Author: Luisa Perkins
•5:33 PM

My short story "Truck Stop" appears in the latest issue of the new webzine Noctober. I must tell you: it's in excellent company. The other stories are really good; they tell of all sorts of creepy shenanigans involving coffee, ponds, paintings, carpets, and ivy. My favorites are "The Water Lily Room" and "The Garden Keeps His Confidences." Let me know what you think!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:17 PM
James got a subscription to Gourmet magazine for Christmas; every month, he pores over each glossy, fabulous issue and decides what to make. Last month, he chose Butterscotch Pudding; this month, he decided to try what was featured on the cover: Strawberry Mascarpone Tart.

Fueled by tonight's success, he's decided to make a Lemon Curd Pavlova with Mixed Berries for Easter. Don't think I'm limiting him to one recipe trial per month; he's just getting going.

Here he is with his masterpiece; we cut it and had a slice about 30 seconds after this photo was taken, and it was delicious. So no, the fruit hasn't fallen far from the tree. And this tree couldn't be prouder.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:48 PM

I've mentioned before that one of the great perqs of Patrick's job is that we often get invited to the openings of Broadway shows. Last night was such an occasion: we saw the much-herald revival of West Side Story.

I had high hopes; Bernstein's brilliant score and Sondheim's genius lyrics are some of my favorite in all of the musical theater repertoire. I adore the tragic story (Arthur Laurents's retelling of Romeo and Juliet) and its gritty setting (mid-1950s Manhattan). Jerome Robbins's choreography is iconic, as are the rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets. I wanted to love everything about this production.

The show had some truly great moments. Laurents, who directed, took some inspired liberties with his 52-year-old book. He had most of the Puerto Rican characters' dialogue translated into Spanish; "I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That" were also sung in Spanish. This worked beautifully (with the help of some fabulous body language), giving the Sharks and their women both dignity and irony; the characters are more fully human now.

Josefina Scaglione was so lovely and convincing as Maria that I found myself thinking, "Natalie who?" Karen Oliva was nothing short of smoking hot as Anita; she went from sardonic to sexy to tragic with incredible ease and grace. I wish I could sit and watch her fantastico "América" over and over again. All of the Sharks were delicious to watch--whether they were mamboing or rumbling--ai, caramba!

Would that the Jets had fared as well. Matt Cavanaugh's Tony was my most bitter Broadway disappointment in many a moon. I could have forgiven how mousily unattractive he was (though you know it's bad when Chino, Maria's intended husband, is miles more handsome than her star-crossed lover is).

I have no such mercy in me for his wobbly, nasal singing or his brick-like delivery. I had hoped that "Something's Coming" or "Maria" would make me weep; instead I cringed as Cavanaugh dog-paddled through each of Bernstein's treacherous intervals and modulations. Bernstein's music is horrendously difficult, but you never want performers to make it sound harder than it is. The last thing the audience should be thinking at the end of the show is "Maria, honey, you can do better," but there it is.

Almost all of Tony's gang buddies were also lacking in charisma. Only three of "los Américanos" came through: as the tomboy Anybodys, Tro Shaw may have been channeling Susan Oakes (who played the character in the 1961 movie), but she chanelled well. Curtis Holbrook brought a 21st-century hyperactive viciousness to his portrayal of Action; he transformed "Gee, Officer Krupke" from slapstick to harrowing social commentary. Finally, as Kiddo, Nicholas Barasch sang "Somewhere" so angelically that the tears I'd been saving for Tony welled up unbidden.

To sum up, large portions of the show were thrilling; unfortunately, that meant that the awkward and flat moments stood out in greater relief. This revival wasn't the triumph I had hoped for, but maybe I've just gotten too picky.

Speaking of which, after nearly 15 years of opening nights in London and New York, we are now so jaded that being invited to the cast party after the show is no longer a thrill; we opted to drive straight home afterwards instead. But that didn't stop us from reaping one of our richest crops of celebrity sightings in a long while. Among those present in the theater last night were Christie Brinkley, Kathleen Turner, Vanessa Williams, Taye Diggs, Spike Lee, and Keith Carradine; celebrity couples Phil Donohue & Marlo Thomas and Diane Sawyer & Mike Nichols; and Sondheim and Laurents themselves.

I'm a lucky, lucky girl, I mused as we drove in the dark up the Palisades Parkway on the way home. I fully realize what a luxury it is to attend such events on the arm of a handsome man who loves me. I'll try to get over my guilt at not being able to pronounce the evening an unqualified success.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:55 PM

In the spring of 2007, back when I was a fresh, young blogger, I dug into the latest issue of the delicious ezine Knitty, as I do every quarter. Doing so, I found this lovely article. Go read it; I'll wait.

As I'm sure you noticed, Annette's bio for the piece reads as follows:
Annette Lyon’s three greatest addictions are knitting, writing, and chocolate. Her life has been run by all three for most of her life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

In addition to her freelance writing and editing work, she writes novels and couldn’t resist working a character knitting socks into one of them.

Ooh, she's a writer! I thought, and immediately clicked on the link to her website. To my great delight, I then realized that not only was she a fanatical knitter, a novelist, and a chocoholic, she was also LDS. We had everything important in common; I overcame my habitual shyness and wrote her a fannish email at once.

Annette graciously replied, and a friendship was born. We met for lunch that summer when I was out in Utah; we had as good a time in person as we did via e-correspondence. Since then, she has provided constructive critiques on my writing, helpful advice regarding manuscript submission, and a listening ear during my ongoing search for an agent. So when she asked whether I'd like to be a stop on the blog tour for her new book, Tower of Strength, I jumped at the chance. I'm so glad I did, since it meant I got my hands on a copy before most of the rest of the world.

Annette is a gifted writer and a meticulous researcher; reading her endnotes is almost as satisfying as reading the story itself. Her characters feel like people you meet every day, natural and approachable. Annette makes her settings accessible; the reader can easily picture herself in the shoes of the main character. The main story is a classic tale of overcoming loss to find new love, and suspenseful subplots add spice and depth to the narrative.

I never give spoilers, but I'll warn you: sit close to a tissue box once you get to the last chapter. For everyone who likes a little romance with their history (or vice versa), I highly recommend Tower of Strength as well as the earlier volumes in Annette's "Temple" series.

(Knitters, a hand-knit cabled pullover makes a cameo appearance in this book; maybe one day Annette will publish a book of patterns as a companion to her novels. Pretty please, Annette?)

After reading the book, I had a few questions for the author. Here they are, along with her replies:

1) In Tower of Strength, your two main characters don't meet one another for several chapters. This is unusual, at least in my experience of reading romantic stories, and serves to build quite a bit of suspense for the reader. Was this a conscious plot device, or did the story evolve organically in this way?

The irony is that I've always seen myself as someone who writes historical books that happen to have a romantic thread in them, not that I write romances in the typical sense. Because of that, I've never tried to model my stories after the traditional romance formula.

That's probably the long way of saying that the story unfolded that way organically. I personally had a great time getting to know the main characters before they met.

2) What, for you, is the biggest challenge in writing historical novels?

It really depends on the book. Since my historicals are all based on specific landmarks, I rarely go into the research with a story idea already in hand; I have to get to know the place first. At times it's unnerving to wait for the plot and characters to show up. Other times it's a challenge to make sure the history doesn't overshadow the story.

For this book, the biggest challenge was doing horse research and getting the horse scenes right. Those were rewritten over and over again. I think I might have shaved a few years off my life from banging my head against the keyboard so many times over them!

3) Your characters and settings are vivid, easily brought to life in the reader's mind. Would you like to see your Temple series produced as films someday?

First off, thanks! The places and people are clear in MY head, but as a writer, you never know if you've put enough on the page for the reader to see what you do.

It would be really neat to have a book made into a movie, but I doubt it will ever happen. Few book ever reach that point. I imagine the cost alone for a historical movie (sets, costumes, etc.) would be prohibitive.

On the other hand, there's always the worry of what the movie makers would do with the story--whether they'd be true to it, how they'd change it (because of course, stories have to change at bit in adaptation), and so on, and the original writer doesn't usually have much say.

But that's probably not an issue I'll have to face. (Although now I'm going to have to mentally cast Tabitha and Samuel . . .)

4) There are now well over 100 LDS Temples. How far do you see your series going?

My original thought was to just write the ones I could do as historicals--Mesa, Alberta, Hawaii, and so forth. About as modern as I wanted to get is London (1958).

That said, this will be the last temple book for awhile. Whether I do another will depend entirely on my publisher.

5) You've let your fans know that you have a variety of projects in various stages of production: another contemporary novel, a YA fantasy, and a chocolate cookbook, to name a few. How will you handle the cross-genre transitions?

I'll take a big gulp and do my best not to totally confuse my readership. :)

I'm not too concerned about my upcoming contemporary women's novel being a huge genre shift. My readership is largely women, so making that genre leap (historical romance to women's fiction) isn't as big a jump as other genres could be, and the topic (deployment) is so timely that I hope readers will pick it up regardless.

The cookbook should be an interesting experience, but I have a suspicion that people will buy that more for the chocolate recipes than for who wrote it, so again, I don't think fiction fans will have a problem. The YA fantasy--well, that IS different. But I'm so far away from publication on that one that I'm not thinking that far yet.

6) What's your best piece of advice for a writer hoping to break into the LDS fiction market?

Much of it would apply to almost anyone hoping to break into any market: Write. Rewrite. Rewrite some more. Read a lot. (And read as a writer.) Get solid feedback (joining a critique group was the best thing I ever did for my writing). Attend conferences. Network.

Also, make your own luck by meeting other writers and editors--whether that means virtually (such as through blogs) or in person at conferences. Find out what's been done, what hasn't been (and WHY on both counts). Figure out your market and its target audience. And then write what you love that will also fit into those requirements.

I'd never tell someone to sell out by putting aside what they love to write solely for the expectations of a market. But I'd also say that if you hope to sell your work, you will have to take the market you're shooting for into consideration.

I think there's usually a way to write what's in your heart AND make it fit the market.

Thank you, Annette! It has been an honor!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:33 AM

There's nothing that chases away the late-winter blues like a fresh batch of good news. Here are a few items worthy of passing on:

Josi Kilpack's newest book, Lemon Tart, is the March selection for the Time Out for Women Book Club! As Josi mentions on her blog, TOFW chooses very few fiction titles, so this is indeed a huge deal. I got my own copy of Lemon Tart about a week ago; I can't wait to dive in and experience some delicious escape.

The Hunt for Dark Infinity, Book Two in James Dashner's The 13th Reality series, is shipping now via Amazon and will be in Barnes & Noble and Borders stores next week! My kids are all insane for Book One and can't wait to get their hands on this latest installment. (I love James's writing as well, so they'll be fighting me for it.)

Annette Lyon's latest Temple novel, Tower of Strength, is now available! I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy, and frankly, I can hardly wait to finish this post so that I can get back to it. Novembrance will be one of next week's stops on Annette's promotional blog tour, so check back here then to read my interview with her.

Fantasy writer Rebecca Weybright (apparently not her real name, oh the mystery) is editing a new speculative fiction webzine called Noctober. How could I not love it, with a name like that? I've read all five stories in the premiere issue, and I think they are great fun. The illustrious Kymburlee of Temporary? Insanity posted an interesting interview with Rebecca yesterday; you can bet that Noctober will be receiving a submission or two from me very soon.

Anyone who sings solos in church should own copies of the Sabbath Song collections. (Anyone who doesn't, but loves good sacred music, should buy the CDs, recorded by baritone Clayne Robison.) They contain gorgeous pieces by two of my genius songwriting collaborators, Murray Boren and D. Fletcher, as well as many more selections by other prominent LDS composers; they are well worth your time. Sadly, none of my lyrics appear; we'll hope for Volume III.

Finally, for anyone local, our very own Christian will be playing the role of Friedrich in Haldane High School's production of "The Sound of Music" at the end of this month. It will be worth the price of admission just to see Christian as the lederhosen-clad Lonely Goatherd in the musical-within-a-musical (don't worry; I'll post photos when the time comes), though the whole production promises to be highly entertaining. The show runs Friday, March 27th through Sunday, March 29th; I couldn't be prouder.

Well, that's it for me; does anyone else have something worth sharing?