Thursday, February 27, 2014


It's been two weeks since I last blogged.  I keep promising to do better, then life gets in the way.  Someone once said life is what happens while we're on our way to somewhere else.  That seems to be the way my life has been for the past couple of years.  I'll be dealing with diabetes and the unexpected ups and downs that go with it for the rest of my life, but overall I think I'm getting back to some kind of normal--at least I'm thinking about another book.

The question is, since I write in several genres, should I start a romantic suspense or begin a historical?  Maybe a western?  One of my sons-in-law wants me  to do another historical and has practically plotted it out for me.  A couple of friends are anxious for a book similar to If I should Die or Shudder.  I've even had differing suggestions for using my recent experiences with hospitals, cancer, diabetes, celiac, etc. to write a medical thriller or a women's fiction novel.  Clearly I have more thinking to do and I'm open to suggestions.

Even through my four surgeries and the medical problems of several people close to me, I haven't moved away from the publishing field, I just haven't been working on a new novel.  I've kept up my review column on Meridian, I've blogged, had a couple of short stories published, and my most recent novel Where the River Once Flowed is a Whitney finalist.  And though I had no part in writing them, I'm proud to say two of my daughters have books coming out this year.  Janice Sperry has a middle grade chapter book, Rebel Princess, coming out in June and Lezlie Anderson has a Christmas booklet, Snow Angels, due for release in October.

I catch myself thinking about perspective, looking at people, scenery, viewpoints from different angles.  I meet someone and notice a trait or personality quirk that might be fun to give a character.  I'm a literary critic so I always question motives and twists in the books I read, but lately I've become more critical.  I find myself shredding apart plots, rewriting in my head, questioning realism.  I'm a writer.  It's what I do.  It's a part of me.  Yes, I think it's time to start another book.

Monday, February 24, 2014

One Little Thing Leads to Another

When my husband took me to lunch for Valentine's Day, we did not foresee anything more than a very enjoyable meal and time together. But when we left the restaurant, we wandered into the home furnishings store next door just to see what fun things they had. A couple of very large paintings immediately caught my husband's eye and he stopped to look at them, to really look.

He has a painter's eye - has painted many beautiful oil paintings in years past when we were in winter climes when he was snowbound and couldn't play golf during the long winter months. He liked the paintings! I liked them too, but I don't have a single space left on any of my walls, much less for two 40x40 inch paintings! But as I looked at them and realized how much he really did like them, I thought of my front bedroom - which isn't a bedroom at all anymore with a sofa and love seat and book cases everywhere. It's the grandkids TV and game room and library and where I do my Wii exercises (when I remember to do them!)

After our three week cruise to China, Cambodia and Thailand, I had framed pictures of us climbing the Great Wall of China on my husband's 75th birthday, and Glenn cutting his birthday cake with a giant Samurai sword. I put our jade dragon and little terra cotta warrior there, along with the butterfly a darling little Chinese girl gave me when we visited a school and donated school supplies. I put the little painted elephant on a carved elephant shelf - my remembrance from our stop at the elephant preserve were we watched Suda paint her pictures and sign her name and we rode an elephant through the jungle, feeding it bananas to keep it going. (Not just single bananas, but clumps at a time!)

I had a large collage of the people I photographed in those countries - babies, toothless old men and wrinkled old women who smiled into the camera for me. A beautiful young girl getting her first collar that would crush her collar bones and make her neck to appear longer. The hanging coffins along the Yangtze River and the Royal Palace in Bangkok where there was more gold than I'd ever seen in my life! Granted, I had also put all these pictures in Shutterfly books, but my husband loved to take visitors into that room to give them a quick taste of those beautiful countries instead of handing them a book.

As I thought about that room, I discovered I was tired of the cluttered look and the royal blue walls behind them. We had taken that color from the Persian carpet we brought back from Armenia and I thought it looked very chic when I painted two walls that lovely color. Here was the solution: remove all those pictures and artifacts, paint the walls and Glenn could have his pictures. So we bought them.

 That necessitated a trip to Lowe's to pick out new paint, an ordeal in itself as the pictures had different background colors. The next step was moving furniture, wiping down walls, and prepping to paint. The white walls only required one coat of new paint - of course, the blue required two. My husband hates painting. He doesn't prep. He barely puts down drop cloths. I'm happy when he's dong something else and I can take the time to do all the prep and do the job right, but he felt obligated to help since he'd chosen the pictures. Bless his heart, it was nice to have him do the two blue walls while I did the two white walls as that really cut down our painting time! Then I did all the cutting in and cleaning up, and touching up spots on the ceiling and baseboards where he was overzealous. Sometimes it really is easier to do it yourself.

Painting done, we put the furniture back where it belonged, all the books back on book shelves, washed the big window, of course, and then it was time to hang the pictures. My husband is an engineer. Need I say more? When it comes to hanging pictures. I just eyeball where I think they should go. With your fertile imaginations you can imagine the process he goes through to hang pictures properly. So - three days after that fateful innocent Valentine's Day lunch, I have a new room! It is beautiful, refreshing, and I was happy with the result.

 Then as he looked at the finished product, Glenn said "You ought to paint those bookcases black. They'd look great with the room this way." I had just finished this room! I was happy with it even though I could hardly walk from climbing up and down the ladder all day.! Then I visualized the corner bookcases black and realized he was right. So Saturday (instead of blogging and after another trip to town for paint) I removed all the books, took the bookcases outside and painted them. But I can't put them back for a couple of days so I'll just post the blog after the shelves are dry, the books replaced, and the room back together!

May think twice about our lunch dates from now on!

The post that disappeared!

Last Friday was my turn to blog so I finally made the time on Saturday and wrote a nice long post about how one small thing leads to another quite big thing. I wanted to post a picture of the results of our Valentine's Day lunch that had a two day consequence but I needed to let the bookshelves dry after painting them before I could take the picture. I saved the post, thinking as soon as I had the room put back together, I would post the picture with the blog.

This morning when I came in to post the picture - after the shelves were sufficiently dry to put books back on them, the post was gone. There used to be a place where drafts were stored. I can't find it. If anyone can find the draft of my post, I'd be so happy! Otherwise, I'll have to rewrite it so you can understand why this picture is a really big thing!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Change Courts

Several years ago my family invented a new way to play tennis. Since we're silly people on occasion, and not gifted athletes, we found it entertaining to switch courts if the ball bounced out of bounds. We would simply move on to the next court and try the game using a different playing field as we chased the tennis ball. Changing courts added a dash of excitement to what would have been a boring time of retrieving the ball each time it bounced out of the appropriate zone.

I'm sure we all have moments when we feel a sense of security from remaining in a comfort zone. We get used to things being a certain way and we are comfortable with that. Then one day, change forces us to explore boundaries we had no intention of experiencing, and to adapt to a new state of being.This change can be the result of physical or emotional challenges, job relocation, or perhaps the loss of a loved one. Regardless of how it happens, all of us will find ourselves "changing courts," whether we want to, or not.

I teach a teen Sunday School class and this month we're focusing on the Plan of Salvation--the knowledge of who we are, why we're here on earth, and where we are going . . . someday. In preparing these lessons, I probably learn more than anyone else. I've found myself pondering some of my heroes from the Bible lately, people like Joseph (most people add "who was sold into Egypt," to clarify who we're talking about). So, consider how life must've seemed to Joseph. He was a favored son of a loving father--his life was pretty much mapped out in what was a common way to live back in the day. Then he found himself in a different court--quite literally. His own brothers, people I'm sure he loved, sold him into slavery. He became a servant in a culture that was alien to anything he had ever known before. To make matters worse, he eventually landed in prison, accused of something he didn't do.

I'm sure it was a difficult time for Joseph. For a while, he may have figured his entire life was ruined. Most of us know how his story turned out. He didn't give up. He made the best of difficult circumstances and despite challenging obstacles, he managed to flourish. Joseph blossomed into a great leader among the Egyptian people and later saved his own family from starvation during a drought. Joseph the caterpillar became Joseph, the mighty butterfly--all because of dramatic changes that propelled him into an environment of growth and learning.

I suspect that is one of the main reasons we're here in this mortal world. We weren't sent here to find a cozy corner and drift along in a state of perpetual bliss. We were sent here to gain a body (some of us aren't overly thrilled with the model we inherited, but I digress) and to prove ourselves. At one time, before we came to this world, we knew that we would be tested, challenged, and stretched. I wonder if we fully understood how painful that process would be on occasion. ;) In my own life, I have come to realize that the best educational moments have been a direct result of challenging trials that forced me to make difficult choices and to stretch myself beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving.

Someday, when I change courts permanently, and I'm reviewing the video of my life (something I'm sure will be a combination comedy/action adventure story) I will probably more fully appreciate the lessons that were learned along the way. Hopefully I will have progressed from caterpillar mode into the butterfly I hope to eventually become. Pulling myself out of comfort zones and exploring other courts will be a big part of that process, I'm sure. Consider this--water that sits in a quiet pool becomes stagnant. The best water is the kind that has been purified through motion. Change is often hard, but it is the launching pad that will propel us into who we are meant to be.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Every few days I think I really should write a blog, then I usually don't do it.  Every two weeks the group blog I'm part of, V-Formation, reminds me it's my turn and I usually come up with something. A lot has been happening lately, but I don't seem to be able to latch onto one thing and turn it into a blog.  That means this will be one of those "little of everything" kind of blogs. 

February is a birthday month in my family, two grandsons, a granddaughter, and a brother.  Toys R Us here I come! Shopping for gifts for the little ones is fun, but the older ones are more of a problem.  On Sunday we'll get together for ice cream and cake and a lot of visiting and catching up.  That's one of the fun things about having our children close enough for casual get-togethers.
I made it to finalist status for the Whitney Awards- Historical novel category- with Where the River Once Flowed.  Thanks to everyone who nominated my book and thanks to the judges for including it in the five finalists.  The winner will be announced in April.  I feel greatly honored to be a finalist and to have my book included in such prestigious company.  All four of the other finalists are fantastic books; Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears, Esther the Queen by H.B. Moore, Safe Passage by Carla Kelly, and The Mounds Anomally by Phyllis Gunderson.  

I'm becoming more comfortable wearing an insulin pump.  Becoming a diabetic at this stage of my life is a challenge, but at least I no longer have to worry about pancreatic cancer.   

Speaking of cancer, we learned this past week that one of our sons-in-law has two forms of cancer.  The thyroid cancer was easily taken care of with surgery, but the lymphoma will be a harder fix.  He's physically and spiritually strong, so he has every chance of making it through this challenge, and he has strong support from family and friends. 

Lately I've been reading the Whitney finalists I somehow missed during the past year along with new books for possible reviews.  In the process I've met a number of both plausible and implausible characters. They've got me thinking about what works and what doesn't in characters and plots a writer creates.  Like my mixed bag of occurrences in my personal life, I find characters with multiple responsibilities and interests more believable than single focus characters.  But just as in our real lives we can't be spread too thin dealing with multiple problems and be effective in dealing with any of them, characters lose their appeal when they're experts in everything. Writers who go off in too many directions, spend too much time describing scenery, or educating their readers concerning a pet interest that doesn't move the story forward lose readers' interest.  Just because we spend a lot of time researching doesn't mean we have to use every bit of that research in our story.  Fiction is best when it maintains its focus. 

Readers don't buy into characters that are too perfect either.  Most writers know that like real people, realistic characters have flaws.  Sometimes it's some sort of physical handicap, but more often it's an unhealed emotional issue.  This is an area where a writer needs to be careful.  The flaw should make the reader sympathize with the character, but not pity him or her, nor consider the character a whiner, cry baby, or bully.  And the flaw should not be so annoying it takes over the story or interrupts the flow of the story. 

In other words, a novel shouldn't ramble like this blog has done! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Get involved!

Politically I am a Republican--a conservative Republican. I believe that our Constitutional form of government affords people the greatest amount of freedom, and that free enterprise creates the strongest economy which allows each individual the opportunity for upward mobility. I have come to this decision based on test and measure procedures. I've tested which political systems work and which do not.

I am also a writer of historical fiction, and several of my books deal with the effects of Communism in Russia and China. After hundreds of hours of research into the systems, the political philosophy, the implementation, and the devastating effects on people's lives, I find Communism a system which does not work.

To preserve our inspired Constitution for ourselves and our posterity we need to wake up and be involved in our communities, and in the political process. Presently, we are in a critical time in our country and being silent is no longer an option.

I'm a Mormon, and recently the leaders of my church sent out a reminder to Latter-day Saints concerning our responsibility as citizens. They never tell us how to vote, but they do want us to be well informed and involved.

The following note was sent to members via the Ensign magazine, February 2014.

"As members of the Church, we have been encouraged by the Lord and His servants to be an influence for good in our communities. Rather than simply accept the perils of our day, we are to make a positive difference in the world. This, in part, is what it means to be the "salt of the earth" and the yeast tat leavens the whole loaf (see Matthew 5:13; 13:33).

We can be such an influence as we become well informed about current events and join in community discussions and decision making. There are many resources available to help us: local and nation periodicals, school and council meeting, trusted online news sources, and community forums."

I belong to a group of conservative women called The United Women's Forum of Utah. We have chapters throughout the state. Look into groups such as this, that can keep you informed, and get involved!

Monday, February 3, 2014

It Truly Is The Little Things That Matter

The past couple of weeks as I've tried to keep up with life (is it me, or do things seem to get crazier as the years go by?) I've found that I often have to pick and choose between good items. At the end of the day I sometimes ponder how effective I've been in accomplishing goals. There are moments when I concede that perhaps I wasn't as organized or efficient as I could've been.

From time to time I'm asked by varying individuals if I plan to write future novels. I never know quite what to say. I have started three new manuscripts, all very different stories--but my life has changed in recent years and I don't always have the time I used to spend on manuscripts. That may seem odd to some, since at the height of my writing career, I was a busy mother of three growing sons.

I loved being a stay-at-home-mom, and was always grateful that I could help provide a few extras (like braces, trips, sports equipment, etc.) for our family with something I could do at home . . . for the most part. Some of our family trips were planned around book-signings. This gave us a chance to travel and see new places. One summer we made arrangements to fly to California and take our clan to Sea World. I had been asked to do a book-signing in Las Vegas, and we figured we would combine these adventures into one trip. As we were making plans, I received a very strong impression that we needed to invite my mother to go with us. So we did, and we had a great time together. I didn't know it then, but that trip fulfilled two of my mother's life-long dreams: she had always wanted to fly, and to see the ocean. How grateful I am that we were able to make those things happen before her health took a downward spiral.

There are other treasured memories--like the readers I have met, and the author friendships that developed along the way. And once in a while, experiences took place that touched my heart forever. An example: I received a phone call one morning from a woman who lived in another state. She wanted me to know that one of my books had given her granddaughter the courage to turn her life around for the better. I was overwhelmed by the story she shared that day. It has always been my desire to write books that might make a small difference in this troubled world. I'm not sure I've always succeeded, but I have tried. Since I have written primarily for the teen market, I've always felt a great responsibility to share uplifting messages and story-lines that teach the importance of making good choices.

Another afternoon as I sat twiddling my thumbs at a very slow book-signing in southern Utah, an older woman walked into the store. She wandered around for several minutes, then approached me. She explained that she had been praying and fasting that day for a troubled granddaughter, and had received an impression to come to this LDS bookstore. As she had walked around, she felt like she needed to talk to me. We were both in tears as she finished her story. She bought one of my books and left, hopeful that something on those pages would touch her granddaughter's heart. I spent the rest of that afternoon offering a similar prayer.

I could probably fill a book with experiences like these that motivated me to continue writing. It was not always an easy thing--balancing the writing world with other responsibilities--and the health challenges I face on a daily basis. (Type 1 diabetes & rheumatoid arthritis.) And there were some aspects that I didn't care for too much. I loved meeting up with author friends on occasion, but I often felt out of place at the lavish events that were sometimes held by our publishing company and others like it. I suppose it's because I will always be a shy, country girl at heart.

One year as our family was traveling to Utah for a fancy banquet, a rare tornado touched down in the heart of Salt Lake City. (August 11, 1999) We were on the freeway at the time it happened, and narrowly avoided an accident with several other cars that had slammed on their brakes. We exited the freeway as soon as possible, and drove to my mother's house in nearby Clinton where we received word that the banquet had been cancelled. So we spent the night at my mother's house, ordered pizza, and watched funny movies. In short, we spent a relaxing evening with loved ones and enjoyed it very much.

I'm convinced when this life of mine is through, I will not be asked how many books I wrote or managed to get published. Instead, I believe that what will matter most are the acts of service and love that were rendered on behalf of family, friends, and those in need. It won't be awards or worldly acclaim that will count for much--but how I treated others, and how I used my talents to help those around me.

One of my favorite scriptures is found in the Doctrine and Covenants: "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great."  (D. & C. 64:33) In other words, it is the simple acts of kindness and service that will help to change this world into a better place. It is the hours spent helping others, raising families, teaching children, serving in our callings and in worthwhile causes in our communities that will make important differences. So on days when you are feeling like you're not accomplishing much in the way of greatness, consider the scripture I just shared, and realize, as I have to do on occasion, that what is valued on a worldly scale, differs greatly from what is most important in the eyes of our Father in heaven. It truly is the little things that matter.