Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Wanna watch a movie?" "Meh."

By: Kristi Hartman

Please excuse my absence for the last couple of weeks, this time of year feels like a Crayola-colored whirlwind. It's been one busy evening after another, with introduction of activities and homework consuming the weeknights. Someday our school routines and days will start to feel a little more regular, and less busy...right?   Anyone?  

I can tell you one thing I have not been doing a lot of, and that is watching movies.  

A few years ago pre-kids and full-time jobs, we were poor college students living in our sliver of an apartment, and many of our weekend nights would involve watching movies.  We would venture out to the local box office and watch current movies, or other times we would drive to the video rental store and walk around and around the perimeter of the store, searching for the perfect movie.  Once we had our plastic DVD case in hand, we always snagged a few over-priced treats by the checkout, and had ourselves a fun movie night. Just the two of us.
Lately, partially because sometimes we are just too tired to watch anything longer than an hour, we have only watched a movie maybe once a month.  If that. 
In my mind, it feels like things have changed.  Certainly in the way we rent movies now, but also in the selection and quality of movies out there. 
This is just my opinion, so feel free to disagree with me wholeheartedly, but I feel like the movie industry for the most part is in a rut.  A sequel, prequel, re-make overload, raunchy movie rut.  Instead of us walking around the movie store, seeing variety and possibilities, now as I click through the iTunes store on my apple TV all I see is yet another Spiderman movie, another Planet of the Apes, another Transformers, Planes 2, etc, etc, etc!  And if they aren't a re-make or tied to their original movie in some form, it's a raunchy, tasteless movie that relies on awful language and sex the entire time.  Few and far between are the wholesome, creative, inventive movies that won't offend or rely on foul language and sexual content or awful violence to entertain the masses.  Because these types of movies are so few in numbers these days, it makes me appreciate them even more.  

Now don't get me wrong, I still find little gems here and there that satisfy our movie fix, but it just seems so irregular now that it's not even mine and my husbands 'thing' anymore.  And that bums me out.   

So what are we to do?
One thing I've also noticed many of the creative and interesting movies seem to be based off of books.  Which tells me one thing.  Hollywood appears to be struggling to get it right on its own.
So let's all get our talented behinds in gear, get our awesome books published, printed, and sold and become giant successes, so we can finally have some decent movies to watch.

What's your take on the movie industry these days?

Any good recommendations?

Monday, September 1, 2014

I’m Late! I’m Late!

But I’m still here. :-)

Tomorrow my kids go back to school.

Things I Will Miss About Summer:

1. Staying up late to write and sleeping in every morning.
2. Getting to go running every morning because my older kids are there to watch my toddler.
3. Planning fun family adventures each week.
4. Getting to enjoy my kids’ company and watch them learn and grow and experience new things.
5. Basking in the blue skies and sunshine.
6. Additional help from older kids with household chores (and the time to pester them to GET THEM DONE already).

Things I Will NOT Miss About Summer:

1. The messes. Soooo many messes. All the time.
2. The fighting. Soooo much fighting. All the time.
3. Preparing 3 full meals every day.
4. Doing the dishes for 3 full meals every day.
5. Grocery shopping with 4 children in tow.
6. Pestering my children to GET THEIR CHORES DONE already.

I’m excited about a new school year because I am starting two new ventures: the first is a writing group for moms with young kids called Mommies Always Write which will be a kid-friendly writing group. If you’re in the Richmond area I’d love to have you (and your kids) join us- it will be the first Friday of each month, 10:30am at Central Library in Chesterfield.

The second venture is a Power of Moms Learning Circle. This is a group of moms who will get together once a month to discuss different articles about parenting. There’s a whole curriculum and everything! So excited to learn from other amazing mothers.

I will also be working diligently on my book in preparation for the James River Writers Conference in October- it will be here before I know it! Yikes!

And, of course, I will be attending Adult Institute (scripture study) classes again this year, which always uplifts me and feeds me mentally and spiritually.

So many ways to learn and grow- what about you? Are you gearing up for anything exciting this fall?

Happy September, everyone!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

There is a Season

By Nikki Wilson

" To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
  A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
  A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
  A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
  A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."
                                                                     -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I love the scripture above. It also helps that it was once made into a song that makes it nearly impossible for me to read this scripture without singing it in my head and adding the words, "turn, turn, turn" to each verse. 

But I've been especially drawn to this scripture lately as my oldest child turns 18 years old this month. She still has another year of high school but it feels like my time with her is slipping away. And not just my time with her, but my other children as well. I have three children in high school this year and one still in elementary school. How did time move so quickly? How did I let this happen? I suddenly find myself wanting to spend more time with them. I want to make sure I teach them more about the gospel, I want to warn them more about the world, I want to go back to the days when they sat in my lap and gave me slobbery kisses on my cheeks. This year will be particularly trying as I try to do all those things and get to all their school/church functions, and sporting events. This means I have to give myself permission to let the rest of the world go to the wayside.

This unfortunately means my writing as well. Not that I'm going to stop entirely. I'm just allowing myself to slow the pace and be alright with that. I'm not sure if I'm even going to try Nano this year. Mostly because I have three kids in three different fall sports right now. Though I'll take it one step at a time. But right now is definitely the season of my family. This is my time to keep them close and my time to get as many memories as I can. It's my time to embrace them as often as possible, and my time to build them up before the world tries to tear them down. Yes, I have been doing all this for their whole lives, but I suddenly feel like it's crunch time and I need to cram in as much as I can before the final exam of letting them go. 

So I will enter this season of my life knowing what my focus is and giving myself permission to let everything else take a back seat. Because my family is more than worth it!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Forget My Book…What About My Spouse’s Book?


Getting something published, anything published, is a sweet accomplishment.  Regardless of it being an online blog (wink), a journal, an info-edit on Wikipedia, or that illusive but epic n-o-v-e-l, we do enjoy seeing our work out there.
            However, what do we do if a spouse or family member has some work of literary brilliance in the works as well?  We know that we must keep writing, upwards and onwards, in order to keep our skills up to snuff.  So, what do we do if our family member wants us to help them get their work published?  It’s hard enough to get our own material out there.
            So, my spouse wrote a children’s ‘A-B-C’ book that is a unique style that I have never seen before in any of the numerous versions out there.  I know; I’m happily biased. 
            My spouse took the normal path and sent out samples and cover letters to several publishers.  And, like all of us, she received several rejection letters.  Since collecting endless streams of rejection letters is not one of my spouse’s strong points, I wasn’t too surprised when she put this excellent work on the back-burner.  There were other, more important things for her to focus her efforts.  At least those things gave her more immediate, more fulfilling results.
            As I briefly diverted my attention from my own meteoric rise in literary excellence (guffaw…guffaw), I decided to pick up my wife’s manuscript give it the ol’ peruse.  I read it once…twice…and loved it more each time.  There was something solid there. 
            I asked my spouse if she wanted to renew her interest in her book concept, but she politely declined.  She’d given her creative genius to the script and that was her limit.  Yet, I felt very strongly that her book had a place in the A-B-C book universe.  So, with my spouse’s permission, I volunteered to pick up the flag and run with it. 
            Off goes the manuscript to my favorite editor; off goes the interest letters to a few illustrators, seeking sample pages; out comes the growing list of possible publishers.  If I’m successful, my spouse will get all of the credit. 

            Not surprisingly, I’m perfectly fine with this.  Taking time out to help another rise in the biz will take quite a bit of time and you’ll end up shouldering some of the same highs and lows that your spouse felt; however, when success finally arrives, you’ll get to share the joy.  And isn’t that what this talent is really about…spreading the joy.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Writing Goals--My New Year's Resolution Updates

by Katy White

At the beginning of the New Year, I shared my writing goals for the year. After 12 years in Corporate America, I'm in the habit of self-reflection and peer accountability, so I wanted to share an update on my goals to my peers. :)

Here are the goals I set for myself:

-Get the two books I wrote in 2013 query ready,
-Query one or both of them,
-Land an agent, and
-Write two more books.

I'm thrilled to say that I've actually accomplished three of these! I got the first book I wrote in 2013 reviewed by friends and revised multiple times, and then in March, I started querying it and entering it in contests. While I was in the middle of a contest in April, I heard back from an agent at the top of my list that she loved my book and wanted to represent me! In May, I signed with the phenomenal Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary Agency and am currently working with her on revisions to get my novel ready for submission. It's beyond exciting for me, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next steps with Bree and this manuscript.

So, items one through three on my list have been accomplished, and I still can hardly believe my good fortune!

My fourth goal--writing two books this year--is, I think, also going to happen. I'm about 71,000 words into a manuscript that I think will be around 80,000 words, and because I'm writing this novel NaNo style throughout the month of August, I plan to be done by the end of the month. PHEW! One down.

Here's where my fourth goal gets into sub-goals (I'm an external processor, so forgive me for dumping my brain on you):

-In September, after my first revision, I'll send my new MS (manuscript) out to my two, erm, alpha critique partners (the ones who don't mind reading something rough and being brutally honest with me about it).
-Then I'll revise based on their feedback by, I'm hoping, mid-to late October.
-Once it's further revised, I hope to send it out to other critique partners (those who aren't doing NaNoWriMo) and give them time to read and critique it.
-While my CP's critique, I'll do NaNo in November for the second manuscript I'm planning to write this year!

It's an ambitious timeline, but I think I can do it. It just means ignoring the TV, paying less attention to social media, and not reading nearly as many books as I do when I'm not binge-writing. I can do it, right? (As long as my toddler continues to nap and go to bed at a decent hour. If that changes, all bets are off!)

Okay, so that's my update! I'd love to hear from all of you now! How are you doing on your writing resolutions? How can we help each other get and stay motivated in the midst of the slumps that may be hitting? Any changes to your goals? Sound off in the comments below!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Two New Book Babies

by Anna Jones Buttimore

Forgive me, but I'm so terribly excited I can't contain the news. I've got two new books coming out next week! Finally seeing your hard work in print is one of the greatest (and most nerve-wracking) parts of being an author so please indulge me while I introduce them to you.

Emon and the Emperor is  my seventh novel. It's taken about five years to write, rewrite and edit, and I'm quite inappropriately proud of the end result. It probably helps that it's my favourite genre--sci-fi--but if that's not your thing there's a little romance in there too. It's essentially a story about a very ordinary, none-too-bright young man who finds himself in an impossible situation. It's released on 1st September on Nook, Kobo, Kindle and paperback, priced at £3.99/$4.99 for the ebook, £8.50/$12.87 in paperback. Needless to say, I'd love you to buy it (you can pre-order it already), and love it even more if you could leave me an honest review. Click here to buy it in the US, and here in the UK. Thank you!

Supporting Emon is Random Ramblings, a collection of my various short stories, poems, fan fiction some excerpts from novels. The plan was to put it out for free as an ebook, but unfortunately it turns out Amazon won't let me, so it's currently priced at 77p/$1.28 as an ebook, and £5/$7.93 as a paperback. It is available free on Smashwords, however: and here's the link for that. (Feel free to pop over to Amazon and report that you've found a lower price so that they'll price match it. I've already done so, but they might be ignoring me because I'm the author.)

Thanks for bearing with me as I boasted about my book babies. I really hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dear Not-Quite-Tween Daughter: A Conversation on Modesty

by Merry Gordon

Dear Not-Quite-Tween Daughter:

It’s early, I know. The fact that you’re a girl barely registers with you. You still smell of recess and little kid sweat and school cafeteria and it’s all I can do to get you to brush your hair once a day. Knots of whispering females are cropping up under the bleachers at snack time to trade secrets and lip gloss, but you’re still out there on the soccer field kicking the collective rear of every boy in your grade—you are not the kind of girl who’ll be sidelined by your gender, and for that I’m grateful.

But a time will come in the none-too-distant future when we will bond over PMS-fueled ice cream benders and watch YouTube videos on how to best conceal a surprise zit on class picture day. You’ll borrow my mascara in the mornings, steal your dad’s razor to shave your legs for the first time…and eventually you might try to sneak out of the house wearing an outfit that raises an eyebrow. Maybe you’ll wriggle into your seat at church and tug on a too-short dress or shake your hair over a strappy shirt. It’s possible you’ll test boundaries; most kids do.

And if this happens, your father and I will both take a deep breath.

He will sit down, clean his gun collection and make a mental note of any boy over the age of twelve who has so much as glanced at you in the past six months.

I will put on my best MomFace and consider my next move.

What I won’t do is tell you ‘modest is hottest’. This is why:  I spent years preventing your Hannah Montana-loving eyes from seeing the “Wrecking Ball” music video. I steered you away from hyper-eroticized fashion dolls. The last thing I’m going to do is confuse you with a cute catchphrase implying that covering up will make you physically desirable.

I also won’t force you to change your outfit. I don’t own your body. You have been endowed with the sublime gift of agency, and I will not, even in that lovingly passive-aggressive way mothers have, attempt to take that away from you.

Oh, we’ll still have words about modesty and why it’s important—don’t get me wrong.

But maybe before it gets to this point, we should sit down and have an honest conversation that doesn’t dodge the tough stuff and couch doctrine in platitudes. I owe you that.

So here goes…

Let me tell you something. I have great legs for a woman my age. I could still rock a mini like it’s nobody’s business.

I just choose not to.

Maybe you’ve heard someone say that women should be modest because they don’t want to tempt boys into immorality, but that’s not what makes me pass up the Daisy Dukes and bandeaus.

I don’t dress modestly because I feel some kind of obligation toward male moral agency—and I don’t want you dressing modestly only so Johnny keeps his eyes on his math notes instead of on your backside. Making men the sole focus of modesty gives license to the idea that they are no more than club-wielding cavemen incapable of controlling their carnal urges, and I have a little more faith in humanity than that.

Here’s why I choose to cover up. I dress modestly because I believe that one way to close the gender gap is to stop giving so much importance to the thigh gap. My contribution to the world goes beyond cleavage:  I will not objectify myself. But most importantly, I choose modesty because I understand my divine nature. I believe that my body is a temple. I believe in glorifying God with my body—and with my spirit, which is the far harder lesson. I believe that modesty is more than what I wear.

You are ten now, all scabby-kneed body joy and breathless with hope. But I can’t keep you little forever:  crushes and stick-on nails are just around the corner. They lurk there in the shadows, with Temptation and Doubt and all the other trials that cross the path of teenage life and make you wonder if it’s worth it to hike up your skirt a little for the attention.

Before that time comes, a promise:

I will show you how to be beautiful and not merely hot.

I will teach you that your body is a miracle, not something to be afraid and ashamed of.

I will talk to you about sleeves and necklines, but also about modesty in thought and in word, the kind of grace that calls attention to your divine potential as a daughter of God and helps you focus on what is truly meaningful in life.

All of my love forever,


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Share Goodness

by Becky Porter

I'm sure many of you have heard about Elder Bednar's recent talk regarding social media.  I have to confess that I haven't watched the talk yet, but I love everything I have read about it.  One of the reasons I write on this blog and use Facebook is to spread my version of happiness to the world.  Part of Elder Bednar's talk includes the challenge to flood social media with uplifting messages.  So that's my invitation to you this week.  Evaluate the way you use social media and find time at least once this week (maybe daily) to share your happiness.

Now I'm off to watch the whole talk.  You can learn more at this link:


P.S.  I'd love to hear about your experiences with positive social media so join the conversation by leaving a comment.  Thanks!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Epic Battle

By Lacey Gunter

There are certain ideas that seem to be woven into the fabric of our beings. Ideas that we can all resonate with on one level or another. Someone might try to ague that they are just a result of environmental or cultural influences.  But the countless generations and myriads of cultures in which they appear clearly puts that argument into question.

One of these ideas is the battle between good and evil. This idea has dominated literature and the arts for as long as we have records of literature and arts. If it is not the most frequent theme, I suspect it would only come in second to the topic of love.

The modern secularization of America has led to the promotion of the concept that there is no such thing as good and evil, only what feels best for you.   It is funny that even as this concept is being preached as wisdom, our imagination and our hearts can't seem to let go of the idea of a battle between good and evil. All one need do is skim a list of the most popular books and movies of the past decade to see that the idea still deeply resonates with people. From Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games to super heroes and super villains, to name a just a few.

Why is this? Why do we seem to be so drawn to the idea of an epic battle between good and evil that we have to study it and immerse ourselves it and see it from many different angles and scenarios? Being a blog with a religious bent, as you might guess, I think this is because it is what we are actually doing, what we are actually involved in, an epic battle, of infinite proportions, between good and evil. We are battling it within ourselves, within the walls of our own homes and in our communities all around us. We resonate with it because we have experienced and felt it and we want and need to be inspired to continue to fight and to conquer despite our exhaustion and the looming difficulties that lay ahead.

When the dust settles and the victory is decided and the narrative of this world is finally all written, man is it going to be a fantastical epic tale.  I can't wait to read it and I hope ever so much my miniscule contribution in it will be something I can be proud of. Even if I am just some faceless, nameless soldier in the crowd, as long as I am fighting for the right side, I know I will have contributed to something far greater than even the best fiction, fairy tales and fantasies.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Do You Ever Disconnect?


I'm struggling with social media this week.  I've discovered something disturbing.

When I'm not on facebook, twitter, or pinterest for 3-4 days or more - I don't really miss it.  I actually kind of forget about them.  How can this be good?!?!  I'm a writer - I need those networks!

Still.  When I take a break...it's really nice.

A young friend of mine decided to give up facebook after a decade of checking in daily.  I was stunned.  Her generation created social media, they have mastered it and loved it and lived by it.

Still.  She'd had enough. She realized 80% of the people she was friends with, she didn't really know or care that much about.  She could count on one hand her true friends and realized she talked to them on the phone anyway.  Maybe it all had something to do with nearing 30.  Her career is taking off, she's thinking about starting a family with her husband, and social media was just wasting too much time.

I admit, I often feel like that.  When I just "check" facebook, two hours disappears.  I can't even tell you the time pinterest sucks up. 

Luckily, I'm not as compelled by twitter.  I check in once a day, but it doesn't draw me in like the other two.  I thank God for this.  I don't need to be enslaved by another screen.

I wonder if these forms of social media will last.  People are beginning to gripe about facebook - its advertising and the way it controls the news feed.  We're beginning to have to pay to get the exposure we used to get for free. Is it just another addiction we're going to regret five years from now?

Pinterest is way cool, and I hope it's around for awhile, but I wonder what changes are ahead there as well.  Are any ideas really your own anymore?  I've posted crafts I thought were mine, but as I scrolled the boards, I saw my ideas already there.  How can this be?  Are there really only seven original ideas in the entire world?  Maybe we're not as creative as we think we are.

Google +?  I really don't get that one.  I have a profile there, but I don't get it.  It seems like the facebook nobody goes to.  I'm sure I'm wrong on this, but I'm not sure there's room in my head for another endless scroll.

Am I alone here?  How are you handling the social media formats?  What's your favorite?  What do you think will be fizzling out in five years? 

Scroll weary at the Ballpark,


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