Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CRAZY


 

This month has been crazy.  There have been five family birthdays, a funeral, a wedding, a lesson to teach, and all the usual trivia of life. Plus I serve at the Oquirrh Mountain temple on Wednesdays, write a review column every other week, got my taxes ready, just sent off one book to my publisher, and I'm about a third of the way through a novella. 

My husband's sister passed away earlier this month after a series of strokes.  The funeral was in Sandy, but she was buried in Lorenzo, Idaho.  For those who never heard of Lorenzo, it's between Idaho Falls and Rexburg. It was great to see so much family, but sad to bid farewell in this life to a dear sister. Those of us who made the trek from Utah to Idaho for the burial stayed overnight in Idaho Falls where we had a spectacular view of the Snake River and the Idaho Falls temple. 

The following weekend we traveled to a different part of Idaho to my niece's wedding in the Twin Falls temple.  It was a beautiful occasion and the bride was gorgeous. Again we enjoyed visiting with family, but it was certainly a happier occasion.  We stayed with my brother and his daughter in the country.  From his windows we saw plenty of cows, a rock-chuck, pheasants, and mules. It was kind of sad to see a lone daffodil blooming beside the rubble that was once my parents' house next door.
 
 
 
On the way to my brother's house we stopped in Twin Falls where two of my high school friends met me for lunch. It was the first time the three of us had been together since high school which was a long time ago.  One other friend had planned to meet us, but had the wrong date and missed our
reunion. 


I discovered it's a real challenge to keep my blood sugar level steady while traveling and eating out. Not only is it hard to count carbs, but eating at irregular times creates problems too. 

And the month isn't over.  There are still two birthdays and a play.  Our oldest granddaughter has a part in her school's musical and we don't want to miss it. I wonder if April will be any better.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Words to live by!

I'm cleaning out files and drawers and cubby holes where I have stashed stuff for "later" when I have time to do something with it. It is too good to toss, but what do I do with it until I know what to do with it?  For example, I'm holding a yellowed newspaper clipping with a picture of a bespectacled older man in a jaunty hat with what is probably a colored ribbon band. He has signed the piece in a steady, readable script. This is what it says:

 "I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon if I can. I seek opportunity - not security. I will refuse to be a kept citizen, to be humbled and dulled by having my state and nation look after me. I want to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed - never to be numbered among those weak and timid souls who have known neither victory or defeat. I know that happiness can come only from the inside through hard constructive work and sincere positive thinking. I know that I can get a measure of inner satisfaction from any job if I intelligently plan and courageously execute it. I know that, if I put forth every iota of strength that I possess - physical, mental, spiritual - toward the accomplishment of a worthwhile task ere I fall exhausted by the wayside, the Unseen Hand will reach out and pull me through. Yes, I want to live dangerously, plan by procedures on the basis of calculated risks, to resolve the problems of everyday living into a measure of inner peace. I know if I know how to do all this, I will know how to live and, if I know how to live, I will know how to die."
Signed by H. B. Zachry

I'd like to meet this man but he has probably been dead for many years since I've had the clipping for at least twenty years. I love his message. Still don't know what to do with the clipping! So I'll tuck it back in the file with a beautiful page of Inspirations from Norman Vincent Peale and uplifting quotes by the prophets and others until I need it for a lesson or talk. In the meantime, my files are expanding, not diminishing, but I have been given food for thought. I hope you have.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

ENOUGH OR TOO MUCH

Life is a lot like scrambled eggs or this winter's weather.  Here in the west we've had a few snow storms, but nothing like the East coast has seen and not enough to ensure next summer's water supply.  Daffodils and crocuses are blooming.  I've seen a few robins, but the weatherman keeps assuring viewers we have more snow coming. My husband has been trimming roses, building tomato cages, and clearing leaves out of the flower beds, but keeping the snow blower easily accessible.
 
A dear sister-in-law died this week and we have a niece whose wedding we'll attend next week. A nephew was a top scorer on an academic placement exam last week and a niece was the top scorer for her ice hockey team that finished second in state. 
 
Most people's lives are a series of contrasts, surprises, and unexpected jolts.  As writers struggle to make their stories realistic they walk a fine line between creating the unexpected and sticking to the main focus of the story.  Too many of life's intrusions and coincidences turn a story into a chaotic, confusing mess.  Not enough, makes the story incomplete and unbelievable. The perfect blend makes a story both memorable and enjoyable. 
 
A well placed element of the story which leads the reader to a wrong conclusion is called a red herring.  Even a red herring, however, must add to the story in a realistic way and enlarge the general picture the hero/heroine faces, though it doesn't lead to the solution to the mystery.
 
Life might be a bit boring if it flowed smoothly according to plan at all times. Books are like that too. As a reviewer for Meridian Magazine, I read a lot of books, and have been particularly aware lately of authors who achieve a nice balance in providing contrasts and enough day-to-day interference with their characters' objectives to feel realistic.  I've also read way too many that detail every second of the character's life and wander around in pointless trivia. Someone told me she skips over at least half of what she sees posted on Face Book.  May I suggest that if you'd skip over it on Face Book, don't put it in your novel?

* * *

As a side note, please check out my reviews of four military and war books on Meridian

Monday, March 2, 2015

Stress Release

Once again I am sitting down to the computer, contemplating the blank screen. Yes . . . it's my turn to compose yet another blog post. ;) Usually the ideas just pop inside my empty head and I do my best to translate them into written word. Today I'm staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike.

That's the way it seems to be for most writers. Some days it seems like you can't type fast enough to keep up with the silent muse that eggs us on. Other days you sit staring at the blank screen and scratch your head. Or read through what you've already written and cut it to shreds, certain it is the worst thing that anyone has ever written. ;)

For me, writing has always been a release . . . a way to work through things that are bothering me. It's how I started, actually. After my father's death, on the nights I couldn't sleep, I wrote out everything I was feeling. Then I shredded every page. I didn't know it, but this was a healthy way to work through a very traumatic loss. Not long after that experience, I began writing a story about a young woman who was trying to come to terms with her father's death. I changed a lot of the details, but it was still my story. When it was finished, I remember feeling tremendous peace inside, and a sense of accomplishment. Then my husband read through it and he challenged me to send it off to a publishing company.

That proved to be a scary time. I'll never forget how I felt after I left my "baby" (the manuscript) at the post office. I wanted to dive back into the mail bin to retrieve it and take it home where it could be safe. Instead, I nervously waited 6 months for my first rejection letter. But by then, I had already started the second manuscript, and after pouting for a week or two, I continued to finish my second tome. I shelved the first one, certain there was something terribly wrong with it, since it had received a rejection letter. It would take me a while to learn that getting published is often a combination of meeting up with the right publishing company with the right idea, at the right time. No big deal. ;D

It would take me 8 years to get my first book published. I have an entire scrapbook filled with rejection letters. I titled it: "Opinions of Silly People." ;) Actually, they were my incentive to work on improving my writing skills.

For me, writing is still something I do from time to time (when I can find the time) and I'm currently working on a new manuscript that is pretty fun to write. We'll see what happens. For now, it's a great way to escape from the daily worries and responsibilities that fall to me. I have discovered that I feel better on the days that I write, so I've learned that this is one of my ways to release stress. That fact, alone, makes writing worthwhile.

I have several stress releases: photography, playing guitar, working in my gardens, going for a walk with a good friend, reading a good book . . . so on and so forth. I think these items are important to do on a regular basis. They help me stay balanced, and improve my mood if I'm having a less than stellar day.

So on those days when you're feeling bogged down, cling to the comfort of a good stress release. Since we're all unique, different things will appeal. For some it will be crafts, dancing, art . . . etc. and so forth. Find what makes you happy, and spend some time as often as you can, doing those things. I can promise that it will not only make you feel better about life, but it will also prove to be very enjoyable.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

With Fear and Trembling

Despite the problems some readers from the publisher found with Too Many Ghosts, I have had so many requests to please publish the story, that I am revisitng the manuscript. Despite, also, the fact that it must have been so terrible that no one on this list commented at all when I forwarded the manuscript last year. I made a lot of excuses, knowing that everyone is so busy, no one had time to read it, and no one wanted to hurt my feelings.

But making it a resolution/goal this year, I have given the manuscript to some local readers and asked for their opinions on what I can do to make the book better. Now I just have to get the courage to plunge into it myself. That is a daunting task for me as it was a very traumatic experience trying to work with the reader's comments like: "I don't like a book that doesn't have the same characters throughout. I like to read about the same characters through the whole book." Doesn't matter that this is a book about having to travel across the US searching for a lost fiancee and how people along the way help her out.

For two months I have procrastinated the dreaded task, but now I have to actually get into the manuscript and see if I can fix the problems. The next difficulty I am encountering is actually getting back into the writing mode when I have so enjoyed having that time to do other things! There wasn't enough time in my day to accomplish it all, so now I will have to be inventive to create writing time.

It's like vacuuming. I will put that off indefinitely and clean and polish and get everything else done until there is nothing left to do but vacuum, then I finally have to bite the bullet and do it! That is the point at which I find myself now. So in spite of everything, I will rework the dreadful manuscript and see if I can actually make something good come out of it. I loved the story! It was so fun to write and research. I hated taking out 100 pages, then still having to make changes.

Hopefully with all the different publishing venues, if I finally can make it a good read, I will then have a new adventure of figuring out what to do with it. That is another daunting task! I have really enjoyed my retirement, but I guess there are still more stories in me wanting to be told, so here I go! Wish me luck!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kindness Begins . . .


A gracious hello. It has been a while since I've composed a blog post. In my defense, I found myself blitzed by the flu in January. Evidently this year's flu shot was not quite on the mark. ;) And when one's body is rebellious anyway, little items like the flu take their toll.

This month has been a blur as I've tried to catch up on everything, now that I'm back among the living. In way of good news, the days when I felt less than well gave me time to think about a few things. Hence, today's blog post.

We live in a time unparalleled for technological gadgetry. Within minutes, sometimes seconds, we can communicate with those who live across the country or world. We've enjoyed being able to Skype with our grandkids, and other loved ones who live far away. It's still amazing to me that with a touch of a button, keyboard, etc. we can send instant e-mails to family members who are serving in the mission field around the world.

Most of us carry a cell phone around with us on our daily adventures, making it easy for others to contact us when the need arises. Back in the day when I did quite a few booksignings, I often traveled alone and my family felt better when they knew I had a way to call for help if something went wrong.

While I've appreciated the many ways we can keep in touch with each other, sometimes I wonder if the ease of communicating leads to some of the conflict we're seeing in our troubled world. Because we can send out messages at practically the speed of light, unfortunate communication often takes place. We type before we think. We post things on social media before we consider the consequences, or ponder how some items will affect others. Gone are the days when we sat quietly and thoughtfully pondered each word as we wrote letters on fancy stationery.

In our neck of the woods an ugly beast has arisen, known as cyber bullying. Bullying has always been a problem. Consider what Cain did to Able, for example. But now it has a sharper edge, causing untold grief. My heart goes out to kids who tolerate horrific mean acts at school . . . and there is no escape when they return home. I suspect that most of us at one time or another, have experienced a form of bullying. Years ago when I was going to school, the nice thing was that once you arrived home, you had reached a refuge from all of that. It gave you time to work through what had happened that day, and a chance to figure out a way to deal with it the next. Not anymore. Through the advent of technology, the nasty fingers of bullying reaches into our homes through the internet, or our cell phones. For some kids, the harrassment takes place 24\7. There is no escape--and in time they lose hope that it will ever get any better.

I find it interesting that while there are so many good things we can do with the technology we've been blessed with, like geneaology, e-books, research, and positive communication with loved ones as I've already mentioned, some are choosing to use it in a negative fashion, sharing inappropriate pictures online and on their phones, and mean-spirited messages that tear others apart. As always, the adversary has taken a good thing and added a very ugly twist.

And since we've become used to being mean to each other online or via our cell phones, now it's extending to every day life. We're becoming a generation who feels that everyone is entitled to our opinion, and we have little tolerance for those that we consider different. We are impatient, since we are used to instant results online--we expect that same rate of service when we venture into stores. Instead of being kind to those around us, we practially snarl our frustration when we have to wait behind someone else in the checkout line. And heaven help the poor clerk if mistakes are made.

A few years ago, one of our sons worked in a local grocery store. He came home exhausted each day, sharing some of the negative adventures he had endured compliments of disgruntled customers. It shocked me when he revealed that there was one customer in particular who had been so repeatedly rude to all of the store clerks, the ones who could, would hide until he\she had left the store. How sad is that?

The question that keeps going around in my addled head is this: why can't we just be nice to each other? Why can't we be appreciative of the blessings we enjoy in this marvelous age of technology and use these wonders for good things--not something destructive or nasty?

Once again a well-known scripture passage comes to mind. It was indeed written for our day:

" . . . charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth . . . Wherefore my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth . . . charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."
(Moroni 7:45-47)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's time to consider how we are treating each other. Are we patient? Are we kind? Do we repect others? Do we treat the people around us as we would want to be treated?

I know many of you are. I am constantly impressed by the good things that are taking place in our community, state, nation, and world. There are numerous good people, young and old, who are doing their best to emulate our Savior. A big gold star on all of your foreheads! Despite all of this, there is a need for improvement. When others are losing their desire to live because of how they are being treated, it's time to turn things around.

Smile at those around you. Offer a kind word or compliment to people who are doing their best. Refrain from being negative. Practice patience, especially when it's being tried. ;) Post uplifting thoughts and pictures. In short, do those things that will make this world a better place to live. 






Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Love Note

A Love Note

My blogs may be few and far between for awhile.  I'm trying to finish the book I'm working on and I've been asked to write a novella to be included in a compilation of three novellas.  My work in progress is a murder mystery.  I'm half way through the rewrite and hope to have it ready to send to beta readers in a week or so. The novella is supposed to be a romance and will be something new for me since I've never tackled a novella before. I haven't come up with a theme or subject yet.  Any suggestions?

In the meantime, here's this morning's Meridian column and a wish for a happy Valentine's Day to all my readers:

With Valentine’s Day this week it’s time to take a look at a few romantic stories. Love in LDS romances isn’t all hearts and flowers; it has more to do with commitment, respect, loyalty, sacrifice, and eternal values. Many Romances written by LDS authors are ridiculed because of their squeaky clean language and lack of sexual themes. In a world where erotica masquerades as love, pornography replaces respect, crudeness is substituted for tenderness, and commitment is scorned, many readers welcome the beauty of real love stories, stories that express the tender feelings of those who care enough for each other to share eternity, build a family together, and link their fate through whatever may befall one or both.
Romance is an element of almost all fiction. Even Western writer Louis L’Amour once said every book needs to have a woman. Some books such as Romantic Suspense put the emphasis on the suspense, but the romance is a strong secondary theme. The same is true of other sub or combined genres. With members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ emphasis on eternal marriage and forever families, it is only logical that many LDS writers turn to the emotions and circumstances that draw a man and a woman together to form this essential unit. Today’s reviews highlight several pioneer era novels written by LDS authors covering, different locations, and different circumstances leading to two people discovering the depth of their feelings for each other. They aren’t strictly Romances, but they are love stories.
Pioneering didn’t end with arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Many of those who reached Zion went on to face danger and trials as they were called to establish other communities throughout the West. More and more these pioneer stories are taking their place alongside the wagon trains and handcart marches of the first ten pioneer settlement years in the historical lore of the Saints. Only_the_BraveIn the style of The Work and the Glory series, Gerald Lund continues the saga of the San Juan pioneers he portrayed in The Undaunted, the story of the brave people who became known for their descent through the “hole in the rock.” Instead of continuing with the lives of the characters he created for that book, he moves the story four years ahead and to different families of characters. The major character becomes sixteen-year-old Mitch Westland and covers the next four years as he becomes a man facing Indians, outlaws, extreme weather, challenges to his faith, an unpredictable river, a lot of hard work, and falling in love.
Those first pioneers in the Southeastern corner of Utah in what is now referred to as “The Four Corners Region” were given three charges. They were to be buffers between the white settlers and the Native Americans, Shock Absorbers, softening the blows for those who were to come, and Lightning Rods, drawing the fires of heaven down upon themselves so the flames wouldn’t consume others. These charges and the turbulent changes and policies taking place in the 1880s both in the United States and in Utah made strong people stronger both physically and spiritually, turning boys like Mitch into unshakable men, and women like young Edna Zimmer into towers of strength.
Lund is as much historian as novelist. As in his earlier much loved series, each chapter ends with a section of footnotes detailing the sources used and the historical details of the real incidents he borrowed for his characters. He plans for this series to continue and merge with another new series called Fire and Steel. A long time educator, the former member of the Quorum of the Seventy (2002-2008) has devoted much of his life to studying the history and doctrine of the Church.
Betrayed_COVER
It’s 1851 in Niagara Falls, New York, when Julia Barrett receives a letter from her fiancĂ©, Adam Wolcott telling her that after being away for two years he is coming home. In spite of her older sister Margaret’s words of caution reminding her he didn’t write to her during most of that time, she is anxious to see him and make plans for their wedding. While waiting for Adam at the designated meeting place, she meets Tom Harrison, a magician who is also a friend of her brother, James, who went west with the Mormon pioneers. When Tom arrives at her family’s farm later that evening, it is to inform them of James’s tragic death.
The Barrett family’s life is turned upside down as they mourn James’s death. Their plans to go west to join others of their faith in the Salt Lake Valley are delayed by Julia’s determination to stay behind to marry Adam, the sudden arrival of a black man they must hide and send on to the next stop on the underground railroad, and the murder of a neighboring family by a notorious crime family. A seven-year-old child is the one unaccounted for member of the dead family and a massive hunt begins for her. Almost everyone is either searching for the black man or the missing child. Tom becomes involved when he volunteers to scatter bits of the black man’s shirt away from the Barrett house to throw the dogs off his trail. While on this errand he encounters an old Indian man carrying the missing child. The old man warns Tom the child is in danger and begs him to take her to the Barrett family to keep her safe from the people who murdered her family as they will stop at nothing to remove the only witness.
Julia is aware Adam is keeping secrets from her, but worries more about the secrets she is keeping from him. She wants to tell him about being part of the underground railroad and about the missing child, but her family make her promise not to tell him. She feels a strong connection to Tom, but blames him for her brother’s death because he didn’t follow a prompting that could have saved James’s life.
Julia grapples with her testimony, with her desire to believe all is the way she wants it to be, with premonitions, her love for a child who needs her, her desire to please others, and her ambivalent feelings for two men for whom she has strong feelings. She is a well-developed character with whom the reader can identify. Adam, too, is a character with whom the reader can identify, one who is liked for the good in him and mourned for his weaknesses. Tom’s past is only hinted at, but his strengths are demonstrated in his actions. Minor characters are individuals who add depth to the novel.
Several interesting dilemmas are introduced in addition to that of which man she should marry. How can a person tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and a desire? Is it better to obey the law or to protect a runaway black man from a vicious slave catcher? And there are others concerning race, loyalty, and promises.
Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen grew up in Idaho. She is married and the mother of three children. This is her third published novel.
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For many Pioneers conversion, sacrifice, and the journey to Zion began on another continent and those pioneers’ trials began long before they reached America’s shore. Along with the challenges of being pioneers, there was the problem of learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture. Life continued on with its usual challenges, including falling in love. Tina Peterson Scott recounts the journey of a seventeen-year-old girl, Catherine Erichsen, who leaves Denmark with the 1863 migration of Danish converts aboard the John J. Boyd in her riveting novel, Farewell My Denmark.
Catherine doesn’t expect to leave Denmark with her parents and younger sisters. She is in love and plans to marry and stay behind to care for an ailing aunt. When her engagement is broken just before the family plans to leave, she opts to leave too, but is devastated to learn her sister and closest friend in the world refuses to go. The sister is determined to stay with the elderly ill aunt and is confident the man who has been courting her will propose, giving her an added reason to stay behind. The journey to Copenhagen where they will board the ship is difficult and Catherine is uncertain she can go through with leaving her country or her sister. She prays another opportunity to marry will come her way.
Aboard the ship she draws the attention of three men, all with admirable qualities, though one is nearly as old as her father and a widower. The other two are brothers closer to her age. Lars is tall, blonde, outgoing, and everything she has always dreamed her future husband should be. Josef is quieter, has red hair, and has captivating green eyes.
It isn’t long before it becomes obvious there is a thief aboard the ship. Valuable jewelry and family heirlooms disappear. Catherine sees and hears enough to become suspicious of two crew members. Foolishly she attempts to search their quarters and is caught, but not before learning enough to place both her safety and that of her two youngest sisters in serious jeopardy.
This well-researched novel is a mixture of the recounting of an important historical event, a serious examination of both faith and prayer, and the natural longing of a young woman for someone to love and to be loved in return. The characters are believable with great family interaction. The author, a native of Arizona, is a direct descendant of Danish immigrants and her deep love for Scandinavia shines through in her portrayal of the land and the people.
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ONLY THE BRAVE by Gerald N. Lund, published by Deseret Book, 272 pages, hard cover $21.99, Also available on CD and for e-readers.
BETRAYED by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, published by Covenant Communications, 291 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers. 
FAREWELL MY DENMARK by Tina Peterson Scott, published by Foutz Fables and More, 285 pages, soft cover $13.23, e-reader $2.99.