Friday, February 13, 2015

Real Love

See this man beside me:



Today is the 11th anniversary of when we first met. At a church Valentine's dance. We both laugh when we tell the story because it feels so cliche. I saw him across the room, introduced myself, we connected like I'd never connected with anyone before, and now we've been married for ten years.

In the eleven years since we've met, we have been through a lot. Four children, 20+ surgeries, so many ER visits I've lost count (for real), sleepless nights, anxiety, stress, medications to names I still can't pronounce, fainting, home health nurses, bills, and a plenty of difficult experiences I hope I never have to relive.

We've also had amazing, fun times together. Beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. But though our day-to-day actions and decisions are what make us who we are, I believe that we can truly see what we're made of in the difficult times.

And my husband is made of courage, strength, and love.

Here's a snapshot of real love:

It's sitting beside me in the doctor's office and hearing that our plans weren't going to be what we'd thought. That our son had Down syndrome with major medical issues. It's him comforting me, researching every little thing he could about the procedures our son would have to go through, and being there with me every single step of the way even though it was scary and difficult.

It's him staying overnight at the hospital with our son when it's my turn, because he knows how exhausted I am. That I can't face one more night with IVs beeping, bad news, and doctors coming in every hour, and even though it'll mean two nights of almost no sleep, he does it for me.

It's him working all day, then coming home and making dinner, taking care of the kids, taking care of me while I lie on the couch with an IV pumping vitamins and fluids into my arm for over six weeks. And being willing to go through something like that four times so we could bring our children into this world.

It's watching him hold each of our babies, then wrestling and tickling them when they get older, then helping them with their endless school projects and dreaming up new projects (like rockets or dance parties) to do on the weekends.

It's seeing him reach out to someone who is grieving, knowing that he grieves with them.

It's listening to me, really listening, when we need to talk.

It's always seeing the best in me, even when I know I'm not always at my best. He has never put me down, not once. He is a builder, not a destroyer.

It is knowing that I can trust him completely--emotionally and physically. He is my safe place.

It is in all the little, selfless decisions he makes every day that add up until they equal the kind of love that makes me thank God every single night that I went to that Valentine's Dance 11 years ago.

Don't settle for anything less than real love. There's a lot of counterfeit ideas out there trying to parade themselves as love, but love is patient and kind, trusting and hopeful. And it is a gift. One that if we have, we should cherish and treat well because love is worth it.


Monday, December 1, 2014

The Whitney Awards



                                                   

The Whitneys is an awards program for novels written by LDS authors. 

I love this program. I love it so much, that I'm on the committee this year, and I get to send out the emails saying: Congratulations! Your book has been nominated for a Whitney.

Can I tell you how much I love sending out these emails? People are so excited to get them, and I get to share just a tiny bit of their excitement. Who doesn't love being the bearer of great news!

Another great thing about the Whitneys is that readers get to do the nominations.
Any reader. LDS or not. Teenager or adult. Avid reader or reader of one book a year. Anyone. 

So if you haven't nominated a book for a Whitney, then go do it. Here's the link. It's super easy and will take you about one minute, and it might mean the difference between a book becoming an official nominee or not.

Even if you think: "Surely, XYZ author is an official nominee. They are amazing in every way!"

You'd be surprised at who doesn't get nominated because people assume that someone else has done it. 

Here's a helpful Goodreads list for Whitney Award Eligible books.
And here's a complete list of books by LDS authors from 2014. 

Go forth and nominate! (You only have until December 31.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Some Fun News

1--  I have been asked to contribute a story to the Timeless Romance Anthology and the cover has been released. Isn't is gorgeous? And look at those amazing authors that my name is next to! Pretty cool. It’ll come out in April 2015.



2-- I have a new cover for Silver Linings! In honor of Thanksgiving and having an updated cover, the ebook of Silver Linings will be on sale for 99 cents until Saturday. Here's the link to it on Amazon

                                                  

3-- My Christmas novella, Six Days of Christmas, is going to be a part of a 12 Days of Christmas Book Blitz event. Check out the other books a part of this (including one by NYT bestselling author Brenda Novak) and join the event! They’ll be giving away prizes, including books, up until the day before Christmas.




Hugs to all of you who read my blog and have bought my books, those who follow me on FB and Twitter and who follow my writing journey! I am thankful for all of you. 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!



Monday, November 10, 2014

Look Into My Eyes

 “When Jenny stepped in front of the oncoming truck, she saw the fear/horror/love/compassion/every single conceivable emotion ever felt by anyone ever in her brother’s eyes.” 

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Are your characters eye readers?

Mine are.

They aren't mind readers, and they don't have a crystal balls, but I have found a real easy way around all that paranormal stuff when I'm drafting.

I just have my characters stare creepily into each others eyes, interpreting every hitch of the eyebrow, slight shifts of hue in their irises, and glints of light against their pupils in the exact right way.

And I'm not the only one who does this...

I know you've read scenes like this:
Eye Reading version:
His pupils dilate, and desire turns his ocean blue eyes to a deep indigo. I glance away, unable to hold his intense stare for too long. His gaze follows mine to the flier in my hand, and he lifts one eyebrow in challenge.

Interpretation: 
Him: "I am so attracted to you right now, I think I will give up everything important to me for the chance to be with you."
Her: "I don't know. Your crazy intense stare is kind of freaking me out, and I really want to save the whales."
Him: "I will be your whale."
-

Used here and there, eye reading is an effective way to show emotion without having to dissect everything with dialogue. It can be poignant and move a scene along quickly, as well as establishing a certain amount of intimacy between characters. Context is key with eye reading.

Do it too often though--or with the wrong character--and it gets cumbersome.

For example: I have a character in my current WIP who is so wrapped up in her own world, she's isolated herself from life, but the second she meets anyone new, you'd better believe she's reading their entire life history in their eyes.

So now I'm in the process of revising a good chunk of these instances in my current work in progress, and here's why:

1. It's a lazy way of conveying emotion.

2.It's telling instead of showing. It may not seem like it is (I'm *showing* the gleam in his eye...) but it's still just telling.

3. It's boring. Using my first example at the top, there are so many better, more interesting ways to express whatever emotion Jenny's brother feels right before she kills herself, other than XYZ in his eyes.

4. It can become too micro-descriptive and take the reader out of the narrative. We don't consciously notice every facial tick of the people around us, and our characters shouldn't either (unless they are like that guy from that Lie To Me show. Then it's okay.)
-

Any one else find themselves doing this in their writing?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Editing is Where the Art Happens

Image courtesy of Simon Howden
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
First drafts are crap.

At least mine are.

They are always full of meandering plot lines that either don’t go anywhere or turn ridiculous, characters with zero relevance, wordy descriptions or no descriptions at all, and people who talk and talk and TALK but don’t do anything.

I try not to let it bother me too much, because it might be a mess, but at least I have something to work with.

And that’s my favorite part. As much as I like drafting a shiny, brand new story, even more, I love revamping and polishing a story where I’ve gotten to know the characters, I have a better feel for themes, what’s at stake, and the overall tone I want to the book to have.

Then I get to go line by line and scene by scene and make it shine. I take out the cliché and overdone and boring, and try to make it interesting and beautiful.

I always like to say that this is where the art happens because it transcends functional writing and becomes something more.

So don’t stop writing before you get to this point! Don’t finish your first draft, or even your second, and think you’re done. I’ve heard so many agents say that one of the biggest mistakes people make is sending out their manuscripts too early. Don’t be that person that has a great book with a ton of potential, but just isn’t there yet.

Be patient. Let the shiny new idea sit tight for just a little bit longer.

Love your manuscript enough to make it shine.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What I learned in my Month of YA

I love YA books.

Which is good, because that's what I write.

So, in honor of my love of YA and the fact that I'm neck-deep in my latest YA manuscript, I decided to do what I called A Month of YA, in which I only read young adult books for six weeks (which, okay, isn't technically a month, but A Month of YA just flows nicely).

There was no rhyme or reason to the books I picked. Some I just had on my Kindle that I'd bought when they were on sale, and some my number on the library waiting list came up and I got them in during this time.

Here's the list and what I learned from things these authors did so well.


How to Love
Your characters don't have to be perfect to be loved. Make them unforgettable and real.


Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
YA is not afraid to tackle the dark stuff. Don't play it safe.


#16thingsithoughtweretrue
This plot ended up taking an unexpected turn that I loved. Keep your readers guessing.


Six Months Later
Atmosphere and word choice play a huge role in the tone of the novel.


The Chapel Wars
Comedy and drama can go hand-in-hand together. Also, dusty chapels make for great make-out sessions.


On the Fence
First kisses are the swooniest. Make the characters connect on an emotional level first, then kapow the reader with a fabulous first kiss.


The One (The Selection, #3)
Give the readers what they want, but do it in an unexpected way.


Changing Fate
There are many different voices among teens, and we need to remember the silent ones as well.


The Book of Broken Hearts
Motorcycle guys are hot. *ahem* Also, goal and conflict are super important in telling a compelling story.


The Impossible Knife of Memory
Relationships are the crux of most novels: relationships with family, with friends, with self. Make them real, raw, and relevant.


To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)
Destroy any letters you write but don't intend to send. :) I can't say enough how much I love the unexpected twist the love story took. I thought I knew the end from the first chapter and I was so very wrong. Give the readers what they don't even know they want and do it in an amazing way.

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)
Setting can be a character and add to the story just as much as plot, characterization, and conflict.

Have you read any amazing YA books lately?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Having a Child With Down Syndrome

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and as many of you know, I have a son with Down Syndrome. He’s a beautiful, happy, mischievous nine year old who had done more to change me than any other single thing I’ve been through or person I’ve known.




I get asked a lot about what it’s like having a child with disabilities. On top of having Down Syndrome, he also has some severe health issues that require daily medications, 20+ surgeries, hospital stays, plus there are the therapies, specialist appointments, and meetings with the school. People are curious about what that’s like on a day-to-day basis, as well as long-term. Taken on paper, it seems like a lot to handle, but I can tell you that when you are living it, it’s a lot like anything else you’re dealt. You just do it.

Recently I had the chance to email someone who just found out she’s having a baby with Down Syndrome. I’ve sent emails (and had conversations) like this several times over the years since I’ve had Spencer—people who were like me. Afraid, nervous, overwhelmed, not sure what this means for the rest of their lives. (I go more into how I felt about the news in this post.)

In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness month, I want to share with you a letter I recently sent to a mother who had just discovered that her daughter will have Down Syndrome. I share this partly to give you some small insight into what it's like to have a child with Down Syndrome and also as a tribute to my son.

Dear Friend,

 I've been thinking about you and wanted to write you a note with a few of my thoughts that come from having found out over 9 years ago that I'd have a child with Down Syndrome. I remember how much I struggled with that news. I had so many fears and it felt like NO ONE understood or congratulated me. My pregnancy turned from something exciting to something sad and awkward, and the only thing that helped me was talking to someone who'd had a child with Down Syndrome several years before. So, with that in mind, I wanted to send you this email and hope that it can help bring you a little peace.

1) Having a child with Down Syndrome is one of the best things that has ever happened to me and to our family. You may know that Spencer was born with several birth defects--including in his heart, stomach, and intestines. He has had several surgeries, therapies, hospitalizations, meetings and so much more where I have met the most amazing people I never would have met otherwise. People who have changed my life and changed how I see things. It's compelled me to turn more toward God than I ever had to before and to never take life and the people I love for granted. I wouldn't trade those lessons for the world.

2) Having a child with Down Syndrome will help you see the goodness in people. I am constantly in awe of the people who are touched just by a child with Down Syndrome. I've seen a grown man, tatooed, fresh from the army, struggling with drug addiction, weep after one of Spencer's 100% accepting hugs. People often jump up to help me when needed, strangers stop to talk to him and give him high fives, and I've seen genuine kindness and compassion that touches my heart.

3) Having a child with Down Syndrome will bring a special spirit into your home. Sometimes people say to me: I don't know how you do it. (And you'll get this a lot too. You probably already have). Here's how I do it: I turn to the Lord and he is ALWAYS, without fail there for me. He has given me strength beyond my own time and time again. You know that Martin Handcart story* where they are pushing the handcarts, and then suddenly the handcarts are pulling them--and it's the angels helping? I've felt that. Points where my heart hurts so terribly for all the things he goes through, or all the things he's missing out on (or for all our family has gone through and how long the road will always be) and I feel like we cannot go on any longer, and angels have wrapped me in their arms and helped me do it for another day. They surround Spencer. It is a tangible feeling. With every hard thing we've gone through with him, we have been blessed abundantly with assurances that the Lord is very aware of us and our struggles, and that he believes in our capabilities. 

4) Having a child with Down Syndrome will change you, and it will change your family. I have seen my children take responsibility for the care of their brother without me asking—it’s just because they love him. They are very accepting of other's differences. They are the first to help other students with disabilities in their classes or volunteer to sit by them. It is normal for them and it is a blessing to these other kids and their families. I didn't know anything about Down Syndrome before having Spencer, and you quickly learn that, in a lot of ways, they are exactly like any other kid. We have more similarities than differences, but because of him, I've learned to love the differences in all of us.

I know that my biggest worry and heartache about Spencer was him missing out on things. But he was sent here, in this way, with this body, because he has a special purpose and certain lives he was sent to touch. I know I'm one of those lives. And I've seen him touch other's lives with his innocent, loving ways and how he continues to smile and laugh despite chronic pain. I didn't choose this, but if I had to go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would choose it. In a heartbeat. 

You will see miracles. You will see the hand of God in your life more than you ever have before. You will love this child with a fierce sort of love that will change you. You will cherish the hugs and kisses and snuggles because you will have a greater appreciation for how delicate life really is. It will be the hardest thing you ever do in your life, but also the best. 

Congratulations!!
Kaylee

(*Martin Handcart story: They were a group of pioneers from the LDS church in the mid-1800s trying to move west to Utah. Due to various reasons, they left late in the season and ended up meeting with harsh weather conditions. Many people died of exposure--children and adults alike--but they had to keep moving forward. Several have left accounts saying that when they were too weak with hypothermia, starvation, and sorrow to push their handcarts, their handcarts began pulling them instead, and they knew it was angels helping them. Go here for the full story. It's pretty amazing.)