So, you've read all the endorsements and sample chapters and you are curious about this book. Or, you are altruistic and want to contribute to the braces-for-my-kids fund. Well, guess what? You can now get my book on Amazon for 33% off--that's only $7.41, folks! What a deal. You can't even get a combo meal at Wendy's for that! I have no idea how long it will last, so go fast. Here's the link. Sorry if you already bought it for 20% off--I don't know why they are doing this.
When I was a senior in high school, I was a music and theatre guy. There weren’t many Mormon music and theatre guys around, so I was intrigued when heard about a new professor at USU up in Logan. His name was Michael Ballam, and he was an opera singer, who also loved musical theatre, and after a world-class career, he had recently come home to Cache Valley.
While I was on my mission, someone sent me some of his tapes. He talked about music and the gospel in a way that resonated deeply with me.. He also confirmed my desire to do something with the performing arts when I returned home.
Essentially, I wanted to be Michael Ballam when I grew up. If I’m honest, I’m not sure that I have outgrown that desire!
Using his model of teaching songs with the gospel, towards the end of my mission, I put together a fireside using some of my favorite Broadway songs to teach gospel principles. Someone videotaped it, and I sent it to Bro. Ballam, who was kind enough to write back and give me some encouraging feedback.
Even more than his feedback, his example was powerful. As I said, examples of successful performers who are also faithful members of the Church are not exactly plentiful, so good examples are precious.
Life got busy and grad school, family, and work responsibilities called.
Then, my book got accepted for publication. The publisher told me I should try to get authoritative people to write endorsements.
Well, let’s see. Who could I ask? The book is about music and theatre and the gospel. Hmmmm.
I’m not sure there is someone in LDS circles more authoritative than Michael Ballam.
I’d asked some people for endorsements already, but he was the first person I asked that I had no previous contact with.
But, I decided to try it anyway.
Sure that it might not even get to him, I mailed a manuscript to the office of the Utah Festival Opera.
A very short time later, I noticed that I had a voicemail. I had turned my phone off during church and had left it off. I checked the voicemail. It was Michael Ballam.
I called him back and had a nice conversation with him. He is the kindest, most gracious man.
The next day, he sent me a glowing endorsement. I am excited—and honored to include that here.
Thank you, Michael!
Braden Bell hits a bull’s eye with his “Road Show.” Learning more about the wonder of atoning forgiveness, you will laugh and cry as you see yourself and loved ones in the remarkably fleshed out characters of this wonderful book. A MUST read!
In a few posts, last week, I introduced a little about what my book is about and the story behind it (see here and while you are looking around, don't forget to check out my not-quite-viral-but-almost-mitochondrial giveaway).
After exhaustive internal discussion and spirited debate between the legal counsel, PR department, and Board of Trustees here at bradenbell.com, we've decided to start introducing some of the characters, and the chapters in which they are first mentioned. Previously, I posted the Prologue, which you can read here.
I'm starting with Stephanie. She is actually in the second chapter, so I'm skipping one (I'll do that later). However, there were recently some excellent posts on depression over at Mormon Mommy Blogs (see here and here) and that made me think that introducing Stephanie was timely.
Stephanie is one of my favorite characters. She is a young mother with two children. Her husband is in law school. They live in a tiny apartment on no money. She has a beautiful voice and is a talented actress. She spent her high school and college years performing in a number of plays, and she was always the star.
The contrast with her former life and her current situation are painful for her, but what makes all of it worse is that she is suffering from serious depression.
As the book opens, she is mostly just numb and empty, interspersed with sharp moments of despair and hopelessness. Her husband is trying to be supportive and patient, but is confused and hurt at her distance and unavailability.
Stephanie popped into my mind based on a few different experiences. When I was directing a road show many years ago, I remember a young mother auditioning. She had a lovely voice and mentioned that she had done some performing in high school, but hadn't done anything since then. I started asking myself a series of "What if" questions--what if she had been a musical theatre major in college? What if she was yearning to get back in a play and this was her only chance? What if...
Then, a few months later, my wife was telling me about a friend of hers who was suffering from terrible post-partum depression.
That was the lightning strike that electrified the primordial soup of "What ifs" and brought Stephanie to life.
If you are interested in reading Stephanie's first chapter, click here. I hope you enjoy it.
A lot of my friends who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed an interest in my book. The Road Show is a story about the healing power of Jesus Christ, and is not written exclusively for Mormons. However, because it is about Mormons, the book uses terms and refers to beliefs that might be confusing to those from other backgrounds. Like every group, Mormons have their own jargon and terminology. So, if you read any of the sample chapters and find yourself confused, I've prepared a handy little glossary of terms and explanation of practices.
I didn't know this was there, but a friend sent me the link (thanks, Merri!). My book is available on Amazon for pre-order. There's no picture of the cover yet, because it's not done yet, but I've been going there all day just to see my name on Amazon! Pretty cool for me.
(In case you missed it, click here to enter the giveaway that is the talk of the blogosphere! Well, that might be a bit of a stretch--but check it out anyway.)
When I was maybe ten, my parents took me to see a musical at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City. It was called, It’s A Miracle, and I LOVED it (I can still sing almost any song from the play, incidentally). I took the playbill home and memorized it. Because I memorized it, I learned about a wonderful couple: Gary and Joy Lundberg. Joy wrote the lyrics to the play, and Gary had directed and starred in it.
This play was powerfully influential on my wanting to do theatre (and in determining what kind of theatre I wanted to do), and it was powerfully influential in helping me make choices about the kind of person I wanted to be, what kind of home I wanted to eventually have, and so on.
A few more years later, my wife and I were young marrieds in a ward at BYU. Gary and Joy came and did a fireside. It was refreshing both in its content as well as its candor. I was so impressed with them.
Since then, I’ve read a lot that they’ve written and have always been impressed. They are special people who have had a large impact on my life, even though they don’t know me.
So, you can possibly imagine how I felt when a friend offered to ask them to read my book and provide an endorsement. They are very busy, but graciously agreed to read the manuscript.
I sent it to them last Friday afternoon and waited.
I was, quite frankly, terrified. What if they hated it?
You can imagine my almost delirious joy when I opened my email on Monday morning and read the sweetest email from Joy. She couldn’t have been nicer. I was walking on air.
They sent the following endorsement, which I am deeply honored, and frankly thrilled, to receive.
Thank you, Gary and Joy!
“What a wonderful book! Our hearts have been touched. No one could read this story without feeling the depth of the Savior's love for all His children. Thank you for such an insightful, compelling, spiritual journey.”
-Gary and Joy Lundberg, authors of I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better, Love That Lasts, and Meeting Amazing Grace
To see more endorsements, click here , to read more about The Road Show, click here.
I am going to interrupt the hoopla surrounding the roll-out of my book, as well as the red-hot giveaway (with participants now in the low double digits :) !!!! Click here to be next!) to blog about something that was infinitely special, and to remind myself of a lesson I learned yesterday.
It started with an interruption.
It's spring break, and I had hoped to do a LOT of writing: I have a new novel I'm trying to rough out, I wanted to get some posts in the bank for my gig on Mormon Mommy Blogs, and then I wanted to work on a plan for a book trailer for The Road Show. Promoting a book is almost a full-time job. Yesterday, I was going to be super productive.
But then Jeff, my three year old wanted to play Memory. I hate this game and have since I was a kid. The fact that my three-year old trounces me has not made me like it any more. Simultaneously, my seven-year old wanted to play Monopoly. I had Church meetings last night and I knew if I didn't get my writing done in the window I had, I never would.
But, I chose put the writing aside and go play with my kids. They're growing so fast and life is so busy that I don't get many opportunities to do that.
I've been sad lately to see Jeff start talking more like a child than a baby--saying his "r's" and "l's" and just growing up. I've been a little emotional about that--my baby is getting big. He's also not nearly as cuddly as he used to be.
I played Memory (and won!) and then started Monopoly. While we were playing that, Jeff started to get tired. He came and curled up against me and just stayed like that for a good hour or so--drifting off and dozing, and cuddling. In only happened because I was down on the floor and available.
We're so busy with all the kids, work, church and so on, and Jeff's so big, I don't know how many more opportunities I'll have to just cuddle with my little boy before he's too big and grown up to do that. So yesterday was a gift. I'll have plenty of time to write later. But those few moments will never come back. I've been reliving--and relishing them--ever since.
I'm so glad I paused to play the game. If hadn't interrupted my work, I would have a few more pages in my novel, but no memories of a cuddly, chubby three-year old on an afternoon in early spring..
So, according to my site stats, there are a lot of you nice folks stopping by. Thank you. I appreciate you coming, and I love hearing from you.
I'm going to try a giveaway because I see them all the time on other blogs and I'm curious about them, and I'm curious about you--meaning I'd love to hear from you. I'm a little nervous, though, because I don't have a new car or dream house to offer as a prize (where do people on those other blogs get all that stuff???). All I have is my book.
So, I am offering a signed copy of my book (when it comes out in June) to the winner of this little deal (if you win and you already purchased your copy, I'll refund the money).
Here's how you enter: leave me a comment and say "hi." Or whatever else you want to say. If you are comment challenged, you can even just email me by clicking here--that's not public, so it's nice and safe.
If you post this Giveaway on your own blog, you get entered twice (let me know, either by a comment or emailing me here)
And even if you don't want to comment I still appreciate you coming by. My wife doesn't like to leave comments, either.
Keep stopping by--I have some kind of big endorsements to post next week, and I have a possibly REALLY cool idea about a book trailer video to post that I'm working through right now.
This giveaway will last until the 31st of March.
Oh, and if you haven't yet, you can read the prologue to the book right here. You can also read all about the book and the story behind it here.
How did you get the idea for The Road Show?
Last week, I posted some info about the story and theme of The Road Show. If you are interested, you can read that by clicking right here. Today, I thought I'd talk about some of the background for the story.
The idea for The Road Show occurred to me about seven years ago on the steps leading to the stage in the Franklin, TN stake center, about five minutes before it was our ward's turn to perform our road show. I had been called to be the director on short notice (and yes, I was not exactly thrilled at the calling. And, yes, Scott's response in the book might possibly have a basis in reality).
Growing up in the West, road shows were big productions for the youth, with maybe a quick cameo by the bishopric if they were really cool. Our ward in TN only had three youth, so most of the parts went to adults. This had allowed me to do a more serious road show, and I had tried to make it meaningful, both dramatically and spiritually (it was, however, very different than the one in the book).
While I was chatting with some of the cast members, a series of "what if" questions flashed through my mind, and these "what ifs" connected to some other "what ifs" I had thought about earlier: "What if...the leading man was reluctantly participating?" What if the leading lady had postpartum depression?" "What if the director had a secret problem of some kind?" "What if....."
I don't know about how other creative folks work, but I live for these "what ifs." They are incredibly exciting moments and they start my mind--and my spirit--on fire as I begin to play with them.
I started answering the questions, and asking more questions, and the rough outline appeared in my brain.
A few months later, the prologue for the book, which I am very fond of, materialized in my mind. I started typing furiously and wrote a rough draft. Then, the final chapter came very, very clearly. It appeared in my mind and heart, and I could barely type fast enough. It was really, really cool.
Once I had the beginning and end, I just had to come up with the middle. That was the hard part, and it took me five years to do it, but that's another story.
Are the characters based on real people?
I should emphasize that this book is definitely and entirely a work of fiction. While certain situations were suggested from my real-life experiences, the characters and their struggles are not attempts to recreate anyone specifically.
For example, the leading role in our road show was played by the elder's quorum president. However, unlike the character in the book, he was one of the kindest, warmest men, and the most dedicated elder's quorum president I have ever known.
Likewise, while the leading lady was married to a law student, she was a cheerful and happy woman, who certainly did not show any signs of post-partum depression. And while she had a lovely voice, she had not been a Young Ambassador at BYU.
Scott, the character who directs the road show and struggles with pornography is drawn from experiences I have had as a bishop counseling people who have battled with this terrible problem. But he is not a real person, nor is he based specifically on any one person. However, in writing about his experiences, I did draw on what people have described to me in order to create what I hope is an accurate portrait of someone working to overcome an addiction. I would never use something that someone confidentially told their bishop as fodder for a story.
For me, one of the greatest joys of writing is that I start with characters in my head. As I write, though, those characters start to take on a lives and personalities of their own--they evolve very quickly. I know that is a bit of a cliche and it may sound ridiculous to some people, but in my case, it's absolutely true. So, while I might start out basing a character on someone I know, that only lasts for a few pages. The more I write, the more independent the characters become. So, Ed, for example, was modelled in appearance on someone I knew on my mission. However, he very quickly evolved into his own unique person. The same thing happened with Sister Cartwright, Brother Flortentine, and Dr. McKay.
Ironically, Sister MacDougal is one of the characters I am most attached to and have always imagined the most vividly, and she is completely made-up. She is not modelled on anyone I have known. However, her experience being healed is based on a very real, very powerful experience.
When I tell my friends, or even casual acquaintances, that I’m going to have a book published, the immediate and natural question is: “What’s it about?” Then more questions follow: “Why did you write it?” and “How did you get the idea” and so on.
At that point, words inevitably fail me and I stand there hemming and hawing like a twelve year old boy asking someone to dance for the first time.
So, I decided to answer all the questions I get in writing. That way I can tweak, edit, revise and rewrite until I feel like I’m saying something intelligible (not intelligent, mind you—there is a difference).
So, in the interests of not stammering like a fool, and for the convenience of everyone involved, I have summarized all of the frequently asked questions. I thought today, I might start answering some of the questions I am frequently asked about The Road Show. I’m also going to start posting a few of the chapters in the next few weeks. If you are highly impatient and don’t want to read this post, then scroll to the end and hit the link to the prologue.
(Hey! If want to ask a question and make it a FAQ, click here.)
The most frequently asked question is:
What is your book about?
The Road Show is the story of five broken souls—contemporary members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—each struggling with a spiritual or emotional challenge: pornography addiction, post-partum depression, ill health, loneliness, feeling excluded, and spiritual numbness.
For various reasons, they all end up participating in their ward’s road show. Most of them do this against their will, and it is not something they are looking forward to.
The conflicts, internal and external, that arise from their reluctant participation are what drives the plot forward, and their participation takes them to ultimate healing through the Atonement.
Given the nature of some of the issues in the book, I want to emphasize this isn’t a self-help book or a sermon—it’s a story about people. And it’s not all serious and solemn and depressing. A few of the endorsements have noted that the book is hopeful and even funny, and I’m glad. I thought it was when I wrote it. Often, I’d be typing on my laptop in bed late at night, giggling to myself while my wife tried to sleep. Especially when I was writing about just how bad some of the road show ideas were, or the interactions between some of the members of the ward
Why did you write this book?
Mostly because I had a story I wanted to tell—characters I wanted to follow and write about. Essentially, I had a movie in my mind that I wanted to get on paper.
However, the book is informed by my experience as a bishop. In that calling, I have seen people who carried terrible burdens healed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. So, while this story is fictional, everything in the book is based on analogous experiences I have seen in real life: sick people made well, pornography addictions overcome, bitter people softened, and burned-out spirits rekindled through the Atonement. And, I have seen this happen as regular people quietly participated in what were apparently trivial, routine programs of the Church.
The thematic foundation for the book is found in Isaiah 61: 1-3. Verse 1 is the verse that the Savior read on the synagogue on the day he began his public ministry, and the whole thing is a beautiful explication of what the Messiah and His Atonement can do.
I wanted to be realistic, but I also wanted to be optimistic. I have tried to write about the problems the characters face realistically. At the same time, I have tried to be restrained in describing the struggles with pornography and depression, especially. I’ve tried to show people struggling with these issues without slapping the reader in the face--and I wanted to show that there is always hope.
But mostly I wanted to tell a story.
The prologue of the book introduces the characters and the problems they are struggling with.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it here.
And then I hope you'll tell me what you think here.
Check back--over the next few weeks, I'll be introducing characters and posting more chapters.
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