Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: The Armor of Light

The Armor of Light by Karen E. Hoover is the second of The Wolfchild Saga, a fantasy series from one of the up and coming authors of our time. The first book, The Sapphire Flute, came out last year. I've been eagerly awaiting the second book.

From the back cover: Ember has been accepted into the mage academy, but not without cost. She has gained a new enemy, ancient and dark, whose entire purpose is to destroy all white magic and her along with it. After nearly losing her life in a brutal attack, DeMunth is assigned her guardian, and the keystone he wears, The Armor of Light, begins the transition that will make it a true power.

Kayla has lost most everything of importance to her—the people, the prestige, and all she fought for the past ten years. With nothing left to lose, she continues her search for the birthplace of The Sapphire Flute and the Wolfchild she believes to be its player. Her journey will take her to strange, foreign, and often dangerous places, and everything she had thought to be true will be proven wrong.

In a showdown full of betrayal and heroic loss, Ember and Kayla finally meet on the battlefield, fighting a war on two fronts—against C'Tan and her people, and the mysterious enemy bent on destroying all magic—the shadow weavers.

The story is full of power, betrayal, hope, and love. The elements of the universe are coming together, and none can know who will stand in the end.

My take: First off, here's one of those times when I have a hard time distinguishing my affection for the author with my love of their writing. I may gush. Karen is a brilliant writer and a wonderful friend--even if she's still mad at me for moving to Oklahoma, lol. (It's not because she'll miss me, mind you, but because she wants to be here too) I loved The Sapphire Flute for its richness in fantasy and its fantastic action, and The Armor of Light is even better. Karen has taken what she knows of writing, what she's learned, and made a better book. I'm excited to see the rest of The Wolfchild Saga play out. I anticipate each book being better than the last. You are going to want to check this book out, and I recommend going straight to the authors BLOG for the best deals.

About the Author: Karen E. Hoover has loved the written word for as long as she can remember. Her favorite memory of her dad is the time he spent with Karen on his lap, telling her stories for hours on end. Her dad promised he would have Karen reading on her own by the time she was four years old ... and he did it.

Karen took the gift of words her dad gave her and ran with it. Since then, she's written two novels and reams of poetry. Her head is fairly popping with ideas, so she plans to write until she's ninety-four or maybe even a hundred and four.

Inspiration is found everywhere, but Karen's heart is fueled by her husband and two sons, the Rocky Mountains, her chronic addiction to pens and paper, and the smell of her laser printer in the morning.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Your Golden Ticket

How many of you watched Women's Conference last Saturday? I admit I didn't watch it on Saturday, I did watch the whole thing on the internet last night thoug and President Utchdorf did not disappoint. As always he was right on the nose with what we all need to hear. Here's a link to a copy of his talk. You must read it before reading the rest of this post. Go on, don't worry, I'll wait for you....
Good, your back! Now to my point of today's blog. I loved when Pres. Utchdorf talked about the golden tickets. How we sometimes want the golden ticket so bad, we forget how wonderfully dreamy the chocolate is on its own. (An analogy from Charlie and the Chocolate factory. I love that book!) It made me evaluate my goal to be a published writer. Do I obsess over the publish part so much that the writing isn't even fun anymore? I'm not sure honestly. I know I'm better than I was a couple of years ago when I sent agent queries out and got rejected. That was when writing lost its flavor for awhile. Afer all, I worked so hard on the book only to be told I need to work harder. It was devastating, only because I let it devastate me. Yesterday, my 15 yr old daughter ran in a cross country meet. She's ben training since before school started in August and she is improving so much. When she came across the finish line yesterday her breathes came out in sobs and tears streaked her face. Not because she was happy or sad, but just because of the sheer effort she laid out there. She gave it everything she had, but she still didn't win. After she caught her breathe, the tears stopped and she reflected on the improvement she had made and ,as her parents, we guided her to see how wonderful her time was and how proud we were that she gave her all. but mostly I was proud because I know that if she continues to give life everything she has, while enjoying her progress, she will live a very happy and productive life. That is what most parents want for their children and it is what Heavenly Father wants for us. So write that book, send it to agents, get your rejections, have your cry, but then look at the journey and rejoice in it. Remember that life IS the golden ticket. It is the prize!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Professional vs. Amateur

I speak to you from the great mountain...of boxes. We moved again over the weekend, into our newly purchased home. I'm really glad to be in it and out of the other one, but the difference between the move from Utah to Arizona and this one is very pronounced. In that previous move, the relocation company sent packers one day and then came and loaded the truck the next. Three people took one day to pack up an entire house. Our stuff took 1/4th of the room on an 18 wheeler, packed precisely and carefully by men who were professionals. We sat in awe as they dismantled furniture, moved my way-too-heavy-for-its-size piano, and basically had my husband and I scurrying around like rats in a cage trying to keep ahead of them and not let them pack trash we hadn't picked up yet. As it is, I still have a couple of boxes with things that I'm not sure I wanted to keep anyway.

Now contrast that with my weekend move. I struggled to find boxes to pack up stuff (oh, did I mention that the movers came back a few days later and took away all the boxes and paper? Very nice.). Our very wonderful ward that we were leaving offered to help, which is amazing, considering that it was the High Priests and not the Elders doing it. I was scrambling yet again, but this time I didn't have the luxury of leaving my kids at my mother's house while I took care of things. I probably told my 4 year old to stay off the ramp to the Uhaul 40 times. No exaggeration. What made things even more challenging is my 15 year old daughter was gone to Phoenix all day Saturday (a 3 1/2 hour drive), so I had no female help. Just me and a bunch of enthusiastic, amateur movers. Don't get me wrong. I am extreeeeeeemely grateful for them. There's no way we could have done that on our own.

Most of my problems now on the unpacking stage show my lack of preparation, my amateur status, if you will. I forgot to label boxes, especially those I packed as the movers where hauling things out. Because I had such a hard time finding boxes (no one told me that all I needed to do was go to one of the 2 recycling centers in town to get some), my daughter didn't get as much done on her room as she was supposed to. I think I about fainted when I went into the room the girls share and realized how much WASN'T done. Ultimately we ended up leaving half her things until Monday before we went back and picked it up.

Because boxes weren't labeled, they didn't get to the right rooms on this end of the move. My family room is a pile of boxes and furniture that need a home, and have a rooms already confused. We haven't put any beds up except for one, which moved almost intact. I've lost my phone recharger and my cell is our only link to our home phone which forwards to it when the Vonage is offline. I had to leave my cell in the car overnight to recharge. I also use it as an alarm clock since my cheapy 5 dollar clock bit the dust a month after we moved here. And I get up at 5:30 am, so an alarm is a very good thing. Yesterday I had to mail something very important. I had no idea where envelopes or stamps were. I knew where they WERE in the old house, but was any one's guess.

You think this rant is all about moving. (I do too, but here's my point.) I've read so many books and articles and blog posts and newsletters talking about how to be a "professional" writer, and what that actually means. But when it boils down to it, you know what I think the difference is? Practice.

Practice at writing. Practice at self discipline. Practice at research. Practicing good grammar and spelling. Practice. Even if I did all those things and never got published, I would still consider myself a "professional" writer, because it would be something that I had perfected the mechanics of. I would hope after all that effort and practice I would be published, but that is left in the hands of others. What I can do, what I can control, is there, waiting for me to do my part to grow and get better. And ultimately, isn't that what we're here for? To grow and perfect ourselves with the Savior's infinite power, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

Just for the record, though, I never want to become a professional mover. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Autumn To You!

I know it's fall out there somewhere. Here in AZ it's pretty much Autumn in name only, but my New England heart loves to celebrate the season anyway!
I'm sharing this post from my blog here at MMW today. 

September 23rd and the calendar reads, First Day of Autumn.
The high today is 106. 
Living in AZ on the first day of Fall is like living far away from one of my dear friends when they are having a birthday party. I can think of them, but miss all the fun. As they say, 'you have to be there.'

To honor the change of season, aside from hopping a plane and taking a fall foliage tour, I thought I'd post my apple-picking poem today. And - I have a have a fall-inspired recipe, too. (Does that mean the recipe is inspired by fall or it will inspire me to think about fall? - Either way - the bars are delicious.) Oh, and for my AZ readers- if you ignore the part about turning on the oven on a triple-digit day - the caramel-apple-cookie smell is wonderful!

Poem first, then recipe. Enjoy!

Hand Picked Fun

I don’t know what happened to my bathing suit
Summer up and left                                                                                        
Mom moved the sweaters
From my big sister’s drawer
To mine
And the sun inched west a little sooner each day
Taking all the fun with him

Until we piled into the maroon station wagon
And drove north
Long enough for us to wonder if Dad got lost

We found the trees. Green leaves gone to yellow and orange.
Did the colors bring the cool air?
I thought so, but they told me it was the other way around.

Rows and rows of heavy laden trees.
We picked for hours, climbing, stretching
Dropping, joking
With cold noses and fingers
We filled our bags and bushels full of red, ripe apples.

And the country store had heated, fresh pressed cider.
One sip and my brother laughed at my eyes
Popping from the burst of flavor
Sweet and spicy
And warm.
Like those apples had figured out a way
To store all the rays of summer sunshine.
Just for me.

Tamara Passey

Easy Caramel Apple Bars

Easy Caramel Apple Bars by Betty Crocker

Prep Time 15 Minutes
Total Time 2:55 Hrs:Mins
Makes 36 bars

1/2 cup cold butter
1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® oatmeal cookie mix
1 egg
1 cup finely chopped peeled apple
3/4 cup caramel topping
1/4 cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1.) Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.
2.) In large bowl, cut butter into cookie mix using fork or pastry blender. Stir in egg until mixture is crumbly.
3.) Reserve 1 1/2 cups cookie mixture. Press remaining cookie mixture into bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle apple evenly over crust. In small bowl, mix caramel topping and flour; drizzle over apples. Sprinkle reserved cookie mixture over apples.
4.) Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 2 hours. For bars, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows.

Makes 36 bars

Monday, September 26, 2011

Give me a Break!

My family and I visited the Texas coast last week. It was the perfect break from life. Sometimes all I need is a little vacation to regain perspective...and a little motivation. However, we can't always just drop everything and go to the coast. So I was just thinking about all the little things we might do to create our own little "mini-vacations." Here's my list:

1) I make a chocolate peanut-butter smoothie.

2) I watch LOST on Netflix.

3) I eat all the things I tell my son he can't eat.

4) I read a book.

5) I watch Food Network.

6) I watch a movie with my husband.

(Watch. Read. Eat. That about sums it up for me.) What's on your list?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: "All Diets Work: That's the Problem"

Disclaimer:  I agreed to review this book in exchange for a free copy. No guarantees were given for favorable comments. Just a guarantee I'd write a review.

All Diets Work, That's the Problem
by Jen Brewer, RD

Conquer. That's the word I think of when I spend much time trying to understand how I'm going to get past my food problems (i.e. love of all things bad) and my weight. I want to conquer these things. I want to be queen of the hill; or in this case kitchen and treadmill. But the last thing this overwhelmed and frustrated lady needs is some weight-loss book reminiscent of a college textbook and filled to the brim with medical jargon.

When I picked up "All Diets Work" that was what I was expecting. After all, that's what my past experiences have been. But when it arrived in the mail and I began to leaf through, all the while wondering how I was going to manage to read it in less than two weeks to meet my posting deadline, I found myself pleasantly surprised. This was a book I could conquer. Simply put, it's thin, easy to read, sprinkled with great visual aids and completely un-intimidating.

The title of the book says it all and in a way few people ever consider. All diets DO work. The trouble is sticking with them. That's the argument Jen makes. She makes the point that the real key to weight loss is finding balance; finding the right eating habits and lifestyle changes that you can live with long term because successful weight loss and maintenances is a lifelong project, not a six month purging session.

Jen educates the reader about key Principles that lead to discovering what makes a healthy lifestyle. Things like proper calorie intake vs. expenditure, exercise, sleep and more. She also includes a section filled with tools to help every reader find simple ways to modify their current habits to lead down the path of health. Some of the tools teach about grocery shopping, meal planning, and food tracking (among many, many more). There is also section filled with testimonials. Real people who share what they did to loose weight and keep it off without deprivation and starvation. Let me tell you, these stories are inspirational.

What makes Jen's book a success in my eyes is the simplicity of it. It takes what feels overwhelming and intimidating and breaks it up into digestible chunks that anybody can do. She isn't asking anyone to give up their chocolate cake; merely eat it less often and make a caloric accounting of it when they do.

If you're looking for a way to understand how to make the necessary changes to your life to get rid of unwanted weight or bad habits this is definitely the book for you. Since I began reading it I've already put several of the tools to work in my own life and I feel very optimistic about the outcome. No miracles, just hard work and commitment.

Jen Brewer is a registered dietitian with over a decade of experience teaching about healthy eating.
She teaches in both one-on-one counseling sessions and group seminars, and has appeared on radio programs and in newspapers and magazines.
Her goal is to help people, young and old, gain personal motivation and finally see lasting results.
If you're interested in learning more about Jen Brewer or her book you can check her out here:

If you're interested in having your book reviewed and highlighted here on Mormon Mommy Writers email me at lisaannturner at ymail dot com.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Place for Everything

I'm sitting in the dark on a Thursday morning staring at my computer screen. Why? I really love the dark. I know there's much to be embraced in the light, but I have extremely sensitive eyes and I prefer the dark. It drives my husband crazy, since he feels if there isn't a light on in the house at night he'll stumble into something and hurt himself--whereas I love finding my way in the dark. We compromise and leave a light on. :) (when he's here, that is)

My new living room in HUGE. I'd say you could take four of my old living rooms and put them in this new one. Seriously. I love it. The best of both worlds would be having this size living room when I lived in Ut and was hosting writers' meetings every month. There would be no lack of space to sit. Ah, well.

As things are, I've designated part of the room for my office and part of the room for the living room itself. A whole other section is where I plan to put three large bookcases, maybe even four, for all my books and future books. Not the ones I'm writing, but the ones I plan to read. Initially I was going to section off part of my large dining room (yes, I have one of those, too, now) into a library, but I've chosen to make that my sewing area instead.

Putting together a house is like organizing a story. No, really. As I go through The Tyrant King for the last time before sending it out to beta readers, I've come across things I missed including originally. Finding the right place to put these particular tidbits can be challenging. Some things can't come too early in the story; other things would be out of place too late in the story. These little scenes are lead-ins to other events, so I can't very well put them in after the event, can I?

I'm only in chapter 7 right now, but I am saving some things specifically for chapter 12. I've known for months now I need to rework that entire chapter. It's mostly a telling of things happening, rather than a showing. It's vitally important to me to fix that, even though it was not one of the suggestions my editor had made. I probably won't get there till next week, but if I work really hard I could be done before the end of the month.

It's important to get aspects of your story in the right order, or it may not make sense to the reader. You want your story to be smooth (something I'm still working on) and flow from one thing to the next without the reader pulling back and going, "what? where did that come from?" It's also important, in a series at least, to draw from the previous book enough to tie it in without relying on it, and to give clues to the rest of the story that will come in later books. It's critical you don't leave out a key aspect from the first book in the second book. Yeah, I did that, too.

Here's hoping we can all find a place for everything.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Happens in High School, Stays in High School...Or Does It?

I have a 15yr old daughter that started her first year of high school.  I automatically think back to my days of being in high school, and as a mother of a high schooler...I'm absolutely terrified!  Not that I was a terrible teenager or anything, but I didn't always make the best choices.  When I think about how oblivious I was to the consequences of my choices it makes me worried about my children.  It makes me want to lock them up until about 21 years of age!  But then I read a book by Lauren Oliver titled, Delirium.  It reminds a bit of The Giver, with parts reminiscent of Hunger Games.  It's about a futuristic society that believes love is dangerous and finds a way to cut love out of your brain at the age of 18.  The reasoning behind this is that love makes people have bad judgment and behave rashly and all kinds of other adverse things.  But after the operation, everyone does what their supposed to do, never questioning, never caring.  It's a dull existence. (BTW, I definitely recommend this book.  It is the first in a trilogy and I can't wait for the next one!)
It made me rethink my impulse to lock my kids away from the world.  After all, I may have made some stupid choices as a teenager, but those choices and those experiences made me who I am today.  They shaped me to be wiser (sometimes), more caring, and understanding (hopefully) of any mistakes my own children may make on their road to growing up.
Also, I can remember an experience in high school that helped to lead me to wanting to write and publish a book someday.  It happened in freshman english class when the teacher assigned us to write a short story.  It could be about anything and the whole class would take turns reading everyone's story.  Not out loud, but we passed everyone's stories around and read them silently to ourselves then we would switch.  I wrote a story about an alien undercover in high school who came to research human behavior.  I was proud of it and found it quite fun and cathartic to write.  We were in class, reading the stories quietly in class when the teacher burst out laughing.  We all craned our necks to see what she was reading when I saw my name at the top of the page.  I can't explain the feeling I got at that moment.  I was proud of my work, but it was more than that.  I was good at something.  Later the teacher asked if she could keep the story to share at open house.  Of course I let her, I never did get the story back.  But that's ok, because the feeling I had from that experience never left.  It is one of the reasons I write, and one of the reasons I want an agent someday.  Not that I've ruled out self-publishing all together, that market is changing so much, that it just may fulfill that feeling I want.  But when I finally get accepted by an agent someday I expect it will be like hearing my teacher enjoying my story.  And the agent will then share it with publishers and want to display my book at stores everywhere.  The experience in high school has given me the confidence and passion I need to embark on the long, hard road to publishing a book.  So while there are many experiences in high school where I wish I was smarter, kinder, smarter, and more patient, I wouldn't trade any of those moments.  They made me...ME!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pay Yourself First

"Pay Yourself First" is a common saying in financial advice. It means that before you pay any bills or make any purchases after receiving a paycheck, you put away money in savings. (I would add that tithing comes first before self payment, but most financial advisers don't take that into account. We do.) The purpose of that is two fold: First, to help you prioritize your money use. If you have money leave your account before you even see the numbers in your account, like an automatic withdrawal to a savings account, 401k, or some other account, you aren't tempted to spend it. Second, it helps prioritize YOU. Who is going to take your needs to heart more seriously than yourself? It's not about selfishness, or saying "ME! ME! ME!" When you are done raising children and they are on their own, with their own young families and tight budgets, do you want to have to turn to them and ask them for support?  No one wants to do that. We all want to be self sufficient, to care for ourselves and be generous with our means. Without paying ourselves first, we miss out on those blessings. It's a way to protect your future AND theirs. (Now I know this isn't always possible. BELIEVE me. I know. But it's a really smart thing to strive for.)

As writers and mommies and Mormons, we have to portion out our time in much the same way. I could go off the deep end in keeping my house clean. I have five kids, three of which are boys. I could do three loads of laundry every day and still not be caught up. We are moving this weekend and I did five loads yesterday, 4 of which were created by my boys. I have visiting teaching to do. I was (until Sunday) the primary chorister, which involved preparation and work (and Energy!). My husband was High Priest Group leader and commutes 2 hours everyday to work. He is busy. My oldest is 15 1/2 and is anxious to learn how to drive. She's also heavily involved in extracurricular activities at school, which means more running around for mom. Oh, and did I mention I was moving? And I have kids that need to eat? All. The. Time.

Just like all of you, I have demands on my time that keep me from writing. In my mind, though, there are some clear parallels with "Pay yourself first". I get a set amount of hours in the day, 24, just like you. I have time that's already portioned out for sleeping, personal care, and the "Mommy Tithe", that time that I need to spend with and for my kids and husband that is not about me. But there is discretionary time. (Not a lot this week, but still.) Time I sometimes spend frivolously on time wasters. We each have them. Things that help us build ourselves as writers are not necessarily time wasters, but there's only so much "networking" I can do via Facebook, email, or Twitter before it starts to suck the pennies of my day down a black hole until my time wallet is empty. And then another day goes by and I haven't written.

So pay yourself first. Only you know what your schedule is, and only you can determine when you can write. But set yourself and your family down and say, "I love you. I love serving you and caring for you and spending time with you. But writing is something that Heavenly Father has inspired me to do. I have to magnify this talent he has given me. So from now on, during "XYZ" time, this is the time Mommy is writing. If I lock the door, or ask your older sister to help you get a snack, it's not because I don't love you. It's that I need to do something that the Lord has asked me to do."

Then stick to it. That's your time. Pay yourself first. Your book, your family, and the Lord will thank you. I promise if you do this, you will find your writing grow stronger, your inspiration more consistent, and your production more abundant. You will train your mind and heart to prepare for that time so when you do sit down, the flood gates will open and you will have the words to put on paper.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why I Love Creativity

You know how life goes-
Clean a bedroom.
Find a book.
A pretty blue and orange book with the loveliest title ever: create.

Open book, remember buying it, remember enjoying it.
Forget why I ever put it down.
Reread all the creativity quotes.
Remember my original plan to share more blog posts about creativity,
And include quotes,
Like this one,

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”  Maya Angelou

That is why I love creativity. It’s from the family of amazing virtues, so closely related to love and kindness, generosity and friendship – no matter how much we use, it is never diminished. So go ahead, don't hold back. Create!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Story

Last year I visit taught a lady in her 70's, one of the most cheerful people I knew, happy in spite of what life threw at her. She had recently been burnt out of her home (a fact she she told us with a smile) and was living in a small apartment with one of her 13 children. She told us a story about herself that I kept and tucked away, but I thought was the perfect example of kindness.

She was traveling downtown on a bus when a young man bumped into her and said, "Watch it, old lady."

To which she stopped and replied, "Thank you, young man, for calling me an old lady. May you live long enough so that one day someone can call you an old man."

I doubt that boy walked away from that experience feeling very upset with that "old lady" anymore. She could have walked away from that bus, angry. He would have been annoyed. It might have affected both of their days for the worse, but she turned it into something better. Because she saw that he would grow up and love and live and hopefully one day, be an old man with a story.

I think that sometimes it is easy to pass people on the street or in the grocery store or at the post office--absorbed in our own tasks and forgetting that these people are more than just a backdrop to our lives. They have their own story. As writers this is something that we work at understanding. Behind every stranger is a novel, a beautiful masterpiece.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

GUILT --- A Dirty Five Letter Word

Now I'm not talking about all guilt here.  There is a kind of guilt that is good for our eternal souls, you know, the kind that pricks our hearts to repent.  That kind of guilt molds and shapes us even as it cuts us to the very soul.  That kind of guilt is important.  But the kind of guilt I'm talking about today is the kind that women put on themselves.  You know what I'm talking about.  The guilt of not having a perfectly cleaned house, or a five year food supply, or perfect children, or not being the perfect wife, or perfect mother because you haven't baked 12 dozen cookies and canned a bushel of peaches this week, or haven't finished writing the perfect novel!  I got you with the last one didn't I?  We feel guilty for ridiculous things and often end up harried and frazzled.
I've been so busy lately I haven't had to time to breath, let alone write.  I'll give you an example of one of my days:
4:30am - up to drive oldest daughter to school for cross country practice
5:00am - home to wake up son
6:00am - take son to school for flag football practice
6:30 - home to wake up youngest two children get them ready for school and myself ready for work
7:30 - Take girls to school then drive straight to work
8:15-2:45 - work
2:45 - Drive straight to the kids' school to pick them up
3:15 - Change for Pilates class
4:00-5:00pm - Pilates class
5:00 -  Make dinner
6:30 - Take kids to YM/YW act. that parents were invited to.
9:00 - Come home and wait for hubby to get home at 10pm, cuz he went to work from 4am to 3pm slept, then went back to work from 6:30 to 10pm.
Needless to say, I've been completely wiped out!  I've been doing all this stuff, yet I feel guilty for all the things I didn't do.  Why do we do that to ourselves?
Yesterday I had the day off and got to work on cleaning the house, doing laundry and critiquing some fabulous short stories from our short story contest.  I also met my husband for lunch, and I was feeling quite accomplished except for one thing.  I didn't write yet.  So driving home from lunch I said a quick little prayer that Heavenly Father would help me to write today.  That words would come into my mind and that I would somehow get my novel done soon and be able to work on my non-fiction book.  I said amen, then turned on the radio.  Playing on the radio was Guns N Roses song, "Patience".  My mind zeroed in on that one little word and suddenly I could picture my Father in Heaven smiling down at me with wise, knowing eyes and saying, "Patience, my child".
That's when it hit me.  Patience is the antidote to self inflicted guilt.  If we are patient with ourselves we know that we are growing step by step.  Expecting to do everything and be perfect at it all at once is ridiculous.  It's the equivalent of planting a seed and then, if it didn't grow overnight, heaping guilt on ourselves saying we must have done something wrong.  We didn't use the right soil, or the right water, or maybe the sun was too bright or not bright enough.  But with knowledge of how the growth of a plant works, we can be patient and know that eventually it will grow if we keep taking care of it.  There is no guilt involved that way.  Likewise, we can gain patience as we gain an eternal perspective and know that there is time enough for us to reach the potential our loving Father in Heaven has for us.  So with this in mind, I'm taking a deep breath and I'm just going to keep on keeping on.  And I'm going to heap patience on myself instead of guilt and avoid that early heart attack I was heading for with all my obsessing.  Who's with me?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There's Something In the Air

The other day my friend and fellow writer, Joyce DiPastena, who also lives here in Arizona, commented "I went to sleep and woke up in October." The weather has moved from the stifling heat of summer to the unexpected coolness of fall. Overnight. Monday was the coolest we've seen in months, not even getting out of the 80s. And for AZ, that is cool. My kindergartner asked if he needed to bring a jacket to school in case he got cold. 

Lots of people like to read during the summer, taking along their "beach" reads, using their vacations to read novels they don't have time for in the rush of reality during the rest of the year. Kind of like eating a lot of light salads during the summer because it's too darn hot to cook, they prefer that 'light" reading instead of the meat and potatoes of something like "Anna Karenina" or "A Tale of Two Cities". (If those are your summer reads, my apologies. To me, Tolstoy or Dickens is a little more mentally challenging.)

For me the opposite is true. I really don't get to read much during the summer. I spend too much time running after kids. But when fall comes, and the kiddos are in school, that is when I have time to stop and read. I've barely cracked a book this summer, except to read to my children. And I'm feeling it, with the change in the air. The need to tuck a soft, chenille blanket around my feet, relax in a comfortable chair, and lose myself in a great read washed over me in waves today. Mostly because I was packing boxes as we prepare to move into our new house, and I realized it would be another month at least before I could fulfill this desire. Le Sigh. I am bereft of my most beloved past time, and though I know we will be reunited soon, I miss its lack more than in the heat of summer, when other activities and the constant needs of my children called me away.

I also wanted to share this awesome idea with you for a nummy way to celebrate fall. Apple Cider Floats. I can't wait to make this one with the kids. It sounds amazing. Happy Fall and Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's on Your List?

I have this handy little note pad that is divided into two columns. One side is titled "To Do" and the other side is titled, "To Buy". I say handy, because at the time I got it, I thought "how nice that my grocery list won't be cluttered up with calls I need to make or other errands." And for a while this worked for me. But a funny thing happened last night. I was jotting down some things for the next day, food we are out of (I thought I'd keep more food on the shelf with the kids in school - but I forgot about those after-school appetites!), and somewhere along the "To Do" side of things, I wrote a reminder to post this blog. Even though that is easily categorized as something 'to do', at that moment it looked out of place. And I wondered, "Where is my "To Create" list?" Isn't that what I'm doing? Creating a blog post? And then I looked at my note for dinner and thought, "I don't just 'make dinner,' I create happy mealtimes." What else, I wondered, was hiding out on my "To Do" list that really needed to be on my "To Create" list? Do I really just clean and organize or do I create a comfortable environment? Do I just call the women I visit teach, or do I create new friendships? Hmm. Maybe this is all semantics, but doing and buying do not capture the excitement and joy of living like creating does for me.  So go ahead, make a new list, make a "To Create" list today and see what happens!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Peek into My Pantry

You know that feeling after you grocery shop, and your refrigerator and pantry are full? Such a nice feeling. Especially if you have a few mom treats you are hiding from the children. (Hard to do around here because my son can SMELL it on my breath.)

I feel that way after I go to the library, too. After not visiting for much too long (on account of traveling and moving and LIFE), I went a few days ago. My pantry is full.

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison (about half-way through and loving it)
All's Fair in Love, War, and High School by Janette Rallison (one of my favorite authors and LDS)
Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter (read the first and loved it)
Cross my Heart and Hope to Spy also by Ally Carter (again, read the first and loved it)
The Lost Saint by Bree Despain (second book of trilogy, also LDS)

I won't be hungry for awhile. What's in your pantry?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Teaser #2

by Cheri Chesley

Here you go, as promised. The first peek into the story of The Lost Princess, the final installment of the Peasant Queen series.


“Are you sure you’re all right?”
Jessenia looked at her handsome, older brother. “Don’t worry about me. I’m concerned for Mother. Is this what she really wants?”
“They aren’t forcing her,” Rogan said. “If you ask me, she was lost the moment she met the great grandchildren.”
“But Fayterra is so far away,” said Jessenia. “And why there instead of in Demarde with you?”
“I think returning to Demarde after all this time is too difficult for her.” Rogan looked across the courtyard. “She’s so happy, Jess. I haven’t seen her smile so much since you were a baby.”
Jessenia leaned against his shoulder. “It’s going to be quiet with you gone.”
He put an arm around her. “You’ll be busy enough running this estate. You won’t have time to miss me before I’m back for a visit.”
“The newly crowned King of Demarde thinks he’ll be free to come all this way for regular visits?” Jessenia ducked under his arm and turned to face him. “And you tell me I’ll be busy. You have to reorganize an entire kingdom.”
Rogan gave her a smile. “You could come along, you know.”
She sighed and looked around. “No. Someone has to stay, and I’m his heir. It’s my responsibility.”
“Delegate,” he said. “Your father never wanted you in charge of his estate. He made that clear enough.”
“All the more reason I should stay.”
Rogan lost his teasing smile. He put his hands on her shoulders. “You can’t prove anything to a ghost.”
Jessenia folded her arms across her chest. “I’m not trying to prove anything. My place is here, just as yours is in Demarde.”
“Just remember two things for me.”
She smiled up at him. “What?”
He leaned in and kissed her forehead. “If anyone questions your authority, I’d be happy to set them straight.”
“And the second thing?”
“There is always a place for you in Demarde.”
Jessenia looked away. “I don’t belong there.”
“You are family. You are the queen’s daughter.”
“Yes,” she said. “I am also the daughter of the queen’s kidnapper. You know that isn’t going to make me very popular.”
“No one can blame you for what your father did,” Rogan said. “That’s not reasonable.”
“People tend to struggle with reason where their hearts are concerned. Think about it. My father kidnapping Mother threw Demarde into chaos. You know the history. You’ve heard the rumors.” She sighed. “I’m a living reminder of that.”
“That doesn’t make you responsible,” said Rogan. “Don’t make yourself an outcast in your own family.”
“I’m not,” she said. “I just see the situation more clearly than you do.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Do you?”
Jessenia chose to ignore his tone of disbelief. “Come. Mother is beckoning us to say goodbye.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Writer's conferences

I love Writer's Conferences!  Here's one that I have gone to every year for the past three years.  Take a look and see if it's for you! Oh, and be sure to notice the writing contest that will be held.  I hope to see some of you there!

20th Annual ANWA
      Writers Conference
           February 23 - 25, 2012

Registration opens October 1, for the 20th annual ANWA Writers Conference, Time Out for Writers, February 23-25, 2012 at the Mesa Hilton Hotel. Space is limited - so register early.

The first 20 to register for the full conference AND book their Mesa, Hilton Hotel room will be eligible to have breakfast Saturday morning with an agent, editor or author on the faculty.

Also, Thursday night's workshops on Query Letters and Pitches and Critique Camp are FREE if you register for the full conference AND book your Mesa, Hilton Hotel room.

A variety of classes for beginning to advanced writers are available. Lisa Mangum of Deseret Book, Joshua Perkey of the Ensign, Linda Radke, President of Five Star Publications, and several national literary agents will be on the faculty. Other faculty members include million-book selling author Janette Rallison, award winning authors Donna Hatch and Joyce DiPastena. Well known children's author, Conrad Storad, will be back by popular demand. Sara Fujimura will teach essay writing and writing for magazines.  Illustrator/author, Deirdra Coppel will teach about illustrations and contracts.

Learn how to make money doing Copy Writing with Matt Peterson. Other classes include; Writing Basics, Dialog, Characters, Plot, Family History and Music Writing. Pitch opportunities will be available. Check back for updates as we add more exciting presentations.

For the FIRST TIME EVER ANWA will host the "BOB" Writing Contest. BOB stands for "Beginning of Book".   Attendees will have the opportunity to enter the first 500 words of their manuscript. Enter as many manuscripts as you wish. There will be awards, and entrants will receive comments and feedback from the judges. More details will be posted on the ANWA Conference web page.

Another new opportunity this conference: The Meet & Greet Friday Evening with the editors, agents and authors will ALSO include bookstore owners and managers scheduling book events for their stores with authors that attend the conference.
                1011 W. Holmes Ave. Mesa, AZ 85210           

To register beginning October 1, go to:

Do you know of any writer's conferences coming up next year? Share what you know and start planning to attend one! They are wonderful things to experience!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crit partners, Crit Groups, and If You Don't Have One, Get One!

I'm here but only briefly. I'm on my way to my crit partner's house. We luckily live close enough that we can get together from time to time and hash things over in person. She's not the only person I run my writing through, though. As part of ANWA I participate in a monthly meeting with writers in my area, helping each other along this path.

If you don't feel ready to sit in a room and be critiqued, find an online group to join. For several years I did Critique Circle. It's actually a great resource for getting back unbiased critiques. And it helps train you to see what you miss when you edit yourself. It's totally free, the only thing you have to do is give critiques yourself, which is also excellent practice.

Why am I telling you this? Because you have to do it. You have to send your work out into the safe world of a crit group before you should even consider sending it to an agent or publisher. And they will tell you this, agents and publishers will. Back in the day, a publisher took the author under their wing and nurtured their writing and their growth. No more. The golden days of publishing are long gone. In today's world, your work needs to be a shiny, sparkling, almost flawless diamond in the hand of an agent, one that can stand up to the jeweler's examination.

So when you've gotten your work as clean as you can, before you send it to anyone in the biz, send it to a writer friend who you can trust. Take it to a local meeting. And if you don't have one, create one. Or use one of the myriad of online resources to continue the buffing and polishing process. Because the agent or publisher needs to be able to see themselves in your book--they need to see that you are already a part of them so they'll take you on.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Grillin' by the Pool

Afternoon on Labor Day. Are you having a BBQ? Enjoying this delicious fall weather? Swimming ONE LAST TIME?!? Reading this blog, probably not. But in case you are, here I am. And here you are. But I'm off to BBQ and swim...even in this delicious fall weather because I live in south Texas and "cool" is definitely a relative term.

So, what are you doing this Labor Day?

(I know, totally a cop-out I-don't-really-have-anything-really-interesting-to-post-about post. Except I chopped my hair off today. And when my son saw me he asked, "Am I freaked out?" He must have heard me tell my husband, "When our son sees my hair he is going to freak out." Who ever said we put ideas into our children's heads?)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Teaser #1

I'm going to tease you with the first scene in The Tyrant King, the sequel to The Peasant Queen. Why? I know some of you have read The Wild Queen and have to be asking yourselves what I'm planning to do to tie all these fun story lines together. This first scene doesn't give much away, but it's a fun little taste of what's to come. Next week, I'll give you an even more exclusive peek into The Lost Princess.


Krystal closed her eyes, sensing the book in her hand more than feeling it. She focused all her energy on it, and willed it to rise.
“I know you can do it,” Jareth said.
“Hush.” She dared a peek through her lashes. The book hadn’t moved. She sighed and let her shoulders drop.
“Don’t give up.” Jareth faced her. “It just takes more practice.”
“I’ve been practicing,” she said. “Maybe I’ve learned all the magic I can.”
Jareth moved a lock of blonde hair away from his eyes. “It’s only been four years. Give yourself more time.”
“Says the man who can move mountains.” Krystal looked up into his clear blue eyes. “My love, don’t you think that’s plenty of time to learn a skill beyond throwing fireballs?”
“Throwing fireballs is a useful talent,” he argued. “And I wouldn’t move mountains. That kind of magic has dire consequences.” He took her gently by the shoulders, in the process pushing her golden brown hair to hang down her back. “Not every kingdom can boast of a queen with such ability. And you’ve developed amazing control.”
She tightened her hold on the book and let her hand drop. “Yes, at least I’m no longer setting fire to the draperies trying to light candles. How many times did we have to replace the drapes in the king’s study?”
He shrugged. “I don’t think more than four or five. But just think what we did for the drapery master’s business. He’s thriving now.”
“Horrid man.” Krystal shuddered. “Every time he saw me, his eyes turned to gold coins.”
“Now you’re exaggerating.” Jareth kissed her forehead.
She relaxed against him. “Maybe a little. Still, I wish I had more useful magic. You can help a farm plagued by drought, or relieve a farmer who’s had nothing but flooding. I can light a room. Anyone with a candle can do that.”
“My magic and the bond I share with the land had been cultivated since my childhood, and cemented when I became King,” he said. “Your magical abilities are unknown, and untested. Just be patient. My father once said he could never be certain if my mother’s talent with plants came from a natural talent or magic she got from her bond with him.”
A knock sounded at their door, and Jareth turned to bid them entrance. Calum opened the door and bowed to them both. “Majesties,” he said. “You have a visitor.”
“We have several visitors,” said Jareth with a smile. “My sister is getting married in two days.”
Krystal noticed Calum did not return his friend’s smile. “This one is different. He has requested to see you at once.” He ran a hand through his dark hair in a nervous gesture.
Jareth looked down at her. “You go,” Krystal said.
Calum coughed. “He has asked to see you both.”
“I’ll be down in a few minutes,” she said. “I want to check on my son before I do anything else.” Krystal tugged on Jareth’s tunic playfully. “Remember, you have an appointment with him in half an hour.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” he said with another easy smile. “I look forward to our time together as much as he does.”
“Good.” Krystal leaned up to kiss him; he met her halfway. “I’ll see you shortly.”
He squeezed her free hand. “Don’t be long.”
Krystal watched Jareth leave with Calum, and then put the book she’d been practicing with on the table and went to the door that connected their bedchamber to the nursery. She had no sooner opened the door when a small body hit her legs.
She laughed, and knelt to be eye level with her three year old son. “Hello, young man. Have you a proper greeting for your mother?”
In response, he threw his arms around her neck and planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek. Krystal laughed again, and took him in her arms. Damen, lounging near the bed, lifted his head and looked at her. She smiled at her pet. Her great black dog had transferred affections to her son after Landry was born. Damen almost never left his side.
“I’m not sure that’s what your mother had in mind, Landry,” Lysabith said from across the room. She flicked her long, brunette braid over her shoulder as she gazed fondly at the little boy.
“He’ll learn,” Krystal said. “I don’t care to follow silly protocols every moment of my life.”
“I was just about to get him dressed for his ride with the king,” said Lysabith.
“Excellent.” Krystal put Landry down and tousled his wavy blonde hair. “Calum says there’s a new visitor who has asked to meet us, but I wanted to check on my boy before going down to the throne room.”
“He has napped, eaten, and is ready to ride with his father.”
Krystal smiled at her. “I knew he would be. You do such wonders with him, Lysa. I’m so glad you agreed to be his nanny.”
“My queen, I could hardly turn down such a generous request, as I have said before.” Lysabith smiled. “He is such a joy. These past few years have been the happiest of my life.”
“Mine, too, for the most part,” said Krystal. Then she made a face. “With the exception of the queen training Minister Bettencourt insisted I undertake. I’m so glad to be done with it.” Her eyes followed Landry, who, having grown bored with their conversation, had returned to his toys.
“I suspect he is as well. You weren’t exactly the ideal student.” Lysabith’s brown eyes twinkled.
Krystal feigned insult. “I apologized for throwing that vase at him, but, in my defense, his master’s robe had caught fire.”
A smile played at Lysa’s mouth. “And how did it catch fire?”
Krystal laughed aloud at the memory. “I’ve never claimed to have an even temper.”
“Your aim, however, is impeccable.”
“Stop teasing me,” Krystal said. “I have to get downstairs.”
“I’ll change the prince, and bring him down soon.”
“Thank you.” Krystal blew her son a kiss, and returned to her room. She stepped in front of her mirror for a moment to check her appearance, straightened the crown on her head, and smoothed her hair. A hand dropped to her belly as she felt a surge of nerves. Calum’s worried brown eyes kept returning to her mind. He hadn’t seemed pleased to report about this new visitor. What had unsettled him?
She passed several people in the halls. The entire castle had been in an uproar of preparations for Alana’s wedding to Count Alexander. Though the upcoming marriage thrilled her, Krystal would be happy when the castle returned to normal. Her own wedding hadn’t been nearly so hectic, but she had to admit it had been mostly because her marriage to Jareth had come so quickly on the heels of becoming Gregory’s widow.
However, no one could consider that time in Fayterra’s history ordinary. Jareth’s kingdom had seen years of dissention, starting when Gregory, king of Demarde in his own right, challenged his brother-in-law’s rightful claim to the crown of Fayterra. By the time Gregory had finally been defeated, he’d murdered Jareth’s father, imprisoned Jareth, claimed Fayterra for himself and married Krystal—Jareth’s true love.
Krystal pushed the thought of Gregory from her mind. She didn’t think of him often anymore, and had no desire to dwell on him now. His death made him a part of her past—she need never fear his influence again.
The doors of the throne room stood open. Krystal smiled as she recognized Jareth’s broad shoulders, but she couldn’t see the person he faced. Calum stood next to Jareth, his face an impossible mask. Krystal entered the room and moved toward her husband.
Then she saw the person speaking to Jareth, and the smile froze on her face.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Villains and Halloween

I had someone ask me the other day why villains are so easy to write?  Personally I don't think they're always easy to write, but sometimes they sure are fun.  I think that writing villains is a little like dressing up for Halloween.  Halloween is fun because you can become someone else and walk in their shoes for a night.  You can put on a wig, use a phony accent, and just generally be a different person.  Not that you would want to be this person all the time, but for one night, it's wonderful to just pretend. 

Writing villains is like that.  We get to think about what a person making bad choices would do.  We get to be oh so bad on paper.  We can say things we would never say, we can purposely try to hurt people's feelings, and we can manipulate the world we are writing to be in the favor of the villain for most of the book.  It's not until the end that the villain gets his just desserts.  Another fun part of writing the villain is figuring out why they are the way they are.  If you write your villain correctly, he/she won't be evil for the sake of being evil.  There is a reason they are the way they are and you have to not only figure it out, but you have to allow the reader to feel a kind of sympathy for this person.  Even J.K. Rowling let you feel sorry for Voldemort, by giving him the same sympathetic situation as Harry Potter, he was an orphan.  In this, the reader feels a sadness for the choices of the villain and it humanizes him.  It lets the writer and the reader walk in his shoes, just like Halloween!
So what do you like about writing villains?


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