Wednesday, May 20, 2015

REVIEWERS AND READERS

I've blogged about reviews before, but I'm doing it again. Some people say they never read reviews. That's unfortunate because reviews serve several useful purposes. They're a means of discovering what is new in the book market. They save money by giving readers a glimpse of both the subject matter and the quality of a book so people can make an informed decision concerning purchasing the book. They alert readers to a favorite author's newest release, they serve as a heads up concerning objectionable language, the presence of explicit sex or violence, and alert buyers to the general price of the book and sometimes to where the book can be purchased and in which formats it's available. 

Reviews are generally written with readers in mind, but authors can benefit from thoughtful reviews as well. A review will usually point out areas where the novel excels and in which areas it could be improved. 

Many readers like to share their enjoyment of a book on sites such as face book, Amazon or their own blogs. This is great and a benefit to both readers and writers. Unfortunately there are trolls writing reviews as well as legitimate readers and reviewers. These people get some kind of sick pleasure out of trashing books or poking fun of them. On the other hand I know a reviewer who gives every book five stars and a glowing review no matter what, which isn't helpful either. 

Here are a few suggestions for readers reading reviews. First, be aware of the difference between reviewers who write for a legitimate publication and those who just slap comments on a social page. Professional reviewers may not be as kind as your mom, but will usually give a pretty fair idea of what to expect from a book you may be considering.  Keep a list of bloggers, social page writers, and friends you can depend on to give honest critiques of the books they read. Ignore the rest. 

And here's a little advice for writers. Don't argue with a review. No matter how awful and unfair you feel a review may be it's best to ignore a bad review except to use it to improve the next book if any of the criticism is valid. It's okay to use positive reviews to promote your book, but be sure to credit the review author and the publication. Don't assume your book didn't get reviewed because the reviewer didn't like it. Reviewers receive huge numbers of books and there are many reasons for not reviewing a particular  one; such as already reviewed book or books on that topic recently, reviewed too many books by that particular author in too short a time, doesn't fit the particular publication's policy criteria, etc. 

For nearly fourteen years I've been reviewing adult level LDS novels for Meridian Magazine, a job I love. From a personal point of view, I find LDS authors are getting better and better and I thoroughly enjoy reading most of the books sent to me for consideration. There are some books, even though written by an LDS author, I don't review such as horror, occult, sexually explicit, profanity laced, or books critical of LDS doctrine. I also don't review children's or young adult novels. I do review books from established LDS presses, new publishers, national press, and self publishers in paper format or kindle e-reader format. Both marketing managers and authors are welcome to send books to me for possible review. (Contact me by instant messenger to get my mailing address.)   

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Not "Where's Waldo?" but "Where's Lynn?"

That's a legitimate question since I have missed my last two times blogging. Where have I been? All across America and with family! My first missed deadline we were entertaining hubby's sister and her husband from Idaho for a few days. It always amazes me that having company for only a few days can so totally disrupt the daily schedule it takes over a week to catch up on everything!

Then I did something I've never done before. One of my granddaughters was graduating from Southern Utah University the 1st of May and her family is living in South Carolina. This daughter, Nikki, simply cannot fly - motion sickness you wouldn't believe and anxiety attacks as soon as she enters the cabin. So she flew her husband and younger two daughters to Utah from South Carolina and decided to drive across country herself. I have another daughter in Louisiana Nikki asked to go with her, but wasn't sure it was actually going to happen, so she asked if I'd like to fly out and drive back West with her. This was a unique opportunity to spend one on one time with a daughter that is always hugely busy with her family and usually across country somewhere so I jumped at the chance.

As it turned out, the Louisiana daughter, Lorraine, was able to make it, so I was blessed to cross America with two daughters that I normally don't get to spend a lot of time with.

But we had a series of small miracles before we ever reached Louisiana that were incredibly testimony strengthening. Nikki and I left South Carolina Sunday afternoon after their church and choir practice and drove 5 hours to Montgomery, Alabama. The next morning I spelled her at driving and was three hours into our second day on the road when the engine warning light came on. She grabbed the manual and read a couple of minor things it could be so we decide to continue. We'd been traveling through rural parts of Alabama with only very small towns, but as the problems began, we entered Mobile, Alabama - the largest city we'd seen since leaving Montgomery at 6:00 a.m. Miracle #1.

We passed the first exit planning to continue our drive when the engine suddenly chuged and I immediately pulled off at the second exit to find a service station. Nothing in site - we are in an industrial area. I drove slowly around the block while the car is chugging. I pulled into a parking lot and we checked the two things the manual suggested. Neither is the problem. Nikki located an auto parts store on her smart phone just a block away - but it is up a hill and the car won't go up that hill.

Miracle #2: Let me set the scene for you: We pulled onto a four lane road with lots of traffic. There is a median all along the highway except for the very place we pulled onto the road. The light behind us turned red and the light on the other side of the road was also red so we were able to quickly abort the planned uphill climb and coast across all four lanes of traffic and down into a little area with a faded auto shop sign. It turned out that was closed but a German auto shop was there. However, their German instruments would not read her car's information.

Miracle #3: The man points across the street where we've just come from. Back there, around a corner is an auto shop and he says the man there can probably help us.

Miracle #4: The car actually makes it up the incline back onto the four lane road and traffic is once again stopped both directions so we are able to cross all lanes and make it the one short block to the auto shop. The very nice man hooks up his computer to the engine and reports that spark plugs 1 and 4 are not firing. He can fix it - and he can have us on the road in about 2 hours if he can get the parts.

Nikki and I walked a way down the street to a Waffle House and had brunch. In the meantime, we are messaging with Lorraine in Louisiana. There is a tropical storm with torrential rains and thunder and lightning and high winds that have downed trees on the interstate as well as all over the area. We are preparing to drive right into it. Of course, we are praying like crazy for the car to be fixed and the weather to be tempered. We don't have days or even hours to delay this trip as we need to be in Utah Thursday at noon.

Miracle #5: When we return to the auto shop, the very nice man has shelved all his other work, put aside all his customers that are waiting and has fixed our car - six new spark plugs, a coil, and only charged us $300. There were little cards all over his walls thanking him for being so honest and helpful to many travelers in need. We added to that collection!!!

Miracle #6: While we had been riding out the rain storm in Mobile and waiting for the car to be fixed, the storm in Louisiana blew itself out and all we encountered in the next few hours were drenching rains that could be handled at 35 miles per hour. (Oh, that we had some of that moisture in California!!)

The remainder of our trip was uneventful but very pleasant as we continued on to St. George for the graduation. We enjoyed celebrating Rachel's summa cum laude laurels with family and friends. My husband drove from California and met us there and friends and relatives from Las Vegas (where Nikki and her family had lived for four years previously) came to celebrate with us.

Saturday night Glenn and I drove north to Highland and stayed with his sister and her husband and visited into the night. Sunday morning I met with my three sisters and their husbands and we spent the day catching up. One sister came from Michigan and the other two are from Idaho. It was the only time we could get together this year so we used every minute to enjoy each other.

Monday morning we all met again for breakfast at Kneaders - we don't have them in California!:(  One sister and her husband attended the Payson Temple Open House with us and Glenn's sister and some of her family. What an exquisitely beautiful temple. Glenn's parents and grandparents were from Payson area so it was a special time for us.

Then without changing clothes or stopping for anything, we headed back to California. This Gramma had babysitting to do beginning Tuesday so we made the journey as quickly as possible. Thank heaven for all the heavenly help and miracles we received along the way - and thank heaven for family! We treasure those special times we can be together, and it's amazing that the sacrifices of time and money and effort just fade into the background when we can be with those we love.

And that's where Lynn has been!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Seeking Light in the Darkness




I apologize once again for missing my usual day to blog. We were in attendance yesterday at a funeral for a loved one. These events are never easy things—hearts are tender, and grief descends. Even so, there is always hope. I will strive to explain why in today’s attempt at a blog post:

Years ago during my high school days, I was part of an advanced English class. We all thought the world of our teacher, a rather tall man who taught us the importance of imagery in compositions. For several weeks, we studied poetry, and how to interpret the meaning behind complicated words. One day, our teacher shared a dark poem about death. Since most of his classes were upbeat and filled with humor, this was a very different experience. After he recited this very dark poem that spoke volumes about hopelessness, he told us how it felt to stare down into the small grave for his young daughter, knowing there was nothing more—in his opinion, it all ended with the last breath of life.

Our hearts felt shredded on his behalf as he tearfully shared the greatest heartache of his mortal journey. I remember sitting there, feeling so torn. I had only recently gained a testimony about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is filled with light and hope. Having lost a handful of loved ones myself by this point in time, my heart yearned to share the knowledge I had fought hard to gain about the reality of eternal life. I knew this life wasn’t the end. That witness burned within, and yet I felt so inadequate to share what I was beginning to understand. I left class that day feeling sad and conflicted. 

In time, death would strike our family again with my father's tragic suicide. I was 22 years old when this event occurred and the heartache was so intense, it nearly consumed me. I found myself bombarded with dark messages of doubt and fear. One person told me how sad it was that I would never see my father again since he would be residing in hell for his actions. Though I tried to consider the source of this negative information, it still plagued my tender heart. All of the “What ifs” descended and I fought daily to work through a pain I still can’t put into words.

Eventually, with God’s help, I sorted through the mixed messages, and I came to realize that hope is a very real thing. To find it, I discovered it was crucial to cling to prayer, scripture study, and doing acts of service for others to survive. Each time I did something for someone else, it chipped away at the pain I carried in my heart. Studying the scriptures helped me comprehend the purpose of mortal life and it strengthened my testimony. Daily prayer filled my heart with peace, something I desperately needed. 

I learned, again, that true peace comes from the knowledge that this life is not the end, nor was it the beginning. It is all explained in the plan of happiness known also as the plan of salvation—doctrine given to us by a loving Father in heaven, who knew we would need this information to survive the trials of mortal life.(See 2 Nephi 9:13) In a nutshell: we lived before this life as the spirit sons and daughters of God. We desired to be more like Him and a plan was formed that would provide this opportunity. It was explained that we would be sent to a mortal world where we would receive a body to house our spirit. It would be up to us to decide how we would live, and tests would surface that would challenge and strengthen us. Through these trials, we would grow and prove our willingness to obey our Father in heaven. 
(See: Abraham 3:24-25. Also: D. & C. 121:7-9; &; D. & C. 122:5, 7-9).

Since none of us are perfect, mistakes would occur, and an atonement would be provided by our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. If we sincerely repented, His sacrifice would atone for our sins. (See: Alma 11:40) And because Jesus broke the bands of death ( See Alma 7:11-12, also: Mosiah 15:7-9) we would all live again. Eternal life is indeed the greatest of all gifts bestowed upon us by our Savior, and our Father in heaven. To quote a favorite passage of scripture: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) 

This life is not the end, and because of that fact, there is always hope. “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal . . .” (Moroni 7:41)

The choices we make in this world matter—but all things will be taken into consideration and thank heavens, we are not the ones to judge each other concerning our state in the eternal realm. “ . . . for the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
 (1 Sam. 16:7)

So we live each day as best we can, doing as much good as we possibly can, knowing that in the end, we all possess the potential to become as our Heavenly Father, and that we can see our loved ones again who have passed on before us. It hinges on what we do with this mortal life we’ve been given. There are difficult trials, but we’re never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Clinging to hope when all seems lost is one of the most difficult things we will do—and also one of the most important.

I read a passage of scripture earlier this morning that pretty well sums things up: “Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me, your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life . . . And all they who have mourned shall be comforted . . . Therefore, let your hearts be comforted . . . for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.” (D. & C. 101:36-38; 14, 16)

And that, I suppose is the message I'm trying to share--on difficult days we must hope for better times, knowing we are always watched over by a loving Father in heaven who understands the entire picture, even if we do not. We must place our hand inside of His and trust that eventually, all will be well, whether it's on this side, or the other side of the veil that separates mortal life from eternity.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

CHANGE OF PACE TIME

Sometimes when life is at its most hectic there are moments of sudden humor. These moments give us a chance to catch our breaths, ease tension, and restore balance. Such a moment occurred this morning.

From the kitchen window I spotted an argument between a magpie and a dove. Just as their disagreement was heating up and turning physical, a robin zeroed in on the pair like a flying missile. Both the magpie and the dove lost no time deciding there was someplace else they needed to be. 

Early in my writing career, both a teacher and a published author gave me the same advice. They said when one scene after another is filled with suspense and tension, the grand finale will have a bigger impact if there is a tension breaker that allows the reader to laugh or at least be mildly distracted before hitting him/her with the big super crisis.  

I woke up this morning feeling like I've reached that brief change-of-direction moment in my writer life.  I have a full length novel, recently submitted to my publisher, and I just finished a novella and sent it to beta readers. While I wait to hear if the novel is accepted and wait for my beta readers to return my novella for whatever repairs it needs, I'm at that change of pace moment. 

Once I would have immediately started another story, but with two manuscripts in the works, I think I need a break. I promised myself that when I reached this point I'd clean my carpets. Last week's mud storm has left me with windows in need of a good washing. My garden needs some serious work and I have a Relief Society lesson to prepare. Today I don't want to do any of those things.  

I feel a bit like my granddaughter after her brother's soccer game a few days ago.  When the game ended she gathered up her little folding chair and her blanket and started to walk with my husband and me instead of her mother. We were parked at opposite sides of the soccer field. "Where are you going?" her mother asked her.

"To Papa's house."

"You need to go home and have dinner."

"Grandma has popsicles." She stepped closer to me.  

Ah! That's what I need, something different and fun before plunging into edits and rewrites.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Let It Go"


I'm later writing this blog post than normal. I usually strive to compose these items in the morning when I'm freshest and tend to do my best writing. However, today has been a busy one and this is the first chance I've had to grab my laptop. =)

That being said, I'm actually grateful for some insights I've gained today. It's a theory I've pondered before, but today I saw a few more examples of what keeps seeping inside my little grey cells.

Have you ever thought about how often we're told about the importance of forgiving and letting go of hurtful things? It's an item mentioned repeatedly in the scriptures, and by mental health experts, doctors, scientists, etc. and so forth. We're told that forgiving others benefits us the most--that very often, those who have hurt us in whatever manner either don't care about what they've done or said, or they have already forgotten about what has taken place. They have moved on--leaving us behind to stew and agonize over whatever it was that happened.

Here's my theory: I suspect that part of why we're told to let go of things--to forgive others and move on, is so that we don't become miserable, bitter, and consumed by the past. Today I had a birds' eye view of people who are still so angry over past wounds that they can't see the beauty of the day. They are melancholy, disconsolate, and at times, angry. Their focus becomes centered on themselves, their pain, and they lash out at those around them, unaware of how unbalanced they've become.

It was frightening, today, especially in the case of one individual who followed me through a care center, sharing items from their past that I really didn't enjoy hearing. I had come to provide entertainment, and left feeling slightly shaken by what I had observed.

Bottom line, no one is perfect. We are all hurt in some way by others, either intentionally, or unintentionally. I'm just grateful that we don't have to judge--though we often do. ;) Someday, all things will be sorted out. Those who weren't in their right minds when trespasses occurred will be made whole. Those who were wounded as a result will be healed. But I suspect that our frame of mind will determine how happy we'll be both on this side, or the other side of the veil.

The happiest people I have ever known are those who constantly look for the good, and who try to keep things positive. Despite heartaches and hardships, they push on to help other people, and in serving others, they find the peace of heart they are seeking.

My maternal grandfather was a wonderful example of this. He suffered through numerous trials that included the death of his father while he was in the 8th grade, the tragic death of his own, 7-year-old son years later in a freak accident, not to mention a horrible car accident where he and my grandmother were seriously hurt by a drunk driver. Despite all of that, my grandfather loved life. He loved to laugh and he looked for the good in people, instead of dwelling on the bad. He reached out to others and he was always willing to lend a hand when there was a need.

He loved spending time with children, and some of my fondest memories are of the adventures we enjoyed  while fishing with our grandfather, or "helping" him with varied chores on his dairy farm. He was never too busy to spend time teaching us fun card games and always made us feel like we were important.

Though we were saddened when he passed from this mortal realm, I'll never forget the feeling of joy that was present during his funeral--it was more like a graduation ceremony. My grandfather left us quite a legacy to maintain. It has become one of my goals to emulate his example. I don't always succeed, but it's something I continuously strive to accomplish.

So here's my challenge today--stop dwelling on past wounds. Find a way to work through whatever has happened, and begin looking for the good things that still exist. On days when you're hurting, do something for someone else. Don't fall into the trap of focusing only on your pain--it will come back to haunt you. I suspect that if we don't take of things before our declining years, those negative emotions will eventually tear us apart.

To borrow from one of my favorite scriptures: " . . . all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things . . . and men are that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:24-25)

And to once again utilize a favorite quote: "Keep your face toward the sunshine and all shadows fall behind."
(Helen Keller)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

NOT MY BEST DAY


This has been a day of small annoyances. Ever have one of those days? Nothing big, just a series of minor irritations. I could blame it on my blood glucose numbers which have been a little out of whack for a week or so--probably because of Easter plus my sweet tooth. I could blame it on not getting enough sleep the last couple of nights. Or it could be, some days I just feel grumpy. 

To start things off this morning I discovered I made a stupid error in my column on Meridian and my editor didn't catch it. I changed the title of one of the books I reviewed from Until Murder Do Us Part to Until Death Do Us Part. I went grocery shopping and the store didn't have the brands I wanted of a couple of items. My computer wouldn't save my WIP to my backup drive, so I had to e-mail it to myself to be certain I have a back-up. Late in the afternoon I decided I needed a break from writing (it wasn't going well). I accidently paid a bill twice a couple of months ago and the store sent me a refund check. Since I needed a new pair of jeans, I decided to use the check to buy the jeans, assuming that since the check came from that store it would be accepted there.  Besides I have almost enough points at that store to pay for the jeans. I figured wrong. Not only did they inform me I would have to take the check to my bank to cash it, but they couldn't even look up my points. It seems that store requires customers to print off their account data showing points from their home computers or use a smart phone to access the points at the store. I bought the jeans anyway, but resent having to make another trip to my bank to cash the check.

After all that, I was late starting dinner.  Half way through preparations I realized I was fixing both rice and potatoes. Maybe I should just go to bed. Surely I can't mess that up.

Monday, April 6, 2015

What is Really Worthwhile?

I'm slowly getting through all my accumulated "Worthwhile Thoughts" files. I've had this one for at least twenty years and possibly longer, but it is definitely a keeper.This was condensed from a tiny volume written in the 1890's by Anna Robertson Brown entitled What is Worth While? which went into 73 printings, stayed in print for 67 years (at the time I copied it) and was translated into Japanese. I love it! She says:

"Only one life to live! How do we make the most of it? How can we accomplish the most with the energies and powers at our command? What is worth while? What is vital? What may we profitably let go? We may let go all things which we may not carry into eternal life!" (What wisdom!)

"With this as a golden yardstick, we can measure our values and establish our rules. If we don't want to cumber our lives, there are four things we can do:

1. DROP PRETENSE! "Eternity is not for shams!"

2. DROP WORRY!  "Worry is a spiritual nearsightedness, a fumbling way of looking at 'little'         things and of magnifying their value."

3. LET GO OF DISCONTENT! "Make a heroic life out of whatever is set before us."

4. LET GO OF SELF-SEEKING! "In the eternal life, there is no greed. One hears of neither 'mine' nor 'thine'. All things are for all."

What are the things in life that we should keep, guard, use? Eight values can enhance one's life:

1. BE WISE IN THE USE OF TIME. The question of life is not "How much time have we?" The question is "What shall we do with it?"

2. VALUE WORK. But not any kind of work. Ask yourself: Is the work vital, strengthening my own character, or inspiring others, or helping the world?

3. SEEK HAPPINESS EACH DAY. If you are not happy today, you will never be happy! Strive to be patient, unselfish, purposeful, strong, eager and work mightily! If you do these things with a grateful heart, you will be happy - at least as happy as it is given man to be on earth.

4.  CHERISH LOVE. True love never nags, it trusts. Love does not have to be tethered, either in time or eternity.

5.  KEEP AMBITION IN CHECK. There is the great danger of substituting intellectual ambition for ordinary human affections. Let us keep it in bounds; let us see to it that it holds a just proportion in our lives.

6. EMBRACE FRIENDSHIP. It takes a great soul to be a true friend. One must forgive much, forget much, forbear much.

7. DO NOT FEAR SORROW. Disappointment in life is inevitable. Pain is the common lot. Sorrow is not given to us alone that we may mourn. It is given us that, having felt, suffered, wept, we may be able to understand, love, bless.

8. CHERISH FAITH. Strong, serene, unquenchable faith in the loving kindness of God will enable us to look fearlessly toward the end of the temporal existence and the beginning of the eternal and will make it possible for us to live our lives effective, grandly!"

Definitely wise words to live by. And I feel a kinship to her - I love her exclamation points! Now I have to do a little investigation into this wise woman who really did determine what is really worthwhile.