Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: "Checkin' it Twice and Other Heartwarming Tales"


I was lucky enough to be able to review the new Christmas anthology book from LDS Publisher.  LDS Publisher holds a Christmas short story contest and then makes a book out of the winners. Much like we do on our blog. The most recent book, "Checkin' it Twice and Other Heartwarming Tales" is a holiday must have!

"Can Santa learn a lesson from the Savior?

Can a foreign exchange student help you see Christmas a little more clearly?

Do things really look better from a distance?

And just how many holiday ornaments does one woman need?"



 I like anthologies because you can usually read one story and then come back and read another story later. Though I must admit, I read every story in this book in one sitting. Each story was so unique and heartwarming that I couldn't wait to see what the next story was about! Tears were streaming down my face as each story touched my heart and made the Christmas season come to life for me, even if it is only November!  I can't wait to read some of the stories to my family and use it to remind them of the true meaning of Christmas. I highly recommend purchasing this book for a heart felt Christmas gift. It is a gift of love, inspiration, and meaning that will leave the reader with a full heart and empty tear ducts!

I am also a girl who loves a great deal, and right now I am authorized offer you a great deal on this book!

If you buy it now through December 15th, you will get bonus goodies!!  That means you can buy the book to wrap  up as a gift and then you will get "Checkin' it Twice" as an ebook, plus you will also get "Stolen Christmas" as an ebook and some other downloadable goodies for you and your family! It's a win-win situation!


There is another awesome thing about this book.  Our former MMW blog contributor, Lisa Turner, is one of the authors in this book! Her story of how belief in Santa paves the way for faith in Christ, is truly heartwarming and masterfully written. Congratulations to Lisa for this wonderful achievement!!

Be sure to go to this link to learn more about it! Or go to this link to purchase now!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Who is Whitney?

Here we are: tomorrow is the end of November.  Did you cross the NaNoWriMo finish line yet?  Did you meet the personalized writing goals you made for yourself this month?  Are you ready for the crazy busy-ness of December Christmas traditions?  Please drop a note in the comment box!  I want to know how everybody did with their word counts/goals!

As for me: as of Wednesday night, I was sitting just below the 47,000 word mark, so the end is in sight for me!

Because the end of 2012 is upon us, I wanted to put out a little plug for a very special award.  I was very privileged to have the opportunity to attend the very first Whitney Award Gala in 2008, and so I find a certain excitement in following their progress each year. 

If you've never heard of the Whitney Awards, I encourage you to go explore their page (just click on the image).



If you are already aware of this special literary award, this is your reminder to think back over the year about the good books you have enjoyed.  If you know of any that meet the guidelines, please take a moment right now to go nominate them.  Click on this link.  Show those authors the support of the writing community.  (It used to be easy to find lists of all the books eligible, but I haven't found anything like that this year.  If you know of any lists of a similar idea, please leave a comment!)

Because on Saturday, December starts, and we're about to get swept into the whirlwind of Christmas and New Years, and miss out on the opportunity to nominate good books.

And then don't forget to comment - tell us how your writing goals are going....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Two Hours of Precious Writing Time

Chapter One

Margaret shivered as she stood on the empty station platform, her heart aching as painfully as her frozen fingers bitten by the cruel November wind. Staring up the railway tracks she shielded her eyes from the glare of the early setting sun as she searched for any sign of the train that would bring her beloved Jeremy back to her.

Hang on... what direction would those train tracks go? Would she really be looking West into the setting sun? I'd better take a moment to check Google Earth. Ooh, look, there are some really nice houses in that area, and it's so convenient for the good schools. I wonder what those homes cost and if any are on the market? Maybe a quick look at Rightmove...

[Half-an-hour later]

A solitary magpie screeched as it landed on the bench next to her. She wondered if it was a good or a bad omen. How did that rhyme go?

Off to Wikipedia to look up that rhyme. Oh look, there are lots like that. Gosh, I remember that "Monday's child is fair of face" one. What day was I born on? Where can I find out. Let's find a calendar somewhere. Wednesday. Right, well that "full of woe" stuff is obviously nonsense. Where was I? Oh yes.

"One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, for four a boy." She'd settle for anything except one magpie, she thought, even though she and Jeremy weren't married. Yet.

I've got a notification on Facebook! Oh look, someone has commented on my photo. Ha, I must respond. And check my wall. Jessica's wedding photos are up! They're all lovely, although I don't like her dress much, it would have been much better without all that beading. I wonder how much a dress like that costs these days? Perhaps I'll just have a little browse... it's research, after all. Maybe I'll have Margaret marry Jeremy instead of killing him.

[Another half-an-hour later]
Margaret tried to pass a few minutes by thinking of all the fun things she and Jeremy would do together over the next week. Perhaps they'd go to the theatre, or they could have a picnic in the park.

Is there a theatre near where my book is set? Google ... theatres ... No. Drat. I'll have to have them travel further afield. Oh look, my local theatre are doing an Agatha Christie play! I'd love to see that.

[Fifteen minutes later, tickets booked]

She mentally checked her make-up and smoothed down her hair.

Another notification! Oh my goodness, that's outrageous, I can't let that pass ... and now I'm all discombulated by that person's ignorance and can't get in the mood for writing. I'll play a game or three of solitaire to calm down.

[Twenty minutes later]

At the bend in the tracks she could just make out the approaching train, and her heart leapt.

Leapt? Is that right, or is it Leaped? Oh, it could be either. Which shall I choose. Hmmm. I wonder what other words have several spellings?

[Ten minutes later]

Oh, writing time is up, how many words have I written? Only 180 in an hour! I'm so disappointed! Oh no, I've just realised that I've made a major error. Margaret is on a deserted station platform at sundown in November, so that would make it about 5 p.m., at the start of the rush hour! There's no way that station would be completely empty. But I need it to be empty for atmosphere, and for the next plot twist to work.

Oh well, I'll start again tomorrow. I have two whole hours so I could get lots done.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Talking Tuesday: CONTEST WINNERS

Behind the scenes at Mormon Mommy Writers there has been a flurry of emails all leading up to the announcement of the winners of this years writing contest.  I was on an extended maternity leave from the blog last year during the preparations for our first publication, so it has been exciting for me to be involved in the experience.

This year we had three categories: Poetry, Short Story, and Essay.  Entries were judged by a panel of seven people and scores were compiled to determine a first, second, and third place in each category.

Prizes:
1st - $10 gift card from winners choice of Amazon or Barnes & Noble
        One free e-copy of the publication once it is ready for release
        Publication in Mormon Mommy Writers' upcoming book
      
2nd - $5 gift card from winners choice of Amazon or Barnes & Noble
        One free e-copy of the publication once it is ready for release
        Publication in Mormon Mommy Writers' upcoming book 

3rd -  One free e-copy of the publication once it is ready for release
        Publication in Mormon Mommy Writers' upcoming book

Now on to the announcement of the winners.

Poetry

1st Place:   Mother's Roundelay    by K.L. Morgan
2nd Place:  A Daughter    by Vickie S. Ericksen
3rd Place:   Buoyant Faith     by Vickie S. Ericksen

Short Story

1st Place:   There Can Be Laughter    by Marianne B Ball
2nd Place:  Unintended Consequences   by Tiffany Page
3rd Place:  Home Security    by Jessica Guernsey

Essay

1st Place:    My Children, My Teachers   by Karen Pellet
2nd Place:  Choice, Sacrifice   by Jeanna Mason Stay
3rd Place:   A Blessing from God   by Robert Quackenbush


I would thank all those who took the time to enter.  We all enjoyed the submissions.  We will be sending feed back to all those who entered.  Thank you again.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Different Kind of Christmas



On Black Friday this year I wasn’t out shopping. Instead, I found myself sitting on my bedroom floor looking over my Christmas gifts from last year, remembering how I felt when I got them, feeling the warmth come over me again as tears sprang to my eyes. The thought of another Christmas like last year started making my heart flutter with anticipation.

I celebrate a different kind of Christmas, you see. It’s a kind of Christmas that gets me skip-the-stairs-slide-down-the-banister-and run-to-the-tree kind of excited. It’s the kind of Christmas where the gifts I receive are guaranteed to make me smile (and probably cry) and are guaranteed to be cherished for the rest of my life (and only take up a little bit of space in a dresser drawer). It’s the kind of Christmas that gives me a glow for weeks afterward as I marvel at the generosity of my family and feel the joy of their gifts all over again each time I look at them. In short, in my opinion it’s the kind of Christmas that’s what Christmas is supposed to be.

So how do you get that kind of Christmas?

Well, a few years ago around Thanksgiving I got the usual e-mail from my family (my mom, stepdad, dad, stepmom, brother, sister, etc.) asking everyone what they wanted for Christmas. I sighed and stared at the ceiling, my mind sorting through and tossing out various gift ideas I could submit to them. I remember feeling almost a little annoyed at having to think up an obligatory “wish list." I decided to mull it over for a few days.

Sometime during those few days as I folded yet another load of laundry and picked up more random stuff from off the floor and out of the corners of my house I thought, I have too much stuff. I couldn’t help but recognize the irony when I realized I was getting irritated by having all this stuff and at the same time trying to think of more stuff people could give me that I didn’t need. Especially since all over the world there are many, many people trying to survive with much less than they need. Those people could probably very easily come up with a Christmas list, with things on it like food, a warm coat, a safe place to sleep, a break from bill collectors calling and Christmas gifts for their kids.

As I continued with my household chores an idea began to form in the back of my mind. What if, instead of asking for gifts for myself, I asked people to take the money they would have spent on a gift for me and use it to bless someone else in actual need? What if, on Christmas, instead of putting on a smile and opening gifts that would most likely be forgotten in a matter of months, I got to open letters explaining what was done for others on my behalf? The more I thought about this idea, the more excited I got.

For the first time sine I was a kid, I knew exactly what I wanted for Christmas.

I shared the idea with my family, and told them to save any gifts for me for my birthday. For Christmas, I wanted to celebrate the Savior’s birthday and give a gift to Him by giving to others. I explained to them that I feel happiest when I can love and serve others, and as a busy mom I often had neither the time nor the money to serve in the way I would like. This was a way they could help me give to others.

My unusual request got mixed responses. That first year, only one family member/couple honored my wishes. On Christmas I received a letter explaining that they had used the money for my gift to purchase a backpack and items to fill it for a homeless man they often passed on the way to work. They listed the items they had put in the bag- warm socks, some energy bars, gloves, tissues, lip balm, etc. The thought of my gift helping someone in such need was amazing to me. To be truthful, I only remember one other gift I received that year (which happened to be a cookbook a family member lovingly compiled of all our best family recipes).

Last year was the first time everyone was on board with my different kind of Christmas. I guess they needed proof that yes, I really was serious, and yes, it really did make me happy! Last year for Christmas 500 people got meals (yes, 500!), a family got help paying their heating bills, and a 15-year-old girl got a Christmas her parents couldn’t provide. That last one really touched me because my dad and stepmom purchased gifts for her with me in mind- when I read the list of gifts she received, it was just like the kinds of things I used to get for Christmas when I was her age. I felt like I had loaned my parents to someone else for Christmas! :-)

I’d like to think that as time goes on, my family members will enjoy giving these gifts as much as I enjoy receiving them. I have encouraged them to be creative with their selections, but I have also told them that a simple check to a charity like the LDS Humanitarian Aid Fund will suffice.

Now, I’m not sharing this because I want to be holier-than-thou. I know lots of people much holier than me, in fact. The reason I’m sharing this is because it is a solution to a problem that I hear so many people mourning over- the loss of Christ in our Christmas. I know there are others out there who are eager for a different kind of Christmas as well, one without crowded shopping malls and piles of gifts. They want Christmas to be less about retail and more about reverence; less about jolly and more about real joy; less about gifts and more about God. They want a Christmas where the magic is real. For me personally, this was the way to do it, and I’ll never go back.

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” - Matthew 25:40



“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags...What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

Anybody want to join me in celebrating a different kind of Christmas?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Anchor for Our Families

     There are and have been many significant tables in the world.  There's the legendary Round Table of King Arthur's Court, or the mythical  Stone table from C.S. Lewis's "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe."  But there's also the Periodic Table of Elements and where would we be without a Table of Contents?  However, I'm sure when you think of tables you're more likely to think of picnic tables, coffee tables and end tables, or even writing tables.  But we think the most significant and important table is the "Dinner Table."

     This seemingly boring piece of furniture is actually monumental in our family's development and overall strength.  The table is a place where the family can congregate, its a place for us to come together.

     The old adage "Families that eat together, stay together" is so true.
Families that eat together tend to have stronger bonds with each other, the children do better in school and have better relationships. Dinnertime is a time to learn about your children, hear about your spouse's day, and impart small bits of wisdom and influence. 

However, just because you all sit together doesn't mean you will automatically have a perfect family.  It does take some effort.  We all know that dinner time can be stressful and full of distractions, but when we put forth the effort to work together it can be a time to nurture family bonds and create an atmosphere of love.
     Dinner is not the only thing we can come together for, we can sit and play games, create and imagine together, or we can even sit and just talk. We can gather to have family council or read our scriptures.

     As we sit back and look at our dinner tables let us remember just how important they are to our families. They are in fact anchors that can keep our families from going a drift. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Saturday So What: Grateful for Water

Recently, life has been ... Hmm, how do you type the sound effect from video games-- the one when the character falls off a cliff?

But today, I had myself a Thanksgiving epiphany. Usually I'm a glass half full kind of gal, but lately I've been more of a "Can I get a refill please" kind.

With one kid in timeout, and the other crying and black and blue from kid one, I prayed that the Lord removeth this cup. What if he did? What if I woke up and my sometimes-rotten-yet-always-loved kids were gone? Sure my couch would be less stained and my sanity would probably be a little more intact, but I am grateful to have every moment of chaos if it means I have those children in my life.

When I'm frustrated that I still haven't heard back from the agent that requested a full MS, I should be grateful that someone took the time to teach me to write.

When I look in the mirror and bemoan the lumps and jiggles, I should be grateful I have a body that more or less works like its supposed to.

My husband has been unemployed for 10 months and it makes me nervous. I like control, stability, and a plan. But we were fortunate in having a good support system and savings to draw from.

No matter how bad I think I have it, there are people all over the world who don't know when their next meal is coming. Or where to find clean water.

So during this season, I'm going to stop focusing on whether my glass is half empty or half full and just be grateful I have water at all.

I'm Baaaack!

Hi all! This is Nikki and I'm back to writing on the blog. Did you miss me?  I missed writing on here and I get to tell you why. My life is crazy busy. I have four kids three of which are teenagers and two are in high school and all four participated in fall sports this year. Plus I work at a school and am involved at church and in other writer's groups and of course with MMW. Taking care of myself and doing the things I enjoy, like writing, has fallen to the wayside. And that's ok, but its time for me to remember that I am a better person when I take care of myself and like who I am. So it's time to come back to the blog because even if I'm only writing once a week, it means I'm writing. And as my husband recently told me, I'm a much happier person when I'm writing.
I first started writing a personal blog for my family about 5 years ago. In the beginning I was very guarded in my writing. Just writing what was happening in my family and posting pictures. But something happened along the way. I started to open up the more I wrote on my blog. Pretty soon I realized that when I opened up, my friends and family really started to connect to my words. I became addicted to writing more. I also learned the best posts were the ones where I let my heart show. This is when becoming a writer really started to happen for me. That was when I knew words connected me not only to other people, but to myself and who I want to become. My friend Jenni James and I reconnected on the Internet and we both began a writing journey that continues to this day. Jenni had the idea to start this blog so we could feel connected to other writers and help each other on our journeys. This blog was supposed to help others, but its really been my life line through this journey.
That's why I'm back. No matter how busy I think I am, I need to write and I need to feel connected through words, to all of you. So my advice to you is...write something. Even if it's just a comment on this blog or a facebook/Twitter status or your own blog post. Writing can become your therapy, like it has for me. And it's FREE!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Oops....Gravity Works"

I got the title for this post after watching the 90's animated movie 'Ferngully', in which the character Batty (played by Robin Williams) falls backward out of a tree as he says, "Oops...gravity works!".

I remember watching the movie as a kid and loving that particular bit of dialogue.  Today, it has inspired a blog post.

Gravity is one of those natural laws that shapes the world around us.  It allows us to participate in sports where we work against it - (think pole jumping - not really a great idea on the moon), use it to provide a thrill (bungee jumping, skydiving), and holds us to the ground.

 It can also work against us.  Everybody has a memory of a smashed dish or broken keepsake, slipping from their fingers and falling in slow motion towards the floor.

And if you asked my daughters opinion, she'd tell you there should be less gravity and more pixie dust, so she could fly like the girl from the Tinkerbell movie.

Whatever our feelings or experience, gravity is an inherent part of life on earth.

I'm learning, too, in writing, there are some natural laws that no author can escape, no matter their skills or experience.  One of those natural laws is the slump, sometimes referred to as writer's block.  It's that point in writing a manuscript that the job has gone from exciting and exhilarating, to tedious and cumbersome. 

For me, this usually comes as I approach the middle of a story: I've gotten past the initial excitement of exploring a new setting, meeting new characters and inciting some interesting dilemmas, but not far enough in that I've made it to the thrilling feeling of writing a climax and tying up loose ends.

By this point, my story has usually changed quite significantly from the outline and road map I'd laid for it in the planning stage - those characters seem to take on a life of their own and steer the story in a different direction than I may have intended.  Trying to bridge the gap between what I initially envisioned, and where the story is headed, can be a chore.

Thus, the writer's slump.  And I don't think I'm alone in this experience.  The NaNoWriMo talks these past few weeks have all dealt with this natural tendency for writers to get stuck.  I've seen the topic on many a blog post and writing forum.  I think its safe to say that at one time or another, every writer deals with a slump.

And if you've read the same articles I have, you'll notice the advice is always the same: the best antidote is to just keep writing.  Put your butt in your chair and make your fingers move (or pen) across the keyboard (or paper) until words begin to form.

If all else fails, take a break - go out and experience something exciting that life has to offer - like gravity defying thrill rides, or bungee jumping!  Or better yet, send your protagonist on a skydiving expedition.  It might get the adrenaline pumping through your story again.

Because, hey - gravity works.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Five Things I Don't Understand About America


Apparently tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America. Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for all my lovely American friends, but if it's alright with you I'll give the turkey a miss this close to Christmas.

America is my second favourite country. I've been there five times now and have some wonderful memories. Such as the time I was driving a Cadillac (!) from Phoenix to Las Vegas and got pulled over for speeding - not having any idea what the speed limit was, you see.

I stayed quiet and contrite, because the cop had a gun -the first I'd ever seen- and was therefore terrifying. I gave him my EU driving licence and he wandered off to examine it. Then he came back, walked round to the passenger side and spoke to my American friend, Kerry. He suggested she explain to me that there were serious consequences to breaking the speed limit and, although he was letting me off with a warning this time, I should drive more carefully in future.

"He doesn't know you speak English," Kerry whispered to me. The address printed on my driving licence at the time was Lluesty, Tanygrisiau, Criccieth, Gwynedd, Cymru. The Hispanic cop probably didn't want to have to do the paperwork.

Much as I love America, there are still many aspects to American culture I just can't quite wrap my head around. I'm not just talking about the lack of gun control or free healthcare, although goodness' knows, they puzzle me plenty. No, it's the little things that baffle me:

1. Air Conditioning
Isn't air conditioning great? In Arizona I discovered the wonder of stepping from an impossibly hot parking lot (see! I picked up the lingo and everything!) into an air conditioned shopping mall. Wow, you can put the central heating into reverse!

But two minutes later I was thinking of dashing back out to the parking lot again because I was so cold. And it wasn't just Arizona - Florida, Utah and Nevada were much the same. It's as though owners of public buildings in America want to show off their amazing air conditioning system by creating Arctic conditions within their walls. But really, I'd be perfectly happy to be just a few degrees cooler that I was outside.

During our last trip to Florida we went to Epcot, where there was a very fun exhibit where you had to build a virtual city, including setting up the power grid to supply all the homes and businesses. At one point I got a warning which told me that I didn't have a sufficient power supply in place to "cope with a very hot summer". For about ten minutes that confused the heck out of me. But surely people use far less electricity in the summer since they don't need to put the heating on? Hubby Dearest had to explain to me that in America people have air conditioning in their homes (wow!) and that uses electricity.

2. July 4th
Every time the 4th of July rolls around my poor dear American friends get awkward and self-conscious around me, certain that I am still upset at being defeated in the war of independence. Well, don't apologise. We don't mind that you got your independence. In fact, many of us have no idea that the war even happened because we are taught British history in schools, not American history, and there's a lot of British history to learn so we really don't have time for anything extra.

We're actually fine with you no longer being part of the British Empire, really we are. We know that children have to grow up and fly the nest at some point, and we're looking on indulgently, and perhaps a little proudly, as you find your way in the world. We have seen plenty of other territories go by the way since then -India, Botswana, Zimbabwe- most of them quite amicably and generally deliberately. (And besides, we still have Canada and Australia.)

4th of July is a big patriotic "holiday" (there's that lingo again!) for Americans. So don't apologise for it, or be ashamed.

3. Food
A lot of Americans are obese, apparently.  What I don't understand is why all Americans are not obese. Not only is the food wonderful, but there so much of it! America invented the all-you-can-eat buffet, and I truly thank you for that. I watch Man vs. Food and am amazed that places will really serve a dish which they don't expect anyone to be able to finish. Now there are ethical issues about that, of course, with so much of the world struggling to find enough to eat because we Westerners are devaluing food, but that's not the point I'm making here. The point is that, in the land of corn dogs and Golden Corrall, how is anyone thin? As a foodie, I salute you. And on my next visit I want to do a food challenge. Anyone know any good ones in the Orlando area?

4. Washing lines (lack thereof)
The first time we went to Florida we headed straight for the pool (as you do) on our first day in the glorious and unfamiliar sunshine, and when we got back to our lovely apartment I went onto the sun drenched balcony to hang our wet towels and swimsuits on the washing line. There wasn't one. So I went to the lovely bright quadrangle below in search of the washing line. When I couldn't find it there either I went to reception to ask where the washing line was.

"There's a dryer in your apartment," I was told.

Well, yes, I already knew this, but I didn't want to waste expensive (to us and to the environment) electricity when half-an-hour over a washing line in the beautiful Florida sunshine would have all our things dry, fresh, and maybe even crispy. So I went to the shop and bought some strong string and tied up my own washing line, on which I dried all our clothes for the rest of the holiday. We were the only family in the complex doing this and I was baffled. The tumble dryer is one of the most expensive appliances to run, and sunshine is free and plentiful.

When I got home I emailed some American friends to ask why those living in hot, sunny climates would choose to dry their clothes indoors in an energy-guzzling machine, rather than spend a few pleasant minutes outside pegging laundry to a line. Most didn't have any answers, except that they had always done it that way. (Always? The pioneers took their tumble dryers with them on their handcarts?) One, however, did suggest that it was because the air outside was too dirty. I was very relieved to be back on my cold, cramped, rainy island at that point. After all,  I'd been breathing the stuff for two weeks.

5. Geography
Americans are famously bad at geography, if YouTube is to be believed at least. It's possibly because only 38% of Americans own a passport, compared to 71% of Brits. (But then, if you want some sunshine you can just potter along to Florida or California. I have to actually leave the country.) It doesn't help, though, that you Americans insist on drawing attention to your lack of world knowledge by giving clues as to the location of any particular city. It's not just "Rome", it's "Rome, Italy".

I watched an episode of Star Trek: Voyager recently where Harry Kim was informed that his friend Tom was in "Marseilles, France." "Why is he in Marseilles, France?" Harry asked the computer. If Harry Kim, Tom Paris and the scriptwriters had been English, he would have just  been in plain old Marseilles, because we know that Marseilles is in France, we don't need directions. (I have to know - were the Olympics advertised over there as being in "London, England" just in case anyone mistakenly went to London, Michigan?)

So in a nutshell, those are the five things which I don't understand about American culture. Can anyone answer my burning questions?

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Falling in Love and Robin Hood


My husband and me on our wedding day, May 17th 2002. Gosh, he’s cute. And we look like we’re 12.

Recently a young friend of mine sent me an e-mail asking me how I knew my husband was The One. She indicated that she had recently started dating someone who she thought might be The One, but he was different from the type of guy she had imagined she would end up with, so she was hesitant to commit.

Well, let me tell ya, I know all about that. As a teenager, I always assumed the guy I’d marry would be a lot like me- quiet-ish (only until you get to know me! LOL!), musical, artsy, a bookworm, etc.

My husband is none of those things. He makes friends with EVERYONE he meets, he can’t carry a tune in a bucket, he thinks crafting is an illness, and he once told me he’d rather slit his wrists and do pushups in saltwater than read a book.

Yeah.

He loves any and every sport, his favorite non-ESPN TV shows are Cops and Wipeout, and I don’t think he has ever read a single post I have written for this blog. He doesn’t even match my visual picture of my future mate- I had always pictured myself with a guy who was tall and kinda gangly (= nerd). Chad is average height (6 ft) and, well, beefy(= total jock). I never knew your muscles could get stretch marks until I met him.

So how on earth did we get together and what keeps us together?

Well, we met through the Young Single Adult program at church, and to make a long story short, what I fell in love with wasn’t his hobbies or talents. As I got to know him, I discovered that what really mattered to me had nothing to do with common interests; it had everything to do with real qualities and personality traits that would help to bind us together for eternity. I discovered a man who was thoughtful, kind, unfailingly loyal, respectful, hardworking, and filled with integrity. Once I learned these things about Chad, my “other list” didn’t seem so important anymore.

I realized how important those things are when falling in love after I watched the movie, “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe. I’d have to say that this was probably my favorite movie version of this story (though Disney, the men in tights, and Kevin Costner will all always hold their own special places in my heart as well) especially because of how the love story between Robin Hood and Maid Marian was portrayed in this version. I thought quite a bit about how their relationship played out in the movie as I tried to pinpoint what it was I liked so much about it, and I realized that I liked it because it was based on real values. It wasn’t sparked by clever banter, shared interest, or a crazy twist of fate. Instead, events transpired that revealed those most important, core values in each character. Marian saw that Robin was a man of integrity and honor, and that he would fight for what was right, but he was humble at the same time. Robin saw that Marian was hardworking, loyal, strong, and independent, but that she was willing to submit for the sake of others. In fact, there was little conversation between these two (that was shown) but when they finally kissed I felt like cheering.


I think we all know those movies where the romance is either too obvious or too out-of-nowhere (I love me some Twilight, but I felt like the first movie just kind of invented their romance out of nothing- I was like, “Wait, when did they fall in love? How did that happen?”) and the question is, as writers, how do we get the characters in our stories to fall in love in a natural and meaningful way?

I think we can use the ‘Robin Hood Model’ (yes, I just made that up) and try to arrange a sequence of events in our stories in which an MC's true character can shine through. Not just the cliche thing with the hot guy tussling around with a group of young kids (awww) but real character-trying issues, and the more relevant they are to the plot, the better. How does he react when he sees someone in need? What does he do when faced with temptation? How does he respond to someone wanting to pick a fight? Does he do these same things when no one is looking?

I think that when we focus on these real, core values, we can make a love story that is realistic and draws the reader in. You want them to be able to fall in love with your characters at the same time your characters are falling in love with each other. So think about what your character’s most valuable qualities are and find a way to show them to their love interest and the reader. And go check out Russell Crowe as Robin Hood if you haven’t seen it yet- great flick for after your big Thanksgiving meal this weekend. :-)

So how did you know your significant other was The One? What qualities drew you to them?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Appreciating Thanksgiving

 
 
     Thanksgiving is kind of a unique holiday.  Most holidays involve cute little characters and the giving of gifts or goodies.  While there is nothing wrong with any of that it is so nice to be able to have a holiday where instead of worrying about what to buy and give to so-and-so we can simply be glad for the many wonderful things we already have.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. When I think of Thanksgiving I remember warm embraces, cherished memories of family, and of course lots of comfort food. However, I truly love Thanksgiving because it gives us a season to keep a remembrance of all the things we are grateful for.

 

     As we talked together this week our conversation naturally turned towards Thanksgiving and our plans for the holiday. This led to further discussion of our feelings of gratitude for Thanksgiving, the gospel, and all that we are blessed with.  Eventually we began discussing a topic that we would like to share with all of you. 

 

     There seems to be a little bit of a hullabaloo involving Abraham Lincoln.  This shouldn’t come as any surprise considering Abraham Lincoln is the most read about President ever and there are more books written about him than anyone else.  However, not many people are aware that Abraham Lincoln was responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday. Although Thanksgiving had been recognized since the "First Thanksgiving" it was never celebrated consistently

 
     After the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Lincoln received a letter from Sara Josepha Hale, the editor of Lady's Book, in which she suggested to Lincoln that he set up a national celebration of Thanksgiving. Lincoln truly felt that there was reason for giving thanks, and agreed.

 

"That first Thanksgiving Proclamation neither asked people to assemble in their customary places of worship nor called them to prayer as Protestants, Catholics, or Jews. Rather it called all Americans to gather as members of one common family to give thanks. They were to assemble on the third Thursday of November in any secular building they should choose." quoted from "Abraham Lincoln A Man of Faith and Courage" by Joe Wheeler

 

     President Lincoln acknowledged that all things come from God and was grateful for it, as such he recognized the need to gather together “under God.”  In 1861, after suffering defeats at Fort Sumter, and the Battle of Bull Run, Abraham Lincoln called for a Day of National Prayer. He chose to set it for the last Thursday in November, deciding on Thursday because it would not interfere with any existing holy days observed by American churches. Lincoln called for national prayer a total of nine times, and was preparing to call for another when he was killed. Part of his announcement for the Day of National Prayer reads:
 

"And whereas when our beloved country, once, by the blessing of God, united, prosperous, and happy, is now afflicted with factions and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him, and to pray for His mercy."

 

     We are both grateful that Abraham Lincoln was spiritually in touch with God and that he was not afraid to act on his feelings.  May we have the courage to do the same.
 
 
 
     Just for kicks I asked my girls to tell me some of the things they are grateful for.
 
Bug: I'm thanksful for my family, a sister, that I have so many things that I can do, that I can go to Kindergarten, Maverick (our dog), for my piggy bank, that it can be Thanksgiving.
 
Bear: I'm "fankful" for being able to play with my grandpa, my Puppy, to play with my sister, that I can play with Mommy, for stringy noodles (Top Ramen), and my best friend.
 
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday So What: Writing Tips

This fall marks the conclusion of my first year as a writer. I've learned a few things along the way. And with everybody busy with holidays and NaNoWriMo, I figured I keep this week's post short and tangy. Here's a few writing tips I have come up with or collected this year:

1. Avoid cliches like the plague

2. It is a good idea to break up really long sentences and complex thoughts into more digestible bits, because otherwise, the writing can be dense, hard to follow, and may leave the reader utterly lost, confused, and wishing they had a match in which to burn the pages of what could possible be a very nice book.

3. Proper punctuation is super important?

4. Many stories were killed by passive voice.

5. It is confusing when a writer switched tense in the middle of a sentence.

6. Sound like a person rather than emerging oneself in superfluous words to imitate the tonality of a book.

7. "Characters should sound different," Bob said. "Yes, characters should sound different," Mary said in agreement.

8. No you're homophones. Their tricky things when too words sound the same, but are spelled differently.

9. The deadline that doesn't kill you, makes you a writer.

10. Never give up. Every thought, every story, is worth finishing. Even the ones




Friday, November 16, 2012

The Last Friday

Missed you last Friday. No, really. I'd much rather have been keeping up with my posting on MMW than working a double shift.

I know I've talked about this before, so I won't bore you with the details. The short version is I took a job at the local Dollar General to offset my husband's income. Then I got promoted. Then I got promoted again. Then my husband took a pay cut in the form of a job closer to home that pays less, so my income became more important. Now I'm feeling really stuck, in so many ways. The only light I see at the end of the tunnel is to write and publish enough books to create income that way so I can come back home.

Because I really don't feel like I spend a lot of time at home. Even my days off (the ones I don't get called in to work) are spent half expecting the phone to ring. I need a job that doesn't need *me* so much, but in a town of less than 10k people, the options are slim.

Now that my schedule is so insane, and I still have a home and family and those lingering dreams of writing, I've had to start seriously considering what to let go. I hate that, but it's like when you bring home a newborn and their demands take over your life. You have to decide if you're going to wash the dishes, do that load of laundry, or just snuggle the baby and see to their needs.

For me, my weekly post here at MMW has become that load of laundry I just can't get done. I hate it, but there you are. Fortunately these mommies are a strong group. They can easily carry on without me. :) I'll still be around to lurk, linger, and comment if the moment arises, but I will no longer hold that coveted Friday spot that I've loved so much.

So, thank you to MMW for giving me a place. Thank you to my readers for reading, enjoying, and commenting on my posts. Thank you for the wonderful environment we've created on this blog. And please remember me.

Cheri

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Come On An Adventure to Edenbrooke

 I was picking up my daughter from school a few weeks ago when a friend of mine approached. She handed me a copy of a book called "Edenbrooke" and said, "You have to read this. I just read it twice in two days. I've never done that before." I've always trusted the literary tastes of my friend, and so I dove right in. 



Edenbrooke was written by the delightful new author Julianne Donaldson, and published by Shadow Mountain.  The blurb for the story (as taken from the back of the book):

Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.
From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

I recently contacted Julianne and asked her to answer a few questions about her own unique writing and publication journey.  I am so grateful that she agreed to answer, and here is what she had to say:

1.  When and why did you start writing?

I started writing when I was young because I love to tell stories. As an adult, I would write stories here and there but never seriously thought about being published until I started having children. As a stay-at-home mom, I found within myself a yearning to create something outside of my home and family--something that belonged just to me--something that wouldn't come undone overnight (like the dishes, the laundry, the cooking, the diapering, etc.). I started small, with poems and ideas for picture books. Then I started dreaming bigger and bigger until I had written Edenbrooke.

2. How did you get the idea for Edenbrooke?
 
 Edenbrooke didn't come to me as an "idea." I don't think it's an "idea" type of book. If I try to describe it, I usually end up saying inane things like "It's about a girl who lives in England in the 1800's who grows up and falls in love at a grand estate." No big ideas there. So writing Edenbrooke was not really writing around an idea, but taking a journey of emotional exploration. I escaped into a finer world than my own, where no children existed and money was not an issue. And in my escape, I tried to recreate what it felt like to grow up and fall in love.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your novel?
 
The hardest part about writing my novel was finishing it. I spent hundreds of pages writing threads of plot that I didn't know how to tie together. Huge gaps existed in the middle of my story that I didn't know how to fill. And the perfectionist side of me rebelled every time I attempted to call the story "done." The best thing I did for myself as a writer was attend a writer's conference, where I learned how to overcome those trouble spots. And sheer determination did the rest.

4. What future plans do you have for your writing?
 
 I loved writing Edenbrooke, but after I finished it I vowed I would never write another historical fiction. It is so limiting to write in that genre, and I think it takes a lot of patience and attention to detail to do it well. Yet...here I am, writing another historical fiction. My fans convinced me to give it another go, and I am currently working on Blackmoore, which is set in England in the same time period as Edenbrooke, but features a whole new cast of characters and problems. As I have been writing Blackmoore, I have sworn up and down that I will never write another historical--yet, I am obviously a person who can be persuaded to change her mind. So I guess I will take things one book at a time. I do know that there are a lot of stories I want to tell. And I have a real science fiction streak in me that will probably make itself heard sooner rather than later.
 
I invite you to go check out her blog.  If you haven't heard of Edenbrooke, I urge you to go get a copy.  I loved it so much, I bought my own, and you can bet I'll be reading it again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Life before the Internet

Twenty years ago...
  • If you saw a recipe or craft demonstrated on a TV programme and wanted to try it at home, you had to write in for the factsheet.
  • If you wanted to buy a house you had to visit or write to every estate agent in the area you wanted asking what they had on their books which met your requirements, and then keep visiting them all every couple of weeks.
  • If you wanted to know what was showing at the local cinema, you had to buy a local newspaper and check the listings.
  • If you saw an actor in a film or on television and couldn't remember what else you'd seen them in, you had to live with that torture for years.
  • If you were housebound and needed shopping, whether groceries or gifts, you had to find someone to go to the shops for you.
  • If you wanted to sell some unwanted goods you had to put a card in the newsagent's window.
  • If you needed to do a project for school, or research for a book, you had to go to the library and hope they had up-to-date encyclopaedias.
  • If you wanted to buy a product and make sure you got the best price you had to go to all the shops that sold it first to check out their prices.
  • If you missed a TV programme you wanted to watch, you had to scour the Radio Times hoping that it would be repeated late at night some other day.
  • If you loved writing and wanted to publicly express your views and thoughts on random and diverse topics, you had to ask a newspaper to give you a column.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Talking Tuesdays: Finding Time

Behind one of the Large clocks in the Gare d'Orsay or  Musée d'Orsay

There is a time for everything,  a time for nothing, and a time for the things in between.  A time for painting, a time for cleaning, a time for mothering, a time for writing, a time for exercise, I even hear there is a time for sleeping (I am not sure if i believe it though.)  It can get awfully hard to figure out how much time to allow for all the things I need to accomplish.  
However, without planning nothing gets done.  Timing seems to play a key role in all aspects of life and writing for that matter.

How do you divide your time?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pushing Your MC to the Brink: More Stuff I’ve Learned From Stuff I’ve Read


This photo has nothing to do with this post. I just think my baby girl is gorgeous. We dressed her as an angel/fairy princess for Halloween. So. darn. cute.

So the book I just finished reading is “Confessions of a Shopaholic”. I had seen the movie, thought it was cute, but the book is always better, right? So when I found the paperback for $0.25 at the Goodwill Outlet, I thought I’d pick it up.

I’ve often heard plotting advice somewhere along the lines of, “Think of the worst thing that could happen to your MC and then make something worse than that happen.” To me, I’ve always been a bit stumped by that. I mean, isn’t death really the worst thing that could happen to someone? Or the death of someone close to them, like, heaven forbid, a child? And if that happened to every MC then wouldn’t that make for a whole slew of reeaallly depressing (and in the case of the first, really short) books?

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” has taught me that actually, each character has their own "worst thing." In this book, the main character, Rebecca Bloomwood, is, as the title suggests, a shopaholic. Her shopping addiction has put her under great financial strain, and, as is her nature, she attempts to mostly talk her way out of it. She fudges the truth, she tells what should be little white lies, she tries to pretend everything is fine until suddenly, it all starts to converge on her and her entire world spins out of control.

You’d think that the hideous embarrassment she faces when the truth comes out would be the worst thing- but then it gets worse. As I read it, I heard myself saying, “Oh no. Ohhhh no. Oh, no, no, no, no, NOOOOOO!!!!” It was like watching a car wreck in progress- the author did a really bang-up (excuse the pun) job of just really pulling the plug on this girl and making the reader get sucked down the drain right along with her.

The best thing is that the story wouldn’t have had that kind of effect unless you really liked the MC. Sure, she’s a bit of a delusional narcissist, but she’s just so darn likable! The author gave her depth and a heart. She began to feel like a friend. A really sad and kind of pathetic friend, but a friend nonetheless. I felt like if she died and someone were to ask me to speak at her funeral I would have something meaningful to say. Weird, right? But to me, that’s the sign of great writing. I feel like I really know the character.

So back to the plot thing. What happened to Rebecca Bloomwood was the worst thing that could happen to her at that point in her life. Truthfully, at a few points she was so mortified by her situation I think that death would have been a welcome relief. Rebecca Bloomwood’s rock bottom is different from Harry Potter’s, and Isabella Swan’s, and Percy Jackson’s. The point is, you have to know your character, and you have to make sure your audience gets to know your character, and you have to let your character show you what their worst nightmare would be. As a matter of fact, that’s a good way to figure out their “worst thing.” Whenever I’m stressed out over something, I usually have nightmares about it- like showing up at school in my underwear and realizing I haven’t studied for the Big Test. What kind of nightmares is your character having? What are they afraid of? Is it failure? Losing their honor or their family’s honor? Having the truth come out? Never amounting to anything? Losing a chance for true love? We all have different fears, and our MCs will too.

Then make it happen- push them to the brink. Then find a way to bring them back- or better yet, a way for them to bring themselves back, because the thing that makes great books really great is when a reader can watch a character grow and be their own hero.

How’s NaNo going for y’all? Anybody pushed their MC to the brink yet?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Yadda, yadda, yadda...

     Have you ever gotten to a point in your writing where you know exactly where you want the story to go, but you cant figure out how to get it there? You just want to say "yadda, yadda, yadda."
 
     Sometimes it would be so nice if people could just understand what is in your head. If they could just create their own picture in their minds without having to have the words on the page! How do they do it? The great writers I mean, how are they able to create a scene so vivid that it comes alive for the reader? Sometimes it is so hard to make it all come together!
 
     This past week has been a bit of a struggle for me, mentally.  I feel like my brain just hasn't quite been there.  It seems my mind wanders whenever I'm trying to focus, and the harder I try to focus the more empty my brain gets.   
 
     So in true spirit of this week, and because my brain refuses to cooperate...
 
Yadda, yadda, yadda...
 
 
Good luck to all of you participating in NaNo! And hopefully your brains are functioning better than mine. :)
 
 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday So What: Judging a book by its cover

This week I posted a cover reveal on my blog for my book. I love it, but I can take no credit for it. Cedar Fort did an awesome job. But it got me thinking, So What's in a cover anyway?

In this age of indie publishing, I think covers are nearly as important as the content they wrap. In a brick and mortar bookstore, there is the option to pick a book up and thumb through for a peek. If you go to Amazon or somewhere else on the web, you get a thumbnail picture to draw people in.

I really hate to say it, but people judge a book by its cover. If the cover is hand doodled, or looks like you've taken a stock photo and then typed the title in Times New Roman font, then people will likely assume that the work inside is equally unpolished. Think of the cover like a query letter to your reader. It's unfair, I know (I stink at queries), but you only get that first impression once.

Here are my thoughts about what I've learned on the anatomy of a good cover.

Picture
The front image has to be eye catching and a pictorial representation of what the inside holds. It must appeal to your specific market. Animated covers are for children's books and some women's commercial fiction. YA or literary fiction almost never does animated, especially a cartoonization of the main character. It tends to appear more middle grade that way. Notice that YA often uses photoshopped pictures of a real person. Whatever the image, it needs to be high resolution and be pertinent to the story it represents. That's the trouble with stock photos. Unless you really find one tailored to your story, the reader might have no idea what is interesting or compelling about the imaginary your book will portray.

Title Text
A workshop I went to said, The Title should never be in a font that comes default in a word processor. Because it looks like you took the picture and typed the title over it. And on basic covers that's what is done. The Title needs to be incorporated in the imagery of the cover. It needs to be adding to the art. If it doesn't elevate the cover, then redo it.

Optional Hook
This is one sentence that sits above the back blurb. It's usually a line from the text, a bit of dialogue, or something that stands out. Not all books have it. It's making the biggest point or hook in a one liner

Back Blurb
This is not a synopsis, it's a tease. Entice the reader to want to buy it, but don't give spoilers. What's awesome and unique? Most blurbs are done in the 3rd person, even if the book is written in 1st. It gets even trickier if the book is autobiographical like mine. Some books have the main character appearing to write the back copy, but it has to be done really well to get away with it. Most importantly, it can't be dull or dry. There needs to be narrative voicing in the blurb.

Endorsements
These are the thumbs up from someone who wants to recommend your book. They can be one or two lines, or a whole paragraph. On books by the big 6, you'll see praise from a best-selling author. But chances are, you can't get J.K Rowling to put her approval on your cover. But your mom or Aunt Fanny isn't a good idea either.  Ask other authors with published works. Most are willing to help, provided they have the time. And the worst they can say is no, so it doesn't hurt to ask. Usually it's a good idea to have endorsements from other authors in the same field, or non author authorities in the case of Non-fiction books.

Put it all together and you get something like this. This is the full cover wrap for my book, including the back.

I hope this little anatomy lesson helps anyone who's trying to compose their own cover. I would have no idea how to do this myself, and I recommend even when self-publishing to invest in a cover artist to help you out if you are not a pro at photoshop.

If you have a topic you want So What to cover, leave me a comment in the notes. If I don't know the answer, I will find someone who does.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lest We Forget

As writers, our stories are influenced to a large extent by the experiences, background and opportunities that life presents to each of us individually.  The trials, the blessings, the love, the heartache, the success - each give us a varied and unique view of the world, that seeps into our stories and gives them flavor and variety.

And so it should.

I wanted to share with you today a tradition that has influenced my life and upbringing, and one that I hold very dear to my heart.  Even as I write this, I'm not aware if this tradition exists outside my own country - whether in the USA or other nations around the world (if it does, please share!  I'd love to learn more).  It will be something I will have to read up more on this evening.

Growing up Canadian, October was all about Thanksgiving and Halloween, and December was for Christmas celebration.  In November our focus was on the memory of wars fought and the hope for future peace.  Each year, November 11th is a National Holiday known as 'Remembrance Day'.  Schools and non-essential business close (though less and less each year I've noticed), and special ceremonies are held in each city and town around the country.  Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Though I have never known war, and grew up very sheltered from the terrible consequences of violence, slavery and hate, I was taught and impressed upon to learn and show respect for those who gave their lives - both in life and death - in conflicts meant to further the cause of freedom.  I remember attending those ceremonies each year, watching the veterans and their descendants lay wreaths at memorials, a red and black poppy over my heart.  EAch of these symbols, this annual tradition, and the teachings of my parents and grandparents built a sense of respect and love for all those men and women who fought (and still do) for my freedom.

And now I pass the tradition on to my own children.  Each year we watch the song A Pittance of Time on YouTube.  We buy poppies and wear them proudly every November.  We read 'In Flanders Field' and talk about the consequences, causes and history of war.  We do this to show love and respect for the countless sacrifices of others, and to remember.

Remember what?  Why peace is so important.

May we never forget.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday Talking: Amazon's Disappearing Reviews

Have you been reading the articles about Amazon deleting reviews?  If you are an author who has taken the time to read and review a book written by one of your peers, that review may no longer be eligible to be posted on Amazon's site.  There have been quiet a few authors commenting on the issue. 

I appreciated Joe Konrath's view.  The new guidelines are what appears to be an attempt to stop sock puppet reviewers.  One article suggested that all authors are considered to be in direct competition with one another; therefore, their reviews are not reliable. 

I am not a published author.  None of my reviews are in jeopardy of disappearing.  I have always tried to compose honest reviews of the books that I have read.  I am curious to know that, if I were to become a published author, would all my previous reviews become null and void.

What are your thoughts on the guideline changes, and do you think it will have much of an impact on your personal publishing journey? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Just a Quick Rant About Facebook

We are in a peculiar situation as far as technology goes: we have constant exposure to opportunities to be entertained, informed, inspired, and enlightened; however, we also have constant exposure to the inane, ridiculous, and, well, boring.

So where does Facebook fall along this spectrum, and where do we expect it to fall? I ask this because lately it seems there’s this attitude of entitlement among some Facebook users. They expect that their friends should post status updates that are interesting, enlightening, inspiring, or at the very least, entertaining. When I see memes like, “It’s a status, not your diary,” and “Oh you posted song lyrics as your status? You’re deep,” I can’t help but get this image of a large, balding man with spectacles on his nose and a tiny moustache frowning and squinting down at people saying, “You booore me.” (in a British accent, of course- no offense, Anna.)

What’s been really disheartening to me are some responses to this whole “30 Days of Thanks” thing. I’ve seen several people outwardly complain that their friends are participating, saying that it’s annoying, boring, or trite. Okay, really? Of all that is happening in the world you are choosing to complain that people are expressing gratitude?

REALLY??

So what if it’s a “bandwagon” activity? It’s GRATITUDE, people! Just because a lot of people have chosen to express gratitude, it doesn’t mean that suddenly gratitude has been cheapened in some way. Gratitude is not currency. It’s not subject to inflation. It doesn’t start losing its value because there’s a lot of it floating around. And just because someone is expressing it as part of an internet movement it doesn’t mean that they don’t mean every word of what they say. It doesn’t mean they’re trying to look like Mother Theresa, either. And even if they were, what does it matter to you? They’re just expressing gratitude, for heaven’s sake.

Facebook is like a party- your party- and you have essentially invited everyone you see there on a daily basis. If they bore you, or annoy you, then just don’t invite them to the next party. Or the other option, which I hope we might all consider, is to perhaps overlook their faults (if one could consider lack of imaginative Facebook posts to actually be a fault) and appreciate them for who they are in your life. If, on the other hand, all they are in your life is what you see on Facebook, then perhaps you might be better off with the former option.

Here is what I am trying to say: Your Facebook friends are not there to entertain you. They are allowed to type whatever the heck they want and send it out into the world wide web, and I believe they should be able to do so without petty unnecessary criticism. If I want to post that my fish just swam through his tiny clay castle, I can do that. If I want to tell you that I just lost the pinky toenail from off my left foot, I can do that too. You do have options to hide status updates and/or un-friend people.

Keep in mind that for some people, Facebook is an outlet. They need to vent. There are some days I feel the need to scream, “MY KIDS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY!!” But I know that if I do that I’ll probably just get a strange look from the dog. If, however, I post on facebook, I know that someone, somewhere out there, has heard me, and I may even get some empathy from others whose kids are driving them crazy. Sometimes people need to share, even the day-to-day random stuff that is their life, because they just need to connect to someone.  If you can’t be that someone, please don’t blame them for it.

If someone wants to express gratitude, let them. Please consider that when you post status updates saying how lame people are for being gratitude lemmings you may cause them to start feeling like posting about their blessings is a bad thing to do, and that they have somehow become a lesser person in your eyes. Sorry, just one more time here, but

REALLY??

With that said, I realize that I have the option to ignore or remove others' negative posts also. Perhaps I am the pot calling the kettle black for criticizing those who criticize. But I’m not demanding entertainment, just civility. And I’m not even demanding it, just asking everyone to soften their hearts a little bit and give each other a break. Think about how your words affect others' feelings. There is more than enough negativity in the world. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Please note that there is no clause at the end of that which says, “...unless everyone else is doing it too. Then it’s totally lame.” Let’s meet each other where we are, and let’s always try to remember the wise words of Thumper, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all."

Live and let live. Post and let post.

K, rant done. Carry on.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cloud Puddles

     Every weekday morning I walk with my kids to the elementary school to drop off my son for Kindergarten. One particular morning last week, we found ourselves hopping over puddles as we crossed the street. The previous night it had rained quite a bit. Being so dry here, it doesn't rain much.  So when it does, it is a wonderful and magical event. We found ourselves walking under a sky of fluffy clouds flouting in front of the rising sun. It was beautiful. No time for beauty though, we had to hop the puddles in the road so we didn't get our shoes soaked with the dirty water. As we walked down the street, my daughter kept wanting to walk on the curb and look at all the water in the gutter. "No." I said, "Stay away from the road." But she kept drifting back to the puddles. "Stay away from the dirty water," I told her, " I don't want your shoes wet." I could just see her, that little kid sparkle in her eyes. . . she wanted to step in the puddles, I just knew it. Then we would have dirty road water all over her shoes to go to preschool in. Again I had to tell her to stay away from the water. "But Mom!" she said in her sweet little girl voice, "I want to see the clouds!"
Clouds? She was looking down instead of up, and she said clouds? I looked again at the big puddle she was walking next to. As I changed my focus, I noticed the reflection of the beautiful sky in the water. She was watching those white fluffy clouds as she walked along the water.

     I later thought, this situation is so true of our lives. Sometimes when we have rough circumstances we only see it as bad, dirty gunk, or a potential hazard. We think that if we get close to something that we will get hurt, or dirty. Instead, if we change our focus, or perspective, we can see that things aren't so bad, sometimes they're even beautiful.
     In a few weeks, right smack in the middle of the Holiday season, we will be saying goodbye to my husband who will be away for the good part of a year. When I think about it, it is very hard to have a positive perspective about it. But I have seen other wives who have gone through this and I have learned how to see the clouds in my dirty puddle. Yes, the puddle is still dirty, we are going to have some hard times in the coming months. But, if my kids and I stay busy, and concentrate on the positive things (less laundry, less dishes, fun family letter writing time), it helps us to see those clouds in our puddle. The puddle doesn't go away or get cleaner, but it allows us, with the right focus, to see the beauty all around us. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Unicorns, Mormon Democrats, and Other Mythical Creatures



I have a friend from West Virginia that sends me all manner of political propaganda. Most of it is Pro-Romney. I finally asked her to stop.
"Why?" she asked. "You're Mormon, you must love Romney."
"Actually," I said "I'm a democrat."
"I didn't know that Mormon democrats existed," she said in awe.

I thought her astonishment was pretty funny, though I was used to it from my non-member friends. But that conversation got my head turning (and credit for the blog post idea goes to Kasey). How many things are real that we believe to be fantasy? And how many things, which we strive to be, are pure myth?

First up, the liger. Though Napoleon Dynamite might dream and doodle it as a mythical beast, it actually exists. It is truly the offspring of a tiger and a lion. And unlike mules, they can actually reproduce.

maisonmargielaglasslipper.jpg
Cinderella's glass slipper can be yours for the oh-so-reasonable price of $1300. A shoe.

Vampyr ill artlibre jnl.pngAnd there is actually some truth to our Halloween monsters. Scientist believe the tales originated from sufferers of porphryia diseases. The symptoms can include, hairy and distorted bodies, aversion to sun and silver, and - wait for it - a propensity for blood.


So what isn't real?

Perfection or anything even remotely close to it. The perfect child, the perfect mother... do not exist. And yet, we all lament that we are not this ideal myth. That our kids are not like the little angels that live down the street. Yet that mom who lives down the street would probably confirm that her kids are more hell than halo.

Another bad one -- the ideal body. Even supermodels have the audacity to complain about the hugeness of their pencil width thighs. I bet even Barbie would moan about something if her lips moved.

As writers, we often keep tweaking, revising, and deleting -- waiting for that perfect story. But as long as people have opinions, that story will never exist. When I was compiling the essays from our contest, I noticed that some of the pieces that really resonated with me, may not have struck the same chord with another judge. The same also happened in reverse. Writing is an extremely subjective process. What one reader/agent/editor turns their nose up at, another person might grip the pages and never let go. Harry Potter anyone? How many agents lost their jobs after passing that one up?

Whether someone's looking to be a better mother, woman, writer, or whatever... leave the fantasy on the page, where it belongs.

And as for the reality of the unicorn... if my daughter has any say -- totally true.

Friday, November 2, 2012

No-No NaNo!

As much of a good girl as I am, I've probably been a tad more rebellious than I should have been. Sounds like a contradiction, huh?

A year or so ago, my husband related to a coworker the story of how my young women leaders (ages ago when I *was* a YW) tried to discourage us girls from wearing all black to church. They gave many reasons why they felt it was inappropriate, but my nicest clothes were black and I've always looked good in that color. My skirts weren't short. My tops not tight. I felt their quibble about the color was out of place. At least we were attending, right? I could have been in bed on a Sunday morning like my brothers, or sitting at the TV. Instead I was at church. So I blew them off, wore what I wanted, and secretly smiled at the pursed lips and disapproving looks.

The coworker (of my husband) was impressed that I lived my standards but still rebelled. I never saw it that way. I'm sort of a do-it-my-way person. I've found a system that works for me and I'm good with it.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it sort of leads into what I'm doing this month. You see, while everyone else seems to be on the NaNoWriMo wagon, that particular plan isn't going to work for me. Rather than not participating at all, I'm joining a few of my fellow "rebels" for Tristi Pinkston's No-No NaNo.

If you haven't met her, or don't know her books, Tristi is a genius. As well as being a talented author and editor, she does wonders to motivate her fellow writers--me being one of them. I have three books I need to finish before February (at least rough drafts) but I've started on each of them at least a little, so I can't technically fit into the traditional NaNo standard. Tristi's No-No NaNo is perfect for me this year.

So, if you've been on the fence about this month, or feeling a tad bit of envy for those writers with the chance to start a brand new project Nov 1--come join us! It's going to be fun!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Secret To Finishing NaNoWriMo


My two oldest children knew in August exactly what they wanted to be for Halloween.  Their ideas seemed easy enough, especially with so much notice.  My daughter decided a peacock might be original, and I found some beautiful, sparkly green tool and a bouquet of peacock feathers on sale in early September.  All that was left was to fashion a simple wrap-around skirt, attach the feathers, and pull out the turquoise shirt in her draw.  My son wanted to be an Egyptian Mummy (I had to add the Egyptian reference, because here in Canada we pronounce 'mommy' as 'mummy', which lead to some confusion on other people's part when he announced his intentions for Halloween).  I loved the idea, and all I need was some sweat pants, an undershirt, and strips of white cloth.

Halloween would be ready.  Before September was over.  At least that's how it played out in my mind.

Sometimes, preparation does not favor the procrastinator.

Because one moment it was Canadian Thanksgiving (at the beginning of October), and the next it was October 30th.  Which meant I pulled a very late-nighter, sewing and stitching and hot gluing costumes, for school parties and trick-or-treating the next day.

It used to be that I could stay up as late as I wanted one night, as long as I made up for it the next.  I woke up this morning with a bigger sleep hangover than I did yesterday after my mad sewing binge.  It would appear that my body has become a loan shark for rest - it may lend out late nights with a flashy smile, but demands it back the following night with interest.

As I dive into the first few days of NaNoWriMo, I try to remember the incredible importance of balance in my life during a challenge that allows me to do something I love while forcing me to rearrange my priorities.  One of those things is to make sure I get enough rest that I have the energy and mental clarity to get in my daily (or should I say nightly) word count.

They say that the secret to becoming a writer is to write.  I believe that to be true, and leads inevitably to the secret to successfully completing NaNo (whatever your goal):

Don't fall behind!

You may tell yourself you'll catch up, but that may not ever work.  Like borrowing money (or sleep) from a loan shark - borrowing words is a bad idea!  Someone once said that the winner at the end of a race is not tired, but ready to race again.  November 1st is here my friends - set a goal that works for you, and write! 

And happy belated Halloween...

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