Monthly Archives: February 2013

All Hail The Greatest Weekend of the Year

Oh boy. We are almost there. With each passing day it gets closer…and the anticipation builds.

Of course I am speaking of March Madness and the greatest four days of the year. I mean, if we were ranking a single best day of the year, definitely Christmas would be number 1. But if you are looking for a stretch of days that is better than any other, forget spring break, cast away the idea of Thanksgiving weekend, and look no further than the first four days of the NCAA college basketball tournament.

Now I can hear the detractors warming up already.

“Ugh, basketball. I hate basketball. And it ruins my television watching schedule for two weeks in a row.” As a Person of Interest fan who has to take a leave of absence from my favorite show, I get this complaint…but it’s bogus. Why? Because I say so.

“I don’t like sports. They’re boring.” Umm, WHAT?!? Thirty-two games in thirty-six hours where the loser’s season is done and the winner moves on for a chance at immortal glory? How can anything be more compelling than that?

Since I was in high school I have lived for this event. I fill out my brackets and I gorge myself on basketball for days. When I went on my mission, I nearly succumbed to insanity for having to miss it two years in a row. I missed the infamous Chris Webber time-out. I’m sure it was against mission rules, but thankfully my mother sent me the Sports Illustrated detailing it all at my request.

About fifteen years ago, my friends and I came up with a concept. Why not give our wives a break from non-stop basketball and get together to watch the first Friday’s games at a sports bar near ASU campus. The first year we did this, ASU was in the tournament and both ASU and UofA played on the same night. It was heaven. My friends and I became part of the game vicariously along with 150 of our suddenly closest friends whom we had never met before. A tradition was born. Every year since, I have made my way to a sports bar with my friends from those college days and we eat chicken wings and watch basketball. I have detailed this somewhat on a previous blog.

(As an aside, the other night, I took my two boys to an ASU basketball game and we stopped and had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. I wanted to begin indoctrinating them on the joys of wings and b-ball. The place was busy and so we had to sit in the bar. That is where my friends and I normally sit during the March Madness weekend. I thought surely they would have a great time and begin looking forward to joining me in my March tradition when they were a little older. Sadly, I learned I am raising at least one boy who is much more righteous than I. After being seated, he leaned over to me and said, “Don’t ever do this to me again.” I replied, “Do what?” “Make me eat in a bar.” He was dead serious. Maybe this is a tradition that will not be passed on for generations.)

Anyway, a few years ago, my friend, Heath, suggested that since we now have to travel to Mesa from Thatcher for this event, we should throw our golf clubs in the car and get a round of golf in at a nicer course down in the valley. I couldn’t think of a better idea, so we did.

In the four short years since that harmless little round of golf, insanity has taken root and a truly grand event has been born. What started out as a round became two rounds when we realized the amazing price we could get if we played the same course twice. Then, since we were missing work on Friday anyway, we figured we might as well get up early and leave town at day break and get a third round in on Friday before going to watch basketball, with the other two rounds coming the next day on Saturday…

…And since we are playing three rounds of golf, why not make a trophy and give it to the person who has the best overall score from the three rounds AND engrave their name on the trophy and the year they won. It makes total sense doesn’t it? Yeah, my wife doesn’t think so either, but she is a kind, patient…long-suffering woman.

So last year, the members of my golf foursome and I took part in the first annual March Madness Invitational. I didn’t win. But I am hooked. And I am almost breathless in anticipation for this year’s March Madness Invitational and the corresponding basketball watching with wings and unlimited Dr. Pepper. I think a portion of heaven for me will require this weekend to continue into the eternities.

Now, as an author, I tend to write about what I know. And that is why both my love of the NCAA tournament and my love of golf both make an appearance in THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. They certainly don’t play a major role, but they are there. How could two things so important not be?

Speaking of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, my brother continues to work diligently on my behalf. Last week, he sent me another e-mail from Stephen Carter, editor of Sunstone Magazine. Sunstone, as an organization, has been around since the 1970s and in their own words, “serves…Latter-Day Saints and others for whom life and faith is a wonderful but unique adventure. Sunstone brings together traditional and non-traditional Latter-day Saints, promoting an atmosphere that values faith, intellectual and experiential integrity.”

In other words, they were the “and I’m a Mormon” campaign long before the Church marketing department decided to make that their feature catch phrase.

Anyway, Stephen Carter had this to say about THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER:

“With gentle humor and an open heart, Rapier delivers an engaging story about the joys, sorrows, and complexities of family life.”

I can only imagine how busy Mr. Carter must be, and so it is with the utmost gratitude and humility that I wish to thank him for his time in reading my book and for his kind words of endorsement.

I am so appreciative that I’m inviting him to join us at the Gilbert, AZ Buffalo Wild Wings on March 22nd for chicken wings, unlimited carbonated refreshment and basketball. But if he is even a half-decent golfer, he is sadly disqualified from the March Madness Invitational. I don’t care how nice his endorsement is, I want my name on that trophy.

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Why Should I Care About A Church in the Inner City?

For the record, this blog existed before I knew I would be publishing a book. For that reason, earlier posts on this blog have nothing to do with my book, writing a book or trying to market the book that I wrote. There’s a reason for that. Sometimes I like to write about other things.

But part of the deal you make when you sign a contract is to publicize your book as often as possible, especially if you have a blog. So, over the last two months, I have become THAT guy. I’ve become the friend you used to have who got into Amway Primerica Pampered Chef Scentsy DoTerra, and now has no ability to talk about anything else. For that, I apologize. But for the record, that probably won’t stop anytime soon. However, I do hope everyone realizes I recognize this issue and will patiently give me a pass.

But there comes a point where even I can’t take it anymore and I want to write about/talk about something else. So today, I will get the required stuff out of the way…THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER…August 2013…Really Good…Everyone who has read it loves it…Available for Pre-Order on Amazon RIGHT NOW…and move on to a topic that has been on my mind of late. Awesome Television!!!

I think it’s easy to forget how blessed we are today when it comes to our entertainment choices. One reason might be that there still is a ton of garbage out there. Far too many situation-comedies aren’t comedies at all. They are simply 22 wasted minutes of lame sex jokes meant to shock their audience into thinking they heard something funny. And frankly, reality television is an insult to human intelligence.

(At this point, just about every human being alive will say, “Yes, except for…” because each of us has a reality show weakness. My personal favorites are The Amazing Race and Duck Dynasty. But in my defense, I consider The Amazing Race to be a game show, not a reality television series, and anyone who thinks Duck Dynasty is reality rather than the evolution of the situation-comedy is delusional. However, they are considered reality, and therefore are labeled as such. I still maintain, reality television as a whole has less value than sewer water. I would happily give up Willie and Jace Robertson if I could get rid of Snooki, Honey Boo Boo and anyone named Kardashian as part of the deal.)

Anyway, what brought this to mind is that I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago and happened to turn on the television in my hotel room one morning as I was getting ready for the day. An old episode of TJ Hooker was coming on. I stood there open-mouthed for approximately five minutes, stunned at how badly this old show had aged.

I was never a huge fan growing up, but I don’t remember hearing people talk about how dreadful this show was. And apparently that was because most people didn’t feel that way. It was a fixture on ABC for several years. But looking at it through a 2013 perspective, it was AWFUL!!!

Sadly, so were most hour long dramas of the 1980s. Don’t believe me? Find a Dukes of Hazzard re-run on CMT and try not to retch. Watch a Love Boat episode and see if you don’t feel the need to take a shower after watching it. Even my beloved Remington Steele feels a little “cubic zirconium” compared to the five diamond status I gave it in my youth.

So what was the problem? Why are these shows not getting better with time like say…I Love Lucy, or The Dick Van Dyke Show? Why does a black and white Perry Mason still kick the butt of any Matlock episode you put it up against. And furthermore, why does television today feel so much stronger.

COMPETITION

Bottom line, you didn’t have to be great to get a large audience back in the day. You just had to be better in your time slot than the two other shows that were on. And let’s face it, if Love Boat was the best option on a Saturday night for almost a decade, you can imagine the quality of what was showing on the other two networks. But today? You can’t get away with that.

If you have a television show, you have to be better than what is on three hundred other channels. That’s a tall order. And I’m not saying we still don’t end up with crap. How Two and a Half Men is still on the air baffles me. But if you want to survive, you better up your game.

Which I believe has led to the largest assortment of amazing television shows available at one time, EVER!!!

Never before have I had a time in my life where I could use all the fingers on both hands to create a list of shows I really want to watch, but simply don’t have the time. Today I can do it without having to think hard. So when I turn on the tube at night, I get to be a selective television connoisseur instead of a cafeteria-line consumer of…ehhh.

The shows I have deigned worthy of my time include:

The aforementioned Amazing Race. It may be reality, but when you get to see a woman try to catapult a watermelon with a sling shot and have it come back and hit her in the face on a medieval battlefield in England, I mean, come on.

Person of Interest. I think this show’s strength is the way they expect their audience to pay attention. Bad guys don’t always get caught, but you better find a place for them in your memory banks, because you know they will show up again without preamble or explanation for who they are. And you can’t wait. (Anyone who watches will nod knowingly when I mention the names Elias and Root.)

Psych. Any show that has the guts to send their protagonists screaming like little girls from a sorority house when they think they have seen a ghost can’t be wrong. This show is the best adult adaptation of Scooby-Doo ever made. Others might say it is the best comic adaptation of The Mentalist ever made, but frankly, I’ve heard it both ways.

Burn Notice. The show MacGyver should have been. Enough said.

Lost. I know this show has been over for a couple of years, but still. If you haven’t seen it, go back and watch it on Netflix or whatever internet/DVD format you need to. Quit telling yourself that you didn’t get the black smoke or the polar bears and just watch the show for the character development. There has never been a show stronger in that area than this one. Don’t believe me? Name another show where you find yourself desperately concerned about the welfare of a murderous conman, a pathetic paraplegic who has delusions of grandeur or a manipulating tyrant who kills another character possibly meant to symbolize Christ. Can’t come up with any? That’s because there are none. This show is storytelling at its best. Hands down!!!

Finally, I want to mention a show that held no interest for me until a week and a half ago. When I first hear the title, I thought, “Why on earth would I want to watch a show about a church that has to be located in inner-city London?” Then I realized that it wasn’t Downtown Abbey, it was Downton Abbey. Then I read a small synopsis and realized what time frame it took place in and that it dealt with status and propriety.

My first thought was, “Yuck. Another Jane Austen wannabe.”

(For the record, I recognize the valuable contribution Jane Austen’s works make to our society. I just don’t like to watch film adaptations of them very often. And I really don’t have any desire to read them. If someone says, “The two hour Pride and Prejudice really doesn’t do the story justice. You really need to see the six hour version.” I know that I’m probably out.)

But because the hype surrounding this show started to reach fever pitch over the last few weeks, I broke down and watched the first episode on Netflix. Long story short…

I’M IN!!!

Don’t ask me to explain it. I mean the most action that took place was when one awful woman kicked a cane out from underneath a co-worker while they were all standing at attention. Well, and then there was the kiss, but even that wasn’t what had me mesmerized. This show was fascinating. The subtle writing and British sensibility given to understatement have produced a hypnotic hour of television I would have never thought possible knowing the subject matter.

So, I will add Downton Abbey to my list of fine television of which I will partake and once again express my belief that we live in a time of the most extraordinary TV available. I mean, if even British television is getting in on the quest for excellence, you know you’ve never had it so good.

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Okay, This is Big!!!

In my last few posts, I’ve documented my ongoing quest for endorsements. Actually, it would probably be better described as other peoples’ quest for endorsements on my behalf. Well, that trend continued over the weekend as my brother-once again-provided a huge boost for my little debut novel floundering for space in the crowded marketplace of published fiction.

When I was a little kid, my mother had a tiny green book with the hand-drawn picture of a woman on the front. I didn’t know  anything about the book, and what little I could read made absolutely no sense to me as  I was still trying to grasp the intricacies of See Spot Run. But it meant a lot to my mom. I would see it lying around many different places in our home over the years and learned later that the poems contained inside provided my mother inspiration at different times in her life.

So, try to imagine my shock and utter exhilaration when the following e-mail came across my iPhone last Friday evening from Jerry Rapier.

(As usual, he offered no preamble)

“A delightful gift from a skilled writer and insightful observer of life in Mormondom.  “The Reluctant Blogger” shines a clear but affectionate light on our most challenging and rewarding relationships – family, romance, friends, God,self – and invites us to the high and holy calling of laughing at ourselves and loving ourselves pretty much at the same time. Highly recommended.” -Carol Lynn Pearson, poet, author, screenwriter & playwright

I don’t know what else to say, except a very humble thank you.  Thank you so very much, Carol Lynn Pearson, and thank you again, my dear brother, Jerry Rapier. I am forever in your debt.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER arrives August 2013 and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com for $9.99 RIGHT NOW!!!

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Drive-By Fruitings and My Regards to Mandi Tucker Slack

First of all, I just have to get something off my chest. Three days ago, President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address. I didn’t watch it. In fact, I haven’t watched a State of the Union in years. I didn’t watch them when Bill Clinton gave them, I didn’t watch when GW gave them, and I certainly don’t watch them now. If I want to watch people iterate their wish lists for things they can’t possibly pay for, I will go stake out a department store Santa line this next December and get more than my fill. But that’s me.

However, the thing I find amazing is how my Facebook news feed blew up during and after the speech with all my conservative friends howling about how partisan the president sounded and how dishonest he was during the speech and so on and so forth. To which I say, “Yeah, you’re probably right…but so what. Did you expect something different?”

I would like to give my rabid political friends some advice:

TURN OFF THE TV AND THE RADIO.

I promise you’ll feel better. It won’t change anything that Washington is going to do policy wise, but at least you don’t have to think about it. You’ll be able to breath deeply and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings more fully. It’s a tranquility you really should get used to. Since no one in Washington seems even remotely interested in tackling the debt and it appears inevitable that everyone’s taxes will go up regardless of assurances otherwise, it is likely that you won’t have any money soon to distract you from enjoying the joys of nature all around you. In fact, you might not even need to worry about having a house to block your views of the great outdoors.

Regardless, understand this: President Obama has been who he is for four years. He then won reelection. He will never have to run for political office again. So my conservative friends, ask yourselves: why on earth would he say anything you want to hear? So then? My advice is don’t waste precious energy whipping yourself up into a frenzy over things you cannot change.

Having said that, I am now going to whip myself into a frenzy over something I cannot change, but that is completely unrelated to politics.

Can I express one of my biggest frustrations with the process of getting a book published?  Well, it is my blog, so I guess I can.

I think query letter’s are of the devil.

As an author, I spent over a year of my life pouring my soul into a novel that means a great deal to me. I have put all of my emotion and lost countless hours of sleep trying to ensure that the story I’m trying to tell is as polished and perfect as I can make it. Then, in order for me to have a shot at getting it out to the masses, I have to sell over 100,000 words to a publisher or agent in a one page letter that only allows for one paragraph as to what my book is about.

Really?!?

Had I known five sentences would be the difference between success and failure, I would have saved myself a lot of time worrying about character development and just focused on writing the world’s greatest limerick.

I mean, I understand that agents and publishers can’t read every manuscript that crosses their desk. I get that. But I began following a couple of literary agents on Twitter and they would tweet some of their judgments on query letters they were pulling from their “slush pile.”

Some of the comments I read were, “While this particular concept sounds like it could be interesting, the writing just wasn’t very strong.”

WHAT??? How the @!*% would you know? You just based your opinion on a bodybuilder’s strength by watching him thumb wrestle. How on earth could you know if the writing is strong or not. If a book has any depth at all, an author is seriously going to struggle wrapping up the plot in a four line synopsis. I defy anyone to capture the essence of Gone With The Wind in five sentences or less. The same challenge stands for Grapes of Wrath (Actually, if anyone could do that for Grapes of Wrath, I would be forever grateful. I might actually make it through the five sentence version.)

Anyway, despite my rage and angst at a process that is inherently unfair, it is the reality of publishing. And so, against my own advice, I am railing against something I cannot change. Thankfully, there are a few exceptions out there, including my publisher, Cedar Fort.  Cedar Fort, and to be fair, most major LDS publishers, will accept full manuscripts. For that, I am truly thankful.

And now that I have that out of my system, I need to take a moment and express my gratitude to a fellow author in the Cedar Fort stable.  (Categorizing authors who publish under the same house as being in stable can really be taken two ways. Either I am a thoroughbred, a stallion, a stud…or a nag. I’m really not sure how to take that.)

Mandi Tucker Slack is currently in the process of releasing her second book, Tide Ever Rising. In fact, it officially released this past Tuesday and she has been wrapped up in book signings and launch parties. However, through all that, she took the time to read The Reluctant Blogger and kindly provided the following endorsement:

“A story that proves there is hope beyond loss, and healing becomes possible through love. Uniquely-written, Ryan Rapier’s The Reluctant Blogger will warm your heart.” – Mandi Tucker Slack, Author of The Alias and Tide Ever Rising

So, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to Mandi, and let her know how much her sacrifice of time during this busy portion of her life means to me. While I have not read her latest, I have read The Alias and found it to be a highly enjoyable distraction. Which is exactly what a good novel should be.

More information about Mandi’s books and about Mandi herself can be found at www.mandituckerslack.com. Both The Alias and Tide Ever Rising are available on Amazon or most places where LDS novels are sold.

Meanwhile, The Reluctant Blogger is now also available on Amazon for pre-order and will release in August 2013.

Finally, anyone who has survived to the end of this post and is still wondering about the title, Drive-By Fruitings, well…it doesn’t mean anything. I couldn’t think of a title for this post and have always loved that line from Mrs. Doubtfire. That’s it. Sorry to those who were hoping for a Robin Williams or Pierce Brosnan reference. You will have to leave disappointed.

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Parting Shots: Part Three of a Conversation with Author, Jennifer Griffith

Two weeks ago, I posted the first portion of an on-going conversation between myself and Jennifer Griffith, author of BIG IN JAPAN, and one of the few people I entrusted my early manuscript to of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER.  Part one of our conversation can be found here, while part two can be found here. Below is the third and final part of our conversation.

After asking about her novel, I took the opportunity to finish our conversation by asking Jennifer the following question:

RR:  “Now, I’m curious, what were some of your initial reactions when you started reading THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER? I’m tempted to clarify the question further, but I think I would prefer the answer I will get if I leave it fairly open.”

JG: “When I first started reading it, the very first chapter, I thought, man, this guy can write. It was a breath of fresh air for me. As we got a little farther into the story, I thought Todd, your main character, was a sad case, and I worried that the story might end up being sadder than the kind of stories I usually read (although I do like a good Nicholas Sparks novel from time to time). But about five pages in, I started to recognize (and get!) the sense of humor that pervades the novel. From that moment on, I was in it for the whole ride.

 
One thing that I love about this book is how quickly (like, by page three) I cared about the characters in the book. From chapter one, I wanted to see this man triumph, I ached for his tragedy, I longed for his relief. It is the test of a true writer whether he/she can get the reader to care about a character, and I definitely connected with Todd from the start. And what a good, good journey you took him (and thereby, us, as readers) on!
 
As I read it, I was discussing it with our friend Aimee. She and I kept saying how this story will appeal to women since they love all the talkiness of this style of writing and the relationships that are the core of the story, but it will appeal to men as well because of the real man that Todd is. It’s got broad appeal. I am sure it will find a good readership. I’d recommend it to any of my reading friends. (Almost. There are some who only like Wimpy Kid books.)
 
I need to add one more thing, my other impression of the novel is that it is a story that is very timely. It touches on issues that members of the church deal with all the time and that have in the past been avoided in public discourse. Recently, these issues have been discussed more openly, and I think this book is hitting the shelves at just the exact moment, and I see it helping a lot of people come to grips with realities they never thought they’d have to face in their family relationships. I see it as a healing book.
 
And here’s my final question to you: Where do you expect to see THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER received the best? By that I mean, who do you think is the book’s best audience? (And for the record, I do see it having broad, broad appeal.)”
RR: “I think my strength lies with women over 50 who were avid watchers of DALLAS and THE LOVE BOAT in the late 70s/early 80s. I mean if someone liked JR Ewing back in the day, this is definitely the book for them.
Seriously,I have to admit I don’t know. I think that is one of the problems a person can run into when they just sit down and start writing without knowing their genre, their target audience or even where the story is going to end up. It may end up being the book you wanted to write, but when it comes to the business/marketing side of publishing, things can get tricky.
I think Generation Xers, male or female, will relate best to the story because that’s my generation and I write like an Xer. If you buy into stereotypes, my book would probably attract females more than males, but the men who have read it have made comments like, “I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up reading the dust jacket, but it ended up being much different than I thought it would be, in a good way.”
So again, I don’t know. I think most anybody who gives it a chance will enjoy it. I’m sure there are exceptions, but that will always be the case. My hope is simply that whoever picks it up finds themselves invested in Todd Landry and the people who surround him. And when it’s over, each reader is a little sad, because they feel as if they have to say goodbye to new friends. If I accomplish that, I will have succeeded.”
I would like to thank Jennifer Griffith for her time and willingness to take part in this exercise. For me, it has been a lot of fun to learn about her motivations and experiences in writing BIG IN JAPAN, and I have also enjoyed getting a chance to reflect on my experiences writing THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. If anyone reading this has any questions for either Jennifer or myself (not that I expect any), please feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post or on the Facebook link that likely brought you here.
BIG IN JAPAN, from Jolly Fish Press is available at most bookstores and is available on-line at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. 
THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER arrives in August, 2013. For more information on its release, go to facebook.com/ryanrapierauthor and click “like” for updates and additional postings. Ryan can also be followed on Twitter at @RyanRapier.
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Excuse Me, Sir, Can You Spare Your Name?

First of all, great game last night. I was hoping that the Forty-niners would pull it out, but…I really didn’t care that much. My team lost three weeks ago and I was mainly watching for the commercials.

Speaking of commercials. Living where I do, the God Made a Farmer ad was my favorite. Not funny, but made me proud to be the product of rural America.

Other favorites:  Joe Montana stain, Leon Sandcastle, Stevie Wonder and the voodoo dolls, and…ah, we’ll leave it with those three because what I really want to comment on is:

The Three Worst Ads of the Night.

1. Who on earth thought any of us would want to see a supermodel make out with THAT guy. He looked like Pat from the old SNL skits. Furthermore, who took that thought and said, “You know what would make this whole idea better? Extending the kiss and amping up the sound effects. Yeah, let’s do that.” Now I will grant you that they are getting a lot of buzz today, and maybe that was their goal, but I will tell you this. We have a new Carl’s Jr. opening here in the little town where I live. And I will not be going. EVER!!! And the reason I won’t be going is because I boycotted them long ago when they came up with the idea of showcasing the sound of people chewing their food. That is the most disgusting thing in the world and they think it will make me want to buy a hamburger? It makes me want to vomit. So, no Carl’s Jr. for me, thanks. And you can add GoDaddy.com to that list after last night. (Okay, they were probably already on the list, but they definitely moved up to the second position after last night.)

2. I know a good idea for an ad. Let’s make a beer that is bottled all in black and we will have a bunch of people dressed in black dancing with gold highlights on their faces and skin so that they look like rejects from the Capitol as described in The Hunger Games. Definitely a can’t miss.

3. Did anyone tell Calvin Klein that 1) This is a sporting event, therefore the audience will be made up of at least 50% men, and 2) umm, dude, kids in the audience?  I was watching with my 8-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. Thanks, Calvin. You definitely provided me the most exercise I got during the evening as I scrambled to grab the remote and change the channel. Not that I wouldn’t mind looking that good in my underwear, but still.

Now to the main topic of the day. Endorsements.

I hate asking people for help. It’s almost a disease for me. What is even worse is asking someone for help that I don’t know.

Now, just the other day, I was informed by my publisher that at this point in my book’s young life, I needed to get out of my comfort zone and ask anyone with notoriety that I might know to read my book and provide an endorsement. I felt a little sick. The problem is, I live in a small town and I don’t know very many people with notoriety. In fact, almost none.

Now, I do know Stephanie Meyer. She and her husband lived in the same ward we did back in our Arizona State days. She even threw my oldest daughter’s baby shower when she served in a Relief Society presidency with my wife. The problem is, that was almost fourteen years ago and we haven’t exactly kept in touch. So, I would feel a little awkward about calling her up and saying, “Hey, remember me? I know it’s been fourteen years and all, and you went on to massive wealth and popularity while I…not so much. But see I have a book coming out and…well, hey, you up for giving it a once over?” Something about that just feels wrong.  But I probably could have pulled that off were it not for the second problem. I don’t know how to contact her. In fact, that’s likely a much bigger problem than the first one.

So, that left me with a couple of options that I have taken advantage of, but still not many. So I did what any little brother does and ran to my big brother for help.

Jerry Rapier runs Plan B Theatre company in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is well known and well connected among the Utah arts community. The awards and accolades he and his projects have racked up over the years are quite extensive and could command their own blog entry themselves. My salesman of the month award from Countrywide Home Loans just prior to the housing crash pales mightily in comparison.

I felt silly having to reach out to my brother for help, but I didn’t see many other options. Thankfully, he was more than willing to help and immediately sent my book to Eric Samuelsen, playwright, retired BYU professor and former president of The Association of Mormon Letters, an organization dedicated to the production and study of Mormon literature and its enjoyment by all. I didn’t come up with that last sentence, it’s on their website.

Needless to say, I was thrilled Eric Samuelsen would even be willing to take a look at my book. My greatest hope was that he wouldn’t hate it. Three days later, I received the following endorsement:

“So you need a book cover blurb? Tell me how this one works:

“Man, I liked this book. Warm and human and real. A novel about growth and loss and pain, about Mormonism and judgement and forgiveness, about recovery and redemption. I read it in one afternoon, just couldn’t put it down. A winner.”

That’s my honest response. Really really liked it.”

I’ve never been so shocked in my whole life. When I had started writing THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, my greatest hope was that it wouldn’t suck. And now, THIS??? I have to admit, I cried a little. (To be fair, Jerry said he liked it, too. But he’s my brother. He has to say that.)

And so, I want to take the opportunity to say thank you. I don’t know if either one of them will read this, but I wish to express a massively huge thank you to Jerry Rapier and Eric Samuelsen. Your willingness to help me is immeasurable and something I doubt I will ever be able to repay. And since Jerry is continuing to hook me up, additional thanks are directed your way.

I have to admit, I’m now getting a tad excited for August.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, by Ryan Rapier, arrives in August 2013 from Cedar Fort Publishing.

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The Blogging Sumo: A Conversation with Author Jennifer Griffith Continued

On Monday, I posted the first part of a discussion between myself and Jennifer Griffith, author of BIG IN JAPAN from Jolly Fish Press. Jennifer was one of the first people to read my upcoming novel, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, and was instrumental in getting the manuscript in shape to submit to publishers. The first post began a discussion back and forth about different aspects of writing our books and that conversation continues below.

RR: Prior to BIG IN JAPAN, you wrote and published three LDS centered romance novels. What is it that made you decide to leave that genre knowing that your established audience might not respond to a story about an overweight Texan traveling to Japan and making it big in the sport of sumo? Also, what did you learn from your first three published novels that helped you write BIG IN JAPAN?”

JG: For one thing, my original publisher was taking a hiatus from publishing due to the 2008 economy. My last LDS book came out in the fall of 2007, and at that point I had just given birth to my fifth child and I was deep in the mommy trenches. Writing wasn’t really even on my radar screen at the time. I figured, with that situation, I might not ever bother trying to get published again. But the sumo story popped up, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started it in the summer of 2009 when the rolling storm of life smoothed out a bit.

I had always wanted to write mainstream stories. I like LDS stories, and I read quite a few, but I found a really great book called “Plot and Structure” by James Scott Bell, and in it he outlines how to write commercial fiction. It made me want to give it a shot–just to push myself to try something new. The sports genre is almost funny–I hardly ever have a strong interest in sports, so it’s ironic that I would be the person who writes a sports novel at all, let alone one that peaks at #9 of the Kindle sports genre list. I guess life is full of ironies.

Still, your question about audience is a good one. I think for some people who’d read my earlier stuff, this was a stretch. However, it’s hard to imagine that my voice or my writing style is that much different. When I read an author I like, I’m looking for that voice. I don’t really care what the setting is most of the time. I might have lost a few readers for that, but I did make inroads into the 50+ male readership crowd that I’d never have garnered if I’d stuck with the other genre.

But I have another question for you, Ryan. I’ve heard you say this novel ended up being somewhat cathartic for you. Your main character, Todd, writes for his therapy (against his will.) Do you think all writers write to work through their thoughts and concerns to some extent?

RR: You know what’s funny about this question? My wife enjoys the food/mystery genre with the recipes at the end of each chapter. One author she likes has a main character who enjoys the affections of two different men. Book after book she can’t decide between them. Yet, neither man is jealous of the other and both are content to bide their time like until she is ready to make a decision. When Shannon told me about these books, I couldn’t help but chuckle. My immediate thought was, “This is a woman who probably didn’t date a lot in high school and is now living out her fantasies of how men truly should behave through her writing.” Maybe that comment is unfair, but I think it is safe to say that there are very few men in this world who would be willing to live with that dating scenario.

Anyway, back to your question: I think an author’s level of catharsis is probably related directly to the story they are trying to tell. But on the other hand, I can’t see how a person’s real life would not have a direct affect on their writing. In recent interviews, Steven Spielberg talks about watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He says he can clearly see the darkness in that movie that he believes is a direct correlation to the fact that both he and George Lucas were going through divorces.

As for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, I had lost my mom to cancer not long before I started writing. At the time, I didn’t put two and two together, but once I was finished, it was clear how writing portions of the story had helped me get emotions out that I had not really shared before. There are other aspects of the book that function similarly. In hindsight, I think my proximity to the subject matter made it a better story—certainly more real. But I must admit that I am now curious as to how good of a writer I am when I try something different.  Will I still be able to tell a compelling story when the subject matter doesn’t so closely mirror my own life? I guess I’ll have to see.

What about you? What aspects of your writing have been influenced by the life you were living at the time? I know you lived in Japan for about a year and a half, but what other facets, if any, of BIG IN JAPAN can be attributed to your life experience?

JG: Probably a lot of aspects of the story mirror my life. I know that sounds far-fetched, that I as a 5’1” Mormon mother of 5 could have much in common with any member of the sumo world. However, it’s the human experience I tried to touch on. I might never have been over 400 pounds, but I don’t know many women who haven’t felt some measure of despair about their weight, especially while going through pregnancies and post-partum physical changes. I found lots of moments where I could tap into my own experiences worrying about physical appearance and self-confidence related to that. Maybe that’s too much sharing, but I think many, many people can relate to Buck in that way. I know I did.

Also, when I was drawing Chocho, I really wanted her to be a capable woman, but I wanted her to be thoroughly feminine. As I have aged, I have seen how strong a woman can be while still remaining in the traditional feminine role. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world is the old saying. Even though I worked hard to get an education, traveled abroad some, lived in Japan, worked for Congress, I now am a homemaker and mother. That is my most fulfilling role. It may sound non-progressive to say this, but I wanted to create a character in Chocho that would be a really good role model for women who want to keep the traditional femininity alive but who are devoted to having strong opinions within that realm and within their best sphere of influence. Does that even make sense? Am I rambling? I guess I could see myself at a crossroads at one point, choosing between career and home, and I chose home. I have never regretted that. Chocho would, to my mind, choose home. Do you agree with that assessment of her?

I would agree with that assessment, but I probably wouldn’t have picked up on it had you not pointed it out. I think this is a difference of point of view with regards to men and women. What I liked about Chocho was her inherent goodness. You did a good job on portraying a man’s preoccupation with appearance. At the beginning of your book, Buck is transfixed on a woman who is beautiful, but nothing more. She treats him like garbage. When Buck meets Chocho for the first time, he again is struck by her physical beauty. But as Buck matures and gains self-confidence, Allison’s overall desirability fades and Chocho’s expands because he realizes she is so much more than just a pretty face. Her kindness, in my mind, is her greatest feature. And because that is what I took away from Chocho’s character, that is why I would agree that she would choose home over career and never look back.

And now back to your book, Ryan: It was really different for me to write from a male point of view. I botched it here and there, I’m sure. You were laughing about the male leads in your wife’s favorite series, that they were just not very believable to a man. For part of your editing process, I know you reworked “the love interest” for Todd the Blogger–at least a couple of times. How was it finding a way to create a female character, likable and believable? Because I would think your book will appeal equally to male and female readership. What helped you get her just right?

RR: Well, in short, you and Aimee Staten. But to expand on that answer, again we are getting into male vs. female perspectives. Prior to your critique, only two females had “met” that character. Both of those individuals also had greater access to my thoughts and motivations during the writing process, so they understood not only what was on the paper, but what was in my mind. But when you and Aimee encountered the character for the first time, you were both adamant that she was not likable. I have to admit, I was stunned. I loved this character. I went back to my male friend who had read the book and asked if he felt the same way you had. He was as mystified as I was. However, when I mentioned it to my wife and to the other female who had read the book, they both admitted they could understand where you were coming from.

So, once I got over my shock and dismay, I set about trying to “fix” her. My issue was, I wanted a character that was somewhat broken herself. What was difficult for me was finding that thin line between a broken character that was overly bitter and one that was not bitter enough. It took a few attempts to get that right. But what is interesting to me is that although the character comes across much differently now than she did originally, she never changed in my mind. She is still the same person. I just wasn’t allowing her to express herself correctly.

End of part 2

In the third and final installment, we will turn the tables on each other and ask questions about our own books. Check back later next week for the conclusion of our discussion.

BIG IN JAPAN is available in most book stores and can be found on-line at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can also find Jennifer Griffith at her website www.authorjennifergriffith.com or you can follow her on Twitter and/or “like” her author page on Facebook.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER arrives August 2013. You can follow Ryan Rapier at his twitter feed @RyanRapier or “like” his author page at Ryan Rapier, Author on Facebook.

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