Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Memorable Christmas

This Christmas turned out to be a memorabe Christmas for our family.  Our oldest grandson is engaged.  His fiance and her little brother spent Cristmas Eve with us, bringing our Christmas Eve family celebration to twenty-five.  We enjoyed good food, the grandchildren presented the nativitypageant, and all of our little piano players shared a Christmas carol with us.  Opening presents (we open family Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, leaving Santa's bounty to reign on Christmas morning in our children's individual homes) was as usual wildly chaotic, but there seemed to be something sweeter about just being together.  Christmas morning we attended one of the most touching Christmas services ever.

When our first two grandchildren were small, we started taking a picture of the grandchildren on our stairs on Christmas Eve.  The number of children on the stairs has grown over the years and this year we added three new ones---our grandson's fiance and her little brother and our precious new granddaughter were added this year.  Getting thirteen children ranging from ten months to twenty-one to sit still for a picture is a challenge.  Finally I said if they'd sit nicely for a few pictures they could act as silly as they wanted for one.  This is what I got:

The December Wish List contest is drawing to a close.  Only those who post comments this month are eligible to win a book of their choice.  To begin with I limited the contest to those who shared a Christmas memory.  I'm broadening that requirement to include those who wish to share a snippet of this Christmas.  The contest ends Dec. 31 so comment on as many of this month's blogs or reviews (on Meridian) as you wish.  Each comment is an entry.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

MY CHRISTMAS CARD TO YOU



Christmas cards are a custom that seems to be slowly dying.  I find this kind of sad.  I've always loved getting and sending cheery little messages at Christmas time.  Unlike some, I also love long, chatty Christmas letters and feel a little disappointed when a card arrives with only the sender's signature.  Yet even I cut my card list in half this year.  Unfortunately sending large numbers of cards has gotten too time consuming, too expensive, and like most other people I've found I can save time, money, and reach out to more people via the internet. Close family and friends whom I won't be seeing during the holiday season got cards, particularly those who never or seldom check email or Facebook.  For everyone else, this is my Christmas card and letter.  That doesn't mean you matter less; it simply means you're younger, more computer savvy, and more accustomed to computer communication with me than to paper communications.
If you read my blog, you already know the highlights of my year have been a new granddaughter in April, the release of If I Should Die in June, a trip to the Shakespeare Festival and to Touacahn in July, a reunion with my siblings and their spouses in October, and the purchase of a new car in late fall. I've attended soccer games, piano recitals, a dance concert, and celebrated birthdays with my grandchildren. There have been cookouts (sometimes cook-ins due to the past year's crazy weather), family dinners, ward dinners, and the acceptance of my next book Heirs of Southbridge slated for a March release. Below are a few pictures taken during this past year. On top of everything else, there has been the ongoing problem with knees that no longer cooperate and numerous shots to delay surgery on them.










So now that the chatty part of this Christmas letter is over, I want to wish you a merry Christmas and tell you how grateful I am for the people who read my books, my Meridian column, my blogs, and even my Facebook posts. Most of all, I want you to know that though I love the songs of Christmas, the whole Santa thing, spending a wonderful time with my children and grandchildren, becoming involved in service projects, and giving presents; the Christmas Season means more than that to me.  I cherish most those quiet moments, found most often in the temple, when I contemplate the awesome events of the night Christ was born, when I feel deep in my soul the enormity of God's gift to us.

May each of you be blessed with peace, hope, and an assurance of Christ's love as we commemorate His birth and as you embark on the coming year.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Engage the Senses

Enhance both your writing and Christmas by employing all of your senses.  Early in my writing career I learned that the more senses engaged in a story, the greater impact the story would have on the reader and the more memorable it would be.  In studies not related specifically to writing, I learned this concept holds true in every facet of human life.  Learning is closely linked to the employment of sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell; the more of these senses involved in the learning process the more deeply imbedded in our minds are the concepts learned.  In nothing is this more exemplified than in our memories of Christmas.

The sounds of Christmas bring a flood of memories.  The first Christmas carol or hymn I remember learning was Away in the Manger in a little pre-school Sunday School class in Lost River, Idaho.  That's where I, a little farm girl, understood and my heart was touched by a tiny infant with no bed, but a cow manger.  Star Bright takes me back to a cold crisp Christmas Eve when I stood in our back yard gazing at glittering diamonds in a velvet sky and saw a meteor streak across the sky.  Chimes remind me of Christmas in a small Montana valley where the cold, crisp air carried the ringing of church bells on Christmas morning ringing up every slope.

The sights of Christmas are many.  Lights and color play a prominent role.  I stood among the crowd with swollen feet and belly the first year the lights on Temple Square were lit to mark the season. Nine months pregnant with my first to be born, I stood in awe as the lights proclaimed the miracle of the Savior's birth.  I've always loved the various crèches I've seen displayed and I own several. A neighbor used to set up a live nativity each year with a real donkey, sheep, and a cow. These are among the sights that bring memories flooding back for me.  I don't suppose there is any other day in the calendar when more pictures are taken than Christmas.  I love looking at those pictures of Christmases past and seeing the wonder in the eyes of my children and grandchildren and remembering the concerts, school programs, and trips to visit Santa they represent. Each of the thirty-five nutcrackers I display each Christmas in my home visually reminds me of precious events and people.  And is there anyone who doesn't associate the combination of red and green with Christmas?

There's a physical feel to Christmas too.  The prickly touch of pine needles, the soft silk of a shawl worn by my daughters and granddaughters as they take turns being Mary in our family pageant, the metallic key that turns the music boxes, plush velvet of little girls' dresses, the smooth glass of balls that have hung on our Christmas trees for 47 years, and of course my aching feet after each shopping marathon.

Taste and smell are closely linked and of paramount importance at Christmas.  It is said that smell has the capacity to bring back memories more than any of the other senses.  I don't know if this is true, but the scents of pine, cinnamon, chocolate, and oranges are among the most pleasant of odors on earth and they invite warm memories I associate with the holiday season.  Warm bread or rolls, roasting goose, peppermint candy canes, chocolate  covered cherries, nuts, fudge divinity, apple pie with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream, waffles with chokecherry syrup, bacon, clam chowder, pineapple slices---the list is endless of the foods that make up our Christmas feasts.

Christmas is a time for memories, for reflections on the birth of Christ, for giving and sharing, for families, for celebration, and for quiet prayer.  Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in the western world and its impact is felt so strongly because our worship is linked to all of our senses.  Inviting readers to view our stories through their senses is something every writer should remember.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Multi-cultural Holiday Dilemma

In the main entry a large Christmas tree reached almost to the ceiling and in the office a smaller tree stood on the counter that separated students from the school secretary.  Someone taped a cluster of mistletoe above the wide arch that led to the cloakroom.  Minutes after the second bell rang files of junior high students left their homerooms one class at a time to make their way to the school's large auditorium to rehearse for the annual Christmas assembly.  Every homeroom class took a turn---except mine.

I was in the eighth grade when I learned not everyone observed Christmas.  My homeroom teacher was Jewish and refused to participate in Christmas or Easter observances.  Those of us in her class felt cheated.  We wanted to be part of the assembly even if all we did was join in singing carols.  It was hard to study and learn grammar rules while all of the other students in the school were in the auditorium rehearsing, goofing off, and having fun.  We did get to attend the assembly with the principal and assistant principal sitting with our class, but were painfully aware none of the talented singers or dancers in our class set foot on the stage.

Over the years many events have brought glimpses of understanding concerning that awkward Christmas.  Certainly a non-Christian school teacher should not have been required to participate in that assembly; I've never felt any animosity toward her for her refusal to be part of something she didn't believe in.  She was, in fact, an excellent teacher who did much to encourage me and her many other students.  However, I have wondered at times why a few parents weren't asked to chaperone our class and help us to be participants in an assembly that was a big deal back then.

A few years later in another community, I noticed a handful of students sitting in the library with their textbooks open before them as the rest of the students made their way to the auditorium for a Christmas program presented by a traveling university group.  I knew those students were Jehovah's Witnesses and a few were Jewish.  I found something sad about them studying while the rest of us were enjoying a delightful program.

These two instances were a stark contrast to another school I attended where every student was required to take choir, all thirty four of us.  It was a small school. If anyone checked, we probably represented a half dozen or more different faiths as well as including a Native American and a couple of atheists and our choir director was the Baptist preacher from a nearby town.  We sang at his church, at the LDS church, at the Catholic Church, and at several other protestant churches.  We sang for naturalization ceremonies, graveside services, Easter Sun Rise Services, and Christmas programs. It was one of the richest experiences of my school years.

In today's political climate too often the solution to mixed faiths and observances has become outlawing all such observances.  No one's God is allowed in school.  That's sad.  Our lives and our culture will only be strengthened and enriched by learning more of other cultures and the faiths of other people.  To shut away our history and religious traditions hurts more than helps world unity. 

I visited a beautiful historical church in San Antonio a few years ago where the priest conducted a short service for us, but knowing most of our group weren't Catholic he quoted some well-known nondenominational poetry in place of prayers. I was disappointed and couldn't help contrasting that service with the solemn warmth of a Christmas mass I attended once with a friend where the service was steeped in hundreds of years of spiritual custom .  My mother-in-law was a registered nurse.  In an attempt to be fair to everyone, the hospital administrator assigned everyone to work on Christmas Day, but a Jewish nurse went to Mom with a suggestion that my mother-in-law trade her Christmas hours for the other nurse's Hanukah ones. As a young reporter, I and my family were invited to a Lutheran Church for their festival of lights, Santa Lucia.  It was a choice experience my small children have remembered and occasionally speak of, though they are parents themselves now.  I believe attending other churches and honoring other faith's traditions leads to understanding and openness between various peoples.

When I worked for the City Library, I spent a number of years at a small branch library on the west side of Salt Lake City. Our patrons were very diverse since that seems to be an area where refugees settle first when they come to Utah.  It was fun to share the excitement and enthusiasm of our youngest patrons as various cultural and religious holidays arrived.  I particularly remember a little Vietnamese boy, who never stopped chattering, trying to explain to a shy little Muslim girl, who never spoke to anyone, why the library ladies had a tree with lights on it inside the library. Children have no problem observing every feast or holiday and inviting other children of different cultures to join them and they are anxious to learn about different celebrations.  We adults should be more like that.  We should welcome opportunities to share our traditions and beliefs and we should embrace occasions when we can be part of other cultures' and denominations' observances.  The peace and understanding most faiths claim to seek can best be found through sharing our celebrations, not by hiding them away for fear some might be offended.  We should go the second mile to enable others to observe those occasions important to them too.   Not only should no one be pressured to observe a religious holiday they feel uncomfortable with; neither should anyone be kept from openly participating in observances they find important.  Diluting a religious observance to something non-denominational isn't the answer either. Our culture can only benefit from sharing the events we find significant rather than hiding them from public view.
This month's Wish List contest is only open to those who comment on this month's blogs here, on my blog on the V- Formation or on any of my December reviews on Meridian.  (Meridian's comments do not post immediately, but are on a delay system and can usuall be seen the next day).


Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Christmas Spirit is Alive and Well

Christmas isn't even here yet, but this past week will go down in my Christmas memories as one of those special Christmases and each time I think of these past few days, I'll think of the kind and generous people in my ward.  The past couple of weeks have been really busy and I've been struggling with pain in my knees as well as an editing deadline for my next book. Thursday was our Relief Society service auction.  This is a fun event each year where the women including the Young Women in our ward enjoy a nice dinner, then through a points system, bid for services provided by each other.  It's always fun and everything from lovely handmade items to babysitting or mopboard scrubbing is auctioned off.  This year I was in charge of the ward Christmas party scheduled for the following night and my committee wanted to set up and decorate for that event right after the RS social. 

At the conclusion of the Relief Society auction, their committee pitched in to clean up and help my ward party committee set up. When we discovered we were short tablecloths, Laurie drove out to her aunt's home some distance away to borrow more for us and a few of us worked on decorations until eleven, then came back at eight the next morning to finish up.
 
Friday was filled with preparations and at least fifty more people than we were told to expect, but everyone volunteered to crowd more chairs at tables and set up more tables.  Fortunately there was enough food, but it caused some worry as the potatoes began to run low.  The Kearns Madrigals provided a wonderful music program.  Even Santa showed up.  After the ward party concluded, again everyone pitched in to clean up and set up for a funeral to be held the next day.

All this time I was worrying about getting the edit for my next book finished by my deadline. Every moment possible I was working on it.  Fortunately my editor gave me a few days extension.  Only taking time out of editing on Saturday to attend the funeral, I buried myself in trying to finish it.  Late in the afternoon, the Relief Society president called to say she was bringing us a surprise.  A short time later Holly and Steve walked in carrying a delightful surprise.  Steve used the leftover ham bones from the party to brew up a huge pot of ham and beans, and knowing that's something I really like, they brought over a generous share for us.  It was delicious and much appreciated.

Yes, the Spirit of Christmas is alive and well. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Shared Glimpses of Christmas Wish List Contest

December has a way of becoming too busy to think straight.  I'm slow posting the winners for November's Wish List contest due to the fact I'm in charge of my ward's Christmas party which is tonight and a few dozen other excuses.  I picked the winners a few minutes ago and they are Cheri Crane and Vicki Firth.  Congratulations!  Of course that means it's time for a new contest to begin and I'm changing the rules a little bit for this month.  Only those who share a true Christmas experience will be eligible to win the prizes--an LDS fiction novel from my over-flowing shelves.  There will be two winners.

First Candycane

Everyone, for good or bad, has a memorable Christmas story tucked away in their memories.  Please share those experiences here.  I'll try to share some of my memories of Christmases past each week too. The memories may be simple such as the Christmas my son-in-law was at Walter Reed Army hospital and I sent a big package to my daughter's family at
Andrews AirForce Base for Christmas.  My almost three-year-old grandson saw the postman leave the package and became the postman's best friend because there was no way he could be persuaded the gifts came from Grandma and Grandpa.  He knew it was the postman who gave him all those surprises.  Your story may be longer, spiritual, funny, or however you remember the event.  You may enter more than once too.  I'm looking forward to reading glimpses of your past Christmases.
Checking out the Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some Days are Like That

Yesterday was an interesting day in an odd sort of way.  I had shots in both knees and hurried out to do some Christmas shopping before the anesthesia (local) wore off.  (When it wears off I always get a king size headache similar to a migraine.) I got some great deals, but also had a flat tire on my new car.  The dealership very graciously agreed to replace the tire even though the problem was a big long screw in the sidewall, not a tire defect.  I came home to find no internet service and I'm trying to finish up the edit on Heirs of Southbridge.  Fortunately my Meridian column for this week had been turned in early; unfortunately my Christmas book column for next week may be post-poned a week and I'll run another review next week.

Also the November Wish List contest ends tomorrow.  Comments posted on any of the blogs or reviews I posted this month count as entries, as do each follower.  Multiple comments each count. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Day to Give Thanks

As I was shopping for a few last minute items I forgot when I did my Thanksgiving shopping, the yams I selected shot through the bottom of the plastic bag and scattered all over the floor. As I bent to begin picking them up, a boy tore off a plastic bag and began gathering them up for me. When he finished, he set them in my cart, I thanked  him profusely, and he hurried off to join his mother.  The boy was probably somewhere around ten or twelve and I'd never seen him before. He had no way of knowing how much my knees hurt or that I'll soon be having surgery on them. I'm not only grateful for his act of kindness, but I'm thankful there are young people in this world who are growing up with kind hearts, the kind of future leaders my generation can safely trust with the responsibilities they will face as tomorrow's decision makers.

I've found myself thinking lately about Mrs. King, my third grade teacher who taught me something of the history of Thanksgiving. With big paper buckles on our shoes and pilgrim hats and bonnets on our heads or a feathered headband and beads, we sat down to a Thanksgiving feast of apples, raisins, and some kind of bread similar to fry bread.  Even now I remember the song she taught us to sing before we began our feast.

            Bless this house, O Lord we pray.
            Keep it safe by night and day.
            Bless these walls, so firm and stout,
            Keeping want and hunger out.

I know, the song wouldn't be acceptable in today's classrooms, but I'm glad it was in mine.

I've talked all month, as have many of you, about those things, large and small, for which we are thankful.  Today I'll only add my gratitude for good food, family to enjoy it with me, and a warm home to shelter us from the cold.  May your day be as filled with warmth, good food, and love as mine.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NEWS

My historical novel now has a title, The Heirs of Southbridge, and a tentative release date of March 2012. I started my part of the editing process today and so far it's going really well.  It's always a little odd to go back to a story written almost a year ago.  There are a number of things I didn't see then, but fortunately my editor did.  There are a lot of things I did right and I'm enjoyng the story in a way I couldn't when it was so fresh in my mind.  As many of you know this is the story that would have been Diamond if the Bracelet series had gone to the six books originally intended.  I like it as a stand alone and hope you, the readers will too.  I'll post a picture of the cover as soon as it is available.

On another note I recently finished posting an earlier book of mine on Kindle.  Journey Home is the book that follows Run Away Home in my three book Home trilogy.  I had a hard time finding a new cover, but thanks to my cousin Ruby, who lives in Alaska where much of this story takes place, my Kindle edition has a real Alaska landscape cover. Just this evening I got the message that the book is now live and available for Kindle readers.


Both of these items are additions to my gratitude list for this month.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MORE THAN A DAY

One week from today is Thanksgiving Day.  One day is not enough for turning our thoughts toward the things that are right in our lives.  Most of us can list a dozen or more grievences, disappointments, and failed dreams, but for this week I suggest we consider those things that are right and good in our lives.

I'll begin by expressing gratitude for this country I call home.  It is a land of beauty, mountains, rivers, lakes, trees, vast fields, flowers, snowy mountain slopes, and rugged deserts. It's a land filled with rich natural resources.  It's a land that respects the past, but zooms ahead to embrace newness and innovation.
I love the rich mixture of ideas, beliefs, cultures, and faiths.

My extended family is large and diverse.  We represent an array of races and beliefs, but at the core we love and respect each other. We enjoy each other.

My husband, children and each of their small families rank right at the top of my gratitude list. How sad I would be if I had missed out on being a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.  I even like being a mother-in-law since I have four of the greatest sons-inlaw on earth and a lovely daughter-in-law who brings love and kindness wherever she goes.

I'm thankful for my house.  I watch House Hunters on TV sometimes and laugh at the things some people think are wonderful and scratch my head over some things some people find a drawback.

I'm thankful that I was raised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became a convert as I discovered its truths for myself.  I'm thankful for all the many opportunities I've been given to serve and give through the Church.

And I'm even thankful for all the mundane small things that go into making my life pleasant; things like my new car, telephones, computers, chocolate, a microwave oven, books (and the education that enabled me to read and develop a talent to write), modern plumbing, electricity, and the list could be quite endless.

And lest I forget to add them elsewhere, let me say I'm thankful for all of the teachers, editors, productin staff, and readers who have made me able to make the claim, "I'm the published author of more than twenty books!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Salute to Heroes

Among the heroes in my life are the men and one woman who served in the military who have made a personal impact on my life.  There's my son-in-law Rich, my brothers Jerry, Ron, and Vic, my Uncle Russell and his son, Don, my great niece's father Bob, my friend Kerry Blair's son, Matt, and Major Rushton (Pat), a delightful friend I used to visit teach.  Jerry and Uncle Russ are no longer with us, but I wish all of the rest of them, along with the many other men and women who have served the cause of freedom both in America and foreign countries, a day of peace and the gratitude of grateful nations.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For the Birds

Sitting at the table in the breakfast nook, I like to watch the birds that visit our birdfeeder.  The smaller birds; the sparrows, the finches, the chickadees, and such flit in troupes from the trees to the feeder, to the fence, to the bushes, and back again.  Entertaining and fun, they're constantly on the move and squander their energy on following the crowd. The doves stick to the business of eating as they plant themselves under the feeder and scoop up all the seeds the busy smaller birds knock off the narrow edge.  They grow fat and complacent feeding off easy pickings. A number of other birds; magpies, crows, woodpeckers, robins, hummingbirds, those that don't congregate in flocks or depend on the feeder make brief appearances, eat quickly while keeping a wary eye out for danger, search out a few worms or bugs in the garden, then hurry on their way.  Another bird that is a regular visitor to our backyard is a hawk. When the hawk  appears  almost all of the birds make a mad dash for safety.  Unfortunately a few burrow deep into the pine limbs as though hoping to remain invisible to the predator; they usually wind up being the hawk's lunch.

Some writers are like those sparrows.  They're so busy flitting about between conferences, web sites, Facebook, and other places where writers congregate, they get little writing done, almost no original research, and expend all of their energy running about, hanging out, and wishing.  If they actually reach the point where they submit their work to a publisher or agent it suffers from a lack of attention to detail, more dreaming than actual work, or a myriad of other shortcomings.  A few cower in a corner, never getting brave enough to actually submit a manuscript or search for an agent. Their talent dies from a lack of courage. 

Some writers are like the fat doves, content to live in their make believe world and do little to actually get  published.  They're content with whatever falls their way.  They may get published, but they never reach the heights they might if they worked harder and had more motivation.

Some writers are more like the robins and woodpeckers who show up for a few communal sessions, work hard, then go on to the next opportunity. They scope out the market, draw their material from multiple sources, and take personal responsibility for their success or failure. Like the hummingbirds, some work extra hard, and are a blur of color and industry.

Now where does the hawk fit into this picture?  There are a number of parallels I might draw here.  There are a few writers who like to puff out their chests and let everyone know they're bigger and better than anyone else.  They thrive on cutting other writers down.  Occasionally the hawk might be the person who is too big for the feeder, too proud to pick up what falls on the ground, but takes savage delight in writing nasty critiques or reviews to kill the work and confidence of others who are a little vulnerable or insecure.  (I've yet to meet the published writer who isn't still a little vulnerable and insecure.) And sometimes the hawk is the talented individual whose talent and hard work makes it possible to soar above the ordinary.

In the ten years I've been writing reviews for Meridian, I've read over a thousand books, met scores of writers, and watched writing careers that have soared to great heights and lost sight of writers whose careers have dropped out of sight. I've seen great talent squandered through sheer laziness and I've seen writers who succeeded in getting published through hard work and persistence in spite of limited natural talent. I've cheered when a deserving author got a big contract and I've cried when a talented author received rejection after rejection.  I've been uplifted; I've been bored, I've been informed, I've endured, and I've been entertained in the most delightful ways.  To all of you, thank you.  You've made this past ten years memorable for me.  And I hope you don't mind, if while I stare out my window, I name a few birds in your honor.
Just a reminder that the November Wish List contest is underway.  Each comment counts.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

MORE THAN A TASTE OF WINTER

We got a full blown winter storm overnight.  My husband actually had to get out the snow blower and use a long pole to knock snow off of the trees that still have leaves; they were in danger of breaking from the heavy load of snow.  I'm grateful for him.  I'm thankful, too, today that I went shopping yesterday instead of leaving it for today. Actually my husband took me shopping for a couple of new outfits for my birthday, then out to lunch.  I also did some Christmas shopping.  That's another thing I'm thankful for, grandchildren to give me an excuse to shop for cute kid things.  I dislike most shopping, but I have to admit it's fun to shop for things for a little girl who will be ten months old at Christmas.

Here are a few pictures taken this morning before the snow was knocked down from the trees and the bird feeder cleared.



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Contest to First Taste of Winter

Winners for October's Wish List contest are Steph (from Wyoming) and Becky (I don't know where she hails from).  Congratulations!  Please send me your wish list of five or more LDS novels you would like to have and I'll send one from your list to each of you.  Send to bhansen22 at msn dot com and put Wish List in the subject line.  I'll also need your mailing address.

The new contest begins today and since it's November, it's time to talk about gratitude.  I'll admit I wasn't too grateful this morning when I looked out to see snow falling, but overall I am grateful for the snow.  It means water for next summer and it means skiiers coming to Utah's slopes.  I don't ski, but I'm well aware of how much the ski industry helps my state's economy.

At the top of my gratitude list is my family.  I have a pretty cool one.  We're a diverse bunch, but we love and support each other a lot.  I'm thankful for my testimony of the Gospel, my freedom, my house, my car, my income, my writing talent, good food, indoor plumbing, access to good medical care, and all those things that make my life comfortable and safe.  And yes, I feel gratitude for even some of the small, simple things like chocolate, my computer, telephones, and a husband who likes to cook.  The past few days we've spent time with my siblings and their spouses (we've lost four of our number in recent years and gained two new ones).  There's something satisfying about spending time with the people who have made this journey with me since my earliest memories and been my best friends through all the many moves we made while growing up.  There's something special about inlaws who are as dear to me as my own siblings, some of which share more than fifty years of memories.  How could I not love the two sisters-in-law who turned my brother's sadness into continued years of happiness?

Our society sees more of complaints and anger than gratitude these days.  All this month I'm going to think of at least one thing each day I'm grateful for.  Care to join me?

And here's a glimpse of this winter's first snowfall:


Thursday, October 27, 2011

WRITING 101

Recently I taught a class at the Book Academy and was surprised by how many people in my class had no idea what the scene/sequel sequence is.  Judging by some of the disjointed books I've read over the past year, I'd guess a lot of people don't understand this simple method of writing.  In case you're interested, here are the basics to this writing method.

To begin with, the scene half of the method consists of three parts.

Goal:  This is what the point of view character wishes to accomplish.  (Don't confuse this with the writer's goal; their goals may be and usually are quite different.)

Dilemma:  This is where the point of view character works through a plan for reaching his or her goal and attempts to carry out that plan.

Disaster:  This is where something or someone wrecks the plan or in some cases the point of view character may achieve the goal but getting what he/she wanted can itself be a disaster for various reasons.

A scene is always shown from one character's point of view.  No head hopping allowed.

Next comes the sequel which also consists of three parts.  It is usually in the same character's point of view, but can be in another character's point of view.  If handled right, there can be more than one reaction following one after another from multiple characters' points of view, but not jumbled together.

Reaction:  This is where a character reacts to the scene's disaster.  It may be as brief as bursting into tears or as long as needed to show the response to the disaster.

Re-evaluate:  This is from the same POV as the reaction and is where the reacting character works out a method of dealing with the disaster, determines that something has to be done, and considers ways of dealing with obstacles.

Resolution:  This is where the POV character makes up his/her mind to do something specific to correct the disaster.  This resolution may become the goal for the next scene which may or may not follow immediately, but should be the goal of a future scene where this character is the POV character.

Following this method is a great way to create a logical sequence to a story.  It eliminates the annoying habit some writers have of jumping from one character's head to another until the reader has no idea who is thinking or saying anything.  Consecutive scenes may be from different points of view, but a great deal of confusion and annoyance can be avoided by remembering to stay in one character's head until a scene or sequel is finished. A scene or a sequel can be as long or as brief as needed.  An entire chapter may consist of one sequence or it may contain several.  I find I average about three to a chapter, though this varies.

Another advantage to using this method is the help it gives in overcoming writer's block.  If a writer is stuck, I've found it works well to take a blank sheet of paper, space these six steps down one side of the paper, then jot down a brief outline of what needs to happen at each of these steps.

Some writers use this method to outline an entire book on paper.  Others only use a mental form of outlining, but still follow these steps.  It's an effective way to write especially for new writers.  More experienced writers often work out a variation of this method, but still adhere to one scene/one head.
The month is almost over, but entries into the October Wish List Contest will be accepted until midnight Monday. The prizes are books and you get to choose from your own LDS fiction wish list.  To enter, comment on any blog or review written by me and posted during October on this blog, on the V-Formation blog, or on Meridian and/or become a follower on this blog.  Multiple entries are welcome and I'll be the sole judge of whether or not an entry is appropriate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shopping just isn't my thing!

It may sound strange, but I don't like to shop.  I endure grocery shopping because I like to eat.  I put off clothes shopping as long as possible even though, like most women, I like something new to wear.  Shoe shopping is torture.  When it comes to household furniture and appliances I find myself wishing I could make them once-in-a-lifetime purchases which would never wear out.  Yesterday I found myself doing the worst kind of shopping of all--car shopping.

I have absolutely loved my little Saturn Ion which I bought seven years ago.  Terrific gas mileage, looked nice, paid for, dependable, very little maintenance required, an all around great car.  But my husband finally convinced me I needed to trade it in while it still had some resale value and before I had to buy new tires or it required major work due to age. 

Buying the new car was an all day production.  I soon discovered most new cars are ugly.  Car salesrooms are filled with over-priced impracticality.  In some, a squad of salesmen hover at your elbow and in others there isn't a sales person to be found.  We eventually found a dealership where the balance felt right and the salesman was helpful rather than pushy. I checked out the Cruze Eco online and at several dealerships and liked what I saw, but everywhere I looked they were all manual transmissions except at this one place.  I learned to drive on a manual, but most of my driving is city and in the city I like an automatic much better.  At last I'd found a salesman I liked and a car I liked.  Even the color was good--a bright crystal red.

Unlike with other shopping where once I find what I like, I pay for it, and go on my way, buying a car involves hours of filling out papers, waiting for this and that, deciding whether to go with this guarantee or that, this service or that, and with today's cars there are lessons on learning to use On-star and operate satellite radio along with which button opens the trunk and which starts the engine.  After spending two thirds of the day at the dealership before driving the new car home, I still have to take it back for some treatment I think I agreed to because I was tired and wanted to go home.  By the way, on the drive home I discovered On-Star doesn't know the best way to my house and satellite radio sounds the same as plain old FM. It was a smooth comfortable ride, however.

After all that, I just hope my Cruze proves as dependable as my dear old Saturn.  It's a cool looking car and if the gas mileage lives up to its hype, I'll be happy.  And with any luck, I won't have to go car shopping again for a really long time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sharing a few pictures

What a week this has been. I shared a picture from the court proceeding and thought you might like to see a few pictures taken after the sealing at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple on Saturday. The baby wore the same dress today for her blessing.





Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A GIFT OF LOVE

Tuesday morning the adoption of my newest, darling granddaughter was finalized.  Saturday our family will gather at the temple to be a part of her sealing to our family for all eternity and Sunday she will be blessed.  It's shaping up to be a wondrous, happy week.

Naturally my mind has turned often to the miracle of adoption lately.  I feel deep gratitude to the young mothers who loved their babies enough to give them two parents and a better chance in life than they could. 
I feel a kind of sadness for the television shows and popular culture push for birth mothers who haven't finished school and have no real means of support, to keep their babies.  I see young women who are emotionally immature, alone, or trying to escape dysfunctional homes being taught to think "if you keep your baby you'll have someone who loves you", "only a bad person would give away her child", "It'll be so much fun to have a baby," "don't worry about the money; there's government financial help for single mothers," "what will he think of you when he learns he was adopted?" or parents who insist "you can't give away my grandchild."  Notice none of these concerns are actually for the baby.  Almost always when there's no chance of marriage or a continuing loving relationship between the parents, premature parenthood is in neither the young mother's or her baby's best interest.
Too often single girls who keep their babies end up living a life of poverty.  Their children are more likely to do without essentials, many suffer abuse from their mothers' boyfriends, and they're less likely to finish high school or go on to college.  There are exceptions of course, but it's so much harder.  I've seen grandparents who struggle to care for grandchildren, who love them, and act as parents, then suddenly have the children torn from their home when the mother decides to marry and take the children far away.  I've also seen grandparents left in charge of their single child's baby who are physically unable to provide the needed care, leaving the baby or toddler unintentionally neglected.
Adoptions these days are very open.  The young woman who chooses to place her child in a stable home can receive regular reports and pictures to assure her of the child's well-being.  In some cases she can see the child at regular intervals.  She can also finish her education, mature, establish a career, marry, and pursue her dreams, knowing the child she loves is being properly cared for and has the advantages of a loving home, enough to eat, the prospect of higher education, and the love of an extended family.
One of the greatest heartbreaks a couple can face is the knowledge that they can't have children. Here you have a couple who are committed to each other, financially prepared for parenthood, mature enough to be good parents, but for some reason they can't conceive.  If these parents are fortunate enough to be allowed to adopt a child, I assure you they feel nothing but love and admiration for the birth mother who honestly considers her baby's future needs above her own. They respect her courage in completing the pregnancy and letting go of a piece of herself for the child's better good.
Adoption is no guarantee the child will have no problems and the parents will always know how to deal with every issue, but the same can be said for all children.  Children don't come with how-to manuals, but adoptive parents receive more training than most as the proceed through the pre-adoption process.  In my state they have to pass a pretty extensive background check as well.  If anyone doubts an adopted child is loved as much as one born into a family, let me assure you there is no basis for that fear  An adopted child is always wanted.  One of my most treasured memories is that of my daughter when her first adopted child was placed in her arms by his birth mother.  The look of joy, of rightness, of love on these two young women's faces is a memory I hold priceless. The same feelings of love and awe I experience holding my other grandchildren is there for these two adopted ones.  I never find myself thinking, this one is adopted and this one isn't.  They're all my grandchildren and all eleven are the most precious children in the world. If my experience is an indication of a trend, I'd say adoption is truly a win-win proposition for all concerned. My deepest thanks goes out to two brave young women who gave my grandchildren life, then gave them the precious gift of love by allowing them to be adopted.




Tuesday, October 4, 2011

PRIORITIES

Reading, writing, and reviewing are top priorities in my life. I devote a lot of time to these three things.  There are few things I'd rather do, but they aren't my only priorities.  My husband, my children, and my grandchildren have first claim on my time and attention.  The two days I spend serving in the temple rank among my top priorities as well.  There are also my extended family and a whole raft of temporary priorities such as mopping my kitchen floor, weeding a flower bed, teaching a class, doing the laundry, balancing our checkbooks, visiting teaching, and so on.  I'm no different from other writers.  We have lives to lead that come before our characters' lives. (I've only ever met one writer who can afford a maid.)  But I always come back to reading, writing, and reviewing.

It's important for each individual, not just writers, to discover their priorities.  Writing isn't the only occupation that requires the ability to self-start and to set priorities, but since I'm in the writing business that's what I'm going to talk about.  People who need someone else to wake them up, set their goals, and propel them toward the computer won't accomplish much.  Writers who carve out their own time and predetermine what constitutes a qualified interruption are more likely to succeed than those who spend most of their precious writing time playing. The writer with a story to tell, a determination to get it published, and the ability to determine the priorities that will get him/her to that goal will succeed.
Establishing priorities is much like goal setting.  First it is necessary to decide what matters most.  For most of us, family comes before career, talents, or personal wants.  Next comes needs; you know the routine; food, shelter, safety.  Eventually we get down to things like careers, vocations, talents, and ambitions.  For a writer, this usually means getting published and like so many of life's goals, much of the pleasure is derived from the journey.

Important aspects of making writing a priority are self-discipline, education, reading, and finishing.  Self discipline is important if writing is a true priority.  Facebook and games are fun and the networking can be beneficial, but they can steal a lot of valuable writing time, as can TV.  If, like me, a person can't write until the beds are made and breakfast dishes are done, then do them first and fast.  Eliminate as many distractions as possible as quickly as possible, then get to work.
Education doesn't always mean formal education.  Writers can save themselves a lot of time and disappointment by reading books on writing, following up web sites devoted to writing instruction, and by attending conferences and seminars.  Being part of a critique group can help a writer overcome some major stumbling blocks to becoming an accomplished and published author.
I know several writers who claim they don't have time to read.  Frankly their work shows it.  Reading what others in your genre write can be invaluable to discovering techniques, errors to avoid, and provide insight into why readers buy those writers' books.  Reading in other genres broadens the background a writer brings to his/her own writing.
Finishing is an essential priority.  Writers who allow themselves to be distracted by other book ideas tend to have dozens of partial manuscripts lying around, but no contracts and no books on store shelves.  If a super idea occurs while working on something else, jot down a few notes and shove it in a drawer, then get back to finishing the manuscript at hand.
Modern life is so filled with distractions, information overload, enticing choices, and responsibilities, it can be overwhelming.  Setting priorities eliminates some of life's emotional and physical clutter.
This month for the October Wish List Contest I'd like to hear about your priorities, your stories of how you've set your priorities, and how you stick to them. I'd also like to hear how you handle interruptions to those priorities you've set.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

TIME TO ANNOUNCE WINNERS AGAIN

And the winners are . . (drum roll) Stephanie Black and Tarmy.   Congratulations to both of you.  Please send me your LDS fiction wish list before Friday, Oct. 7--five or more books!  I'll send one of them to you for your prize.  Send the list and your mailing address to bhansen22 at msn dot com.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

END OF MONTH--END OF SEPT WISH LIST CONTEST

Just a reminder that tomorrow Sept. 30 is the last day of the September Wish List Contest!  All comments on any of my posts during the month count toward the drawing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Little Craziness

"Everyone in the whole world is crazy, except thee and me--and sometimes I wonder about thee."  It was a popular saying when I was a teenager and sometimes I find myself thinking it today.  Am I the only one who wonders if the world has gone a bit crazy?

Take our international economic situation!  I took economic classes.  I've studied finance from corporate bookkeeping to balancing my own checkbook and I can't see how we can spend our way out of debt.  Sure purchasing goods; spending is essential to a healthy economy, but so is saving.  Somehow our financial well-being has been twisted so that a person's ability to borrow matters more than the ability to pay one's own way.  People determine their financial worth by their credit card limit instead of actual dollars in the bank.  Poverty occurs when the credit cards are maxed out and the mortgage company forecloses.  Savers who consistently squirrel away small sums of money for years to make major purchases, meet emergencies, or to provide a comfortable retirement are reaping .02% or less on their pitiful savings.  What has happened to the economic laws I once knew?

Advertising constantly assures us we "deserve" this or that.  I don't get that premise. No one "deserves" any of life's luxuries or even much of what many consider necessities.  We don't buy cars, clothes, houses, or take vacations because we deserve them, but because we worked for the money to purchase them.  We only "deserve" those inalienable rights given us by God--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Supreme Court says taking God's name publicly in vain is a constitutional right, but addressing God in prayer in public is a crime. It seems free speech has become a bit one-sided.

A man can be fired from his job for tackling a shoplifter, but it's all right for the store to increase the cost we all must pay to cover the loss from pilfered goods.

It's all right to dump piles of rocks, guaranteed to blow a tire or twist an ankle if accidently stepped on or driven over, in median strips in most neighborhoods, but it's illegal to plant vegetables in that space.  A yard full of rocks and weeds is a good thing?

Occasionally my  husband and I watch a television program that shows people purchasing houses, condos, or apartments.  Sometimes we laugh at the unrealistic expectations of people who expect four bedrooms, a man cave, three baths, a modern kitchen, and a pool for $160,000.  Other times we're amazed to see people who think they got an amazing bargain because they purchased a pile of rubble for over a million dollars.  People gush over ugly tile, rave over weird wall paper, or turn their noses up over perfectly good, attractive, but slightly outdated fixtures. We shake our heads and say there's no accounting for tastes, good sense, or the odd quirks of the human mind. 

Which brings me around to the business of writing.  All of these elements of common sense--or lack there-of-- tastes, imagination, moral sense, realistic aspects, preferences play a part in both the creation and the consumption of novels.  Whether consciously or not, a writer creates characters and actions that follow his/her own beliefs, standards, and sense of right and wrong.  The reader brings his/her own set of values to those pages.  Sometimes there is a happy meeting of minds between writer and reader, but sometimes it's a poor match.  We've all had someone rave about how wonderful a book is, then when we pick it up, expecting a great read, only to find it lackluster, boring, so so, or even repugnant. 

The world is a bit crazy; perhaps it always has been, but just as the people on that home buying show find the best bargains when they do some preparation, we can get the best bargain for our reading and writing enjoyment if we take the time to do a little preparation.  Writers who are perfectly clear on who they are writing for find their writing niche most easily.  A romance writer knows her audience wants romantic tension between a deserving couple who overcome great odds and end up in a committed relationship.  Mystery and suspense readers want to be puzzled, scared a bit, then reach a satisfying solution to the puzzle. A writer who wants to write for the LDS market needs to write within the parameters of LDS standards.  Deciding LDS readers need to "lighten up", accept more sexually explicit content and X-rated expletives is only going to attract like-minded readers, the bulk of the LDS market won't touch such books with a ten foot pole.

Many LDS readers in the past felt if they purchased a book at Deseret Book or Seagull Book (or any of the other LDS bookstore chains) it would be a good book.  It might be a good book as far as maintaining standards, but no one book will meet the needs of every LDS reader.  The most savvy shoppers learn some writers fill their needs better than others, some readers buy their books online, some checkout LDS books from their libraries.  Keeping a list of preferred writers is a good idea, discovering which friends share similar tastes with you is helpful, reading blogs and reviews will generally give a good idea of whether or not a particular book might be enjoyable, and it's a good idea to talk to the authors at book signings .  Reading will increase in the pleasure it provides as the reader discovers preferred genres and authors, but even favorites become better if there's a little craziness added for contrast now and then.  Make it a policy to sample a new author or a different genre occasionally.  If the new book turns out to be a pile of rubble, throw it at the wall, read something you know you'll like, and when you're ready to experiment again, do it.  If you feel a wee bit crazy, you'll fit right in.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Academy Conference


Next week, October 6 to be exact, I'll be teaching a class on writing Mystery/Suspense at the Book Academy Conference at Utah Valley University.  I'll also be taking part in a marketing panel discussion on reviewing.  You can get more information on the conference by going here.  Nancy Campbell Allen, Gregg Luke, Sarah Eden, Angela Eschler, Kirk Shaw, and Lisa Mangum are just a few of the other presenters.  It's going to be fun -- and scary.  The scariest part will probably be the freeway between Salt Lake and the UVU campus!

There are a number of writers conferences each year that take place both locally and nationally.  They provide great opportunities for writers and future writers to connect, to learn of changes in the industry, to receive encouragement, and further their skills.  Some are sponsored by organizations such as ANWA, the League of Utah Writers, LDStorymakers, Romance Writers of America (both state and national levels), and by colleges and universities.  Anyone wishing to break into the writing/publishing field should seriously consider attending a conference.  Some conferences require membership in the sponsoring organization, but most do not.  Some are directed specifically toward a certain genre; mystery writers, science fiction, western, romance; and some are more general. Most also have a blend of specific, practical writing help and general marketing assistance.

Those who aren't writers, but enjoy reading, probably won't want to attend a conference, but they can still improve their selection of reading material by being vocal about what they like or don't like in the books they read.  They can let writers and publishers know on blogs, on facebook, in emails, etc. what is appreciated, what is found to be offensive, and what they would like to find on their library or bookstore shelves.

It's been a few years since I've been a speaker or a workshop presenter at a writing conference so I may be a bit nervous, but I suspect this one will be a great experience and I'll have the good fortune to meet the authors of tomorrow's best sellers.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Booksigning!

I'll be participating in Seagull Books Celebrating Sisterhood Saturday, Sept. 24 between ten and noon.  I'll be at the District Seagull Book Store, a new store located just off of Bangerter Highway at 11531 District Dr. in South Jordan.  That's almost directly across the highway from the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.  I'll be signing my new book, If I Should Die, and any of my other books that are in the store or brought in by customers.  Come chat with me and eat some snacks. I love meeting new readers and getting reaquainted with readers I've met before.  It'll be fun in this lovely new setting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

OBSERVATION

No one has ever accused me of being the most observant person on this planet. I trip over lint on the carpet!  I was in a minor accident once with a hit and run driver; I couldn't remember whether it was a car, a station wagon, or a pickup truck that hit my car.  Unfortunately my youngest daughter takes after her mother; she tripped over the welcome mat at her own front door and seriously sprained both ankles last week!

Oddly enough I do notice trivia and some not so trivial things around me.  Last week I observed a little girl at a salad bar scoop up some chocolate pudding and try to shake it onto her plate from the spoon.  It didn't fall off so she wiped it off with her fingers, then licked her fingers before jamming the spoon back in the pudding, again wiping off the stuck pudding with her finger, and licking her fingers once more.  She repeated this action half a dozen times.

 I noticed, too, the woman in the changing booth next to mine slip on her shoes sans socks.  I also noticed her feet were covered with athletes foot and she'd been standing barefoot on the changing booth carpet.

While getting my hair done, I watched in the mirror as the patron behind me had extensions added to make her hair appear fuller.  As the beautician pinched each extension with a little pair of pliers, I wondered how the woman getting the extensions could possibly wash, brush, or comb her hair with all that hardware in it.  She was excited about a date with a new man that night and I hoped he wasn't the kind who liked to run his fingers through a woman's long, silky hair.

The mention of hair reminds me of the time I sat in church and watched a young girl's hair turn from black to several shades of brown, blonde, and then to red.  All the variations in color were due to the way the sun struck the large stained glass windows high on the walls of the chapel.

Who knows, any of these small incidents could and the last one did ,wind up in one of my books. Some writers are more observant than my daughter and I are when it comes to obstacles to personal welfare, but most writers have a tendency to see little quirks, mannerisms, the unusual, trivia we can use to make characters more real, more endearing, or less desirable. It's the little things most people may not notice in real life that makes a character in a novel more real.

I couldn't tell you the eye color of any of my neighbors or most of my relatives, but in a novel this is usually an important detail. I have no idea what kind of car anyone, other than my husband or myself, drives. What color my sister's carpet is, is a mystery to me. There's a mural on the wall of my doctor's office; I'm not sure what it depicts, but there's a bird in it with incorrect proportions.

Why I have selective observation skills, I don't know, but being aware of small details around me has enriched my ability to develop characters and create scenes.  Why I don't notice a stair is two inches higher than I raise my foot, I don't know.

As for my daughter, blessed or cursed with the same problem, check out her blog sometime. She has very different tastes from mine in her reading and writing preferences, but she has a sense of humor that has delighted me since she wrote her first story about an inept dragon and an unusual princess.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Woohoo!

Jeri Gilchrist reviewed If I Should Die.  You can read it here.  Lynn Gardner did too.  You can read her review here. I don't get many reviews, (Few people review a reviewer! especially in a positive way) so I want to share.

You can read my Meridian review of Minor Adjustments by Rachael Renee Anderson here.  In fact you can read all of my recent reviews by clicking on this link then going to Books and under books, Book Reviews.  If you leave comments under any of this month's review here and/or there, they will count as entries in this month's Wish List contest.

I thought about posting a blog about 9-11 before Sunday, but found I couldn't do it.  That cowardly event impacted my family a great deal and I didn't want to go through all of that emotional upheavel again. At the present time I prefer to look ahead to supporting my country, my family, and my faith with greater gratitude, more tolerance, increased vigilance, and increasing my efforts toward true justice and freedom for all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'd Chew My Fingernails, But

Actually I'm not a nail biter; I'm just saying that after all these years I'm still a nervous wreck when I submit a manuscript.  I have the greatest editor in the world and I love Covenant's Managing Editor, still . . .

I wondered at times if I'd ever finish this manuscript.  With working two days at the temple and all of the good and bad events that have occurred in my family the past few years, finding time to work on this pair of books has been a challenge.  The first was accepted in the Spring, now I just hope this second companion novel will also be accepted.  My last two books were both Romantic Suspense, but these two are historical with a decidedly Western flavor.

Now while I wait to hear from my publisher, I plan to concentrate on a piece of good news I received this morning and something a bit scary.  The good news first: A court date has been set to finalize the adoption of my newest granddaughter and a date and time have been reserved for her to be sealed in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple to my daughter and son-in-law.  Now the other news isn't exactly bad, just a bit scary.  I'll be teaching a class on writing mystery/suspense novels on October 6 at Utah Valley University and also participating in a panel discussion for writers on getting their books reviewed. Whew!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

IRKED AND ANNOYED

There's a television commercial that annoys my husband so much, he turns off the sound every time it comes on--and it comes on a lot.  Most commercials annoy me, but that one not as much as some. Come to think of it, most of the programming annoys me too.

Few things irk me more than sales calls, especially ones I know are fraud schemes.  I used to try to be nice to telephone salesmen; after all they are only trying to earn a living.  Not anymore.  I've had too many calls that start out telling me they're only calling to offer some kind of help with my credit card.  The moment someone mentions credit card over the phone, you can be sure it's a scam.  I do not have diabetes.  I do not want someone to clean my carpet.  If I were interested in selling my home, I'd contact a realtor , not the other way around.  And if I want to contribute to a political party or candidate , I'll initiate the contact or do it at the caucus.  I'm not interested in attending tea party meetings.  My name is on the do not call list SO STOP CALLING ME!

I'm definitely not a fan of talk radio, though I occasionally listen to Doug Wright.  I especially dislike a certain sports talk radio program where the commentator doesn't talk, he shouts and whines. 

Clothes that are too tight, too short, or require an act of God to keep them from falling off the rump are silly and juvenile, but they don't annoy me as long as I'm not the one expected to try them on in a fitting booth.  What does annoy me is the lack of stylish, attractive clothes that are designed to fit the human body available for real people to purchase in department stores.

I really don't care what color anyone's hair but mine is.  Purple is fine if you think it's right for you.  I once dyed a thin lock of my hair neon pink.  Short, long, curly, straight; I don't care.  Now dreadlocks are something else; they look matted, greasy, and unkempt.  They look like the wearer needs a shower.  If that's your style, so be it, just don't expect me to look at you; I can't get past your gross hair.

I dislike rudeness and find it irritating that so many people, push and shove, use crude language, play obnoxious music half the night, fail to show gratitude with a simple "thank you," take chances with other people's lives on the streets and highways, or let doors swing shut in the face of the person behind them.  Words such as please, excuse me, may I, thanks, and sorry, have disappeared from some people's vocabularies.

When it comes right down to it, most annoyances (not all; afterall there are still annoyances like mosquitoes, wasps, and gophers to deal with) are human caused.  Perhaps some can't be helped, but most are the product of inconsideration and lack of respect.  I suspect we could all serve society better by being annoyed less and avoiding providing annoyances more.

There's a good chance, every person alive has a list of things that annoy them.  Some of those annoyances, like fireworks at two in the morning, make us grumpy. Some just cause us to roll our eyes, but there are some that plant the seeds of major clashes or even war.  I've been told venting is good for easing tension, so tell me, what annoys, irks, or just plain bugs you?


Winners Announced

August Wish List winners are Lisa Paskins and Suzanne Perry.  Congratulations!  Please send a list of at least five books from your wish list, preferably books I have reviewed on Meridian to bhansen22 at msn dot com.  I'll also need your mailing address.

Check out my review of Hang 'em High on Meridian this morning. 

The September Wish List begins now!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE END IS NEAR!

Okay, that title is a little dramatic, but I just wanted to let everyone know the August Wish List Contest ends tonight at midnight or when I get up in the morning and stagger my way to the computer.  I'll be gone most of the day, so it will be evening by the time I get the winners announced. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On the subject of reviews

As many of my readers know, I write a weekly review column for Meridian Magazine.  Some time ago I extended my Wish List contest to include comments made about my reviews on the magazine's web site.  Today I'm going a step farther and including a link to today's review right here.  All you have to do to read my review is position your clicker over the word's highlighted and click.

Reviews can be a great resource for deciding where to spend book dollars. Paying $24.99 for a book then discovering it's boring or disgusting is a painful experience.  Some people never bother to read reviews and that's okay.  Some would like to read reviews if they felt they could trust the reviewer.  The blogosphere is clogged with reviews these days by friends of authors who agree to post sales pitch reviews for their friends' books.  That's okay too as long as you know the source of the review and understand the purpose behind the review.  There are also independent reviewers who choose which books to review and make an honest attempt to be impartial; some are very good too.  There are also print newspaper and magazine reviews.  Most of these reviewers are very good, though some have become a bit jaded and negative.  A new trend in some newspapers is to print amateur reviews of varying degrees of quality and often are no better than "friend's reviews".

I make no pretense of being the best reviewer around, but I've been at it for a long time and there are a few things I can promise my readers.  At Meridian I only review books intended for an adult LDS audience.  Occasionally I will review one that crosses the line between adult and teen interests.  I don't review books that are offensive in language or content. I read and consider both print and electronic formats.  And I'm honest.  Sometimes I hurt people's feelings, though never intentionally.  My goal is to let readers know just enough about a book to make an informed decision before they buy it, and to generally let readers know which new books are now available.  I don't review every book sent to me, but I read them all--unless they're so awful I can ony get through the first fifty pages.  I try to choose books to review that are fresh, well written, and have interesting characters and plots. I welcome comments from readers who let me know what they're looking for in a review.  So that's your cue.  What do you want to see in a review?