Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Others have talked about electronic readers, some with enthusiasm and some without.  I was slow warming up to the concept, but eventually I could see where one would be an advantage in some situations.  Then my husband gave me a Kindle for Christmas.  The tiny keyboard drives me nuts and I'm much too slow looking up references I can flip to in seconds in a paper book.  From a reader's point of view, I'll admit I prefer holding a real book in my hands, but I've learned to love my Kindle. 

It's definitely nice to slip my e-reader into my purse before a trip to the doctor's office, my hairdresser, or any of those places where I may be stuck with an indeterminate wait.  No more leafing through boring old magazines! 

I think I've been a judge in some category for the Whitneys since the awards academy was started. It was nice this year to be able to read so many of the nominees on my small light-weight e-reader in an easy chair with my feet up instead of being trapped at my computer to read the electronic submissions. 

Our family has a favorite vacation spot high in the mountains in Idaho.  Unfortunately the only wifi connection is in the ranch house and I dislike hauling around a stack of books along with all of our vacation gear---but I like to read while on vacation.  This year I'll take along my Kindle, all preloaded with books, to read wherever I like. 

As a writer, I was leery of having my books posted on an e-reader site.  Because books are generally cheaper there, I worried my royalties would drop.  Not so.  I've found my royalties are just fine.  It's true my publisher gets a larger cut than I do for my books they post, but my share is comparable to my print royalties.  For my oldest books, which I'm posting myself since they're no longer in print and my publisher has returned the rights to me, my royalties are wonderful.  Without the e-reader market, I'd be earning nothing on these older, out-of-print books. 

One of the nicest bonuses for readers and writers with the proliferation of e-readers is the availability of books which are not carried in local bookstores.  The difficulty of members of the LDS Church, who live outside of the areas served by LDS bookstores, finding affordable LDS books has long been a problem.  Now with e-readers these people, whether they live in Maine or Hong Kong, have access to the new LDS books as fast as those who live along the Wasatch front without paying horrendous postage costs. 

I'm not an all or nothing person when it comes to e-readers versus print.  I'll cheerfully take both.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I'm trying to finish the sequel to "Too Many Ghosts: A Dominique and Duchess Mystery" as quickly as possible because I sort of left the story hanging in the air. No wonderful resolution. But had I finished the story, it would have become a monstrous 800 pages, so it was needful that I divide it. How am I doing with my creating? Not so good. I've discovered that I am getting lots of other projects done. Yesterday I made a couple of dreaded calls to businesses that I'd been postponing for over a week. Seems I will do anything to keep from writing. I try to keep my to-do list at a minimum when I'm writing and leave enough time each day to put down the story that is going around in my mind, but making myself actually sit down and write is getting harder and harder. I keep finding things to do that on any other day besides a writing day, I would never even consider tackling. For example, not on my to-do list yesterday was changing out my wardrobe. But I took my winter clothes out of the other closet and brought my summer ones to replace them. Laundry was on my list, but I conjured up a couple more batches by going through hubby's closet and removing anything with little spots so he'd be sparkling clean the next time he grabbed a shirt or pants. Last year I made a new lawn swing cover - the other one was so faded it was no longer attractive, but a terrific wind storm late last fall ripped the cover off and it needed repairing. I even hunted it down from the top of the garage where we'd stored it and made the necessary repairs. Our patio swing is beautiful again with the cover and pillows I made. If I wasn't caught up on my mending, I'd have done that too. Anything to keep from writing! What is so hard about putting fingers to the keyboard and getting down the story that I really am anxious to tell? Why am I so willing to do hated tasks instead of real writing? As I'm walking, I think about the story. While doing dishes, I work on a scene. When driving alone, I'm thinking about trials, perils, problems, all sorts of things I can throw at my characters to make the story more interesting. I ran across an article I'd written for a writer's newsletter. Apparently I had the same problem in 1997 I'm having today. This is, in part, what I wrote: "A phrase that's bounced around a lot today in the corporate world is the answer to our dilemma. It's called time management: allotting a specified amount of time to each task, then moving on to the next one, even if the first is not complete. That way, everything gets a fair share of your attention and nothing is ignored completely. "Iron two shirts for your husband, dust the living room (which everyone sees) (or better yet, get the kids to do it), spray the roses today, weed them tomorrow, and spend 30 minutes sketching out your story. "Tomorrow iron two more shirts (now he has two clean ones in his closet) dust the bedroom while you're dreaming up some drama for your story, weed the roses while you conjure up some conflict for your characters, then give them 30 minutes and write down all that you just accomplished mentally while doing those necessary physical tasks. "As you run to the grocery store or pick up the kids, outline in your mind the next step of your story, character development, irony, tension, more conflict (can there ever be enough?), keeping your subconscious busy with the most important thing - your writing - while you accomplish the mundane - the necessary. "Your guilt is assuaged - you've been working on all the important things - nothing is being neglected completely, and you're on your way to the completion of that novel you've always known was in you. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. What's the matter with writing a book that same way?" Now to take my own advice and get busy writing! Except that I'm going to the temple today which is an all day event here in California. So I'll start tomorrow!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I am a Republican Mormon Woman

In order for a person not to have contempt prior to investigation one must know the facts.

1. I am a Republican. If you want to understand the reason why, you need to read the Republican platform, and the book "The 5000 Year Leap." You must also understand that I was raised by a father who had polio when he was a young boy, and despite his disabilities would never think of taking a cent from the government. As my dad saw it, here were the levels of responsibility for taking care of someone who was truly in need of help. The person should take care of themselves as far as possible, then the family should step in, next the church or local community should help, and if all those backups fail then State welfare should take a look. Never, never, never should the Federal government become the giver of welfare. Never. It causes dependency which the politicians can then manipulate for a vote.

2. I am a Mormon. If you want to understand the reason why, you should look into the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, read the Book of Mormon (at least some portion of it), get to know some good Mormon people, and browse around on the web

3. I am a woman. If you want to understand the reason why, I don't think you'll find an answer. But, you can get to know me and find out how I feel about being a woman and the responsibilities I've chosen to take on to try and make the world a better place.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


In February 2009 the cylinder head gasket of my Ford Galaxy died and would have cost more to repair than I could afford, so I scrapped the vehicle instead. Since then, I have been without a car for the first time since I was 17. Hubby dearest has a car, so the family can get to church on a Sunday, but he drives to work in North London at 6 a.m. and doesn't get back until 6.30 pm. so for all intents and purposes I am without a car during the week for school runs, shopping, ballet and gymnastics lessons and anything else which might crop up.

For the first year or so I crowed about my green credentials. I bought a beautiful bike and cycled past the queues of traffic enjoying the feeling of the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair. Occasionally the children and I would ride in convoy, smugly thinking about how much money we were saving on car tax, insurance and petrol (which is currently £1.40 a litre - $7.35 a gallon) and reflecting on the fact that we were getting fit, and really didn't need a car at all.

After the second year it started to get a little annoying. I wanted to visit friends who lived too far away to cycle, or buy large items (struggling back from Argos with two large pillows stuffed in my bike panniers is an amusing moment which springs to mind) and having to wait until hubby dearest got home from work just so that I could kiss him goodbye again and run straight out in his car was somewhat irritating.

This morning I stepped out of the front door with the children (in their summer school uniforms - little yellow gingham cotton dresses) and the dog into driving rain and relentless wind. My umbrella was shredded within minutes, and by the time we had arrived at the school gates we were all wringing wet and the dog had given up shaking himself. The children ran into their nice warm school. I trudged the mile back home again thinking that it really was time I bought myself a car. It's a three-mile walk to ballet on Mondays (can't cycle due to a very steep hill) so I may well have a car in the driveway by then.

So this is me officially saying that I will no longer be boasting about how well I can cope on just two wheels. I love my bike, and I'm not sure how I'm going to manage to pay for car tax and insurance, never mind petrol, but I need a car! Anyone out there got a Ford Ka for sale? Preferably in pink?

Monday, April 16, 2012

One Step At a Time

So there I was, minding my own business, having a nice walk with a good friend when the phone call came. I answered my cell phone, then wished I hadn't. A relative was in a coma, near death, and one of his last requests had been to have me sing at his funeral. Nice.

If this sounds like a less than stellar attitude, let me explain: our family has been enduring a very challenging time. Though we're all trying to keep a positive frame of mind, sometimes the heartache of what a loved one is currently enduring creeps through. And in my case, I never know when the tears will surface. One minute I'm fine, then not so much. I find this annoying as I hate to cry in public.

Back to the phone call: as I've mentioned before, I grew up in a musical family. Music is part of my soul. Music touches me in ways I can't explain. It can propel me to spiritual heights, and pierce my heart like nothing else can. Singing at funerals is difficult for me, in part because of that, and also because of loved ones that I have lost--and the fact that I have sung at most of their funerals.

Despite all of this, I usually try to come through for people when this request is made. I understand how hard it is to pull a funeral together and how tender hearts are following the loss of a loved one. Singing at funerals is one way that I can serve those who are grieving. But there is one song I've haven't been able to perform since my husband's brother passed about 4 years ago. I was called upon to sing a song at his funeral that tore at my heartstrings. The emotions of that turbulent time collided with that particular song and I couldn't sing it alone. Fortunately, my kids came to the rescue and performed it with me that day. Things went well for us the day of the funeral, but since then, every time I hear that song, I tend to have leaky eyes. I can't stand to hear it, and I was convinced I would never sing it again.

This was the song I was being asked to sing at the dying man's funeral this past week. As I stood in shock, gripping my cell phone, the good friend who was with me reminded me to breathe. Wise advice, and sometimes all that we can do in these type of situations. As I agonized over what I was being asked to do, silently praying for guidance (it's not easy turning down a grieving almost-widow's request) a strong sense of peace filled my heart, and I agreed to perform the song. I reasoned that the coma could last for a while, and I would have time to get my act together before being called upon to sing. Wrong. He passed away that night.

Long story short, this past week has been a blur. But following promptings, I survived. I called upon a dear cousin of mine to help me pull this song together. With her help, and an outpouring of peaceful support from heaven, we were able to sing the song that was requested, and kept our emotions in check. Prayers were answered in a big time way, and we witnessed a mini-miracle with how well things went.
Once again I learned that when I place my trust in the Lord, despite how painful the path ahead might be, it can be walked with His help.

The day of the funeral as I nervously paced the floor of the room where my cousin and I were hiding before the program began, a dream came to mind. This was a dream that had surfaced for me during another challenging time years ago. The dream began with me trying to climb a set of golden stairs. It seemed like it took every bit of strength and courage that I could muster to take even one step forward. Then my eyes were opened. I could see that a dark force was trying to keep me stymied in place. But angels surrounded me, keeping that dark force at bay as long as I was willing to keep moving forward, one step at a time. How high I climbed was up to me--the angels couldn't make the journey for me. I had to do that for myself, but it was impressed upon me that I would never be alone.

I hope I will remember the lessons relearned this past week. I suspect I may need them in the days ahead as I continue trying to press forward, one golden step at a time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

With a Song in my Heart

Recently two members of this group blogged about music.  I always feel a little left out when people talk about music, yet even though I'm partially tone deaf music has had an impact on my life.  Since most music is just noise to me, I have a deep appreciation for a long ago choir and band director who helped me learn to listen.  He discovered that by the time I've listened carefully about seventeen times to a piece of music, I can actually detect or hear the variations that make that piece of music unique.  

Because I've been active in the Church most of my life, hymns are what I've heard the most and as I've carefully listened and followed the words I've gained a testimony of the messages behind the melodies.  I rarely need to glance at a hymn book while singing the most often sung songs since I've worked so hard to learn to "hear" them I've memorized the words. Along with my attempts to hear the music, the words have taken on special meaning.  Consequently the songs I know best often come to mind at unexpected moments, enhancing special times in my life.  

One song which I've heard numerous times at funerals as well as during church meetings, I've come to associate with hope and life.  "How Great Thou Art" was sung in sacrament meeting the day before my cancer surgery and I heard the words repeated in my mind many times during my treatment and recovery. Even now the words "then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee" fill me with joy and deep gratitude as I thank Him for my life and hope for the world to come. 

"There is Sunshine in my Soul today" I associate with my oldest daughter's wedding and many beautiful, bright days.  I think it must have been a favorite hymn of my childhood ward chorister because we sang it a lot when I was a child and I don't hear it as much now. 

Two of my daughters used to frequently play "Come Thou Fount of every Blessing" on the piano, then when my cousin came from Alaska to stay with us for two months while her husband was undergoing treatment at Huntsman Cancer Hospital, she played that song to begin every Sabbath day.  Each time I hear it my mind is filled with pleasant days when as children my cousins and I ran and played together and the love filled days when my own children were young and growing. 

Lately another hymn makes a frequent appearance in my heart and mind.  At odd moments as I serve in the Oquirrh Mountain temple, I hear "I walked Today Where Jesus Walked."  It brings a lump to my throat each time.

I'm well aware I don't hear music the same way others do, but I'm grateful for the music I have learned to hear and the lyrics that have touched my heart.  I'll never win any Name that Tune games and I probably won't ever appreciate many rock or pop tunes.  I'll probably continue to avoid violins, jazz, and soprano soloists, but in my own way I, too, have a deep love for music.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter's Faith

I love Easter with all the promises that it brings - especially that promise of the possibility of Eternal Life. The bright, beautiful flowers are so welcome after the winter gray. Warm spring breezes feel incredible on your face as you hold it up to the sun to be warmed after winter's icy winds. But the greatest thing of all about Easter is the glorious promise our Savior gave us when he left the tomb on the third day and overcame death. He rose; so can we.

I love this poem. It really says it well.

"I did not follow Jesus up the hill
Or see three crosses standing side by side.
I only read...'the crowd stood strangely still
To watch the Savior being crucified.'

I did not walk with Mary to the tomb
Upon that glorious morn so long ago.
I did not see the angel in the gloom
Or meet the gardener whom they did not know.

Although I did not see the wonders wrought,
Spring has returned throughout these many years.
I see salvation which He dearly bought
In every leaf and flower which appears.

Just as I know that spring shall always be...
I know Christ walked on earth, and died for me.
How can I repay Him? What gift will I give?
My tribute will be the type of life I live!"
By Marian L. Moore

Happy Easter to all!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Love Research!

I know. I'm a nerd. I love research. I can't help it. I open a big fat history book and can't wait to unearth the gems hiding within the pages of mud. Sorry, writers of history books, but many paragraphs of your scholarship are tough to slog through. Yet, there are amazing facts that jump out and make the slogging worthwhile.

I know. I'm a nerd.

Here's a great example. In preparation for my next book of historical fiction, I've read books on Hawaii's trees and shrubs, the history of the Kamehameha kings, the life of Father Damien, the gods of ancient Hawaii, to name a few. Now, don't get me wrong they were all necessary for background, and were mostly interesting, but once in a while I found myself nodding. Then--a gem! And, not just a portion of this book was a gem, but the entire book. The Sayings of Hawaii. I know, you're probably rolling your eyes, but let me give you some examples and see if you can feel the heart of the Hawaiian culture in the words. Wonderful words!

Ua hilo 'ai i ke aho a ke aloha. Braided with the cords of love or you are held in the bond of affection.

Ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i kapono. The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.

Ha 'ule no i kana 'auwaha i 'eli ai. Fell into the ditch that he himself dug. (caught in his own trap)

O na hoku na kiu o ka lani. The stars are the spies of heaven. (The stars look down on everyone and everything)

E lei kau, e lei ho'oilo i ke aloha. Love is worn like a wreath through the summers and the winters. (love is everlasting)

See, being a research nerd has its rewards. Aloha!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Keeping up the Standard

My book club recently debated "The Midnight Palace" by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, and while none of us much liked it (and it only scored 5/10 in the end) one member had a particular reason for giving it a low score. She had read something else by the same author, and said that this one was very similar. Both, apparently, were about groups of sixteen-year-old youngsters facing supernatural terror and having to solve a mystery. As she read "The Midnight Palace" she was irked by the feeling that it was rather pointless as she'd been over this ground before.

My husband is a big fan of David Eddings, but only his early books. Later on in his career, he tells me, Eddings churns out almost identical books, with whole swathes of speech and action lifted wholesale from his previous works.

The problem is that when an author become successful enough to have a really big following of fans guaranteed to buy anything they write, it seems that it ceases to matter what they write. Publishers give them a deadline, and they just scribble down the same mass-produced dross that worked for them before. They cease to have a reason to come up with anything original and clever, and stick to the formula that has always worked knowing that whatever they send off to their publishers will be published and marketed, and will sell well.

Barbara Cartland was possibly the worst offender; one of the most prolific writers of all time, she could write one of her historical romance novels in a matter of months, and sold over a billion books in her lifetime. But she's far from the only one. Many writers get stuck in a rut. I think there are even LDS authors who are victims of their popularity in this way.

The problem is that it short-changes the readers. However much I enjoyed the first book, I don't want another one the same. And surely, surely, at some point the popularity of the writer will wear off as readers discover that the same characters and plots are cropping up again and again? No? Really?

After my first book was published I was asked for a sequel, which I wrote. I then wrote a third book - a historical novel. To my surprise, it was turned down. I had mistakenly thought that once you were a published author you had a "foot in the door" and they would publish anything you wrote. Not so. For those of us who don't sell in the millions (or even thousands) the quality of our work is the only selling point it has. So it has to be kept up.

I have now come to see that as a good thing. Because a book I write isn't going to be published if it isn't good. I'm not going to sell a guaranteed number of copies to my adoring fans so I have to come up with something original and good if I want it to be published.

And that's why my books are better than Barbara Cartland's. Buy one and see if I'm right.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Upon Life's Billows

Anna recently wrote a blog post about song lyrics and since I've always loved music (I come from a  musically inclined family) I decided to share a lyric that has been going around in my head this past week. I won't lie--it has been a tough couple of weeks for our clan. We've been hit from all sides (or so it seems) and it's tempting to sit in a daze and wonder what it was we did to deserve all of this. Among other things, a much loved family member is facing a serious health battle. To her credit, she is doing so with courage, spunk, and humor. In the middle of all of that, our basement (which was finished) flooded while we were out of town. We returned home to quite the mess and spent several days trying to salvage what we could. Since the water (spring run-off that filtered through our septic tank into our basement) was tainted, we had to discard most of what it touched. This included numerous irreplaceable family photos, 121 books, and other family treasures like our sons' yearbooks, mission letters, musical instruments, most of the furniture, etc.

Later on as we were returning home from Salt Lake City where we had spent an anxious few days at a  hospital as Kennon's sister faced a scary surgery, we were involved in a car accident. Fortunately, no one was hurt seriously, including the nice young man who ran into the back of our car with his motorcycle. We limped home with a loose bumper and a deep gouge in the back of our small hybrid, something we'll eventually fix.

I'll admit . . . when I walked back inside my home later that night . . . a home that is filled with boxes of items we were able to save from our basement adventure . . . I started feeling just a little bit sad about everything. Why was all of this happening to us--and all at the same time? Somehow it seemed a bit unfair.

Then I remembered the motto that Kennon's sister and I had come up with a few days ago as I faced an unthinkable mess in my basement, and she was facing imminent risky surgery: "Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and dive in the crap." Words to live by . . . at least for us right now.

Yesterday was also a soothing balm as inspired Church leaders shared comforting Conference talks that hit spot on, as Anna would say. There were so many good things said about dealing with trials, and the music was also a source of calming peace.

This morning, a favorite hymn keeps going around in my head (I suspect Someone wants me to pay attention). The words are as follows:

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

(Count Your Blessings--Lyrics by: Johnson Oatman Jr.)

These are indeed words to live by. So while I continue to sort through basement items now stored in the garage that we still may have to throw away, I will strive to focus on the countless blessings that have been granted this past week. Kennon's sister survived  a complicated surgery. She is doing amazingly well and is gearing up for a couple of weeks of physical therapy to restore the use of one leg. No one was seriously hurt in the accident we were involved in. We all walked away injury free. And despite the fact that I had to throw away 121 books, I probably saved close to 400. Almost every item lost in our flood can eventually be replaced, and if not--they are just things. What matters most are the items that we can take with us into the next realm, like family relationships, memories, knowledge, and testimonies that are often strengthened when we are tested and tried.

This difficult time will pass. I've survived enough of them to know that is true. The turbulent seas will calm. Life will go on, and the sun will eventually shine again after the storm. Hope exists and blessings do, too, despite the billows life sometimes brings our way.