Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reason? Or Just a Rut?


Most of us are most comfortable moving at an even pace through life.  We tend to get up each morning about the same time and head for bed at about the same time each night.  We talk to pretty much the same people day after day, check the same news sources, prefer a certain chair, and early on we establish a set protocol for getting ourselves ready to face each day, then follow a set pattern of beginning our work, checking our mail, getting the kids off to school, exercising for a certain period of time, eating meals, watching the same television shows, catching up on face book, or accomplishing whatever tasks have become part of our daily routine.  We're creatures of habit.

A certain amount of routine saves time and brings order to our lives; but sometimes we're just in a rut.  Long ago a teacher advised a group of us to "live until we die." At first that appears to be a nonsense statement, but in truth, it is quite telling.  What is the point of reducing life to a boring repetition of mundane tasks?  We're alive, but are we living? Each day should bring a new discovery, a different perspective, a new realization.  The scriptures tell us God meant for us to have joy.  There may be peace in following a rut, but not much joy.

When I was about fifteen I lived in a house with a circular traffic pattern.  There was a kitchen, then a dining room, followed by a living room, which opened on my parents' bedroom.  Another door from the bedroom led to a tiny hall where we could go upstairs, exit the back door, or return to the kitchen.  The floors were all linoleum and every few days my mother would mop the kitchen, then the dining room, the living-room, the bedroom, the hall, then carry her mop bucket out the back door to dump it. One day I noticed she started with the bedroom and did the circle in reverse.  When I asked her why, she said she just got tired of doing it the same way all of the time and needed a change, besides she noticed spots that needed more attention by viewing them from a different angle. I've thought about that many times over the years and have come to the conclusion she was right.  Change is good.  Change doesn't always have to be the big life changing events.  Even small changes redirect our perspective and require us to think.

I recommend taking a walk with a small child. There's something about walking with a small child that invites a different view of life as the child notices and is excited about every ant or small creature that crosses the sidewalk or path.  Toddlers investigate flowers, weeds and the neighbor's cat. They notice birds.  The world is new and ready to be explored when a child takes an adult's hand and begins a trek down a path so familiar to the adult that he/she no longer actually sees it.

It's all right to enjoy a particular routine, to be comfortable with an established pattern of life, but it is also a good thing to shake up that routine a little bit from time to time.  Take a different street, try a new shampoo, learn a new dance step, read a different genre or try a new author, get an e-reader, taste a food you hated as a child, run instead of walk somewhere, be early for church, go to a different temple, or just do anything that's a little different from the usual pattern.  You can make the big drastic changes, experiment with the things you've always dreamed of doing.  That's good too, but in the little changes we learn about ourselves and are reminded of the reasons we do things one way instead of another.  We pay closer attention to the things that matter to us.  It's in deviating from a habitual pattern that we discover if there's a reason for the pattern we follow, or if we're just in a rut.

Friday, August 24, 2012

And the winner is . . .

Erin K. is the winner of my portion of the Last Days of Freedom Giveaway Hop.  Please let me know as soon as possible whether you want a print copy of The Heirs of Southbridge or a Kindle copy of Run Away Home, Journey Home, When Tomorrow Comes, or Some Sweet Day.  If you choose the print copy, I will need your mailing address.  For a Kindle copy I'll need to know where to send it.  Please contact me at bhansen22 at msn dot com.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Contests end soon

Anyone visiting my blog has a chance to enter two fun end of the summer contests to win free books.  Clicking on the treasure chest in the sidebar will take you to a list of more than a hundred contests that are linked together.  Entries are simple and you can enter any or all of the contests including mine.  For mine you merely have to list two books I have reviewed this summer on Meridian in the comment section of this post or on my previous post to be eligible to win.  Easy huh?  The other contest is sponsored by LDS Publisher and is easy too.  Click on the Summer Trek logo and register for the contest.  Then all you have to do is enter the books you've read this month on the rafflecopter along with any of the other possibilities listed you qualify for.  The rafflecopter is easier than it looks; just play around with it a minute and you'll figure it out.  It's a cool way to keep track of the points you earn.

Starting next month I'll go back to my month long Wish List contest to win books I've been sent for reviews.

Good luck everyone!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


This summer has been a difficult one for many of us.  With drought and fire, ruined crops, people out of work, smoky,dirty air, shootings, illnesses, and political insults some of us are more than ready to move on to the next season.  I've joined with a big bunch of other writers to give summer one last attempt to be the carefree fun summer is expected to be, so here's your chance to win books, gift certificates, or other book related prizes.

  This contest runs for just one week from August 17th to 22nd.  The prize is your choice of a Kindle copy of Run Away Home, Journey Home, Some Sweet Day, When Tomorrow Comes or a print copy of my newest book, The Heirs of Southbridge.  Entering the contest is easy, in the comments section list two LDS novels I have reviewed for Meridian Magazine this summer-June-July-August.  All correct entries will be included in a drawing.  The winner will be announced on this blog along with instructions for sending me your contact information.  After entering my contest look over the contests linked to this one and enter as many of them as you like. Here's the link:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sometimes It's the Little Things

I love ice cream and everyone who knows me well knows I love chocolate, yet I never buy chocolate ice cream.  Give me rich vanilla floating in hot chocolate sauce topped with whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry! A few days ago a neighbor I love dearly crossed the street to give me a half gallon of chocolate ice cream.  I thanked her and we laughed about our mutual chocolate addiction before I stuck the ice cream in the freezer, thinking,  "I don't even remember the last time I had plain chocolate ice cream." 

The next day I had an appointment with the doctor who is treating me for my pancreas problem.  She surprised me by telling me that when my older brother died almost five years ago of pancreatic cancer, a small piece of his pancreas was preserved and the piece from my biopsy was being compared to his to see if there is a genetic link between his problem and mine.  If there is, my pancreas will have to be removed; if not then we'll just wait and see if the cysts on mine turn malignant.  Who would have thought a tiny piece of tissue from so long ago could play such an important role in my life today or that my brother could play such a major role in my future five years after his death? 

This bit of information played on my mind on the drive home and my thoughts kept turning to the big brother with whom I shared a surprising number of similarities.  We both loved milk, we both loved acting in plays, we both had asthma and hay fever, he taught me my multiplication tables and how to divide, and we both loved to read.  I turned my thoughts to the tasks I needed to accomplish when I got home including the fact that we have a peach tree, loaded with fruit, that needs to be picked.  It reminded me that my brother loved peach pie piled high with chocolate ice cream.  I didn't bake a pie, but I fixed a heaping bowl of fresh sliced peaches, added a generous serving of the chocolate ice cream my friend gave me, and topped it with whipped cream.  I'm sure it was far more calories than I needed, but it was delicious and I  had a strong feeling my brother was watching and grinning his approval.  It also made me doubt my friend's sudden decision to give me chocolate ice cream was a coincidence. 

I just finished reading a book by Camron Wright that impressed me with his ability to handle coincidences/small miracles in such an easy smooth manner, the reader isn't even quite aware a small miracle has occurred, and if the reader isn't inclined to believe in miracles, the event can be dismissed as luck or a fortunate coincidence. I like this in storytelling because that's the way most miracles occur in life and oddly enough, they seem to carry more emotional impact than the big "hit me over the head" miracles complete with angels or the cavalry do. Just as these small "maybe miracles" touch our hearts and give life and its problems boosts of hope and courage, really good writers touch our hearts in the same way, granting the reader a moment's introspection, bringing to mind a half buried poignant memory, and lighting a candle of faith.

A couple in our ward was chosen by her company to experience a wonderful dream vacation these past couple of weeks.  They traveled to Rome, then to Paris, now onto the London Olympics.  Through the whole trip they have sent back via Face book the many, many pictures they've taken.  Because I know these people and we've been friends for years, it's fun to see their European vacation through their eyes. It's fun, exciting, and I can relate to their feelings and reactions because I know them.  This too, when found in literature, is a sign of good writing.  When the reader knows the characters well enough to see through their eyes, the story becomes stronger, more realistic. 

There is a tendency for writers to try to create bigger explosions, scarier chase scenes, more preposterous monsters, grosser expletives, everything bigger, louder, and more dramatic.  Originality and surprise are great, but it's the careful attention to the small things that often makes a story memorable.  If the heart can identify, the story is a keeper.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


As much as I loved hiking and fishing as a kid, I used to regret the arrival of summer in one way,  not because of the long hours I spent irrigating, weeding, and doing various farm chores, but because in the summer I lost access to the school library. You probably thought I was going to say because of those dreaded summer reading lists.  The truth is I never had a school teacher who gave me a summer reading list. Perhaps that was because I lived in a number of remote rural areas that lacked libraries, but I always read whatever I could get my hands on and I'll always be grateful to the Idaho State Library for mailing books to me every summer as long as I lived in that state and to the school teacher who introduced me to their great program for providing books by mail. I'm grateful too to the neighbor in Montana who signed for me to get a library card in a county where a year residency was required or the signature of a long time resident.

Today it is much easier to get a library card or buy books.  For most of us in America acquiring a library card is easy and there are numerous book stores, both brick and mortar as well as electronic, within easy reach.  Both Deseret Book and Seagull Book have mail order options for customers.  Outside of the Mountain West finding LDS books is a little harder though with the arrival of Kindle and Nook even those outside of the USA can easily and economically buy LDS books. There's another option too, which many readers underestimate.  Many authors offer their own and sometimes each other's books as contest prizes or in exchange for reviews.  Many of these contests are linked.

I've always loved curling up in a shady spot with a good book in the summer. Reviewing new LDS fiction for Meridian Magazine gives me the perfect excuse to do that, but by August the introduction of new fiction seems to slow down until the LDS Booksellers Convention introduces various publishers' new fall lines and as readers shift their focus from books to back-to-school clothing and supplies. This year attention is on the Olympics and squeezing in the last summer hikes, camping trips and boating before summer's end. There might even be more impetus to squeeze in outdoor activities than usual since our weather this year has left us unsure which season to expect when we wake up each morning. However, I suspect there are still a lot of people planning to read this month since many are still leaving on vacations and need a book to read in-flight, on the beach, or just because it's too hot to do anything else. 

Over on LDS Publisher there's a reading contest going on with two books being awarded to winners each day during the month of August. Those entering are asked to start with a list of books he or she plans to read this month. That's a little hard for me to do since most of the books I read are sent to me by publishers or authors to consider for reviews on Meridian and I don't know what they're going to send me. I just finished reading The Most Important Catch by Jaclyn M. Hawkes and have one more to-be-read book, Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson on my Kindle. Traci Abramson and Gregg Luke have new books I'm anxious to get my hands on and a couple of independent authors have notified me they're sending me books, but most of the time I don't know what I'll be reading. That's one of the nice things about this contest, books can be added or deleted as the month goes along. Extra points are awarded for reading any of the sponsors' books or books by any LDS author. I'm a sponsor, but I'm also entering the contest as a reader and since I didn't start a book list when I blogged earlier about this contest I'm including it now..  Actually I find the instructions for reporting books read a bit confusing, but hopefully I'll figure it out.  Here's my list, but expect it to grow:

The Most Important Catch by Jaclyn M. Hawkes
Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson
Code Word by Traci Hunter Abramson
Deadly Undertaking by Gregg Luke
Paige by Heather Moore
Faith, Hope, & Gravity by Merrill Osmond and Shirley Bahlmann
The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
Tangled Hearts by Roseanne Wilkins

My Loving Vigil Keeping by Carla Kelly

Bad Times at Horseshoe Bend by R. Bruce Sundrud