Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Soccer Mom Fake

I spent three hours tonight watching the soccer games of two of my children. Here's my confession. I'm not athletic, I don't mind watching the games but often find my mind wandering. Tonight I tried to stop multi-tasking for a little while and just focus on the game. Besides the fact that the bleachers were uncomfortable, I enjoyed turning the brain off.

So I guess I'm a soccer mom fake. I don't care whether they win or lose, or whether they made a goal. For me it is about seeing them have some fun and get exercise. The kids once asked me why I don't cheer out loud. I told them I am just not a loud person and certainly not comfortable yelling at the team during a soccer game, but inside my head I am cheering louder than all the other parents combined. Besides that, my husband cheers loud enough for both of us.

I guess that's why I like to write. I'm not always good at talking to other people, but when I write, it is much easier to say exactly what I am thinking in exactly the way I want to say it. And all the characters in my head cheer me on in their own quiet way.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Catching Up

I haven't been posting much lately, although I've noticed many of the blogs I usually read are having the same problem. The next two weeks are a little crazy and I'm busy just trying to keep track of where everyone needs to be.

This week we have soccer games Monday through Thursday - with two tomorrow night, here are two highland dance recitals for my oldest daughter and one rehearsal. We also have to plan and organize a barbecue for my step-son, his fiance, and the bridal party for Sunday night. And then this morning I remembered that I need to make the garter for the bride. She couldn't find anything she liked because everything was too frilly. She'd requested a particular color of blue, so I hope I can find the right fabric. (At least the quilt is finished and has been for a while.)Next week, we have soccer games every night, but two ballet recitals for my youngest daughter and the rehearsals for those. On Thursday we have a recital at 6:00 then we run next door at 7:30 for the high school band concert. And Saturday we are looking forward to my step-son's wedding.

My calendar is full, so my brain is busy trying to keep everyone organized so they all end up in the right places at the right time.

Meanwhile, the writing is going very slowly. I have added another couple chapters to my work in progress and today I received a rejection from Covenant. I wasn't too surprised, since it was my first novel submission, but with the lack of time to work lately, I did spend a few hours questioning whether I really am a writer. I think this could be a normal reaction. To boost my confidence I sat down tonight and made a list of things I have published. It is short, but at least I can say I have been published. I stuck it in my rejection folder so the next time I pull it out to add a rejection, the first thing I see will be that positive list.

As I read through my rejections and publications,I thought about the novel that was just rejected and the novel I'm working on, began to wonder what it is I actually write. So many of my friends are solidly in the young adult/fantasy camp. Others only write romances. Then there are those that stick solidly with non-fiction. I've written a little bit of everything. My ideas don't run in any particular direction, so I just go with what I have.

Right now I am working on a romantic/suspense, a children's picture book, a cozy mystery, and one that I'm not sure how to classify. I don't know if the variety will help me find success sooner or if I need to narrow down the field a little. Until I figure it out, I keep writing one word at a time. It's the only way I know how.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Entertaining Lunch Hour

Usually lunch hour is hectic in my house. With five or six of the kids I babysit sitting around the table, plus my husband and my three children wandering in for their lunches, the noon hour is loud and crazy. Today I didn't have any kids to watch, so I actually got to sit down and eat lunch with my family.

The youngest daughter gets home first, so she and I made tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches and had a nice visit while she ate. As she got ready to go back to school, my husband came in and started cooking his sandwich. The older two kids weren't far behind. It was so enjoyable to sit quietly and talk with my kids.

The fun part came when we started quizzing each other. I'm not sure how it began, but we started saying authors names and then trying to figure out which books they wrote. My kids are all avid readers and books are an important part of our home. So even on the authors I thought I could stump them with, they knew the answers. I had to come up with some pretty obscure names to catch them.

We had fun bantering back and forth while my husband sat there and rolled his eyes. He summed up the moment with the statement, "You guys are weird." I guess that pretty much says it all. If this is weird, it sure is fun.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Another Writer in the Family

Tonight I sent my youngest daughter to practice her guitar. She went off to her bedroom and I heard her playing her standard songs. She started taking lessons in January from my dad and she's getting pretty good. Her favorite song to play right now is "Grandma's Feather Bed".

I soon realized she had been playing much longer than normal, though she usually quits when her fingers start to hurt. I was hearing the same unfamiliar song over and over. Standing outside her room, I listened for a few minutes. She softly sang along and then she stopped and I heard pencil scratch across paper.

When I opened the door and walked in, she quickly hid the paper under the bed. I asked if she was writing a song, and she nodded, then told me I couldn't read it. I reminded her I had let her read my book, so she said, "I won't let you read it, but I'll sing it to you." So I sat on the bed and she picked up her guitar again.

"Have you heard about the story Hannah's Suitcase? It's about a girl in Nazi Germany. This song is what a Jewish child might sing when she dreams of peace," she said. Then she proceeded to sing a beautiful tune about freedom and feeling safe. My eyes teared up as I listened to the simple melody.

She's only ten, but I saw some beautiful potential tonight and I'm so grateful she was willing to share with me. I think there may be another writer in the family.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Interview with Season of Sacrifice author, Tristi Pinkston

Season of Sacrifice is the true story of Ben Perkins, and sisters, Mary Ann and Sarah Williams. After immigrating from Wales to Utah, Ben and Mary Ann are asked to leave the home they've built to join the San Juan mission and help pioneer the trail through Southern Utah. Ben takes his wife Mary Ann, his children, and his wife's sister Sarah. The six week journey stretched to six months. The experience strengthens their testimonies, but their faith is truly tried when Ben asks Sarah to be his second wife.

I thought this book was well written and thoroughly researched. The story of the Hole -in-the-Rock episode of LDS history is fascinating and it amazes me that pioneers with limited equipment could accomplish this feat. I also enjoyed the honesty of the polygamy part of the story. Sarah's response to Ben's proposal showed the very human side of polygamy.

The one thing that bothered me about this book was the length. There were so many years covered, I sometimes felt like I was rushing through the story. I wished the characters had been developed a little more and I could even see this book being written as a two or three book series. That said, I understand the author was trying to stay true to the extensive research she did. I'm interested in doing more reading about the Hole-in-the-Rock. I'd recommend this book and can't wait for her next book to come out.

Tristi joins me to answer a few questions...

Your previous books were published through traditional publishers. Season of Sacrifice was self published. How different was it to self-publish and would you do it again?
Self-publishing is very different from working with a publisher. I had ultimate control and could override anything I wanted to -- although that didn't happen a lot, as BJ Rowley, who did the book for me, has been on my wavelength through the whole thing and we automatically agreed on just about everything. However, I did pay for the printing, which wasn't cheap, and all the marketing is being done by me. I would self-publish again if I had a story that needed to be told, like this one, but I would prefer to go through a traditional publisher. They have the marketing capability, they have the dollars to publish the book, and they have more influence in the market than I do.

This book deals with polygamy. How did you feel about it before you started your research and how did those feelings change after writing the book?
I've never been terribly crazy about polygamy, but then, I didn't really understand it until I began to put this book together. I didn't know what I was going to say when I got to that part of the book, but when I got there, the words just came and I knew what I was supposed to write. I now "get" why polygamy had to exist at that time. And I'm still perfectly delighted that I don't have to live it myself.

Tell us about your other books.
My first book is called "Nothing to Regret" and deals with the Japanese internment camps during World War II. We get a little espionage in there, too -- it's quite fun. My second book is also set during World War II but this time, our setting is Germany. Both these novels are LDS historical fiction.

How long have you been writing?
Well, I've been writing since I was five, but I started writing anything good in 1999. That's when I started "Nothing to Regret" and realized that I really could do this, rather than just dreaming I could.

What are you working on next?

I just finished a comedy/mystery and I'm plotting out the sequel. I'm so excited about these new characters -- they're members of a Relief Society presidency who decide to solve crime. I can't wait to see what journeys they'll take me on next.

Who are your favorite authors?

My favorites growing up were L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Gene Stratton-Porter, and the like. Nowadays, I enjoy Dee Henderson, Jan Karon, Dorothy Gilman, Juliet Marillier, Leif Enger -- I like gentle stories and cozy mysteries.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
The most important thing I can tell you is to learn how to take criticism. Show your work to people you trust, and listen to what they say. They won't be 100% right all the time--you'll need to learn to sift out valuable advice from the overall critique. But you've got to be willing to make changes, when they make sense for the story. Don't be so in love with every little detail that you end up refusing to change anything.

Thanks, Tristi!
To purchase this book, visit Tristi's webpage.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Victoria Day Weekend

Victoria Day falls on Monday, which means we get a long weekend. This is also the weekend our high school always holds their graduation ceremonies. I went to the ceremonies last night with my husband and oldest daughter. A cousin graduated and several other young people that we know. My daughter and I love to go so we can see all the beautiful dresses.

The other big event on the long weekend is the annual planting of the garden. I have to admit this isn't my favorite activity of the year and today the temperature hit a high of 33 C (91.4 F) - much hotter than our usual planting day. Our intentions are always good, but we aren't very consistent gardeners. It is nice to be able to look in the back yard and see the freshly turned dirt, the stakes in place for the peas and beans, and the tomato and pepper plants that are already a good twelve inches high. One good thing about the garden is it gives the kids something to do all summer. They don't often tell me they are bored because they know I'll just have them spend extra time weeding. The best part is in the fall when we get to enjoy the fresh vegetables that always taste better than anything we can buy in the store.

Now I'm just trying to think of something fun the family can do on Monday that won't include long weekend crowds. It seems like a shame to spend the whole weekend hard at work without any time to relax.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Good Advice

I just finished reading a post by J.Scott Savage on his blog Finding the Magic. Besides posting a scary and intense scene from one of his unpublished books (only read it if you are not prone to nightmares), he gave some writing advice.

For some time I've been struggling with the novel I'm working on. It's gotten to where there is no joy in the writing. His advice was to not worry so much about finishing things. Sometimes it is important to write that stray scene that doesn't seem to fit anywhere and get it on paper. Creativity gets stifled when we handcuff it to a specific story and never let it stray.

I know where the story needs to go, and I still think it is a good story, but I've been so worried about getting it finished that I've put aside everything else. Meanwhile, all the writing is suffering. The post I read on Scott's blog really helped me put things in perspective. It's important to finish the novel I'm working on, but when it becomes a chore, then the writing suffers and doesn't get anywhere very fast. It's more important to keep the creativity alive. The novel will get done, but not to the exclusion of all the other scenes running around in my head.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Extra Special Gift

Our first experience with signed books happened several years ago. When my son was in grade one, he really loved books written by Robert Munsch. He even signed all his school papers with the author's name. My sister-in-law lives in Guelph, Ontario - the home of Robert Munsch - and when she heard about this, she called Mr. Munsch. After hearing the story, he graciously invited her to his home where he signed some books and showed her some of the new things he was working on. Later, my boy was very excited to receive two books from his aunt, written by his favorite author. He grew out of the Robert Munsch phase but still treasures those books, six years later.

When I went to the LDStorymakers conference in 2007, I was excited to learn at the feet of authors I'd read and loved. It never occurred to me that they would be real, approachable people who experienced some of the same feelings about writing I did. Another unexpected thing was the books. I guess went to the conference a little naive, but I didn't expect the bookstore. What a treasure trove of good stories and the authors milling around, perfectly willing to sign copies of their books. I came home from that conference with several books, all of them signed. The kids were very impressed that I got to meet all those authors. And it is nice to be able to call some of those same authors friends.

Now it has become kind of a hobby for us. The kids all have their own signed books and I have a shelf where I keep mine. Yesterday, my brother and his wife came over to give my son his birthday present. He opened the package and beamed when he saw a copy of James Dashner's The 13th Reality. I'd been telling him he ought to read it and his cousin has been raving about it as well. The gift was a hit, from the moment he saw it, but when he opened the front cover and found it was signed copy, I think it quickly became his favorite gift.

The biggest problem now is when I give them a book, they always look in the front to see if I managed to meet the author. I'm hoping when I finally get something published, they will be just as excited to get a copy signed by their own mother. Probably not. James Dashner or J. Scott Savage will always be just a little more exciting, and that's fine, because let's face it - I think it's pretty cool, too.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Mother's Day...All about the Kids

Thus weekend did seem to be about the kids in many ways. Since my kids are the reason I am a mother, it only seems appropriate to brag about them a little.

Saturday, I took my oldest daughter to compete in a highland dance competition. She loves dancing and has been doing highland dance since she was six years old. I love watching the kilts swing to the music and the dancers leap over swords. I even love bagpipe music (although hearing the same piece played over and over for half an hour while each competitor gets a chance to dance, gives even me a headache). She competed in four dances: the Highland Fling, the Lilt (she won the bronze medal), the Flora (she won the silver medal), and the Sword Dance (she won the gold medal). I'm very proud of her. She's worked very hard at this and loves it. She even hopes to get her teachers certificate someday so she can teach other children how to dance.

Then Sunday, we celebrated my best Mother's Day gift ever as it was my son's 14th birthday. He is such a great kid and I love having him around. He has a quick wit and always comes up with something to make us laugh, (or at least roll our eyes). I love being able to share mother's day with him. Of course, now he is going to want to get his learner's license and learn to drive. I don't think I'm ready to have two teenage drivers around.

After we had dinner yesterday, my youngest got out her guitar and played for us. She has been taking guitar lessons from her grandpa and played "Grandma's Feather Bed." She's only been playing the guitar since January but is doing very well. It is fun watching the kids develop their talents and find things they like to do.

The other day I told the kids that I fully expected them to become smarter and more talented than I am - I can already see it happening - and someday, their kids would surpass them. As a parent, it is great to see their minds expand with knowledge and fun to watch them learn new skills. To me, that is one of the most wonderful things about being a mother - knowing that the kids are developing their natural abilities and God-given gifts, but somehow, somewhere, I had a part in helping them along.

So to all the mothers who helped me along and help my kids along...

Thank you.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


My last post referred to an incident at my children's school. Well, Thursday has come and gone without incident, much like I suspected it would. The kids are all home, tucked safe in their beds. Most parents kept their kids home from school today. My elementary age daughter said only her and one other girl showed up for class. Each class had similar attendance. Of course they did very little work today and just had fun. There was an obvious police presence in the school, but when I asked my kids how they felt about it, they thought it was interesting. They said the police just smiled and said hello to them whenever they were in the halls.

So now we move past May 8th, and I wonder how parents will cope with the situation. Because the day has passed, will they go back to normal. The authorities still don't know who wrote the threatening notes, and even though we all assume it was a joke that got out of control, we can't be too careful. These are our children we are protecting. Yet parents can't keep their children from school until the culprit is found. That may never happen.

I can't imagine how parents deal with the constant fear some kids must face in schools that are rough and violent on a daily basis. Is this something parents just get used to? I love my safe little town. I still feel like it is one of the best places to raise kids, and that is why I have fought so hard to stay here. Yet, more and more, the world creeps into our community, shaking some of the security we've felt over the years. By the time school starts again in the fall, this will be a distant memory for the kids, but I think this will stick with me for a long time. And every night when I tuck them safely into their beds, I'll say an extra prayer of gratitude and give them an extra hug.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

A Child Shouldn't Have to Fear

It's been an interesting week. Last Thursday, my son came home for lunch with a story about something written on one of the desks in his classroom. After school, all three of my kids brought home notes explaining that there had been a message written on one of the desks, threatening harm to the students on May 8th. The two older kids shrugged it off as a prank by a dumb kid. My youngest came home, handed me the note and burst into tears. She cried for quite awhile, worried about going back to school. What a sad world this is when kids feel afraid to attend classes and get an education.

Over the last three school days, the RCMP has been called in and everyone is taking the note seriously. Yesterday two other notes were found, so the school is basically in lock-down. Kids are restricted in their movements, no high school students are allowed in the elementary school (which is a wing of the same building), and some parents have promised to keep their kids home on Thursday. Some parents have even gone as far as to cancel soccer practices after school.

My brother-in-law is the school councilor and he is sending his children. I also have a sister-in-law who is scheduled to sub in the high school that day. None of us are looking forward to Thursday, but we know the school authorities and the RCMP are doing all they can to keep our children safe. My husband and I've talked it over and decided our kids will attend school. We won't allow ourselves to be held hostage.

And what happens if Thursday passes without incident? Does the crisis pass and everything go back to normal? Or if nothing happens, does the school stay in lock down until they find out who the note writer is? Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking we live in a small town where nothing happens, and in our little school where everyone knows everyone else, things like this aren't possible.

Yet the truth is, none of us are immune. Nine years ago, a school shooting happened in another small town, an hour and a half east of us. It shocked and horrified us and brought home to our little community a measure of fear we had never felt before. This could happen to us and none of our children are completely safe wherever they are.

Thinking back on my own childhood, it almost seems idyllic. All the things that used to scare me, like whether I could make friends at my new school, getting picked for teams in gym class, and fire drills seems so trivial now. My children have much larger fears, like lock-down drills, which of their classmates is writing threatening notes, and hearing news reports of school shootings in other communities.

The world is a scary place and I'm trying to walk that fine line between being over-protective and not taking potential threats seriously enough. It's one of those things I struggle with as a parent. I can't keep my children home and hide them from all dangers. I can't follow them everywhere they go and be there for them every second of every day. At some point I have to let go and trust others who care about them to help keep their world safe. And when there is nothing else I can do, I can still send them out into the world with a constant prayer in my heart.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Back in Business

Well, we finally gave up on trying to get the old laptop working. There might still be some hope, but the technicians who are looking at it are taking forever. I've been trudging along without for almost two months. My husband found a deal on another laptop that is newer than the one I'd been using, although still used (which means we can afford it.) The keyboard setup is a little different, so it will take some getting used to, but there will be no more sharing the computer with kids who have to do homework.

I used to dream of having one computer, but now we have three - the main family computer, my laptop, and my husbands laptop. It gives me a headache just to think about having to function without the technology we've become accustomed to. The other day, my daughter was in a bit of a tizzy because she'd been given an assignment to write a report without getting any information from the internet. She thought I was from the dark ages when I told her we used to actually go to the library and look the information up in actual books.

So, I'm back in business. I can use the computer whenever I want and write thousands of words to my hearts content. Unfortunately, the laptop didn't come with a bonus jar of extra time. If anyone knows where I can pick some up, I'll really be laughing.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Empty Shelves

Yesterday I spent several hours in the city doing the month's grocery shopping. It's always an adventure, especially when I shop at the store that doesn't bag the groceries for you. I usually end up at the end of the counter, stuffing several hundred dollars worth of food into bags while customers glare at me for taking up all the room.

It amazed me as I walked up and down the aisles to see shelf after shelf, empty. There was no rice, flour, very little pasta, and even the dried beans were picked through. As I walked through the store, I again felt gratitude for the prophet's direction to store food. None of those items were on my list - although I will confessing to buying rice last week when I heard news reports about shortages.

There have been many times in my adult life when my family and I have lived off the food that we've stored. I've always been a firm believer in the concept of food storage and I always plan my grocery list so it includes items we won't use during the month. Whenever I've utilized it before, it's been because of single motherhood or unemployment, never because the shelves in the grocery store were empty.

So yesterday's shopping trip was quite a wake-up call for me. And all the complaining I've been doing in my head about having to plant a garden has stopped. Now I look at it as more security in my basement in the fall.
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