Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get Ready, Get Set, Nominate

The year is winding down and it's time for LDS fiction readers to give some thought to nominees for the annual Whitney Academy Awards. These honors are awarded in various categories, generally referred to as genres. Genre fiction and popular fiction are terms used interchangeably in discussions of literary works. They don't mean the exact same thing, but their definitions are close enough that I'm not going to quibble. For this discussion, either term will refer to the type of fiction purchased and read most frequently by readers, though literary fiction is not excluded.

I'm often asked to define what the various genre labels mean, and I'll be honest, defining categories of fiction is not as easy as it may sound. Many authors, teachers, librarians, and critics disagree on precise definitions, and for good reasons. What the reader brings to a book is often as critical as what the author put into it. Someone I admire greatly and I have often disagreed over the genre categories various books have been placed in for judging the Whitney Awards. She may see a story of historical significance while I recognize a beautiful love story as the paramount element of the story. I might call a story Young Adult and she sees it as General Fiction.

I'm pleased to hear that this year LDS novels may be entered in more than one genre for Whitney Academy judging. There have been several occasions where a truly excellent book has been a finalist or even won when it didn't come close to fitting the parameters of the category it was placed in and equally sad were the omissions of great books because, though some readers may have thought they were a particular genre, the judges did not. In my opinion there's nothing wrong with a title being recognized in more than one category. Hopefully this decision will make recognition of the truly best books more probable.

At one time the term LDS Fiction was considered a genre class of its own. Now LDS fiction is broken into as many categories as is main stream fiction. Here's a quick, though not definitive, rundown of the various genres.

Romance: This category includes love stories which may be humorous, historical, western, suspense, or mystery as well. Some readers lump all stories considered of particular interest to women in the romance category; others prefer a separate women's issues genre which includes social issues stories dealing with parenting, abuse, divorce, and other subjects generally discussed more openly by women than men. By the way, stories where sexual attraction is the major factor, more so than the actual relationship and emotions experienced by the lovers, is another genre, not romance.

Historical: These stories are set in a previous time period and are related to known facts of that era. They may or may not include historical figures. Unless the setting is historically accurate and the events of that period can be documented, novels in this category are generally considered more speculative than historical. Stories based on a verse of scripture or a little know scriptural character, particularly those from the Book of Mormon where little is known of day to day life and precise locations, sometimes fall into a strange limbo as the background and events are more guesswork than based on fact. Educated guesswork often places these novels in the historical realm, but whether they belong there is questioned by many historical readers. Historical accuracy is of prime importance to readers of this genre.

Mystery/Suspense: Sometimes Mystery and Suspense are lumped together as one genre though they are not precisely the same. A mystery includes a puzzle to be solved while suspense implies high tension and may not even involve solving some unknown question. Both have as many sub genres as writers are able to imagine. Many include a great love story. They can be set in any time period or place, real or imaginary.

Speculative: This category is loaded with sub genres. Some of the most popular are those that make a guess about the future, whether it is the Second Coming, near annihilation of our planet, or Space exploration. Some make educated guesses concerning a previous time period such as the Ice Age or a scriptural time period. Others deal with imaginary demons, monsters, special powers, mythical characters, or life on an alternative world. Horror, especially if imaginary creatures or pseudo science are involved, may fall in this category. Science Fiction and Fantasy are both generally included in speculative fiction.

Westerns: Westerns deal with the settlement of the Western United States. They are usually lighter than historicals dealing with this same time period. Horses and/or cattle usually appear prominently and there is a strong distinction between good and bad. Native Americans often play a role in this genre as do miners, guns, and wild animals native to the West.

Youth Fiction or YA: This category is broken down into all of the same genre classifications as adult fiction though the characters are younger, the language a little simpler, and the stories are of particular interest to a younger audience. There is usually a "coming of age" factor shown as the characters progress toward maturity. Once YA was considered pretty much aimed toward the high school/college age crowd, but now often includes the first post college years when young people first step into the real adult world. On the other hand, when I worked as a librarian, I found more and more books once considered middle readers, suitable for fifth through eighth graders, reclassified as YA.

General Fiction: This is a catchall category for books that don't fall into any other category well. These books range from social issues, explorations of philosophies, to a blurring of several other categories. Sometimes they exhibit elements of literary works. Horror is generally considered a sub genre of General Fiction, especially if it contemporary and closely linked to possibility, but because of its increasing popularity it may be placed in its own genre.

I urge readers to get nominations in for the 2010 Whitney Awards. Any novel written by an LDS author and released during 2010 is eligible. For this award to be of significant worth in the field of LDS fiction, there needs to be more nominations come from non-industry-related readers. To read more about the Whitney Awards Program or to nominate a novel(s) go here. You can suggest which category or categories you think your favorite novels fit in, but you don't have to. You are also welcome to expand, agree, or disagree with my definitions of the various genres in the comment trail below. I'll even forward your comments to the chairman of the Whitney contest.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Aura of Excellence

Blogging out of turn today so Nancy can get her editing done. This was a thought for the day to my children a few years ago. Think I'll use it in my Laurel class, and may have to post it on my computer to remind me of this good advice.

The story was told of a young woman whose mother had died when she was two or three years old. As a teen-ager who was having problems with self-esteem and seemed headed down the wrong path on the run, she longed to know what her mother was like. One day her aunt brought her her mother's diary and told her niece she thought she would enjoy learning what kind of woman her mother had been.

As she left, she told the girl, "She had such an aura of excellence about her." From that moment forth, the life of this young woman changed as she began to put on that aura of excellence her mother was known for, and set goals to help her attain what her mother had hoped her daughter would become. Her mother's journal in which she listed her hopes and dreams for her daughter became the focus of this young woman - her reminder of what she needed to make of herself.

Don't trade what you want MOST for what you want AT THE MOMENT. It is often hard to keep our goals in front of us each moment, But find some way to remind yourself what your ultimate goal is - whether for that hour, that day, or that week. We'll forget, we'll relapse, but each morning we can rededicate that day and renew our focus so that in the end, we CAN have what we want most and are willing to work hardest for.

Smile today and help make someone else's day as good as you want yours to be.

Christmas - Ready or not, here it comes!

The holidays are upon us. And upon each other. Debates of whether it is wrong to use up store shelf space for both Halloween and Christmas decorations abound. Some say, "Yes! It's easier to shop for both at the same time." Others say, "I wish we could enjoy the holidays one at a time." No matter where you stand on the issue, trick-or-treaters will soon be at your door, then you'll be carving a turkey and eating pumpkin pie, and then "tis the season to be jolly."

My 11 year-old has already submitted her Christmas list to me. Today it snowed. No matter how much I don't want to have the stress of shopping for the holidays, I can't stop Christmas from coming. (Sound like any beloved Christmas character?)

One of the best parts of the holidays is being with family. Family traditions are a big part of Christmas. Every family has their own way of celebrating the season. One thing our family enjoys is popping popcorn and watching Christmas movies. The following is a list of the top Christmas movies of all time. At the bottom I'm adding some of the Bell Family favorites. If you feel so inclined, please post a fun tradition you have at your house!
Babes in Toyland, or March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
The Bishop's Wife (1947)
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Story (1983)
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer(1964)
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1970)
White Christmas (1954)

Home Alone 1 and 2
Jingle All the Way

Monday, October 25, 2010

Something New for Your Brain

Through a series of rather interesting events, I am now working at KBYU on their program Thinking Aloud. It's a terrific place to be with fun people, and fortunately for all of us, their programs are all available on their website. Interested in E-books and the fate of print? There's a 30-minute interview on it. Did you grow up inspired by Florence Nightingale because you read books about early nurses? There's a program on her. There are programs on Chopin, To Kill a Mockingbird, and memory and the brain.

Thinking Aloud is a 30-minute interview program that airs four times a week (Tuesday is BYU's devotional) at 11 am and 8 pm. It's just fun to listen to and a good way to keep your brain churning with ideas--especially all you writers out there. Check it out.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Yesterday was my turn to blog. I had been thinking about my subject for a week and found a great topic in a something sent to me on We, the People. I agreed with its tenets and made a couple of quick notes on thoughts it generated: We are intelligent enough to make our own decisions. We do not need the government to make them for us. Freedom of choice is one of our most cherished ideals in America. We believe that self-reliance and individual achievement are necessary to make our way in this world.

Then I received another e-mail from a former counselor when I was Relief Society president, so she had good reason to forward this particular column written by Janice Kapp Perry. (She knows me well.) I thought that would be the perfect subject since I think we all share some of those feelings.

Sister Perry told of writing "Do Not Run Faster" and experiences with that song. The first verse goes like this:
I thought that I could do it all
Complete each task, accept each call
I never felt my work was done
Until I had pleased everyone
I told myself I must be strong
Be there for all to lean upon
But in the end I came to see
That's more than God requires of me. He has said:

Do not run faster than you have strength
If you grow weary, what have you gained?
You will have wisdom and strength enough
If first you remember to fill your own cup. Comforting words of the Master: Do Not run faster than you have strength.

As I am vacillating between those subjects, I continue working on my to-do list, go visiting teaching, run errands, put groceries away, fix lunch for my husband. The blog deadline is weighing heavily upon my mind, but I received a special offer from Shutterfly for 30% off a photo book, buy one and get one 50% off. I'd never seen that great deal before. I ought to take advantage of it to make a book of our family reunion in Bear Lake and give one to my daughter. But I needed to download my pictures from a camera clip (hadn't done it yet since I needed some help from my daughter, Shelley, to undo what she had done to my picture file.)

My good husband said he would see if he would figure out how to put it back the way I had it, so we spent an hour working on it. Finally succeeded in tweaking it so I could put my pictures, Nikki's, and Glenn's sister's pictures in one file, then discovered the thumb drive on which I had copied Nikki and Nancy's pictures also contained over 3500 pictures from our China trip. How did that happen?

Computer expert that I am (NOT) I spent the next two hours working on separating the files and getting the pictures where I could work with them on Shutterfly. And suddenly it was 3:30 and time to fix dinner. (Our dinner hour is 4:00 as we are very early risers - my breakfast is at 6:00.) Now my day is gone. I accomplish very little after dinner because that is time with my husband. And I'm still burdened with the blog I haven't written - or even decided upon the subject.

I won't mention that I'm a couple of days behind on my journal, have a stack of requests for money (political, charitable, etc.) that is unbelievable, practice the songs for a baptism and the hymns for Sunday, and five other things on my to-do list that I REALLY needed to accomplish before the sun went down (which is way too early these days!)

As I lay in bed at 4:00 this morning, I thought how wonderful it would be to just stay there, snuggled under the blankets and go back to sleep. I could procrastinate doing the blog another couple of hours - since I hadn't made up my mind yet which worthy topic I should tackle. But I knew I'd be at least a week behind on my to-do list if I didn't get this done this morning before everything else crowded in. So I crawled out of bed reluctantly, did my scripture study, and as I turned to my desk to face the dreaded task, the word PROCRASTINATOR came to mind. That was it!

Elder Neal A. Maxwell called it one of the most cruel games one can play with yourself - the "not yet" game. He also said, "One can play upon the harp strings of hesitations and reservations just so long."

Don Marquis, an American poet and journalist in the early 1900's, said: "Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday." Oh, yes!

And finally, Proverbs tells us that "Procrastination is the thief of time."

I might also add that it is the thief of peace of mind. There. Now I am done and I can finish preparing my Laurel lesson for tomorrow and get to the rest of my list. How good it feels to not be procrastinating any longer!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good People

I just returned from a trip to Logan, Utah, where I gave a book talk to a gathering of some fifty good women. I could tell they were good women by their smiles, sensible clothing, and gracious welcome. I'm always nervous prior to giving a book talk, (or any talk for that matter) so their kindness put me at ease. It was a night filled with laughter, tears, and astute questions.

When I was in college, (and I really hate to admit this) I liked to pal around with my peers in the theater department. They were cool and clever, and I felt cool and clever when I was with them. We were witty and outgoing, and we felt sorry for the Math and Science Nerds.

Then I fell in love with a Math Nerd. I found myself admiring his calm ways and his thoughtfulness. I felt better when I was around him. The banter and slick talk of the theater gang began to annoy me, and I relished the time spent with unassuming, good people.

Years after my husband and I were married, I came across this statement by Richard L. Evans, which accurately sums up my social transformation. I share it with you.

"Years ago I preferred clever people. There was a joy in beholding a mind bearing thoughts quickly translated into words, or ideas expressed in a new way. I find now my taste has changed. Verbal fireworks often bore me. They seem motivated by self-assertion and self-display. I now prefer another type of person; one who is considerate, understanding of others, careful not to break down another person's self-respect. My preferred person today is one who is always aware of the needs of others--their pain, fear, and unhappiness, and their search for self-respect. I once liked clever people. Now I like good people."


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy Fall For All

With a crazy work schedule today, my husband was sweet enough to write a blog for me. So, introducing my guest blogger for the day, my better half, Brad...

For many people, Fall is their most favorite time of the year. There are many great reasons for that. The weather begins to cool, the canyons are on fire with the changing colors of nature, of course there is the harvest, and for some, they look forward to the hunting season. My reasons for loving this time of year are far more simple, but in my opinion every bit as exciting.

Walter Camp is the one that can be blamed for this. He is the one that came up with the idea of a line of scrimmage, and the down and distance rule. Many others have made their contributions along the way, but Mr. Camp is widely considered the father of American Football. So I need to say thank you Walter for helping to make this time of year my favorite.

So what is it that makes this such a great time of the year for me? Football is a violent, almost gladiator like contest. It involves great preparation, strategy and execution. Those that participate at the highest levels are incredible athletes. I believe there is no other sport that requires more team effort than football. And while I enjoy these aspects of the sport, there are other things that are outside of the actual game that I also enjoy. What other sport do you show up for on game day 4 hours before the game starts? Not sure who the founder of tailgating was, but he is a genius. Hanging out with friends and family, throwing around a ball and just hanging out are a great part of the game. At least it is in my family. I have a son that doesn’t like sports all that much, but he rarely misses a game, because he knows it is important to me, and it is a chance for he and I to spend some time together. I appreciate that more then he will ever know.

Football has given me a chance to see several areas of the country as my brothers and I, along with our dad have had the good fortune to travel to many away games. That has been a great chance for us emotionally closed men to bond. I have to remember that because I love Saturday football games in the Fall, it isn’t for everyone. I should have never “surprised” Jeri with a trip to Rice/Eccles stadium and a game time bratwurst for her birthday one year. In my defense it was our first year of marriage and she didn’t have a chance to properly train me. However this year she got the same “birthday surprise”, what a great women to put up with me for 20 years with surprises like that! Jeri has also learned that there is more to the game then a bunch of over sized sweaty guys running into each other and hugging.

So by way of advice let me say a few things.
Season tickets to your favorite team is a great birthday gift, if you’re a guy.
Stadiums are the only place on earth where all the favorite “guy” food can be found in one place, that alone makes it a truly special place to be.
Spending $52 dollars for donuts for a weekend road game is totally reasonable.
We guys really do need a different team shirt for each day of the week.
Occasionally a foam finger, painted belly, or even a cheese head are acceptable fashion statements in the right setting.

Thanks for listening……Brad

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I Write for the Mormon Market

Yesterday I received an email from my publishers attaching the cover of my forthcoming book. I'm quite delighted with it, and excited to see and hold the final product. It's my fourth LDS book, in that the main characters in it are LDS and it's being published by an LDS publisher primarily for the LDS market.

Recently I was asked why I write for the Mormon market rather than writing books which might appeal to a wider national - and international - readership. If I'm honest, the reason I initially started writing for the LDS market was because I was hoping to get a foot-in-the-door with "real" publishers and that national market.

My problem was this: If you write a novel and send it to a publisher, or an agent, the chances are they won't even read it. Almost certainly they will simply reply with a standard rejection letter. Various journalists have tested this theory by sending in the text of Booker Prize winning novels or literary classics, only to have them rejected by the oblivious acqusitions editor.

For a new writer, it's extremely difficult to get published because you don't get taken seriously. You're a new commodity, an unknown, and even as the market was in 1998 (when I started writing seriously), publishers are very wary of investing in unknowns.

My theory was that if I could get a book or two published in the fairly small, niche and friendly LDS market then I could send my Magnum Opus to a "real" publisher or agent with a covering letter explaining how both my previous books had been bestsellers in their genre (I would probably fail to mention that that genre was religious fiction) and I had received armfuls of accolades and floods of fan mail. Maybe then they'd take me seriously enough to actually read my manuscript.

In 2002 the time was right. Both my books had made the Deseret Book top ten, and I had received accolades and fanmail. It was the ideal time for me to make my assault on the "real" publishers.

And yet I then wrote four more manuscripts for the LDS market, Easterfield (published 2008), Honeymoon Heist (due February 2011) Christmas at Haven, and Landscape in Oils (under consideration). Why? Had I had a crisis of confidence? Abandoned my ambition?

It wasn't even a conscious decision, I think. Looking back, I suspect I just found I liked the LDS market and felt comfortable writing the sort of thing my established fans wanted to read. Maybe I recognised that whatever talent I had was God-given and I owed Him a little more back before I exploited it for personal glory.

Perhaps too, I realised that I couldn't write certain explicit scenes which are expected in the national market. I take the view that intimate behaviour should always remain private between the (married) couple concerned, even when that couple is fictional, and I refuse to write anything I wouldn't want my children, or my parents, to read. Most mainstream books (at least in the genre of women's fiction) are expected to be peppered with the type of scenes I would class as literary pornography.

I also believe that LDS literature is as good as anything in the national market. In Stephanie Black, Kerry Blair, Robison Wells, Chris Heimerdinger and many others (such as the ladies who share this blog), the LDS market can hold its head high and I am proud to be associated with it and share shelf space with such talent. Stephenie Meyer, the most successful author since JK Rowling, is LDS.

LDS publishers are also as good as - even better than - the bigger publishing houses which market to the public at large. All my previous books have been beautifully produced and professionally distributed, and the editors have been approachable and pleasant to work with.

The LDS fiction market is an exciting place to be right now. Jennie Hansen wrote an excellent article on how it has changed in recent years ( and it continues to develop with LDS publishers now looking to break into the general market with clean, quality literature which is moral but not religious. I want to be part of that.

I haven't forgotten my ambition. I am currently writing a fantasy novel which I will market to UK agents in due course. But I love the LDS market and an happy and proud to be part of it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Matters Most

I did something Thursday night I haven't done since I was a teenager, and that was a long time ago. I slept for eleven hours straight. My life has been highly stressful the past few years; I've lost to death my father, two siblings, a brother-in-law, and three sisters-in-law. During this period of time, a son-in-law was also severely wounded in Iraq. Added to that were a daughter's, a sister-in-law's, a brother-in-law's, and a cousin's successful battles with cancer. Through most of this time I attempted to keep up my house, my gardens, a Primary class, two days of service at the temple, my writing, and reviewing along with all of the other things we women, wives, mothers, and grandmothers try to do. I constantly nagged myself to work harder, move faster, get more done. All while battling a crippling bout of tendonitis in one knee. I've always been guilty of over scheduling and trying to do everything. The final straw seemed to be accepting an assignment to clean the temple between 9:30 and 12:30 the night between my two temple days last week. It's an assignment I really do enjoy, but by the time I finished my shift Thursday, my mind felt numb and I was barely functioning. I fell asleep around eight thirty and didn't awaken until after seven thirty Friday morning. Since then I've been thinking a lot about President Dieter Uchtdorf's conference talk on things that matter most.

These words stuck in my mind: "When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be . . . If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made life difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."

Illnesses and deaths come unexpectedly, but most other "obligations" can be rescheduled or skipped if we have enough sense to do it. A counselor in my ward's bishopric realized how stressed I felt and had me released from teaching Primary a few months ago. Of necessity I backed off from my previous writing level--hence no book out this year. Cleaning the temple is an important and satisfying experience, so I went even though I was already over tired. I enjoy the comments people make about our yard and gardens and I enjoy gardening. It has bothered me greatly to see grass and weeds marring the beauty of my flowers, so I pushed my knee beyond what it could tolerate. Now there are many gardening tasks I cannot do. I've always been a little "house proud" and with many family members staying with us for short and long visits during cancer treatments and visits to family members in cancer specialty hospitals near us, but far from their homes, I attempted to keep our house spotless and clean sheets on the beds in our spare rooms. Now my knee thoroughly objects when I try to vacuum. My failure to live up to my goals and standards, the times I didn't spend with my children and grandchildren, the ball games and school programs I missed, the book I didn't get ready for publication, all left me feeling guilty. Clearly I'm one of those who didn't stick to the basics President Uchtdorf referred to in his talk.

It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Over-scheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.

It's a hard lesson, but I think I, and most other people, need to learn to let go of some things. We need to decide what is the most basic essentials and let lesser time consumers go. President Uchtdorf listed four important areas which he considers most important in our busy, cluttered lives. First he suggests we "turn to Heavenly Father and seek His wisdom regarding the things that matter most." His list is comprised of four areas he considers vital, beginning with our relationship with God. Second is our families. Third is our relationship with our fellowman. And the fourth, but not necessarily the least important, is our relationship with ourselves.

May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God's creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally.

I'm going to take President Uchtdorf's challenge to simplify my life and to focus on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship. I've picked one thing from one of the four basics he suggested and plan to concentrate on letting it improve my life. I could have picked many goals, but if I choose too many, I won't accomplish any of them well. I plan to keep the basics firmly in mind as challenges come my way and learn to separate what is truly important from those things that don't really matter or can be done at another time. I hope others will accept his challenge too. Pick just one area where you can improve and decide on one specific thing you can do to simplify and improve your life. Then do it. I plan to.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Adversity is like this little Teacup


A couple took a trip to England to shop in a beautiful antique store to celebrate their 25th anniversary. They both liked antiques and pottery, and especially teacups. Spotting an exceptional cup, they asked "May we see that? We've never seen a cup quite so beautiful."

As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke. "You don't understand. I have not always been a teacup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My Master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over, and I yelled out 'Don't do that. I don't like it! Let me alone.' But he only smiled and gently said: 'Not yet.'

"Then, WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. 'Stop it! I'm getting so dizzy! I'm going to be sick,' I screamed. But the Master only nodded and said quietly, 'Not yet.'

"He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. 'Help! Get me out of here!' I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side. 'Not yet.

"When I thought I couldn't bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better, I thought. But after I cooled, he picked me up and brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. 'Oh, please. Stop it! Stop it!' I cried. He only shook his head and said, 'Not yet.'

"Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited..........and waited, wondering 'What's he going to do to me next?' An hour later he handed me a mirror and said 'Look at yourself.'

"And I did. I said, 'That's not me. That couldn't me be. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful!'

"Quietly he spoke: 'I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you'd have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn't put you back in that second oven, you wouldn't have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.'"

The moral of this story is this: God knows what He's doing for each of us. He is the potter and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us and expose us to just enough pressures of just the right kinds that we may be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect will.

So when life seems hard, and you are being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance; when your world seems to be spinning out of control; when you feel like you are in a fiery furnace of trials; when life seems to "stink," try this......

Brew a cup of your favorite tea in your prettiest teacup, sit down and think on this story and then, have a little talk with the Potter.

Author Unknown.

Or pour your favorite Dr. Pepper. Diet Coke or drink of choice and remember what Neal A. Maxwell said: I thought He was making me into a comfortable little cottage. I didn't know he had a mansion in mind when He started the remodeling. Or something to that effect. :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I love being an American. I love this country as the founding fathers envisioned it. Yes, I'm a woman and I couldn't originally vote, but the founding fathers made provision for that with amendments. They were good men--divinely inspired by Providence to create a seventeen page document that would stand the test of time--and it has for over 200 years. But now? Now I'm nervous about the direction this very progressive President and Congress full of Democrats are taking this country.
I've always been a conservative because I don't like Big Government. I truly do believe that when men (or women) get too much power they become prideful. They begin to feel that they have the answers for everything and that the voice of the riff-raff is unimportant. Add to this arrogance a seemingly never-ending stream of money, and you've got trouble.

In their wisdom, the founding fathers integrated checks and balances into the power structure. This is a very good thing. But, when the Executive branch and the majority of Congress are in lock step with one is a very bad thing.

November 2, with mid-term elections, we have the opportunity to bring balance back into the system. The voice and vote of the people need to be heard and counted.

Please vote on November 2.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Signings

Recently I came across a subject of discussion on one of the writers lines I belong to. While I didn’t participate in the subject but was merely a lurker, It was interesting to me to read all the comments being said on this particular subject.

Apparently what started the discussion was a new author was about to embark on their first book signing and was asking for any helpful hints and suggestions to make their first book signing a success.

Many people wrote in with ideas – some of which I will share—but the topic of discussion got me thinking a bit.

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago I was asking the very same question of my friend Kerry Blair. I was about to do my first book signing and I had no idea what I was up against.

As always, Kerry gave me some helpful hints that have stuck with me and with time I have learned a few things along the way.

I know that if I were to ask each author on this blog, I believe that each of us would agree that with our book signings, we have all had those signings that gave us experiences that we will never forget, that we have met people along the way that have changed our lives in one way or another, and that there are times that we would look back at now and just plain laugh at or cherish the memory.

It’s a few of those that I want to share.

For starters… I remember at one particular book signing I walked into the store. They were obviously unprepared for me to arrive as there was no table set up for me, no poster to announce I’d be there, etc.

I walked to the desk where the girl at the counter was helping a long line of customers. I had my hands full. I had brought a basket of flowers, (my main character was into landscaping- a small flower was given to each person who had me sign a book and to each sales clerk upon my leaving) I also had a jar of candy to help decorate my table, and a book of mint brownies for the store staff with a saying “I mint to tell you thank you for allowing me to come to your store today!”

As I stood there ready to drop everything, I overheard the girl at the counter going on and on about the wonderful author coming to the store to do a signing. She was EXTREMELY complimentary about the incredible writing talent of this mystery writer, how she can never figure out who the bad guy is, etc.

In the meantime, I was thrilled with the way she was gushing on and on about me. The customers kept looking over at me as they waited in line and my heart soared with this girl’s admiration of my talent.

Finally, one customer asked the author’s name. I was puffed up in pride by this time. The clerk looked up and said, “Betsy Brannon Green—she’ll be here next week and you just have to come back and meet her!” she squealed with excitement.

Lesson learned- Stay humble. I look back at that time and it certainly keeps me grounded. They had forgotten I was even coming that day.

Book signing hint- It’s the staff that sells your book. You want to leave them with a good impression. I have always tried to remember that. You are only there for a short time, but they are there every day. Letting them know you appreciate what they do in your behalf is beneficial to you. It’s them that gets your book into the hands of the readers. That being said, of course there are those that have made a name for themselves because of their talent alone. Me? I need all the help I can get!

At another book signing I had a gentleman come up and ask me all about my book. He acted genuinely interested in the plot and the background of how I came up with the storyline. I also noticed he went through the entire jar of candy as we talked, leaving all the wrappers from the candy crumbled all over the table. At the end of the candy he said, “Yeah well, I don’t read that kind of stuff anyway.” He acted disgusted by my book. I know he liked the candy though—

As for meeting people along the way—there are those signings that we get to meet people who want to meet us. Those are the ones who will buy the book and then write to you and tell you to keep at it. They keep you going. They keep you from getting discouraged and keep you from giving up.

Lesson learned—as writers we are our own worst critic. Life gets in our way and takes up our time. We write for the love of it, for the challenges it brings. There are those who lift you up and encourage you to never give up. They make it all worth it.

Book signing hint—I always try to give some sort of give away at my book signings that go with the plot of the book as a thank you for buying the book. While this certainly isn’t necessary, It’s just a fun thing that I like to do. I didn’t do it with my first book, my second book was the flowers, the third, Kerry Blair helped me come up with the idea and we gave away troll dolls—which had to do with the storyline.

I have seen other authors do this as well. I loved Kerry’s book party when she gave party bags away with her Samantha Shade series – they had puzzles and pencils and treats in them.

Michele bell gave away butterfly boxes when she began her Butterfly series. I loove my little box from Michele.

While doing things is a personal choice, I do think it’s nice to have a little candy dish out or something to decorate your table with. Sometimes the candy only brings people over to meet you, but hey, it’s a nice way to meet people too. :)

Other hints that authors suggested was checking to spell names correctly—even common names can be spelled differently.

Some use a matching pen that matches the cover art.

Some authors will sign with clever saying that have to do with the plot or series, while others will sign a personal message to family and friends.

I could go on and on about this topic. Not because of my vast knowledge—I’m afraid I lack there—but more because I have had some really fun experiences and I have some very choice memories of book signings—like the Clinton signing when I was in awe while doing a signing with so many of my favorite authors. It was such a wonderful experience for me to be among them.

The last experience I want to touch on is the signing that changes your life in one way or another. For me that would be when I went to a book signing. Not of my own, but to have one of my favorite authors sign one of my favorite books.

It was a Saturday morning I had gone to the Seagull store on 5400 So. And Redwood Road I had gone there to buy the next book in the Heart series by Kerry Blair. I had read them out of order but loved them so much I wanted them all. A saleslady told me Kerry would be in later that day to sign if I wanted to come back. I debated it back and forth but finally decided, as scared as I was to meet her, I wanted to tell her I loved her books and had always wanted to be a writer.

Long story short, I went back and from that book signing, Kerry Blair has changed my life for the good.

Not only has she taught me most of what I know about the world of writing, for without her I would have never gotten a book on the shelves, but my life is so much better because she is in it.

She has introduced me to some of my very best friends that I now have—each of whom I consider a blessing in my life—and has opened a whole new world for me.

Lesson learned—There are angels in this world that come and touch our lives for good and no matter how you try, no matter what you say, there are just no words to express your love and gratitude for what they mean to you.

Book signing hint-I decided a long time ago that it doesn’t matter how many books I sell at a book signing. I need to be in it for the experience. There are times that I have done a signing where people refuse to make eye contact. They’ll walk past me as if they can’t move away from me fast enough. Then there are times where I have signed one book right after another. Either way, I have met some wonderful people that I’ll never forget, I have some choice memories, but most of all, I have enjoyed the journey.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Barmy Britannia

I made a new friend recently. She’s American, and has recently married a member of our ward and moved here. She’s lovely, and I feel so much sympathy with her as she struggles to get used to the new culture. She misses grape juice, hasn’t dared drive yet, and she told me that cooking is presenting a challenge. (She held a Pampered Chef party recently and there I discovered that this is because she doesn’t have a set of cooking scales. I bought her some.)

I’m a patriot. I am proud to be British, and English. But I thought I would blog about some of the more interesting, eccentric and downright daft things about this cramped little land of mine.

  • Apart from English, the United Kingdom has a number of other historic languages. Half a million people speak Welsh, a few thousand Scots are fluent in Gaelic, about 400 people speak Cornish, while about 100 on the Isle of Man speak Manx.
  • I am English, but also British and a UK citizen. England is the country I live in, Britain is the island I live on, and the UK is the nation I belong to. Confused?
  • Fee-paying (i.e. private) schools in Britain are called Public Schools. Someone identified (often disparagingly in the press) as being a “public schoolboy” is probably from a wealthy, possibly aristocratic, background.
  • All UK schools are required to have a daily act of collective worship.
  • Ever wondered why British currency is called pounds, or pounds sterling? It’s because originally the banknote (now a coin) represented a pound in weight of sterling silver in the bank’s vault. In theory you could take your £ to the bank and demand to exchange it for a pound of silver. (£1 is currently worth about $1.50. 1lb of silver, considerably more.)
  • Britain is the only country in the world not to put its name on its stamps.
  • The Queen faces left on stamps and notes, but right on coins.
  • On any given day in Britain there is a 50% chance that the sky will be overcast and a 35% chance of rain. Humidity is generally between 70 and 90%. The highest temperature recorded was in Faversham in Kent in 1993 when it reached 101 degrees farenheit, but August temperatures rarely rise over 80 degrees.
  • Britain is the 49th most densely populated country in the world, with 246 people per square kilometre of land. The United States is 175th with 30 people per square kilometre.
  • If you want to own a TV in Britain, you must have a licence. It currently costs £142.50 per year ($214) There is a jail term for watching TV without a licence.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunny With a Chance of Showers

How often have we heard weather forecasters predict that we will experience a sunny day with a chance of showers? Probably too many times to count. ;) Today was one of those kind of days. It dawned bright and cheery, the sun peeking out over the mountain tops. "Aha," I though to myself as I prepared to face the day's events, "the weatherman lied last night." Last night's prediction was for rain . . . rain . . . and more rain with a chance of snow in the higher elevations. There was no mention of sun . . . and yet it has burst through the clouds off and on all day.

I went about my list of errands this morning, believing the storm fairies were having fun with the local weatherman, when all of a sudden, it began to sprinkle . . . and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It sprinkled all the same. It did this for quite some time . . . and then the sky grew dark with menacing clouds. "Ah, here it comes," I commented . . . and it did indeed . . . for nearly two solid hours. It rained, poured, and provided an impressive gulley-washer as we call it around these parts.

Then the sun came out and warmed things up nicely . . . before the next storm descended. The battle between clouds and sun took place most of the day. Currently, the sun is shining but I can see a glimmer of darkened clouds on the horizon, indicating that the storms aren't quite finished for the day.

It's like that with life; storms and sunshine seem intermixed. On one of the most beautiful fall days imaginable a darkened storm surfaced into my life 27 years ago. On that day my father chose to end his life. I remember walking outside later that morning after receiving the news, and wondering how anyone could do such a thing on a day that was so gorgeous. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and yet it rained steadily inside my heart for several weeks.

Storms come into our lives for important reasons, like the need for new growth. Sometimes they spring out in a surprising manner, clouding our lives without warning, due in part to the fault of others. However they descend, I know that eventually, the Son will reappear, drying our tears, warming our hearts, and reminding us there is always hope, no matter how dark the skies may appear on the horizon.