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Summer Vacation

It’s time to give the blog over to travel reporting once again, if for no other reason than to document some of the interesting places we visited this year.  Writers, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The original plan was for southern California again.  We enjoy the atmosphere and wanted to check out some places we haven’t seen together, like Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood.  But just a little research confirmed that it would take ridiculous amounts of money and time to make the trip that would cover everything we wanted to see.  So we scaled back and booked an epic journey focused within the borders of our pretty, great state–Utah.

On Wednesday morning, June 15th, we departed our charming home in our rented 2011 Dodge Caravan (we still cherish our 2000 Ford Windstar, but can’t trust it at its age for the more than 1600 miles we would log on this trip).  The vehicle was brand new, with only 3 miles on the odometer as we left the rental lot.  I remained terrified of putting the slightest scratch on it, knowing the rental company held our credit card hostage.

After a brief and unexpected stop at a lavender farm in Mona (lavender apparently being highly prized for its “essential oils”), we had brunch at a unique restaurant in Nephi, M. C. Micklesen’s.  The food was average, but the ambience was enhanced by hundreds of feet of large scale model railroad track, with trains winding in and out of each room, landscaped and decorated in loving detail.  It really got us in the mood for traveling.

Onward down I-15, all the way to our state’s southernmost metropolitan area, St. George.  In the process we dropped to an altitude just over 2,000 feet above sea level, entering an arid climate that is the only place in Utah where palm trees will grow.  The temperature hovered just over 100 degrees as we stumbled out of our Caravan at the Best Western Abbey Inn.  The kids wanted to head straight for the pool and I joined them.  The water was too warm to refresh, and after a few minutes in that sun I thought I could hear my skin sizzling so I retreated to the air-conditioned room.  Later we enjoyed dinner at the Chuck-A-Rama buffet and headed out to the evening’s main event.

The Tuacahn Amphitheater in Ivins, Utah is a marvel of modern theater.  Set in a natural red sandstone alcove at the base of towering cliffs just outside Snow Canyon State Park, it’s a perfect setting for outdoor entertainment.

The regional productions (the musicals are the ones we’re interested in) draw Broadway-level talent from NYC for the top roles, and the technical execution is top-notch.  The way they combined costumes, lighting and skate-shoes to create the illusion of merfolk for Disney’s The Little Mermaid was nothing short of astounding.  And that’s before they use a 50-foot curtain of water as a screen to project moving undersea imagery onto while the characters are “swimming” flawlessly in three dimensions.  You have to see it to believe it.  The songs, of course, are the highlights of this show, including all of the unforgettable Alan Menken masterpieces from the film plus a couple we hadn’t seen before.  The show started at 8:45pm, with the temperature still well above 90 degrees, but eventually we were coolly entertained as we got down “Under the Sea”!

In the morning, Jill and I left the kids to their own devices (we don’t have any under the age of 10 anymore, which is great when you’re on vacation!) while we went to attend a session at the St. George Temple.  This building is a hallowed place in Mormonism,  being the first temple completed in Utah (in 1877), and having been constructed at the cost of almost unthinkable sacrifice by the members of that community.  It was a great blessing to enter “The House of the Lord” and see the simple yet elegant craftsmanship of that bygone era while feeling the same spirit its builders felt all those generations ago.

Later in the day, we stopped by with kids and walked around the grounds with them.

The better part of Thursday afternoon was spent at a State Park called Sand Hollow, a few miles East of St. George, and an important reservoir for one of the region’s scarcest commodities:  Water.  Here there is plenty of it, stocked with bass and perfect for summertime swimming and boating.  The bright red sand of the surrounding dunes makes for a colorful beach on the south end of the reservoir, and we found it uncrowded and shaded by young cottonwood trees.

Beach in the Desert - Sand Hollow

Chillin' at Sand Hollow

After dinner, we made our way back to Tuacahn because we also had tickets to Grease! Another fantastic production, complete with motorcycles and muscle cars on stage, transported us back to old Rydell High in 1959.  The leads were spot-on and the songs pitch-perfect.  It was quite a bit cooler this night, and the audience chuckled when a brief thunderstorm hit just as the cast performed “It’s Raining on Prom Night”.

Grease is the word is the word is the word etc.

Friday morning was time to pack up and depart St. George for the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort!  First, we fought our way through the Abbey Inn’s breakfast buffet, which was unfortunately quite crowded all morning, but no one’s going to complain because the food is good and it’s included with your room charge.

The quickest way to our destination was through Zion National Park, but we had toured that park last year and didn’t want to pay the $25 fee just to drive through.  So we turned south in Hurricane, drove through the arid Apple Valley and crossed into Arizona.  We stopped at Pipe Spring National Monument, operated jointly by the Parks Service and the Kaibab Paiute Indian Tribe.  The natural springs there were an oasis in the history of both the native Americans and the Mormon settlers in the area in the late 19th century.  There were interesting displays and a rather extensive museum about the Paiute, who believe themselves to be descendants of the Anasazi.

Sheesh...Talk about your fixer-upper.

We arrived back in the Utah border town of Kanab in the afternoon.  Kanab has  been called “Little Hollywood” because it was headquarters for a lot of westerns filmed back in the 1930’s -’70s, and the set for television’s Gunsmoke is nearby.  Another hour brought us to our destination, the Zion Ponderosa!

Our sweet little cabin was located less than 200 feet from the recreation barn, tennis courts, swimming pool,  gift shop, and office, but was set on several thousand acres of high desert wilderness.  We checked in and had a relaxing evening, including swimming, table tennis, a “rodeo” put on by the employees, and a movie projected onto the side of the barn.

Saturday morning we piled in the van and headed north along Highway 89, which back in the day was the main drag through most of Utah.  It’s kind of the “Highway 66” of our state, winding through some interesting towns and scenic country.

Farming - not your most lucrative career choice.

Our destination was just north of the little town of Marysvale, at a place called “Big Rock Candy Mountain” (reputedly its name post-dates the song made famous by Burl Ives, so my guess is the name of this place came from that song).  There is indeed mountain there that somewhat resembles a big slab of caramel-colored confection.

We had lunch at the resort’s namesake cafe and then got ready for our whitewater rafting trip down the Sevier River!  Our guide was running late from his last run, so another guide, affectionately nicknamed “Stoney”, took us on a  brief hike through a mosquito-infested canyon which wasn’t all that pleasant or informative, just to kill time.  Eventually our river guide, “Buckshot” (does anyone have a surname around here, or do I dare ask?), got us on board with our fellow rafters and explained the rules.  “Buckshot” had a well-developed colloquial sense of humor and a laugh like the devil’s, but he knew what he was doing.  We all enjoyed the rough water (not really THAT rough, I expected worse), and got soaked several times.  The river was running high, and at one point we had to pull the raft out of the river and carry it across the road to avoid a bridge that looked a little too low for comfort.

Defending my family against the terrors of the Sevier River with a plastic paddle.

Just in case there are any questions regarding if or how much I enjoyed the rafting trip, a professional photographer was on hand to document the voyage, and was able to obtain these candid shots of what was clearly one of my better days.

The trip was not, however, all fun and games, because I was equipped with an oar and positioned at the right starboard side of the boat, with critical responsibilities in avoiding obstacles that threatened to puncture our inflatable island of safety amid the tempest.  It was hard work, my friends, and at times my face showed the strain of the burden.

We couldn’t find anything to eat on the way back to the Ponderosa (and with towns with names like “Orderville” and “Junction”, what kind of cuisine would you expect?), so we tried out the onsite buffet.  It was expensive and disappointing, and we resolved not to eat there again if we could help it.

Sunday morning we started the day with a fun horseback ride through the high desert forest around the Ranch.  All the recent rain resulted in greenery that was an irresistible temptation to the horses, who were experts at sneaking snacks as they walked.

The sign back there says "Be sure to tip your horse and kiss your wrangler." Nah, the guy clearly had a tobacco problem.

Then it was off to Kanab to attend LDS church services on Main Street.  On the way, we stopped to look at a herd of bison grazing just off the highway.

We arrived late and the chapel was packed, so we ended up listening from out in the foyer.

Later we toured the amazing “Best Friends” Animal Sanctuary in Angel Canyon, a few miles outside Kanab.   The non-profit organization takes in homeless animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, and birds, and takes great care of them until they are adopted.  We met one couple who had driven all the way to New York to volunteer at the facility.

Also nearby is what has to be one of the largest pet cemeteries in the country, with thousands of memorials for bygone animal companions, presented with the greatest affection and reverence.

Monday was centered around our visit to Bryce Canyon National Park, about two hours from Zion Ponderosa.  But first, we stopped for lunch at a Subway franchise on Highway 89.  The back of the building faced the highway, and some enterprising artist has done a wonderful job painting the wall and electrical boxes to look like a cliff-dweller village.

At Bryce, we were amazed at the fantastical fairlyland imagery all around us.

We hiked down in to the bottom of the canyon on a long, carved set of switchbacks until we arrived at a place where a pair of giant Douglas firs grew up over a hundred feet out of a narrow slot.

Driving back to the Ponderosa, we slowed down to the speed limit in a  town called Glendale when we saw this Sheriff’s vehicle.

However, on closer inspection we discovered that the Kane County Sheriff’s department was underfunded and had resorted to the employment of mannequin deputies.

We had been bothered by a little mouse for the last couple of nights, and it would not be understated to say that my wife was “freaking out”.  We even trapped the little guy in a closet with a towel under the door, but the resourceful rodent simply chewed his way out and continued with his nocturnal persecutions.  Tuesday morning I called the front desk and asked if housekeeping could deploy a couple of  traps while we were gone to the Grand Canyon for the day, which  they kindly committed to doing.

It took us about two hours to arrive at the North Rim Visitor’s Center, which is quite remote  from any town or, well, anything at all.  It’s OUT there, folks.  Needless to say, the staggering grandeur of the Grand Canyon simply cannot be captured in a photo, but the sight robbed us of breath and thought as we gazed out over the fifty-mile wide chasm in wonder.

My compliments must be given to the chef at the Grand Canyon Lodge.  Considering that all the foodstuffs must be trucked in from hundreds of miles away, the luncheon and buffet prices were quite reasonable and downright gourmet.  The kids won’t soon forget the pasta buffet and we older ones found the pulled-pork burrito much better  than expected in such a place.

We found our way back to the Ponderosa in time to get in some “pool time”.

We slept well that night, until just after 1am when the “snap” of a mousetrap less than two feet from my head awakened me in a hurry.  “Got ‘im!” I yelled.  Indeed, our little varmint invader had met a violent demise in the trap that had been placed at the head of my bed on the floor.  Do NOT tell me how cute he is, he was after our Twizzlers.

Wednesday morning it was  time to come home, so we packed up the rented Caravan (note how the reddish-orange color coordinates nicely with the geological conditions in southern Utah) and headed back to the relatively civilized world of the Wasatch Front!



All photos (c) 2011 Jill


Ammon by H.B. Moore

I’ve been following H.B. Moore’s latest series with great interest because it takes a lot of courage, imagination and research to pull off this kind of project and make it work.  As with Orson Scott Card’s Women of Genesis series, choosing protagonists rooted in the scriptures and building a fictional, yet plausible world around them takes guts, and I admire anyone willing to take it on.

Book of Mormon fiction presents the same challenges as biblical fiction, in that the main characters are prophets or holy men who are revered by millions and hard to conceive of as real people with flaws and personalities.  Then there’s the argument that the fictionalizing the lives of such people takes something away from the sacred accounts or is even borderline blasphemous, but I disagree.  When I watch DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, I’m well aware I’m not watching Moses himself, but only Charlton Heston’s depiction of a character who may or may not be similar to Moses, embellished with Hollywood’s gaudiest trappings.  If such portrayals prompt me to think about and re-read the scriptures, they are in my mind successful as religious literature and entertainment.

H. B. Moore succeeds at what she set out to do.  In each of her novels Alma, Abinadi, Alma the Younger, and now Ammon, she has chosen four Nephite prophet-leaders whose sacrifices and inspired deeds kept the faith of the Hebrews alive amid the excesses and atrocities of mesoamerican culture.  Ammon, eldest son of Mosiah II and heir to the Nephite throne, is every little Mormon boy’s hero.  Artist Arnold Friberg depicts him as a massive shirtless warrior wielding a sparkling sword in defense of the Lamanite king’s flocks at Sebus.  In The Book of Mormon, Ammon’s story is covered in Alma 17-26.  He was one of the hedonistic “sons of Mosiah” who caused trouble for the church along with Alma the Younger until they experienced a “road to Damascus” type experience.  Young Alma was the main target of the angel’s rebuke, but Ammon and his brothers were also converted to the cause of truth by the experience.  Afterward, not only did the changed Ammon renounce his claim to the Nephite throne, but he and his brothers felt inspired to set off on a preaching mission to the wild and pagan Lamanites.  Ammon’s story to this point is covered by Moore in Alma the Younger, with Ammon as a secondary character.  The narrative in Ammon picks up as the brothers are entering Lamanite territory and decide to split up to appear less threatening to a people who consider them ancestral enemies.

Ammon is immediately captured and brought before King Lamoni, a junior ruler subject to his father, the High King.  With patience and humility, Ammon eventually convinces Lamoni that he means no harm to his people and only wants to live among them and serve them.  The crafty Lamoni, seeing a chance at a powerful political alliance, offers his daughter to Ammon, but the missionary has higher motives and refuses.  This impresses Lamoni even more and earns his trust.  Soon we find Ammon at the waters of Sebus, in the famous scene where he severs the arms of several marauders attempting to scatter the king’s flocks.  This event raises Ammon to near godlike status among the Lamanites who witness it, and he succeeds in converting Lamoni and many of his people to the religion of the One True God.  Later, as Ammon and Lamoni travel together to free Ammon’s brothers from prison in another sub-kingdom, they run into Lamoni’s father.  The High King is outraged to find that his son is apparently being controlled by a Nephite.  Again, Ammon’s physical strength and spiritual sensitivity combine to deliver the victory, and the High King is soon firmly in the camp of truth and righteousness.

All of this is straight from the scriptural account, but what H.B. Moore adds is her informed speculation on what the chronicler (or compiler) may have left out.  A blossoming romance between Ammon and an expatriate Nephite woman in Lamoni’s kingdom is entirely Moore’s creation.  Sweet as it is, it left me wondering how things would have gone if Ammon had fallen for a Lamanite woman.  Is the avoidance of an interracial relationship Moore’s idea, an edit imposed by her Church-0wned publisher, or the reflection of an ancient cultural taboo?  That may be an interesting question, but kudos to Moore for developing a strong female character as a match for Ammon.  Besides Lehi’s wife Sariah and Abish (one of the players in this story in a much-expanded role), women are barely mentioned in The Book of Mormon.  Yet we know that these prophet-leaders had relationships and spouses, because they had so many descendants!

Another aspect Moore develops from a dearth of information in the source material is the certain opposition Ammon and Lamoni would have faced in establishing their religion among a people steeped in the abominations of preclassical Mayan traditions (well-researched by Moore).  She doesn’t shy away from human sacrifice or temple prostitution, and she makes the brother of Ammon’s love interest the principal antagonist.  Again, Moore excels with the authenticity of her bad guys, an ability that really shined in Alma the Younger but is strong here as well.   Not that I can sympathize with a guy who would abduct his own sister and have her imprisoned in a temple where he knew she would be ritually abused, but through Moore’s narrative I can at least comprehend his motivations in doing so.  The climax of the novel has no basis in the scriptural account, which may reduce the impact for some, but is still satisfying and appropriate to the characters. Other readers might complain that Moore left out one of Ammon’s most dramatic moments, when some of his converts refuse to fight back against their enemies and are massacred (Alma 24), but that event doesn’t lend itself to a happy ending and its omission is understandable.

The writing in Ammon is neither fancy, stylistic nor lyrical.  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s a straightforward telling of the story that despite the sometimes harrowing subject matter meets LDS standards for fiction.  Moore knows how to keep the attention off her writing and on her characters.  Minimal verbiage is expended on descriptions of the settings, keeping the focus on people (albeit people in a fascinating milieu) and the spiritual impact of actions and relationships.  Make no mistake, this is fiction written with a religious purpose, and the result is uplifting and faith-affirming.  Highly recommended to readers of LDS fiction of any genre, even more so to young adults looking for a little romance and strong portrayals of their scriptural heroes.   I sincerely hope Moore continues with this series, as I would love to see the lives of Nephi (the Apostle), Helaman, Mormon and Moroni given the same caring fictional treatment.

The Imager Portfolio

World-building fantasy can be many things, including exciting, fantastical, sweeping, action-packed, and romantic on the plus side, and overlong, boring, and incomprehensible on the negative.  One thing it’s not often accused of being is relevant.  After finishing the first three novel’s in L.E. Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio, I can honestly say that it’s the first fantasy series I’ve read in some time that provides such a rich  table of food for thought that applies directly to today’s socio-political climate.

Modesitt, author of the long-running and bestselling Saga of Recluce, has his loyal fans and doesn’t stray too far from his successful formula here. These first three volumes (Imager, Imager’s Challenge, and Imager’s Intrigue) can be looked at as a single novel in three sections, a first-person narrative from the perspective of Rhennthyl D’Imager, young portrait painter who in his early adulthood discovers a rare talent for “imaging”, a magical ability to transport or replicate most materials from one place to another just by thinking about it.  Rhenn’s nation, Solidar, carefully regulates its imager population, and he knows he has no choice but to check himself in at the Collegium Imago,  a Hogwarts-style training school for imagers located on a large island in the river flowing through L’Excelsis, capital of Solidar.  Imagers have somewhat of a shady and mysterious reputation, and Rhenn doesn’t know what to expect in his new life.  He quickly discovers two unsettling facts:  One, he is quite the prodigy with his imaging skills, and two, more than a few people want to kill him because of it.

With his abilities, intelligence, and disposition, Rhenn is assigned to the covert branch of the Collegium, akin to a mixture of the CIA and the Secret Service for Solidar.  He is quickly promoted several ranks and eventually finds himself one of the top “Masters” in the imaging world.  He proves himself loyal to his masters and doesn’t hesitate to kill for his country or to defend others.  As he grows in power and finds it harder to stay out of the limelight, the story takes on a bit of a superhero cast. I couldn’t help but think of Peter Parker’s uncle telling the fledgling Spider-Man that “with great power comes great responsibility.”  Rhenn is forced to make life-and-death decisions and initiate proactive hits on foreign agents and wealthy aristocrats whom he knows (but can’t prove) to have threatened his family.  He absorbs his share of assassination attempts and becomes more of a target as he gains prominence in the Collegium.  He becomes an example of the ethical hero, forced to take justice into his own hands because of the weaknesses and flaws inherent in the system he’s a part of.  In time, he develops a romantic tie with an ethnic minority woman (who is a very strong character) and starts a family amid the violence and uncertainty of his position.

This might make it sound like Modesitt is off on a conservative rant, and he does have a great deal to say about politics, but my overall impression was of a moderate and thoughtful worldview.  He’s well-known for his defense of women’s rights and for creating worlds that explore that theme.  Like Recluce, Modesitt’s Solidar is caught somewhere between the medieval and the steampunk, with railroads and factories existing alongside entrenched hereditary landowners and cottage merchants fighting for market share.  The narrative is peopled with characters  from all classes, and Rhenn must deal with multiple levels of intrigue among them.  He even does a lengthy stint as an inner-city police captain, forging alliances with slum-lords and dealing with everything from terrorist attacks to the disruptions caused by military recruiters in the ghetto.  Modesitt’s delivery has been critisized as “preachy”, but the style works for me.  I like the fact that this story can be related to so many elements of our modern existence, and the philosophical musings are not overbearing because they come through a single viewpoint character who has to work through the problems himself, without narrator intervention or contrived plot devices.

Modesitt employs an unconventional (and many would say ill-advised) storytelling convention.  He begins almost every chapter with something like “I got up on Tuesday morning…” and ends with going to bed at night.  We have to work through the tedium of nearly every meal Rhenn eats each day without the benefit of summary.  No day is passed over, no matter how routine.  Any writing coach or critique group would shred this practice after one chapter, let alone such a huge novel.  But again, it works in this context.  Modesitt wants us to get this character.  It’s not just about following a hero through a story, it’s about living with him for long enough to understand his base-level motivations.  We don’t get a lot of interior monologue or rumination from Rhenn, but from the journalistic approach to the story we perceive the why of his actions through the repeated how of his doings.  Integral to this is a tight scope on Rhenn’s daily life, including his choice of wine at lunch and how much he tips his coach driver.  The total immersion, detail and realism of the narrative draws us into Rhenn’s world in such a complete way that we accept L’Excelsis, Solidar, and the world’s two moons as if they were just as real.

So I can recommend this thinking person’s fantasy, but only to those who really want to think.  It takes a long time to work your way through these books, and they are not mere escapist entertainment.  The action set pieces are few and far between, with a great many routine days cushioning each.  There are questions to be answered, mysteries to be solved, and enemies to be foiled in subtle and complex ways, with a strict adherence to the laws of imaging in a changing world.  The climax of each book is satisfying and the final one in the third volume is particularly bittersweet and meaningful considering what our hero has to do to save his country.  Rhennthyl is up to the task, and invites the discerning reader along for a close ride.


Today I noticed that on April 28, bestselling fantasy author George R. R. Martin updated his website with a single word:  “Done.”

That was the only word his fans wanted to hear.  He was referring, of course, to A Dance with Dragons, the fifth volume of A Song of Ice and Fire.  This gritty, realistic epic (the first volume of of which has already been made into an HBO miniseries) has become highly anticipated and is sure to shoot straight to the top of the bestseller lists.

Martin works at his own pace, and has dealt with more of his share of harassment from impatient readers who wonder why he takes time to go on vacation and attend conventions while they they stew in painful suspense over where he will take his characters next.  Apparently it’s offensive to them that their favorite author should actually have a life.  Maybe they should consider getting one of their own.

Really, I have to laugh at the outrage of some fantasy fans, while admitting to envy of Martin’s position.  What author wouldn’t love to have hundreds of thousand of people clamoring for his next work?  On the other hand, does anyone really need that kind of pressure?  Martin doesn’t seem to let it bother him.  He carries on with life, doing what he wants to do, writing when he feels like it, taking his time and making it clear that he isn’t going to publish anything but his best material.  He keeps his blog interactions polite and tactful, even while dealing with comments implying things like “don’t you pull a Robert Jordan on us, and die before you finish this series.”

In my view, Martin deserves the veneration.  His fiction has broken new ground in the genre and overturned some tired tropes.  Magic has a minimal role so far in his medieval society, and viewpoint characters have been killed off with a disturbingly refreshing randomness that keeps the reader’s attention.  The narrative is several shades racier and more violent than the average multi-thousand page high fantasy, and all of the “heroes” have enough flaws to keep vibrant love-hate relationships kindled with readers.

All of this combines to make the next installment of Song well worth the wait.  Despite Martin’s perceived literary lethargy, his publisher, Bantam, plans to waste no time rushing the 1,056 page tome to market.  Amazon reports that the hefty hardcover will hit the market on July 12th.  Since the manuscript was just completed last Friday, the warp-speed 75-day turnaround to finished product shows just what kind of clout Martin and his series have in the publishing world.

I, for one, will be one of the first in line to get my hands on A Dance with Dragons.  This is the type of event release that I look forward to, and Martin is one of a very few authors I will drop everything for.  Not only do I enjoy the read as a reader, but I can also get some effective mentoring from someone writing at the apex of my genre.

Keep writing, George, and don’t let anyone rush you.

American Fork Arts Council Writer’s Conference April 30th

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be participating in the Spring Conference for Writers sponsored by the American Fork Arts Council.  Other published authors on the agenda include Dene Low, Margot Hovley, Caleb Warnock, Sara Larson, and Loraine Scott.  Jennifer Fielding, Acquisitions Editor for Cedar Fort, will also be there.

In the morning, I’ll be giving a brief speech to the assembled group entitled “My First Novel – 20 Years in the Making”.  Throughout the day, I’ll be on breakout panels discussing such topics as “Novel Writing 101”, “Anatomy of a Successful Book Signing”, and “Having Fun with Plot”.

During the final afternoon breakout session, I’ll be giving a 40-minute presentation based on my blog series “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Novelists”.

If you’ve always wanted to go to a writer’s conference, but thought it was too expensive, this could be the one for you, with a pre-registration fee of only $49!

Copies of The Rogue Shop will be on hand and I’ll be signing.  Looking forward to seeing you there!

Spring Conference for Writers — American Fork Arts Council
Historic American Fork City Hall, 31 North Church Street (50 East), American Fork
Saturday, April 30, 2011; 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
To register, call the Arts Council Office 801-763-3081
Major credit cards accepted ($1 fee).

Go HERE for more details on the conference!

Upcoming Conferences

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be participating in two writer’s conferences in the next few weeks.  These are great opportunities to meet other local writers, and for me, a chance to share some ideas I’ve had during my journey through the novel writing and publishing process.

The  first is “Write Here in Ephraim”, an inaugural conference held in the town of my alma mater, Snow College, this coming Saturday April 9th.  Here are the details:



“Write Here in Ephraim” will be held at 105 E. 200 S. in Ephraim, Utah, beginning at 8:30am. At 2:30pm, I’ll be presenting “Chuck the Junk – Self-Editing for Word Hoarders”, and at 3:15pm I’ll be participating in a panel entitled “The Road to Publication”.

The best part about “Write Here in Ephraim” is that it is absolutely FREE!  Yep, no charge for aspiring writers willing to make the beautiful drive to Ephraim.

Next up, I’ll have a major role in the American Fork Arts Council’s Spring Conference for Writers.  This one’s not free, but a great value nonetheless.  Here are the details:

Historic American Fork City Hall, 31 North Church Street (50 East), American Fork
Saturday, April 30, 2011; 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
REGISTER TODAY!: $39 (after April 13, $49)
To register, call the Arts Council Office 801-763-3081
Major credit cards accepted ($1 fee).

I’m scheduled to give a brief morning address on “My First Novel – 20 Years in the Making”, and then to give a 40-minute presentation at 3:30pm based on my blog series, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Novelists”.

Both conferences will have lunchtime author “meet and greet” sessions with bookstores, and I will be signing copies of The Rogue Shop!

Review of Shadowheart by Tad Williams

Shadowheart (Shadowmarch. #4)Shadowheart by Tad Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tad Williams is one of my literary heroes. In the early 1990’s I was beginning to lose hope for epic fantasy when I ran across the paperback of The Dragonbone Chair, volume one of Memory, Sorry, and Thorn at the grocery store. I was so enthralled with that book that I could hardly wait for the rest of the series. A few years later, his Otherland series (more a blend of sci-fi and fantasy) grabbed me and didn’t let go for four more huge volumes. Now that I’ve finished his new “Shadowmarch” quartet, all three of those series are in my top ten of all time.

Make no mistake, these are big books, and they aren’t particulary fast moving. If you don’t like completely immersive fantasy with all the detail of another world, they aren’t for you. Williams usually focuses on 5 or 6 major characters, and switches viewpoints every few pages. Some readers are annoyed by this, but I love it as long as ALL of the plots are worthwhile. In Tad Williams’ series, they are.

I won’t summarize the plot of this huge story, because many others have done it better here on Goodreads and elsewhere. It’s a grand adventure that follows well-developed characters through an intersting and unique world, and winds up at an apocolyptic climax in the vast caverns beneath Southmarch castle. There are plenty of battles with gods and demons and our heroes grow and learn over time. There’s even a romantic angle between princess Briony and her guard captain that comes to an emotional fruition in this final volume despite their speaking barely a kind word to one another and being separated for months at a time.

If you’re a fan of big, patient stories set in lushly landscaped worlds, this series is not to be missed.

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