, just picturing it.

SME: A crowning achievement of mine, to be sure.

Robin Weeks: Mine was playing Abigail Williams in The Crudible. Evil girls have more fun.

SME: So you played evil girls and I played small, sickly children. There's a joke in there somewhere.

Robin Weeks: My evil girls would crush your small, sickly children. Then laugh.

SME: Okay. Honestly? Kinda frightened right now.

Robin Weeks: No worries. I grew up and became a mommy.

SME: Phew! But also a writer, and those writer types are strange!

Robin Weeks: Too true. Especially theatre-writer types. I've got a corner on weird.

SME: I am curious: How did you get involved with David Farland's Author Advisory?

Robin Weeks: I went through a period where I obsessively volunteered for everything.

SME: Been there. Luckily, with therapy, I recovered fully.

Robin Weeks: Dave announced in the Daily Kick he was starting up an online writer's forum, and I ended up writing the critique guide. Then his brother, Jim (who runs the forum and is the mastermind behind Authors' Advisory) announced the calls and I... waited a few days... and then, well, volunteered.

SME: Have you enjoyed it?

Robin Weeks: SO MUCH FUN!!! No better excuse to talk to awesome authors. Like yourself.

SME: *ahem* September 14th. *ahem* hahaha

Robin Weeks: Yes! I guess you'd better be nice to me here or I'll have my revenge. *cackles evilly*

SME: Wow. So true. *begins rethinking things*

Robin Weeks: No rush. Feel free to rewrite all your questions. I can be patient.

SME: Let's go with this tried-and-true question, then: What's your favorite continent?

Robin Weeks: Uh-oh. I've been pondering this one. North America has to win because, well, I live here. Europe take a close second, though, 'cause I'm half English.

SME: I have a lot of British blood, myself. And Scottish and Irish and a bit o' German thrown into the mix.

Robin Weeks: I know--I loved that Scottish poem. Very fun to say.
Irish is my favorite accent to fake, though.

SME: Hey, I have a game for us to play!

Robin Weeks: Okay. *tries not to be nervous*

SME: This game is entitled "There Should Be a Law Against Stupidity." I'll ask you 3 questions about remarkably dumb criminals along with 3 possible answers. Pick the correct answer and you win!

Robin Weeks: Uh, oh. This is either the perfect game for me, or I'm about to embarrass myself (I'm a criminal defense attorney.)

SME: Yeah. I had that in mind when I crafted it. You're welcome.

Robin Weeks: Thanks! (I think.)

SME: Question 1: A criminal recently barged into someone's house wielding what unorthodox weapon?
A-an overly ripe banana
B-a dead weasel
C-a book filled with cliches, heavy-handed writing and more than its share of info dumping. Potent, indeed.

Robin Weeks: Side story--two of my high school drama friends and I actually took over another high school's auditorium with bananas. Only, ours weren't overripe. I'll still go with Option A, Sarah. an overly ripe banana.

SME: Nice tie-in, but, sadly, the answer was B. He brandished a dead weasel.

Robin Weeks: LOL--that was my second guess. Or was it my first and I second-guessed myself? WHEN will I learn?

SME: Question 2: Two burglars pretty much earned the title "Dumbest Burglars on the Planet" when they chose to rob:
A-A store that sells security cameras and, understandably, was equipped with 17 working cameras of its own
B-an actual uniformed police officer in front of a police station
C-Each other

Robin Weeks: Um, I'm going to go with B. 'Cause when you gotta rob someone, you don't sweat the details.

SME: You know how on standardized tests, if you gave the same letter answer 2 questions in a row it made you wonder if maybe you were wrong because, ya know, what are the chances of B being right twice in a row? Remember that? hint, hint

Robin Weeks: Yes! That's why I'm nervous about my answer.

SME: Nervous, eh? I'd go with that feeling. Just saying.

Robin Weeks: But since I actually went with A on the last one, I didn't see the B pattern until it was too late.

SME: Maybe I'm stalling long enough for it to not be too late. Maybe.

Robin Weeks: You giving me the chance to change my answer?

SME: That is a distinct possibility.

Robin Weeks: Well, I just read Janette Rallison's My Unfair Godmother, and changing things didn't work out, so....

SME: So are you sticking with B?

Robin Weeks: I'm also weighing how dumb I'll feel if it was really A and I didn't take the chance to change my answer against how dumb I'll feel if I got it right and changed it....
Yeah, I'll stick with B. Final Answer. :) *ducks* *Covers face*

SME: It was A. And I have nothing else to say in regard to this.

Robin Weeks: DANG IT! I'm blaming Janette.

SME: I think that is a great life philosophy. Hi, Janette! *ducks*
One more chance, Robin. This is for redemption, glory and bragging rights. Here we go.

Robin Weeks: But if I get it wrong, at least I'll have a perfect score....

SME: Question 3: An amazingly incompetent smuggler was caught trying to sneak animals into the country when he labeled the box they were in:
A-"Nothing Illegal in this Box"

Robin Weeks: A sounds likely.

SME: B-"The entire collected works of Sarah M. Eden" -- what border agent could resist that?!?

C-with the name of another type of animal which was also illegal to bring into the country

Robin Weeks: I'm rejecting B--Border Agents are universally uninteresting *ducks*
Sigh. It's either A or C.

SME: Think "no repetition of correct letters." Repeat that again and again, like a mantra.

Robin Weeks: I will say, though, that if I saw a box filled with your collected works, it would probably disappear.
C. Going with C.

SME: It's an INFF miracle!!! C is the correct answer. And, around here, 1 correct answer is enough to make you INFF Champion for the week!!

Robin Weeks: Yay!!! I WIN I WIN!!! So I win a box of your collected works, right?

SME: You win the right to crow it over Rob Wells, because he didn't get crowned INFF Champion. Because he's a punk.

Robin Weeks: Well, it's only fair. I get to be champion, but he was funnier.

SME: Sounds good to me.

Robin Weeks: Still, I did so want a perfect score.... :)

SME: How about a portrait instead?

Robin Weeks: A portrait would be LOVELY!!

*draws a LOVELY portrait*

Robin Weeks: I'm so pretty!
I gotta get me those shoes

SME: I know, right? The shoes are fab!

Robin Weeks: You are a wonderful artist

SME: Yes, my stick figures will someday hang in the Louvre.

Robin Weeks: They'll have their own wing.

SME: Yeah. The bathroom wing.

Robin Weeks: LOL--I'm sure they don't have a whole wing for bathrooms
What if I was at the other end of the museum and needed to go?

SME: The lack of a bathroom wing may just save my career as a portraiteur.

Robin Weeks: I'm sure many an artist has thought the same.
Though, really, you are already a novelist--you can't switch to art!

SME: This is true. So long as my books don't get shelved in the bathroom wing of various bookstores.

Robin Weeks: That would NEVER happen

SME: Well, that brings us to the final question of the interview. Top 5 reasons this is the best blog interview you've ever done. Ready. Go.

Robin Weeks: Reason #1: the awesome portrait in all my curly-headed glory
#2: It's the first I've done with a live interviewer
#3: Sarah just rocks.
#4: Nature itself smiled upon this interview by refraining from knocking out the power
#5: I love romance, romance authors, funny people and especially funny romance authors

SME: Funny romance authors are the very best!

Robin Weeks: No doubt

SME: Thanks for for being my Friday Friend, Robin!

Robin Weeks: You're so welcome! I'm excited to return the favor on September 14! (there will be no editing on that call, by the way)

SME: That's alright. I'll just say something like "feel free to edit that in your minds" to the listening audience.

Robin Weeks: That'll work

*cue exit music* Well, this has been a very special installment of "I Need Friends" Friday. Come back next week when I will make another friend!!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

coming September 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

I passed off my poem yesterday in the Summer Poetry Challenge (blah, blah, blah Dan Wells, blah, blah, blah poetry)!

I'm changing it up again this week.
--A long poem. Much longer.
--A Scottish poet. Scratch that: THE Scottish Poet.
--I already have bits of this poem memorized, but not the entire thing.
--The poem's technically not even written in English. Woa, right? (It's written in Scots. Scholars strongly disagree over whether to designate it a language unto itself or a dialect of English. I'd tell you to look it up on Wikipedia, but that just wouldn't be like me.)

This week's poem is one I L-O-V-E. I am extremely proud of my Scottish roots. My ancestors were Highlanders (so they didn't even speak Scots, they spoke Scottish Gaelic, but I digress), members of Clan MacBean, a small but fierce clan with their ancestral lands along the banks of Loch Ness in Invernesshire. (another digression: how apt is that clan description? I mean, really "small, but fierce" -- It's practically my middle name!) Yes, I love tartan and would heft a claymore if it weren't larger than I am and my little heart sings at the sound of bagpipes.

Also, like any true Scotsman, I have a great affinity for Robert Burns, the Bard of Scotland. This week I chose one of his poems--one of my favorites amongst his collected works. (Stay tuned after the poem for a little explanation of why I love it.)

A Man's a Man for a' That
Robert Burns

Is there for honesty poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that? (hings=hangs)
The coward slave, we pass him by -
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that!
Our toil's obscure, an' a' that!
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gowd for a' that. (gowd=gold)

What though on hamely fare we dine, (hamely=plain)
Wear hodden grey an' a' that? (hodden=a coarse wollen cloth)
Gie fools their silks, and knave their wine (gie=give)
A man's a man for a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that,
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor, (sae=so)
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie ca'd "a lord," (birkie=fancy fellow)
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that?
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a cuif for a' that, (cuif=useless, incompetent person)
For a' that, an' a' that.
His ribband, star an' a' that.
The man o' independent mind,
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight, (mak=make)
A marquis, duke an' a' that!
But an honest man's aboon his might - (aboon=higher than)
Guid faith, he maunna fa' that! (guid=good; maunna=mustn't; fa'=fault)
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that,
The pith o' sense an' pride o 'worth
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a' that)
That Sense and Worth o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree an a' that, (bear the gree=take the prize)
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's comin yet, for a' that.
That man to man the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that. (brithers=brothers)

When this poem was written by Burns in the mid 1700's the ideas contained in it would have been shocking to the vast majority of people (and yet, so very very Scottish): judging a person based on their actions, not their wealth or birthrights, that sense and pride of work were character traits worth valuing, that someday the world would come to recognize the wisdom of that philosophy. In 1999 when, after 300 years, Scotland was once again granted its own Parliament, this poem, set to its traditional folk tune, was sung at the opening of that Parliament.

A fantastic poem from a remarkable poet.

Follow along with other Summer Poetry Challenge participants over on Twitter using the hashtag: #PoetrySummer

Friday, June 17, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Consider today's INFF post the "After-school Special" of INFF. It is a cautionary tale, one meant to warn and educate the masses against the dangers of... well... just dangers. You'll see. And, when you're finished reading my very self-centered tale of courage in the face of horrific experiences, you can click on the INFF button on the sidebar to read previous installment of INFF that are actually, you know, enjoyable.

Alright. Here we go.
Tuesday was a day not unlike many others. A mysterious flu bug had taken the children down one at a time. I'd spent the previous night and that entire morning cleaning up after them while being insanely ill myself. You know, typical motherhood.

I was laying back in the recliner, dozing between the sounds of my children proving to me that they were still too sick to do anything but lay on the couch and moan/sleep/make "messes." I'd been undertaking the same moan/sleep/make "messes" approach to life for about 18 hours and dehydration-induced delirium was quickly setting in.

I'm not exaggerating. Delirium, as in I was completely out of my mind sick. Incoherent. Glassy-eyed. Crazed. Delirious.

I heard a knock at the door. Despite being in the den of vile illnesses, I thought to myself, "If someone is knocking on my door, I have to answer it. There are no other options." This should have been sign #1 that I absolutely should not have answered the door. I mean, c'mon, ignoring people at the door/on the phone/sending spam emails is always an option, right? In that moment in my state of mind, there was nothing to be done but get up and answer the door.

So I pulled myself out of my sickrecliner (as opposed to sickbed--get it?!) and stumbled to the front door. A respectable-looking, college-aged young man stood on the other side. He very politely explained that he was earning some money for school by cleaning out people's gutters. While his sales pitch was going on, this was my quickly deteriorating thought process:

"I really don't feel good. I REALLY don't feel good. I need to tell him to come back later. How would I say that? I can't really think of the right words. If I throw up, that'll probably make him think I'm a jerk. (yes, I actually thought that). I don't even understand what he's saying anymore. I really, really don't feel good. Must talk to guy. Must talk now."

Then I started attempting to talk to him. The look on his face probably should have told me I wasn't making any sense, but still I persisted. (For purposes of picturing the poor guy's facial expression: it was somewhere between "Is this lady drunk" and "I am pretty sure this lady is having a stroke." Got it? Great. Back to the story.)

I then cycled through these thoughts in quick succession:

"It's hot. I'm sweaty. I think I'm gonna puke."

I don't remember anything after that. At all.

I came-to face down on the concrete of our front porch. "Why am I sleeping on the porch," was my first thought. Yea. Like I said--I was a little delirious.

Then the sound of that poor young man, saying "Ma'am? Are you okay? Ma'am?" in a very panic-stricken voice tipped me to the realization that something was significantly wrong. I somehow managed to piece together the fact that I had passed out.

This is the point where I started apologizing to him repeatedly, because, apparently, passing out is a sin of quite heinous proportions. He helped me back into my house and back to my recliner of sickness. He managed to hand me a paper towel--I was bleeding, you understand, having face planted onto concrete. He very kindly waited for me to get in touch with my husband, then left with a quickness that made me wonder if perhaps he was on the track team.

My husband came directly home. My daughter kindly informed me that my face looked broken. My son pointed out that my leg was bleeding. A lot. Only after about 20 minutes did I start to feel the pain. Thank goodness for the numbing effects of shock.

We believe the order of injury was thus: I hit my chin on the wrought iron railing on the porch, then my face on the concrete. As I went down, my leg slammed into the step from the door onto the patio. My self-respect died somewhere in the midst of all that, as, I imagine, did that kid's desire to be a door-to-door salesman. In fact, if I had to guess, I'd say he just went home for the day. That's what I would have done.

Casualty list:
*split lip

*ridiculously bruised & swollen chin-->
(you can't really see the swelling, but let's just say Jay Leno would be jealous of my chin-fabulousness right now; this picture was taken Wednesday afternoon--it looks even more pathetically colorful than this now)

<---*cut & bruised leg

*bloody nose

*2 loose front teeth (They aren't so loose that I'm at risk of them actually falling out, but I'll need to have them x-rayed to check for root damage. Yeah!)

*a lifetime of therapy for a poor college student who was just trying to earn money for tuition

Now in the tradition of INFF, we will visit the portrait gallery:

The guy at the door when I first opened it:

The guy at the door while I was "talking" to him:

The guy at the door after I regained consciousness:

Today's takeaway lesson: If you are really, really sick... don't answer the door. You're not gonna make friends that way.

*cue exit music* Well, this has been a very special installment of "I Need Friends" Friday. Come back next week when I will actually make a friend!!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I hear from readers all the time asking about my out of print books. (I love that, by the way!) By far, the book I'm asked about most often is Seeking Persephone. This book is the love story of Adam and Persephone, two supporting characters in Courting Miss Lancaster. Readers want to know how on earth Persephone fell in love with such an outwardly grumpy, but obviously layered guy like Adam & what she did to soften his extremely rough edges. Seeking Persephone was a 2008 Whitney Award finalist, which is some indication that it isn't a completely horrible novel.

A few months ago I announced that Seeking Persephone had been accepted for republication by Covenant Communications. Well... I have a release date!!

Look for Seeking Persephone to be back on shelves
September 2011!!!


Monday, June 13, 2011

I passed off my first poem yesterday! My daughter had the questionable privilege of listening to me recite, She Walks in Beauty, by George, Lord Byron. She only interrupted me once to ask "How long is this poem?" The support was overwhelming.

I've picked a new poem for this week, one that is different from my first in several ways.
1-They were written on different continents.
2-They were not written by the same person.
3-They are drastically different in length.

This week's selection was written by Orson F. Whitney, the man for whom the Whitney Awards are named.

Wit and Wisdom
Orson F Whitney

As deepest waves with darkest volume flow,
Though gems be glittering in their depths below,
So wisest thoughts will oft the dullest seem,
While wit's bright bubbles gild the shallow stream.

This one shouldn't be too hard. At least that's the theory.

Follow along with fellow Poetry Challenge participants over on Twitter using the hashtag #PoetrySummer

Friday, June 10, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Today's INFF guest is Frank L Cole. From his website:
"Frank L. Cole was born into a family of southern storytellers and wrote his first book at age eight. Sadly, he misplaced the manuscript and has since forgotten what he wrote. Highly superstitious and gullible to a fault, Frank will believe in any creepy story you tell him, especially ones involving ghosts and Big Foot. Currently, along with his wife and three children, he resides in the shadow of a majestic western mountain range, which is most likely haunted."
Frank writes fantastic middle grade fiction, Guardians of the Hidden Scepter and The Hashbrown Winters series, and is a manager of a Deseret Bookstore. Frank was recently a guest on the Appendix Podcast, his episodes can be found here and here.

SME: So... Welcome to I Need Friends Friday.

Frank L. Cole: So good to be here!

SME: I have almost completed my Man Cave Coup. (Is that even how it's spelled? Cooo? Coup? Coux? I have no idea.)

Frank L. Cole: It definitely doesn't start with a "p."

SME: Perhaps I should stick with phonetic spellings. Coooooo -- there, that works

Frank L. Cole: Very nice... soothing

SME: Right. A nice drawn out vowel... it's like a lullaby contained in a single word. Aaaah.

Frank L. Cole: zzzzzzzzzzz

SME: Note to self: do not put interviewee to sleep

Frank L. Cole: All I need is some Kenny G.

SME: Dude. Or Yanni.

Frank L. Cole: Or like.... whoever else plays soothing music

SME: I'd make some kind of joke about this being the interview dreams are made of... but I'm way too lazy.
Alright, Frank L Cole (did you know I always refer to you by your whole name "Frank L Cole"... little factoid for you there) you write Middle Grade. In 5 words or less, could you explain what MG is. [Actually use as many words as you need. I'm flexible.]

Frank L. Cole: Oh geez. Middle Grade? It is the Highest Kingdom of Literature. Greats are made in Middle Grade. It is the turning point for future readers, which ultimately keep authors (in any genre) employed.

SME: I think you're confusing Middle Grade with Romance. Just so you know.

Frank L. Cole: Hmmmm.... Maybe... uh, nope.

SME: In the words of Rob Wells: "*********"

Frank L. Cole: Is that a "Choose Your Own Adventure" quote?

SME: No. He likes to use naughty words.

Frank L. Cole: I do like that man

SME: His potty mouth tripped my filter during his interview. Over and over and over.

Frank L. Cole: Seriously? Do I need to live up to that hype?

SME: Nah.

Frank L. Cole: Good. But I'd do it for science

SME: Okay. I'm gonna go all "Chicken or the Egg" here--which came first, bookstore manager or author?

Frank L. Cole: Author came first by a long shot. I'd been writing manuscripts for years and trying to get published way before the bookstore management position came into play.

SME: See, I was picturing you standing in your store one day looking at the shelves and thinking, "I have got to get in on this action."

Frank L. Cole: I do that all the time, but I'd been doing that in bookstores I didn't manage long before.

SME: Me too!! Maybe I should think about becoming an author!!

Frank L. Cole: Or a bookstore manager?

SME: Which begs the question, how do you NOT spend your entire paycheck on books? The temptation would likely prove too great for me.

Frank L. Cole: I spend a good chunk of it, but I've learned to control the urges. Now, I just look for freebies and handouts whenever I can get them.

SME: So you've gone all Ebeneezer Scrooge now that you're a big time writer. I see how it is.

Frank L. Cole: More like Bob Cratchet (is that his name?) I just need some coal to keep my meager hands warm

SME: Just between you and me ('cause, let's face it, no one actually reads these interviews), when the box of your books arrives at your store, you put those books right up front, right? Very prominently displayed, eh??

Frank L. Cole: Off the record right? Hecks yeah! But I have to be discreet. I've actually never done a book signing in my own store. Crazy huh?

SME: Couldn't get the miserly manager to budge, I'd bet. I've heard things about that guy.

Frank L. Cole: Total loser!

SME: And, to prove how much we have in common... I've never done a book signing in your store, either. AHEM

Frank L. Cole: Oh yeah. We should rectify that problem.

SME: Tell you what, when you get a certain box containing copies of a certain book (coughs: Seeking Persephone) this fall... prominently display those and we'll see what we can arrange.

Frank L. Cole: That's a deal! And when you say prominently displayed, you mean upside down whilst propping up my books?

SME: That'll work.

Frank L. Cole: Seeking Persephone? That sounds good!

SME: It was a 2008 Whitney Award Finalist. *looks unbearably smug*

Frank L. Cole: Yeah, my books haven't made it to that level of prestige yet.

SME: Perhaps they are too prestigious. Ever thought of that? Maybe they're just so amazing people can't stand it!

Frank L. Cole: Oooh! I like that. That's what I'll tell people at my signings from now on. "These books are so good, you won't want to read them!"

SME: I'm surprised more authors haven't tried that approach.

Frank L. Cole: Me too. Though, I don't recommend you do that when you sign at my store. I need the sales.

SME: Got it. So something more along the lines of "This book is so good, you'll want to buy 2 or 3. And a copy of Frank's book. And several other impulse purchases at the register."

Frank L. Cole: Perfect!

SME: I'll work on that so it sounds both natural and convincing.

Frank L. Cole: And I'll strategically place my books at the register as impulse buys to make it more practical for your sales pitch.

SME: Nice. Maybe we could accept bribes from other authors to place their books strategically as well.

Frank L. Cole: Now you're onto something. I'll have to stew on that for a spell.

SME: While you're stewing (did we just create a new verb??)

Frank L. Cole: Did we?

SME: *shrugs* I have another question. A pretty crucial question, so give it as much thought as necessary: What's your favorite continent?

Frank L. Cole: North America! Were you trying to catch me off guard? Allow me to come across as unpatriotic? The shame!

SME: *shakes head* You are such a conspiracy theorist. When I was asked that question, I answered... okay, I answered North America. But I don't discriminate. You could have said Antarctica and I would only have shunned you a little.

Frank L. Cole: Antarctica is pretty cool... (Oh! What a play on words!)

SME: And the puns start. It happens in almost every interview.

Frank L. Cole: I had been eagerly waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce

SME: And you chose your moment well. Hats off to you, Frank L Cole

Frank L. Cole: I couldn't have done it without you!

SME: I think our mutual success must be the result of our choice to include middle initials in our writing names. This is a theory of mine.

Frank L. Cole: I'd go along with that. What's the "M" stand for?

SME: M is for Mischief. No, wait. That's a book.

Frank L. Cole: L is for Loser. I'm gonna write that book.

SME: I can support you in that. I'll even write a blurb for it. "Frank L Cole has written a masterpiece, a book that speaks to everyone who has ever wondered what L stands for."
Okay. That didn't come out the way it sounded in my brain. Almost sounds like I'm insulting you.
Not to self: do not insult the interviewee

Frank L. Cole: I may just use that quote on my next book regardless of what I write. And I took no insult.

SME: Well, Frank L Cole, I have drawn a magnificent portrait of you... if you're interested.

Frank L. Cole: Of course

*draws a mind-blowing portrait, a one-of-a-kind, a... okay, it's just a stick figure*

Frank L. Cole: You mastered the "Part" and everything! Hey! Wait a minute! Where's my cowlick?

SME: I use a lot of hair gel on my portraits.

Frank L. Cole: Ah, now I see.

SME: I usually draw my interviewees with shoes, but I'm having a love-hate relationship with shoes right now.

Frank L. Cole: Well at least you could have given me feet.

SME: Gosh. First Rob with his whole "Why do my arms end in pathetic little stumps" and now "You could have given me feet." An artist is never appreciated!
(And I don't really know how to draw feet... hence the usual inclusion of shoes)

Frank L. Cole: The problem I see is you've seemed to offer more effort on your very fancy signature. I understand though

SME: That fancy signature will be worth a lot someday. I wouldn't knock it if I were you.

Frank L. Cole: Do you always sign in green? Just curious.

SME: Nope. I sign in whatever color marker I happen to grab.

Frank L. Cole: Oh.

SME: And... just a thought here... this portrait will be like misprinted stamps and coins and stuff... a collector's item because it's the only one without shoes!

Frank L. Cole: Now I must have it. And I shall treasure it and keep it safe in a protective sleeve right on my mantle.

SME: That's more like it.
And that brings us to the final question of the interview: Top 5 reasons this is the best blog interview you've ever done. Ready. Go.

Frank L. Cole: #1 Randomness - It allows for a more relaxed feel.
#2 Artistry - With or without feet
#3 Cataclysmness - Because I wanted to use that word right there
#4 The G I Joe factor - Because, in a simple one hour jam session, people now know the real me. And knowing is half the battle.
#5 Acid Reflux reducer - low stress. Sippin' on a soda while I shoot the bull. Wait. What the heck am I talking about?

SME: I have no idea, but it's quite possibly the best reason I've gotten in almost 2 years of INFF interviews!

Frank L. Cole: Ah. You see. That's the American Dream. That's why North America would totally kick Antarctica's tush in a fight.

SME: Thanks so much for being my Friday Friend, Frank L Cole!

Frank L. Cole: You're very welcome! You rock!

SME: Yes. Yes I do.

Frank L. Cole: Now what?

SME: I say something like, "Thanks. Have a great day." And then you say something similar. And then we both go our separate ways.

Frank L. Cole: Alright. I'm ready

SME: Thanks. Have a great day.

Frank L. Cole: Bon Appetite!

SME: Close enough. *cue exit music* Well, this has been "I Need Friends" Friday. Come back next week when I will make another friend!!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I was going to post something really insightful and deep, something that would leave an indelible mark on your lives.

Then I stumbled across this and all bets were off. Watch. Enjoy. Thank me later. (And if you write romance... take notes!)


Monday, June 6, 2011

So... on June 1st, the uber-impressive Dan Wells issued a Summer Poetry Challenge. Then, his almost-as-impressive brother, Rob Wells, (just kidding, Rob!) spread the word on his blog, which is where I read about it. The basic idea is to memorize one poem a week over the 12 weeks-ish of summer.

I haven't memorized poetry since college, but thought I'd give it a go.

Join the challenge!! C'mon! All the cool kids are doing it!!

Because I didn't hear about the challenge until last Friday and Sunday is the day you're supposed to check a poem off your list, I'm giving myself until June 12th to have my first poem memorized.

Dan set out some rules. I would say you can flub it if you want, but the guy writes horror--realistic enough horror that I'm not sure I would chance it.
The rules:

1. It must be a poem you don’t already have fully memorized, but it’s okay if you already have some of it memorized.
2. You must recite the entire poem, out loud, from memory, for at least one other person, on Sunday. That gives you slightly less than a full week for the first one, so pick something easy.
3. There are no length restrictions, but if all your poems are little quatrains or tiny nursery rhymes you’re cheating in spirit. Throw a few multi-stanza poems in there; you can do it.
4. No William Carlos Williams allowed. There will be zero tolerance on this point.
5. Everything is done completely on the honors system. If you say you did it, we believe you.

My first poem is one I've always wanted to memorize, but never have:

She walks in Beauty
George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron. 1788–1824

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

I have always loved this poem. On the surface it seems like just another love poem, but look more closely. This isn't a "I got the hots for you because you got it goin' on" poem. Her physical beauty is described, yes, but we see more than that. The subject's internal beauty is praised as well. In fact, a great deal of effort is made to connect the two--that her goodness makes her that much more beautiful. (Now that's what a woman really wants to hear--that she is loved for who she is, not just what she looks like.)

Are you gonna join in the fun? Got a poem in mind? Share! Share!

Friday, June 3, 2011

(Every Friday I interview a different person and share that interview with you. Perhaps they will be a fellow author. Perhaps one of my neighbors. Maybe the bagger at the grocery store. A member of my family. A follower of this blog. Maybe it will be you! Hey, it could happen.)

Today's INFF guest is Becky Durtschi. She works at Seagull Book (dream job, eh? books, books and more books!). I met Becky via email and have enjoyed getting to know her better. I think you will, too!

SME: Welcome to INFF.

Becky: Thanks. It's great to be here.

SME: Summer seems to have finally arrived here in Utah (knock on wood). How are you enjoying the nice weather?

Becky: I'm loving it. The rain is nice and all. But the sun just can't be beat. Especially with all the fun summer activities to enjoy.

SME: Do you have a favorite summer activity? I mean besides reading fabulous romance novels, of course.

Becky: *laughs* Well hanging out with family is always nice. Business slows down in the summer, so I if I'm going places, it's usually then.

SME: How long have you worked in a bookstore?

Becky: I've worked with Seagull Book for 5 years this August and worked at Barnes and Nobel for a couple of summers and holidays for 2 years before that.

SME: Have you just always liked books?

Becky: I would have to say that books are in my blood. Growing up we had books lining our hallway walls. My parents have always loved to read and have passed that along to their children.

SME: That is fantastic. Instilling a love of reading in children should be a must for every parent.

Becky: Definitely. Of course it can make it hard on the pocket book. It's rare that we would get out of a book store without spending $100.

SME: I have always said there are 2 different kinds of stores I could never work in because I would go broke: a fabric store and a book store!!

Becky: I hear that a lot at work. People either say, "I should work here to pay for my book habit" or "I could never work here, I'd go broke." I just smile and agree that it can be hard.
Being employed by a bookstore has it's advantages though. Demos to read so you can put off buying them for a little while. Or it makes you want them more. It's a toss up.

SME: Wow. Demos. That would be so fantastic. But, like you said, I think I'd then just want to buy them that much more!

Becky: It's true. But it gives you a chance to read something that you might not normally read if you had to buy it.

SME: So, have you read any demos lately that the rest of us should rush out and buy when it hits shelves?

Becky: I actually just finished "The Forgotten Locket" by Lisa Magnum last night (staying up until midnight, thank you very much). I have loved this trilogy and couldn't wait until this last book came out. I loved it.

SME: I talked to Lisa at the LDStorymakers conference about that book and it sounds fantastic!

Becky: It was one of those that you didn't want to put down. You wanted to know what happened next and wanted to know now. Made it hard to get sleep this week.

SME: I love books like that. Do you have a favorite genre?

Becky: Um. That's a hard question. I like several. Don't know if I could choose a favorite.

SME: Romance is my absolute fave, but I do enjoy reading outside of that genre sometimes, too.

Becky: I like some romances (like yours) but some just don't connect with me. I mostly read mysteries and action adventure. So I guess those would be my favorite.

SME: Okay... another great question for you: What's your favorite continent?

Becky: It's kind of sad to think about how much I've thought about this question since I knew I was going to do this interview.

SME: I love it!

Becky: But I'm sticking with North America. It's the only one I know currently.

SME: Nice. I think North America is the undisputed leader right now of the INFF Favorite Continent Poll

Becky: It helps that most of us are from North America.

SME: True. I need to start reaching out the the non-North-America international population.

Becky: Would you have to interview them in their native language?

SME: That could get tricky. We probably wouldn't get past "hello"

Becky: I could answer "I don't know" in a few of them. Not a very engaging interview though.

SME: And, as everyone knows, I'm all about engaging interviews.

Becky: Exactly!! It would be one of the shortest INFF interviews ever.

SME: I also am pretty big on engaging games (not a bad transition there, eh?) And I do have a game today!

Becky: YAY! I love games

SME: We're going to revisit one of my all-time favorite games: Rapid Fire Q&A

Becky: Oh no. *takes a deep breath* Ok. I'm ready.

SME: I'll ask you a series of questions. You give me the first answer that comes to mind. Rules: No explanations. No long answers. Cool?

Becky: Like ice.

SME: Nice.

Becky: Thanks.

SME: Okay. Here we go.
Least favorite color?

Becky: puke

SME: Strangest food you've ever eaten?

Becky: moth

SME: Favorite summer destination?

Becky: the beach!!! With family

SME: Elementary School teacher you remember most?

Becky: Miss ... ah shoot. I forgot her name. Mcman!

SME: Book you are currently reading?

Becky: Haven't started a new one yet since I just finished one last night. But Foggy with a chance of Murder in on the docket.

SME: Dream job?

Becky: Sappy, but being a mom.

SME: Favorite dessert?

Becky: Ice cream and cake

SME: Favorite season?

Becky: Summer

SME: A favorite author (other than me, heehee)?

Becky: I have to choose one?

SME: Just throw out one and we will all realize it is one of many.

Becky: Traci Hunter Abrason

SME: Nice. Traci is fantastic! She and I bonded over cheesecake at the 2010 Whitney Award Gala last month.

Becky: I actually got to visit with her when I went to VA to visit my sister. She's awesome.

SME: I must say, I think you were victorious in the Rapid Fire Q&A game!

Becky: It's harder than it looks.

SME: On the high of your win, I say we should go directly to the portrait gallery!

Becky: Let's do it!

*draws a fantastic portrait*

Becky: Awesome!! How did you know I wear flip-flops when ever I can?

SME: I have been rocking flip-flops ever since the rain stopped two days ago and I figure if you're as cool as you seem, you probably do the same thing. I am so happy to be right!

Becky: I actually even wear flip-flops in the snow. Strange I know.

SME: I have not yet reached that level of coolness. Maybe some day.

Becky: It's hard to be so cool. Or cold as some would say.

SME: Niiiiice. I am a fan of a well placed pun.

Becky: My dad would be proud. He's very punny.

SME: That, my new friend, brings us to the final question of the interview: Top 5 reasons this is the best blog interview you've ever done. Ready. Go.

Becky: 1. It's my first, so definitely the best.
2. I got to chat with the awesome Sarah M. Eden.
3. I got to have some fun with puns.
4. I got a cool portrait.
5. I have an excuse to buy another pair of flip-flops to match my portrait.

SME: I do what I can to encourage my friends' shoe buying needs.
Thanks so much for being my Friday Friend, Becky!

Becky: It was my pleasure! Can't wait until fall for "Seeking Persephone"!

SME: I know--hooray!!

Becky: *Does a happy dance.*

SME: *cue exit music* Well, this has been "I Need Friends" Friday. Come back next week when I will make another friend!!

If you'd like to be interviewed for "I Need Friends" Friday, shoot me off an email: friends at sarahmeden dot com!
I am looking for anyone and everyone, whether or not you think you are interesting. You'll get a fantastic stick figure portrait of yourself, a little promotion (if you're looking for that sort of thing) and the opportunity to tell your friends and family that you've been interviewed by SME, er... by ME!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bear with me while I share a story about me that will, I promise, tie in to today's topic:

I spent my high school years being dramatic. I know, I know. Who didn't, right? I mean dramatic on stage. Membership in the International Thespian Society required a minimum of 100 volunteer hours in community theater--I hit that benchmark by winter break my freshman year. I lettered in drama all four years. I spent a great deal of time in costume and stage makeup. While I loved my time on stage, one thing about it bothered me from day one. I was always--ALWAYS--a supporting character.

I played "Tiny Tim" in A Christmas Carol, "Marta" in The Sound of Music, "Minnie Fay" in Hello, Dolly. We reached the final show of my senior year and I had yet to snag a lead part, something I really, really wanted.

A retired theater teacher, Mr. Farrell--a man whose wisdom I really respect--helped cast that final show. I got into a conversation with him about roles and casting and my frustrations with always being "support staff." He said something to me that I have never forgotten.

"Anyone can play a lead. It's the supporting roles that are hardest to cast, because they make or break the show. The non-lead characters give a story so much of its dynamic that if they aren't done correctly the whole thing falls apart."

Which brings us to this post's topic of discussion: Minor Characters.

I cannot tell you how many times I've read a book in which the supporting cast was nothing but a collection of cardboard space fillers pulled directly from Stereotypes-R-Us.

Just like Mr. Farrell said, supporting characters are crucial in any story and, perhaps, the trickiest to get right. As an author, we have to balance the influence a minor character has with the need for the story to remain the main character's. We have to develop the minor characters without losing focus. We want a diverse cast without resorting to cookie-cutter support staff.

One example of a fabulously balanced set of characters can be found in the classic television show, The Andy Griffith Show. The show revolved around Andy Taylor, there's no doubt about that. But the supporting characters had their moments to shine and their roles to fill. Gomer. Goober. Aunt Bee. Opie. And, of course, Barney Fife. There may have been episodes that focused on one of these smaller characters, but the show as a whole was held together by Andy.

Barney was arguably the most significant of the minor characters. His interaction with Andy was, in my opinion, the most crucial dynamic in the series. When Don Knotts left the show and, thus, Barney's character moved away from Mayberry, the show lost its heart. Andy was still there. The basic premise was still the same, but the dynamic was broken. Barney's journey was intrinsically tied to Andy's. We needed him there to round out the story.

So, what does this tell us about the non-lead characters in our writing? Don't underestimate their importance.

Let's take a look at a few reasons why Barney Fife worked so well as a supporting character.

A) He was an actual person, not a means to an end.
Too often when creating minor characters, a writer invents the type of character he needs and adjusts as needed to fit the story. Wrong. Minor characters require the same level of consistency that a main character does. They need motivations. They need history. They need depth.
Sure, Barney was a goofy, punchline of a character, but he was real. He had his insecurities (his size, his comparative unimportance, the (lack of) respect he received from the community). We saw his roller coaster relationship with his longtime girlfriend. We heard bits of his history that were never inconsistent.
Barney was real and that was crucial to his success as a minor character.

B) He didn't take over the series.
Sure, there were episodes that were about Barney, but go back and watch them again and you'll realize that those story lines always tied back to Andy's. Often something that happened to Andy triggered the plot line of those episodes focused almost solely on Barney. Andy was the glue that held Mayberry and the show together. Barney's character never veered from that. His successes and failures and character arcs were always a complement to Andy's and were never independent of Andy's.
This is the same approach authors need to take with their minor characters. These non-leads still have a character arc, but it doesn't take over the story. Subplots intrinsically tied to these supporting characters don't happen 100% independent of the main story. They don't take up more page time. If you find a minor character is repeatedly taking precedence over your main character, take a step back and figure out why. Maybe you're telling the wrong story. Maybe you love that minor character a little too much and bring them into scenes simply because you enjoy writing them.

C) He wasn't redundant.
The Andy Griffith Show was full of goofy characters. They were funny, off-the-wall, oddball characters, but all in different ways. Gomer Pile was the simple, always-upbeat, down-home character. Aunt Bee was the maternal, worry-wart, domestically concerned character. Opie was the innocent, child's view of the world character. Barney was the slapstick, doesn't realize he's funny, overly confident, best friend character. Get where this is going? They were all unique and had their own roles to play. If Gomer and Barney and Floyd the barber and Otis the town drunk, had all been carbon copies of each other, the overall dynamic would not have worked.
Keep that in mind when developing your cast of characters. They need to all be unique in some way, to have a role that they alone fill.

D) The writers (and actors) knew how to play Barney and Andy off each other.
Andy was the straight man. Barney was the comic. Andy's character certainly had a sense of humor and could joke around with the best of them. We see Andy play pranks on Barney (ie every time Barney falls asleep on the job, Andy does something to him), and we can see by Andy's reaction to Barney's frequent soliloquies that Andy can be goofy. But he chooses not to be. They aren't both goofy at the same time. Andy sits back and lets Barney be the funny one. That is their character dynamic. It works best that way, so that's the pattern they stick to. Doing this also keeps Andy in the main character roll, because in so many ways he guides the scenes Barney is part of.
As an author, you should know what works best between your main character and their "sidekicks." Give them a history together and a pattern of interactions that best compliments each other and the story you're trying to tell.

Character development is a complex and on-going effort for any author. I guess what this long, long post boils down to is this: "Don't ignore your minor characters." They need attention, too. Or, in the (slightly adjusted) words of the ever-wise Mr. Farrell:

"It's the supporting roles that are hardest to [write], because they make or break the [story]. The non-lead characters give a story so much of its dynamic that if they aren't done correctly the whole thing falls apart."


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