Monday, December 31, 2012

A Christmas to Celebrate

Back in this post here I wrote about how my husband and I are about as similar as hot dogs and roller skates. I love to read and write, he thinks reading is torture and writing is a death sentence. So on Christmas morning when I opened my gifts and found this:


...and this:

 

I was moved to tears. He had color copies made of the story I had published in the Friend magazine this past year, then found a mat and a frame, and had a gold plaque inscribed, then put it all together himself. He may not ‘get’ me, but he loves me, he is proud of me, and he knows that even though he doesn’t understand it, writing makes me happy. And that is why we work so well together.

And then there were these in my stocking:


Yes, he also knows that I am accident-prone and that our beloved rugrats give me headaches.

These didn’t hurt either:

Awww yeah. Love those boots (they’re by Fergie, by the way, if anyone else starts drooling over them like I did when I first saw them).

Anyway, we had a wonderful Christmas, and my husband showed me once again why I married him. 

You may think you’re in this crazy writing game alone, but you might be surprised to discover you have a cheering section silently celebrating your every little victory (and I’m a part of it, just in case you didn’t know. See me waving my little flag with your initials on it? GOOO YOU!)

It’s New Year’s Eve...any writing-related resolutions on your list this year that will have us celebrating next Christmas??

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wrapping Paper and Cardboard Boxes

     After the hubbub and bustle of Christmas is over, what I find myself left with is a bunch wrapping paper and cardboard boxes littering the floor. While the kids run around playing with their new toys, I begin to pick up the mess and I have a chance to think. What is in store in the year to come? There is a whole year before we will have Christmas again. Nine months before I get to wrap my arms around my husband again. Five months until the kids are out of school and we are free to travel to visit family across the country. Next month is filled to the brim with school, piano, ballet, and art classes. My goals for this new year are one, just to make it through the next nine months without losing my mind. Second, to use this time to study the gospel, hopefully in a way that will help me to be a better mother to my children. Third, to finish our WIP!
     In the wake of a wonderful Christmas I have had a week to reflect on the joy my family had and the blessings of a wonderful family and great friends. I've also had the opportunity to think about the coming new year and the things I hope to accomplish in the year 2013. I've never been one to make real resolutions. I think it's because deep down I know I'm just not going to stick to it. I am always trying to better myself as a wife, a mother, and as a disciple of Christ, but I've never considered it a "New Year's Resolution." However, I find myself with a drive I haven't experienced before, a desire to really accomplish something. The one resolution I have this year is to finish our WIP. It has been in the works for so long now, it deserves to be finished.
     Since this will be our last post of 2012 we would like to thank all of you readers for giving us a "safe place" to allow our talent and experience to grow. When we started writing for MMW early last year we were so green and ignorant of so much, but being a part of this community has taught us so much and helped bring some reality to our dream. We have loved reading your comments and learning from you. We'd also like to thank our fellow MMW bloggers. You have all helped us along our way and we appreciate your examples and insights.
Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saturday So What: Write and wrong resolutions

Lately I have been giving lots of interviews and preparing guest posts for my blog tour. Considering the timing, a fair amount of them have been based around setting goals and achieving them in the New Year. It's kind of my thing--being a finisher. But some times, even I can get schooled.

At a Christmas party last week, I met an amazing 13 yr old. Her father is my hubby's research advisor in genetics. When he heard what I do for a living, he excitedly grabbed his daughter, saying he had found her "a real live author for Xmas." She was so ecstatic I'm still blushing. But in the end, I was the one that walked away in amazement. This middle schooler had just successfully finished NaNoWriMo. And managed to get her homework done. I personally didn't do NaNo, but in Sept. I managed 50,000 in 18 days and that darned near killed me. We are talking ten hour days people. So how does a teenager manage an 8 hour school day, homework, an online writing community she started, and 50,000 words? Her answer... she wanted it and all she needed was to do it.

And that my friends is how you make writer resolutions. The reason so many people do and succeed at NaNo is the tangibility of the goal. It is entirely up to you whether you get those words on paper. You make the choice whether to forego sleep when you have 5000 left with one day in the month.

It's amazing to me that this girl has it figured out at 13, and it took me into my 30s to master. If she keeps up this attitude, she'll be topping the NYT list by the time she graduates college.

So my advice to anyone making resolutions this year--make them specific based on only your actions. Yes, it would be nice to have a big contract this year. But that's not in your control, so that makes it a dream as opposed to a resolution. You can, however, decide to put in whatever effort is necessary to write and revise the best novel you can by April to query.

Keep this years goals in your control and make the commitment to succeed. Then, just go and do. When crying or puking kids crop up, and you know they will, take care of them and give up that hour of TV time instead. We can all do amazing things and more than we ever dreamed possible, it's largely a question of how much we are willing to give to that particular goal. Whether your goals are to grow as a writer or invest more time into your family or church callings, I wish everyone well and much love in this New Year. Can't you feel it? It's gonna be a good one.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day

It's my blog day today, but it's a national public holiday here so if you don't mind I'll keep this short.

No idea why it's called Boxing Day. Google seems to think it's about the Christmas poor boxes being delivered. It seems a bit unfair that the poor had to wait until after Christmas for their desperately needed alms.

In our house Boxing Day seems to mean trying to find space in the toy boxes for all the new gifts. Or maybe boxing people out of the way as we fight to get into the shops for the start of the (ostensibly) January sales. (Not that our family engages in such materialistic shenanigans, you understand.)

Christmas was wonderful and Boxing Day is all about clearing up the mess and eating my favourite sandwich ever–turkey, bacon, cranberry sauce, sausage, stuffing and bread sauce–all washed down with chocolates from one of the many overflowing tins. I have to build a doll's house and figure out where to hang the kitchen blackboard my lovely children brought me. So Happy Boxing Day everyone and I hope your Christmas was wonderful.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Talking Tuesday: Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas!  
I hope everyone is enjoying the joy of the season and remembering the reason.  
I wish you all lots of words to read and lots of words to write.

Monday, December 24, 2012

He’s With Me.


A couple of weeks ago I was in my Institute (Bible study) class and I heard this story:

One night a young missionary had a dream. In his dream, he was kneeling at the feet of God. Just beyond God was a door that led to the Celestial Kingdom. The man knew he was unworthy to enter, and he was heartbroken. He knelt at the feet of Heavenly Father and pled with Him, begging to know if there was something- anything- he could do so that he would be worthy enough to enter the Celestial Kingdom.

Just when he reached the point of deepest despair, Jesus Christ entered the room. He walked over to the kneeling man and helped him up. Gently, He led him to the door for the Celestial Kingdom. As they were about to go through, the Savior paused, looked back at Heavenly Father, and said simply, “It’s okay. He’s with me.”

I’m so grateful this Christmas season to know that because Jesus Christ came into the world and overcame the world, He is our safe passage. He is ready to take us by the hand and show us the way if only we come unto Him.

May we all seek Him out this Christmas season and always!

A side note: This past week marked my 1-year anniversary with MMW. I would like to say thank you to all my fellow MMWs for making it a year of growth and learning for me. I hope to continue blogging here and sharing this journey with all of you for many more years to come!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Traditions of Joy

     As we talked together this week, discussing topics for out post we wanted to write about some of  the Christmas traditions that we grew up with, the things we remember most.  Well, we thought and thought...and thought some more and sadly we realized that we didn't really have many traditions that we did every year.  We did things like open one gift on Christmas Eve, and we knew there would be an orange and an apple in our stockings, but we couldn't really think of anything we did as a tradition.  Then we both realized, there was ONE tradition that has been in our family since the very beginning, something we do to this day.  It is a very simply thing, but something that has had a remarkable impact on both our lives.  Every year when our family gathers, whether it's a large gathering with aunts, uncles, and cousins, or just our family of Mom, Dad, brother, and sisters, we sit in a circle and pass out candles.  We turn off all the lights and then someone lights their candle.  This person then tells what he or she is grateful for.  When they are finished the next person lights their candle from the existing flame.  This continues, as the light is passed and shared from one person to the next until every one has a glowing candle in front of them and has shared what they are grateful for.  The room goes from being completely dark to being filled with a warm glowing light.  We then would sing a special hymn that is sung at every family gathering.  We'd like to share it with you.




In this very room there's quite enough love for one like me,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for one like me,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus, is in this very room.
 
And in this very room there's quite enough love for all of us,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all of us,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus, is in this very room.
 
And in this very room there's quite enough love for all the world,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all the world,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus, is in this very room.

     There is a word in this song that sticks out to me as we approach Christmas.  Joy.  It is such a simple word and yet it contains so much meaning.  We are told that men are that they might have joy.  This simple word represents the very thing that Heavenly Father wants us to have in this life.  This Christmas let us all remember that one of the most important gifts we can give each other is the gift of joy.  And what better way to give this gift than to share the love of Christ and his precious message?  Give joy and have joy.  Merry Christmas to all of you.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Deadline













'Twas the night before deadline, when all thro' the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except for the mouse;
It clicked through the words and commas with care,
In hopes that an editor soon would be there;
The writer was passed out, never made it to bed,
Keyboard like a pillow squished under her head,
But mouse kept going, changing lowercase to caps,
Because there’s no missing deadlines, not even for naps.
When up on the desk there arose such a clatter,
That Mouse sprang from its pad to see what was the matter.
It jumped the keys, scurried over the flash,
Tore out the USB port and fell with a crash.
When, what to its optical eye should appear,
The Elf on the Shelf riding a toy rein-deer,
He jumped over the coke cans, so lively and quick,
Probably on a mission from that meddler, St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, more reindeer did came,
Elf grabbed Mouse’s cord then call'd them name:
"Now! Crasher, now! Plotter, now! Pantser, and Nixon,
"On! Vomit, on! Stupid, on! Blunder and Fixem;
"To the top of the doorway! to the north of the wall!
"Now dash away with Logitech, dash away all!"
Printer paper swirled like wild hurricanes fly,
They plowed through the mess, trying to mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the toy reindeer flew,
Elf was going to Santa, and he was taking Mouse too:
Mouse’s cord trailed behind, snaking the roof
Getting stepped on and kicked by each little hoof.
It snagged on the chimney as the deer flew around,
Twisting and knotting til all the toys were bound:
Elf was pissed, he stamped his wee foot,
Now his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;
Santa was waiting, he had to get back,
But there was no more juice in Rudolph’s battery pack:
Though Mouse could help, if it was feeling merry,
It could lead the way, its laser red like a cherry;
Mouse politely declined, thinking, “Heck no.”
There were revisions to finish, it just couldn’t go;
But then it remembered an old Christmas wreath,
In the attic by the window, it was hiding underneath.
A singing cat wreath with a white fuzzy belly
Its batteries still good, tho’ the fake fur was smelly:
Mouse pulled out the AAAs, lassoing them to Elf,
He laugh'd when he saw them, in spite of himself;
They hurried to the toy room, next to Rudolph’s head
After the batteries were in, the deer was no longer dead.
Mouse spoke not a word, but went straight back work,
Elf didn’t say thank you; ungrateful little jerk,
A few hours later, Writer felt a tickle by her nose
With a yawn and a stretch, she reluctantly rose.
Springing to her laptop, the edits were done!
No idea who did it, but she owed them a ton.
She couldn’t hear mouse exclaim, as she rushed out of sight-
Happy Deadlines to all, and to all a good night.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: Third Time's the Charm by Heather Moore

Liz, Gemma, Arie, Jess, and Drew have been best friends since creating “the Five” at Aliso Creek High School. But that was over ten years ago, and each is still trying to find that perfect someone . . . if perfect is even possible.

In fact, Liz Carlson will settle for a normal man. A normal man with a job, that is. Married twice, then divorced twice, Liz had her rose-colored glasses fall off and shatter on the ground a long time ago. Her main focus now is raising her six-year-old daughter and surviving long days at work on her feet as a hairdresser. When Sloane Branden answers her call for help, quite literally, Liz doesn’t even give him a second glance. She has sworn off dating for as many years as it takes, and it seems that Sloane has done the same after his own tumultuous marriage. But when Liz realizes that Sloane defies every stereotypical deadbeat she has dated, she might just find room in her heart and discover the third time’s the charm.



I have to be honest, I don't normally like romance novellas. I don't ever remember that until I start reading them either! The problem with a short romance story for me is that there are so many things the story has to do in such a short amount of time. Like develop likeable characters, create a bond between characters, have incredible romantic tension, and have a believable, yet hard to overcome obstacle that can still be overcome in just a matter of pages. I'm in awe of anyone that can overcome any of these limitations in a short romance story. I must say that Heather did that with the obstacle in this story. It took me a bit by surprise, it was a new obstacle in a romance story and one that made me laugh right out loud! But I loved that element! It was a nice quick read and made me smile, so while it wasn't one of my favorite books by Heather, it was worth the download.

Download it here!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas - Let's Read!

Wow!  It's just four days till Christmas.  Where did December go?  Never mind that - where did the year go?  I think I'm finally ready for Christmas morning, but it seems as though little 'to-do's' keep popping up. 

Before we all head into the last few magical days of Christmas, I thought I'd share some of my families favorite picture books - Christmas style. 


We read this book every Christmas Eve - it helps to draw the parallel between the secular and spiritual sides of Christmas.  Plus, the writing is sweet and simple.


This is part of the bear series by Karma Wilson, which has a catchy rhyming style the kids can't get enough of.


This book is one of my all time Christmas favorites - I still can't read the last page without crying.  And of course it is better than the movie!


I love Fancy Nancy - so why not add some Christmas pizzazz!


And you can't beat Laura Numeroff for circle stories.

What about you - what are your favorite Christmas books to read as a family?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Christmas Traditions

I love family traditions. Our church leaders often teach us that family traditions are important in binding together families and helping build wonderful memories and strong relationships. It seems to me that having a tradition says "This is our family: this is what we do."

Christmas is a time when family traditions are the strongest and many have been passed down across generations. Growing up, for example, it was our tradition that we didn't open the presents around the tree until after lunch. (We children had already opened the presents Father Christmas had left in the stockings on our beds–generally very noisily at 3 a.m.–so we didn't mind waiting. Much.) Once we had bellies full of turkey and Christmas pudding the adults would settle down in the lounge and after the Queen's Speech the children (just my sister and I) would pass out the presents. We would all then take it in turns to open a present each so that everyone could see what everyone got, and thank the giver. That 's a tradition I've kept now that I'm a Mum, and my kids love giving out the presents and taking turns opening them.

Not all traditions are decades old, however. A new practice can become a family tradition, and can serve to unite the family and build love and appreciation.

Apparently the McIntyre family always get new pyjamas on Christmas Eve (presumably so that they can look smart for Father Christmas) so my children, on learning this from the McIntyre children at church, insisted that we have to do the same. Another family in our ward has to find their presents in a treasure hunt. I was happy (until I saw the price of pyjamas, but I digress) to build a new tradition into our family life, so I've combined the two into a Christmas Eve treasure hunt in which they have to find their new (Primark) pyjamas. We'll see how it goes and then decide later whether to do it every year.

Christmas Eve is full of traditions in our home. We drop off our Pixie hamper, go to a Nativity carol service (or a Christingle service sometimes) and I make my Yule log. The pyjama hunt may have to be very brief.

For several years I've tried to introduce a new tradition of having us all sit down and light the advent candle each evening in December as I read out something uplifting about Christmas. Unfortunately it never works too well. It's very difficult to get us all home and awake at the same time, for one thing, and the candle takes over half an hour to burn through each number so we tend to get bored, wander off, and forget to blow it out. (It currently says it's the 22nd December. Oops.) We'll try again next year. Maybe.

A slightly more successful new tradition in our family has been having a ham as well as turkey for Christmas lunch. That tradition came with my husband's family who always had both. He asked me very nicely whether I'd mind if we incorporated it into our new family. (It involves more food, so it was a no-brainer.) We seem to have dropped the tradition of going to a Christingle service every year, however, which is a pity, but oranges and jelly-tots are obviously less tempting than a baked ham.

What are your Christmas family traditions and how do they help your family feel the spirit of Christ and grow closer together?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Talking Tuesday: When Did You Know?

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It is a simple question. So, why do I have such a hard time answering it?

I definitely had a few extra helpings of imagination as a child.  Time out was never a punishment for me; it was just more time to escape into the worlds I had created.  I remember sharing stories with anyone with ears, and as I got to the exciting parts I would talk faster.  I was not very accomplished at transitions, A remember a lot of And Then's... ( And then her siblings found some duct tape. And then they shoved her in the dryer, and taped it shut. And then they turned the dryer on. And then she started screaming because they didn't duct tape her mouth.)  I hope I have improved some since then.

When we had to write stories for the young writers contest, my stories got selected as one of the top in my class several years.  I am not sure if this celebrated the high caliber of my craft, or if there were slim pickings.  I unfortunately did not save what might have been some of my best work.  I do remember a story about a young boy Dominic being adopted.  That may have been the entire plot, I do not recall.

Junior high and high school years marked the majority of my poetry phase.  Lots of angst-filled poetry.  I think I was a sad version of Dr Seuss.  My junior year, I took a creative writing class.  My teacher praised my prose and poetry and told me not to give up on it.  I even won a scholarship to my very first writer's conference.  Sadly, I did not learn all that I should have because I was way to boy crazy to care about being a good writer.

In college, I put aside my desire for writing for a more marketable major; Communications with an emphasis in Advertising and Marketing.  For a brief moment, I considered a minor in psychology, but it didn't stick.

I am not sure why I throw my writing desire under the bus.  Fortunately, a couple years after graduation, a good friend of mine mentioned that she had written a novel.  She was on her first round of edits.  She provided the breath that ignited the long forgotten embers that still burned within me.  Most days I thank her inwardly.  Some days I am sure she only succeeded in awakening my crazies.  But since that day, I have known.  I want to be a writer.  Since then it has been up to me to be a writer.

So how about you?  When did you know?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Guns in America

With the devastating and horrifying tragedy that happened last week, let me first say that my thoughts and prayers and tears are with the families of the fallen in Connecticut. No parent should ever have to endure what they have experienced and I just pray that the Lord’s comforting hand will be upon them.

This event, along with the shooting in Portland earlier this month, has brought the issue of guns in America back to the forefront once again. As a mother, I have mixed feelings about the issue. Today I wanted to share my story and get some feedback on this issue from other mothers out there.

A few years ago, at the beginning of December, actually, I was asleep in bed at 4am when our house alarm suddenly started shrieking. I can still remember that sound very clearly. I froze in fear. My husband awakened, and when he realized what was happening he told me to call 911 as he rushed to the closet for his 9mm handgun. He positioned himself at the top of our stairs, right outside our bedroom, with his gun pointed down at our wide open front door. Meanwhile, I took the phone with me and got my crying daughter, then 2 years old, from her room and took her to my son’s room (he was 3) at the end of the hallway. I remember huddling in fear with my whimpering children in that room, listening to the alarm blaring, and thinking, What would I do if, God forbid, something happened to Chad? What if the intruder somehow got past him and came down the hall into this room? I had no escape. The only exit was back through the hallway and down the stairs or out a window. I felt utterly and completely helpless. I was a sitting duck. I began to have visions of an intruder forcing his way into the room, killing me and leaving my babies completely helpless, doing goodness knows what to them. The thought was terrifying.

I made up my mind right then and there that I did not want to be a victim. If there are people out there who have guns and will use them to hurt me or my children, then I want a level playing field. I don’t ever want to think that I could have done something to save my kids and I chose not to because I was scared.

I don’t like guns. They scare me. Which is why going through the process of learning to shoot and obtaining a gun was nerve-wracking, especially because I did it on national TV.

What?

Yes, to make a long story short, the National Geographic Channel was interested in doing a piece on guns in America and wanted the perspective of a female who had had some kind of traumatic experience that influenced her to want to get a gun. They sent a camera crew and filmed me going to a gun show, then got me set up with an instructor at a gun range to try my hand at shooting. Let me tell you, shooting a gun is intimidating enough, but having a verrrry expensive camera 6 inches to the left of your line of fire? Well, that just makes it SO much more fun.

Check out a clip from the show below:



Anyway, my instructor was great, taught me a lot, and not long after that I got my first gun. It’s a revolver, about as idiot-proof as can be: literally, put in bullets, pull trigger. No safety, no chambering a round, just basic load, shoot. (Because there’s no safety I store it unloaded with a long padlock that actually goes inside the barrel and requires a key to unlock. No possible way to shoot it without unlocking it with a key.) I know how panicked I was when the break-in happened, and I need something I can handle without having to think about it too much.

After I got my gun, the nightmares I had after the break-in finally stopped. Now instead of nightmares I have dreams that begin with an intruder in my home and end with me being a really good shot.


I was actually the latecomer to the gun scene in my family. My mom has always had a gun, my dad is an avid gun collector and has a concealed carry permit, as do my husband and brother. My opinion has always been that those whom gun laws are meant to stop are not people who are stopped by laws, and if law-abiding citizens are allowed to defend themselves with the responsible use of firearms, then the safer we’ll all be.

After last week I’m not so sure.

It just hit too close to home, I guess. I can’t help wondering- if it was illegal for the shooter’s mother to have those guns in her home, would they have been there? If he had had to really go through a lot of channels to get a gun, would he have? You can always argue that people that want to kill will find a way to do it, but someone snapping and grabbing a gun and going on a killing spree is very different from someone who has to go online to look up how to make a bomb, then go out and buy bomb-making materials, then assemble it, etc. Those things take time- time that could be the difference between being murderously enraged and just really ticked off.

So now I just can’t help but wonder. I am hugging my children until they tell me to stop and then I don’t. I am praying for peace for our country. And I am wondering whether or not turning in the guns is the answer.

Thoughts?

By the way, our home invasion ended with the intruder running off, scared away by the alarm, thank goodness. The police determined that he had used a credit card (or something similar) to get the door open.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dr. Frankenstein


     I had a funny thought cross my mind while searching for just the right name for a character.  Suddenly images flashed before my eyes, I saw myself standing in a dim room in front of a surgical table.  There was a bright light right overhead; I could hear beeping noises coming from a nearby machine.  At the head of the table there was a lightning generator buzzing.  I could see an arm hanging off the table and a foot poking out from under a white sheet.  Then my mind’s eye panned across a youthful face.  I noticed her eyes then her nose, followed by lips and a chin.  And then I saw a lock of her silky brown hair.  I stepped back from the surgical table and the beeping and buzzing machines as I looked at my creation.  I tossed my head back and laughed maniacally.  As I raised my fists in triumph I shouted, “Yes! I’ve done it! I’ve created a…Character!”  More hysterical laughter…OK, more like a soft chuckle as I pulled my mind from the silly image in my head. 
     As fun as my little daydream was I still can’t come up with just the right name, more specifically my character’s last name.  I don’t know what bothers me more, not being able to come up with the name or that I feel the need to find the PERFECT name.  What’s in a name anyway?  A name, at times, can be a reader’s first introduction to a character.  Sometimes I feel like my character just isn’t complete until (s)he has the right name (maybe this complex comes from my lack of ability to remember names well).
Do any of you struggle finding names for your characters?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Parenting, Guns, and Rock 'n Roll

I had an entirely different post planned out for today; however, with Friday's tragedy, I felt that I had something to say.

Even as I write this, the droplets fall and make the keys slippery. My heart breaks for every family who lost someone in the Connecticut school shooting. It breaks for the children that survived while their innocence didn't. But most of all it breaks for a society where it's listed in the news as "Another Mass Shooting".

This is not okay people. This is not the new status quo, waiting in fear for someone else to walk into a public place and unload clips of ammo into innocent citizens that have nothing to do with the shooter's issues.
In case you're wondering, this is not a gun control rant. This is a parenting rant.

Friday afternoon, I had to go the DMV to register and get plates for a car. While I was at the window, an 8 year old boy was sitting in a nearby chair, playing with a bright orange handgun toy, complete with popping sounds. He was shooting my daughters, who thought it was a game and hid from him around a pillar.

I wanted to puke.

The father at the adjacent window gave a half hearted shrug when I told his kid not to point the toy gun at my girls. But the dad said nothing, gave no reprimand, just a look that clearly said, "kids will be kids".

On what planet is it okay to bring your kid into a government building and let him play with a toy gun in the waiting room? Let alone on the same day where 27 people, most of them children, were ruthlessly gunned down?

I'm begging everyone, in the words of Crosby, Stills and Nash, "Teach your children well." Teach them to be good and gentle souls. Don't turn a blind eye at violent and errant behavior. Pay attention! I have known so many parents who refuse to believe their little Johnny was capable of punching another kid, surely there must be some kind of mistake. Usually there isn't. Acting out is often a symptom that they are struggling, perhaps being bullied themselves. Give kind correction and buckets of love, but remember, you are the watchman.

As parents we are the first line of defense. Our job is to provide a safe and loving environment for our children to grow. Nurturing them so that they may in turn nurture others. But make no mistake, no matter how well intentioned or righteous we might be, the adversary is ever knocking on the door, with sneakier and stealthier ways all the time. The more we can keep filth and violence out of our homes, off our TVs, out of the iPods, the better our kids will be. The better our nation and world will be.  And God willing, the more infrequent these senseless killings will become.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Guest Post: Orson Badger (A Mormon Daddy Writer!)


Big Dreams and Magic
By Orson Badger            


“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood.”
Daniel H. Burnham
American Architect & Urban Planner

I finished the book, set it down, and looked at the cover. Wait a minute, I thought. This is pretty good, but it’s not a great story…yet it’s a national bestseller. How is this possible? I continued to mull over the book, its ideas, and the success it enjoyed. After a few days of pondering I came to the conclusion, I could write a better story. Wait, why stop there? Think big! I decided I would write the next “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter” series or even the next “Twilight.” When Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg come knocking at my door and want to make a movie from my fantastic story I’ll demand a ridiculously high percentage of the total profits, including all the promotional paraphernalia and insist on being co-director — those years in high school drama might pay off after all.

Cocky? Absolutely! Presumptuous? Definitely. Possible? Well, of course, anything’s possible but I hadn’t even written one sentence and already I was dreaming of mega-success—Doesn’t every writer think this way? My blood was well and truly stirred.

I grabbed a composition notebook and set out to write my masterpiece using a .01 micron pen so I could jam as many words as possible on each page. I wrote daily, except Sunday, during every free moment I could find while still trying to be a dutiful loving husband and father. I arrived at my architecture job early to grab maybe an hour of writing and then for lunch, after inhaling some leftovers, I’d write for the remainder of my break. At night after my family had gone to bed I’d write into the late evening. After a year and a half and multiple re-writes it was done … or so I thought.

Now, how do I get it in front of my millionsnot big enough … billions — I’d go bigger but Earth’s population hasn’t reached trillions yet — of adoring fans? I researched. Read books on writing, publishing, and consulted with the experts. My wife, my kids, and Mormon Mommy Writer’s Nikki Wilson and her sister. I read about the rejection I would likely face and the long waiting periods. I learned that a publisher who may choose to publish my story may not like everything I’d written and they’d want to change some things or have me re-write even more. And then I found out that my masterpiece may not be picked by a good publisher and I had to be very careful of those that would lure me into a contract that turned out great for them but not so great for me. The final wrecking ball to shatter my idea was the fact that I probably wouldn’t even be consulted for the cover art of my novel. The Horror! This cannot be! What to do?

During my research I came across an ebook about digital publication. Ah ha! Here is the answer to my conundrum. I’ll publish it myself as an ebook! After searching their current catalog and finding a lack of print books on this subject the local public library was gracious enough to order several books on the subject. I wondered if they realized they may be contributing to their own demise. After reading each book I formulated a plan and began the learning process of turning my novel into the proper format for Kindle, Nook, and other digital platforms. Finally complete with the irksome process I published online and waited for a call from a movie producer. …
…?
…??
…!!!
Not one producer or director called or even stopped by to discuss which big Hollywood stars I’d like to appear in my movie. I have the perfect roles for Robert Downey Jr., Will Smith, Anne Hathaway, and Natalie Portman in my epic story.

After several more days of no email, phone calls, or even just a knock at the door, I came to an understanding that mega-success might take a few months. I started to write the next book. Can’t let life’s little potholes wear out your shocks. A day or so later an email popped up. Hey, wait, what’s this? Someone bought my novel and left a review! I was so excited as I tapped out the web address to the site where I could read it. Punched in my username, s-u-p-e-r-a-u-t-h-o-r. Password…password…okay, which one is it? Oh, right, #-1-b-e-s-t-s-e-l-l-e-r. The screen popped up and there it was. Magic time! I began reading. It started out good and went downhill from there…THREE STARS?!! What? Who is this idiot? Doesn’t he/she recognize fantastic literature when they read it? Okay, okay. Get control of yourself. Everyone gets a bad review once in a while, right? At least it wasn’t two or one star. Just keep writing. I told myself. Be patient. Don’t you hate that word? I want it NOW!

Slowly better reviews came in as the book began to circulate and I’ve learned a lot since then. I’m not only writing but I’ve gained some knowledge and experience in marketing, advertising, interviewing, and the rewarding opportunity to meet readers and other talented authors at book signings. I’ve also learned how to design effective posters, flyers, bookmarks, and websites and I even created a book trailer.

Here’s my assessment of Independent Publishing.
Downside
Absence of a publishing company.

Upside
Absence of a publishing company.

Supposedly the profits of Indie Publishing are higher, but you work for what you receive. The work a literary agent or publishing company does — that’s how they get paid and stay in business — you must do yourself. Fortunately I have a magical literary agent. My wife. She’s a genius at helping me to market and sell books. While I work at my job and write in my spare time she’s out hustling journalists, bookstore owners, librarians, and TV producers. So, while Peter Jackson hasn’t come knocking at my door yet for a movie deal, I’m still waiting…patiently. There’s that word again!

Orson is offering the Kindle version of Book 1 Exodus: Leaving Home in his epic sci-fi thriller series for free (to get you hooked) today only Dec. 14th at Amazon.com.
Book 2 Exodus: Reprisal, is now for sale on Amazon.com Both books are also available in print format.

Orson T. Badger has lived all over the country and in South Korea. He works full time in architecture and writes in his spare time. He currently resides in the great windy state of Wyoming with his wife and two kids at home and has two sons serving missions. He just finished writing the second novel in the Exodus series, Reprisal. A nail-biting, teeth clenching, adventure ride on an ark 1.98 trillion miles from Earth.

Visit Orson’s website here.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Family Togetherness With Chapter Books

First off - thank you for the wonderful book suggestions last week!  I've already checked them out from the library.  There is nothing quite like finding a good book to share...

This week, I'm looking for some good discussion on middle grade and young adult literature that can be read together and enjoyed as a family - because isn't that part of what Christmas is all about?

As the kids get older, and the daily tradition of reading together transitions from picture books to chapter books, what are some of the quality works of literature that will brings our families together? 

Here are some of my suggestions for MG and YA books that can be enjoyed and discussed as a family (Please note that while I love books like the Harry Potter Series, and do read them with my kids, due to their level of fame, I'm going to stick with discussing other works):






Your turn!  What do you like to read with your older kids?

Be sure to visit next week to share your favorite Christmas books...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Time to Vote!

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Well, 2012 will be all done and dusted in three weeks, and it's time to vote for your favourite novel by an LDS author in the annual Whitney Awards.

The Whitneys are an awards program for novels by LDS authors. Elder Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle in the Church, prophesied “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” At an annual gala the talent of LDS authors is recognised and celebrated. It highlights the tremendous talent of LDS authors who have written clean romances, thrillers with a moral message, and uplifting stories set firmly within the Mormon mindset. It celebrates these people becoming household names despite not including base language, graphic scenes or other objectionable content. In short, it celebrates all that is wonderful about literature, and honours those of us who write it and happen to be Mormon.

Stephanie Black (who wins the mystery/suspense category every year) pointed out to me yesterday that one of the wonderful things about the Whitneys is that they are a level playing field. Stephenie Meyer, Shannon Hale and Orson Scott Card (had they published books this year) would have the same chance of winning as an unknown busy mother who self-published her first romance novel. It's about the book itself and how much the readers enjoyed it, not about sales figures, marketing or critical acclaim. There can be–and have been–surprise winners.

I have two eligible books this year. No Escape was published at the very start of the year, and The Saved Saint was self-published just over a month ago, although my co-author for that one isn't LDS so I'm not sure it's eligible. I'm under no illusion that I'm in with any chance of winning though, because there are just so many amazingly good LDS writers, and so many fantastic books have been released this year.

Have you read a book by an LDS author that you loved? Vote while you still can! Go to http://whitneyawards.com/wordpress/. It's not the Booker Prize, but it's a lovely way to let your favourite LDS author know that their efforts are worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Talking Tuesday: You are Special

Have you experienced persistent promptings when our Heavenly Father has a message he needs you to share?  It is a lot of pressure.  I have had that feeling about today's post.  I know the topic I am supposed to share today.  Yet I spent half of the morning trying to find a conference talk to say it for me.  During my search the website went down for maintenance.  I assumed that meant I needed to do this with my own two hands, and type the words He has been drilling into my heart.

Stop getting down on yourself for not having a house out of the Pottery Barn catalog. Stop berating yourself for not looking like the girls in the Victoria's Secret catalog.  Stop comparing yourself to everyone else.

If you want to know your worth get on your knees and He will show you.  If you find yourself far from the path you should be traveling,He will be your GPS.  We are not expected to be perfect, not even on a part-time basis.  However, we are expected to be perfecting on a full-time basis.

When our time is spent in self-doubt and self-loathing, the Spirit is drawn away from us.  I suggest you give yourself a gift this Christmas: a break.  You would not hold others to the incredibly high standard you set for yourself.  When you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders open your scriptures, pray for guidance.  Our Heavenly Father is eager to bless you, come to Him.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Main Character or Alter Ego?

This week for our family movie night we watched “Nim’s Island.” It is the story of a little girl who lives on a remote island with her marine biologist father. Being so far removed from the outside world, one of her favorite pastimes is reading, specifically reading the “Alex Rover” adventure series. Alex Rover is a rugged, daring, fearless hero.

As the movie progresses, you learn that the author of these Alex Rover books is Alexandra Rover, a petite, blonde, agoraphobic hermit living in San Francisco. Her closest relationship is with her hand sanitizer and her diet consists almost entirely of Progresso soup.

Anyway, the little girl and the author end up coming together after a fun series of twists and turns, but the part that really struck me as interesting was this clear (obviously intended to be ironic and humorous) gap between the author and her main character. It got me thinking, I wonder how many authors write main characters that are their polar opposite?

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot of us out there who do that, or if not that, then at least use their writing as a form of therapy. I find that I’m fascinated by writing stories that have a main character that embodies traits I wish I had, or a storyline that I daydream could happen to me, or even something that I don’t want to happen to me, but I’d be interested to find out how I’d handle it if it did.

I think that I write for many of the same reasons Alexandra Rover did in the movie. For writers like us, writing is our way of exploring the world. We write to take risks, because we know we have the power to control the situation. We write to explore our own emotional worlds as well, and because we have total control, we feel safe.

Is your main character your alter ego? Is your story something that scares you? Do you write as a form of therapy? Leave a comment and share- I’m curious!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Digressing Tangent...


     I remember being in elementary school and hearing about my friends flying to see their grandparents or other family or friends.  I thought they were so lucky because they were able to have the experience of flying on an airplane.  Now, as I've just returned from a trip and a few long plane rides with my girls, I find myself reminiscing about the days when if I wanted to see my family all I had to do was get in my car and drive 20-60 minutes.  I am no longer jealous of my old friends.
   I think I took for granted having my family so near.  Living away from my family has taught me an important lesson about the strength and love of family.  It's a love that can stretch and span as far as we can travel.  It's a love that will remain through all of time.  I can see why we are counseled so often by our church leaders to continue to strengthen our families.  I understand how the family unit is vital to the success of our children and loved ones.  I've also gained further understanding as to why Satan is so determined to destroy these precious families.  When the family deteriorates so do our strengths and virtues, as do our hopes of a better future.  It is the love and nurturing that we get from our families that makes children strong enough to endure what Satan and his minions throw at them, it gives them the armor needed to be protected from the fiery darts of the adversary. 
   While on my trip I read an article expressing concerns that the young adults of my generation are being hindered by their closer relationships with their parents.  I was shocked to see it.  I have seen similar things over the past couple of years, some aimed at teenagers, others at the young adults, and even some, like the article i saw, aimed at the older generation of retirees and grandparents. I found myself asking why this is becoming more frequent, but the answer was obvious.  We have been warned about this for years.  Satan is attacking our families, and he's doing a pretty darn good job of it.  He is very aware of what happens when the family unit breaks down and loses its foundation.  
  
     While on my trip back home I was able to attend two Christmas parties.  One of them was with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.   It had been over two years since I had seen most of them.  It was such a special experience to see them all.  At the end of the night as we were all singing together I looked at all their faces and realized that it wasn't simply the fact that we were gathered together that made this such a close family, it was that we are centered around Christ, our Savior.  Whether we gather at Christmas or any other time of the year the event always centers around our love for Christ and His role in our lives. 
     What would happen if the world were to do the same?  How many problems could be solved simply by following Christ's example?  How many lives could be saved if the world was focused on strengthening our families?  I believe the answer to all these questions can be found in 4 Nephi 1:1-18.

     My goal from this point on (as lofty as it may seem) is to keep Christ in my heart in all things.  I want to keep an attitude of gratitude all through the Christmas season and on into the rest of the year.  I know that if I can do this the joy I feel when gathered with my family, big or small, will remain in my heart and hopefully I will be able to pass that along to all I come in contact with. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday So What: Genre Snob

The dreaded moment... after you tell someone you're a writer and they ask you, "What do you write?" GULP

I'm completely guilty of being embarrassed or at a loss for words about half the time. First of all, I don't really have just one genre. I've written three books, and all three are different. Narrative Non-fiction, adult cozy mystery, and YA. So I usually stumble trying to explain that I'm not a genre schizophrenic, I just have varied interests.

But it goes beyond that. Part of me is a little ashamed that I'm not writing the next great American novel. I'm GASP writing mass market commercial stuff. I feel like that somehow makes me less of a writer, like I'm not as smart, or my stuff is lower quality. I'm sure some of it's in my head, heck, probably most of it. But have you ever noticed that there is a sort of pecking order of writers? Genre snobbery if you will.

At the top of the food chain, you have the literary writers. The purists.
Next you have contemporary fiction.
After that, it's all about the genres looking down on each other.
The horror guys are psychos, but thank goodness they don't write trite cozy mysteries with cats.
Suspense writers may be delusional and wish they were spies, but they're glad they don't write squeeky clean romance.
Sci fi folk are nerds, but they snicker at the sparkly ab vamp teens.
And people that write erotica are so ashamed of themselves, they never publish under their real name.

 If enjoyment is equal to quality, than some classics are the most poorly written things on the planet. I fully admit to relishing a grocery store urban fantasy way more than Mice and Men.

Well, I think I need to stop beating myself up. I'm going to be proud of my quirky, conversational style. So what if I can't write "literature", I'll make you have fun and forget about your life for a few hours.

So next time someone asks you what you write, be proud of what you are as opposed to being ashamed of what you're not.

Do you feel like people prejudge your writing as less than stellar before they even read it, just because you write LDS fiction? Tell me about it. Get it out, like MWA - Mormon Writer's Anonymous.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Heart Buck Cooper!!! (Book Review of "Big in Japan"


Buck Cooper is Texan, obese, and invisible to his colleagues. And to the voluptuous Allison Turner, the girl of his dreams, he is way below parr. Buck's entire life is about fitting in, a feat he's been struggling to achieve but has never succeeded. Until serendipity lands him in Japan. Right in the middle of a sumo match.

As his life takes a new turn in a country where being big can mean fame and fortune, Buck must embark on the most dangerous, yet adventurous ride of his life—to find the ultimate meaning of love and acceptance. Even if it means risking his life and giving up everything he has.

Big in Japan by Jennifer Griffith is a must read!  I love Jennifer's books, they are always feel good stories and I knew I would like her newest addition.  What I didn't expect was to fall in love  with a 400 lb Texan who goes to Japan and decides to take up Sumo Wrestling. This book will take the reader into a world of Sumo Wrestling where only the big survive. This aspect of the book alone makes it unique and intriguing. But when you add a character like Buck Cooper to that, your heart grows a little bit bigger to hold this lovable blonde Sumo Wrestler! 

I'm not sure how much more I can gush about it.  Just read it, you won't be sorry. Even if you don't love Buck Cooper like I do, the story of danger and intrigue set in the sumo world will leave you wanting more.

Be sure to find Big In Japan on Kindle or on Amazon in paperback.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas, Picture Books and Family Togetherness

I read a post this summer by author Connie Sokol, called Spies, Phantoms and Wookie Cookies: Connecting with your kids in a literary way.

When I though about my approach to blogging in December (in my opinion the busiest month of the year and the one in which I do the least writing), I thought to myself, what kind of posts can I do that will be of value to the equally busy mommy writer's out there?

Well I thought to myself - aside from the obvious, what is Christmas about?

It's not just about remembering and honoring the birth and the life of our Savior.  It's not just about presents, and sleigh rides and twinkling colorful lights.

It's also about family togetherness, tradition, and love.

And what better way, as Connie Sokol explains, to come together than through good literature?

So each Thursday in December, I'm going to share with you some of my favorites in each of the following categories:

December 6: Picture Books
December 13: MG and YA Books
December 20: Christmas Books
December 27: Best Books We Read in 2012

Please stop by and share your favorites!  I know there are so many books out there of a high quality and value that I have never heard of.  Also remember, this list is not exhaustive.  I don't want to list every single good picture book I've ever read, because then what would I leave for you to say?

I also want to keep in mind that the point of these posts is to bring us together as families at this special time of year.  So if you see something that sparks your interest over the next few weeks, please, find a copy (at your local library or bookstore) and delve in with the ones you love the most: it can only add to the special spirit of the Christmas season!

Week 1: Best Picture Books

Here are some amazing authors to check out with your kids - there is so much opportunity to expand on the content with activities that build togetherness.  These are the ones we can read over and over again and never tire of.





 

 

What about you?  What are your families favorite picture books?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Little Christmas Gift


Merry Christmas, one and all! Am I the first to wish you a Merry Christmas this year? Well, it's because I'm feeling festive and I've got a little gift for you, dear reader.

So here it is: The Saved Saint, my latest book, is FREE to download until Friday 7th December.

Yes, you read that right. It it will cost you nothing at all to have this ground-breaking and unique work immediately downloaded to your Kindle, or iPad, or iPod, or PC, or any other device on which you have the (also free) Kindle reading app. The links you need are below. What more could you ask? Better do it quickly though, there are only two days left!

But you know, it's Christmas for my co-author Hellen and me too. And it's more blessed to give than to receive. So here's what we'd like from you, if you're feeling kind and generous.

Once you have bought our book (for free) might you spare a moment to review it? A review on Amazon would be wonderful. The same review on Goodreads too would be even better. If you really haven't got time to review it, then just "Like" the book on Amazon, or "Like" the page on Facebook. I'll be really grateful and happy if you could do that.

And maybe you'd be able to do even more - give us an even better gift? Could you tell someone else about The Saved Saint? Whether you loved it and want to recommend it to all your friends, or you're incensed by it and want to have a noisy and belligerent discussion with others who've read it (there are book club questions and church study group questions at the back) suggest that they take a look at it too. It might not be free by then, but at only £3.09 ($4.98) it's still a bargain. You might even like to recommend it to your church auxilliary, or book club. We'd be thrilled with that.

So, all those vital links:

The Saved Saint on Amazon.co.uk (Like, Buy, Review)
The Saved Saint on Amazon.com (Like, Buy, Review)
The Saved Saint Facebook page (Like, Discuss)

And a Happy New Year!

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