The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Trip to Helper

A Trip to Helper

Thursday, June 4th, I was invited to help kick off the Teen Summer Reading Program at the Helper City Library. A chance to hang out with some kids and talk about reading and books? Sign me up!

I’d never been to Helper before, and it turned out to be a quaint, quiet little town. I found the library without any trouble. But I guess when there is a giant statue of a man with a pick-axe it front of the library it makes it a pretty recognizable landmark.

Amanda the Librarian was a wonderful hostess and made me feel right at home. She had a table set up for me and refreshments. A group of kids were already working on making personalized hardback books when I arrived. It looked like a lot of fun and I asked for a copy of instructions so I could make one of my own later.

I made a short speech about the importance of creative writing and reading and then fielding questions from the sizable crowd (I’d say maybe 30 or 35 people were there). After the Q&A, I sold some copies of my book. It was a lot of fun to mingle with the crowd and learn more about Helper (pop. 1,800).

Amanda had planned to take me to dinner after the event, but something came up and so she asked some of her friends to take me instead. “The Sweeties” took me to the Balanced Rock Pub and Café where we enjoyed some delicious sandwiches and delightful conversation. We talked about my book and about writing and Mr. Sweetie told me all the ghost stories he knew about the ghosts haunting the Helper museum. Spooky!

And speaking of spooky—the sun was on its way down by the time I headed out of Helper and started the two-hour drive home. I had been listening to Just After Sunset by Stephen King on audio CD and, just my luck, the scariest story in the collection played as I drove home in the dark down a winding, twisting canyon road. As much as love stories by Stephen King, I learned the hard way that they are best read in the safety of your own living room.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Tremonton Three

My first paying job was at the public library as a Page shelving books for a four-hour shift and as a result I have a soft spot in my heart for libraries of all kinds. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising how much I ended up loving the Tremonton City Library who hosted me for an evening for a book signing last week.

The building was small, and had beautiful vaulted ceilings, wide open windows, and hand-painted murals in the children’s corner. It was cozy and homey and felt welcoming the minute I stepped inside. The friendly librarians had set aside a conference room right up front for us (Tracy came with me not only to keep me company but also to be my official cashier since I had a stack of books to sell).

The book signing started out with a bang with a handful of people showing up right at 5:00 to buy books, including a trio of girls—Angela, Dahla, and Bethany.  (Read Bethany's review of "The Hourglass Door" here) The girls sat down and visited with me and Tracy for the better part of an hour, and honestly, it was so much fun. Two of the girls were writers and regaled us with plot summaries of the stories they were working on and asked questions about how to write and how to get published. (And would I included them as characters in book 2?) Tracy and I had such a good time visiting with the “Tremonton Three” that I was surprised when I looked up and saw that my time in Tremonton was almost up. I personalized the girls’ books and gave them all hugs.

Even though I was tired from working all day and the long drive north to Tremonton, visiting with those girls reenergized me and reminded me how easy is it to connect with someone through a book. I write a story; the girls in Tremonton read it; and then, when we meet, it’s like we already know each other. So to the Tremonton Three I say, “Rock on, girls! I’ll see if there is a spot for you in book two.”

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Door Opens, Tyra Banks, and Aspiring Writers

5-16-09: The Door Opens, Tyra Banks, and Aspiring Writers

Where to begin? It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write up a blog post and a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks.

Media Blitz: Okay, so I don’t know if it qualifies as an actual media blitz, but with the official release of my book this week, I have had the chance to be interviewed by the Deseret News and by Doug Wright for his KSL radio show, and my book had a full-page ad in the Deseret Book summer catalog. Plus I’ve had some nice reviews at,,, and Not to mention that I had a launch party for my book, had my first official book signing, and my first school visit (more on those later), and yeah, maybe it does qualify as a blitz. I know I certainly feel a little overwhelmed at the moment.

Photo Shoot: 

When the Deseret News called to interview me earlier this month, they  also requested a photograph of me to run with the article and book review. And so I had the chance to play dress-up one day, get my hair and makeup done by a professional stylist, and channel my inner Tyra Banks (fierce, but smiling with my eyes) in an honest-to-goodness photo shoot. I was a little nervous, but Butch Adams (the photographer) was really nice and gave me some good direction. It helped that Tracy was able to meet me at the studio for the last half-hour or so and I’m always a lot more relaxed when he’s with me. I thought the shoot went pretty well and I hoped we had some decent shots—maybe at least one good shot we could use for the paper, anyway. So imagine my surprise when the pictures came back and well, see for yourself . . . 


Pretty nice, huh? Sometimes it’s hard to believe that those are pictures of me. It’s like when you hear your recorded voice: you know it’s you, but at the same time, it doesn’t sound like you.

Launch Party: Tracy organized a launch party for me for the release of Hourglass Door. We reserved the park by our house and invited a bunch of people to come for sandwiches, treats, games, and fun. The day was absolutely beautiful—sunshine, warm and clear—and the very instant we snapped open the tablecloths to cover the picnic tables at the park . . . Whoosh! A cold wind sprang up, roaring through the pavilion like a tornado. The temperature dropped, the clouds moved in, and I started to think maybe we should have served hot chocolate instead of cold sodas. But despite the fickle weather, we still had a great time. My family came and so did a bunch of friends from work and the neighborhood. Here are some pictures from the party.


 Book Signing: 

After the launch party, I had my first official book signing at the Deseret Book store in Jordan Landing.  I was a little nervous—what if no one showed up?—but as it turned out, a whole bunch of people showed up!  In fact, I had a line of people waiting for me when I arrived. And what’s more, those people wanted to buy my book and have me sign it! It was great to see all my friends and visit with everyone for a few minutes. I even had some friends that I hadn’t seen since high school come to the signing. Small world! I had a steady stream of people for more than an hour—including some people who were just shopping at the store and bought my book without knowing anything about it. And while I know that not every book signing will be like this one—I’m sure there will be some events where I’ll be lucky to have even a couple people stop by my table—I think that as far as book signings go, this one was a complete success.


School Visit: This week I kicked off my Author Tour by visiting Rocky Mountain Middle School in Idaho Falls, Idaho—Go Panthers!—for my first ever school presentation. I spent the day with Mrs. Olsen’s eighth-grade English classes, talking about writing, creativity, and my book. I had a fantastic time and was impressed with the kids, who asked interesting questions and either paid attention to my presentation or were at least polite enough not to disrupt it. I was a little surprised—but pleased—at how many kids said that they were writing stories or wanted to be writers someday. It’s fun to think that maybe I visited with an undiscovered bestselling author. And speaking of authors, in all the scenarios I imagined might happen during my school visit—equipment malfunction, for example (the projector died halfway through my first class)—I confess I didn’t expect what happened to me after lunch.

After grabbing a bite to eat at the cafeteria—complete with a carton of milk and an oatmeal chocolate-chip cookie—I was visiting with some girls in the library. The bell rang and all the students turned to leave. All but one, that is. She came up to me and said, “I heard that you also worked for a publishing company, is that right?” When I said yes, she gathered up some papers and said, “Well, I wrote a short story, can I give it to you?” And then she handed me her manuscript! I was so impressed with her bravery and confidence—there was no way I would have done the same thing when I was in the seventh grade. I had some time that afternoon to read her short story and write a few comments and make a few suggestions for her to think about. So take note, all you writers out there, you never know when an opportunity to network will present itself, and when it does, you better be ready!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good News, Good Cookies, Good Friends

­4-8-09: Good News, Good Cookies, Good Friends

Good News: So guess what happened? My hardback books arrived from the printer—early! Two whole weeks early! And it was a serious case of déjà vu as one day after lunch, Anne knocked on my door and held up a copy of my book. But this time it wasn’t the ARC, no sir, it was the real thing. And it’s beautiful! It seems like I say it a lot, but I still can’t believe it’s happening—a story I wrote down is being published and will be out there in the world for everyone to read. It really is a dream come true.

Good Cookies: Yes, it’s that time again—cookie-making time! Tracy teaches Genres of Film part-time and for every midterm and final, I make homemade chocolate-chip cookies for him to take to his students. He believes that they should have something sweet on test days. The only problem is that he has a lot of students. This time I ended up making 10 dozen cookies. Whew

Good Friends: Yesterday, Tracy and I stopped by our neighborhood Barnes and Noble bookstore to visit with two of my good friends (and fellow authors!), James Dashner and J. Scott Savage. They had quite the line of kids waiting patiently to have their books, posters, and bookmarks signed and it was a lot of fun to watch them interact with the kids. I, too, had my copy of Hunt for Dark Infinity for James to sign and Water Keep for Jeff to sign. Hey, I may be their editor, but I’m also a fan and I didn’t want to miss this chance for an autographed first edition. (And, yes, I’ll admit, it was a good excuse to give both of them a copy of my newly printed hardback book and sign my book for them.) It’s one of the best parts of my job as an editor—not only did I get the chance to meet such wonderful people like James and Jeff, but I also get to count them as friends. (Shameless plug: you should go out and buy their books!)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Developing a Story: "Presto"

4-1-09: Developing a Story: “Presto”

So last night, Tracy and Cindi and I went up to UMFA (Utah Museum of Fine Art) to attend a lecture with Doug Sweetland, director of the Pixar short film Presto. And it was amazing!
Aside from seeing the short again—which is always a delight—we got to see the early storyboards, the original drawings, and lots and lots of behind-the-scenes footage. But what I loved the most was hearing Mr. Sweetland talk about how he made the leap from being an animator to being a director and what he learned about developing a story along the way.

He told us the original pitch for the story that the “The Brain Trust”—the group of Pixar animators and directors (including John Lassiter and Andrew Stanton, among others) who weigh in on everything—greenlit into production. After that first meeting, Mr. Sweetland said that the idea was considered “Final—with a fix.” And the only note the Brain Trust had to offer was this: “It’s too long for a short.”

Well, that one note was all it took. In trying to figure out what to cut out to make the short short enough, Mr. Sweetland had to ask some hard questions of his story. Questions he didn’t have the answers to. But pursuing those answers led him to the final version of the story that was eventually made into a movie and nominated for an Academy Award. And along the way, he learned some important lessons and got some great advice.

One bit of advice came from Andrew Stanton, who finally said, “Just draw it. It takes 5 minutes.” That was all the permission Mr. Sweetland needed, and he personally drew more than 3,000 storyboards, trying to find his way through the story. He eventually met with the Brain Trust ten times before he figured it out. Ten meetings where no one laughed at his jokes, where no one clapped—but also where no one said to stop, to give up, to quit.

What I learned: “Just write it. It takes 5 minutes.” I shouldn’t get bogged down with thinking too far ahead. Just focus on what I need to do in the next five minutes and write that. Just dive in and write. If I don’t like it, well, it only took five minutes, so it’ll be easy to toss it out and try again. And maybe it takes five minutes to prime the pump and after that, it’ll be smooth sailing. The point is, I won’t know until I sit down and just do it.

Another lesson that Mr. Sweetland learned was that sometimes the only way to move forward is to throw everything out and start over. And he had to throw out a lot. But what was so cool was to see his “Tragically Oblivious Brushes with Greatness” because for every draft he tossed out, there was one moment, one emotion, one drawing that ended up in the final version. What he thought were all failures, were really drafts of success, and it was by stringing all those minor successes together that helped him discover the shape of the story he was trying to tell.

What I learned: Everything counts. Good or bad, I need to just write down everything. Most of it I’ll probably need to throw away, but that’s okay because with everything I toss, it just means I’m getting closer to success.

As Mr. Sweetland honed in on the story, he kept his characters’ motivations simple and focused on the pacing and timing of the jokes. And John Lassit
er provided a key suggestion that was so simple and so right. All Alec the Bunny wants is a carrot, right? So just before Presto takes Alec on stage, he holds up the carrot and Alec almost gets to eat it, but doesn’t have a chance. Mr. Sweetland had originally drawn that scene with Presto holding the carrot vertically in his fingers. John Lassiter said simply, “You should turn the carrot so it’s 
pointing at Alec’s mouth.” A 90-degree turn and suddenly that scene is magic. A simple tweak to the carrot and Alec’s motivation for the whole story is crystal-clear.

What I learned: Sometimes you have to tweak the carrot. Is there something in the scene I’m working on that could benefit from a closer look? Is there a moment, a look, a line of dialogue that is good, but that could be great if I rotated it 90 degrees? Are my character’s motivations crystal-clear? Do my details support the story, the theme? What is the one question that I need to ask that will infuse my story with magic?

A final note. The funniest moment—of which there were many—came during the Q&A when someone asked if Mr. Sweetland had worried about the MPAA ratings board for Presto. He said no, Pixar movies are made for everyone and so you get a feel for what will work and what won’t. He said Alec jams Presto’s fingers into a light socket and no one told him to take it out; John Lassiter thought it was funny. And then he said, “John Lassiter doesn’t care about the children of the world.” And Mr. Sweetland realized what he’d said at the same moment we all did, and he quickly said, “No, no, no, John Lassiter loves and cares for all the children in the world—especially when it comes to electricity.”

All in all, the evening was wonderful, inspiring, and educational. We even got to meet Mr. Sweetland after the lecture and he was very nice and signed autographs for me and Cindi. Finishing off the evening with a free chocolate éclair and . . . well, the old saying is true, “a good time was had by all.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

What about Book Two?

3-30-09: “What about Book Two?”

Now that the ARCs for Hourglass Door are out in the world and people are reading them, the most frequently asked question I get is, “What about book two?” On the one hand, it’s kind of a surreal question. I mean, technically book one isn’t even in stores yet, so what am I doing worrying about book two? But I am worrying about it. Writing book two has been a completely different experience from writing book one. Yes, there are similarities—start with a noun, follow with a verb, toss in some adjectives and adverbs; remember to punctuate—but I’ve been surprised at the differences I’ve discovered in the process. This time I know more about my characters and what they’ll do and say, but because I know them better, I’m less inclined to put them in danger. What if they get hurt?

I keep thinking of a quote I read by Tad Williams (one of my favorite authors, by the way). He said that he hates writing the middle book of a series because it has to build on what came before it, set everything up for what will come next, and yet still be a complete book all on its own. That’s a lot to ask from a book.

What’s helping me the most as I work on book two is actually something from my childhood. As a kid, I would get so engrossed in a story that I wouldn’t dare stop reading during a dramatic moment because I didn’t want the characters to get stuck in a bad spot. How would they escape if I didn’t read the next part of the story? By the same token, sometimes I would slow down and savor the good moments; setting the book down gave the characters a chance to rest and breathe after so many adventures. (Perhaps that’s why I love Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books—characters play their parts while you’re reading, but once the book is closed, they are free to do what they want.) 

So I’m trying to work on book two more often—if only to get Abby and Dante out of the bad spots and into the good parts. I’m the writer, it’s my responsibility to look after them.
And so as I’m working on plotting and writing book two, I’m trying to build on book one and look ahead to book three and still make book two worth reading. I’m trying to get my characters through the bad spots so they can relax and enjoy the story too. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reviews are starting to come in

Some of the first reviews of "The Hourglass Door" are starting to arrive.  Here are a few:

" A fascinating and highly creative story developed on connections between literature and time travel, I was impressed with Mangum’s debut novel. Just enough suspense, just enough intrigue, and of course romance, roll into one engaging read." - Heather Moore
Read the full review here and visit Heather's site here

"Both the writing and the storytelling in this book are superb. Honestly, I cannot believe that this is Lisa Mangum's first book. The storyline is intriguing with several twists and turns that made me laugh, go wide-eyed, and loudly whisper, "No way!" One of my favorite parts of the whole book was when I got the very end and saw an advertisement for a sequel. I was so excited that there is going to be more!!! Girls will love this book for the romance aspect, especially if they liked Twilight. Boys will like this book because of intriguing history, abilities, and science (and if you're like me, a little romance never hurts as long as it doesn't go too far). Stephanie Meyer, it's time to step aside and allow Lisa Mangum to take the stage. This book has earned her a very prominent and well-deserved position." - Kevin Lemley