Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thanks!

This isn't a blog as much as a thank you to my grandsons.  I've certainly learned grandsons are handy to have around. I have eight grandsons and during the past little while they've come to my rescue numerous times. (I have five wonderful granddaughters too, but today is for "the boys.")

Spencer has kept our lawn mowed while his grandfather recovers from his injury. Jayden removed a vent I can't reach and fixed it so I have air-conditioning in my office.  Calton picked up a huge bag of pinecones that were littering the lawn and flowerbeds.  When we get together for family events, it's David and Nathan I can count on to haul chairs from the basement, set them up, and put them away afterward. David has also taught me a few helpful computer pointers.  Conner and Brandon are the ones I count on to make dozens of trips up and down the stairs to get things for me, they put away dishes left on the table, and help tend the little girls. Conner has assured me he'll mow the lawn anytime Spencer can't.   Right now I'm feeling particularly grateful for Chris, who fixed my desktop computer,  improved the connection for my new laptop, and did the same for my husband's computers. He works so much overtime it was difficult for him to find time to look at my computer when it died almost two weeks ago, but was finally able to schedule a few hours.  It's working better now than it did when it was new.  In today's world, it's a good thing to have an IT man in the family!

Being a grandparent is great and I've had a lot of fun doing things for my grandchildren, playing with them, going to their games, concerts, and recitals, buying them things, taking them places, etc.  I've enjoyed doing things for them, but with the health problems my husband and I have faced over the past two years, it's been rewarding and something I hadn't anticipated, how much they've done for us. Thanks guys!

 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Crisis to Crisis


I was once asked to describe my lifestyle.  At the time I thought that was a dumb question so I flippantly responded  "crisis to crisis." How true that turned out to be.

After losing both a brother and a sister to cancer and almost two years of fighting my way through two knee replacement surgeries, a pancreas surgery, followed by a fourth surgery to completely remove my  luck.  Or maybe this is the new normal. Four weeks ago my husband stood on a platform sawhorse to boost a sheet of plywood onto the roof of the shed he's building.  There was a sudden strong gust of wind that sent him and the plywood crashing to the cement below. Though no bones were broken his back, hip, and knee were seriously sprained. He's getting around on crutches now and will begin physical therapy next week. That put an end to most of the travel plans we had for this month and kept me so busy I didn't get much writing done.

And about the book I'm working on.  I finally reached the point where I could do between 500 and 1000 words a day and both of my computers died. Fortunately the chapters I've written are saved on a thumb drive.  I bought a new laptop, a DELL with all the bells and whistles, but I'm convinced the new Windows 8.1 was designed by a sadist! Also it connects to the internet just fine at Best Buy, but back home it won't run without an ethernet cable connection.  I really need my oldest grandson to come for a visit!

I've mentioned before that I'm a news junkie.  That's what comes of years of being a news reporter and editor; it never quite gets out of your blood.  However today's news  is so depressing and scary it makes my personal problems look like nothing in comparison.

I'm not a naturally pessimistic person so I keep telling myself to think of good and happy things.  Well, let's see.  My insulin pump saves me four to six shots a day.  That's definitely good. We're enjoying peppers, onions, potatoes, beets, and chard from our garden and they're very good. My flowers have been beautiful this summer.  I've had a good supply of excellent books to read and review this summer. I'll have a story called Santa Loves Me in my publisher's Christmas anthology called Christmas Treasures    which will be released in October. A grandson has kept our lawn mowed since his grandpa was injured. And though I'm a day late my new computer will let me post this blog. 

I found Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm a tiresome book when I was a kid, but I have to admit, if we really try we can find an up side to most discouraging events. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Proud to Be An American


Even with all of the problems our country currently faces, I'm proud to be an American.  Those words have resonated with me ever since I attended a convention a few years back and the man seated behind me suddenly stood and began singing those words.  He was nearly down the aisle, striding toward the podium before I realized he was Lee Greenwood. It was an exhilarating experience, but I've always been glad I was born in the USA.  I take great pride in knowing someone in my family took part in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Spanish American War, both World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam, and Iraq. My family has been represented in all four branches of the military. I come from a long line of patriots who fought for freedom.

Even more important than military service is the way my family, like our country, is built from a conglomeration of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. My mother is a descendant of some of our country's earliest European settlers.  My father grew up in Canada and his grandmother was a runaway wife of an English nobleman. She joined the Mormon Church and was disowned by her husband. She then stole her children and fled to America.  Another of my great grandmothers, a native American, grew up on an Indian reservation in the eastern part of this country.  One of my brothers-in-law is part Shoshone and another is a descendant of the Trail of Tears Choctaws. My husband's great grandfather was a Danish fisherman, a descendant of the fierce Vikings.  One of our nieces married a Japanese-Hawaiian man, a nephew and his wife adopted three African children, our daughter-in-law's father is Puerto Rican and her mother, Hispanic, and another niece adopted five Russian children.  Our oldest grandson's wife is from Russia. Throw in a few kings, queens, pirates, outlaws, bootleggers, preachers, farmers, cowboys, a cobbler, an express rider, and a Mountie to complete the family picture.

When I hear of the limits on education, particularly for girls, in some countries, I want to weep.  I'm grateful for the public education and the choice of colleges I attended here in America.  I feel great gratitude for those who taught me to read and write. I'm thankful for the freedom to attend the church of my choice.  My life has been richly blessed with the family I grew up in and the family I parented as an equal partner with the man I chose to marry.  America is a land of great beauty and I appreciate my upbringing in the mountains and along the streams of the west, but many of the cities from Seattle to San Antonio from Salt Lake to Washington DC hold special places in my heart as well.  I love the freedom this country affords me to work and play, the choices it gives me, and the expectation of fairness.

Of course, there aren't always happy outcomes, even in the land of the free. Though this country's constitution is based on justice and freedom for all, I can think of many injustices that have occurred throughout our nation's history.  Many of those injustices touched my family.  The Trail of Tears was a horrible example of injustice as native families were forced off their rich tribal lands into a long march to barren Oklahoma land with many suffering and dying along the way.  One of my ancestors, a young man from Wales lacked the means to build a handcart to travel west in the 1850s so he indentured himself to raise the money for a later trip.  He disappeared and the rumor persists that because he was a dark skinned Welshman, he was sold south as a slave.  Just recently a family member who has risked his life numerous times to save others and who has been awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds he suffered in our nation's armed forces, was the victim of a court case based on a lie and the liar won. 

Immigration, jobs, freedom of religion, medical care, racial animosity, war, bullying, education, politics, energy development, biased journalism, judicial activism, homosexual rights, and the list could continue of those issues that divide our country. Some of the solutions proposed by both the left and right are absurd.  (I heard one opinionated man propose a law that for every illegal alien who crosses our Southern border we deport a liberal democrat to wherever the illegal came from.)  We won't solve anything with absurd one-sided nonsense. We're not going to solve these problems by not getting involved.  We won't solve them by shifting responsibility to a bigger and more powerful central government anymore than we'll resolve these problems by tossing out the rule of law and becoming a bunch of vigilantes. On this Fourth of July, our nation's birthday, it might be well to remember this country has a constitution, one many of us believe was inspired by God.  It is our own unique set of laws by which this country is to be governed and by no other. Real solutions come through open discussion, compromise, respect for others, and turning to God.     

America isn't perfect.  Our history has its share of heroic events, dark tragedies, idealistic splendor, and cruel injustice.  It isn't enough to say "but it's better than any other country in spite of its faults."  It's up to us to be aware and be involved, to make it the best. Though I respect and admire all the many lands my family derived from and wish them well, even cheer for them in sporting events unless they're playing America, the USA is my native land and I'm proud to be an American. 

It's customary on birthdays to wish the one celebrating a birthday many more birthdays.  On this birthday of America it is my fervent wish that all we Americans in our various shades of red, white, and blue get our act together and make sure we have many more birthdays to celebrate in the future. Let's ensure many more Fourth of July celebrations by standing up for what is right, getting involved, and appreciating what we have.

 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

RED PENCILS


Correcting errors, pointing out weaknesses, stating my opinions!  I'm not sure if this is a tendency of years of editing, my role as a critic, if I can blame it on a Type A personality, or what, but I have a tendency to notice flaws and I can't help wanting to do something about them. Editors and school teachers use red pencils to make corrections.  Sometimes I wish making all kinds of corrections could be that easy. 

As I read social media posts, I groan at the abundance of incomprehensible sentences, misspelled words, and the incorrect usage or omission of words, even though I know a good share of the blame for the problem can be placed on spell checker or simply trying to type as fast as the writer thinks. With the sudden emergence of e-books and independent publishing on the world, the error rate has gone up in the books I read.  I wonder if a certain amount of the blame might also go to our schools for not spending as much time on educational basics as they once did.  Itty bitty keyboards can claim some of the blame too!  Where's my red pencil! 

I'm a news junkie and I've always been keenly interested in politics.  Today's politics provide plenty of disgust and annoyance whether you lean right or left.  Mistakes, errors, and downright incompetence and dishonesty abound.  Most of the time I'm glad I'm no longer an editor or reporter, but sometimes I get an urge to write what I think, then I remind myself we, the people, voted for these people because a) we were too lazy to get informed, b)we've confused government with fairy godmothers, or c)we're gullible and actually believed their campaign rhetoric.  I also blame today's news organizations since most belong to wealthy individuals who are more interested in their bottom line than real journalism. And what's with posting a cute story about a sweet little kitty on the front page and informing the world of the atrocities being committed by ISIS on an inside page?  I need gallons of red ink! 

This world is full of things I can find fault with; big uncovered bellies that hang over the tops of skirts or pants, people who think they know more than God, texting drivers, Federal ownership of most of the Western states, dresses that are too short on both ends, neighbors who don't water or mow their lawns, yapping dogs, boys' pants that sag below their underwear (if they bother to wear any), the price of gasoline, unvaccinated people, the lack of rights for Islamic women, people who believe rules are for other people, playing the race card, cancer, the cost of prescription drugs, atheist bigots, wasted tax dollars . . .  It's going to take more than a dozen red pencils! 

This world is full of problems, big and small.  Perhaps my impatience with some of these problems can be attributed to the fact I'm getting older, but I think I've always been aware mistakes, errors, weaknesses, and dishonesty can be readily found.  They're everywhere.  Some bother me more than others.  I remember asking my dad once why God allows bad things to happen and why some people seem to have worse problems than others.  He said he didn't know all the reasons, but he believed some were so we'd have something to work on while we're here.  This life is like school he explained; you can't get an A for just sitting in class or for not bothering to show up for class.  Assignments are given and homework has to be done. He also said some people aren't tempted by things some other people are because they've already passed those items off before they got here and don't need to prove themselves again.  It was his belief that we weren't all given the same talents and abilities because like at any good school, we aren't all taking the same classes. He assured me that in the end it all evens out. He left me a firm believer in doing my best to pass the tests that come my way, change what I can if it needs changing,  and that it's a good thing that God's the one who wields the red pencil.

 

 

Monday, June 16, 2014

THE WINNER IS . . .

THE WINNER OF A COPY OF THE REBEL PRINCESS IS CAROL STRATTON! The book will be mailed to you by her publisher.  If you don't receive it in a reasonable amount of time, please let me know.  All others who would like to try again may go to her blog http://comeoutwhenyourehappy.blogspot.com/ and enter her blog release party contest.  Thanks for all of your entries!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

WIN A FREE COPY OF THE REBEL PRINCESS


REBEL PRINCESS will be available in bookstores starting next week and is already available on Amazon for e-readers!  I think I mentioned before that this is my daughter, Janice Sperry's first book, a light hearted middle grade chapter book that anyone who ever loved a fairy tale will enjoy.  She's had short stories and articles, even a cute Christmas booklet, published before, but the publication of her first book calls for a celebration, or at least the announcement of a contest by her writer mom.


 

Raven Perilous is not quite like any other storybook princess.  She's the daughter of a gentle princess and an evil sorcerer.  She's not terribly happy that she inherited more of  her mother's genes than her father's.  Her father seems to have gifted her brother with his talents and tendencies while she only got one useless magic power. I mean, what good is the ability to cough up expensive jewelry? To most people she appears to be just another middle school girl, but she spends most of her time being as wicked as possible to avoid being stuck in a tower. (After all, most fairy tale princesses wind up in a tower sooner or later.)  So when Prince Charming shows up at her school, Raven knows she's facing her greatest challenge. 

So here's the deal. Either in the comments section or on Face book, post a word or phrase, that commonly appears in a fairy tale.  You know, words like "gingerbread house", "glass slipper", or "once upon a time."  Each word or phrase counts as an entry and up to five entries per person are allowed.  The contest is open to anyone between eight and fourteen; parents, grandparents, or other miscellaneous relatives of someone between eight and fourteen; anyone who knows someone between eight and fourteen; all those who remember being between eight and fourteen; and anyone who just enjoys a good fairy tale. 

This isn't one of those scientific contests, just an "each entry in the hat" drawing kind of contest.  The contest begins now and runs through midnight Saturday, June 14, 2014. The winner will be announced the following Monday or Tuesday and will be responsible for sending me a mailing address.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

THOUGHTS ON SHARING


A few days ago I read a blog about whether or not children should be required to share.  It had some good points, but others with which I disagree.  I agree that forced sharing isn't really sharing, but unlimited use of toys or items belonging to a nursery or co-op group fails to teach social manners or contribute in a positive way to helping a child understand ownership. 

 It reminded me of when my children were small and a couple of friends and I had a discussion on teaching our children to respect other peoples' property.  There had been a rash of ugly graffiti turn up on fences and walls as well as several houses were used for parties while the owners were away.  Bicycles had been stolen from their owners' yards and a teenage neighbor sneaked in our back door and helped himself to a carton of ice cream. (I returned to the kitchen in time to see him running out the back door, leaving a trail of melting chocolate revel behind him.) We didn't want our children to ever be involved in such objectionable behavior. Teaching children concepts of this nature isn't easy, but we decided to give it a try. 

We concluded that in order to respect someone else's property, a child has to first experience ownership.  How can anyone respect someone else's ownership if they've never experienced ownership themselves?  We decided our children had to know certain things were their own. The child had to have complete control of those items that belonged to them exclusively such as toys, a favorite cup, or clothing.  That meant it was up to the child, the owner, whether or not to share.  

From there we moved on to group ownership.  Some things belong to the family and anyone in the family has a say in who can use those items, when they can use it, and for how long.  Any member of the family can make the rules. Next came toys at the church they all played with in the nursery. I knew my son had caught on to the concept when the nursery leader told me he'd informed another child the toys belonged to Jesus and He was the boss of them and Jesus said everyone could have a turn. I soon learned he wasn't the only one of our children who drew a strong distinction between sharing and taking turns.  Taking turns is what we do with items owned jointly.  Sharing means giving or allowing the use of something that is exclusively yours. 

This led  to all kinds of rules around our house.  If a friend came to play, I didn't require my kids to share, but I did have a place where they could put toys they didn't want someone else to play with.  It was their decision whether or not to risk having a beloved toy broken by a careless playmate. They learned to take responsibility for toys left out where children who didn't respect property rights might help themselves to them.  We didn't replace broken or stolen items since we thought their painful loss might reinforce our children's understanding of their rights as owners so they wouldn't do the same to someone else.  We noticed that when they replaced an item themselves with their own small allowances they took very good care of it. We had discussions on good manners and being kind to guests, but it was up to my child to decide which toys he would share and which went onto the high off-limits shelf.  Taking turns with the trucks and dishes my kids decided to share or the group items like the swings was seldom a problem, though my oldest daughter sometimes set the stove timer to help everyone remember when a turn ended. 

I don't know if our efforts produced the results we wanted, but none of our children ever seemed to have any problems with taking liberty with other people's property.  They all know what is theirs and what belongs to someone else.  They're also extremely generous, never hesitating to share with others.  Perhaps that group of young mothers I was once a part of stumbled onto a great truth when we decided even small children need to discover ownership and that sharing isn't really sharing unless the person doing the sharing is contributing something he/she truly owns.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

THE DREADED REVIEW

I'm a reviewer. It's what I do.  Lately I've read a lot of angry words directed at reviewers, so I decided to set the record straight on the subject.  I have spent twenty plus years as a journalist, have a degree in literature, have been the staff reviewer for Meridian Magazine for eleven years and also have twenty years experience as a published author.  Perhaps my most important credential is that I review for an accredited publication.Today almost anyone can call him-or-herself a reviewer.  After all, anyone can write a short blurb for Good Reads, Amazon, or one of the book store chains about a book and call it a review.  Some people do this very well, but unfortunately, for others it's an open invitation for anonymous nastiness. 

I deplore trolls who get some kind of sick jollies out of making mean remarks about books just because they can and because they can do it anonymously.  However, it's true that not all books are created equally.  Some actually are poorly written.  For the casual reviewer it's enough to say "this  book didn't appeal to me", or just don't say anything at all.  And those stars!  Only twice in all of the years I've rated books have I given a one star and in both cases it was because of filthy language and a total disregard for factual research. There was a time when I rated every book I read, but no more.  If the book is a genre I don't care for, I generally don't do stars because it seems unfair to mark down a possibly well-written book just because it's not the kind of book I like and therefore didn't enjoy.  I also don't rate books if they're  part of a group of books I've been asked to judge for a contest. A real reviewer does point out flaws in books, but does so in an attempt to suggest a way the writer can improve and to be honest with his/her audience.  If criticism isn't constructive, it's better omitted. Criticism of mistakes or weaknesses should never belittle or become a personal attack on the author.

It's much more fun to say positive things about books than negative.  I love introducing my readers to an author I enjoy.  When a book delights me, I want to let everyone know about it.  That's the real purpose of reviews.  Reviews are a means of letting readers know about a book they might otherwise miss.  It's a chance to let readers Know a little bit about the author.  Reviews give readers a chance to peek at a book just enough to know whether or not it is a genre they wish to read.  I see the critic's role as more cheerleader than flaw finder.

And one more thing.  Many books today are published independently and I'm often asked if I review these books.  Yes, I do.  But unless the author sends me a review copy I may not know the book even exists.  Anyone who wants me to consider reviewing an independently published LDS novel can contact me through the comments section here or on face book, give me an email or message address and I'll send you my address.  Either print or electronic copies are fine.  If your novel is published by an LDS publisher, just contact your marketing manager to remind him/her to send me a copy.

 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

PICTURE ME WRITING


On a beautiful day like today there are so many things to distract me from writing. The deck seems particularly inviting. 
And I need to check on the plants I planted in barrels along the east fence.

There's a peek-a-boo look at the wild rose along the back fence.

 
And all those bright red petunias are taking hold at the top of the rock garden. It seems so good to be gardening again, though I've discovered there are similarities between writing and gardening.  From the first early seeds of a story, I love watching it grow.
 
Just as there are all kinds of interruptions to my gardening, there are interruptions to my writing.  sometimes a visitor shows up.

 
Sometimes I get so carried away with the grand vista, I don't pay enough attention to the details.

 
Other times something amazes me.

 
There are close-ups.
 
And sometimes something is left dangling.

 
I guess I'll write awhile, then I'll garden awhile, then I'll go pick up a grandson from school.  Why can't more days be like this!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

THE REST OF THE STORY

This time last year I was recovering from my second knee replacement surgery.  Naturally I didn't get much yard work done.  The summer before my knees were so bad I could barely walk and working in my flower beds just didn't happen.  Today I finished weeding my flower beds, all of them, and though I'm stiff and achy, I think they look pretty good. Naturally I'll be finding weeds and grass I missed all summer, but it feels pretty darn good to finally have them looking more like flower beds than weed patches.
 


 

For the past three and a half months my cousin and her husband have lived with us while he was undergoing cancer treatment.  Last week they were able to return to their home in Alaska.  We miss them, but are glad he's well enough for them to pick up their life in their own home and community.  Right after they left here, a son-in-law came to stay for a few days following radiation treatment.  He's doing really well, but a person stays radioactive for awhile following this treatment and can't be around pets or children.  We loved having him here, but his wife and kids are happy to have him back home.  After nearly four months of having our guest room occupied, our house feels kind of quiet now.  I'm stronger and feeling much better and the house is quiet, do you suppose I'll get more writing done?  I don't know; I've really enjoyed working outside in the yard the past few days. 

I blogged last about conferences and conventions.  For those who haven't heard the results of LDStorymakers Whitney Awards, here is my Meridian column in which I listed all of the winners. 

Wednesday, April 30 2014

Whitney Awards Gala


Blaine Yorgason was the recipient of the Whitney Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday night at the award ceremony concluding the LDStorymakers convention held in Layton, Utah. Rachel Ann Nunes received the Outstanding Achievement Award.

Blaine Yorgason- Lifetime Achievement Award

Yorgason wrote his first book, Charlie's Monument, in 1980. It has since been made into a popular film. He is the author of 83 books which total over four million copies. He has been a teacher and has held a wide variety of positions in the Church. Currently he is a temple worker at the St. George Temple. He and his wife are the parents of seven children.

 

Rachel Ann Nunes - Outstanding Achievement Award

Nunes has been a popular LDS author since the mid nineties. Her 37 books have been published with several LDS publishers and she has also self-published. She was instrumental in beginning LDStorymakers, the guild for LDS authors. She and her husband are the parents of seven children and live in Utah.

Top writing awards went to Julianne Donaldson for Blackmoore (Best Novel of 2013) , Brandon Sanderson for Steelheart (Best Youth Novel of 2013), and Kasie West for Pivot Point (Best Novel by a New Author).

Adult category winners this year are Sarah Dunster for Mile 21 (Best General Fiction), H.B. Moore for Esther the Queen (Best Historical Fiction), Julianne Donaldson for Blackmoore (Best Romance), Traci Hunter Abramson for Deep Cover (Best Mystery/Suspense), and Jeffrey S. Savage for Dark Memories (Best Speculative Fiction).

Youth category winners are Julie Berry for All the Truth That's in Me (Best General Youth Fiction), Brandon Sanderson for Steelheart (Best Speculative Youth Fiction, and Jennifer A. Nielsen for The Runaway King (Best Middle Grade Fiction). 

I was a finalist in the Historical category, but not the top winner.  I'll include a picture taken by Heather Zahn Gardner (Heather Gardner Photography), showing a group of finalists posing for the loser's cheesecake consolation prize and one of me with my daughter, Lezlie, who has a Christmas booklet coming out in October.