Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Patriotism is both a word and a sentiment expressed with a great deal of fervor beginning now and continuing through July. We'll see more flags flying over the next few weeks than we may see in all of the rest of the year. For some, the Fourth of July is merely a day for picnics, parades, fireworks, and fun; others see it as a day to honor our military, past and present. Some patriots consider only the acknowledgement of the Revolutionary War heroes' accomplishments worthy of commemoration. I personally think it's all of these. It's an opportunity for parents and leaders to tell the story of our nation from the beginning to the present to our children and grandchildren. It's a great time to contrast the freedoms we experience with the restrictions placed on citizens of many other lands. It's also a time to instill in those growing up in the midst of the negative, fault finding, greedy, valueless sentiments freely expressed in today's society, a knowledge of what is good and right in our country and their obligations as citizens to protect this land and the values expressed in the formation of this great country.

This morning as I took my grandson to school, threw a load of clothes in the washer, and rushed about accomplishing dozens of small tasks, I found myself thinking about the writers who have contributed to my knowledge of the past and the reasons I care so deeply about liberty, freedom, and my country. There are so many whose names I don't even know, but my early years were filled with stories about George Washington, Patrick Henry, Johnny Tremaine, Paul Revere, John Hancock, John Adams, and many more. I read freely about the western expansion, Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett, the struggle for racial rights and the abolishment of slavery on through the great wars of the previous century. All had an impact on my life, my identity, and my love for America.

Though I don't know the names of the authors of most of those early books, I do know the names of more recent writers who have strengthened my core belief in liberty and pride in my country, even as they've broadened my understanding of many great wrongs that are also part of our nation's history. David McCullough's 1776 is a masterpiece. Others I recommend are the series written by Ron Carter called Prelude to Glory, L.C. Lewis's Free Men & Dreamers, Am I Not a Man? by Mark L. Shurtleff, Faith of Our Fathers by N.C. Allen, the Children of the Promise series by Dean Hughes, any of Jerry Borrowman's books, and the book I'm currently reading, Escape to Zion by Jean Holbrook Mathews.

There are many other LDS writers who touch on patriotic issues in their writing. A few that come to mind are Chris Stewart in his The Great and Terrible series, Annette Lyon with Band of Sisters, Betsy Brannon Green's Above and Beyond and Hazardous Duty, as well as my own Code Red.

As we approach the Fourth of July and related patriotic observances, I suggest we take time to read something of our nation's past. As we strengthen our knowledge and love for our country, enjoy our freedom with our families, we need to think too, about our obligations to this land which include the following and more: participate in our selection of leaders (This is more than voting in November. Participation in caucuses, mass meetings, and Primary elections is more pathetic each election year, resulting in candidates that represent a tiny minority of the population), thank a soldier, respect our nation's laws, and thank God for making this land possible.

Star-spangled Winners

Since I promised those who commented that they'd get their names in the drawing twice and because the last winner didn't claim her prize, I did two drawings. The first was just those who made comments and the second was commenters and followers. The winners are Lisa Paskins and Kristie Roberts. Please send me a wish list of at least five LDS novels and your mailing address and I will get your prizes to you as soon as possible. Contact me at bhansen22 at msn dot com. I really enjoyed all of your comments and invited my daughter to talk about YA novels more in an upcoming blog.

The Fourth of July is this weekend and the entire month is traditionally devoted to patriotic themes. I'm posting another blog along with this one expressing some of my thoughts concerning this land I love and the books that have enhanced my appreciation for my country. Please share your thoughts about America and about the books that have informed you of our nations past, shaped your attitude toward this land, and have left a favorable impression on you.
A new contest begins now. Comments concerning books with a patriotic theme or books that encouraged a sense of patriotism in you will receive double points. My list of patriotic or American History related books is pretty minimal. Feel free to add to the list.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest Blog by my Daughter

My daughter, Janice, took pity on me this week since I'm trying to finish a manuscript and have it ready to turn in before leaving for a family vacation. She surprised me by writing a blog for me. She's a big fan of children's and young adult books. Here are her reasons why.

Why I read books written for kids.

1.  Reading a picture book out loud to my preschooler is a fun way to spend time together.  It's also a great excuse to stop doing house work for a few minutes.

2. Reading middle readers to my emerging reader is a good way to entice my children into the world of reading.  When my oldest child was intimidated by real chapter books, I read a chapter out loud and then put the book down.  He couldn't stand the suspense and had to pick it up.  (I finished it after he was done.)

3. Reading the same books my children read provides great conversation topics.  I also get inside jokes that my husband doesn't.

4. My 11 year old loves to recommend books to me.  I guess I've recommended so many books to him, he feels like he should return the favor.  And I must say, the kid has pretty good taste. 

5. I get to revisit some of the great books from my past as I introduce them to my daughter.  My son won't read Anne of Green Gables, but my daughter will.

6.  I pick books out at the library and read them first, then tell my kids that they'll like them too.  They've come to trust my judgment in books.  Now if only I could get them to be so trusting at dinner time.

7. Since I've read so many YA books, I know which books I prefer my children not read - either for a few more years or ever.  The choice will be theirs, but I will tell them what I don't like about books I find objectionable.

8. YA books tend to be funnier than books written for adults.  I also don't find as much objectionable content in them.

9.  YA books also tend to be shorter than books written for adults.  I can start and finish a book on the same day.

10. Like my mom, I'm a writer too.  Unlike my mom, I've only had a couple short stories published, I write YA, and my characters don't wear cowboy hats.  So reading YA is research.  In fact, I think I hear some research calling now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Review Format

My first review under the new format at Meridian is posted today. It's a review of Silence of God by Gale Sears. From now on my column is supposed to run every Thursday with a single review each time. Comments on this review or the book will count as entries in the current contest. If you also comment directly to Meridian, as well as here, and let me know you did, I'll count you twice.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Persephone Wins

Since this is the fifteenth, the A portion of my bi-monthly contest has closed, a name has been drawn, and Persephone is the winner. Please send me your wish list of five or more LDS novels you would like and I will do my best to send one of them to you. (My shelves have been greatly cleaned up. I just donated a hundred books to a couple of worthy causes.) Please contact me at bhansen22 at msn dot com with your mailing address and your wish list. Congratulations.

The B portion begins. Most teachers of creative writing, marketing experts, and many wonderful writers advise writers to stick to writing in one genre. They point out that becoming a mystery writer, a romance writer, etc., is like establishing a brand. They say readers identify an author with a particular type of book and if he/she writes in different genres there will be a loss of readers or fans because they won't be getting what they expect. This isn't a rule I've followed.

As my readers know I write mystery, suspense, romance, and historicals. Would you prefer I stick to one genre? Before you answer that, I'm going to mention a few other writers who do a little skipping around. Rachel Nunes is pretty well established as a social issues/romance writer, but her latest book is a paranormal. Jeffrey S. Savage started out writing mysteries; now he's as well known for science fiction with just a slight name change, J. Scott Savage. Annette Lyon started out writing romance, carved out her own niche as an historical writer specializing in temple related novels, now she has published a grammar book and a cookbook. Josi Kilpack's first books were hard-hitting social issues books, now she has switched to culinary mysteries. So here's the discussion question. Do readers really prefer a writer stick with writing in one genre? Are you disappointed when a favorite author jumps to a completely different type of book?

Those who comment on this question will get their names entered twice in the B contest which ends June 30.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


For about a week now, I've found myself noticing details, the unimportant trivia that surround me. I'm not sure if that's because I'm almost to that point in my work in progress where I need to go back through my first draft to fill in the details, make certain I haven't left dangling storylines or changed a character's name, fill in settings, etc. I'm one of those writers without a set way of putting a story together. Sometimes I re-read, re-write, go back to fill in details as I go. This time I simply plunged ahead with plot and characters without filling in much background trivia.

How important is the everyday trivia that surrounds the characters in a story? It varies from writer to writer, but most readers like enough background trivia to make the setting real. It's good to know place, season of the year, geographical particulars, laws that set limits on particular actions, and have an idea of the world surrounding the story. It's also important to get these small details right. Not long ago I read a novel that had irises blooming in the fall; it happens the iris is a spring flower. On the other hand, I just finished reading Leaning into the Curves by Nancy Anderson and Carroll Hofeling Morris and was highly impressed with their attention to details concerning the motorcycle world and a bike tour that takes the characters from Sandy, Utah, up through Southern Idaho, into Oregon, and down the California coast before beginning a return trip through Nevada. The background and setting for this adventure make the story real without dominating the story line. The writers also do an excellent job of bringing out the life changing dynamics that occur when a husband retires and a stay-at-home wife finds her territory flying out of her control. I think readers want background and settings that bring the senses into play, but they don't pick up a novel because they're looking for a travelogue or a lesson on botany.

A successful writer needs to be observant and not only in the way that most writers are people watchers. People watching is how we study emotions, physical idiosyncrasies, reactions, etc. We also need to know how wind feels, which plants grow and their peculiarities in the area where our story is set, we need to know organizations that impact an area, how taxies and mass transit operate, the names of the various parts of a saddle, what wildlife is native to the locale, the sounds and smells of the region, historical events that coincide with our chosen time period, and we need to simply be aware of the small things and events that surround the human experience.

A few days ago we stopped at a light on Redwood Road. As I gazed out the window, I saw a fat brown mouse scurry through the grass beside the road and I was struck by the fact that I've never seen a mouse walk; they always seem to be in a hurry.

I waited for an elevator beside a young woman, who was well-rounded, though not really overweight. The pockets of her jeans were well below the curve of her behind, making her tush look huge. The sight caught my attention and I began noticing other women with low placed pockets. Same thing. No matter whether the woman was fat or thin, low pockets doubled her rear view image.

A few nights ago a fast, fierce storm struck our valley. Flashes of lightning ran sideways like the printout from an electo-cardiogram. Hail bounced like pop corn from our new deck table. Water gushed in imitation of a wild mountain stream down the gutters, then it was over, leaving only a distant grumble of thunder.

Today I held my breath as a man stepped down from a platform wearing a pair of pants that were at least eight inches too long. The rough selvedge edge, he walked on made it plain the pants had never been hemmed. As he stumbled along, I wanted to tell him clear packaging tape would serve to hold a hem until he could get the pants hemmed up properly, but I said nothing.

My ten-year-old granddaughter loves my flowers; especially the Snap dragons because they open and close their mouths when she pinches the right spot. She has found that hollyhocks can be made into old-fashioned dolls with ruffled petticoats. She examines all my flowers, but she only picks the ones that bloom in the paths or somewhere outside the gardens. Her eyes light up and she wears a happy grin when she collects a tiny bouquet of Johnny jump-up pansies with bright, happy little faces to present to her mother.

Gravel trucks come in side-dumpers, belly dumpers, and plain old dump trucks.

It has been said that to write successfully, one must write about what he/she knows. Much can be learned through research, but observation is key to understanding. Reality is in the details. Anyone who wants to write needs to first be an observer.

Those who post a comment on this blog or on any other blog I've posted since the previous contest ended and all followers are eligible for the next prize drawing on June 15.

Monday, June 7, 2010


My sister's transplant went well, but she is terribly ill. The anti-rejection medicine keeps her nauseated. Her doctor says everything is going as expected. I really appreciate all the prayers and support she and our family have received from friends and extended family.

I had some dental work done this morning and since my sister's medical team gave her medication that would keep her asleep all day, I spent some time writing, 2,200 words, the most I've gotten done in one day in a long time.

Sorry about my review column last week. I had it ready in plenty of time, but got involved at the hospital and forgot to send it in on time. Hopefully we'll get the once a week posting started this week. I have some interesting sounding books in my "to read" pile, but I'm not getting much time to read or write. I've read a couple that are definite winners.