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

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

Monday, 11 May 2009

At Least it's Spring

Spring has finally arrived (although my ears are still cold after watching my son play soccer tonight in the wind.) Along with spring there are the year-end recitals for dance and band, soccer season, and all the end of school activities. We always have to be somewhere and trying to balance the time between all the events takes careful planning and coordination.

On Saturday, my oldest daughter attended a highland dance competition. While I was in Utah at the writer's conference, she called and said she fell down some stairs and sprained her ankle -- two weeks before competition. After a week on crutches and a week of babying it she chose to dance anyway. As she danced, I held my breath every time she came down on her foot and was just glad she didn't injure it again. She placed in each of her four dances and won the aggregate trophy for her age category. She didn't respond when they first called her name because she didn't believe it or expect it. I guess that just goes to show that with a little determination and lots of training and hard work, anything is possible.

While the girls and I were at the competition, my husband and son attended a stake sponsored ham radio course. They both took their test and passed, so now I have two licensed amateur radio operators in the house. This is part of the effort our family is making to become more self-sufficient and prepared for emergencies. We are also hoping my son will find it fascinating and pick up a new hobby to replace some of his video game time.

Somewhere amid all the things my kids are doing, I need to finish editing my manuscript and send it off. I'm hoping to get that done this week, and then the waiting game begins again. At least it's spring. There is always somewhere to be and something to do, and on top of that, there is always another story building up in my head.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Tristi's Contest

Tristi Pinkston is holding a great contest to celebrate the release of her new book Agent in Old Lace. Because the book is a mystery, she is sending her readers on a scavenger hunt for clues to win the contest. The prizes are a copy of the book, a $25 gift card to Blockbuster, and three flavours of popcorn. It should be lots of fun. Go here to find out more.

Here's a brief summary of the book: "Shannon Tanner s perfect life is turned on end when she discovers her boyfriend, Mark, is not what he seems. Fearing for her safety, she enlists the FBI, who puts its best man on the job Rick Holden, who dons a dress and goes undercover as Shannon s roommate. For a while it seems that life is safe again, until Mark kidnaps Shannon s best friend. Shannon realizes the only way to save her friend and herself is to send Rick, her only protection, away. Agent in Old Lace is a thrilling combination of action, suspense, and romance that will keep you turning the pages until the end."

I'll be reviewing the book here on June 10th.

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Smell of Danger

We had a scary experience Saturday evening. My husband and I went out to dinner with my brother and his wife, leaving my youngest daughter babysitting my niece and nephew. My daughter is barely old enough to babysit, but does a great job and is very responsible.

We were gone about four hours and when we arrived home, the first thing I noticed as I opened the door was that she was doing my sister-in-law's dishes. The second thing I noticed as I stepped in the house was the intense odor of natural gas. We immediately began checking the furnace and the stove to see if the pilot lights had gone out and opened all the doors and windows.

The two kids were sleeping soundly in their beds, and my daughter didn't really notice the smell until we pointed it out to her. She had been standing next to the stove for some time and the room filled with gas so gradually, she wasn't aware of it. When the gas company finally arrived, he came to the conclusion that my two-year old nephew had been playing with the dials on the stove and turned the oven knob just far enough to open the gas valve, but not far enough to turn on the oven. My daughter had turned the dial to the off position earlier, but with all the doors and windows closed, the gas had nowhere to go. There's no telling how long the gas had been leaking into the room before she turned the dial off.

Here's the ironic thing. At school on Friday morning, the gas/electric company came to the school and put on a play about the dangers of electricity, carbon monoxide, and natural gas. The only problem is that our home has never had any sort of gas leak we have an electric stove. All the descriptions of the smell of sulfur or rotten eggs didn't do a bit of good when she had never smelled either one. She knew what to do in the case of a gas leak, but she didn't recognize the smell even when it surrounded her.

Everything turned out fine. The gas company checked out all the gas appliances, we aired out the house and it ended up being a great learning experience for my daughter. Unfortunately, she suffered from over-exposure to natural gas and spent the next four hours throwing up and had a bad headache all day Sunday. I'm sure she'll be aware of odd smells the next time she finds them. We are counting our blessings that things didn't turn out worse.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Summer Reading Thing 2009

LDS Publisher is hosting a Summer Reading Thing. Since I do so much reading in the summer I decided to take part. The rules are simple. You make a list of books to read during the summer - as many or as few as you want. They have to be by LDS authors. You also have to post at least one review on your blog. The rest of the rules can be found here.

This list is just the beginning. I'm sure I'll add to it as the summer progresses.

1. Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston
2. Lemon Tart by Josi Kilpack
3. The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum
4. The Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner
5. The Golden Verses by Barbara Miller
6. Recovering Charles by Jason F. Wright
7. Eyes of a Stranger by Rachel Ann Nunes
8. Princess at the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Friday, 1 May 2009

2008 Whitney Award Winners

I've been slow in posting the results of the Whitney Awards for 2008, but my sister reminded me that she always comes to my blog when she is looking for a good book to read, so here they are.

2008 Best Novel of the Year

2008 Best Novel by a New Author

2008 Best General Fiction

2008 Best Historical

2008 Best Speculative Fiction

2008 Best Youth Fiction

2008 Best Mystery/Suspense

2008 Best Romance

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