Friday, January 23, 2015

My Identity Crisis

Boy, have the last two years been a rollercoaster of fun. In two days, I'll hit the two-year anniversary of my sudden divorce. Four days after that, I'll hit the two-month-iversary of my almost-as-sudden new marriage. [Edit: Dang, but do I suck at dates. I was married on December 19, 2014. My 2-month-iversary isn't until February 19. I just passed my 1-month-iversary on January 19th, so what I MEANT to say is "four days ago, I celebrated my 1-month-iversary...." I need more sleep. If you all will just do the dates for me from now on, that'd be great.]

A week ago today, I said goodbye to my decade-long career as a full-time Public Defender, moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and have embarked on a new career as a full-time sorter-of-junk-in-moving-boxes, organizer-of-junk-in-closets, and motherer-of-children-who-scatter-junk... or is that just how it seems? Part time (while the kids are in school, and trusting that the boxes will wait) I'll be a freelance writer, with some law stuff training to take care of on the horizon. *Makes note to send in bar dues, just in case*

I'm also planning to really get serious about that Become Bestselling Novelist bucket-list item I've been fiddling with for years. Because I need more red carpets in my life. (Doesn't everybody?)

At the same time that I'm trying on all these fancy new hats, I'm changing my legal name (well, theoretically--the project keeps getting buried in other minutia) to Kirkham. I'm trying to figure out how to alter my scribble of a signature to make the A in Ambrose look more like a K (mostly by writing a K over the top of the A that magically appears .2 seconds after I put pen to paper, despite my best intentions to pause after Robin). (The rest of the letters are utterly illegible anyway.) I'm getting used to introducing myself as Robin Kirkham. To answering to Mrs. Kirkham and Sister Kirham. Even my kids are getting used to my new name.


Here, and elsewhere in the world where I'm a writer first and the rest of it hardly at all, I'm still Robin Ambrose. I've always loved my maiden name, and one of the silver linings of two years ago was the realization that I hadn't yet published a book under my ex-husband's name. When I go to writer's conferences with Robin Ambrose on my name tag, people think I made the name up, it's so perfect. So as much as I love and trust my new husband, Nate, I'm embracing this chance to splinter myself into separate personalities and make myself so confused that I have no idea WHO I am or WHAT IN THE WORLD I'm supposed to be doing, now. Because, fun!

6 months ago, I was a single working mother, a full-time lawyer, and a (let's face it) hobbyist writer. Starting this week, I'm a Stay-at-Home married mother, freelancer, and a serious-but-unpublished writer. The "What do you do" question just got more complicated.

Anyone else ever change just about everything about the Definition of You in one fell swoop?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What OW Can Teach Us About Building a Better Hero

There's been a lot--possibly too much--said about the Ordain Women "movement" (can we call it a movement when it's so tiny?) lately. This isn't a religion blog, but today a comment on a Facebook thread abut OW struck me. The commenter was an LDS woman who mentioned that she had two friends, who had been leaders in the young woman's program, resign their church memberships and even divorce their husbands over the controversy.

These women were demonstrably strong and, just like that, they... weren't. If we look at the church as a fantasy magic system, the antagonist just scored some major points, yes?

This got me thinking about Kaladin in Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson's brilliant second book in his Stormlight Archive series.

Kaladin is one of the most heroic heroes I've ever met. [Minor Way of Kings Spoiler Alert] Kaladin started as a gentle surgeon's apprentice, went to war to protect his younger brother, lost his younger brother, stayed at war to protect others who were weak, became a powerful leader, lost everything, lost everything a few more times, wound up bound to a living hell, crawled from the literal and figurative pit to lead others once again, and ended up by the end of the first book a legendary figure who had saved thousands of lives and elevated himself and his friends from dust to eye-popping influence.

If there is something you need done, Kaladin can get it done. Something killed, someone protected, a battle won, a puzzle solved, a life saved: Kaladin can do it all. Lesser men should just stand aside, for Kaladin is IT. A leader of leaders, a friend of the fallen, inspirational and awesome. 

But, as Mr. Sanderson knows better than any of us poor imitators, flawless characters are rather boring in book two. (True in fiction, true in life.)

I'm not going to spoil Words of Radiance, since the book is 1008 pages long and has been out for less than a year, but know this: Kaladin is also deeply flawed, and one main flaw prevents him from becoming EVEN MORE AWESOME than he was at the end of Way of Kings. That flaw comes this-close to destroying all the good he was trying to accomplish. Clinging to that flaw, in fact, LOST HIM a great measure of the good he had already accomplished.

Only when he overcomes that flaw can he come into his full measure of awesomeness. And. It. Is. Awesome.

Mr. Sanderson is brilliant. Lesser authors would have struggled to tear down such a paragon of all things good as Kaladin had become. His strategy, though, is rather timeless: he took Kaladin's greatest strength and then simply made Kaladin RELY ON IT. Kaladin was a great leader? What if Kaladin was unwilling to follow? Kaladin was a friend to the underclasses? What if he held the upperclasses in contempt? Kaladin was great at surviving hardship? What if he accepted hardship as solely the work of cruel fate, and took no personal responsibility in the events that shaped him?

I'll stop there: read The Stormlight Archive. You'll thank me.

Let's discuss someone who is even better than Brandon Sanderson at taking extreme strength and turning it into weakness. Someone, perhaps, who was once called the Son of the Morning, but became the Father of Lies. What would HE do if he wanted to turn our greatest strengths into our greatest weaknesses? How would he convince a strong, intelligent, faithful woman to turn her back on the power she'd embraced since birth? How would he convince others to follow her? How would he convince them all that everything they once knew to be true was flawed, rotted, and powerless?

The strong can be too strong when they rely only on their own strength.

The intelligent can become idiots when they erroneously believe themselves the masters of all knowledge.

The faithful can become apostates when their faith turns inward instead of upward.

Do you have a character in your WIP who needs to be taken down a notch or two? Have you someone in your story who hasn't quite suffered enough for true change? Perhaps you should stop building in extra weaknesses and start inflating their strengths. Tell him he's wonderful, that he's always right, and that others--especially those the character himself has always looked to for guidance--would be wise to heed his counsel. Convince her she's invincible. Whisper that she's infallible. Let her glory in the wonderous joy of being practically perfect in every way.

Then just turn them loose and watch them fall. 

Won't that be awesome? Insta-tenderized characters all set for your build-them-back-up plot lines. Wiser and humbler and far more teachable heroes ready to step onto the higher plane of powerful perfection. And all you need to do is knock them off the pedestal you convinced them they belonged on. Spectacular fall, hard rebuild, fantastic end.

Just what every writer--or human--needs.

On a more serious note, my wise friend Jared Garrett posted an excellent commentary on Facebook yesterday that basically reminded all of us that 1) the best discipline is all about RETURNING someone to grace, and 2) exulting in anyone's fall from grace is... bad. Real bad. 

Let's all be like my friend, Donna Weaver, who, while she was reading the bad-Kaladin parts of Words of Radiance, kept texting me, seeking reassurance that her beloved hero would come out right in the end. Who was so agonized over his slightly less-awesome decisions that she wanted to avert her eyes and not finish reading it at all. Who loved him too much to take joy in watching him squander his potential.

None of us have seen the endings of our real-life stories. It would behoove us all to check our judgment of others and to take careful inventory of our own strengths, lest we, like Kaladin and so many others, fall prey to the oldest trick in the book.

So what's your favorite way to tear your hero to shreds?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What I've Been Doing Instead of Writing

I'm planning to get better at blogging. Soon. I AM! If nothing else, I have hours of notes from writer's conferences to share, and heaven knows I need to have some sort of accountability to get back to writing.

Lately, though, other things have been more important (I know, I know, incredible but true). The end of school was... time consuming. We made it, and everyone is advancing to the next grade, but it was touch-and-go. One young son was one retake away from summer school. (He utterly aced the retake, by the way, proving he's smart enough, if we can find a way to motivate him to study. Money will be involved next year.)

To relax from the frenzy of the end of the school year, I took a weekend to attend a different kind of conference. Have you noticed there're seminars to teach you about every major aspect of life? I've learned about the law and about writing that way, so it was just natural that I'd want to learn about dating that way, too. I attended a wonderful seminar in South Jordan a couple weekends ago taught by Alisa Snell, Utah's Dating Coach, working with The LDS Matchmaker. Just for fun, the same day, I attended a casting call for The Mormon Bachelorette. (I know, right? It gets worse.)

I applied to BE the Season 5 Mormon Bachelorette. I even made the required 2 minute video, which I'm only linking to here because, well, after so many months of zero posts, NO ONE is reading my blog anymore. So, here. I'd embed it, but, honestly, the video is unlisted. You can't find it without the link.

In all honesty, I auditioned because dating and this kind of personal publicity both scare me. It's not so much the inevitable rejection--I'm totally old hat with rejection. It's the requirement of opening myself up to the possibility of someone who WON'T reject me. Of being vulnerable in the dating scene. I'm not sure I'm good at that, but I want to be, because, well, that's what I need to succeed, right? Though it's unlikely I'll actually be chosen as the next Mormon Bachelorette, I'm hoping the application process will at least... tenderize me. In a good way.

Anyway, chosen or not, there's a chance my little video will be viewed by a virtual score of people, and those people might be coming here at some point, and I really just want to have something friendly to say to them. (Uh... hi!)

So... what important things pull YOU away from writing... or whatever else you SHOULD be doing?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Twist of Luck Blog Tour

[Jaclyn was smart enough to write her own blog post (she spent a lot of time with me at LTUE and knows how scattered I can get). So, in her own words, heeeerrrrres Jacklyn!]

Every day a different blog will post a question. When you find the answer, send an email to me at:

I will draw a winner each day from those that got it correct. You can find the answers on Wikipedia.

The answers will also be posted the next day on the next post in the tour, along with the next trivia question. Some questions deal with colors of the rainbow. Other questions deal with leprechauns.

And, of course, at the end of the rainbow, there's a pot of gold. In that pot of gold will be an Amazon gift card! Those that answer questions by sending me an email will be entered to win the gift card on the last day.

And don't forget to purchase a copy of book one, Stolen Luck. The great news is that it's $.99 right now!

Good luck!!

Yesterday's Answer:

Stolen Luck is set in Burley, Idaho — not far from where Jaclyn grew up.

Today's Question:

The background color on the Irish coat of arms is called St. Patrick's ________.

The prize:

A cute leprechaun charm! Carry it in your pocket for good luck!

About Twist of Luck

Megan finally has her luck back and hopes that life will return to normal. Unfortunately, the magical world has other plans. Suddenly, she find she has fairies following her to provide security, dragons become a constant threat, and an imp tracks her every move. As if that wasn’t enough, her luck begins to manifest itself in ways she could never imagine.

About Jaclyn:

Jaclyn is an Idaho farm girl who grew up loving to read. She developed a love for writing as a senior in high school, when her dad jokingly said she was the next Dr. Seuss (not even close but very sweet). She met her husband, Steve at BYU and they have six happy, crazy children that encourage her writing. After owning a bookstore and running away to have adventures in Australia, they settled back down in their home in Utah. Jaclyn now spends her days herding her kids to various activities and trying to remember what she was supposed to do next.

Find the answer and tomorrow's question at:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hope's Watch by Donna K. Weaver--with a rafflecopter

Have I mentioned how much fun it is to have author friends? Especially when they're the sort where I can say I "knew them when?" And since I only pick awesome friends, all my wanna-be author friends who actually become authors are still friends. I. Love. That.

Even better is when your author friends are some of your favorite authors, and you don't have to just pretend to like their books. :)

In the interests of full disclosure, Donna Weaver is such a friend. This February will be my fourth year (wow) staying at her house for LTUE. I've watched her grow from wanna-be to awesome author and I couldn't be happier for her.

Donna's first book, A Change of Plans, told the story of Lyn and Braedon, who fell in love on a cruise and, after a pirate attack, spent a year or so marooned together on a tropical island. If you haven't read it, you simply must. Buy it on sale this week on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Hope's Watch is a short story about the friends they left behind, especially Lyn's best friend--and the woman who convinced her to go on the darn cruise in the first place--Elle.

But first, the pretty cover:

Elle Reinhardt loves people and has a gift for turning groups of strangers into friends. When she talks her best friend Lyn into taking a month-long Pacific cruise, Elle is in her element, gathering fellow passengers to her. But things go horribly wrong when a ship excursion ends in death and disaster at the hands of modern-day pirates.

Filled with her own emotional wounds from the experience, Elle tries desperately to buoy up the grieving loved ones as they wait for news on those lost at sea. Malcolm Armstrong, friend of one of the missing men, arrives to act as family spokesman. Elle knows it’s unreasonable, but she resents his presence. When Mal offers the strength she so desperately needs, will she be able to let go of her animosity and accept his support?

This ebook-exclusive short story includes special excerpts from both A Change of Plans and Torn Canvas.

You can also buy Hope's Watch at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

In case you're wondering, Torn Canvas is also a spin-off book about another of Lyn and Braedon's cruise friends. That's coming out later this year.

To celebrate the release of Hope's Watch, Donna is giving away $50! Seriously. Behold the Rafflecopter:

Oh, and if you're not doing so already, you're gonna want to stalk Donna:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Battle Unicorns are here! Introducing Warrior Beautiful

My awesomely prolific friend, Wendy Knight, has ANOTHER book out. I know, I know. You're thinking "What? Another one? Isn't this, like, her debut year? And isn't this her fourth book?" And being the informative soul I am, I'll tell you that you're partially right. One of the Feudlings books was actually a novella, so we can pretend that didn't count... but she also published another book as a pseudonym. So, depending on how you count, she either published five books or four and a half books. In. One. Year. Also, they're fantastic. Which isn't fair, but how can you hate her when you're too busy wanting her to write another one?

Also, the girl has amazing covers. Behold!

As one of her privileged besties, I remember when she came up with the idea for this book (earlier this year, naturally). For the longest time, she kept going on and on about battle unicorns... and how she needed to find a plot for them. I think she did a great job with a really fun concept, and I think you will, too.

Wendy has been kind enough to provide me with a short explanation about why she is drawn to the YA Fantasy genre. Since I'm similarly drawn to it, and we get along famously (yes, it's fun to flaunt my friendships with amazing authors, thanks for asking), this comes as no surprise:

Hi there! I’ve been asked to write about why I write in Young Adult Fantasy—what it is about these genres I love so much.


I love the Young Adult genre because there is still so much potential at that age. Life’s decisions haven’t been made. Young adults still have their entire future before them, and I love that. Me, for example, I have three kids. I write. That’s my life and while there might be some changes in the future, it isn’t wide open and beckoning like it was when I was a teenager (I thought I was going to live in Africa and study lions. Never mind that I hate bugs and the sun and don’t like to watch things die).  Teenagers can save the world, and I love that.

My reason for loving the Fantasy genre is pretty much the same—there are no limits. I can make up entire worlds, new words, new animals, new everything! There isn’t anything that can stop me but my own imagination! That being said, I do prefer writing urban fantasies—which is magic set in our world. I love the idea that there might be magic right in front of me and I don’t even know it. In Warrior Beautiful, there are unicorns protecting us, but we can’t see them. I LOVE that sort of thinking.

I started writing Young Adult Urban Fantasy because that’s what I love to read. Yeah, I’m in my thirties and I have children and I’m married and stuff, but still—those are my favorite kinds of books! In fact, getting me to read anything else is sort of…difficult. I’ll do it, but I may or may not be pouting the entire time. This genre makes my head spin with possibilities. So many things can happen, so many different directions to take it. It’s just so much fun!

 She's so cool, right? So here's the deets on her book:

Warrior Beautiful (Riders of Paradesos, #1)
Author: Wendy Knight
Check out on Goodreads!
Purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Synopsis: Working with the ex you secretly love to save the souls of the innocent is almost as bad as working with a mighty battle unicorn who would be thrilled to watch you plummet to your death.

Scout is used to pain. Her body has been broken, her heart has been broken, and the only thing keeping her together is her relationship with her younger sister. Lil Bit be-lieves in unicorns and terrifying monsters she calls soul stealers. But unicorns and monsters aren’t real…are they?

When Lil Bit falls prey to the mysterious disease sweeping the country, Scout has two options – believe the doctors who say it’s a pandemic or believe Lil Bit, who says it’s the soul stealers. She chooses her sister and goes looking for the unicorns who are supposed to save them. What she finds aren’t the cute pastel mythical creatures she expects. Battle unicorns are big and tough and full of attitude. Who knew?

Unicorns are real and so are the monsters. Soul stealers are reaping the souls of the innocent, and the unicorns are fighting to stop them. But to save the world, they need the help of humans – the enemy they’re dying to protect. And first to sign up for the fight is the ex-boyfriend Scout’s heart won’t stop loving, no matter how determined she is to hate him.

**Must be 13 or older**
**Opened to U.S. Only**
**Winner has 48 hours to respond before a new winner will be chosen**

**Winner will win: an ecopy of Warrior International, a Warrior Beautiful key chain & a signed bookmark**

Love it, right? Have you also harbored a love of flying unicorns?

Also, this was supposed to have a top ten list on it, but Wendy didn't send that, and I'm NaNo-fried and can't possibly think of one myself. Instead, I want you to tell me the one or two things that SHOULD be in a Top Ten Best Things About Befriending Authors List. Go!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Returning with a Vengeance

This last year has been rough for me. Wild, crazy, with a lot of good stuff and a lot of really, really bad stuff. My few regular readers who followed me here from my old blog know what I'm talking about. For the rest of you, know that the day the world shifted on its axis was November 30, 2012. I'd finished NaNo. I'd WON NaNo. Then my whole life fell apart. Just. Like. That.

And, whew, it's been a bumpy ride.

In trying to save life-as-I-knew-it, I made a promise to NEVER again participate in the time-suck known as NaNo. Turns out that wouldn't have saved anything, but that's largely moot at this point. As is my foolish promise.

Still, this year has been too full of adjustment and single-mothering to leave room for such sanity-saving trifles as writing and blogging. I've read about half my normal quota of books, which pains me more than I can express. (Susan is getting ahead!) My NaNo 2012 book has been completely neglected since I crossed the finish line. I hope to someday go back to it, but maybe after I figure out what the villain(s) really want. I've been working a little bit on a new-shiny, but I've hardly been able to call myself a writer all year ('cause writers WRITE, and I haven't been).

So here we are on November 1, 2013. Well, I guess, since it's after midnight, it's technically November 2. I'm gearing up to do NaNo again. This is my third year, though I registered under my shiny old name, so NaNo won't acknowledge that I'm a veteran. I'm scared, I'm nervous, I'm wondering how I'm ever going to pull off 1667 words a day all month when I've barely been able to manage 100 words a month--and that's if you count writing-related Facebook posts.

All day, the world has been conspiring to keep me from writing. I had 161 words--half of which had to be re-rewritten (my tablet neglected to save my brilliant changes before I could transfer them to the desktop)--when I finally started sprinting at around 10:30.

By 11:55, I had 1,739.

I'm back.
I'm a: