Thursday, 31 January 2008

Super Bowl Sunday

My family looks forward to Super Bowl Sunday with great anticipation. No, we are not football fans. I've only watched one football game and that was while I was at college. But despite not watching the game, we can't wait for Sunday to come.

Let me go back a little. Last year we received the game Cranium Whoonu for Christmas. One night when my step-kids were visiting, we pulled the game out to play it. Players are given cards that list random things such as pickles, bookstores, and yellow. In each round one player is the subject. Every other player picks the card from their hand they think the subject will choose as his favorite thing.

So we were playing this game and my oldest daughter was the subject. Each player chose a card, confident that we know her well. Imagine our surprise when things such as books, chocolate and teddy bears were revealed first. We watched with baited breath as she turned over the last card, the one she had chosen as her favorite.

"Super Bowl Sunday" What? My husband and I looked at her. "Since when do you like football?"

She returned our look of puzzlement. "Football?" Now we're all confused, but she clears it up quickly. "I thought it meant ice cream."

So a new family tradition was born. Every Super Bowl Sunday we stock up on ice cream and toppings. The kids are allowed to make a Super Bowl Sunday, having as much ice cream as they want. As far as I'm concerned, that's better than football any day. And those of you who prefer ice cream to football, feel free to drop in this weekend for a "super bowl sunday"!

Beyond the Horizon by Judy C. Olsen

"Six men. Six journals. Six stories. The saga of the Madigan men begins with a mob on the shores of the Grand River in Missouri, in the day of Joseph Smith, and seamlessly transitions through time and place to the struggles of today's world.

An unbroken chain from the past into the future, this is the story of six men. Each a man of determination. Each a man of hidden strength. And each a man of his time. They were . . . the Madigan men."

This book reads is like a collection of six short stories all connected by father-son relationships. Each generation deals with different issues ranging from differences of religion, progress, and rebellious children. Each man realizes his faith is what helps him get through his trials.

I enjoyed the stories in this book and found it interesting to read the different challenges each man faced. I thought the author, Judy C. Olsen, focused on some of the real issues in each time period. The characters were well-developed and the writing was easy to read. There were times when I was a little disappointed that each segment was so short and wished the author had developed each man's story into it's own book. This is definitely a book I will recommend to others.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Desire of Our Hearts by Sariah S. Wilson

Desire of our Hearts "You have two choices. You are to marry either Alma or Amulon."

"This must be some sort of jest," she said in disbelief.

"It is no jest," her father said. "You will go to the palace tomorrow before sundown with your decision."

...Sam leaned against a tall stone building for support. The wall felt cool against her forehead. It wouldn't be a difficult decision. It wasn't much of a decision at all. Alma seemed kind. Not that she believed such a thing was possible. How could any man who served the king be kind?

"It is a time of pleasure and luxury—if you belong to the inner circle of King Noah and his decadent priests. It is a time of servitude and deprivation if you don't. And if you dare to believe the bold words of the prophet Abinadi, it is a time to fear for your very life.

In Desire of Our Hearts, LDS author Sariah S. Wilson weaves an intricate, suspenseful, and romantic narrative. Set against the backdrop of the Book of Mormon account of Alma's conversion and breathtaking escape as he leads a band of courageous believers toward religious freedom, this familar and beloved story is brimming with all the elements needed to make it a spiritual odyssey and a tender and timeless love story. "

I enjoyed reading this well written book. There were lots of different layers to the plot and enough action to keep the story moving. It was interesting seeing the familiar Book of Mormon story happen through the eyes of Sam and Alma. My fourteen year old daughter has also picked it up and can't put it down.

Hunting Gideon by Jessica Draper

"Tracking hackers and crackers for the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center looks like a vivid video game to an outsider, but the outcome of the play is deadly serious. Through her online feline avatar, Sekhmet, Sue Anne Jones stalks the V-Net, the ultimate virtual-reality interface, in pursuit of evil in all its online forms. Her partner, ex-cracker Loren Hunter, provides cynical commentary along with his expertise in the V-Net's shadier alleys. Their days of busting routine identity thieves and insidious corporate spies end when they get a new assignment: Hunt down a cyber-terrorist calling himself Gideon, who has infiltrated the financial system, rerouted supply lines, and murdered the supervisor of an automated factory. Now Gideon is sending taunting messages, quoting scripture, and warning Sue that she must join his crusade or suffer-along with the rest of the virtual world-when he takes total control of the V-Net. Written by the author of the Last Days adventure trilogy, Hunting Gideon is a near-future cyberpunk novel with an optimistic Mormon twist. Incorporating elements from the hard-boiled detective novel, film noir, and postmodernist prose, much of the novel's action takes place online in cyberspace, blurring the border between actual and virtual reality. Hunting Gideon sends Sue and Loren on a wild chase as they scramble to avert the ultimate online disaster."

This book was different than books I usually read. I found the story interesting and the author made the "computer speak" easy enough for even me to understand. I liked the main character and thought there were good descriptions to help me picture this alternate world. The one thing that drove me crazy was the lack of chapters. I like having a good place to stop and do something else for awhile.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Making Time

I've been doing so much reading in the last week, I haven't made any real time for blogging, or anything else. Yesterday, the kids got a snow day. We woke up to temperatures of -28 C with a windchill of -35 C. Today we found the temperature had dropped to -34 C and at that cold, who cares what the windchill is. The snow keeps falling, providing a beautiful view of undisturbed drifts in the backyard. It's been perfect weather for staying in, wrapping myself in a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate nearby, and burying my nose in a book. I also took a little time and filled the kitchen with the warm aroma of fresh banana bread.

Even though I'm getting lots done, I still struggle with feeling like I don't do enough. When I get caught up in a book, whether I am writing it or reading it, other things tend to get left behind. I always wanted to be the kind of homemaker who without fail provides nutritious and delicious meals for her family every night. The other day I made a nice meal and one of the kids asked what the special occasion was. I try to feed my family a balanced and varied diet, but we do end up eating the same old dishes more often than I'd like.

Then there are all the projects I've planned for myself. Last weekend we finally got the Roman blinds I made hung in the windows. Once I figure out what sort of valance I want to go with them, and get it made, I'll post pictures. But the fabric for the blinds sat around the sewing room for months before I got to it, so I wouldn't count on a valance anytime soon. I also need to get to work on the quilt I'm making for my step-son and his fiance. The wedding isn't until June, but June will be here before I know it.

All the different aspects of my life will continue to compete for attention, and I'll continue to get things done bit by bit. The trick is trying to balance the right amount of cooking, sewing, family time, community involvement, church work and writing. Sometimes it seems like the writing should really come last on the list, but there is that nudging voice that won't let me do that. It's good to have a family who is so supportive me. And even if we eat the same thing every night for the next year and the window treatments never get done, they think it is great that I take the time to put my stories on paper.

Wet Desert by Gary Hansen

"Grant Stevens, a mid-level manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, only wanted to build dams. He never imagined he would be swept into a desperate race against an environmental terrorist bent on restoring the Colorado River by blowing up the dams.

Left temporarily in charge of the Bureau, Grant must react when the first dam is attacked. He faces the unthinkable task of mitigating the massive flood roaring down the Colorado. The flood will eventually threaten the mighty Hoover Dam, and if Hoover fails, the other dams downstream will fall like dominos.

Working with the FBI, Grant uses his engineering skills, river knowledge, and plenty of gut instinct in an attempt to outmaneuver the terrorist. The chase will lead all the way downstream to the Gulf of California in a cat and mouse game where the stakes are high and the potential for destruction is enormous."

It was interesting for me to read some of the history of the dams along the Colorado River and the affect they have had on the area and the people who live there, and I'll sure pay more attention to the area the next time I go through. This was an exciting story that kept me riveted until the final page. Grant was easy to relate to as he had to work around his bosses and others to get the job done, but I wish some of the other characters had been developed better. I'd recommend this as a good action filled book.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Spires of Stone by Annette Lyon

" Bethany Hansen wasn't sure when or if she would ever see Benjamin Adams again. She also told herself that it didn't matter. But when Ben and his two brothers come home after more than two years of serving a mission to the Eastern states, her feelings of heartache and anger also return — fiercer than ever. And so do Ben's feelings for her.Good-natured, Ben's brothers attempt to reunite the two, even as they separately vie for Bethany's younger sister, Hannah. What follows is a charming historical romance complete with wonderful characters and witty dialogue that explores the redemption and power of finding — and rediscovering — true love. "

I really enjoyed this book. The story moved along at a good pace and the characters were believable. It's interesting to read some of the interesting facts about the temple and how life in Salt Lake was in the 1800's.

The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer by Phyllis Gunderson

A monk with a secret... A light that never dies... A legend that could change history... There is an ancient legend about shining stones. About lights that never dim, never die. And the stones are old. Very old. Archaeologist Mathilda Howard believes in solid scientific fact and proven history. Not mythical stories about shining stones or prehistoric advanced civilizations. But when an old Tibetan monk shares his experience of the "lights that do not die," Matt knows she has to find out more. Then, when at an archaeological dig a student gives Matt a little black book that contains a story about shining stones - a story that happens to match a local legend - she finds herself on a journey to uncover the truth. From a sacred mountain in China to a lost civilization in Brazil, Matt finds that she is digging up more than just archaeological artifacts. Her search for the shining stones leads her to some startling discoveries, as well as to a new religion. The LDS church may have the answers she has been looking for, but it may also cost her all that she values in life - her career, her prestige, and her family. As evidence of the shining stones mounts, Matt is faced with a decision she never thought she'd have to make: does she ignore the stones and agree what is scientifically acceptable, or does speak out against the established norms and tell the truth? There are people who are desperate to keep the stones a secret. How much is Matt willing to sacrifice for the lost stones of the Jaradites?"

This book by Phyllis Gunderson was an easy, enjoyable read. By far my favorite part of the book was the main character. I loved how she was portrayed as quirky and opinionated. As I read the book, I wished there were more to the story. It seemed like the plot could have been developed much more.

The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley passed the tests of this life with honors and moved on to be reunited with his dear wife last night. He leaves behind a legacy of warmth, humor, and hard work. I will miss hearing his gentle words at conference this year, but there is such comfort in knowing we will still be led by a living prophet.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Books Eligible for the 2008 Whitney Awards

Here is the list for the 2008 Whitney Awards. I will keep adding to the list as I hear of new books. If you know of any books that are released in 2008 by an LDS author, let me know in the comment section and I will get them added to the list.

  1. Abramson, Traci Hunter - Freefall
  2. Abramson, Traci Hunter - Royal Target
  3. Adams, J. - The Journey
  4. Adams, Katherine - Never Again
  5. Allen, N.C. - Isabelle Webb: The Legend of the Jewel
  6. Anderson, C.B. - The Secret Mission: Book of Mormon Sleuth #5
  7. Angeline, Connie - Mended Hearts
  8. Arnold, JoAnn - Prince Etcheon and the Secret of the Ancient
  9. Ashley, Amanda - Dead Perfect
  10. Ashley, Amanda - Night's Master
  11. Autrey, Clover - Upon Eagle's Light
  12. Beattie, Bryce - Oasis
  13. Beck, Glenn - The Christmas Sweater
  14. Bell, Michele Ashman - The Butterfly Box 1: A Modest Proposal
  15. Bellon, Julie Coulter - All's Fair
  16. Black, Stephanie - Fool Me Twice
  17. Borrowman, Jerry - Home Again at Last
  18. Buttimore, Anna Jones - Easterfield
  19. Cannon, A.E. - The Loser's Guide to Life and Love: a Novel
  20. Card, Orson Scott - Ender in Exile
  21. Card, Orson Scott - Intergalactic Medicine Show
  22. Card, Orson Scott - Keeper of Dreams
  23. Card, Orson Scott - Stone Father
  24. Condie, Ally - Freshman for President
  25. Condie, Allyson Braithwaite - Reuinion
  26. Cratty, Nancy - Silhouette
  27. Dashner, James - The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters
  28. Daybell, Chad - The Celestial City
  29. Dickson, Darnell - Small Town, Big Dreams
  30. Edwards, Wendie L - He is Coming (vol 8)
  31. Edwards, Wendie L. - United We Stand
  32. Ellis, LaRene R. - Stones' Quest: Redemption of the Curse
  33. Esseltine, Chris - Caleb's Quest
  34. Evans, Richard Paul - Grace
  35. Farland, David - The Wyrmling Horde
  36. Feehan, Christine - Dark Curse
  37. Feehan, Christine - Turbulent Sea
  38. Ferrell, James L. - The Holy Secret
  39. Fogg, K.L. - Diamondback Cave
  40. Free, W. Dave - Jee's Bones
  41. Free, W. Dave - Journey of the Heart
  42. Gallacher, Marcie & Robinson, Kerry - A Banner is Unfurled 3:Glory from on High
  43. George, Jessica Day - Dragon Flight
  44. George, Jessica Day - Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
  45. Gilchrist, Jeri - Shadow of the Crown
  46. Gooch-Anderson, Stacy - The Santa Letters
  47. Green, Betsy Brannon - Above and Beyond
  48. Grey, Sandra - Traitor
  49. Guymon, Shannon - Taking Chances
  50. Hale, Shannon - Rapunzel's Revenge
  51. Hallstrom, Angela - Bound on Earth
  52. Hansen, Green, and Bell - The Spirit of Christmas
  53. Hansen, Jennie - The Ruby
  54. Hardman, Christy - Against the Giant
  55. Hardman, Christy and Porter, Phil - Santa's Secret
  56. Hatch, Donna - The Stranger She Married
  57. Haws, Annette - Waiting for the Light to Change
  58. Haydon, Elizabeth - The Dragon's Lair
  59. Henham, R.D. - Red Dragon Codex
  60. Heuston, Kimberley - The Book of Jude
  61. Hindmarsh, Ted - Elf and the Magic Windows
  62. Hughes, Dean - Promise's to Keep: Diane's Story
  63. Hunter, J. Michael - Flashback
  64. Jovan, Moriah - The Proviso
  65. Kent, Steven L - The Clone Elite
  66. Kilpack, Josi - Her Good Name
  67. Kurland, Lynn - The Mage's Daughter
  68. Kurland, Lynn - With Every Breath
  69. Landon, Kristen - Life in the Pit
  70. Lewis, L.C. - Free Men and Dreamers (vol 2): Twilight's Last Gleaming
  71. Lindsay, Bruce - The Hometown Weekly: Good News for a Change
  72. Littke, Lael; Anderson, Nancy; Morris, Carroll Hofeling - Surprise Packages (vol. 3)
  73. Luke, Gregg - Do No Harm
  74. Lundberg, Gary and Joy - Meeting Amazing Grace
  75. Mace, Aubrey - Spare Change
  76. Marcum, Robert - Mary and Joseph
  77. McCloud, Susan Evans - Throstleford
  78. McClure, Marcia Lynn - The Highwayman of Tanglewood
  79. McClure, Marcia Lynn - The Prairie Prince
  80. McClure, Marcia Lynn - The Whispered Kiss
  81. McKendry, Kristen - Promise of Spring
  82. Meyer, Stephenie - Breaking Dawn
  83. Meyer, Stephenie - The Host
  84. Miller, Barbara - The Lost Verses
  85. Mills, Tanya Parker - The Reckoning
  86. Moore, H.B. - Aninadi
  87. Mull, Brandon - Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague
  88. Norton, Tamra - Make Me a Home
  89. Novak, Brenda - Watch Me
  90. Novak, Brenda - Stop Me
  91. Novak, Brenda - Trust Me
  92. Nunes, Rachel Ann - The Eyes of a Stranger
  93. Nunes, Rachel Ann - Fields of Home
  94. O'Brien, Sonia - Epicenter
  95. Owen, James A. - The Indigo King
  96. Owen, James A. - The Search for the Red Dragon
  97. Perry, Anne - A Christmas Grace
  98. Perry, Anne - Buckingham Palace Gardens
  99. Pinkston, Tristi - Season of Sacrifice
  100. Potter, Leora - Lost Luke
  101. Potter, Leora - Runaway Amanda
  102. Poulson, Clair M. - Don't Cry Wolf
  103. Reese, Suzanne V. - Where Hearts Prosper
  104. Reid, Pamela Carrington - Shades of Gray
  105. Roulstone, Tom - Last Wish: Passage of Promise
  106. Sanderson, Brandon - Alcatraz vs the Scrivener's Bones
  107. Sanderson, Brandon - Mistborn 3: Hero of Ages
  108. Savage, J. Scott - Farworld: Waterkeep
  109. Skye, Obert - Pillage
  110. Skye, Obert - Leven Thumps and the Wrath of Ezra
  111. Sorenson, Toni - Master
  112. Stansfield, Anita - Emma: Woman of Faith
  113. Stansfield, Anita - Promise of Zion
  114. Stansfield, Anita - The Sound of Rain
  115. Stewart, Chris - Clear as the Moon
  116. Stewart, Chris - From the End of Heaven Vol.5: The Great and Terrible
  117. Stewart, Chris - the God of War
  118. Talley, Rebecca Cornish - Heaven Scent
  119. Thackeray, Christine - The Crayon Messages: a visiting teaching adventure
  120. Thayne, RaeAnne - A Merger...or Marriage?
  121. Thayne, RaeAnne - A Soldier's Secret
  122. Thayne, RaeAnne - His Second-Chance Family
  123. Thompson, Eldon - The Divine Talisman
  124. Tippetts, E.M. - Time and Eternity
  125. Vandagriff, G.G. - The Arthurian Omen
  126. Weyland, Jack - As Always, Dave
  127. Williams, Carol Lynch - Pretty Like Us
  128. Willis, Dan - Dragonlance: The Survivors
  129. Wilson, Sariah S. - Servant to a King
  130. Winegar, Tracy - Keeping Keller
  131. Winters, Rebecca - The Vow
  132. Woodbury, Eugene - Angel Falling Softly
  133. Woolley, David G. - Day of Remembrance
  134. Wright, Jason F. - Recovering Charles
  135. Yates, Alma J. - Finding Dad
  136. Youngblood, Jennifer & Poole, Sandra - Stoney Creek, Alabama

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Fablehaven: 1 & 2 by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven - "For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken -- Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good -- powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most."

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star - "At the end of the school year, Kendra and her brother, Seth, find themselves racing back to Fablehaven, a refuge for mythical and magical creatures. Grandpa Sorenson, the caretaker, invites three specialists- a potion master, a magical relics collector, and a mystical creature trapper- to help protect the property from the Society of the Evening Star, an ancient organization determined to infiltrate the preserve and steal a hidden artifact of great power. Time is running out. The Evening Star is storming the gates. If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, it could mean the downfall of other preserves and possibly the world. Will Kendra learn to use her fairy gifts in time? Will Seth stay out of trouble? Can they overcome paralyzing fear?"

I read Fablehaven, the first book in the series, so I would understand the second book, Rise of the Evening Star. I really enjoyed both books. Brandon Mull described the mystical world of Fablehaven so well, I could picture all the creatures and the magical setting they live in. I thought he created great characters and I could see how the two children learned from their experiences, growing as characters. I'm looking forward to reading the next book when it comes out.

On the Road to Heaven/Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians

"On the Road to Heaven is a love story about a girl and a guy and their search for heaven-a lotta love, a little heaven, and one heck of a ride in between. In a style reminiscent of and offering homage to Jack Kerouac, "On the Road to Heaven" traces an LSD-to-LDS pilgrimage across the geographic and cultural landscape of two continents in the late twentieth century. From the 1970s hippie heyday of the Colorado mountains to the coca fields of Colombia, it's a journey through Thoreau ascetics, Ram Dass Taoism, and Edward Abbey monkey-wrenching to the mission fields of one of the world's fastest-growing-and most trenchantly conservative-religions. Few stories have ever described a more unusual road to redemption."

This is certainly one of the more edgy LDS novels I've read. I enjoyed the writing style and found the author, Coke Newell, did a wonderful job painting pictures with his descriptions and made the characters came alive for me. If you are looking for squeeky clean LDS writing, this one does contain some mild language.


"A hero with an incredible talent...for breaking things. A life-or-death rescue a bag of sand. A fearsome threat from a powerful secret network...the evil Librarians.

Alcatraz Smedry doesn't seem destined for anything but disaster. On his 13th birthday he receives a bag of sand, which is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians plotting to take over the world. The sand will give the Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop them! infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutziness."

This book reminded me a little of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The author, Brandon Sanderson, spent a lot of time talking to the reader, which I found distracting. The plot was interesting and I loved the quirky characters.

Book Reviews

Someone suggested I post a little about the Whitney Award Finalists as I read them. I'll try to keep up with the reading and the blogging, but no promises. Here are the links to some of the books I've already reviewed:

Grave Secrets


Counting Stars

Sheeps Clothing

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

How Many Books Can I Read in a Month?

Yesterday, I received an interesting email from Robison Wells. It invited me to be a voting member of the Whitney Academy for the 2007 Whitney Awards. I can't even tell you how much this made my day. From the first time I heard about the organization of the Whitney Awards, I've been telling everyone I know to read more LDS fiction and nominate the books they love. My excitement even pushed me to make a list of eligible books for last year. So to be asked to vote on the final nominees has allowed me to be involved in one more step of the process.

When the list of finalist came out last week, I immediately started tracking down the books so I could read as many of them as possible before attending the banquet in March. Now I have to read all the books before Feb 20th. From the list of nominees, I have already read five of them, that leaves 21 books to read in the next month (26 if I want to read the first books in a series so the nominated books make sense). It's a good thing I'm a very fast reader. I'm still working on finding copies of all the books. The local library system has quite a few of them, I own a some, and I received one email with a complete book, so I'm well on my way.

I have my work cut out for me but I'm so excited to be given the opportunity to vote with the Academy. I believe the Whitney Awards will provide a great boost to LDS fiction, providing a way to honor the best in LDS fiction and giving the rest of us something to aim for. I can't wait to finish this year's list, so I can start reading and nominating books for the 2008 Whitney Awards.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Modest Prom Gowns

Compared to the things I usually post about, this one is a little off topic, but I wanted to share this new line of dresses with you. I know some of my readers have kids the right age to be interested in this.

Swing for Prom
is a new line of modest formal dresses designed by a friend of mine. Her philosophy as stated on the website: At Swing Gowns we feel that women can look beautiful and glamorous and still be modest. All of our gowns can be worn over an average bra. We don't compromise on quality with our materials, fit, design or embellishment. Our gowns are designed to enhance the beauty of the wearer, not overpower her.

One thing I love about these dresses is the quality of the design and materials. Every dress is made from 100% silk, and embellishments include glass beads and Swarovski crystals. Nothing beats the way silk drapes and moves.

Michelle and I both spent years sewing custom gowns for clients. While I moved on to writing, she has moved on to designing her own line of dresses. I'm excited to see her finally realize her dream. Swing on over and have a look. I think they're beautiful and I wish her luck on her newest adventure.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Too Much Homework

I'm sitting here listening to my daughter do homework and wishing I knew of some way to lighten her load. Sometimes I find my kid's homework as frustrating as they do. It seems like there is so much more sent home than there was when I went to school, and it comes at a much younger age.

One of my children is quite smart and hardly brings any home which only drives the other two children crazy, especially when he gets the best grades of the three. Another one can't quite see the importance of homework, although that's improving. It's a constant struggle to make sure it gets done. Then there is the other child who takes it all very seriously. The hours of homework brought home every night drive us all crazy. When the fatigue takes over, there are tears shed over how hard it is and how long it takes, and really she does little else from the time she gets home until the time she goes to bed. Despite all the frustration, the grades are excellent, but she works hard for every percentage point.

I often wonder how much is really accomplished by the mountains of homework brought home. Besides having to carry so much weight in the backpack every day, much of it seems like busy work. Tonight it's science. The worksheet is six pages long and even I'm struggling to find the answers in the textbook. She'll go to bed far later than normal and will suffer for it tomorrow. I worry about her as she gets older and the homework gets more intense. At what point will she end up making herself sick or giving up on good grades entirely?

I guess she'll get through it, but her memories of high school are largely going to be recollections of homework and stress. As a mother, I need to figure out some way to help her work faster, and learn which things have to take priority. More importantly, I need to be there when the mountain of homework is just too much to deal with and she needs a shoulder to lean on. Sometimes it's all I can do.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


I tend to be something of a collector. Nothing is worth much in any of my collections, but I enjoy them all the same. For example, cookbooks. Every so often I have to go through my cupboard and get rid of a few because the space is too full. Funny thing though, I don't cook all that much. My intentions are good, but then something else comes up to hold my attention and I don't think about meals until the last minute. By that time, I end up throwing together one of the old standbys and not using a cookbook at all. Sometimes I decide to be more organized and go through cookbooks, reading them from cover to cover, looking for the perfect recipes to tempt my family. By the time grocery day comes, my good intentions disappear along with the list I made and we are back to the family favorites again. And yet, I love to read cook books.

Embroidery/sewing patterns and books are another thing I collect. I love to sit and look at as I imagine all the beautiful things I can make to beautify my home or give as gifts. Someday I'll get more of them done, but for now I just dream of the day when I can get to them. (I'm beginning to see a pattern here - both collections are books.)

This year I want to start a new collection. I've set a goal to submit my writing more often, and like all writers, I expect to get my fair share of rejections. In years past, I've submitted my work, but I've never saved the rejections. Now I will consider a collection of rejections as a badge of honor showing how much I've been working.

And then there is one collection I plan to get rid of. Every time I read one of my manuscripts, I find a wonderful array of grammar mistakes, over-used words, adverbs, and all those other mistakes that make writing weak. I'm slowly weeding out the offenders and hope to whittle that collection down to nothing at all. That's one collection I'll be glad to get rid of. Of all my collections, this one I'd be glad to see disappear.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Whitney Awards Finalists announced

The finalists for the Whitney Awards were announced this morning. Now I have a list of books I want to read before the end of March. Unlike, the academy awards when I don't recognize half the movies that win, I would like to read as many of these as I can before the awards Gala. I've already read a few. Here is the complete list of finalists. For more information about the awards check out their website: Whitney Awards.

Best Novel of the Year

Dragon Slippers
by Jessica Day George

Out of Jerusalem, Vol. 4: Land of Inheritance
by Heather Moore

On the Road to Heaven
by Coke Newell

The Operative
by Willard Boyd Gardner

Upon the Mountains
by Gale Sears

Best Novel by New Author

Dragon Slippers
by Jessica Day George

Wet Desert
by Gary Hansen

Counting Stars
by Michele Holmes

Beyond the Horizon
by Judy C. Olsen

On the Road to Heaven
by Coke Newell

Romance/women’s fiction

Counting Stars
by Michele Holmes

Desire of Our Hearts
by Sariah Wilson

by Stephenie Meyer

The Independence Club
by Rachel Ann Nunes

Loyalty's Web
by Joyce DiPastena


The Deep End
by Traci Hunter Abramson

Grave Secrets
by Marlene Austen

Hazardous Duty
by Betsy Brannon Green

The Operative
by Willard Boyd Gardner

Sheep's Clothing
by Josi Kilpack

Young Adult/Children's

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
by Brandon Sanderson

Bullies in the Headlights
by Matthew Buckley

First Day
by Allyson B. Condie

How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend
by Janette Rallison

Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven, Book II)
by Brandon Mull

Speculative Fiction

Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale

Dragon Slippers
by Jessica Day George

Hunting Gideon
by Jessica Draper

The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer
by Phyllis Gunderson

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, Book II)
by Brandon Sanderson


Beyond the Horizon
by Judy C. Olsen

Out of Jerusalem, Vol. 4: Land of Inheritance
by Heather Moore

On the Road to Heaven
by Coke Newell

Spires of Stone
by Annette Lyon

Upon the Mountains
by Gale Sears

Friday, 11 January 2008

Lost and Found

Sometimes, the internet is a nothing more than a time waster for me, but other days I am amazed at the cool things that can be accomplished with the technology. I love that I'm part of a community of writers who support each other and provide friendship of people who understand a writer's brain. I love being able to do research from home wrapped in my blanket with a mug of hot chocolate by my side.

The other awesome thing about the internet is meeting people. On October 10th, I was reading a blog by Connie Hall titled "Skeletons in the Closet". In it she tells about a reunion she attended for a great grandfather that came to America from France in the 1700's. As I read her story, the name of the grandfather sounded familiar to me. I quickly pulled out my own genealogical records and looked up the name. Sure enough, they matched. I contacted her and through a series of emails, we discovered that we both descended from the same man and are distant cousins. What are the odds we would end up attending the same writer's conference last year and would both be writers?

I have been searching for an exchange student who lived with my family in 1989.Since we lost touch I do the occasional internet search, but I never get anywhere. Having just her name and knowing that she is from Denmark just didn't give me enough to go on. Yesterday I was doing some time wasting to give my brain a break from the writing, so I went to my Facebook page and caught up with things that are going on among my friends. I decided to do a search for this girl. I've done this many times in the past, but usually only get two people who come up with a similar name. Neither of them ever look right, but yesterday a name came up that was exactly right. I emailed her asking if she had ever lived in Alberta as an exchange student. This morning there was an email waiting for me. It is her! I am so excited to get in touch with someone I consider a long, lost sister. I can't wait to see what kind of things she has been up to in the last decade.

I'm grateful for the technology that makes it possible for me to connect with people and now I'm excited to use the same technology to catch up with a lost and found friend who lives halfway around the world.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008


Yesterday, I sat down to write a quick blog, and found my thoughts terrifyingly blank. It could have been the time of night and it could have been that I was tired, but I think the bigger problem has to do with isolation.

I tend to be a solitary person to begin with. I like time to myself and long for those rare moments when there is no one else in the house. For as long as I can remember, I have been shy and don't usually make friends easily. My closest girlfriend passed away almost two years ago, and I don't have that kind of close connection with anyone else. I can go days where the most meaningful phone call is from a telemarketer and the only adult I speak to is my husband. Sometimes I wish I had a job in the real world just for the human interaction, or that I had numerous girlfriends who called every week. But most of the time, I love the solitude. Just to be clear, I'm not looking for sympathy. I like my life.

Many of the writers I talk to are solitary people. Writing lends itself to this. It's hard to get those great ideas on paper when there are too many distractions. But this lifestyle does tend to present problems. Lately, I haven't turned on the television or radio, read a newspaper, or talked to anyone about anything. I've just been too busy. This isolation can be harmful to the writing life. Most of my ideas come from the world around me and the things I hear and see. I love to take the time to wander in the city and watch people, or keep up on the latest news stories. I like to listen to people talk so I can write more realistic dialogue. Unfortunately, I haven't made the time for these things lately.

As with everything, being a writer requires balance. Solitude is good. It gives me time to think and formulate characters, plot lines and settings. But I believe too much solitude can sap even the most creative of spirits. This is something I need to work on. I need to step out of my shell and past the shyness to establish new friendships. I need to make the time to keep up on the news and time to go out and people watch. I need to balance the need for quiet, alone time, with the need to get out and experience life. Only then will the ideas flow again, and my writing will come alive.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

BIAM Update

So my BIAM udate goes something like this. I worked on a synopses for another novel for part of the afternoon, and then read several chapters in my current work-in-progress. I am also studying a book called Hooked, all about writing stronger opening chapters. I didn't add any words to my word count, but I am catching up so that I can.

Tonight I spent some time reading the beginnings of the novel I started working on in November. Because lots of life happened during December, I haven't looked at the story for over a month. This is the book I want to work on for the BIAM, but before I can actually add more to it I have to remember how the story was unfolding in the first place. I did start with an outline for this one, but it didn't take me long to deviate so far from it, that referring back to it is no help at all. Anyway, I was quite pleased with what I read. I always worry when I write something so fast that I will just be making extra work for myself in the long run.

Because I am studying the book Hooked right now, I really focused on the beginning of my book. The first chapter of the current novel is good as far as hooks go, but of course it can be made better. I really want to work on it and make it stronger, because if the first line and paragraph and chapter don't draw the reader in, it doesn't matter how well-written the rest of the book is or how compelling the story is, the reader will never read far enough to appreciate it. I do believe the story I'm writing is compelling, so I want the reader to get caught up in it right from the first sentence.

On top of the BIAM challenge, I want to get this first chapter polished so I can enter it in the LDStorymakers "First Chapter" contest this March. The contest is valuable especially because the entry is returned with feedback from the judges. So I have my work cut out for me, but I do think I am finally getting back in the groove.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Old Habits Die Hard

I had all sorts of good intentions to start the new year off right. Someone said a good way to set goals is to pick something you want to stop doing and stop doing it. Then pick something you want to start doing and start doing it. Going to bed too late is one of those things I should stop doing, but here it is almost midnight and I am still up long after the rest of the family has gone to bed.

Today was the kid's first day back at school after the Christmas holidays. I planned on being very organized today and getting all sorts of things done, including some real work on my project for the BIAM challenge. Of course, several things got in my way, including my own tendency to be distracted by the slightest thing. I always get to the end of the day and realize that I did get quite a bit done, but a good portion of what I did wasn't planned in the first place. There is always tomorrow, and if I can focus a little more each day on the highest priority things on my list, someday I may actually be the organized person I like to pretend I am.

Meanwhile, I'm really falling behind on Tristi's challenge. I finally made a list of my writing goals for the year and posted them in a prominent place in the office so I have to read them every day. This year will be full of hard work but by the end of the year I hope I have some positive results to show for it.

As for old habits, here I am posting my Monday ramblings in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. If I could just change that one for Tuesday's post to actually be posted on Tuesday. One can always hope, anyway. (I just checked this post and the blogger clock has it posted at 11:55 pm, even though all the clocks in the house say it is 12:10 am. I'm going with the blogger clock...then I can pretend I did get to bed before midnight.)

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Another Quote

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
-Henry David Thoreau-

Friday, 4 January 2008

Playing with POV

This morning I started reading a book by a well-known author and by the end of the first chapter was frustrated by his use of point-of-view. I kept going back to read paragraphs over again as the author seemed to change POV mid-paragraph several times. I have read and studied the rules of POV often but I had never noticed how disruptive it is to the reader until I picked up this book.

I finally pulled out the novel I'm writing so I can start working on Tristi's BIAM challenge. Because I haven't looked at it since November, I had to back track a little and re-read a chapter or two. This project has caused me to really examine POV. When I started this book during Tristi's first challenge last fall, I wrote it in third person. Every sentence was a struggle and I soon grew frustrated with my lack of progress. After several thousand words, I stopped and did some brainstorming. The story idea still seemed good, but it just wasn't working. Putting aside every word I had already written, I started from scratch for NaNo and changed the point-of-view entirely. Now the book is written in first person and the story is flowing easily. Several people have told me how difficult it is to write or read a story in first person, but that is what seems to be working right now.

It is an interesting exercise to take a story and re-write it using different POVs. I find it fascinating how the emphasis of the story changes depending on which character is telling it. This is a skill I'm still learning and experimenting with. I think my book is better now that I have gone to first person, but until I give it to my readers, I won't know for sure. That's the great thing about being a writer...playing with the words until they tell exactly the story I want to tell.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Long Day

Today was another long day. My husband and I got up early this morning and were on the road by 5:30 a.m. (This is far too early for me and I ended up sleeping most of the way.) We drove the 2 1/2 hours to Calgary so we could apply for passports for the family. By leaving early, we made it to the passport office before there were any lines and were able to go on to other things by nine. Since we hardly ever get to Calgary, we took the opportunity to go visit my brother-in-law and his family and then did some shopping. By the time we got home, we had time for a quick dinner and then we headed off to a town forum. Now I have a daughter laying on my lap while I try to type because she is having bad dreams.

So I am falling behind in Tristi's BIAM before it really gets going. I can't wait for the kids go back to school on Monday and we get back into a routine. I love the holidays and doing extra things with the kids, but I also like the predictability of school days. It has been nice having the extra help at home. The kids play together well and entertain the kids I babysit. Because of this I have been able to get three roman blinds made for the living room and a valance almost done for the family room. I've had the fabric for a long time, so it is about time I got them done. Now I am just crossing my fingers and hoping they look good.

Even though I haven't spent much time writing or even checking my mail, I have had lots of time to think about my goals for the year and come up with new ideas. Now I just have to get them down on paper.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

A New Year

So I guess this is the time of year when I post something profound to finish off the old year and kick off the new one.

Well, last year life moved on as it always does. I finally stretched myself and pursued my writing dream in earnest. In March, I attended the LDStorymakers conference for the first time and felt like I had finally met a group of people who I understood. I finished my first novel and started my second. The greatest thing about last year had to be all the things I learned, and that is what I am looking forward to in the new year.

I am going to apply even more effort to writing and am starting out by participating in Tristi's Book in a Month challenge. This is just what I need to get back into the swing of things after taking plenty of time off in December. The holidays have been busy. Between an unexpected trip to Phoenix and a round of the flu going through the family, I've spent very little time on the computer in the last month. So now the holidays are over, and I need to get back to work. For Tristi's challenge I am going to continue working on the novel I started in November. It is at 51,000 words and I want to get it to 85,000 by the end of the month.

As for the rest of the year, I plan on learning and growing in every area of my life. I always tell my kids that if I learn one thing during a day it is a good day. So this year, I plan on making every day a good day.
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