Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I've been reading Whitney finalists to the exclusion of getting anything else done the past week. I wasn't going to attempt to read the Young Adult or Speculative books because I don't have many of them and I was so far down on the hold list at the library it didn't appear I'd get many, if any, of them in time, and I'm not into speculative fiction. Suddenly I got a note from the library informing me they had them all waiting for me and I decided to give reading them a try. (I've got one third of one big fat book to go). I can't attend the Gala this year (wedding and reception I need to attend) so I figure the least I can do is vote in every section. I won't give titles, but I enjoyed some of them more than I expected and found others . . . well . . . let's just say I'm glad I checked them out of the library instead of spending money to buy them.
I wanted to offer some of the Whitney finalists as prizes for the first half of April contest, but I loaned most of them out to other judges, gave some away already, and a few are in formats I'm not allowed to pass on. Anyway, I have these four: 1) All the Stars in Heaven by Michele Paige Holmes. In my opinion it's much better than her award winning first novel, Counting Stars. It's not just that it has an element of mystery/suspense, but it is much more polished. 2) Lemon Tart by Josie Kilpack, a culinary mystery and enjoyable read even if the main character is a pain in the neck, and it's a great lead in to her next two novels which keep getting better with each successive one, 3) Eyes Like Mine by Julie Wright, a slightly YA novel that wound up in General Fiction. Perhaps it's the geneology connection that makes it appealing to adults instead of just teens, and 4) The Rift by Todd Robert Petersen. The Rift isn't really a finalist, but it was a nominee and since it just won the AML award for best novel of the year, I decided to include it. Besides I liked it. I was going to offer Ronda Hinrichsen's excellent debut novel, but either one of my daughters or sisters borrowed it or I've already given it out as a prize. Anyway, here's the deal. Everyone who comments between now and Tax Day, April 15, will have his/her name put in the hat. If you're a follower and you comment too, I'll send you one of the above mentioned books and another book of your choice.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Perhaps I don't adapt to change well, but whatever the reason, I thoroughly dislike (my grandson says I'm not supposed to say hate) Day Light Savings Time. It might have something to do with the illogical reasoning behind making everyone change their clocks twice a year. For me it was summed up in a ridiculous comment a national weather commentator made Saturday night. He was talking about the storm ravaging the North Eastern coast when he said, "But one good thing, the storm will be an hour shorter because we change to Day Light Savings Time when we set our clocks ahead an hour tonight." Excuse me! But did someone let Mother Nature know she had to wipe out an hour of the storm's duration? I suspect that storm lasted just as many hours as it would have without the time change.
I'm not sure who Day Light Savings Time is supposed to benefit. It sure isn't people that have to start work or school at seven or earlier. It's not farmers; cows aren't any more adaptable to time change than I am. (Maybe that's my problem. I grew up milking too many cows.) It's not parents; just try getting kids to bed before dark, then back up while it's still dark outside. It's not kids: they have to go to bed before it's dark enough to play No Bears Out Tonight or similar games which used to make summer evenings magical. It's not the backyard barbecue crowd; who wants to eat at the hottest time in the afternoon? And it's not the summer holiday people who have to wait until ten o'clock when the kids are in bed or super cranky to start their fireworks displays. It's not drivers either who get a second dose of driving to or from work with the sunrise or sunset in their eyes. Maybe it's all for the benefit of golfers. Anyway, it's not me. I miss long, cool summer evenings.
As a child summer evenings were the best part of the day. There was a special quality to playing games with my siblings or neighborhood children at dusk and through early evening when our chores were done. Remember what it felt like to lie on your back on the lawn and watch the stars come out? Remember watching fireworks at nine instead of ten? Now jump ahead to trying to get your children to bed when even room darkening blinds weren't enough to convince them it was bedtime? And what about the struggle the following morning to get children awake enough to send them to school when they're too tired because of being up so late the night before.
Being awakened before my internal clock says morning has arrived makes me cranky. It makes other people cranky too. It also makes them late for church. Our sacrament meeting speakers showed up yesterday just in time for Sunday School. Our poor bishopric had to be the speakers.
Twice every year I think about moving to Arizona which is a great state and has no Daylight Savings Time. Those people get enough daylight hours just the way things are and are happy to have a little cooler evening hours in which they can actually do something. I'll probably never move to Arizona; I'm just not a big heat fan, but this kick-off blog to a new contest is a salute to Arizona and Arizona writers. Let me hear the pros and cons of DST or comment on your favorite Arizona writer. I have a long list of favorite Arizona writers beginning with Kerry Blair, Dan Yates, Sandra Grey, Joyce DiPastena, and Jeanette Rallison. There are others, and there are ones who have a strong connection with the state, but there must be something in the air down there that gives gifted writers and artists an edge. Maybe it's skipping all that Day Light Savings Time nonsense.
Remember you get one chance at winning with each comment on a blog written between now and the end of the month and you get another if you're also a follower to my blog. Previous winners are eligible too.
I'm working on a blog to kick off the new contest. It should be ready shortly.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Actually I felt semi-human yesterday morning so I hurried to the Post Ofice to mail the book I should have sent off a week ago to the winner of the last contest and stopped at the grocery store. My favorite grocery store has closed so I'm trying different stores to see which one will get my future business. It's beginning to look like I'm going to have to shop at two stores now, one for meat and produce, and the other for the other stuff. Fortunately my husband went along or I would have given up and gone home. It is nice to have my fridge and cupboards full again. Well, it's really the first time my fridge has been full since I just got it, and though there's more cubic feet than in my old one, there's a lot of space wasted with a silly water and ice dispenser, making it hard to find room for everything.
Okay, it seems I'm doing a lot of rambling, but I really do have a point. I really want to get my taxes done, but something always comes up that seems more important at the moment. Getting my taxes ready to submit always involves sorting through mounds of paper that might be important, shredding, taking notes, parting with more cash than I think I can spare, and vowing to do better next year. It's kind of like writing, something I really want to do, but there are so many things that get in the way. I can't write until the dishes are done, the bed made, laundry done or at least sorted and the first load in the washer, e-mail checked and answered, a quick glance at Meridian and a few favorite blogs, a peek at Face book . . . Every once in a while I need to remind myself to just do it. No excuses. The funny thing is, once I get started it's hard to stop, writing that is. I'm happy to stop working on my taxes.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Not long ago I watched some little boys playing. They were pretending to be various Star Wars characters, Spiderman, or various other super heroes. It dawned on me that there were a lot of similarities between their game and the games I played with my brothers and neighborhood children when I was their age, only instead of superheroes, we were cowboys, Indians, and outlaws. Whatever the game is called, it's really a game of children looking up to "bigger than life" heroes, a belief that good can triumph over evil, and an attempt to prove that honor matters. It's the creation of an imaginative world, peopled by good guys who outsmart and out-maneuver the bad guys. Every generation has its own set of heroes. Mine wore chaps, Stetsons, and boots. My grandsons' wear Power Rangers Helmets. Mine carried a rifle and wore a six-shooter on his hip. My grandsons' heroes carry ray guns and atomic blasters. Mine rode Trigger or Silver. Theirs ride space ships. Mine were the best because they could out-track, out-shoot, or out-smart their enemies. Theirs are the best because they have special powers. (Special powers are okay, I guess, so long as they aren't getting those powers by ingesting some kind of substance that equates in my mind a little too closely to drugs.) I suppose my grandsons will go on to read Science Fiction the way I graduated to Louis L'Amour books, The Virginian, and Jeanne Williams.
As adults we never quite outgrow our childhood heroes. I know adults who own every Star Wars or Superman DVD, toy, or book. There are many adults who collect cowboy movies, decorate their homes with a Southwest motif, and haunt garage sales to buy up Louis L'Amore and Zane Grey novels. And I'll admit I'm among those who still love a good Western novel.
Westerns are few and far between in LDS writing circles today, so I don't often get to read one. In fact they're a diminishing genre in the general market too. There's still a good number of Western fans, but many of us are turned off by many of the newer writers who fill their pages with profanity, sex, and excessive violence in place of the old "code of the West." So I was pleasantly surprised when recently Return of the Outlaw by C.M. Curtis landed on my desk and I'll admit I was anxious to read it. It's the story of a young Civil War hero who returns home to find his sweetheart engaged to someone else. He drifts farther west, then after his father's death he returns home to claim the family ranch, only to find a crooked outlaw has claimed it. In the ensuing fight to reclaim his property, his friends are killed, he evades several traps, and is branded an outlaw. It's filled with clever tactics, plenty of action, a little bit of romance, and the pursuit of justice. All in all it was a satisfying read, and for me, a terrific break from more contemporary books.
There's a great Western included in the Whitney's Best Romance category this year. I'm not sure why it was put in the Romance Category, possibly because there isn't a Western category and the General category was already pretty full. There's a relationship between a cowboy and some other dude's wife, but I wouldn't call it a romance; they're both in love with the same person--her. But forget the romance elements, Counting the Cost by Liz Adair is the best Western I've read in a long time and as I've said before I'm a Western fan. This one is gritty, but not profane. There's an illicit relationship, but it's not in our face and the cowboy is painfully aware it's not right. The life and actions of the cowboy are heartbreakingly realistic. And though I didn't care much for the woman in the story, I could still sympathize with the hardships her cowboy's life inflicted on her. I think most readers, Western fans or not, will agree Liz Adair is a particularly talented writer and I personally think her understanding of the early twentieth century cowboy is one of the best I've run across.
I'm not aware of a large number of LDS Western Writers. There's Lee Nelson, Marcia Ward, Liz Adair, and myself (though I write other genres as well), so it's fun to welcome C.M. Curtis to our ranks. And readers, if it has been awhile since you read a Western, give one a try. I'd hate to think the Western Writer might give way completely to electronic space rangers. After all, how can a robot compare to a horse!
So where have all the cowboys gone? Not too far I hope. One of my grandsons recently lost a grandfather on the other side of his family. The man left his hat to his grandson, a great big felt Stetson. I'm pleased to say that hat thrills that little boy as much as his Power Ranger helmet does.
Monday, March 1, 2010
And speaking of winners. . . ta da. . .Elizabeth Morgan! Elizabeth, please send me your wish list of five or more LDS novels and if I have them I'll send one of them to you. I'll need your mailing address too. Contact me at bhansen22 at msn dot com.