Thursday, October 25, 2012

Decision Time

Tuesday I took advantage of the call to vote early.  I'm glad I did.  That first week in November is going to be a medically rough one for me and this is one election I didn't want to miss, yet I left the polling place feeling a little sad.  It wasn't just that a group of seniors were eating their lunch a few feet from the polling place and the little voting station where I marked my electronic ballot was parked in front of the only access to the coat closet and people kept pushing me aside to reach their coats, or that the voting machine seemed to have a dying battery causing it to take long, long pauses before accepting the choices I pushed.  It just didn't feel the same.

To me election day has always been a special day, a sort of national holiday where Americans join together to express our pride in being Americans.  There is a kind of prestige in wearing a sticker proclaiming "I voted!"  I like standing in line with friends and neighbors in a sort of camaraderie that proclaims "we're Americans and we know our duty!" 

I've had an interest in politics since I was a child and first spotted an "I like Ike" sign on the back of an old Hudson parked on our small town's Main street.  I've voted in every election since I was old enough to vote.  I've attended mass meetings and caucuses, held voting district and legislative district offices, been a delegate, worked as a page for the legislature, and as a reporter I got to meet many presidents, governors, and big name politicians.  I've worked on the campaigns of winners and losers.  However, this year I think the campaign has been too long and too negative.  I don't like the horrible ads sponsored by PACs and outside groups.  I'm glad it's winding down, but I feel more jittery and nervous about the results than usual.  It just seems there is so much at stake this time. 

In my early teens I had the opportunity to serve at a banquet where the governor of Idaho was the guest of honor.  I was thrilled to be assigned his table.  I noticed there was no butter on the table and hurried to remedy the situation.  Just as I approached his table with a tray of butter, a lady approached him from the other side.  He abruptly stood, bumped my tray, and the butter slid down the front of his suit. 

When Ronald Reagan was his party's nominee for President he visited Utah and I had the privilege of walking with him down that long hall at the Salt Palace and conducting him to the private banquet room where he was expected.  My husband and children were to meet me there and they arrived while we were strolling down that hall, he took the time to shake hands with each of them and laugh and talk with my family for a few minutes before we continued on. 

Chosen as a delegate to a conference in Washington DC I was impressed by the charming, able young governor from a Southern state who emceed the main meetings.  Not many years later Bill Clinton was elected President. 

Most people don't follow politics as closely as I do and that's all right.  In this country you only have to be over eighteen and a citizen to vote, but it helps a great deal to be informed.  That includes taking most political ads with a grain of salt and ignoring the big mud slams of the last few weeks of a campaign.  And with all of the national hype, a voter might think picking the right presidential, senatorial, and representative are all that matter.  Important as these offices are, remember the positions closest to home often impact us the most.  Choose wisely and be sure to vote!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Feeling a little Teary-Eyed

Today's mail delivery brought me a wonderful surprise.  My publisher, Covenant, sent me a beautiful trophy plaque called the Silver Trumpet Award commemorating the sale of over a quarter million copies of my books.  A month ago they held a formal awards dinner to honor various writers for achieving milestone goals, but I was unable to attend due to my health problems.  I'm sorry to have missed that event, but the award means no less to me because it was sent in the mail. 

Other writers can boast of higher sales than mine and I'll be first in line to congratulate them, but that doesn't affect the thrill and honor I feel on looking at my award.  It represents many hours of writing in lieu of sleep; it represents the many readers who sent me notes expressing their appreciation for a message that made a difference in their lives; it represents the faith and encouragement I've received over the years from friends and family; it represents some deeply personal messages of inspiration; it represents the fulfillment of a dream I've had since I was a child and sold my first little story to a farm magazine. 

I felt a little tug of disappointment as I gazed at the award for the first time simply because my parents and my mother-in-law weren't here to see it.  Daddy was always my number one fan; it was sometimes embarrassing the way he bragged about me, but he never left me in doubt about his pride in each of my accomplishments. My mother provided a quieter kind of support; she clipped and kept each mention of me that appeared in print along with piles of articles I wrote.  She and my mother-in-law both died around the time my first book was published.  I was both appreciative and a little dismayed when I received that first contract to learn my mother-in-law called every friend and relative she could think of to tell them the news and let them know they better buy my book when it was released.  Her funeral was the same day my book actually appeared on bookstore shelves. 

Looking at that award reminds me not just of my work that went into those books, but it fills me with appreciation for all of the editors, artists, marketing people, and the many others that had a part in turning each of my manuscripts into a real book.  It reminds me too of all of you, my readers, who have liked my stories well enough to keep buying them and becoming my friends.  This reward is a reminder that I have a lot for which to be grateful.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I don't usually post on Sunday.  I had hoped to go to church today, but found I'm not quite ready, so I decided while I must sit with the ice machine running on my knee for a couple of hours I would give some thoughts to gratitude.  The past month has been difficult and it was hard for a long time before the surgery to struggle with knees so painful I could barely walk. Through it all I've learned I have much to be grateful for.  If I didn't appreciate my husband enough before, I certainly do now. I can't even begin to enumerate all he's done and is still doing to keep me comfortable and cared for along with keeping our house clean, doing the fall yard work, running me to appointments, cooking, and so many  other things. 

My family has been great.  The ones who live close visited me in the hospital and in the rehab center.  They brought me treats and kept me informed about what is going on in their lives.  Those who live further away sent me emails and messages on facebook.  The "girls" in my family get together every three months for a girls' night which usually includes eating out at a nice restaurant and perhaps going to a play or some activity.  Since I can't exactly go out yet, they all came to my house last night for pizza and a DVD.  We laughed and had so much fun.  I love when the whole family gets together, but it's fun to sometimes just do something with my daughters, daughter-in-law, and my five granddaughters which includes my oldest grandson's wife, a 12 year-old, an 11 year old, nineteen month Jen and 4 month Gracie.  I just wish someone had taken pictures! 

I'm blessed with great friends as close as across the street and as far away as England.  You've been so supportive, you've visited me, sent me notes, put my name on prayer rolls, and made me feel cherished and loved. One even brought me eclairs!

It's a blessing to live in a time when great medical care is available and I've had the best from my doctor and his team to my physical therapists.  Tomorrow I start outpatient rehab therapy and I'm a little nervous, but so far my experience with therapists has been fantastic. 

Thanks, too, to the authors of the great books I've been able to read during this "down" time. I've really appreciated the fact that you and your publishers have kept me supplied with a pile of first rate, truly enjoyable stories that helped me keep my mind off of my aches and pains. 

I'm thankful I was able to stay home and listen to conference this year without hurrying to get to book signings. I'm thankful for all of the blessings of the church, church leaders, and for my ward. 

Last, but far from least, I'm thankful for my country and I have a strong desire to see America remain free and strong, a place where freedom reigns and I can continue to enjoy my family, friends, great medical care, economic security, and the many blessings of freedom.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Art of Time Transitions

The past month or so I've really fallen down in the blogging department.  It's almost unbelievable how much time is consumed by the recuperating process.  Though my surgery went well and I'm healing pretty quickly considering I had a complete knee replacement, long hours of my days are consumed by physical therapy, ice treatments, and just plain feeling tired.  I'm not complaining; I know I'm way ahead of the usual healing curve for this type of surgery, but sometimes I feel like I've missed a lot. 

When I entered the hospital on September 17, almost a month ago, the days were hot and felt more like August than September.  I'm home now and suddenly it's October and I go around looking for a sweater to wear or an afghan to keep me from shivering.  Time seems to have taken a giant leap forward when I wasn't watching closely enough.  Sometimes I get that same feeling when I'm reading.  There's that whoa!  What happened?  How did I get from there to here? moment.   Unlike with real life, those moments leave me frantically thumbing backwards through the book to see what I missed. 

Time transitions including jumps in time are not easy to manage, but are often necessary to avoid tedious pages with little to do with the main story taking up space and time.  Getting characters from one point to another or one time to another can be challenging.  In my present work in progress (due out in February) the story covers a span of ten years and I've worried a great deal over whether or not readers will be able to follow the progression of time as I mean for them to do.  Only time and my readers will tell me whether or not I succeeded.  

Recently I read two books with significant time jumps.  One, by a well known author, left me thumbing backwards to see if I missed something several times.  The other by a friend, who doesn't claim to be a writer, but who wishes to record several family stories in a novel format for a Christmas gift moved flawlessly between the present and World War II.  I've no answer to why some writers struggle with moving between times while others do it almost instinctively.  I just know I like to be able to keep time in neat compartments when I read.  I like to know when the past is the past, when children are no longer children, when the action jumps ahead a few years, and when the action is already past. 

There are little clues that are helpful in this matter such as placing a time or date notation at the beginning of chapters, switching to different fonts to denote the different time periods, placing asterisks at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next or just skipping a space to alert the reader to a change in time, place, or point of view.  A few well chosen words can also prove helpful.

I sometimes wonder whether readers or other writers find books with long time progressions or jumps in time sometimes difficult to follow.  I'd love to discover which books you think are examples of dealing with this problem poorly or well.  I've received both kudos and complaints about my own books in the area of longish time progressions and would like to know what works and what doesn't. Though I've never written a book that presents two or more totally different time periods, I've read a number of them and haven't found many to my liking.  Currently there are at least two series underway by well-known and well-liked authors that tell two stories, one contemporary and one historical side-by-side.  I wonder what readers think of this method of storytelling.  Please share your views in the comments.  Also each comment will serve as an entry in this month's Wish List contest.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

September winner!

I'm home now and very happy to be here!  My knee is healing and I'm being very good abiout doing all the exercises I'm supposed to do to make it stronger.  I'm at the stage now where a physical therapist comes to my home three times a week to help me.She's great to work with.  I've been very fortunate to have gotten to know and work with so many really great professionals during this experience.

Anyway being home now, I finally drew a winner for the Septembers Wish List contest.  Stephanie Svedin is the winner.  Stephanie please send me a list of five or more books on your wish list and your mailing address. Send it to bhansen22 at msn dot com.  Please put wish list in the subject line.

The contest is now open for October and I'll try very hard to get a blog written soon, but this healing business is taking a lot of time and I'm in the middle of the edit for my next book which is to be released in February.

Now to turn my ice machine on and park myself in front of the TV to watch conference. It seems strange not to be doing any signing conference weekend.  Hmm-- I actually did sign a few books at the rehab center before I left, maybe that counts.