Monday, December 8, 2014

The Hard Part of Self-Marketing

I actually don't have a problem marketing the book itself. I do have a slight problem trying to sum up the story because so much of it is inside me that I'm always trying to tailor my summary to the person I'm talking to and I end up oversharing.

But that's not really my problem. No, my real problem is the fact that I can do so much better than the books I've published.

You know how your talents go through stages where they plateau and then they grow and then they plateau and so on? I recently feel like I went through a huge growth stage. I'm talking the stuff I've been putting out is so much above the paygrade of anything I've written before that it almost seems like I'm reading someone else's stuff.

But unfortunately, all of it's unpublished. And so I spend a lot of time telling people they should read my book . . . but hey, if you hate it, I'm much better now so keep an eye out for future things!

It's not exactly a good marketing strategy . . . .

I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm glad I'm improving. But it's hard not to be self-critical when I've improved, so it's hard to keep that self criticism out of my marketing :(

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

This is the Story of Why We're Moving to Georgia

I promised forever ago that I was going to tell this story, so here it is at last.

So, my husband is graduating this month. December 2014. And we've been talking for some time about what we'll do after that. He's going into IT, so he's very employable, and he's a hard worker, so I knew that we'd be able to find a job no problem.

The question was: where would we look?

Now, full disclosure: I absolutely hate living in Utah. It's too cold and the people here are kinda snooty and way too close-minded conservative for my tastes and besides that there's not enough diversity so I don't get the pleasure of different worldviews to make my life more colorful and to fill my understanding of life!

But I was finally getting to a place emotionally where I'd be okay staying there. This is largely because of the friends we'd made there and because I work from home now, and no matter where we live, I'd be staying warm in our house.

It was a Wednesday when my husband came home with a blank sort of look on his face. I didn't notice because I was in the middle of a huge rewrite of my Underground Rendezvous series, but then he got my attention, and I knew something was wrong.

"I got laid off."

That was it. No warning, no severance pay, no anything. Just laid off. That day. After he'd spent a year of his life basically revamping every single one of their systems. He'd just pulled an all-nighter that last week getting their new server up and running. But I guess he'd done everything they needed him to do, because that was it. Good-bye.

Suddenly, my measly stay-at-home income was all we had. Let me tell you, that was not nearly enough.

We cut way back on all our spending and took a hard look at our budget. We figured we could probably survive until February if we were really frugal. Maybe.

He started immediately applying for jobs. He applied in Utah. He said he'd look in Atlanta, too, but it was obvious he was focusing most of his efforts here.

That next day, Thursday, was my father-in-law's birthday. He wanted us to go to the temple, a sacred place of worship for members of my faith, as a group, so the married kids and the parents all went as one big group to do a session together.

While we were in the temple, my husband ran into someone who had worked with him at his internship in Utah. Matt mentioned that he was looking for a new job, and the man said he'd be thrilled to have Matt hired on.

Matt told me this as we were walking to our session. I was initially excited. Was a quick answer to prayer: a perfect job opportunity!

And then I sat down in the sacred sealing room.

It was like the floor fell out from under me. I can't describe what I felt except to say that I literally could not move or do anything except cry. All I knew was that we were not supposed to stay in Utah.

I told Matt about my experience, and he agreed to start looking for jobs in Atlanta.

The very next day, he got a call back from the first place he'd applied. Six interviews later, and a week and a half of time later, he was offered the job.

I can honestly say that this doesn't happen. It just doesn't. People don't get new jobs that start after graduation that are exactly where you want to live only two weeks after they lose their jobs. I know that God has put us in Georgia and that we're supposed to be there.

We're moving in just a couple weeks. We'll be shipping all our stuff off in mid-December, then heading to Hawaii with the family, and then we'll get back to Utah, spend one day doing laundry, and then fly out to Georgia the very next day.

Crazy, right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review for Birthright Unknown

You should all read this beautiful review I just got today. I'll give you one of my favorite highlights:

There is a lot of action in this story that will keep its young readers enthralled from beginning to end. It is fast moving and has a cast of characters that are well portrayed. The author offers us Mae, a strong and intelligent character who is a good role model for girls. The more books that give us strong, independent female characters the better.

Because girl power, y'all!! :)

It's always nerve-wracking to get a review back. You get that email in your inbox, and you just sit there thinking, "This is it. They hate it. They gave it one star. Other people are going to see this review and hate my book without reading it."

To be fair, I've gotten one-star reviews before. I took it very personally. Heated words were exchanged...between me and my mirror....

And to also be fair, every single review I've ever received has been helpful, even and especially the bad ones. I always want to know how I can improve. That's important. But then reviews like this happen, and they make everything right again. Because someone read my book and liked it. And that's the whole reason I write.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Prayers Needed

I work as a freelance editor for a photography writing business, and I recently worked on a story that I really think needs to be shared. It's a hard thing, so I wanted to ask for prayers, if you're so inclined:

Read here.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lady Thief Spotlight and New Author Bio

I've been working hard at this whole marketing my books thing, and I got to talk to a wonderful reviewer who, unfortunately, didn't have time in her schedule to read Lady Thief all the way through. Instead, she offered to do a spotlight, which you can read here.

The fun thing about this spotlight was that it's got an updated bio. (Full story of how we decided to move to Georgia and what the future holds to be included in a blog post soon. I'll get to it eventually!)

Author Bio
Shelby Hailstone Law has been writing since she was five years old and her stories were filled with princesses and fairy tales (though a lot of her stories are still that way). She married her sweetheart, Matthew Law, in 2013, and they are (finally) moving back to her home in the South to live in Georgia in 2015. She has lived in Utah for five-and-a-half years now, and she misses everything about the South, from the accents to the barbecue. And if she has her way, she and Matt will live happily ever after in the land of magnolias and humidity!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Salt Lake City Comic Con: Marvel v. DC Panel

Here is the second blog post. This was a fun panel to attend, with emotions running high and everyone cheering for the Marvel cinematic universe, but when we got down to the television side of things, well, things went a little different...

Marvel v. DC: Round 2

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Salt Lake Comic Con: Stephen Amell Panel

So about a week before the con started, I was offered a position as an official blogger. This is pretty much as awesome as you'd expect. Seriously, I got free tickets to the con so that I could attend panels that I loved and then write about them? Sign me up!

Anyway, here's the first piece: a Stephen Amell panel wrap up:

Stephen Amell: Real Life Superhero and All-Around Awesome Person

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Fanfiction

So I write fanfiction.

This used to be something I would just tell a few people, people that I could trust not to tell anyone else, because it is such a stigmatized activity. Like, how could I do something so very far from "real" writing?

Only that couldn't be further from the truth.

When I started writing Teen Titans fanfiction when I was just barely old enough to even be part of online forums, I connected with a wonderful woman, who was a college student at the time, who for some reason took me under her wing and decided to mold me, to teach me about writing and to help me improve mine. The editing and polishing tricks I was taught in editing courses in college were already tricks I was actively practicing

In my most recent projects, I've been able to stretch the boundaries of what I usually do. I've experimented with nonlinear storytelling, with shorter, more staccato and off-the-cuff styles of narration, and with limited-knowledge points of view.

I've learned how to react to fan mail and requests (okay, so I'm still learning how to respond to people saying "oh I really like your writing but I wish you would do this" like, okay, I'm not a jukebox), but other than my knee-jerk fear of people telling me what to do, I think I've been largely successful.

I've built up a nice repartee with a few very kind individuals who always take the time to review and who have even taken time to build a personal connection, who aren't afraid to ask in-depth questions about the background of the universes I've built that likely won't even appear in the story itself just because they're curious.

And I've been able to see my writing improve vastly. Lady Thief was basically finished when I was sixteen and hasn't changed much since then. It's my writing from seven years ago! And Birthright Unknown, while I did a rewrite in college, is still largely the same book it was when I finished it at eighteen/nineteen including the rewrite. That's four years old!

So the best feedback I'm getting, for what I'm doing right now and how I can improve my writing right now is fanfiction. I'm learning how to slow down and not take my writing at full speed ahead. I'm learning how to let relationships breathe and how to differentiate character's voices.

So now, when I tell people I write fanfiction, I also mention that it's beautiful practice for all aspects of writing, that it's a wonderful way to use creative energy when you have writing block for other projects, and that it's the best learning tool there is.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lady Thief is a Paperback!

So I've been a little bit down the last few days. I've been really struggling for a while to remember why I got into writing in the first place. I'm not making much money, and I'm stuck in the cycle of rewrites. I'm working on both the Michael series and Flipside. Rewrites are hard, because it's not as creative and honestly not as fun.

But then I get an email from my publisher with the quarterly sales report and a message: check the Amazon page for Lady Thief.

AND SURPRISE PAPERBACK RELEASE


Thursday, July 24, 2014

How I Stay Productive

This is the weirdest thing. I have a seriously hard time paying attention to anything at all, and because I'm always working on at least three writing projects, two or three editing jobs, two agents hunts (one for Underground Rendezvous and one for Flipside), and any number of side writing/editing projects for friends and family...not to mention the usual stuff like cleaning the house, going to family events, hanging out with friends, making food, eating food, sleeping, that sort of stuff....

Well, yeah. I have a lot going on in any given day.

So I play with different ways to stay productive. One way? I play Hearts on my computer. I assign the characters different people like "Elaine" from the Underground Rendezvous project to stand for agent hunting. Or sometimes I'm not that subtle and the names are things like "cleaning," "writing," and "time for me/playing video games/whatever I want to do that day." The winner of the Hearts game gets twenty minutes of time. Second place gets fifteen minutes. Third place gets ten. Last gets five. Whatever place I get ("Shelby," AKA "Shelby's choice of doing things"), that number of projects have to be completed. So if I get third place, I have to get three things done (do the dishes, write a chapter, update a blog, etc.)

Sometimes I play a board game...with myself...yeah, I know. But after every round (of Ticket to Ride, 7 Wonders, Phase 10, whatever I'm playing that day), I get up and spend a song's length of time cleaning a room. When I'm playing the game, I'm watching a show. When an episode is over, it's time to move on to the next room. If I finish a game, I can start over, but this time there are two songs per round. And so on.

Or sometimes I just curl up in a corner with my laptop and write my heart out, and who cares about the rest?

Those are just two of the ways I stay productive, and they are weird as all get out, but so far I've managed to clean most of my bathroom, do three loads of laundry, get all my work done for the day, and make a lovely dinner, and it's still early afternoon. So it must work, right?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Finishing

I didn't post last week because I was on a roll. I'd been hit by the writig bug so badly that the only thing that kept me from writing was the fact that I needed to put dinner on the table and pay the bills.

But when I wasn't working, I was writing. Furiously.

I finished my superhero dystopian novel this past weekend, topped off by a finale Saturday in which I wrote five chapters in one day and for the first time wrote so much that my hands cramped up not once, not twice, but three times!

And I cried. Of course I cried. The ending to this book merits crying, of course, especially the second-to-last chapter, and I cried because I was in the mindset of my characters and they were both so broken and beaten that I couldn't help it.

But I cried for the end, because this is the first book that I've really gone through having no idea what will happen next. I had a beginning and I had an idea of a possible ending, but everything else has been a journey of discovery. This journey has been the project that got me through anxiety attacks, unemployment, job searches, and a whole slew of other problems.

Maybe that's why I was sad to see it end. I don't ever want to be in the place I was when I started writing this book, but by the time I finished it, I had embraced the journey and loved every second of the healing that came from my writing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sidekicks are Loveable Too!

Oh, the love triangle. My overused foe.

I’ve come down on the “wrong side” of all the love triangle debates. Team Jacob or Team Edward? Hermione/Harry or Hermione/Ron (that’s an old debate rekindled!)? Team Gale or Team Peeta?

I try. I really do. And I do have favorites. I am firmly in whatever camp I tell you because I think the narrative works better that way. But the truth is? Those aren’t the characters I care about.

Team Jacob or Team Edward? You know, Team Jasper. I’m really digging the Southern gentleman turned angsty hipster. And a real, solid backstory that explains his actions in a believable, endearing way? I’m there. Yes please.

Harry/Hermione or Hermione/Ron? I’m going with Fred Weasley/hilarity and awesomeness, please. More of the Weasley twins being hilarious and making me stop reading the book to put it down, giggle, and then reread the lines. Or, for that matter, more Luna Lovegood being innocently adorable and yet profound. Or more Colin determined to keep up his photography hobby. More Tonks sassing her way through her life problems (including Lupin and his life problems).

Team Gale or Team Peeta? Really? Finnick. Tragic character who breaks so believably and is so broken we can’t imagine him picking up the strands when, finally, he’s handed happiness only to lose it all in the end? This is really gutting stuff, guys.

So why do I love the sidekick characters so much more than the main characters and their ridiculous love triangles?

Maybe it’s the lack of attention to their flaws. Side characters aren’t the center of attention; we only see them at their best (or worst) and don’t have to sit through mind-numbing whining about how hard the Triwizard Tournament is or how awful aging is when your boyfriend’s immortal . . . . Side characters can and often do have fleshed out backstories (in fact, the best side characters often have better backstories than the main characters!), but that doesn’t mean we get so much of them we’re annoyed.

Maybe it’s the filter through which we see them. Most YA is written from the main character’s perspective, so we see these characters as they do. And most of the time, it’s a glowing view (though sometimes they have to grow on us and the main character before we get there). Fred and George? Harry thinks they’re brilliant, so we do too. Alice and Jasper? Bella adores Alice and respects Jasper, so we do too. Finnick and Annie? Oh, the journey we take with Katniss from disgust to mistrust to friendship to near-siblings! We love them because our eyes and ears in the world does too.

Maybe it’s the comedy effect. After all, the sidekick characters tend to be funnier, if we’re honest. No one has ever accused Katniss of a sense of humor, and yet Joanna’s snark and Finnick’s teasing are some of the only lights in a frankly very dark series. Fred and George are comedy gold, and Bella’s friends are often more engaging than she is!

Or maybe it’s that we’re meant to connect with the main character, and if they’re so much like us, they’re flawed, as we are. The sidekicks? They can’t be. They’re Others. They’re better.

Whatever the reason, the side characters deserve much more attention when we talk about books. I’d much rather fight with you on which staff member at Hogwarts is the best (McGonagall, of course) or which tribute is the sassiest (it’s a tossup, it really is) or which member of the Cullen family brings the most life to the side stories (Alice, let’s be real). Please, fight with me on any of those things, just don’t drag me into the love triangles. Chances are, I didn’t care as much about them as you did. I was distracted by the shiny sidekicks.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Lady Thief

So I'll tell you a story about this reviewer because it really made my day. After she sent in her review and let me know where it was posted, she asked me if I was working on anything else. I told her I was in the middle of an urban fantasy series and a dystopian superhero novel and that I had self-published a fantasy novel just to try it out. She wished me luck, and I thought that was that.

A few hours later, she emailed me to let me know she'd bought Birthright Unknown and was going to start reading it!

That's what really struck me about this review and this reviewer. It wasn't the review itself (which was really great, by the way, filled with constructive criticism as well as tangible goods that I can use in my future works) that touched me but the reviewer's enthusiasm. Someone who independently wanted to read more of my writing after reading my first novel from years ago.

I was walking on air all day.

3.0 out of 5 stars Review: The Lady Thief by Shelby M. Hailstone May 27, 2014
The Lady Thief infiltrates a team of spies whose members include her nemesis Kittie, a brilliant scientist who also happens to play her in movies; Devon, the actor who stars opposite Kittie as the Lady Thief's love interest; Jared, her confidential informant and a few others, previously unknown to her.

Disguised by make-up and hair dye and using the name Kristi, the Lady Thief successfully becomes accepted into the team and part of their experimental use of a superpower injection. As the experiment gets underway, it becomes clear that a leak in the team needs to be stopped.
The Lady Thief must discover who is responsible for the leak, whilst fighting her growing feelings for the charming Devon.

On the whole, the characters are well written with their personalities coming through. The likeability factor is there, and flaws in some of the characters show their vulnerable sides.

The story is interesting and multi-faceted - there is a lot going on here, but not too much to keep track of. It's easy to read, with minimal grammatical errors to distract the reader.

A negative for me is that it is rather long-winded. After a hectic action scene in the middle of the novel, the subtlety of the story didn't hold my interest as well.

The Young Adult market is flooded with so many books that it is very difficult for a new novel to stand out from the crowd. I just hope that this title attracts attention in the overcrowded market.
Sincere thanks to author Shelby M. Hailstone for providing me with a review copy.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

On Mormonism and Feminism: Why I'm not pushing for the ordination of women, decrying teachings of the prophets I swore to sustain, or laying claim to the priesthood.

http://assets.tumblr.com/assets/scripts/vendor/tiny_mce_3_5_10/themes/advanced/img/trans.gif
[Because this is the Internet, I have to put a disclaimer here. I wrote this to gather up my thoughts on this very, very contentious issue. I make no claim that what I have written is pure doctrine, nor do I claim that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. I don’t intend to convert anyone, only to explain, and I don’t intend to argue, only to organize my thoughts. If you disagree—even vehemently—with my opinions or my beliefs, that’s fine, but it doesn’t give you license to take up proverbial arms against me with your Internet pens and try to put me to rights or save me from burning in hell or any of the other things that I’ve heard a million times every time I even start to say “As a Mormon, I believe…” or “As a feminist, I understand….”

Basically, I don't you to get all your info on what I believe from the New York Times instead of from, like, an ACTUAL MORMON or something....)

This post has been running through my head for some time. I've kept it in my drafts for a long time, too, because I'm always so hesitant to talk about my beliefs. This is not because I don't believe them but because of a childhood and adulthood filled with people telling me I'm going to hell for what I believe and with people who refuse to remain my friend or even give my opinion a second thought when they hear what I have to say.

At the time I'm writing this first draft, a very public thing has happened in my church: the Ordain Women movement.

Now, this requires some serious backstory.

Our church has the priesthood, which we believe is the power of God on the earth again. We believe it is the same power that Moses and Noah and Adam as well as Peter and Paul and Christ Himself wielded, and we believe it is the only authority that gives power to saving ordinances such as baptism and the sacrament and temple ceremonies including but not limited to celestial marriage for time and all eternity.

And yes, the men in the church have the priesthood. 

However, men are not allowed to use this power on themselves, and if they exercise anything approaching unrighteous dominion (ie claiming to be above their wives, forcing their families into subjugation, etc), their priesthood is revoked and their power counted for nothing. 
So why do they have it?

Well, the priesthood is the means by which ordinances are performed (although in the temple, women as well as men officiate in many of the most important of our ordinances, which are sacred and so I won't go into detail, but I think it's very important to note that in the temple which is considered a place of most Holiness and the House of God Himself, men and women are not only equal but exalted together). But more than that, it's a means of organization.

Our church has a prophet, who we believe has the same keys (authority) as Moses and those like him in the Bible. Underneath the prophet are Twelve Apostles (think Christ's organization). Underneath them are Quorums of the 70 (see Moses' father-in-law and his direction to divide the Israelites so that groups of 70 could officiate rather than bringing every single thing to Moses and overwhelming him), and below that are areas, stakes, and wards (these are geographical areas). And yes, those leaders are men because they have the priesthood.

But in each of those geographical areasincluding the whole world (AKA General President), there is a woman leader. She's called the Relief Society President. Her job? To provide relief and aid (in case you couldn't tell by the name) and to direct the women in the church in doing the same for all members of the church.

(No but seriously, stop to think about that for a second. How many other social orders do you know that have male and female leaders over geographical areas? And yes, I know there are more men leaders, but I'll get to that.)

And you don't have to be in the Relief Society to be a leader of women in the church. Women run the Young Women Program (aka teenage girls), the Primary (aka ALL children), and are active in scouting programs (boys AND girls). Women lead in our seminary program (for example, my mother is over all the seminaries in our stake back home, which means it's her job to basically make sure all the Bible Groups are running (seminary is when teenagers gather to learn about the scriptures and study them, often in the early mornings before school starts or during school hours in areas where Mormons are prevalent enough for the school to adopt these classes into formal education hours)). Women lead in our institutes. Women lead in teaching programs. It's not like there's not an abundance of callings to which women are called to lead.

And here's another importance point to consider: No one in the church is paid to do those callings, unless those callings are so all-consuming that they would prevent having a job to support yourself (AKA being the prophet or something similarly consuming). In fact, one of the Apostles, Henry B. Eyering, was formerly a heart surgeon, and that pays a heck of a lot better than traveling across the world feeding God's sheep, so it's not like this is a power play or financial gain in the temporal world, okay?

But there is a vast movement of Mormon women who are demanding that they also receive the priesthood. And, okay, I get where they're coming from. I also wanted to know why I, as a woman, couldn't have this power of God. (This is a VERY WRONG interpretation of the priesthood, by the way. It is by faith that we move mountains, and I could ask God for a miracle if God willed it just as much as my husband could, thank you very much. The priesthood is the means of organization and ordinance in the church, not the exclusive power to speak with God or receive revelation or any of the things that women can also do.) I struggled with this question a lot.

But here's what went wrong: the Ordain Women movement decided to make this into a civil/political matter rather than a spiritual one.

You'll recall earlier when I said that our temples are sacred ground? Yeah, the Ordain Women movement staged a march and protested around the grounds of the temple and the General Conference area where our prophet was. If you've read the Bible and know any stories of people revolting against the prophet publically, you know how well that's received. (On the other hand, if you know any Bible stories about honest questioning and seeking the prophet's advice, AKA ANYTHING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, you know that humble questions are met with honesty and explanation.) 
See, we have this thing called General Conference twice a year where the prophets come and speak to us and the church leaders give talks. It's one of the best things about my church, I think, because the Bible is kind of vague on a few things, and ancient scripture doesn't have answers to things like internet pornography and stuff, you know? But living prophets mean we can be edified on modern problems, so we all gather to feast on the word of God.

But there's like a heck of a lot of people in the church. I'm talking millions. And they all have different needs. And so we have the General session of Conference, addressed to the entire body of the church, and then we have specific other sessions. There is a women's session and a men's session, for starters, but also a session for young people and a session for leaders and basically it's like breaking up pieces of the pie so the leaders can address issues specific to these groups. 

The Ordain Women movement, along with demanding the priesthood because of some kind of flawed belief that our lack of access to it makes us less powerful in the church (spoiler alert: it doesn't, but I'll get to our beliefs in the power of women vs. men after I do the whole General Conference story, okay?), demanded to be let into the men's session, which had historically been closed to women.

So to recap: a session specifically directed at the men of the church, which is supposed to be a place where men can be advised on things like adultery and sexual sin as well as depression in the face of pressure to provide for their families and questions about the priesthood that they hold, is supposed to be attended by the people to whom the words are directed. Shocker. There's also this thing called the women's session which is supposed to be a place where women can be advised on things such as child-bearing and the choices that accompany it (since, you know, we have those parts inside us that carry children and create the OFFSPRING OF GOD so that's kind of a miracle all by itself and we should maybe hear words about how that power makes us great, not inferior??), the glory of our bodies and their exalted status as temples and not as objects of lust, and the epidemic of depression facing many female members of the church because we are so hard on ourselves. And spoiler alert: it's attended by women.

So the main problem Ordain Women had with the men's session was that the women's session was more open to the public (it was broadcast on TV, but you had to go to a church building to watch the men's session), and the church responded by going: you know what? That's a good point. We'll broadcast that so people all over the world can watch the messages in the men's session, including women if, you know, you really want to watch us lay down the law on the men and beat them over the brow and tell them to stop cheating on their wives (which happens a lot, actually, the beating them over the brow thing). So yeah, you can totally watch the session now. Thanks for making your voices heard so we can help address this issue of getting the message of God to everyone!

And the movement said, "Yeah, but that's not good enough. We want to go to the session in person."

And the church was like, "This session is directed at specific people, and we want them to hear the message. You can hear it from home, but we want the seats to be populated by people who we're talking to. You can have those same seats in the same building when we talk just to you women. It's not like anything we say here is secret. Even before we started broadcasting the men's session, we put the exact transcript and video files of all the talks on our website just days later."

And instead of listening, the Ordain Women movement took to the media and insulted the prophet and belittled those who supported him. Historically not an awesome move. (For the record, there was belittling happening on both sides, but there always is....)

So the next General Conference came, and the church specifically told them not to do the same thing, to instead protest in areas that were not held as sacred and would not be disruptive to the people trying to attend a conference designed to bring peace and unity to the church (think Moses and the entire book of Deuteronomy. Same basic thing as General Conference). Spoiler alert: these women and men did the thing the prophet told them not to do. (Seriously, guys. Read the Bible. How well does this turn out for anybody ever?)

The next General Conference was populated by talks that not only specifically outlined why the priesthood was given to men but also outlined the powers granted to women that were equally as important. They were populated by talks about the power of EQUAL marriage between man and wife and the profound spiritual strength of women (to be discussed in just a bit as soon as I finish this story). The other talks mostly went to the tune of: Decide where you stand. With the prophet or with the world. You can't serve two masters, and you must decide whether or not you believe in the divine ordination of this man. If you do, you'll follow him, and if you humbly petition him for help in understanding this plight, you might find answers. The church might even change its doctrine and give women the priesthood, but if it does, it will be a change from GOD, not from SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. This is how it always goes.
So no one (at least no one who is paying any attention to anything at all) is surprised that when the woman who lead this movement continued to call the prophet "patriarchial" and "out of touch" (that one really gets me; like, the whole purpose of having a prophet is so he can be in touch with the needs of the church right now this very moment???), she was disciplined by the church. Right now, she might be excommunicated (removed from the church). But our doctrine is one of forgiveness, and if she repents and stops trying to force the prophet to see her way and her way only, she will be welcomed back into the church and her standing fully restored with no detrimental effects to her salvation or anything like that. It's not a permanent solution, but it is a severe one. It's reserved for very few people, and it's telling just how dangerous it is to go against the prophet that a church whose message is that questioning is a good thing to do and individual faith is ultimately vital is taking such steps. Excommunication is meant as an act of love (see also: parents taking your laptop when they catch you chatting with a creepy stranger who wants to come over to your house and possibly kidnap you. You feel like you’re being punished, but your parents know they’re saving your life).

Tldr: The problem lies not in questioning but in refusing to accept the answers you are given, by men of God, to those questions and in catapulting the church into a political circus rather than humbly petitioning for help in understanding.

On to my explanation of gender roles in the church

Arguably, Mormonism is actually one of the most feminist religions in the world. Why? Because we celebrate Eve rather than denigrate her.

We believe that Eve made the choice in the garden to eat the fruit and then celebrated that decision because she knew her choice had brought mortality and the Fall but also the possibility of family and ultimately the Atonement (yes, Eve knew about the Atonement. God taught her that along with everything else in the Gospel). Her choice is noble rather than evil, and she is revered for it. Yes, she was beguiled, but without her, mankind could not be.

Furthermore, we believe that God the Father is not alone. We believe in a Heavenly Mother, the equal of the Father and a god of power and creation in her own right. (This is a radical belief among Christians, I know. We'll get into a debate about monotheism and the Trinity later. That's when you get to tell me I'm going to Hell.) Her role in our religion is not very large, but I'm getting to why.

Okay, so I said before that men have the priesthood. Let me explain why and what women have that's just as powerful. 

Men are ultimately on the path to become like God the Father. They guard the gate out of this world, the one filled with ordinances and faith and repentance and the directing of the church. That is their role in this life.

Women are ultimately on the path to become like Heavenly Mother. They guard the gate into this world, and yes, childbirth is part of it, but saying the priesthood is to motherhood as men's power is to women's power is not an accurate analogy at all. This gate into the world includes the power to keep people in this world. The power to save lives. Women are tasked with teaching and pointing the way to the gate out of the world. We're tasked with nurturing families and friends and the rest of humanity. To define a woman only by her role in childbearing is to ignore the responsibility women have in our church to care for the motherless, to teach the fatherless, to feed the homeless, and to guard the defenseless. Women who are businesswomen are just as important to the church as women who are mothers. Both have the capacity to affect human lives and shape the world as we know it. Our responsibility is not to perform those single acts of salvation but to be salvation and to invite salvation, which is arguably a much bigger and more terrifying task because we can never stop doing it, whereas one single ordinance is a one-time thing as long as the one who receives it lives up to those covenants. Men do the baptizing, but women fill the font with spiritual water. 

(If you're thinking this sounds like eighteenth century nonsense about women being the "fairer sex" or something, please stow your crap. I'm talking here about shaping lives through directing change, and I can just as easily do that as President of the United States as I can as a mother, and who says I can't do both? I just choose to focus more on being a mother because I have covenanted with God to bring His children to the world and to care for them and because the family is the most important unit of anything ever, seeing as how it lasts into the eternity and all. I'm married to my husband for time and all eternity; I'm not going to be a US citizen for all that time, ya dig? Priorities. But still, my choice. Some women in the church never get the chance to have kids or choose not to, and they are the women who shaped my lives, including one leader that I credit with basically saving me from my own doubts in my self worth, so please stuff your crap and understand that this is all couched in religious terms and flowery prose because that's how scriptures roll, so moving on).

(Second side note: We have always placed a very, very high emphasis on families in the church because our most important callings in life are as fathers and mothers—even more important than callings as leaders, bishops, apostles, Relief Society presidents, whatever else. Family trumps everything because it is eternal, and so yes, we do place a high value on motherhood. But also on fatherhood and also on brotherhood and sisterhood and on aunts and uncles and grandparents and children.... Family reigns supreme in our list of priorities in our religion; thus, the huge billboards saying pay attention to your families and become good wives and mothers aimed at women. We kind of have a huge role to play in families, in case you missed high school anatomy and psychology classes.)

Furthermore, our gaze is fixed on the gate out of this world, and we do not often enough look behind us to gaze on the gate we have already come through. (And when we look only at the gate men guard, it's easy to think they have somehow been set up as superior, when really what we are doing is the very thing feminism fights against: erasing or making invisible the very contributions that make women unique and powerful.) Our church proclaims that people lived before we came to this world (see prophets told by God that they were chosen before they came into this world, that God knew them before the womb, etc), and that humanity had a pre-earth life. 

Just as we don't know much about our Heavenly Mother and her role in God's Plan, we don't know much about what women did in the pre-mortal existence. But we know it was wonderful.

Tldr: Mormonism is a wonderfully feminist religion because it a) believes men and women cannot be saved without each other b) celebrates Eve’s choice c) celebrates a heavenly Woman d) lends eternal power to the role of families but will never induct a rule that says women have to have kids or that their salvation is suspect if they don’t blindly obey their husband or any of those things.

To focus only on the priesthood is to deny the power of a woman's spirit. Literally. To focus only on the priesthood is to say that this tiny sliver of earth life is the only important part of an eternity that we can't even imagine. And to focus only on the priesthood is to say that only the responsibilities assigned to men can ever be good enough for equality and, by extension, to denigrate the very things that make us women. Denying the feminine and demanding the masculine is not feminism: it's actually one of the most misogynistic demands of all time, because it denies that woman can ever have her own power outside that of man.

When I get to the next life, I will be a priestess as my husband is a priest. I will have power and authority to be an eternal being and to one day become as Gods, and I will do this all alongside my husband. We are partners, and the next time someone accuses me of being anything less than equal to my eternal sweetheart, I might scream.

***UPDATE: A dear friend added that men are more than just priesthood holders, and to put all of man's value in the priesthood is to deny the individual works of salvation and the capacity for good that men hold. They are more than the tools whereby ordinances are performed; they are fathers and brothers and leaders of men, friends and protectors and care-givers just as capable of love and spirituality as are women. In a sense, this movement is as damaging to men as it is to women because it puts all the focus on outward works and ordinances rather than on inner strength and faith. Men guard the gate out of this life, as I said, but not only with baptisms and ordinances but also with leadership and care and love and all those things that make them unique as well. (Thanks for pointing this out to me so I can be more inclusive in my analysis!)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Reviews for Birthright Unknown

From the Amazon page:

3.0 out of 5 stars A Cute Read for Young Adults April 3, 2014
Format:Paperback
Birthright Unknown spins the tale of one fairy hidden away her entire life until her eighteenth birthday, and then gets the most explosive present of her life.

Resistance movements, betrayal, high-flying dragons all set the mood for a fast-paced adventure. Match that with witty dialogue and well-developed characters and you have a decidedly fantastical tale.

Unfortunately the fast-paced adventure made things a little easy for the main character. There was conflict, but she easily overcame it, much to my disappointment.

Also, the romance aspects were very predictable, occurring too fast to develop any real chemistry and therefore seemed incredibly unnecessary. That being said, it did harbor one twist at the end that I did like.

Overall not a bad read, but definitely geared towards the YA audience.

......

Thanks, Loretta! I appreciate the feedback; I know I tend to go too fast and burst through action sequences, so I definitely need to learn to let my characters breathe.
.........

5.0 out of 5 stars loved it! April 18, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Anyone will enjoy this book. From smaller children (my daughter is 9) to adult. I wasn't able to guess what would happen next which is rare for me. I enjoy reading other books by Shelby!

........

This one was a surprise for me! Almost a year ago, I went to Canada with my husband for his cousin's wedding. We somehow ended up as Pied Pipers of sorts, and one of his cousin's daughters just attached herself to us and followed us around. It was adorable!

So imagine my surprise when she messaged me using her mother's Facebook to let me know she'd read it! 

I love reviews, but hearing from kids is a special treat for me, especially since I write to a young audience.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

No Worries, Y'all, I'm Employed Again

I think my favorite part about working from home is the fact that I get to go to work in my pajamas.

Seriously, I roll out of bed, pull up my laptop, check to see if there are any blog posts that need editing for the creativity blog I proofread, then start my shift proofreading for a news site as their stories go up.

At some point, when there's a lull or a break in between shifts or when there aren't any projects on my plate, I'll do the dishes, make the bed, make dinner, and even write, that sort of thing. I get so much done in between projects, and I get to play my music while I'm working and stay in bed all day if I don't feel like leaving.

I like freelancing.

Don't get me wrong; it's not for everybody. I definitely make less working from home than I used to when I worked at an office. But I love it. It's perfect for me.

Now if only we could get our contract sold. We have a place to live; we just have to get rid of our old one. So if you know anybody in Provo, UT, looking to rent married housing, let me know!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Interview

I was recently interviewed by the blog Keep Calm and Write On about Birthright Unknown, and I thought I'd leave a link here so you can all go check it out.

Here's some of the highlights:

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Research how and where you want to publish. Sometimes it’s fun to try self-publishing (if you have the resources to pull it off), but sometimes you need a little more guts behind your writing. Always always always learn what the publisher has done in the past so you don’t get pulled into a scam and never never never submit somewhere that you haven’t researched. If they’re legitimate, they’ll be annoyed that you aren’t following their guidelines, and if they’re not legitimate, you’ll be devastated that your baby is in the hands of crooks.

Is being a writer a curse or a gift? Both. I feel like it’s a curse when it’s 3am and I’m trying not to wake my husband up while I’m desperately writing down the latest inspiration. But it’s a gift when your seven-year-old cousin asks you to sign her book and carries it around like it’s her greatest treasure.

If your book is made into a movie, which actors/actresses do you envision playing the parts? Lucy Liu would be Mae. Definitely. Sass and charm. Perfect. I think maybe Josh Hutcherson as Ezek. A younger Smallville-era Jensen Ackles as Doran. Can I de-age them? 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Random Assorted Thoughts

At this time of huge life upheaval and change, here are a few thoughts:

1. It is much better to be poor and happy than to be slightly richer and be stressed out all the time. Matt and I can handle a tighter budget. We're going to make it. But the stress was literally sending me to the hospital and interfering with my ability to enjoy life in general. So yeah, we're losing at stable paycheck a month and trading it in for a totally uncertain budget with my freelancing. But I won't be dying metaphorically and physically, so that's a plus.

2. My husband is the strongest man I know. He's seen me through what I now recognize as dark depression and anxiety, and all without a word of complaint.

3. Your best friends see the problem first. Listen to them if they tell you you're in a bad place. They're usually the first to pick up on changes in your mood. They're also the ones to point out to you when you're five times happier than usual.

4. If you get an answer to your prayers, act on it. It doesn't matter if you're stepping off the proverbial fiscal cliff. You need His strength, and He needs you to be obedient so that he can give it to you.

5. Give yourself credit. I've applied to freelance jobs I thought I'd for sure be ignored for. Got 'em. Reach higher than you think you can.

6. Plan for the worst. That little nest egg Matt and I have been saving? It's going to be so good for the weeks in between him finishing school and being able to work full time and my being unemployed.

7. I'll say it again. Money is not more important than mental health.

8. Ever.

9. Even when you're strapped for money, you can find something to splurge on. It might not be something big like new clothes. Maybe it's just a discount chunk of beef to make a nicer-than-usual meal. But it's a splurge. And splurging makes you happy.

10. When people offer help, don't be too proud to take it. But do know when it's not helpful.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Huge Life Announcement

I'm about to be unemployed.

Yeah, I know. It's totally terrifying. It really is. I have no idea what's next for me. I've got a few different options for places that I'm looking at for freelance writing opportunities. But nothing's solid.

Nothing's solid for my husband, either. I mean, he's got a few places that he was invited to apply, but nothing solid yet.

We're jumping out into the unknown with no safety net.

Is it okay if a wax religious for a minute?

I'm going to do that. It's my blog.

I really feel like right now we're in God's hands. We've put our lives in His court, and we've both prayed about this decision, and this is what we feel like we've got to do. I mean, it's going to do wonders for my physical and mental health to be away from my incredibly stressful job, so that's good. And if Matt can get a better job, I think he'll be happier, because I don't think he feels like he's growing. So we know it's a good decision.

But we're blind right now.

We have literally no idea where we're going.

If you believe in God, please pray for us.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Be Kind. It's Simple.

So. I have a rant.

I actually have lots of rants stored up inside me, but this one needs to come out.

This rant is written to any authors who have been published and had any measure of success. More specifically, it's written to those of you who think that, therefore, you can look down on first time, "wannabe," or "lesser known" authors.

Stop.

No.

Just stop.

Please.

Do you remember younger you, who hadn't published a book yet? Do you remember looking up to those authors who were published no matter how well they sold because oh my gosh that's what I want to do with my life too?

Remember that?

No?

My appeal to empathy isn't working because you've forgotten what it was like to not be successful?

Okay. 

Let's appeal to something else. Let's talk about your fanbase. Your devoted readers. These are the people that make you money, remember. You kind of need them to like you. When you're mean and condescending, they are less likely to like reading your stuff. Being kind makes friends. You need friends. They read your books.

It's not a hard concept. In fact, most of my favorite authors engage with "wannabe" authors in a professional, uplifting, and empathetic manner. They encourage. They give advice. They want fledgling writers to follow their dreams. 

Obligatory shoutout to Neil Gaiman, John Green, and JK Rowling goes here.

Or let's talk about how to be a decent human being. Crushing people's dreams? Not decent. Talking down to them because they haven't progressed as far in your career as you have? Not decent. Treating them like lesser people because they haven't honed their talent to your level (which, by the way, you have achieved through experience and the help of experts, something they are lacking but actively trying to get)? Not decent.

Doing anything other than supporting them in their dreams?

Not decent.

I mean, you can totally hate what they've written. Let's be honest. There are some really bad writers out there. Some of them are even published. But there is a distinct difference between thinking the writing itself is awful and treating the writer like an awful person for even trying. If the writing is awful, tell them how to improve. Tell them what they did wrong. If they're really passionate about what they do, they'll only get better, and then they'll thank you rather than hate you.

You get me?

Long story short: Don't put people down for chasing their dreams. Not everyone will be famous. Not everyone will write the next Great American Novel. Not everyone will even pay all their rent bills this month. But are they trying? Yes? Then stop being mean to them. 

Life is about progression. We get better. First-time authors will too. But they'll never get better if you terrorize them and bully them out of pursuing the very thing that gives them hope in their dreams.

End rant.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How Do You Do This Whole Internet Thing?

So I was really not feeling good this morning. Like not at all.

I stayed home from work, but by about ten o'clock, I was feeling okay. Not well enough to, you know, go anywhere, as my insides still weren't sure if they were fans of gravity shifting. But well enough to get stuff done.

So I figured I'd start doing what my publisher's always talking about. I'd start promoting my work.

I mean, I already do that. I've got this blog plus The Secret Life of Fictional Characters plus a Tumblr that I use all the time and some mean fanfiction that I've got a modest following in. I get by.

But I started doing the Twitter thing. I started following a whole bunch of writing blogs and just watched my feed all day, checking it at various intervals.

And I was legitimately surprised at how new all this was to me. I mean, there was literally a hug community of internet authors out there that followed and supported each other! There were different accounts that I could follow that would give me updates on new agents and what they were looking for. There were accounts dedicated literally to just spreading motivation to writers!

I'm still not sure I'm doing this right. I'm hitting the retweet button a lot, which is kind of what I do on Tumblr where I just reblog everything. I make posts sometimes, and I think I've figured out the hashtags thing.

But then it started getting to be a lot. Like really. A lot. I was following maybe four times the amount of Twitter accounts as I follow Tumblr users, and I'm starting to realize that was probably a bad idea, because the Twitter feed never stops. And I've got a good habit of checking Facebook or Tumblr or this blog when there's a notification, but otherwise, I'm content to let it sit. But this Twitter thing? Seriously, it's like trying to keep up with sugar-addled children with that many notifications! Literally. "Hey. Hey look. Hey look at this thing! LOOK AT ME."

That's what the little notification number on my Twitter tab is doing to me.

I gotta figure out this internet thing, because I feel like getting a Twitter was a really great idea but also incredibly exhausting because this site is so very high maintenance!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

True Love

People think love is this huge, unattainable thing, but it really isn't.

Love, the real thing and not the Hollywood version, is what happens when you and one other person decide that you're going to be best friends forever, but you mean that in an even more beautiful way than ever before.

Love is when friendship crosses over into the bounds of your every waking thought. Love is when another person's welfare consumes your thoughts.

Love is when living together isn't a huge obstacle to overcome and drama stops being a rommate problem.

Love is when your roommate is also your caretaker and guardian.

Love is when you do the dishes because she's had a stressful day at work and can't do them.

Love is when you make him go to bed on time because you can tell he's getting sick.

Love is when you email her while she's at work just to say hi.

Love is when she cries into her shirt for no reason other than that she needs someone to cry into.

Love is when every little thing is an expression of that everlasting friendship and support.

It's not a huge thing. It's a hundred little things.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's a Really Good Thing I Love What I Do

Everybody hates doing taxes. That's kind of a given.

I mean, literally, we're just sitting on the couch with a bunch of papers trying to make sense of all the ins and outs of things and even if you've got something helpful like an e-filing thing, it's still difficult.

Now compound that with the fact that I like to think I write for a living.

I mean, I don't, but I like to think I do. It's an illusion all writers live under. There's really no hope for us; sorry about that.

But the point is, when you get royalties, you have to report them as if you're basically self-employed. 

Literally, I have to create a business on my taxes. The business is called "Shelby Hailstone Law," just FYI. The address is my house. I make about $100 a year. 

Yeah. Real lucrative business there.

(Actually, that's not too bad, considering I'm mainly e-pubbing, though hopefully that'll change soon. Keep your fingers crossed for me!)

Anyway, point is, it's a whole lot of work and extra money to file the taxes. Just about as much as I make writing the darn things.

So it's a really good thing I like doing what I do.

No, but seriously. I love it.

You can ask my best friend, Deborah, who is so wonderful to sit through all my ramblings. She and I carpool to work together, and just the other day, she had to sit through me rambling about Nicholas Anderson, who is perhaps my favorite character I've ever created and yet I just can't seem to get a good story to settle in around him. It's a problem. It really is. I want him to have an entire series, and every book I've ever tried to write for him is . . . not good enough.

Sad, really.

Maybe I just stink at science fiction?

Okay, I'm getting off topic.

Point is, I absolutely love what I do. I love writing. Anyone who talks to me can tell, because I'm always talking about new ideas, babbling about characters I love, asking people advice so I can learn how to write better. (For example, I tend to rush my endings and need to work on my flow. I also need to get better about giving characters distinct voices if they're not major characters.)

But I love it.

I love when I get the random, uncontrollable urge to write and can't do anything but write.

I love when I get an idea at a ridiculous time in the morning and have to write it down.

I love when I reach for the journal as soon as I wake up because that dream was just too good.

I love when I get a phone call from my baby sister saying she's finished my book and would like more, please.

I love it.

And apparently it's a very good thing I do.