Wednesday, July 30, 2008
We will also take some time in Utah for the kids to visit with their paternal grandparents. They haven't seen them in four years, so they are really looking forward to seeing family. Rick and I will have a day to wander around and do whatever we want while the kids visit.
Then we are off to Arizona. I know. Crazy. We were going to go at Christmas, but when the gas prices went up we decided to combine it with our family reunion trip. My mom and brother are in Arizona so we get to visit it that side of the family for a few days.
So we will spend the next two weeks doing lots of driving and lots of visiting. I also managed to write 1359 words today as we drove. If I can manage that every day we are driving I should be able to finish my WIP soon.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
As for my word count over the last few days, I haven't been a winner. One of my best friends from high school stayed with us this last weekend and we attended our town celebrations. Great fun, few words. Today I canned apricots, made jam and did all the laundry. Not so great fun, and still few words. Hopefully I can catch up in the next few days.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
- Go to the park with old friend from high school and our families.
- Stay up until 12:45 A.M. watching a movie with same friend.
- Attend free pancake breakfast this morning.
- Go to the city to pick up the new van.
- Take kids on drive in the new van.
- Run some errands.
- Take a nap to make up for the late night.
- Write a blog.
- Make dinner.
- Read email.
- Read other blogs.
- Read book that is due at the library before we leave on our holidays.
The trip next week should be good though. Rick bought a power inverter so I can sit in the van and write the whole way if I want to. Since the trip will include five days of driving time, I should be able to get in a lot of words. My goal was to finish this book before we left. I still might make it, but I'm not holding my breath. Meanwhile, I need to unlearn all the avoidance thinking and learn to find all those spare minutes in a day and fill them with words.
And just a reminder, go the post about "Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys" and leave a comment for a chance to win the book. It is a great read.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
A gunshot echoed from our bedroom, followed by the sound of a bullet casing skipping along a wall.
Everything slowed down.
"When a life is destroyed, when guilt says you played a role in its destruction, how do you face the days ahead?
Twenty-six-year-old Abel Keogh chooses to ignore the promptings he receives concerning his wife's mental illness, and now he feels he is to blame for her choices. If only he had listened . . .
At some point in our lives, each of us face devastating afflictions and must eventually cope with loss. Regardless of how it happens, the outcome is still the same - we are left isolated, alone, wondering what we could have done differently, and where we can turn for peace.
This is Abel's story in his own words. His search for peace and the miracle that follows is proof that love and hope can endure, despite the struggles and tragedies that shape each of our lives."
I was a little hesitant to read this book. It seemed like the topic of suicide would be too depressing. But I found the book to be enjoyable and very well written. This book starts with the suicide of Abel's wife and the death of his premature infant daughter. As he struggles to understand what happened and why, he also has to try to understand his own role in the situation.
As anyone who finds themselves unexpectedly single through death or divorce will appreciate the observations of Abel as he learns to deal with the expectations of friends and family on how he should handle future relationships or whether he should even have them.
I had a few questions for Abel.
Why did you decide to share your story in this book?
Abel: I was unable to find a compelling memoir about losing a spouse. The books that did deal with the death of a loved one were either geared toward people in their 60s (or older) or were very preachy. Since there was nothing out there, I decided to write Room for Two but do it in a way that it would have a broad audience appeal.
Room for Two deals with the reaction of friends and loved ones to Krista's death. Abel finds many people treat him differently and many don't know how to treat him at all. Is this common in situations like this? How can people best respond to those who are dealing with the suicide of a loved one?
Abel: I think it’s common to find that people don’t know how to respond. I think it’s partially because there a stigma attached to someone taking their own life. Those who are left behind usually don’t understand why someone would do it and therefore have a hard time finding the words to express their sympathy or condolences.
The best way to respond to someone is just give them a hug and let them know how much you love them. I don’t think there are specific words that someone can say that can help ease the pain.
One of the confessions Abel makes in his book was that he had three promptings he didn’t act upon. Following any of these may have prevented his wife’s death. How did you deal with the guilt from not following these promptings and eventually find peace?
I had to learn how to forgive myself. It wasn’t easy but I had to realize what had happened was in the past and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to make changes to my life and promise myself that I would never let anything like this happen again. It wasn’t easy but I can live a happy, full life now because I’ve been able to put the incident behind me and move on.
How did this experience shape who you are today?I appreciate my wife, Julianna, and our three kids more. I have a relationship with her that I will always value because I know what I have can be taken from me in a moment’s notice. I treasure the time we have together and do everything I can to spend time with them.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Don't you marry the Mormon boys;
If you do your fortune it will be,
Johnnycake and babies is all you'll see.
-- Old Western Folksong
"When Andy McBride met Louisa Martin, he knew he had found the girl for him. There was only one problem: polygamy -- a lifestyle that Louisa could not escape and Andy would not embrace.
"As medical students at the University of Utah, Andy and Louisa fall in love -- but can a mainstream Mormon and a Fundamental polygamist overcome the cultural barriers between them? Both realize that their choices will not only affect their own lives, but will also have an impact on their family, friends, and even their communities. Fearing that the sacrifices required of them would be too great, they go their separate ways.
"Yet for Andy in Kentucky and Louisa in Utah, life does not go as they'd planned. While Andy is serving as a country doctor and trying to bury his pain, Louisa is coming to terms with the fact that all is not as perfect in her tight-knit community as she'd believed. As doctors, each will have to choose between keeping the peace in their communities or doing what they know is right. And someday, both will have to face their past and decide if they can make the sacrifice to be together.
"Set in the red hills of southern Utah, the cosmopolitan center of Salt Lake City, the Smoky Mountains of Kentucky, and the lake-studded country of Finland, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys is the heartfelt and engaging story about the power of love and acceptance in an ever-changing and often surprising world."
When I decided to read this book, I was intrigued by the concept of two people from two cultures with similar backgrounds coming together in a love story. Because polygamy has been in the news lately I wanted to see how the author handled the story. Halfway into the first chapter I was hooked. I expected a nice love story, I didn't expect to fall in love with the characters and the settings.
Jensen has created characters that are strong and likable. They overcome tremendous odds, from health problems, lack of family support, and the biggest one, an enormous difference in religious beliefs, and they do it in a believable manner. I also loved the smoky mountain setting and the quirky characters Andy meets there as he sets up his practice. Jensen also gave a good balance to the treatment of the two religions. Each had characters who were intolerant and close-minded, just as each side had characters who gave unconditional support of their decisions.
In the final analysis, I thought the subject of modern day polygamy was treated with grace. The writing was strong and the story was a compelling read. I can't wait for more from this author. Janet agreed to answer a few questions for me.
How much research were you able to do into the polygamist side of the story?
Janet: I have read quite a bit on the subject, including books by women who have left polygamy, newspaper series in the Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, and a most interesting book by Jessie Embrey, who interviewed people who had grown up in polygamy. We have driven through Colorado City, a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border, and that left lasting impressions. I also interviewed a former polygamist.
I was glad I researched the life of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female physician in Utah, because when my neighbor began reading the book, she called and said she was thrilled because her husband, also a physician, is a descendant of Martha Hughes Cannon, and they were present when her statue was unveiled at the Utah State Capitol building a few years ago. My neighbor is descended from the Kingsburys, so when the medical school graduation took place in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah Campus, she was pleased that her side of the family was mentioned. I had no idea of this connection, but was glad that my information was accurate. She bought eleven copies of the book to give to family members.
I also researched the natural herbal remedies Miss Carolina uses with her patients.
The natural remedies were great. I loved the parts that took place in the Smokey Mountains. Do you base any of the characters on real people?
Janet: Miss Carolina is based loosely on my husband’s aunt. She wasn’t a healer and she was raised in the west, but her personality was very strong and commanded instant respect. She also had a wonderful sense of humor. Initially, she was a minor character, but I liked her so much I had to give her more to do. Eliza R. Snow is based on my border collie mix, Lita. The other characters are composites of qualities in people I know, and pure invention.
Andy and Louisa were such compelling characters. Do you see them appearing in future books?
Janet: I am working on the sequel. It begins with the journey of Zina Martin, Louisa’s sister who disappears from home one night rather than marry into polygamy. Andy and Louisa are part of that story, too.
What are you working on next?
Janet: The sequel to Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys, tentatively titled Gabriel’s Daughters, and Grace Shall Lead Us Home, a novel that deals with adult illiteracy, the overwhelming effect it has on people’s lives, and the great lengths they will go to in order to hide it.
What is your favorite writing tip?
Janet: This has been drummed into my head by Ken Rand, a writer and editor: Avoid the passive tense, watch for too many adverbs and adjectives, and be on the alert for words or phrases you tend to overuse.
You can purchase "Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys" here.
Janet is providing a book to give away with this review, so post your comments on this post. On Saturday I will take all the comments and randomly select a winner to receive a free copy of this book. Good luck.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
There is lots of discussion over the last few days about LDS fiction and what is acceptable and unacceptable under that label. Being the highly opinionated person I am, of course I had to weigh in.
There is a whole range of church activity and levels of testimony. There are people in the church who use bad language. There are those in the church who push modesty in dress as far as they can. I know people who accept church callings when they are convenient and even then give the bishop stipulations on their acceptance. There are LDS writers who write for the national market and put explicit sex scenes in their work. I’m not here to pass judgment on them. We all have to live with our own conscience and we will all have to answer to our choices someday.
But when we write under the umbrella of LDS fiction, shouldn’t we try to use powerful words and ideas rather than appeal to people’s baser instincts? Shouldn’t we as LDS people strive to write fiction that is powerful and life changing without bowing to the standards of the rest of the world?
I don’t think that means we leave out possible offensive content. Some people do swear, abuse and sexual indiscretions happen, and there are many other terrible things taking place around us. But I have read many books where these things are dealt with in a tasteful and powerful manner. I don’t need to have every detail of every event spelled out for me.
At the same time, I don’t want to return to the days of what my mother used to call “sappy” LDS books. You know, the ones where everyone is converted by the end of the story and all the problems are answered by using enough prayer and love. The real world just doesn’t always work that way. So where does that line get drawn? Different people will be offended by different things and no writer or publisher will ever be able to please everyone.
For me it comes down to the impression I want to leave with my readers. I want my LDS readers to feel comfortable reading my work, knowing that I try not to put things in my books that would offend the average member of the LDS church. I want my non-LDS readers to have a good story to read and if they find out I am LDS, I want them to be able to match the writing in my stories with the standards and public image the church has.
I believe work under the LDS fiction umbrella should be held to a higher standard. I think on some level the work should portray LDS values – whether through the actions of the characters or the way sensitive subject matter is dealt with. If LDS writers want to write books that push the boundaries and are “edgy”, they should try publishing nationally. Orson Scott Card is a good example of this. He writes what he wants. He is LDS. And he has offended some LDS people with his writing. At the same time, he never claimed to write LDS fiction.
So what do you think? As a writer or a reader, what do you look for in books and where should the line be drawn for offensive material in an “LDS” book?
Monday, July 21, 2008
Army doctor and LDS convert Brandon Shepherd shares his sister Kristen’s talent for keeping a level head, and his newfound faith gives him steady strength during times of turmoil. But when he and fellow doctor Rachel Fields are seized as Iraqi prisoners of war, he faces a crisis of personal integrity that may cost him his life."I enjoyed Julie's other books and this was no exception. The characters were well developed and it was interesting to have a glimpse into the soldier's life in Iraq. I could tell she did a tremendous amount of research, spending a lot of time interviewing Matthew Blair who served in Iraq. I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the military base. In the end, I wish the plot had been more developed. I enjoy the writing style and would easily have read another hundred pages. This is a good book especially if you are looking for one that is a fast read. I'll be interested in reading the next book by Julie Bellon.
I asked Julie a few questions about her book and her writing.
You often use foreign locations in your books and they seem authentic when I read them. What is it like trying to make foreign places seem real in your writing when you have never been there?
Julie: I have been to many of the foreign places I've used as settings in my books. I loved reliving my vacation memories for my story! For the places that I haven't been to, I do extensive research to make sure I have an accurate picture so people will feel like they are there. I love to travel, though, and hope to see many more countries and places before my life is over.
Tell us about "Skittles for Soldiers"? Have you had a good response so far?
Julie: Corporal Matthew Blair and the Nemesis squad are heroes to me, doing the best they can to protect others. These soldiers endure sandstorms that look like something out of the Mummy movies and rainstorms that sink trucks turret-deep in mud. They share meager meals with and have been hugged by Iraqi soldiers with tears in their eyes, and been cheered by villagers and schoolchildren who truly understand that the men and women of our country are there to give them freedom and keep them safe from fanatics. It is sobering to hear about, and made me appreciate their experiences in a way I never had before.
"Because of this, my book took on a special meaning and I really wanted to do justice to the men and women serving there. I took real experiences and incorporated them into my story, like the joy at receiving a care package from home that had something as ordinary as Skittles or a cup of noodles in it as well as the fear these men and women face in wondering if they will ever see their loved ones again. But then I took it a step further. I partnered with the charity Operation: Care and Comfort, (www.operationcareandcomfort.org) an organization, affiliated with the Red Cross, that sends care packages to military men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict regions. I really wanted to give back something---even if (it was a little something, to thank these people for the sacrifices they’ve made and this seemed to be the perfect way to do it.
I have had a great response to my Skittles for Soldiers campaign. I wish you could see my family room right now because it is practically overflowing with the donated items people have given for our troops that will be sent to them in care packages. I got involved with Operation: Care and Comfort during the research for my new book, All's Fair. Talking with the soldiers who were serving in Iraq really gave me perspective on how much something from home can mean to all the men and women who are serving overseas. I'm thrilled to be able to give something back to them and thank them for their service and sacrifice. For anyone who is interested you can find more information on how you can help at their website: www.operationcareandcomfort.org
What are you working on next?
Julie: I turned in my next novel about a French undercover agent who finds out about a plot that will potentially kill thousands of people, but before she can tell anyone, she is branded a traitor and forced to go on the run. She does meet up with a character from my current book All's Fair, and I had a great time exploring his story further. I'm just really excited about this book, and of course, having been to France, I loved having that beautiful country as my backdrop.
Now that you've published several books, give us one piece of advice you wish you had known as a beginning writer.
Julie: Well, before I became a published author, I was an editor at a publishing company and whenever I saw a manuscript it was generally obvious which writers had taken the time to put forth their best effort and had gone through and edited their manuscript and which ones had not. My advice to beginning writers is to find a writers group or at least a few people that can read your work and give you honest opinions on where you can improve your story, where your strengths are, and what they liked and didn't like. It is invaluable to have that kind of feedback before you submit because your revisions will make your story that much stronger which will hopefully get your work that much closer to publication. It's also nice to have the manuscript be as well-edited as you can get it, because when you submit it, those you are submitting to can really see that you believe in this project, that this is your best effort, and it's something they will want to look twice at.
I know you were raised in Canada, so what is your favorite Canadian treat?
Julie: Which treat is my favorite? That's a really hard question! I love Caramilk, Big Turk, Mr. Big, All-Dressed chips, and Shreddies cereal. But those are just a few. It's too hard to pick just one or two! I really miss Canadian food and am so grateful my mother is able to get care packages down to me every so often.
Thanks Julie. It was nice talking with you. You can order All's Fair here.
Friday, July 18, 2008
This was on my sister's blog and sounded like fun. Play along if you like. It should be interesting.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Now the kids are starting swimming lessons, my oldest daughter has started her summer job, and I am trying to catch up on my word count. Next weekend will be our annual town celebration which we always look forward to. Our next set of guests is my best friend from high school and her family. They will arrive on the 24th and stay through the celebrations. I'm looking forward to having them since I haven't had a chance to have a real visit with her in years.
It occurred to me that once they leave and the town celebrations are over, summer is half done and I can start counting down the days until school. Now I'm just trying to figure out where it all went. It seems in other years, we have had much more down time. I always look forward to summer coming so my husband and I can take long evening walks. I enjoy watching a few extra movies and going swimming with the kids.
This summer seems busier than usual. Rick and I stay up till at least midnight every night, working and trying to catch up, and there has been very little time for an evening walk, let alone two hours for a movie. I always approach the summer with lists of things to do that I don't find time to do during the school year. So far I haven't tackled any of those things.
So I'm trying to figure out which of the good things I do every day that can be cut. Unfortunately, the things I would most like to get rid of are the things that have to stay. Meanwhile the summer marches on and I'm just trying to keep up. I'm looking forward to our vacation in two weeks, when I can sit in the van for hours without any phones ringing, no kids to babysit, and no house to clean. And maybe I can even stay awake long enough to write a few thousand words.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I have a deal with my youngest daughter. She will play with the kids I babysit in the morning keep them entertained. With her help, I should be able to get a few more words written and she will earn a little extra cash to take with us on our vacation this summer. She's excited because her older brother and sister have jobs this summer and she wanted a way to earn her own money. This arrangement will be helpful to both of us.
P.S. I'm back to report my word count for the day came in at 1163. Yay!
Friday, July 11, 2008
Last night we had a major rainstorm come through the area. Several funnel clouds touched down in the area and I listened to the rain pelt the roof all night long. I didn't sleep well, worried that we wouldn't be able to go to the park in the morning. We've been looking forward to this all week as we waited for the two oldest girls to get home from camp. I got up early and drove my son on his paper route since it was raining. The whole time we drove around I tried to think of other options for the day and prayed for the sky to clear.
Another hour passed and when everyone started to stir for the day, we could actually see some blue sky. After everyone finished their breakfast the day was actually becoming quite pleasant, so we decided to go anyway. The rest of the day remained cool which was okay since the hoodoos tend to be quite hot usually.
Once we got there we started our traditional game of hide-and-seek. It was so much fun and worth the week long wait. Even the brief hailstorm early in the afternoon didn't dampen our spirits much although we were all running for cover in whatever cave or sheltered area we could find. It was especially fun to see the area through new eyes. Our Utah family was enchanted with the area and had a great time.
The book I'm working on right now has some of the final scenes taking place at Writing on Stone so it was good to see the area again and find my mind racing over what should happen and how. I noticed things about the area and made notes about how sound travels differently in the rocks and how hard it is to keep track of where people are. It should add some good detail to my next chapters. I can't wait to get to them.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
The good thing is I think I've finally got passed whatever it was holding me back. I'm back to knowing where I want the story to go and I think I've figured out how to get it there. There is going to be a ton of editing on this one, far more than I had to do on the last one, but I find that every time I sit to write or review something I've written, I'm constantly learning new things and my writing continues to improve.
Meanwhile, our company will be here until Sunday and then it is back to the babysitting. I still have to squeeze the quiet moments in and they don't come nearly as often as I'd like, but they do exist. I think if I can stick to the 500 a day word count I set for myself, this book could be finished at the end of the month. Then I'll have real reason to celebrate as I put it aside to stew for a little while. What joy, using the English language to tell stories and help people feel like they can live someone else's life for a little while. Once I get this task done, I go on to the next mental struggle. What to write next?
Friday, July 4, 2008
Today is my mother-in-law's birthday. My husband and I took her out for dinner tonight and then we walked around the lake for a little while. It was a pleasant evening with pleasant company.
I'm blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law who is supportive and helpful and a genuinely good person. When I became a member of the family, I brought with me three children. She without hesitation took on three new grandchildren and has always treated them as her own. She became the grandmother they were missing, and for that I'll be forever grateful. So, happy birthday Mom. Thanks for raising such a great son and being such a good mother, grandmother, and friend.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
But there is that side of me that remains a child. How else would you explain my love of playing with glue and scissors and paper and beads and thread? Breaking into dance with my children in the kitchen when I should be making dinner? The fact that the most consistent job I've had over the last 28 years has been that of a babysitter? Telling stories and making up tales about people I see around me? And that I still am trying to decide whether to get old or to just pretend?
I remember the night I graduated from high school. It was about six in the morning and we had been hopping from friend's house to friend's house all night long. My best friend yawned and lay down on the carpet.
"I'm so tired," she said. "I'm going to take a nap and when I wake up I'll be mature since I've finally graduated." She woke up half an hour later and her first comment was, "It didn't work."
I still wake up every morning and wait to see if I feel any different. It hasn't happened yet. There is still a teenager deep inside who looks at the kids calling her mom and wonders how on earth they are catching up in age. Underneath the thoughts of all the things that need to be done during the day, there is still that little girl who wants to run off and play with her friends and then come home and write about all her adventures. As long as the bills get paid and the kids get fed, no one will know my little secret, right? After all, isn't growing up optional?
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Today we went to the parade and then ended up in Lethbridge helping my mother-in-law mop up her basement. It started raining about early in the afternoon and everything was flooded quite quickly. I guess the heavens opened and it just dumped. Luckily she didn't get as much water as some of her neighbors and it was a pretty quick clean up. Whether the fireworks go off tonight still remains to be seen.
I also managed to write 2633 words on the first day of Tristi's challenge. With my goal of 500 words per day, that puts me four days ahead. Now if I can only keep that up for the next few days so my guests won't throw my word count out too much.