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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Missing Contest


No the contest isn't actually missing, but you could have a chance to win a copy of Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen's new book Missing. This sounds like a great book and I can`t wait to read it. To enter the contest, visit the Queen of the Clan and follow the instructions.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Update

Still snowing and now we've been informed that church is cancelled for our stake tomorrow. Now to keep housebound people happy for the second day in a row. Apparantly, at least three stakes in the area have cancelled church. The kids are just hoping it lasts until Monday so they can get at least one school snow day!

A Good Day to Stay Home


Nature's insulation. Kind of obstructs the view, but it's pretty at the same time.


Out the front door - or at least we could go out the front door if we could get it open. My son had to go out the side door and come up the front steps this morning to get his newspapers from the bin that is buried somewhere under that snowdrift.


Another shot of the front porch. You could lose a small child in there!


Shovelling the snow from the walk is going to be a fun job. Should burn a lot of calories. It is still snowing and blowing furiously, so I'm not sure how long a shovelled walk will last.

Of course, when my husband did try to take the van out, he ended up stuck. Our wonderful neighbors came right over when they saw the problem. They were out and on their way in no time. Seems like a good day to turn on the oven and fill the house with the warmth and aroma of Christmas baking.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart


"Born in 1805 on the Lewis & Clark expedition, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau was the son of the expedition’s translators, Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau. Across The Endless River evokes the formative years of this mixed-blood child of the frontier, entering the wild and mysterious world of his boyhood along the Missouri. Baptiste is raised both as William Clark’s ward in St. Louis and by his parents among the villages of the Mandan tribe on the far northern reaches of the river.

In 1823, eighteen-year-old Baptiste is invited to cross the Atlantic with the young Duke Paul of Württemberg, whom he meets on the frontier. During their travels throughout Europe, Paul introduces Baptiste to a world he never imagined. Increasingly, Baptiste senses the limitations of life as an outsider; only Paul’s older cousin, Princess Theresa, understands the richness of his heritage. Their affair is both passionate and tender, but Theresa’s clear-eyed notions of love, marriage, and the need to fashion one’s own future push Baptiste to consider what he truly needs.

In Paris, he meets Maura Hennesy, the beautiful and independent daughter of a French-Irish wine merchant. Baptiste describes his life on the fast-changing frontier to Maura, and she begins to imagine a different destiny with this enigmatic American. Baptiste ultimately faces a choice: whether to stay in Europe or to return to the wilds of North America. His decision will resonate strongly with those who today find themselves at the intersection of cultures, languages, and customs."

Though the years Jean-Baptiste spent in Europe are largely undocumented, the author does a good job of filling in the blanks and helping us imagine what it may have been like to be this young man stuck between two worlds. The descriptions in the book are enjoyable and paint a vivid picture. Even though the author seems to know the history and the facts he fictionalized still fit with the story, the book plods along for 300 pages with almost no plot. Nothing every really happens and we see so much of Jean-Baptistes world as if he was just an observer. I began to wonder why the author bothered to write a book about this young man at all.

In the end, I did enjoy Carhart's writing and his beautiful descriptions, but the characters fell flat for me and in a story like this, the characters just have to shine.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Lest We Forget

Today we were able to attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies held by the town. One of the speakers reminded us that without the sacrifice made by those who fought for our freedoms and continue to fight, our children wouldn't have the opportunities they enjoy. The freedoms we often take for granted would be unknown to us. This was especially touching to me as I thought of the great community and great country we live in.

I always have tears in my eyes when we sing O Canada, but this year was especially poignent as I watched my two oldest children play the music as they participated in the band. My son was also given the privilege of playing the last post to begin the two minutes of silence and then the reveille. He did such a great job and I was so proud of him as he was able to honour those who sacrificed everything. We always insist on the whole family attending the ceremonies, and I only hope that as the memories of the great wars become more distant, my own children will still feel some measure of respect and reverence that I feel.



In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Critique Friends

I love my critique group. We are few, but I so enjoy getting together these with fellow writers. As one of them said, "I've never enjoyed being critiqued so much." Every time I learn so much and get so much encouragement. Tonight the meeting was just what I needed. I stalled out on my NaNo writing after the first day, but with some brainstorming tonight, I just may have found the direction I need to go and I'm ready to tackle my word count again tomorrow. Thanks girls!

My only complaint is that we are so few. So if anyone knows of any other writers in the Southern Alberta area who are looking for someone to go over their work with I fine tooth comb, send them my way. I know this is short, but I need some sleep. I've got lots of writing to do tomorrow.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Am I Not a Man: The Dred Scott Story

``An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.``

I began reading this book with little knowledge of slavery in the United States. Of course, I knew it happened, but being educated in Canada, it wasn`t part of our history. This book really opened my eyes. Mark L. Shurtleff has written a comprehensive look at Dred Scott`s fight for freedom. He brought the character of Dred and his comtemporaries alive. I did find it distracting when the author jumped between different dates, but in the end I enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it.




Monday, 2 November 2009

And the Winner is part 2 . . .

Marcie, the winner of Methods of Madness has graciously offered to let someone else have the copy of the book since she already has one and has already read it. So I pulled another name from the hat. We have a new winner . . .

Amy

Hope you enjoy it!

And the Winner is . . .

I took all the comments from the last post about Stephanie Black's book Methods of Madness and put the names in a hat. And the winner is . . . Marcia Mickelson. Congratulations Marcia. Hope you enjoy the book.

Today I start with the yearly challenge of NaNoWriMo. I'm not sure exactly why I signed up. It seems like every year just gets a little busier, but what would November be without a little craziness. Since I never write on Sundays, I have to write about 2000 words every day to be able to make it. This will be the fourth year I've participated. Lots of my friends have signed up this year, so there is a little extra competition and a lot of extra encouragement. Hopefully at the end of the month I can say. . .and the winner is ME!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Methods of Madness by Stephanie Black (and a give away)

"It’s been three years since the terrible night Emily Ramsey suffered a double tragedy—the death of her sister and the disappearance of her fiancé. She deserves another chance at happiness, and gentle, adorable Zach Sullivan is just the man to mend her shattered heart. But from the moment Emily opens the hand-carved box holding a glittering diamond solitaire, she’s seized by an unshakeable fear: she’s going to lose Zach.

That’s exactly what Monica, Zach’s ex-girlfriend, is banking on. Bitter with envy, Monica will stop at nothing to sabotage Zach and Emily’s romance. A troubling note shows up in Emily’s mailbox, fanning the flames of suspicion. A bloody photograph sends her reeling. But when someone is brutally murdered, will Emily be able to escape suspicion and the possibility that she might be next?"

Stephanie Black has written another page turner. This book will keep you up long past bedtime to find out who is after Emily. I thought I had it figured out but the twist at the end surprised me. The book is well plotted and and the characters are varied and interesting. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good supsense novel.

Now for the giveaway. . .

I have a copy of Methods of Madness to give away. To enter the draw, comment on this post, email me, or comment on facebook before Halloween. Good luck!


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Because We Have To

"We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to." W. Somerset Maugham

This quote has always described my experience with writing so well. I spent so many years with a little voice inside my head telling me to write and so many years when I did everything but write. When I actually sit down and start pouring words out onto paper, everything falls into place somehow. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.

Yet, I'm not one of those people that walk around with thousands of story ideas falling out of my head onto paper. I have to work hard to come up with each tale I tell. Sometimes it's a painful process. But it's worth it when one of my readers begs for more stories or won't quit bothering me about sequels to the books I've written.

I've been thinking about talents lately. I believe I was blessed with a talent to write. Even as a young child, I wrote. But there are other talents I was blessed with as well. Other authors have told me that to be successful you have to put all other interests aside and become a writer. I tried it for awhile and found that it most definitely wasn't working for me. I can see how others may find it necessary, but I find when I put other creative pursuits away, the writing muse dries up entirely. It seems like if I try to put to much focus on one area, not only do the other skills I have wither, so does the writing.

I also have to be realistic. Unlike some writers who are able to put all hobbies aside to pursue their writing, I have to keep some of these hobbies up. For example, my sewing keeps two teenage girls in clothing when we can't find anything modest in the stores or when they just can't find anything that fits properly (who knew skinny could be such a curse!). One of those daughters is starting to talk about a grad dress for next year. I know I can give her a custom fit, designer original at a fraction of the cost of just buying it off the rack. Sewing also helps to pay some of the bills when I really put some time into it. It is also something I can do without a lot of thinking, giving me time to plot while I stitch.

It's all about balance. It has taken me some time to figure this out, but for me it means allowing myself some time everyday to do something for me that isn't related to reading or writing. Sometimes it is as little as fifteen minutes, but it makes a difference. Some people are able to be single-minded in their pursuit of the publishing dream, but not me. And knowing that about myself will make the journey that much more pleasant. I'll put in the hard work and I will get there, hopefully soon. Until then, I'll keep my self going one word, and one stitch at a time.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Out of Practice

It's amazing how easy it is to start letting this blog lapse. There are all sorts of excuses. With everything I'm involved in, you'd think I'd have something to say.

Life has once again taken another unexpected turn. I'd been subbing at the schools as a teachers aid, but last week I agreed to watch my niece and nephew to help my sister-in-law out. Right now I'm not sure how long that will last, but I keep reminding myself that I wrote two novels when I was babysitting before, so it might be a good thing.

I finally finished writing the primary sacrament meeting presentation. I also told the primary president that I thought I might retire next year. This ward has been together for six years now and I've written four of those presentations. I believe someone else needs the opportunity next year. Of course if I'm still in this position next September, I'll probably forget I said this and do it anyway. So that's the writing I've been doing for the last few weeks.

Tonight, it occured to me that part of the reason I'm writing less is because I've been trying to change my schedule. For a long time, my husband has been saying we need to get to bed earlier. In many ways he's right. When I had to get up at 6:30 and sub, I couldn't stay up late and write or do anything else. If I did I just couldn't stay awake during the day.

I realized that even when I do go to bed earlier, the afternoon is really my most unproductive time. When I was faithfully posting here everyday, I usually posted blogs right about midnight. I had a few readers ask me if I couldn't write them earlier, but that really seems to be when my creative juices flow the strongest. So in my effort to get more sleep and get to bed earlier, I've stifled the writing somehow.

My goal for this month is to get the rewrites done on Finding Rose by the end of the month so I can get them out to readers. With any luck - and a few late nights - I just might make it. I still miss my laptop more than anyone should miss a machine, but at least the family computer is in the room with the wood stove. I'm discovering tonight that my typing skills suffer when my fingers are freezing.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Revise, Revise, Revise

My writing has been a little stalled over the summer but my brain has been getting back in gear. I've got ideas of where I want to go next and some different projects I'm excited to get started on. But then two things happened that are just slightly slowing down those other things.

First, I've been working on a submission package for one of my books. I nearly had it ready to go in the mail, but then I got called to sub for the week. Wednesday evening I ended up calling in sick as a nasty virus got me. During my breaks at the school and while I lounged around in bed wishing I felt better, I started reading another book from my large stack. Loved it, but realized as I read that many of the elements of the story mirror the one I was getting ready to submit. In fact, they are similar in so many ways I can understand one reason why the publisher rejected my manuscript this summer. So I need to rethink that one. I still love the story, and with some major work I think I can make it different enough, but for now I'll probably shelf it.

I'd submitted my other book to a different publisher a while ago. I got an email from the editor this week rejecting it, but also giving me a long list of suggestions, encouragement and inviting me to resubmit. I needed that. So many of the suggestions were 'ah-ha' moments - things that I instantly knew would make the book stronger. Of course, now I have an enormous amount of work ahead, but I'm excited to get at it. Along with everything else I have in my head, it should keep me plenty busy. It feels good to be back at it again.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Month at the End of the Money

It's a common problem. Most people I know suffer from it at least a little. In our house, we are finding that the month at the end of the money seems to be growing.

We tend to be frugal here and when I try to think of ways to cut back even more, I draw a bit of a blank. We shop at second hand stores as much as possible, we eat very little prepared food, and we don't go out often. I suppose I could feed my family more beans instead of the cheap cuts of meat we usually eat, but I've never been successful there. Somehow, I'm the only one eating those leftovers.

So the next option is mom finding a job. Subbing at the school last year helped, but it just didn't quite fill the gap.

Because we live in a little town, thirty minutes away from the city, employment options close to home are quite limited. Ideally, a full-time aid position at the school will open up but until that happens I have to look at other options.

It is so important to me and to my husband to have me be available to the kids and home as much as possible, that our solution has to be somewhat creative. Hopefully with the little bits here and there, the month end and money won't be so far apart. So here it is. . .

First, I'll keep working at the school as often as possible. Hopefully when a position opens up, they will already know me and I might have a chance of getting the job. Then there is the place where Rick works. His boss has been asking if I would be available to pick up some hours here and there doing warranty returns. That's only five minutes from home, so that's okay.

The one I'm the most hesistant to step back into is sewing again, but I do have the ability and there always seems to be some demand for it. After sewing for so many years I suffered some severe burn-out. The three year break I took leaves me ready to do some more. Besides, my oldest daughter will be graduating next year and will want a grad dress for that. I need to refine my skills again so she can be the belle of the ball. I'm also working on getting some products up on etsy.com. I'll let you know when there is something there. So I guess this is me hanging out my shingle again.

"Seamstress for hire."

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Holy Bible and Mormonism by Christopher Mills


"Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints often use selective passages from the Holy Bible to assert that Mormons are not Biblical Christians. Some critics simply do not understand how Latter-day Saints can use the Bible as a source for spiritual guidance and hold beliefs that other Christian churches do not. Other individuals do not even realize that Mormons use the Holy Bible.

This book explains how Latter-day Saints controversial beliefs are Biblical and also examines the references used by the critics and puts them into proper context. After all, proper interpretation of Scripture comes from collective verses rather than selective verses. Christopher Mills has chosen topics that he has personally been confronted with and shares his experiences. He also includes his testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ."

This is a great little book that would be an asset to any home. Mills quotes passages from the Bible to explain Latter-Day Saint beliefs. He uses easy to understand language to discuss topics such as baptism, the nature of God, temples, eternal marriage, prophets, and more. He does this in a straight-forward and non-argumentative manner.

Mills doesn't aim to prove any other religion wrong, only to explain what the Mormons believe using familiar scriptures from the Bible. This book would be useful in family home evenings, for Sunday school teachers, and just as a resource to use when non-LDS friends have questions. The book can be purchased here.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes

"As a public defender, Caitlin McLoughlin dreams of someday locking the bad guys in prison instead of defending them. But prosecuting jobs are scarce, and Caitlin’s future seems bleak. When her current client is about to walk away from a brutal crime, she risks her career to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone else. Yet what if her choice means sacrificing her career and the means care for her mentally disabled sister?

Then Caitlin meets Parker Hathaway, charged with kidnapping four-year-old Madeline. Just another criminal, another job, Caitlin thinks.

But Parker tells a far different story. Can Caitlin believe him, as her heart urges? Is she willing to put everything on the line to defend her client—a man who claims to be protecting the child he loves? Or is her trust better placed in the handsome deputy district attorney with his undefeated record in court? Caitlin’s pursuit of the truth swiftly thrusts her into a maze of unanswered questions and unexpected heartache.

Meanwhile, time is running out for Madeline. If Caitlin doesn't find the proof she is looking for soon, there may not be a future for any of them."

Inspired by real life stories, Rachel Ann Nunes new novel Saving Madeline takes us inside the legal system and the lives of Madeline and her parents through the eyes of Caitlin, a public defender.

From Rachel: "Several years ago, shock radiated throughout Utah when an infant was found dead after ingesting meth she had found in a plastic bag on the floor of her home. What made this tragic circumstance even more notable and horrific is that weeks earlier her father had forcibly taken her across state lines, hoping to protect her from her mother’s substance abuse.

Authorities found the child, placed her back with her mother, and sent the father to jail for assault and burglary. A little over a week later, the baby was dead and the mother was charged with desecration of a dead body for moving her daughter to cover up the mother’s drug abuse.

All charges against the father were eventually dropped. Sadly, this is not the only story of a child becoming the victim of a parent’s drug use. In my research, I found many more instances, some of which I’ve written under the Author Comments for the book on my website at http://rachelannnunes.com/. Though these true-life experiences do not appear in my book, the events inspired me to explore what might have happened in a similar instance. Questions I asked myself include, "Can the ends justify the means in some circumstances?" and "How far would a parent go to save a child they love?"

It was an interesting look at how the legal system doesn't always know what's best and how the choices of parents so seriously affect children. There were several ethical and moral questions raised in the story, and in the end it left me wondering what I would do if faced with similar choices. The characters were well rounded and each of them struggled with their own demons. Of course, the romance in the story was well written and I kept wondering how Caitlin would finally find love with all the other things she was trying to balance.

I recommend this book and know it will have me thinking for a long time. For more information go to Rachel's website. The book will be released mid-September.

If you want to win a copy of this book, comment on this post. Rachel will put all commenter's names into a draw to win a copy of Saving Madeline at the end of this blog tour.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Writer Appreciation Week

Agent Nathan Bransford has proclaimed this Writer Appreciation Week. What a wonderful idea! I like to email or write an author when I really love their work and I encourage you to do the same.

There are so many ways you can do this. Every author has a blog, facebook page, twitter account, or website. You could also leave comments on review sites and amazon. Find a youtube video about their book and comment. Another way is to buy a new book. Authors only make money when the books sell. Share the love and let the authors know just how much you appreciate all the blood, sweat and tears they put into their work. Writers deal with so much rejection, they need the positive once in awhile.

So take a moment, read a book, make an author's day. . .it's just that easy!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Too Soon Gone

It seems far too early this year. Here it is the third day of school and I still feel like I got cheated out of summer. I've already paid for two sets of school pictures to be taken and ordered a new band instrument for the youngest daughter (trombone - who'd have guessed?). My canning supplies are still in the kitchen waiting for the next batch of fruit to come and the last few days have been the hottest of the summer. Of course the pool is closed now since all the life guards have returned to school. That's okay though. Who has time to swim now that it's homework season again.

My oldest daughter started grade eleven and is going to try keeping her job at the theatre throughout the school year. I've always insisted that my children have early bed times which gradually get later as the kids get older, so working late on a school night might be a real trial for her. But if she can pull it off, she'll learn valuable time management skills especially since she'll have to work her way through university. This year is going to go too fast and, as she keeps reminding me, next summer we get to start shopping for grad dresses. I'm trying not to think about it.

My son started grade ten and officially entered high school. This is the kid who has had 100% attendance for five years now and is shooting for six. This is also the kid who hardly ever brings home homework. Tonight he brought home some math. I think he'll find high school to be more challenging than what he's used to. I'm glad. He needs it. He's counting down the days until he turns 16 (although that is still over six months away.) He's sure he'll start asking girls out right away and we're sure he'll turn out just like every other guy in town. Only time will tell. (Is it legal to lock them up until their brains become unscrambled?)

Then there is the youngest. She's finally in grade six. She's been looking forward to this for three years now. The school is part of a pilot project where every student in grade six "owns" a laptop for the year. They use it for many of their assignments at school and get to bring it home with them. I'm trying to smile about that, but the injustice of my 12 year old getting a laptop of her own, while mine rests in computer heaven just makes me want to cry. Okay, that might be a little over the top, but still. . .

Even though all this is a constant reminder that the winter snows will be upon us before we're ready, I have to admit I'm looking forward to the change in the seasons. It's one reason I choose to live where I do. I can only take so much warm weather before I start craving a mug of hot chocolate and a good snowstorm. My mind has started to think about the holidays coming up - what sort of pie will I make for Thanksgiving this year, what Halloween costumes will the kids want, and Christmas lists? (Santa really is going to get started earlier this year.) My two critique groups will start up again and I begin the job hunt in earnest.

Summer went too fast and winter will probably do the same, but the return to routines is welcome and the cooler weather will be a nice change. I suppose it's about capturing the joy of every moment before it fades into memory, since the memories are all that's left when the moments fade away.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce dePastina

“Clothilde.”
He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem: her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol de Calendri. Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri is directed by her late brother’s will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator’s shop—until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guilt he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife’s shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri’s face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston’s past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king’s sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman’s shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston’s soul and make his heart beat for her alone?

This story is filled with rich characters and setting. As Tristan learns to cope with his anger and his guilt, the depth of his personality shines through. Siri was likeable and I found myself rooting for her. What really impressed me was the complexity of the plot and how there would always be one more twist even when I Thought everything had been figured out. Sometimes I did feel like the two characters took too long to resolve some of their issues, but still, I couldn't put the book down. If you love clean romance with lots of excitement read this book. Check out Joyce's blog and the Walnut Springs Press site.

You can get a copy of the book here or here. There is a contest with this blog tour as well. I realized that the email about the contest came while I was on vacation without my laptop, so I'm a bit late posting it. Comment on this review or the review on any of these other blogs for the chance to win a copy of Joyce's book. Good luck!

August 10
Mormon Hermit Mom's Book Habit
August 11
Amesbury Reads
August 12
Heather Justesen
August 13
Rachelle's Writing Spot
August 14
Cami's Books
and
Fit Mommas
August 17
Jewel's World
August 18
Of Writerly Things
August 19
Frespa Fan
August 20
Of Good Report
August 21
Rachel Rager
August 24
Boojoos and Aprilcots
August 25
Musings from an LDS Writing Mom
August 26
Queen of the Clan
August 27
Write Bravely
August 28
Dreams of Quill and Ink
August 31
Tristi Pinkston
September 1
Vicissitudes
September 2
Tangeled Words and Dreams
September 3
Random-ish by Nichole
and
LDSwritersBlogck
September 4
SeriouslyŠ
and
latterdayauthors
September 7
Lu Ann's Book Review
September 9
Reading for Sanity
September 10
Taffy's Candy
September 11
The Write Blocks
September 14
Why Not? Because I Said So
and
LDSWomensBookReview
September 15
Ink Splasher
September 16
Reviews by Jaimey
Romance Old School
September 17
Blog the Day Away
September 18
Walnut Springs Press

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Another Milestone

Last Tuesday was one of those days this mother has dreaded and looked forward to all at the same time - my oldest daughter got her driver's licence.

Just before school got out for the summer she got a job at a movie theatre in the city. Her other options were limited since our little town has emplyment opportunities for very few youth. But this job meant a 30 minute drive there and back every time she had a shift.

So I've spent my summer driving her to work, then hanging out at my mother-in-law's and then driving her home again. I've enjoyed the relaxing evenings away from home but it has really cut into my summer plans and time with the rest of the family.

As with most teenagers, she got her licence and then immedietly thought she should be able to drive everywhere. I let her drive a few places around town just so she could get used to being in the vehicle by herself, butI still drove her to work a few more times so she could get some more practice night driving. Friday evening was the real test. Rick was camping with the scouts and I didn't feel like going to town another time. So I surrendered my keys to her along with a few words about safety and then let her go. I think I held my breath for the next six hours thinking about my baby, my sixteen-year-old, sweet, innocent girl out late at night on the dark highway by herself.

She did well and I hope the next time it will be a little easier to let her go. I don't think the worry ever goes away though, and I wonder how often my mother worries about me. Maybe I should ask her. . .

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Good Morning

My dad and step-mom took my husband and me to see a theatre production of Singin' in the Rain tonight. It was thoroughly enjoyable. The man playing Cosmo Brown stole the show and had the whole audience in stitches. As I watched the show I got to thinking about how music from the movies and from musicals has influenced my life.

Whenever I'm a little down, or a little bored an old musical is bound to cheer me up. All of my children have learned to enjoy the old movies and will curl up with me to watch them. My oldest daughter loves to listen to Broadway soundtracks and sings along at the top of her lungs - a habit she picked up from me I'm afraid.

Somewhere along the line I began singing the song "Good Morning" to my children when I wake them up in the morning. I watched the movie Singin' in the Rain with my kids last week and when this song came on, my youngest daughter looked at me in surprise. "You didn't make that song up!" Nope. But I'll keep singing it. And since I am once again blogging in the almost morning hours I've decided to share it with you. Not me singing, but the amazing Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Conner. Enjoy!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction by Laura Berman Fortgang

Laura Berman Fortgang has written a timely book that I enjoyed reading. She discuss the process of making life changes and finding the life you really want in a concise way that has inspired me to take a new look at my own life. Using the same methods that have worked for hundreds of clients, she helps the reader take a step by step approach to discovering what is missing in your life and then what steps to take to realize your dreams. I read the book quickly for this review, but I'm starting it over again and following the steps she outlines. The following article by Fortgang summarizes some of the ideas in the book. Enjoy.

10 Tips to Creating a New Life Direction
By Laura Berman Fortgang,
Author of Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction

1. Make a list of all you can't stand about work/life
Those who are really stuck may complain that they don't know what they want. Not true. Make a list of all you do not want or like about your current situation and you will find on the flip side, something you DO want! Write it down.

2. Recognize that ALL change (good or bad) means loss
The 'evil' we know is sometimes less scary than the 'evil' we don't know. It is normal to be afraid to make a change because of what you stand to lose. However, the only way is forward, so you might as well accept whatever perceived loss of status, money or identity and realize that more happiness awaits. In fact, if everyone else is telling you you are crazy for making a change, you are on the right track!

3. Reframe 'I can't!' to 'I can!'
"I'm not good enough." "I'm too old." "I'm not qualified." NOT TRUE! Look for examples in your life, your surroundings, in the media or in books of people who have done things against the odds and use those examples as symbols of what's possible for you. Change your vocabulary and watch your results change.

4. Understand how the past got you stuck today
Many of us make vows when we are young that get us stuck as adults. "I'll never be like my parents!" "I won't be poor!" "I'll show them!" Whatever it is, the motivation you chose at some early point worked but is no longer working now. Determine what your old motivation for your life was, decide if it still serves you and if not, CHANGE it. Fast!

5. Realize that discovering your 'purpose' does not have to be hard or grand
Many people, when searching for direction in their life may also be putting their life's purpose into question. Most make the mistake of thinking they have to have a Mother Teresa-level of purpose to rate. It's just not true and that likely keeps you stuck or suffering. Who you are everyday and what you do naturally (whether it fits your job description or not) is your purpose. How you affect others positively is your purpose. What you contribute that is uniquely you is your purpose. It's right under your nose. Recognize it and try to make it central to whatever you do next.

6. Gain a criteria for happiness
Most people know they are not satisfied but really lack clear criteria for what will make them happy. Humans feel satisfied when their needs are met and they don't have to compromise their values. Write down what you truly need (emotionally, not financially) and value. Do you need stability? Honesty? Recognition? Do you value spirituality? Adventure? Education? These are not optional. Get purposeful about getting these things in your life and new directions become clear.

7. Research ALL that interests you
List all fields, jobs, careers, or areas of interest. Choose no more than three at a time to research. Besides the internet, try to talk to people who will let you have an informational interview or give you the real scoop on the areas you are interested in. A process of elimination will begin and one particular area may get traction through luck and coincidence that starts to feel like the front-runner.

8. Tell the truth about your money life
Money is usually the first thing that stops people from pursuing what they truly want. Don't let it stop you. Get straight with your money. Even if it's painful to see, know what you have and don't. Don't let it stop you. Moonlight, borrow or barter to move toward your new direction.

9. Put Yourself in Opportunity's Way
It's time to push the envelope. Take risks, get out of your comfort zone and get out there. See opportunity where it is -- everywhere -- and don't be shy about asking for favors or things that seem pushy. There are great rewards out there when you put yourself on the line.

10.Create a Plan and Get Support
Make a timeline for how you are going to cross over into something new. It usually takes 1-3 years to fully transition into a new direction. Don't fret. Make a monthly plan and get plenty of cheerleaders around you. No naysayers! Hire a coach or get a group of like minded folks around you and you will be settled in a new, satisfying direction before you know it.

And note: Unbearable situations seem more bearable when you know you are on your way out. Hang in there!

©2009 Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction

Author Bio

Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction, is a pioneer in the life-coaching profession. A renowned speaker and the president and owner of InterCoach, Inc., a full-service life-coaching business that works with individuals, small businesses, and corporations, she is also the author of The Little Book on Meaning, Living Your Best Life and Take Yourself to the Top. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

You can find the book here.

For more information please visit http://www.nowwhatcoaching.com


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Am I Not a Man: The Dred Scott Story

Utah State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s ground-breaking new novel, “Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story” is now available for preorder at a reduced price.
An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.

You can order your sale-priced, signed and numbered limited edition copy of “Am I Not a Man” by visiting http://www.valorpublishinggroup.com before Labor Day. There are only 5,000 copies of this special edition being printed and once they’re gone, they’re gone … and the sale price ends on Labor Day. You can request that Mark personalize your inscription, and your book will be mailed to you before the stores even get their copies. For more information, visit http://www.valorpublishinggroup.com

Friday, 31 July 2009

Just a Few Things...

No I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, but I certainly have been neglecting my blogs. I can't believe our summer is half over. My brain is starting to contemplate school shopping and looking for a new job in the fall. But there is still some summer left to enjoy, so I better not get ahead of myself.

Last weekend was my 20 year high school reunion. Everything went well and everyone had a great time. Since I had spent so much time and effort planning it, I was just glad to see it over. We had dinner Friday night for the adults, breakfast Saturday morning for families and then we rode the float in the Magrath parade. It was quite hot, but the guys I graduated with made sure we girls didn't suffer and doused all of us in water at the end of the parade. After the initial shock, it felt good. Fun times.

My computer is still sick and we found out today it is the motherboard. Not a cheap fix like we hoped. I was hoping to have it fixed to take with me to Idaho this weekend so I could work on submitting again.

Wednesday I received another email rejection. Even though I think I should get used to it, each one throws me for a loop. So I need to work up another submission package for Double Deceit and also a new package for Finding Rose. I'll probably end up sending them out about the same time. Then more waiting.

Without my laptop working, I'll need to come up with a whole new plan for my Idaho trip. We are taking my oldest daughter to Rexburg for EFY and then the rest of the family will hang out with my sister all week. Anyone have anything interesting we just have to see in the Idaho Falls area?

That's what I've been up to. Maybe I'll get to a computer in the next week, but I'm not counting on it. Meanwhile, I'll travel the old fashioned way with pens and paper.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Odds and Ends

This post should have been written a few weeks ago telling everyone that I would be participating in Tristi's July challenge. Let's just say that hasn't worked out. I should know that taking on something like that in July is just asking for trouble.

I really was gearing up to start a new book and have it mostly finished by the end of the month, then the laptop died. Can I just say I've really discovered just how addicted I am to that little machine? I use it for everything. I let the battery run down and when I plugged it in to recharge, there was nothing. No power coming from the cord. Nothing. Thinking it was a faulty cord, since I'd already had trouble with it, we ordered a new one. That didn't work. My husband removed the hard drive and I was able to take all my writing files and transfer them to the family computer. (Yes, I do back things up, but this was the easiest way to get all of them quickly.) So here I am going on three weeks without my most valuable tool. It's driving me crazy. Meanwhile, I'm typing away on the sluggish family computer and wondering how Charles Dickens and Jane Austen managed to write as much as they did with just a paper, pen and poor lighting. Guess I don't have it so rough.

Right around the time of my laptop's illness, I took a in wedding dress to do some alterations. Gorgeous dress, nightmare alterations. The skirt is a cloud of vertical flounces. Not your standard hemming job and then she wanted it taken in about four sizes. This is one time I was glad a girl had picked a dress with no sleeves. Tomorrow I'll finish rebeading some spots on the bodice and hem the lining. Then I can happily send it on its way.

It took me long time to get to the dress because my sewing room was invaded by teenagers. My daughter and her friends were frantically sewing to get their costumes ready for Zion's Camp (pioneer trek). They each made bonnets, bloomers and dresses for the four day experience. I was amazed at my daughter's sewing ability. She still has a lot to learn, but I thought she could do little more than the occasional pair of pajama pants. With very little help, she made a dress, and helped her friends with their sewing projects. I was glad they needed so little guidance from me. She and my son had a wonderful time at Zion's camp and are still talking about it. I almost wish I could have gone.

It feels like summer has just gotten going and I keep trying to get in the swing of things. But just yesterday I realized that my 20 year class reunion is next weekend and then summer will be half over. I still can't figure out how I ended up in charge of that event, but I have a ton to do in the next eight days. There are several people I've managed to pull in and they are a great help, but I keep feeling like I have to hold everything together and make it a memorable weekend. Should be fun. We've been reliving the '80's at my house. I'm loving some of the great music. My kids can't wait to have 'normal' music back in the cd player. I just laugh. Someday they will be old too.

So with all that, I'm bowing out of Tristi's challenge this month. But don't give up on me Tristi. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler


"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Okay."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in ZanzibarBay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer. -(from the book cover)

Sarh Ockler has a beautiful writing style that drew me in from the first page. She drew believable characters and threw them into a situation where they each had to experience grief in their own way. I especially liked Anna who grieved for Matt, but didn't feel like she was allowed to express her grief. The emoptions in the book were well expressed and really pull the reader into the story.

My enchantment with the book started fading when Frankie comes up with the challenge of finding 20 boys over the summer. It seems innocent enough until Frankie starts referring to Anna's virginity as something that is holding her back from enjoying life. The rest of the book seems to focus a lot on this, and as well written as it was, I couldn't imagine recommending it to my teenage daughters.

What I found most disturbing was how lightly the whole subject was treated. As the girls sneak out of the house at night and Anna spends intimate time with her summer boyfriend (nothing graphic), I kept waiting for some sort of consequences. But there was nothing. Anna even says, "Somewhere beneath my newly tanned skin I know I should wait, that it should be special, that it should be with someone I can wake up with in the morning, tomorrow and always." These girls go through their summer lying to their parents and worse, even watching their friendship fall apart, and yet at the end of the book, all this is put behind them, the parents never find out, and the friends come back together as if nothing ever happened.

This book did reaffirm my belief that I need to read everything my kids read so I will know the kinds of things the world is preaching to them, and help them pick appropriate literature. I'm still a firm believer that a great book can be written for teenagers without having to bring sex into the picture. Even though I enjoyed the writing style and to some degree, liked the characters, I won't be recommending this book to anyone still in high school or younger.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Never a Dull Moment

This spring began with an exciting and inspirational trip to the LDStorymakers conference in Utah. I've gone three years now and I'm already looking forward to the next one. It can never come fast enough.

Then there was highland dancing. It started out with competition in May, where my daughter won the aggregate trophy for her competition level. Then there were two recitals. I love highland dancing and I'm looking forward to the Highland games in August where she'll compete. Bagpipes rock!

I also spent time helping my daughter with her first date. It's a sad commentary on our society when a girl's first date has to be one she plans. It was the Sadie Hawkins dance and she asked one of her best guy friends. This is his answer on the road in front of our house. This work of art took him about an hour after the sun went down. She was pretty impressed. I worked with her to plan a barbecue for her, her friends, and their dates. It was a great evening and they all had a great time.
Then we had soccer season. I think I only missed one of my son's games. Soccer definitely gets more exciting as the kids get older. Gone are the days when they sat in a corner of the field picking dandelions. Now they really get out there and work. Makes for an entertaining evening.
The ballet program was a new thing for us. There was a small recital last year, but this year was a full production in a real theatre. I was informed the dressing rooms even had lights around the mirrors. I'm not that knowledgeable about ballet, but I love how the lessons have made my daughter more graceful and aware of how she moves. The important thing is that she loves it, which is good. I can't imagine having to drag her to all the extra practices and photo sessions if she hated it.

My oldest daughter got a job in the city, which means I drive her in when she has to work until she gets her driver's licence. I hope that happens soon, but until then, I spend more time on the road than I used to. I'm going to start hanging out at the library or my MIL's house and do some writing while I wait for her shift to end.

Now I'm busy working on 22 costumes for a pioneer trek my kids are going on. The stake is planning several small vignettes the kids will stop to watch as they are on the trail. I have a work meeting planned for Thursday night, so hopefully we can get the majority of them finished then. After that, I have to sew pioneer clothing for my daughter to wear on the trek.

And then there is still the class reunion. Don't even ask how that is going. Everyone seems excited to come, but aren't really available to help. We all keep so busy these days, no one has a spare minute anywhere. Somehow it all comes together in the end. If anyone has any great ideas for reunion entertainment or games, I'd love to hear them.

So that has been the last few months at my house. I haven't done much writing, although I did finish editing a manuscript and submitted it, and I'm almost ready to submit a second one to a different publishing house. I've also done a lot of thinking about my newest character (a lot of plotting can be done while watching a soccer game). I think I've almost got her story figured out, now I just have to figure out where it begins. Once I get the time to actually do some real writing, the story will just flow. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston


"Shannon Tanner has it all a perfect family, a perfect job, and a perfect boyfriend. Or so she thinks. What Shannon doesn t know is that her boyfriend, Mark, is stealing money from her father and making millions doing it. When Shannon learns Mark s secret, he turns on her, and Shannon s life abruptly goes from perfect to perilous.

"In an effort to protect Shannon, the FBI assigns their only female agent to go undercover as her personal bodyguard. But when the agent is injured the day before the assignment, they turn to the next best thing: their top agent, Rick Holden in a dress.

"Life seems safe again for Shannon with Rick by her side and Mark apparently gone for good. Then Shannon gets word that her best friend has been kidnapped, and it becomes clear that Mark isn t going to stop any time soon. Shannon realizes the only way to save herself and her friend and stop Mark once and for all is by sending Rick, her only source of protection, away. Can Rick save Shannon before it s too late?" (from the back cover)

This book is a real departure from Tristi's other historical novels, but an exciting departure. Since we know who the bad guy is right from the beginning of the book, the suspense lies in figuring out what he will do next and how he'll do it. Unlike many supsense novels, this one had a nice touch of humor which I enjoyed.

My only complaint was the length. It was over too fast. I wish there had been more development of Shannon and Rick's relationship.

I'm hoping Tristi will continue to write suspense as I did enjoy Agents in Old Lace and will recommend it to my friends. It is a quick but fun read. Be sure to add it to your summer reading list.

You can read more about Tristi here or follow her blog here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Missing Pieces

Tonight was another meeting of my critique group. At our last meeting I read the beginning of a novel I had written some time ago. I loved the character in the story and liked the way the chapter progressed, but I didn't know where to take it from there. We did a lot of brainstorming and it got my mind going. Even with two weeks to work on it, I approached tonight's meeting with nothing.

The plot is still in pieces in my head. I've finally figured out all the angles of the back story and almost want to write that instead, but the real story is something else. My notebook is being filled with ideas and jotted down snippets. I love the character and am starting to get the vision of how her adventure will play out, but there are still some missing elements I need to work on.

Since I needed something to read I pulled out a short story I had been revising. It is completely different than anything else I've ever read to them. Their reaction left me a little baffled. The piece is a short-short story I originally wrote for a contest. It's about a funeral and is a little dark and uncomfortable. After I finished reading, there was complete silence at the table for several minutes. Of course, I began thinking they all hated it so much they didn't know how to break it to me gently.

I think what really happened is the subject of death was approached in such a manner as to make them all think about funerals they had been to, loved ones they've lost and the emotions that accompany those events. Once they started critiquing it, they consensus seemed to be that the piece was well written. The purpose of the piece was to make readers feel the emotion and in that, I think it was successful.

That's what writing is supposed to do. Reader's need to get caught up in the story and feel the emotion of the characters. They need to care about what happens and be able to relate it somehow to an experience or emotion they understand.

I think that is the problem I'm having with the other novel I'm working on. I haven't found the driving feeling in the story -- that element that makes a reader want to read just one more page. Once I get that figured out, the writing will flow. I can't wait.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Easterfield Give-Away

Anne Bradshaw has a book give-away on her blog. Author Anna Jones Buttimore will send one lucky person a copy of her book Easterfield.

"Easterfield is a historical romance set in Lancashire, England in 1850 and tells of the challenges that come into the life of a well-to-do family when they encounter one of the first LDS missionaries. Anna has an Honors Degree in English literature, and the story was inspired by her love of Jane Austen’s novels, as well as the work of the Bronte sisters and WM Thackeray, and her realization that these classic works were set around the time the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored. What, she wondered, would happen if an LDS element were introduced? Easterfield is the answer."

Visit Anne's blog for details of the contest. You have until Wednesday to enter.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Superior Scribbler Award

Even though it took me forever to get this up, I really was excited to receive this award from Michelle. Thank you for the compliment. You made my day.

Now to give it away again. . .
Amanda - who doesn't post nearly as often as I'd like, but whenever she does, it always brings a smile to my day.
Josi - who inspires me and encourages me.
Ali - cuz Ali's just awesome and a fellow Canadian!
Jenna - she says it like it is and says it so well.
Jordan - my newest friend from the LDStorymakers conference and a grammar genius.

Please read below to see how to claim your prize:

Of course, as with every Bloggy Award, there are A Few Rules. They are, forthwith:

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Eight is Great

Ali tagged me and I decided to play along. So here are the rules:
  • mention the person who tagged you. (Hi Ali!)
  • complete the list of eights
  • tag 8 other bloggers
  • tell them they have been tagged
Eight things I look forward to:
  1. School getting out for summer. One more month to go.
  2. My twenty year class reunion in July.
  3. Publishing my first book.
  4. Spending a week with my sister in August.
  5. School starting again in the fall (summer can only go so long).
  6. Going to bed tonight. It's been a long week.
  7. Reading all the books on my summer reading list.
  8. Teaching my youngest daughter to sew. (It's way overdue.)
Eight things I did yesterday:
  1. Subbed at the school.
  2. Had a meeting with my youth writing group.
  3. Practiced a song that I get to sing in church tomorrow.
  4. Put together a craft for the primary activity.
  5. Prepared food for a barbeque.
  6. Did the dishes (sure wish I could get the dishwasher fixed.)
  7. Hosted a barbeque for my oldest daughter and a bunch of her friends.
  8. Chaperoned the high school Sadie Hawkins dance.
Eight things I wish I could do:
  1. Exercise and love it.
  2. Travel the world.
  3. Find the time to devote to all my hobbies.
  4. Hire a gardener.
  5. Highland dance.
  6. Speak french.
  7. Knit
  8. Remember names better.
Eight television shows I watch:
  1. Survivor
  2. American Idol
  3. Criminal Minds
  4. the news. . . that's about it. We have peasant vision, so our selection is limited and there really is so little worth watching anyway.
  5. If I did have more selection, I'd watch What Not to Wear
  6. and any of the home decorating/renovating shows.
  7. and some of the sewing shows. So it's probably good I can't get those, or I'd spend a lot of time with the tv on.
I can't come up with eight people, but I will tag Sheila, Christy, Amanda, Melissa, and anyone else who wants to play.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Don't Forget Your Sunscreen

We have been having a run of track meets to attend over the last week. Last Thursday, my son participated in the junior high meet while my older daughter got to skip out of her classes and be the score keeper.

I've been preaching the benefits of sunscreen to these kids since they were old enough to talk but do you think either of them remembered? Both came home resembling lobsters. My son has very sensitive skin and by the time school ended, he had a horrific sunburn on his face and arms and his nose was one big blister. I'd go into details, but I won't. Let's just say it was gross. With numerous applications of aloe, lavender water, and cider vinegar his nose healed quickly and seems to be almost back to normal. (The vinegar was NOT on his nose. I can only imagine vinegar on a blister would add insult to injury.) But I don't even want to think about the permanent damage to his skin from his yearly sunburns.

My oldest daughter also came home with her fair share. She got the same first aid treatment, but her biggest problem was her feet. She couldn't wear anything more than flip-flops for a few days as her toes and the top of her feet were red and swollen. To top it off, she 'forgot' to drink enough water all day. So by the time she finished helping out at the track meet and then performing in a highland dance recital that evening, she was suffering a mild case of heat exhaustion.

Today, my youngest daughter had her track meet. I asked her several times this morning if she had remembered her sunscreen. She assured me she had and told me she didn't want to have the same problems as her siblings. Well, she did remember. Except for the back of her legs and her shoulder/collarbone area. At least she has a much darker complexion than the other two. The red will fade to the beginnings of her deep summer tan by Friday. Still, how many times must I tell them to wear sunscreen? Will they never learn?

We also had a bit of a scare at the track meet today. I was watching the youngest do her high jump event when another parent came to get me and told me my daughter had collapsed. I ran over to the track to find her laying on the ground surrounded by teachers. They said they weren't sure what happened, but she had passed out. Long story short, we ended up at the clinic so the doctor could make sure everything was okay, and after a shot in the stomach and an afternoon in bed, she seems back to normal. I'm not good with this kind of thing though. When I'm supposed to be tough and take care of the situation, I'm fighting back tears. I hate seeing my babies in pain. I guess it's a learning, growing experience for all of us.

Meanwhile, the meets are over. We'll file the memories away and pull them out next year, a little fuzzy around the edges. The sunburns won't seem as bad, and we'll look forward to another day enjoying the sun. And no - they'll probably never learn.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Nothing Like a Good Book

As I've mentioned in previous posts, this spring has been hectic. I always know life has gotten away from me when I don't take the time to read. During the first part of the year I read most of the Whitneys and cast my vote, but other than that, my library card has been sadly unused. The stack of books I brought home from the LDStorymakers conference still sits untouched. (Except for the books I brought my kids - they were promptly devoured and then added to my pile.)

After I sent off the manuscript yesterday, my brain felt fried and I found myself a little at lose ends. Not to say there weren't things waiting for some attention. The sewing room has countless projects waiting for some attention, there is always cleaning to do, correspondence to catch up on, and a 20 year reunion to finish planning. But there wasn't anything with a real deadline attached.

So I read a book - from start to finish. Then I started a second one. I'm looking forward to this summer when I won't be working at the school and I won't be babysitting. I will be working my way through the massive pile of books I want to read. And the great thing about reading - I feel more relaxed and better able to cope with the things life throws at me. Perhaps best of all, I can feel the creative juices start to flow again. I think there's a story just dying to get out. I'll let you know when I find it.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Stay Tuned

The writing conference is over. The grad dresses are finished and have been proudly displayed for the world to see. The ballet tutus are sewn and were turned in on Friday. Best of all, my manuscript edits are complete and I sent it off today. I even managed to get some weeding done in the flower garden. So with all the big things off my plate, I may actually get back to some regular blogging. Stay tuned. . .

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

My Group

Living in Canada is great. I love my home. But there are times I wished I lived in Utah just to be closer to the LDS writing community. I've even had a few people tell me that an LDS writer living outside of Utah shouldn't even bother. I didn't really believe them, but at times it was terribly lonely. Especially when I heard stories about other writing groups, retreats, and conferences that I just can't get to.

Critique groups are such an important part of a writer's life. It took me a long time to admit I was a writer and a long time to try to organize something, but I finally did it and it's been worth it. The group is only four months old but energetic and committed. We are all still learning how to give a good critique. The variety of writing styles is interesting and I look forward to hearing more from them every time we meet.

We have one new writer who just wanted to try writing. She'd been bitten by the bug and the few pieces of her work she's read have such a unique voice. She's quite excited about the whole thing and is eager to learn all we can teach her.

Another member has been working on a book, but had not been convinced to show it to anyone. I think this was a case of "be careful who you tell you're writing a book". She told a friend, who then told me. I called this girl and convinced her to join us. She's been a great addition and is much more talented than she'll admit.

A third member hasn't read anything to us yet. She's been busy researching, but has promised that next week she'll have something ready. She's got great energy and great ideas.

We also added a new person a few weeks ago. At first I thought she was overwhelmed by us, but she keeps coming back and says she is learning a lot.

Then there is my sister-in-law. When my brother married her, I didn't know she wrote. What a pleasant surprise. She's been my writing buddy for several years, and my partner at the LDStorymakers conference. ( I sure missed her this year.) I don't know what I'd do without her support. I love her writing style and can't wait to see where her current story goes.

So there's my group. In January, I'd just about given up. My ad had no responses and I thought maybe my SIL and I really were the only writers around. I'm thankful for the writing friends I found right here at home. We are even talking about planning a retreat next year for ourselves and two other Canadian writers we know of. And just wait. One by one we are going to burst into the published book world and prove that good LDS writers can live in Canada.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Finding Grace by Donna VanLiere

When I was asked to review Donna VanLiere's new book, I eagerly agreed. Finding Grace is her memoir, detailing the discovery of grace in her life. Like all children, she had hopes and dreams. The world spread out before her, promising great things. But the wonderful future disappeared when a neighbor boy molested her as a young child. Like many victims, she blamed herself and kept her secret for many years. As her dreams were denied she questioned why God would do this to her.

Through a painful struggle with infertility, Donna discovered grace in her life. She explains her discovery that God denies some of our dreams because He has better things in store for us. Even though it may seem He has abandoned us, in reality, He sees the bigger picture and knows each one of us personally and will guide our lives in directions we never thought possible if we just let Him.

I thoroughly enjoyed Finding Grace. Donna's writing is warm and inviting. She tells her experiences with tact and humour, and with this telling, invites each of us to recognize the hand of God in our own lives. This book is an uplifting reminder that it is possible to put pain behind us and move forward with hope.

Donna VanLiere is the author of The Christmas Hope series and The Angels of Morgan Hill. I recommend all of her books. You can read more about Donna VanLiere at www.donnavanliere.com

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Susan Boyle's Gift

I'd like to share an article with you written by Donna VanLiere, author of Finding Grace. Enjoy. I'll be reviewing the book tomorrow.

Susan Boyle's Gift
By Donna VanLiere,
Author of Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way in Life . . . And Finding It Again

I am one of the nearly forty-nine million You Tube viewers who have watched Susan Boyle, the unemployed cat owner from Scotland, blow away the audience of Britain's Got Talent.

Before she takes the stage we learn that Boyle is 47, never married, never kissed, spends her days with Pebbles the cat, and by eye-balling her: frizzy graying hair, eyebrows like caterpillars, ill-fitting dress, gray pantyhose and open-toed cream colored shoes, we assume she's not a beauty pageant winner. The audience and judges size her up, too. When she says her age judge Simon Cowell responds with an exaggerated eyeball roll and fellow judge Piers Morgan, a former tabloid newspaper editor, furrows his brow (clearly this ancient dame is wasting his time). Amanda Holden, the third judge, is a beautiful English actress with a body and face that no matter how good your self-image is -- if you stand next to her in line at the coffee shop -- you instantly feel bloated and troll-like. Cutaway shots to the audience show young people snickering and looking at Boyle as if she forgot her mop backstage.

"Okay," Cowell says. "What's the dream?" This is what it all boils to, really. The dream. The hope.

"I'm trying to be a professional singer," Boyle says. (Insert shot of young girl reacting as if saying, "Yeah, right. And I want to be Amanda Holden.")

When she says she'd like to be as successful as English musical theater legend Elaine Page, the cynicism in the room is as thick as Boyle's eyebrows. If Boyle detects any of the sarcasm, unbelief, or disdain she never lets on. She announces her song choice from Les Miserables and Morgan laughs.

Boyle signals for the song to begin and holds onto her mic like a child at her first school program. Then . . . she opens her mouth and when she does the audience erupts in cheers and applause. Simon Cowell's eyes widen, Amanda Holden's mouth drops open and Piers Morgan, who just seconds ago laughed at her, now smiles and applauds. Again, if Boyle is aware of the cheers, ovations and wild applause she doesn't let on. In moments, the lovely Holden is on her feet aiming her applause directly at Boyle. Two women are facing each other: one is the epitome of success, loveliness and grace and the other has been accustomed to taking a backseat to the likes of Holden . . . but not now. The beauty is honoring the wallflower.

As the final notes fade, the entire audience along with Morgan and Holden are on their feet (Cowell remains seated in case you're wondering); Boyle blows a kiss to the crowd and begins to trudge off stage. The judges urge her back and the two hosts in the wings direct her to stay put. She has no idea what she has just accomplished or the effect she's had on this once judgmental audience. The judges assess what they've just heard. "Amazing. I'm reeling," Morgan says.

But there is no greater compliment than that from Holden. "I just want to say that it was a complete privilege listening to that," she says. Boyle wasn't what she appeared to be; she was more.

In Finding Grace (St. Martin's Press) I relate the story of sitting in math class with my friend Peggy. Our seats were located in front of four of the princesses of the school. They were so beautiful, charming and trendy wearing their Izod alligator polo shirts and crisp khaki pants. Peggy and I wore Toughskin corduroys (Their slogan was, "The toughest of Sears tough jeans . . . lab tests prove it!"), sported either a bad perm or an uneven haircut and never made anybody's cool list. Susan Boyle would have been our friend.

Our math teacher was a man with a red face. It wasn't sunburn or even a healthy glow; it was just red . . . all the time. Mr. Teacher Man seemed to be on the backside of his teaching career. Not because he was old but because he seemed to hate the job, or maybe he just disliked Peg and me. I don't know. As Peggy and I went to the chalkboard one day I knocked the eraser to the floor. We both bent for it and clunked our heads together. The class laughed but Mr. Teacher Man did not. We were wasting his time.

In the days following a school assembly was called. A special speaker was coming to entertain the student body. Peg and I threw our books in our lockers and made our way to the gymnasium. There were prime seats down front. We crossed the gym and climbed up two bleachers for our perfect spot when we heard him. "Those aren't available." We turned to see Mr. Teacher Man whose eyes were scanning the gym floor. I didn't think he wasn't talking to us and moved toward the seats again. "Those seats are taken, girls."

By that time every good bleacher was filled and we trekked up to the top row. I sat down and was positioning myself behind Ralphie the teenage giant boy when I noticed the four princesses sit in "our" seats down below. It turns out that Mr. Teacher Man was right. The best seats were unavailable . . . to us. Those seats were special and for special girls. We could make do somewhere else.

Strange how people color the way we feel about ourselves. Somewhere along the way sociologists termed that as the looking glass self: we begin to perceive ourselves as those around us see us. You're a good student but not as good as your sister. You're a great athlete but not nearly as strong as your brother. You're thin but just not thin enough for the job. You're too fat for the job. You're a good mom but have you seen her remarkable home and kids? You're too old and frumpy to sing. Countless books, magazine articles, and television shows are dedicated to helping us be better in every way so we can finally reach those coveted best seats.

But to love and accept someone despite their flaws and failures is a gift of grace in a cynical and hypercritical world where our own panel of judges smirk and snicker and whisper catty comments. Grace says, "Okay, what's the dream?" without passing judgment or rolling the eyes. It sees beyond the frizzy hair and frumpy dress to the heart of the singer, or mother, or twice-divorced waitress. Grace stands up and says, "It is a privilege to know you." Grace realizes there's more than what meets the eye and is the most life-altering gift we can give to one another.

I have a feeling that Susan Boyle knows that.

©2009 Donna VanLiere, author of Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way in Life . . . And Finding It Again

Author Bio
Donna Vanliere, author of Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way in Life . . . And Finding It Again, is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children.

For more information please visit http://www.donnavanliere.com

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