Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The New Year

This will be my only posting for this week. I'm madly working on rewrites and spending much needed time with my family. As I've thought about what to post I became very reflective. Ready or not the new year is coming. Before it does, take a moment and look back at where you've been, what you've accomplished, and what you'd like to do differently.

As I look back at where I've been and what I've accomplished I thought of my family. We had good times in 2009: family reunions, the birth of a new grandson, holidays together. I also thought of my book signings. What an adventure! I met some wonderful people, and I very much appreciate friends and family who supported me as each of my books came out. I also thought about the speaking engagements where I was asked to talk. There was such a variety from the university institute to YW at camp, from a youth conference to a Relief Society Christmas social. All were wonderful experiences where I was privileged to meet and talk with many people.

What would I do differently? Mostly I'd like to enjoy more fully the "here and now" and not think of the future so much. Sometimes we put our lives on hold because we're living for what will happen when what is happening before us are the moments we'll never get back. Enjoy the moment! That's my main goal for 2010.

What's yours?

Here's a moment to relive as you think about where you've been, what you've accomplished and what you'd like to do differently.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Real Meaning of Christmas

It's Christmas Eve. This night is very special. It's a night to contemplate the real meaning of Christmas and to be with family and friends we hold near and dear to our hearts.

This Christmas season has been incredible. I've seen a dream come true with the release of my Christmas book, An Angel on Main Street. Many have asked how I came up with the story. It wasn't hard. I love Christmas and I wanted the Nativity to play an important part in my book. I hope and pray my little story has added the spirit of Christmas to your holidays. I'm grateful for the support of family and friends. But mostly I'm grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who sent his son to earth on this holy night. I hope you enjoy the short video clip sent to me by a good friend. It pretty much says it all.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Classic - The Bishop's Wife


Another Christmas classic I watch this time of year is The Bishop's Wife. Again an angel is involved with the story. Hmm. I see a pattern in the movies I love most. Anyway, Cary Grant plays an angel named Dudley sent to help the bishop find funding for a new cathedral. However, the bishop's wife, played by Lorette Young diverts the angel's attention. Or does she?

The movie was adapted from the book, The Bishop's Wife, written by Robert Nathan. The film won the Oscar for sound and was nominated for Oscars in five other catergories: Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Best Scoring, and Best Picture.

Here's the movie trailor.




The scene I love to watch is the ice skating scene. I hope you enjoy watching it as well.



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Classic - It's a Wonderful Life


One of my absolute favorite movies is It's a Wonderful Life, staring James Stewart and Donna Reed. Watching this movie can make a person realize that you do make a difference to others, hopefully for the good.

The film was loosely base on a short story titled The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. Much of the film is told in flashback of George Bailey's life, which can be distracting, but in this case essential for it is told by angels. Yes, angels. Is it any wonder that I liked it?

Hard to believe, but this film was a disappointment to the studio. The film earned five oscar nominations, but didn't win any. However, this priceless little gem is considered to be one of the 100 best American films ever made and was placed as number one as the most inspirational American films of all time.

Take a peek at a few of the great scenes of this Christmas classic.












Monday, December 21, 2009

The Apology--Book Review and Interview with Michael Weaver


During my signing in Centerville, I met Michael Weaver. After talking for a while, I learned he also has a Christmas book out this year he co-wrote with his mother, Janet H. Weaver, titled The Apology. Wanting to be supportive, I purchased his book. I didn't think I would have time to read it for a review, so I asked if Michael would like to do an interview for my blog. He agreed.

Turned out I did have the time to read the book because The Apology is only fifty-seven pages long. It begins in the point-of-view of Martha Day, an elderly woman, who is reminiscing about her life and the regrets she has. Don't we all do that at some point in our lives? After reading the first few pages I didn't know if I wanted to finish. I serve as the Relief Society President at an assisted living center, so I know many wonderful people who have the same regrets as Martha Day and who are sometimes forgotten by their families. But I'm glad I read on for the book is more than just a book about regrets. It's a book about forgiveness, love, and the courage it takes to make things right in the past. The Apology made me appreciate what the children of the elderly are going through and why they sometimes may not keep in touch with their parents. Hopefully if people read this book, they'll realize their parents and grandparents love them and just want to be visited and loved.

This little book is really the beginning of many stories that I would like to read someday. I want to know more about Martha's children: Bill, Charlotte, and Nellie. Each could very well have books of their own. If you're a picky reader who doesn't like point-of-view shifts within a scene there are a few in this book, but they are not confusing. The reader understands what's going on. This is a feel-good book that reminds us to remember the important things in life: home and family.

Now for the short interview with Michael Weaver.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? I have always enjoyed writing but it is my mother who has always wanted to be published.

Tell us a little bit about your new book.
It is about a family that is not separated but that has become estranged and thanks to an ironic twist is reunited around the holiday.

Tell us about your other books. I am Working on two others and hope to have them both out this next year. The first is another Christmas story, Mary Christmas. This is a story that makes you want to be more like a little child. Mary is someone that we should all look up to.

What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
I love to tell stories that inspire.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm?
I grew up in a small town but it was large enough. My grand parents lived in an even smaller town, and I spent a lot of my time there. (The) last 11 years have been spent a metropolitan area and that is influencing my ideas as well.

Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing?
I do most my writing in concept before I ever sit at the computer. Once I am at the computer it is just getting the story out of my head and on paper. I wrote my second book while working a night job.

How has being published changed your life?
I know now that if you set your mind to something it can come true.

Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
I am attempting to do a virtual book signing at Mhweaver@ Blogspot.com This is a great neighbor book and Visiting/Home teaching gift.

(The Apology is published by Cedar Fort, Inc. I purchased the book and did the review freely on my own.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Heather Justesen Interview - author of The Ball's in Her Court


Though I've never met Heather Justesen, I wanted to interview her on my blog because she has a new book out titled, The Ball's in Her Court.

Enjoy!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I haven’t, though my siblings have informed me I’m the only one in the family who didn’t know I would write someday. I’ve always been an avid reader who spent a lot of time imagining different scenarios and story lines, so I guess you could say I’ve been in training all of my life—I just didn’t realize it until I was an adult. I actually started writing about ten years ago.

Tell us a little bit about your new book.
My book, The Ball’s in Her Court is about a woman, Denise, who was abused and neglected as a child, was put into foster care, and adopted about age 12. She managed to work through her past enough to create a good life for herself, and is now a settled adult with a good career. Still she’s unable to completely let go of her past, so she decides it’s time to go searching for answers—which includes searching for her birth father and tracking down other family members—none of whom she remembered meeting. Along the course of the story she falls in love with her roommate’s cousin. In the evenings she likes to go to the gym and blow off steam by playing basketball—and she beats most of the guys in one-on-one.

Tell us about your other books in progress.
I actually have another book coming out in the spring, “Rebound,” which is a spin-off from this book involving Denise’s roommate, Lily whose marriage isn’t anything like she had expected it to be. When her husband is arrested for fraud in the opening scene of the book, her world is totally shattered. Their assets are frozen, she has a toddler and another on the way, and she faces prejudice because of her husband’s actions as she tries to find a job. She has to start over again and learn to trust herself—and of course, she falls in love again with a much nicer guy. I have several other projects underway, some of which are related to the first two, and some that are completely unrelated. I’m actually going to be submitting a third, unrelated book, before the end of the year.

What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
A really great plot or a character I totally love. Honestly it’s all about the story—if I want to see what’s going to happen next badly enough then it’s really easy to stay motivated. If I’m a bit lost or I’ve gotten too distracted by life to stay focused on the story as much as I’d like, then having something to bring with me to my critique group each week is also a great motivator.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I’d have to say my first writing mentor was Josi Kilpack. She edited a couple of manuscripts for me and her notes and suggestions made a huge difference in my writing. I also love that she picks topics of serious relevance to us today and writes around them, though I love her newer culinary mysteries as well.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? I grew up in Fillmore, Utah, where I live now. It’s a rural area with lots of farms, but we lived in town and my parents own a store. We never had much in the way of pets—though I’ve made up for that since. I’ve been happy everywhere I’ve lived but my husband and I love living in a small town where we can really be part of the community and get involved. I do miss having access to regular theater and musical productions though.

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting?
Usually on the couch with my laptop. I also like sitting on the bed to write, but I do actually have an office that I sometimes use when my mind doesn’t want to focus and I have to convince it that it really is time to get down to work. Most of the time I don’t listen to anything when I write, but if it gets too quiet sometimes I’ll turn the music on really low, or put on instrumental music so it won’t distract me from my work with lyrics. I do a lot of writing in the car when we travel, and even in the back of the ambulance when we’re returning from patient transfers to larger hospitals up north. As an EMT for my local ambulance service there are weeks when I get a lot of writing done this way.

Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing?
I don’t watch very much TV, but I do really like “Psyche” and “Chuck.” My husband and I occasionally rent a movie or go to the theater, but that’s really rare—maybe four or five times a year. I would like to write a character as quirky as Shawn Spencer, though!

How has being published changed your life?
It’s made me busier! All of the sudden those deadlines in my head have purpose, and there are so many things that need to be done from blogging and signings and school visits and everything else that I’m doing for publicity. It’s fun to have people come over to me and ask about writing, especially people who have just started writing who are full of questions and excitement.

Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
I just finished my blog tour, but I have a few more signings and events coming up. You can check the Events page of my website and the top of my blog sidebar for specifics.

Thanks Kathi!

You're welcome. Here's the book trailer for Heather's book.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Winner of An Angel in Your Life Contest - Mini-lesson on the Words You Use.


This is exciting!!! As you may know I've been holding a contest in conjunction with the release of my book An Angel on Main Street. I want to thank everyone who entered. There were some very heart touching stories, and it became impossible for me to judge so I asked my writing group to do the honors.

First let's take a look at some of the entries. Here is one that is short and sweet.

The angel in my life is my Mom. She is always there to support me and give me encouragement with my grades. She is a strong person in her convictions and even through her many trials. I love her lots.

What a fortunate mother to have such a grateful daughter!

The next entry was an experience I hope would happen to me if I were in a similar situation.

Just yesterday I pulled into the church parking lot and hit a nail. When I got out of the car, the tire was already getting low and I could hear the air coming out of it. A brother in my High Priest Group walked by and saw me inspecting my soon-to-be ox-in-the-mire. He said, "Hey, ___... put that nail back in and let's drive to my house right away so we can plug that tire and not have to change it."I missed the Sacrament, but the kind act of service (and NOT having to change a tire while in my suit) certainly kept my mood from turning gloomy on the Sabbath. The tire was repaired, and I made it to back into the meeting before the last speaker spoke.

See what I mean. Thank goodness for a kind angel looking over his shoulder. The next entry was a bit long, but I wanted to share it with you. I've cut some of the story, but I think you'll understand what was going on.

On the morning of 15 August 1998 (Saturday) I left my home around eight o'clock to begin my endurance challenge. This would be the farthest I had ever gone. Things went well at the beginning as I had done my homework well and could stop for water every couple of miles. As I entered the mouth of Mueller Canyon I stopped at a water fountain and drank my fill before entering the canyon and the grueling trip up the trail to Elephant Rock. My plan from here was to stop at the springs along the way to keep hydrated. As I arrived at the first spring there was a group of people there with their pet dog that was running in and out of the water which by now was nothing but a mud hole. I continued on thinking all would be well until the next water hole. Again my plan was dashed by this same dog. This group had gone off the trail and up the side of the mountain and beat me to the water.About halfway up the trail I came around a corner and there was a bicyclist sitting on a rock enjoying the view. When he saw that I wasn’t carrying water he offered me a drink of his sports drink. I thanked him but told him I didn’t want to deprive him of his drink as I knew he was still going to need it as the day wore on and I would find water from a spring. After visiting for a short time he boarded his bicycle and departed up the trail with me running behind while looking for water. Being the middle of summer, all the springs had dried up and my looking was in vain. By the time I was approaching Elephant Rock I was very dry and thirsty. As I came around the corner here was my Angel, the bicyclist, holding his sports drink out in front of him and asked if I was ready for it now? I thanked him, took the bottle and poured it down my throat as fast as it would pour before giving him the empty bottle back. I then apologized for drinking all his drink. He told me he had more in his saddle bags if I wanted more. Knowing he had to return back down the trail I thanked him but told him no, I would be all right now. He went his way back the way we had come while I continued over the top and down the other side into North Canyon. As I ran along I kept thinking about the springs that I had seen at other times in the canyon and knowing they would appear soon. They never did. By now the sun was high in the sky and very hot. My only thoughts now were to reach Rudy’s Flat where I knew there was a stream that ran through the middle that I would lie down in to cool off and drink in the cool water. By the time Rudy’s Flat was in sight my body was screaming for water. I headed for the stream which was covered by shrubbery thinking how great it would feel to lie down in the flowing water and soak my overheated body and weary bones. As I approached the entrance though the brush to the creek it became obvious that there were enough horseflies to eat the flesh off my body in record time if I were to continue so I back tracked to the trail and continued running down the trail. The big difference now was that I was also swinging my arms to bat the flies away while trying to outrun them. When I finally emerged from the canyon I knew I was in trouble and needed to get water as soon as possible. I even considered knocking on doors asking for a drink or the use of their phone to call home for help. I suppose my pride kept me from doing either of these and I kept on running. When I finally reached home, my oldest son was in the driveway working on his car. When he saw me he said, “Dad, you’re not even sweating!” I knew that from about halfway up the trail in North Canyon I had stopped sweating and was in dire need of water. Continuing into the house I went straight to the kitchen sink and filled a large glass with water and poured it down my throat followed by another. With the third glassful in hand I leaned against the sink to rest when all at once water started pouring from my body like a soaker hose. I sat down now and slowly sipped from my large glass to keep water going into my system. As I looked back at the events that happened to me during the course of that day I know that man saved my life and I will be forever indebted to him for his kindness and generosity.

How fortunate for a bicyclist angel! The next entry touches the heart of those who have lost a loved one.

My special angel is my husband, and always has been since we first met. We have had many adventures throughout the years, and when we got in over our heads which was a frequent happening, he stood tall and smiled his angelic smile. Through thick and thin, he was always there, even when his halo got a little tarnished. My angel is still with me even though he left earth February of 2002. He goes to the Temple with me, he provides answers to questions that only he could know, and I know he is happy to finally find a place to "fit in". He spent most of his life searching for a love he could not find. He wanted to be loved by his mother and father, and never did either acknowledge him as a son, much less show him love. I know he has found that love at last - our Savior's and our Heavenly Father's love - that quenches all thirst. They surround him and hug him and he looks down on me and smiles. My special angel.

I wish I could post all the entries, but there were too many. I tried to pick a few that would show a variety of wonderful experiences people have had with the angels in their lives. As I see it all who have entered are winners!!! I'm so grateful that my writers group agreed to judge for me. Now for the winning entry. If you are a follower of my blog you may have read this story before. Here it is again with the names added.

My experience is different than the rest of the stories you will no doubt hear. I don't know who my angel is. Let me share my story. Last year, my sweet husband suffered a pretty severe hand injury at work. He was out of work for about four months. When it came time to start looking for work again it was October and we needed a job fast. The holidays are always a hard time to be looking for work. My husband found a job at a company in Nephi. We lived in Provo at the time so it was not that big of a commute. The company paid all right for a while, but in December the paychecks started to dwindle. We wanted to see family in Cedar City that year. We had hardly any money for Christmas gifts let alone gas for the trip. About a week before we were to leave, my sister in law called. She said some folks in her ward had left her family some gifts and some money on her doorstep. She told us they didn't really need the money and that they could give the money to us for gas. It was fifty dollars! I thanked her immediately and her husband dropped off the money a couple of days later when they were in town. And then to my surprise, the next morning someone in our ward had left many packages in our yard for Christmas. I think I had purchased one or two items that year for my kids! I didn't even need to go Christmas shopping. The packages contained brand new clothes, gift cards, and all the trimming for a wonderful Christmas meal. I think there was even a turkey involved! To this day I have no idea who helped us with Christmas that year but I do know one thing, that God loves us. Sometimes he sends his angels in small packages, sometimes in large ones. Sometimes it is just a new friend, sometimes a bit more. So I guess I know who one of my angels is. The woman who shared some of her Christmas with us, Emily Merryweather. I am very grateful for the angels in my life, known and unknown, because it has helped strengthen my testimony in many ways.

The winner of An Angel in Your Life Contest is Alexes Covington!

Alexes will receive a $25. certificate to Seagull Book or Deseret Book, which ever one she chooses and so will her angel.

Congratulations Alexes!!!

Since this is Wednesday I know you're expecting a little something about writing. I thought we would discuss the words we chose to write with. Okay that sounds rather odd. More goes into this than you would think.

The last couple of weeks I've quoted from Dwight Swain's book Techniques of the Selling Writer. I'd like to refer to him again. He states, "people's feelings come out in the words they use." Experts say that the words in question have to do with denotation and connotation.

Eek! We're getting into a heavy subject, but hang on. Let's focus on meaning and see if this becomes more clear. Denotation means the actual or dictionary meaning of a word. When a word means or implies something more than the denotation of the word that is called connotation. You may ask why is that important? Well... it's important because the connotation of a word may hold overtones of likes and dislikes for your reader.

In the romantic suspense novel I'm working on right now, I had my main character, Regi--who is not a person who minces her words--call a bad driver a nimrod. A reviewer didn't like the word and as a result didn't care for Regi. That's a major problem since Regi is the main character in my book, so I deleted the word. And though I still think my fiesty Regi would probably call a bad driver trying to force her off the road a nimrod or maybe even something worse, I can't take the risk of offending my readers. There is plenty in the book that shows her character without the baggage of a word that could have bad connotations for some people.

Can you think of everyday words that once were thought of differently than they are today due to bad connotations? I thought of one. Politician. Someone says politician and all sorts of red alerts go off. Some for good, some for bad. The word in and of itself is a good word. We need politicians, but because there is an awfully lot of baggage with the word you need to frame it carefully, so your readers understand your meaning.


I remember many years ago a great debate going on in the writing group I belong to over the word "permeate". I'd used it without truly thinking through exactly what I meant. That discussion made me realize every single word you write has a function and a writer needs to sometimes wear kid gloves when writing. Of course worrying about every single word can make a writer freeze up, which isn't good. So my advice...get your story on paper. Then, when you do your edits weigh each word, making sure the denotation and the connotation are what you intend them to be.

That's a very short explaination on the subject. If you would like to share you thoughts, please do so. I'd love to receive your comments.

Have a great week of writing!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Part of What I Love About Christmas

Today it is twelve days before Christmas. Am I ready for the holiday? Yes and no. Let me explain. Part of what I love about Christmas is getting together with family and friends, making Christmas goodies, decorating the house, singing Christmas carols and shopping. So, yes, I'm ready to do all of that. Am I ready for the holiday to be tomorrow? No. Still have presents to buy, a house to clean, and presents that need to be mailed. Will I be ready in twelve days? I don't know, but ready or not Christmas will come. Part of the joy of the season is the journey toward the holiday. Last weekend was part of that joy. Saturday I attended a party with my writers critique group. Not everyone was there, they were sorely missed, but for those of us who could attend we had a good time catching up with each other.


(Back row: Dorothy, Kathleen, Roseann, Kerri. Front row: me, Michele, Charlene, Tina, Brenda and Maureen.)

We have our party at the country club where Dorothy has a membership. Kathleen sent this photo and mentioned how appropriate it was that we were standing under books. I had to leave the party early because I had a signing in Centerville.

My signing was at the Seagull Book Store. People were coming and going the entire time I was there. I was fortunate to meet Michael Weaver. He has a new Christmas book this year titled The Apology. I'll post an interview with him in a few days so you can become more familiar with him and his book. I also had a couple of people who told me that they had read my Christmas book and loved it. What a thrill! In fact, as I was telling a man about my book a lady I didn't know stopped and told him to buy my book because she loved it. After she left, he asked me if I knew the woman. I'd never seen her before. Wow! That was one of those moments a writer lives for.

During this busy weekend my daughter, Tricia, and I made sugar cookies. These cookies have long been a tradition in our family. This year Tricia did most of the work. After the cookies were baked, we popped them in the freezer to frost next weekend. Then we turned our attention on my dog, Lizzie. I had bought her a little Santa hat and whiskers. I don't know. It might just be me, but I don't think she looks all that excited about the holidays.


For me all the fuss, running around, parties, and family are part of what I love about Christmas. Please tell me what you love about the season.

Here's another angel entry for my Angel in Your Life Contest. The deadline is tomorrow, so please send in your entries.

My experience is different than the rest of the stories you will no doubt hear. I don't know who my angel is. Let me share my story.Last year, my sweet husband suffered a pretty severe hand injury at work. He was out of work for about four months. When it came time to start looking for work again it was October and we needed a job fast. The holidays are always a hard time to be looking for work. My husband found a job.... We lived in ... at the time so it was not that big of a commute. The company paid all right for a while, but in December the paychecks started to dwindle. We wanted to see family in ... City that year. We had hardly any money for Christmas gifts let alone gas for the trip. About a week before we were to leave, my sister-in-law called. She said some folks in her ward had left her family some gifts and some money on her doorstep. She told us they didn't really need the money and that they could give the money to us for gas. It was fifty dollars! I thanked her immediately and her husband dropped off the money a couple of days later when they were in town. And then to my surprise, the next morning someone in our ward had left many packages in our yard for Christmas. I think I had purchased one or two items that year for my kids! I didn't even need to go Christmas shopping. The packages contained brand new clothes, gift cards, and all the trimming for a wonderful Christmas meal. I think there was even a turkey involved! To this day I have no idea who helped us with Christmas that year but I do know one thing, that God loves us. Sometimes he sends his angels in small packages, sometimes in large ones. Sometimes it is just a new friend, sometimes a bit more. So I guess I know who one of my angels is. The woman who shared some of her Christmas with us, .... I am very grateful for the angels in my life, known and unknown, because it has helped strengthen my testimony in many ways.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dawn's Early Light: Volume Three of Free Men and Dreamers by L.C. Lewis--Book Review


I love American history. And I love good historical fiction with a dash of romance. I'm a little particular because I don't care for books that give me so much detail that I feel as though I've learned the history of dirt while the author merely tells a story around a ton of research. So with a little trepidation I picked up L.C. Lewis's new novel Dawn's Early Light: Volume Three of Free Men and Dreamers. My concerns were quickly evaporated as this book delivers a great story with just the right blend of historical facts!

Here's the back liner of Lewis's new book.

In the spring of 1814, a temporary calm settles along the Patuxent. While the British Navy skulks in the Chesapeake Bay, the Willows families and their neighbors enjoy a brief season of peace.

That is until Napoleon is subdued. Britain's navy re-enters the Patuxent and now prepares to loose her triumphant European conquerors on America, even as peace negotiations commence in Belgium. But weeks of relentless British attacks along the waterfront soften the will of the American Militia and citizenry, leaving the voracious British military confident that victory is within their grasp. And their primary target? Washington.

While attentions turn to the defense of the Capital, Sebastian Dupree and his band of mercenaries strike the Willows. Not everyone survives, despite former enemies becoming allies, fighting side-by-side with the Willows' freed slaves to defend their homes and families.

Mere miles away, the Capital lies in peril, its defense now resting primarily upon citizen soldiers like Jed Pearson, and a most unlikely naval force--Commodore Joshua Barney's rag-tag fleet of barges called the Chesapeake flotilla--and the courage of Markus O'Malley and the other men who built it.

But Britain's house is also divided over the war, and as the cost mounts in blood and money rifts widen in her families and government, wearying the mind of the Earl of Whittington and threatening to destroy Arthur Ramsey.

Experience the pain and passion of five families--American, slave and British--as they endure three of the darkest days in American history--the week Washington burned.

Now what did I really think of the novel? From page one I was hooked. Lewis has the ability to write wonderfully well-rounded characters who become living, breathing people in your mind. I came to understand the motivation behind Britain's need to go to war and felt sorry for the Earl of Whittington. I'll never forget his dream of cradles turned to coffins and the sorrow the man held in his heart for the lose of most of his family.

I also felt the love between Jed Pearson and his wife, Hannah. I understood how the love she felt for her husband could temporarily make her want him to run away and not fight. I also understood Jed's need to stay, knowing that he would never find rest if he didn't fight for the home he loved and the people who meant so very much to him. I felt as though I was with Hannah as she sat on the "worry porch" waiting for her husband to come home. The scene reminded me of the many times I've waited for a loved one and how often I've looked out the window praying all was well.

Lewis's use of fictional characters to show readers the trials and tribulations of the historic events of America is masterfully done. It certainly made this reader more appreciative for those who gave so much to keep our nation free.

If you're worried that buying the third volume in the series would make it hard to understand what is going on, don't be. Lewis again shows her masterful writing talent and feeds pertinent information to you in a very subtle way making it part of the story line. BUT if you don't like only having one book of a series, by all means pick up her other two books: Twilight's Last Gleaming and Dark Sky At Dawn.

The books can be bought online at Amazon.com, Seagull Book, Deseret Book, and other retailers. For more information about Lewis and her novels visit her website: http://www.laurielclewis.com/.

(Note: A copy of Dawn's Early Light was provided to me free of charge so I could do this review.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Writing Vivid Scenes


A couple of weeks ago I started us on a writing journey and then detoured you with two weeks on Inner Conflict. Well we’re back on the main highway again. Just to refresh your memory on November 18th we discussed the importance of grouping words into motivation-reaction units. Using Dwight Swain's book Techniques of the Selling Writer as our guide we went over the process of selection, arrangement and descriptions. All three identify your style of writing.

I planned to discuss scene and sequel next, but I think we need to discuss something that is very important first. Vividness. Swain says that vividness is at the heart of writing. I wholeheartedly agree. A vivid scene will stay with a reader long after he/she closes your book. So how do you write vivid scenes? Nouns and verbs. That’s simple, right? Wait a minute. Let me explain a little more.

You know that nouns are words that describe things: cat, car, or chair. Right? In and of themselves these words are very plain. Remember selection. A cat in vivid writing just isn’t a cat, it’s a feline and better than that it could very well be Siamese. Compare the three: cat, feline, Siamese. Which is most descriptive, most vivid? Now how about the noun car. In vivid writing a car could be a Ford, better yet a Mustang. Now a chair could be a recliner, better still a La-Z-boy. What we're going for here is specificity which equals vivid writing! As you can see the more specific you are the more vivid the scene. But what about verbs? How do verbs make a scene more vivid?

Verbs show action or a state of being. They can be very complex. There are transitive verbs and intransitive verbs. There are five major forms of verbs: base, infinitive, present tense, past tense, past participle, and present participle. There are regular verbs and irregular verbs. However, the verbs we’re going to dwell on are “active” and “passive” verbs. Guess which one you need to use to make your writing vivid? Yep, active. Let’s do a comparison.

Jack was in the truck.
Jack sat in the truck.
Jack hid in the truck.

Was is the passive verb. Nothing descriptive nor active about was. It’s a to be verb which describes existence only. Avoid these verbs whenever possible. Sat is active and better still hid is active and draws a picture for the reader. In Swain’s words, “Active verbs are what you need…verbs that show something, and thus draw your reader’s mental image more sharply into focus.”

Try making your writing more vivid by using nouns that are descriptive and verbs that are active. Next week I'd like to discuss what's in a name. And I promise we'll get to scene and sequel...eventually. I just want to cover a few more basics first. Hang on we'll get there.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Pearl Harbor and An Angel Entry


December 7th...always a day to remember, a day that changed so many American lives and a day when many people became heroes. Last night as my family decorated the Christmas tree we watched the movie Pearl Harbor. Not your typical holiday movie, yet an important part of our nation's history.

This movie means a great deal to me. My father had been stationed in Hawaii just a year or so before the Japanese bombed. He had served on the USS Maryland. Dad had many found memories of that ship. Little did he know that a year after he was transferred to Key Port, Washington the Maryland would be in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His ship was docked alongside the USS Okalahoma that went down. The Maryland was struck by two armor-piercing bombs: one in the forecastle awning and the other in the hull. The brave men aboard were able to fight back using all their antiaircraft batteries. Later the Japanese reported that the Maryland had sunk, but on December 30, the battle weary ship sailed into Puget Sound for repairs.

When I watch the movie Pearl Harbor I always think of Dad and how he sorrowed for his Navy buddies who perished that day. My father helped make torpedoes throughout the war.

Here's the movie trailer for Pearl Harbor.



Most definitely many angels were at work during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Brave people stepped up when they were needed.

We have angels among us everyday, helping us when we sometimes don't realize it. Here's another entry to my An Angel in Your Life Contest. The deadline (December 15th) is fast approaching. Send your entry in before it's too late.

My special angel is my husband, and always has been since we first met. We have had many adventures throughout the years, and when we got in over our heads which was a frequent happening, he stood tall and smiled his angelic smile. Through thick and thin, he was always there, even when his halo got a little tarnished.
My angel is still with me even though he left earth--- he goes to the Temple with me, he provides answers to questions that only he could know, and I know he is happy to finally find a place to "fit in". He spent most of his life searching for a love he could not find. He wanted to be loved by his mother and father, and never did either acknowledge him as a son, much less show him love.
I know he has found that love at last - our Savior's and our Heavenly Father's love - that quenches all thirst. They surround him and hug him and he looks down on me and smiles.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Legend of the Star - by Stacy Gooch-Anderson - Book Review


Stacy Gooch-Anderson has yet another wonderful Christmas book. This year's story is titled The Legend of the Star.

From the inside cover:

The birth of Jesus is drawing near, and all the cherubs in heaven eagerly gather to talk about this great event. Each is entrusted with something special to do--except for one little cherub. Imperfect in a perfect world, this stuttering little angel is left without an assignment on the Lord's special day.

Carefully crafted by Stacy Gooch-Anderson and accompanied by exceptional art from Glenn Harmon, The Legend of the Star tells how one little angel changed the outlook of those around him and how the Christmas star came to be.

Now if you know anything about me, you know that I absolutely love Christmas stories with angels in them. A couple of my favorite movies are The Bishop's Wife and It's a Wonderful Life. Classic angel stories. These wonderful movies are told from the human point-of-view, but Stacy's book gives a glimpse of a story that could have happened in heaven on the glorious night that many in the world celebrate. What a fun, fun read. The pictures are in heavenly colors of blue and yellow and they help tell the tale of this fanciful book.

After the success of Stacy's book, The Santa Letters, she has followed up with this wonderful tale that warms the heart. An added bonus is in the back of The Legend of the Star. Stacy has included a poem titled, The Story of the Star. I'm not very knowledgeable about poetry, but I do know what I like. And I like this poem. Both the poem and book are bound to become classic Christmas stories.

The Legend of the Star already has my grandson asking me to read it to him over and over again. If you're a collector of picture books, you'll want to add this one to your collection.

Published by Cedar Fort Inc. this book was given to me free of charge to review.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Inner Conflict: Nuts and Bolts


Here is the second part of Nikki's guest blog on inner conflict.

Last week’s blog was on the nuts and bolts of inner conflict. Now that you have those, how do you weave inner conflict in to your own story? By constantly repeating yourself, right? No! Do not think of yet another way for your character to mentally catalog their dilemma. Okay, how else? Oh, oh! Give characters moral choices and always have them do the right thing! So that they’re completely boring and inhuman and no reader can stomach them! Absolutely not.

What you want to do is set up circumstances for your characters to have to choose between what they value and what they value most. Let’s look at an example of this. I’m writing a young adult romance novel about a girl, Trix, who wants three things: to graduate, to emotionally support her friends and family, and to appear to be in control. She’s completely aware of the first, somewhat conscious of the second and not at all clued in to the third. In the following scene, she is studying for a math test she must pass in order to graduate. This should be helping her move directly toward her stated goal but watch as another goal gets in the way:

In frustration, Dad broke the tip of the mechanical pencil pointing to the equation he'd written on binder paper. “Start solving the problem!"

I looked at it and hesitated. "I don’t know how." The question was unbelievably easy. I could do it in my sleep except somehow I’d be wrong because Dad was here. Why did he have to prove that even when I tried I was still stupid? With a trembling hand, I scratched some numbers on my paper and tried to calm my nerves. Maybe I’d do it right and things wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe K-mart would start paying me millions of dollars and I wouldn’t need to graduate. Maybe—

Dad scribbled while he talked. "Look! Pick a number—three. Write it. Plug it in. You get fifteen."

I covered my paper with my hands. I’d written a two and a ten.

The meanness I felt wasn’t real. It covered something much greater that I wasn’t ready to handle. “Mr. Golding doesn’t even think I should study with you!” I shouted it right in Dad’s face. “You make everything worse!”

Angry, he winced like he’d been hit. “What are you—?”

“Trix!” Across the room, Mom's surprised face was as stiff as the dirty plate she held dripping into the kitchen sink. The radio sang, Jesus, oh, my Friend.

“I’m paying a tutor with my own money! Anything’s better than this!” I shoved the notebook across the table until it hit Dad’s gut. The pain in my side intensified. “You’re a terrible teacher! Everyone says so!”

Wait!, you might be thinking. Doesn’t Trix want to graduate? Doesn’t she want to emotionally support her friends and family? Yes, and she’s messing up those two grandly because she wants something else even more. She suffered her first panic attack just the day before and the terror of a repeat attack has her desperate to be even more in control than ever. As she feels her command of self slip, she scribbles answers on a paper instead of volunteering them, tells herself she’s stupid to avoid the reality that she’s frightened, and lashes out at her dad to prevent him from seeing the truth.

Notice that Trix’s inner conflict is much more intense at the end of the scene than at the beginning. She starts with anxiety about getting the wrong answer. She leaves aching that she has hurt her dad and feeling like a terrible person but too afraid to apologize. Studying is now road-blocked even though graduation is as desirable as ever.

It takes Trix the entire story but she does finally realizes that, though she can accurately catalogue her loved one’s troubles and even tries to help out all she can, her determination to hide her own difficulties isolates her from the very people she wants to help. In seeking help for her panic disorder, she breaks through the isolation and learns in the process that true friendship is always a two-way street.

That’s it. That’s all I have to say about inner conflict. By the way, if you think that the resolution of Trix’s inner conflict sounds like the theme of my book, you’re right. And NOW! A bonus feature included in this blog at ABSOLUTELY no cost to you! If you don’t have your own theme you now have the tools to build one (sorry, you can’t use mine). Choose a limited set of inner conflicts that drive every scene of your plot and then have your main character discover a truth at the end that, when acted on, allows him to solve all of the outer conflicts that your inner conflict created and leaves his soul at peace. Whew, that was a long sentence. But really, there’s nothing to it! Start today! If you act fast, I’ll include this handsome five-piece leather luggage set FREE! Just kidding.

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