Friday, July 27, 2012

You Gotta Love Your Neighbors

I've been on vacation, but when I saw this sign I had to snap a picture and share it with you. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review: My Body Fell Off by BJ Rowley

Let's jump to the chase. If you're reading this on Friday the 13th, then you need to go here and download a free Kindle edition of this book. Right now. Then come back and read the review. It's only free for one day, so if it's not Friday you can still go and buy the book. Just sayin'.

I read My Body Fell Off by BJ Rowley several years ago. In fact, I've read all three Light Traveler books. They are exciting, funny, creative, and intense. It's great to see the series make its ebook debut.

This is a story about a teenage boy who can leave his body and transport himself to other places. That would be weird, right? But then he gets used to it and it becomes way cool. Imagine what you could do. Until he stumbles into big trouble when he overhears the plans of some dangerous criminals. That's where the flames and the airplane from the cover come in. Very exciting.

I've known BJ for a long time. He's a great guy and a good friend. He's always willing to help others, so when I asked him what made this book special, he shared several great tidbits.
"This was my first book. My family thought I was nuts for even thinking about writing a book, and pretty much dismissed my craziness out of hand. But I cranked it out submitted it. AND IT WAS ACCEPTED!! Of course, my editor immediately showed me several things that needed fixing--which greatly improved the story. I was vindicated. I proved that I could do it. I became a published author. It was an incredible few months."
I can confirm that BJ is crazy. I think all writers have to be, after all we talk to ourselves all day. Crazy in a good way.
"This story is great fun from start to finish. It's set in my high school. I attended Payson High School. I lived on the highway on West Mountain. I know exactly where Bart's locker is. I've sat on that couch up inthe light control room in the ceiling of the auditorium. The story is set in my own backyard with really fun fantasy at the same time. Who hasn't wished for that?"
I attended a much smaller high school, but I could still relate. It was the way he wove the fantasy and real life together than made this book fun.
"I remember one night writing and writing away. All of a sudden I realized I had to get up and work in 5 hours! But it was SO hard to walk away from that computer because I could hardly wait to see what was going to happen next! That's how the whole book came together. Those darn characters just kept getting themselves into trouble all over the place. Teenagers!! Before I knew it, they were bound and gagged, soaked in gas, and waiting for a bomb to go off . . . and I had NO idea how they were going to get out of there alive. It never occurred to me that I (the author) could back up and rewrite the scene and make it easier. They got themselves into that mess, and they were going to have to get themselves out of it. I stewed on that problem for several days before a solution finally presented itself. Then they got it done!"
If that doesn't hook you, then here's a bit of the prologue to whet your appetite.
The first time it happened, I was in third grade. I had been recuperating in the hospital after having my appendix removed. They had me all drugged up on painkillers, and I was feeling really goofy, so I just passed it off as a weird dream. I thought about the “dream” on and off for several weeks after that, but eventually it slipped into oblivion and was pretty much forgotten.
* * *
The second time it happened was two years later. Our school class was on an overnight camping trip for fifth graders. We were hiking in the dark, around midnight—no flashlights allowed and no talking. Our leaders thought it would give us a better appreciation for nature or something—I’m not sure. Anyway, I lost my footing climbing down a little hill and slipped several feet into a steep ravine. I landed headfirst against a big rock and was knocked cold for a couple of minutes. My friends told me that when I finally got up, I babbled and carried on, saying all kinds of stupid things. I don’t remember any of that.
The weirdness happened later, while I was lying in the back of the ambulance. It was like . . . floating and drifting and moving up and down. And I distinctly remember seeing myself strapped to the stretcher, with paramedics leaning over and doing things. It was like I was watching the whole event through a ceiling-mounted camera.
. . .
But eventually the headaches went away, and I came to realize that I was still the same old me.
. . .
* * *
The third time it happened, I still didn’t recognize the remarkable gift for what it really was.
I had just started my sophomore year in high school . . . and I thought for sure I was dead . . .
BJ has a few more chapters online if you want to keep reading.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Best Writing Investment I Ever Made

In 2005 I attended my first writers conference.

It was a small LDStorymakers conference, held in a little, brown theater in Springville, Utah. In fact, it was held in the Little Brown Theater. Less than a hundred people attended, which was good because if there were any more, I don't think we'd all fit.

At that time, I didn't have aspirations of becoming a writer or an author, but that changed.

I learned about the craft of writing, the business of writing, and the joys (and pains) of writing. That was interesting and all, but mostly I met people--kindred spirits. I formed relationships at that conference that changed my life for the better.

Now's the part where I drop a bunch of names. Just remember, back then many of these people were just starting their careers. And even today, there are still a few undiscovered gems. BJ Rowley (who is releasing an awesome ebook later this week)Darvell HuntHeather JustesenJosi S. KilpackJulie WrightJames Dashner (he wasn't a NYT Bestseller back then), J. Scott Savagethe award-winning Marta SmithAnita StansfieldRachel Ann NunesCandace SalimaRebecca Shelleyand Tristi Pinkston. (I'm sure I forgot someone. I'm sorry.)

I'm not just name dropping. Each of these people have personally impacted my life. They aren't just names or acquaintances, they're friends and cohorts in storytelling.

The people I met and the things I learned at that small, one day conference nudged the course of my life ever so slightly. Because of that shift back in 2005, I'm a writer today, and I have some of the best, quirkiest, awesomest friends in the world.

I tell you this because on September 15th, LDStorymakers Midwest conference is happening in Kansas City. There will be less than 100 people, so it will be more intimate than the main conference in Utah. It's just one Saturday, so no huge time commitment. It's not as expensive as the multi-day, main conference. And some of my friends are teaching and speaking.

There are still slots open, so tell all your friends and family. Especially pass the word to people who aren't writers. You never know what might happen. I'm excited to read someone else's story in 7 years.

Here's the link to the registration page.

* Isn't this a great picture of two friends? And I really want to see what they're looking at off camera. RAM shared this photo on Flickr. He has more beautiful shots from Lebanon you should check out.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom isn't free,
Freedom isn't free,
You've got to pay a price, 
You've got to sacrifice,
For your liberty.
- Paul Colwell

Every time I hear these lyrics they make me stop, think . . . and thank.

It's funny that on Independence Day my thoughts often dwell on dependence. As an American, I like to think of myself as self-made. I am the product of my labors. But that's not altogether true. I'm the product of much more than that.

Great men and women with vision, courage, and strength spent their lives to lay the foundation I stand on today.

We often look back on the founding fathers who thought and fought to form the United States. They were amazing people who did incredible things, yet even they built on a previous foundation. The foundation laid by the pioneering families who journeyed from Europe to settle in America, the deep thinking of philosophers and religious figures, and the careful work of historians to preserve the stories of other civilizations.

We stand, today, not on the shoulders of giants. We stand on the shoulders of the shoulders of the shoulders of the shoulders . . . in one giant pyramid of ideas, inventions, laws, societies, and civilizations. Except this is an upside-down pyramid. It doesn't get smaller at the top, instead it expands outward and upward. Our reach is so much greater than our forefathers.

And we don't have to look to history. Just look around us: the soldiers who defend us; the police who protect us; the firefighters and medical staff who save us; the engineers and technicians who bring electricity and water and communication to our homes; the farmers, ranchers, and fishermen who provide our food; the drivers and planners and workers who deliver goods to the stores; the parents and teachers who raise up the next generation; and I can't forget the writers and  publishers who help us see the world in different ways. To the vast army of men and women who make it possible for me to sit here in my home with my kids and write this blog post, I say "Thank You".

Thank you for your sacrifice--for the price you've paid to keep us free. Yes, I know that many of the people I mentioned are just doing their job and getting paid for it. But how much is a human life worth? $10 an hour? $100? $1000? I submit that every one of these people sacrifice to perform a duty that benefits us all. And because of this Dependence, we can enjoy our Independence.

Happy Independence Day.

* I loved these pictures so much, I had to include both of them. The amazing photo of the construction worker was taken by Saad Ahktar. It portrayed so much of what I wanted to say in this post. And the freight train photo was taken by Hunter Desportes. It reminded me of the apocryphal story about the width of the space shuttle being based on Roman chariots. The story isn't true, but it's still a good story.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Above Water Again

The last six months have been crazy.

No. More than crazy. What's the next step after crazy? Insane? That's basically the same thing.

Hell? That's a bit much, especially considering the Judeo-Christian view of hell as fire and brimstone.

Let's just say, I was solidly across the crazy line. Then, I went to a 90-minute sales presentation where I learned more about hell, and they gave me a voucher for a complimentary trip to a somewhat-hell-like place, and a $30 gift card to a chain restaurant. I think that sums it up nicely.

I'm usually a positive person. I like to look on the bright side, and as a writer of imaginary stories, I can think up a bright side to about anything.

This time was different. After a while, all the problems and challenges started to wear on me. I never became bitter, but I found myself longing for normal. Instead of looking forward and working through my problems, I wanted to take a couple steps backwards and catch my breath.

Not anymore. Break's over. Get back to work!

I needed the breather, but now it's time to get back on my feet. And funny enough, all of my obstacles are starting to look like platforms I can stand on to climb higher. The obstacles didn't change, just the way I see them.

Annoyingly-positive John is back.

And this is what I learned: Before we can make footprints in the sands of life, we first have to decide to stop leaving butt prints. (Besides, then the sand gets all up in your swimming trunks and the drive home is awful.)

Who's with me?

* Alan Light. What a great name for a photographer. When I saw this sand sculpture on Flickr, I thought, "If I'm going to leave any prints in the sand, I want them to look like this."
Creative Commons LicenseUnless otherwise noted, all posts on the John Waverly blog by John Waverly are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
* Background image based on Night Sky theme by Ray Creations