Category Archives: writing

The Loudest Minds

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Yesterday, as I was bringing my kids home from piano, I entered into a line of cars that were stopped at a stoplight.

While we waited for the light to turn, I started thinking. I was thinking about the canyon in Utah between Heber City and Provo. I was wondering if there were very many deer that crossed that highway and if it was dangerous for drivers. But, I reasoned, there are a lot of deer here in North Carolina, so it wouldn’t be any more dangerous than driving to my own home. What would really be dangerous would be a moose. We don’t have those in North Carolina. Or an elk! After all, elk are big and have pointed antlers. But I have heard that moose are meaner. I’ve always taken comfort in the fact that bears hibernate in the winter, so if I were to go snowshoeing (which I love to do) I would not have to worry about a bear. But a moose! Yes, I would definitely have to worry about a moose. And if I were out by myself, in snowshoes, and a moose charged me, what would I do? Ring a moose-bell?  I guess I would try to hide behind the nearest tree. But what if the tree was too small and the moose was able to to reach around it with his antlers? I guess I would have to climb the tree. But I would first have to take off my snowshoes. I wonder how long that would take? Would it take longer to remove the shoes and climb the tree, or try to climb the tree with my shoes on? I would probably have time to get one snowshoe off and then start climbing. But seriously, I am almost forty years old…would I even be able to climb the tree? I might pull a lot of muscles. But what are a few pulled muscles compared internal bleeding wounds from the blunt moose antlers?  What would most likely happen would be that my one foot with the snowshoe would get wedged as I was halfway up the tree, and as the moose started ramming the tree I would lose my grip and then be swinging there, my hair brushing the snow, looking at the moose from a unadventagious perspective, watching it as it pawed the ground, getting ready for what every moose knows as The Final Death Ram.

By now my heart is racing. But then I blink and I realize that I am not on a snowy hillside hanging upside down about to be killed by a moose. I am in my car. My kids are in the back seat. I am still waiting at a stoplight that is now green and all of the other cars in front of me have left. And I am holding on really, really tight to the steering wheel.

Later that day my mother-in-law called me to tell me she read my book, The Last Messenger. “How do you come up with stuff like this?”she asked. I thought of telling her the moose story, but I didn’t want to confuse her.

There is a quote that I love. It is:

Quiet people have the loudest minds.

I originally thought this was said by Stephen King. When I looked it up I found it was said by Stephen Hawkins, which makes me wonder who stole it from whom?  It doesn’t matter because with either Stephen the noise level must be deafening.

While I’m not exactly shy, I do have far too much going on in my brain. It is why I can’t go to sleep the moment my head hits the pillow like my husband (not that he isn’t a thinker. He is. But his thoughts are in numbers which I believe are more obediently put to bed. I haven’t had a number in my head for years.) It is also the reason I worry about things that will never happen and why I had many inner anxieties as a child.

I read once that when you have a child with a lot of anxiety issues, and you have to take them to see a doctor, you should reassure them that they are not going because they are crazy but because they have an incredible imagination, and that the doctor is going to help them organize all the monsters and scary stuff (and moose) so they all stay in the proper places.

I wish someone would have told me that, because I thought I was crazy for a very long time. But it doesn’t matter, because I have learned what to do with all of my thoughts. I have found a way to tame them, organize them, and make them mind me.

I do it by writing.

I make grand, wonderful stories out of them…stories that are too fantastic to ever be true.

It is quite freeing. It also makes me grateful for challenges, because when we understand them, and learn how to turn them into strengths, they can do wonderful things for us.

But I am not sure what a police officer would think if I’m ever stuck at a North Carolina traffic light for too long and I tell him it was because of the moose.

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Writing Without Regret

Today is the release day of my second book, and according to all marketing logic, this is the day I should be posting some big announcement about how awesome my book is and how you need to buy it because it will forever change your life. I should be smothering you with photos of me opening up my newly minted novels, saying things like “here is my sixth baby!” while I lift up the book, pose, and give it a kiss for the cameras.

But today I am going to break all rules of book promotion and tell you that as great as I think my book is, it is not why I breathe. It  does not hold my hand, it does not sing silly songs, nor make me cry, nor make me laugh. It does not crawl in bed with me early in the morning and commandeer the sweet spot between me and my spouse. Besides, I have always been uncomfortable when people kiss inanimate objects like trophies, medals and books, because I don’t kiss things. I kiss people.

A person in the United States can expect to live about 80 years. Raising a child takes 18 of those years. But they are really only a “child” for 12 years, and they are only a young child for five years. So out of the 80 years I will be alive, I have only five years to mother this young child. Five years out of 80 does not seem like much time.

Here is another way to look at it:

It is always tragic when a child dies, but in a way, all children die. They die every year, at every age. I adored Naomi as a three-year-old. She was so spunky and fun and quirky. She and I would dance to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue until I would collapse on the couch and she would tug at my arm to get me to stand up and dance again. (Rhapsody in Blue is a long song.) But the other day Naomi (now age 9) and I were in the car when we heard Rhapsody in Blue come over the radio. I asked her if she recognized the song. She said no. I reminded her that it was the song we used to dance to over and over. And over. She smiled but she could not remember. My three-year-old Naomi had vanished.

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But now I have a 9-year-old Naomi, and she bounces around the house singing jingles. Anytime anyone says anything she makes up a jingle on the spot. When she finishes she says “Woot!Woot!”, makes two kissing sounds, and then strikes a pose. In her spare time she goes out to the garden and belts out Broadway songs to the tomatoes to help them grow. She doesn’t even eat tomatoes. I’m pretty sure she won’t be doing these things when she’s 13. How sad will that be!

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But when she is 13 she will be doing something else interesting . . . and on and on. So there is loss, but there is also such great discovery! How wonderful children are! Yet how fleeting!

It was always the great dream of my heart to have a family. But hearts do have room for more than one dream, and when I got the idea for my first book I knew that it had to be written down, and I had to be the one to do it.

So I started writing, and right away my imagination took me to places that were far more interesting and exciting than laundry, sweeping, diapers, repeat. My mind was electrified with ideas–ideas that turned doing the dishes into brainstorming sessions and vacuuming into opportunities to solve plot dilemmas. Everything around me was punctuated with meaning and symbolism, from the feathers of a bird to the perfect swirl of hair at the back of my baby’s head. I certainly knew my life had “meaning” as a mother, but now I had a dazzling new purpose. I had become an idea volcano. If someone had hooked up a brain scanner to my head during those first few years of writing I’m sure the machine would have exploded.

Mothers need kids. But mothers also need something to keep their minds from petrifying. My antidote was writing, and wow, was it effective. I could easily sit in my room and write for hours a day, oblivious to the world, and I would be as happy as bear at a boy scout jamboree. It was my husband who stepped in and made me realize that my writing had become my drug. He reminded me that the real stories are happening outside my bedroom door. And if I am sitting in here typing away while they are out there, I will not be in their stories.

Scccrreeeach, went the brakes.

After that I restructured my writing schedule. I did everything I could to not write when my kids were around. I wrote early in the morning, while they were at school, and while they watched tv. I sacrificed my free time, not theirs, and I never wrote on Sunday.

What this means is, my progress was very, very slow.

But that was okay, because I was consistent. And ultimately it all worked in my favor. You see, I always got interrupted before I could conclude my writing sessions, so during dull moments (folding clothes, driving, loading the dishwasher) I would re-work the scene in my mind, and in the meantime my kids were constantly giving me new ideas to spice it up. It was the perfect writing environment: I was surrounded by inspiration yet I was kept away from my computer. Then, when I was finally able to get back on my computer the ideas poured from my fingers like Niagara Falls.

And now I have two books and five kids and I don’t have regrets about the time I spent because I did everything I could to put my kids first. I didn’t let writing bewitch me into slicing away time from my kids. I was part of their stories, just as they were part of mine. Plus, they had a mom who was energized and happy because she was in the midst of creating something extraordinary. And when Mom has a skip in her step and a sparkle in her eye, the kids are the first beneficiaries.

I went to LDStorymakers conference last spring. It was bigger than I expected. There were 700 writers there! Who knew that many Mormons liked to write? The conference chairperson was Jenny Proctor, author of several books and mother of six kids.  I was not acquainted with her and wanted to introduce myself (since we are both from North Carolina), so after the opening ceremonies, as people drained from the room to go to their classes, I followed her, waiting for my chance.  As she was finishing up her conversation with the conference photographer, I couldn’t help overhearing what she was saying.

“I want you to take a picture of me when I am up at the podium. Only, I want you to take a photo of me from behind so that you can see me and the audience. I really want to my kids to see what I do. I want them to see how big this is.”

She didn’t say “I want to post this on Facebook so people will see what I do and how big this is,” or “I want to post this on my blog so people can see what I do and how big this is” but she wanted to show her kids. Because kids trump everything.

My favorite characters are not the ones who live in my head, but the ones who live in my home, and my favorite stories are the stories they are making for themselves. They constantly surprise me with their plot twists and cliff-hanger endings, their unpredictable, entertaining, laugh-out-loud fun. I want to keep turning the pages of their stories for as long as I live. They are books I never get sick of (though they DO make me tired) and books I want to keep reading over and over again.

When you have the opportunity to choose between your child or your muse, always choose the child.

Okay, I’ve said enough. Buy my book if you want. It really is good, and it gave me a lot of joy to write it. But if I accomplish anything of importance in my life it will not be writing novels. That is why you will never see me kiss my books, and you will never hear me call my book “my sixth baby” because my baby are sacred words, reserved only for the choicest people I know, with whom I have the privilege of sharing my home, my life and all my stories.

 

 

 

 

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The Last Messenger: FAQs

It is one month until my book The Last Messenger of Zitol will be released. I’ve been getting questions from people about the book so I thought it was time to make sure everyone knew what was up. Here is are my best answers to the most frequently asked questions:

I ordered the book a month ago, why hasn’t it come?

Because you are an early bird! The official release date is September 13th. You will probably get the book earlier than that if you pre-ordered it, but probably not until at least Aug 30. (And you can still pre-order! If you order today you will get a 19% discount!)

On Goodreads I see that some people have already read the book and posted reviews. How can that be if the book hasn’t been released yet?

During the editing process I sent out some Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) to a limited number of people to give it an early review. Some of these people I knew, and some were complete strangers. These copies were not proofread yet, and not ready to be seen by a wide audience, but they helped give me an idea of what the response will be to the book. You can check out their reviews on Goodreads here.

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Can I order it now?

Yes! click here. It will be delivered around the release date, Sept 13.

What is your target audience?

Anyone who enjoys reading Young Adult fiction. People who will particularly enjoy it are: teenage girls, teenage boys, anyone who has ever been in love, anyone who has looked up at the stars, anyone who has paddled a canoe in the ocean, and anyone who loves chocolate. I would definitely recommend this book for mother/daughter book clubs.

Is this book a sequel to your first book The Cenote?

Nope. But, like The Cenote, this book was inspired by the Aztec and Maya cultures of ancient Mexico. The setting for The Cenote was a small village, but The Last Messenger takes place in a dazzling ancient American city at the pinnacle of its prosperity.

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Is this book an allegorical novel like The Cenote?

Yes and no. The main message of this book is a little more obvious than the more covert message of The Cenote, but I love books that take some deciphering, so I included plenty of allegories, metaphors and symbolism for you to savor and mull over.

Tell me what the book is about in one sentence.

This book is a young adult romance/adventure/coming-of-age-story about a girl who is kidnapped and taken away to a faraway city to be sacrificed to the gods.

What point of view is the story told in? 

The story is told in 1st person, from the perspective of a selfish prince.

Will there be a party? 

Yes! There will be a party/book-signing in September here in Hillsborough, NC. More info TBA.

That is all I can think of for now. Did you have a question I didn’t answer? Ask it in the comments and I will get back with you asap!

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Giveaway! Contest! Win! Win!

Hi everyone! Over the next two weeks I will be having a Goodreads Giveaway! (For real, this time!)

Five lucky people will receive a FREE, SIGNED copy of The Cenote, no strings attached. All you have to do is click on “Enter Giveaway” in the widget below and follow the instructions. That is it!

After June 4 five random winners will be selected and I will mail you a signed copy of The Cenote. But wait–you already have a copy? No problem! Just forward this to a friend or family member so they can enter the contest.

This is the first giveaway I’ve done (sorry it took so long!) and if goes well there will be an even BIGGER giveaway for my next book, The Last Messenger of Zitol when it comes out in September. So stay tuned!! Everybody loves free books!

(Have I told you The Cenote is a great bookclub book? I’m about to go to visit my fifth bookclub for this book next month!!)

 Goodreads Book Giveaway
The Cenote by Chelsea Dyreng

The Cenote

by Chelsea Dyreng

Giveaway ends June 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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Cover Reveal: The Last Messenger of Zitol

So remember when I told you that it took me five years to write The Cenote?

Well, I lied.

I actually was writing two books. This is the other.

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I could’t be more thrilled to share this book with you. This is a young adult novel about a girl who is kidnapped from her island and taken to the land of her ancestors where she is forced to choose between retaining her virtue or preserving her life.

I wrote this book because I was tired of going to the bookstore and seeing all the latest YA books about teenagers giving up their virtue. I wanted to write a book about a young woman who was determined to keep hers, no matter what.

I will be updating my blog over the next few months to let you know when you can pre-order The Last Messenger. Until then we are just going to have to wait. You and I both!

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In Case You Missed It

This last week members of the Moonlight Bookreaders Guild helped me throw a book launch party for THE CENOTE. I had a lot of friends and family that couldn’t come (because of 2000 miles) so just in case you missed it, here are all the details!
I am so grateful to Angie, Erin, Nicole, M’Liss, Anson and especially Scott for making this all happen. Great people and great memories!
And I am especially grateful to the surprise V.I.P. who showed up at the last minute. You’ll have to scroll down to see who it was. 🙂
Thanks for reading everyone! I am so glad so many people are enjoying Lark and Sandpiper’s story.

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Everyone was given a “cenote name” that was later used for a drawing for chocolate and a free book.

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The only beverage I was planning on serving was water with limes, but  for some people that wasn’t enough so they had to bring their own drinks.

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Then, a couple days later, we had another magical evening at the Dorrance’s home in Chapel Hill.

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Everyone taking the “Which foods are native to America” quiz

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Here she is, the VIP and most honored guest of the evening. I am so glad that MY MOM was able to come out to see me and celebrate this exciting time with us. I only found out she was coming the DAY BEFORE. Someday I hope to be as cool as my mom.

 

 

 

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My Path To Publication: The Cenote

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It is September, 2010.

I am standing at my sink washing the dishes, thinking about two things: a good friend with a troubled marriage, and a National Geographic article about Mexican cenotes (say-no-tays). While these two unconnected ideas are swirling around in my head I am also listening to my daughters playing upstairs (women can think of many things at one time, research shows). “Let’s pretend that these people can hear something, but these people can’t,” I hear them say. Suddenly, deep inside my brain there is a brilliant flash of light. I have an idea!

October: I type out a few sentences. Then a first chapter of sorts. I read it to my little sis over the phone. She says, You are going to change the world! Which is exactly what sisters are supposed to say.

October-December 2010: I check out and read every book about Maya and Aztec people that I can find from my library. I read a lot. I take notes. I start writing.

Christmas 2010: Husband gives me my first laptop. He might as well have given me my very own rocket.  I blast off.

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Jan-June 2011: I write. I write. I write.

Summer 2011: Kids are home from school. Writing stops.

September 2011: Kids start school. Writing resumes during the baby’s naps.

January 2012: Finish Draft 3, I print it out for the first time. I revise like mad. I am obsessed, burning the candle at both ends of the night. I never sleep. I’m never tired. I never have any “writer’s block” either, only floods of inspiration flowing from my brain and out of my fingertips like beams of light as they dance over the keys. I write, I write, I am like lightning. I am like thunder. I am a blazing chariot of writing fire!!

January 24: Not one friend remembers my birthday. I acknowledge that it is a direct result of the hermit-life I have created for myself.

Later in January 2012: Husband says, “Who is more important, here? Me or the book?” The chariot of writing comes to a screeching halt.

Husband and I pow-pow. A plan is formed: he makes breakfast in the morning, and I never write at night.  We kiss on it. All is well. But now I realize a dilemma: No one will ever believe my story unless I go to Mexico myself and research. Don’t you want to go to Mexico and swim around in a cenote, Husband? Husband says no.

February 2012: I receive an email from my aunt, addressed to all of her nieces. It reads:

Aging aunt seeks short term female traveling companion in the time period of March 2-9, 2012 in Merida, Mexico. Will provide lodging and all the fresh fruit smoothies you can drink. Must be able to walk 8 miles a day, endure temperatures of 80+ degrees daily and be willing to immerse yourself in the climate, culture and customs of Mexico. Inquire or respond immediately.

Coincidence? I think not.

March  2012: I go to Mexico with my sister to visit my aunt. She takes us to temples, ruins, pyramids, lost cities, jungles and three cenotes. I savor every moment. I write down every detail. I swim in a cenote.

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March-May: Added details from research in Mexico. My book is “finished,” but I keep working on it anyway.

June: School’s out. Writing stops. Instead I do research by planting my own “Three Sisters” garden: Maize, beans and squash.

July: I discover I am pregnant.

August: My Three Sisters garden becomes a Two Sisters garden since my corn dies. I would not have survived long in pre-columbian Mexico.

September 2012-October 2012: School is back in. I start revising again. I’m on draft 7 now.

October 2012 Danny stops taking naps. No more writing for me for a while. Sad.

Sometime in early 2013: Breakthrough: my mother finally reads the book. She calls me. She says, Chelsea, this actually reads like a real book! This is a good sign. 🙂

April 7, 2013: Levi Scott Dyreng is born. (Best decision ever.)

April 2013-Jan 2014: No writing. Queried a little bit. Collected some rejections.

January 2014: A writer friend asks if I want to submit anything to her start-up publishing company. I say YES. I submit. They say KILL YOUR DARLINGS, so I get out my ax.

February 2014: I hack away at my beloved manuscript, taking it from over 100,000 words to 78,000 words. I send it back to the fledgling publishers. They accept my sacrifice.

March 2014: One of the editors of the fledgling publishing co. has to call it quits. The other editor (my friend) kindly tells me it would be wise to start querying again, so my book is once again homeless.

October 2014: I attend my first writing conference. I learn. I meet writers. I make a fool of myself in front of agents. I have a great time.

January 2015: Feeling daring again. I send my manuscript to a publisher called Cedar Fort.

March 2015: I get a phone call, “Hi, my name is Emma Parker from Cedar Fort Publishing . . . ” after which I have a heart attack and die.

March 2015: “My” editor says I need to do some revising. I say, Yes, ma’am!  By now I’m not sure what draft I am on any more… 9? 10? 25? One character is troubling me, so I kill him.

April 2015: Editor sends me the cover of my book. I am actually sitting under the moon by a campfire when I receive her email. I can’t open it. I hand my phone to my husband. “You look at the cover first. I can’t.”

He looks at the cover.

And grins.


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I look at it all night while I swing in my hammock under the stars.

May 2015: The cover has to be modified a little because there is no seaweed in cenotes. They find a different aquatic plant and send a new cover:

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Excellente.

May 2015: Editor sends me the substantive edit. I have one month. Lucky Scott is back to making breakfast for everyone again!

June 2015: I finish the sub edit the day before school gets out. I find out my book is ready for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They even say how much the books weighs. (Don’t tell anyone, but the book doesn’t even exist yet!)

July 1, 2015: I meet my editor in person. She is just as nice in real life as she is in her emails!

August 2015: I go over several different copy edits. I add the dedication and acknowledgements (perhaps your name is there!)

Sept 2015: I approve the proofs and finally the book goes to press.

October 10th, 2015: After a long day of waiting this man finally shows up in my driveway:

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It’s been a long, wonderful ride. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this experience. Hopefully it is not once in a lifetime!

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