Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Words have fascinated me as long as I can remember.  My mother said I was walking and talking before I reached ten months old, but a serious injury a few months later left me silent until I was nearly two. Between my own curiosity and my older sister's diligence in sharing all she learned in first grade, I began reading at four.  I don't recall what I read at that early age except every time my Dad bought gas in the nearby town of Arco I read Boyd's Coal on the side of the building next door and Nehi Orange on the pop bottle he handed me and I had to finish drinking before we left the service station.  Several farm magazines, The Children's Friend, and the Saturday Evening Post arrived regularly in our mailbox.  My mother had a collection of storybooks she shared with me and my siblings. My older brothers and sister brought books home from school, which I read or they read to me. As you can see, I began reading whatever I could get my hands on at an early stage. 

It's not just reading and talking I like, I like words, individual words and words strung together in sentences.  Some words feel good to say.  Some give me a sense of pride because I can spell them.  Some words can brighten an otherwise dismal day. I find it interesting that some words sound like the object or feeling they represent, some don't even come close.  Many lovely sounding words have not-so-pleasant meanings.  It seems such a shame to waste words like diarrhea and pneumonia on such unpleasant meanings.  On the other hand scrumptious just sounds--well, scrumptious. There are some words I avoid speaking aloud because though I know the meaning and the spelling of the words, I've never heard them spoken and have no idea how to pronounce them.  It is said that most people have a far larger reading vocabulary than speaking vocabulary.  That's certainly true in my case.   

Some words cut and hurt.  Some are offensive.  I try to avoid these.  It seems odd that people with the most limited vocabularies are the ones most inclined to depend on offensive words in their communication efforts.   

Words go through a sort of evolution, changing with time and succeeding generations.  Thongs, square, stud, and so many other words no longer mean the same things they did when I was growing up.  In Nephi's day goodly was an adjective meaning someone with a lot of goods or in other words someone wealthy.  Later goodly became a measurement signifying a lot of something.  Today goodly is often assumed to be an adverb referring to character or behavior and is seldom used in modern written or spoken communication. 

The meanings of words are sometimes confused because some words are spelled differently and have different meanings, but sound the same.  Unfortunately meanings are sometimes confused because of similar roots.  Recently I heard someone referred to as onerous when the speaker meant ornery. And who hasn't heard someone say he or she was nauseous?  

Words are powerful.  They give us the means to communicate with others.  They give us the means to support, show kindness, share our thoughts, entertain, soothe, and work together.  Unfortunately they also give us the means to hurt, demean, mislead, misunderstand, bully, and offend others.  It's no wonder wise people have cautioned us to choose our words wisely, not say anything if we can't say something nice, and to speak no evil.  

Words are, of course, the tools of my trade.  Without words I couldn't be a writer. With the passage of years I've learned many words, mostly English (American), but I've picked up a smattering of words in a few other languages and consider myself richer for adding them to my vocabulary.  If asked what is my favorite part of writing, I'd have to say words.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


My sessions with the physical therapist always start with twenty minutes in a darkened room with a compression ice machine attached to my knee.  Other than feeling like I'm in a refrigerator this is a relaxing time to just think before I begin a rigorous physical workout to strengthen my knee and relearn how to walk.  During my last session my thoughts turned to some of the advice my parents and others have given me through the years.  Much of it was in the form of clichés, but over the years I've found truth in some of their advice, sometimes humor, and I've even found myself repeating these cautionary words of advice to my children and grandchildren. Though some of this advice has proved helpful, I've also found some well meaning advice to be completely useless, but memorable. 

More and more I find truth in the advice my dad gave me when he taught me to drive.  "Every other car has a drunk behind the wheel and the one in between is driven by a fool," he advised me as he attempted to teach me caution.  And "Never argue the right of way with a truck; there's no value in being dead right." 

When I used to run and was feeling badly because I'm not a fast runner, my brother gave me this bit of advice, "You don't have to be the fastest runner.  If a bear is chasing you, you only have to be faster than one other runner."

I overheard a son-in-law giving this advice to a nephew just before his nephew's wedding.  "There are only two rules you have to follow to have a good marriage. Rule one--she's right.  Number two--refer to rule one."
My mother always cautioned me to like and respect myself.  She said if I didn't I couldn't expect anyone else to. 

Whenever I tried to rush through a task, Mama always asked me, "If you don't have time to do the job right, when will you find time to do it over?"

My Grandpa Snowball was an interesting man who led an interesting life and built many of the dams and bridges in Idaho and Wyoming.  He was seldom without a thick wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth.  He also had a parrot that knew every swear word ever invented.  He advised me to eat pie and ice cream for breakfast so I'd get the milk, eggs, and fruit I needed to grow strong. Grandma advised him to keep his vulgar-mouthed parrot locked up when the grandkids visited. 

A classmate in high school advised me to take up drinking since I planned to be a writer.  He assured me that only alcoholics who live in unheated attics become successful writers. 

Somewhere I picked up some sound advice against becoming a know-it-all or paying too much attention to opinionated people: "Those who know the least know it the loudest. 

I've been told by more than one person in the writing/publishing field that a writer should pick one genre and stick to it, "establish your brand as one particular type of writer".  I haven't done this and I'm glad.  Writers who follow this advice may achieve more fame and make more money than I have, but I've had a grand time writing for every section of the newspaper, dabbling in magazine articles, delving into short stories, and researching and writing novels in half a dozen different genres. 

When I was a college student someone gave me a little framed motto for my birthday.  It said "Anything worth doing, is worth doing for money."  At the time I thought it was very clever and hung it on my wall.  Now the motto that graces the door to my office is one given to me by Cheri Crane, a fellow writer.  It reads, "I'm a woman of many moods, and they all require chocolate."  How my understanding of great advice has changed over the years!

There is some advice that seems to be timeless and we're all familiar with "Don't start a trip without clean underwear for in case you're in an accident" and "If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?"  Cliché, but they still provoke thought.   I've shared a small part of the advice I grew up with.  Now I'd love it if you'd tell me of the memorable advice you've received.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Adding books to Summer Trek List

I've read most of the books on my Summer  Book Trek list except Swept Up by the Sea by Tracy and Laura Hickman and In the Shadow of an Angel by Lynn Larson.  I'm adding a few other books to the list:
The House at Rose Creek by Jenny Proctor
Be Mine by Sandra Norton Flynn
The Grecian Princess by N.C. Allen

I won one of the prizes already, a book I've already read, but will be happy to pass on to a granddaughter.  It's not too late to join.  Click the icon above to learn all of the details and register.

Monday, July 8, 2013



Romance novels outsell all other fiction.  Though women are the assumed target marketing group, many are also read by men.  Even books that aren't specifically romance novels usually contain elements of romance. Romance is often combined with another genre giving us Romantic Suspense, Western Romance, Historical Romance, Fantasy Romance, and even tie ins to Science Fiction.  In the past couple of years a branch of Historical fiction known as Regency Romance has gained stunning popularity with LDS readers.  Edenbrooke, a Regency Romance by Julianne Donaldson was awarded top honors at the last Whitney Awards Gala. 

Over the past month or so, I've read three excellent romance novels that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good story.  They're not the kind of mush that turns off many readers when romance is mentioned.  They're two regencies by two excellent authors who have become well known and a medieval romance by another superb storyteller.  Because I review LDS themed novels for Meridian Magazine, I try not to review novels with no LDS connection very often there, so I've chosen to discuss these three novels here. 

Sarah Eden's Glimmer of Hope is based on a misunderstanding which is generally a no-no in Romance fiction.  In this case, however, it works.  A young husband with strong political ambitions, who is still too dependent on his parents, leaves his bride for a trip to London.  She was to have gone with him, but at his father's urging, she is left behind.  An emergency arises and she sets out for her grandfather's estate.  Their correspondence with each other goes "astray" and they are both convinced the other has abandoned their marriage.  Imagine their surprise when they find themselves three years later unexpectedly sharing a house for Christmas.  What begins with a great deal of antagonism and mistrust slowly evolves into a glimpse of what the other has gone through in the years they've been apart and the realization of how they've been betrayed.  Eden does an excellent job of slowly revealing the dreadful loss this pair has suffered and of painting a glimmer of hope for their future.  

Eden draws her characters against a well-researched backdrop of the politics, the class distinctions, and the customs of the regency period in England.  The plot is developed well.  The characters are believable, though I found Carter, the young husband, a little spineless at first.  Fortunately he matures a great deal.  I couldn't help wondering if the couple reunited, what the repercussions of a future pregnancy might be. 

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson is also a Regency and I've seldom felt more sympathy for a character than for Kate Worthington, the book's major character.  In an era with an emphasis on manners, she finds herself a social outcast because of her parents.  Her father is a drunk and her mother is a tramp.  She has several sisters who all take after their mother.  Her mother and sisters embarrass her at every turn.  Since childhood Kate has turned to a neighbor her age and the friend's older brother.  He saved her life when she jumped into a river to save kittens someone tried to drown and that was the beginning of her awareness that she was in love with Henry, the heir to Blackmoore manor and estate.  Knowing Henry's mother has made certain he will lose his inheritance if he marries her, Kate vows to never marry and instead longs to accept an aunt's invitation to accompany her on a trip to India.  It has always been Kate's dream to visit Blackmoore and when Henry invites her against his mother's wishes, the visit is more nightmare than dream.  Her mother coerces her into an agreement that if she receives and turns down three proposals while at Blackmoore, she'll stop trying to force Kate into an unwelcome marriage and allow her to go to India. Watching Henry with the young woman his mother has chosen to be his bride and struggling to obtain the three proposals fills Kate with a great deal of misery.

Donaldson has a way of making the reader see and feel the moors and the ocean and ache for a young girl with no choices or options in her life.  Not only does she give a strong view of the way of life in England during the Regency period, but she makes a strong social statement on a way of life that offered women and those of a lower social rank a bleak existence.

I've mentioned The Knight of Redmond by Jennifer K. Clark before, but I'll say more about it now.  This story takes place many years before the Regency period during a time when feudal lords ruled and fought for supremacy.  Lily wants desperately to know more of life and have a better chance at marriage than is granted her as the daughter of the village "witch."  She's really a midwife and herbalist. Her uncle begins a journey with her to a cousin who has agreed to sponsor her, but they encounter difficulty and become separated, leaving her to flee for her life.  She encounters a young knight from a rival land and though she doesn't trust him, they join forces to protect the ruling family and her own relatives, though her family long ago turned their backs on her and her mother.

The characters in this book cover a broad spectrum of personalities. Their prejudices and religious beliefs play a strong role in their actions and motives. Conquest and force are part of their way of life with its attendant cruelties and abuses.  Lily begins as a victim of her family and her village with narrow goals and a great deal of resentment toward her mother and everyone else.  As the story progresses she discovers her own strengths, acknowledges her love for her mother and her uncle, discovers she isn't who she thought she was, and learns to trust her own strengths and intelligence. It's a very well told story of a period of history shrouded in darkness and superstition.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


America, land that I love.  Since I was a small child I've been curious about other countries and through the years I've found a great deal to love and admire about most countries, yet deep inside of me I've thrilled to know that I am an American. What it means to be an American is difficult to put into words because it is a concept only understood by my heart. On this, our nation's birthday, I'll try to express a few of the things my country means to me. 

Freedom comes first to my mind.  To be able to worship as I choose, to get an education and to continue to learn in any field I choose, to develop my own interests and talents, to work and set my own goals, to live where I choose, and to share my life with the people with whom I most wish to be, are some of the aspects of freedom that matter to me.   

I love this land; the mountains, the streams, the fields and meadows, the deserts, the small towns, and the cities. There's a rich diversity of land and land uses across this country and I love the variety.  There's a feeling of pride in knowing America is the home of many natural resources such as rich soil, water, timber, coal, oil, most minerals and gems, rain, wind, and sun. 

The history of this nation brings a swell of pride for the heroes who sacrificed to make and keep this a free nation. It is a melting pot of immigrants from all over the world who have given much to form a nation where race and old world biases are softened, blended, and done away with to form a new people, Americans. 

We have our share of traitors, weaknesses, and attempts to dominate others.  Unfortunately that seems to be part of being human.  Lately our country has been plagued by divisiveness as many have moved away from the strengths of our constitution and from God.  Unless we turn back to those values that made this a choice land, we stand to lose our most valued rights and freedoms. 

Over the many years I have celebrated America's birth I've stored a treasure trove of memories.  Some of my earliest celebration memories include watching my brothers and taking a turn cranking an ice cream freezer, sparklers whipping through the night sky, church bells, fireworks, picnics with Mama's potato salad, a watermelon snugged into a secure hole in an icy creek, marching in parades, then watching my children march with their school bands, foot races, rodeos, and breakfast on the back deck. And always the stars and stripes have flown proudly at our house, led the parades, and adorned our neighborhoods. 

If I were blowing out the candles on America's birthday cake, my wish would be that our nation would continue for many more years to be a Godly nation filled with freedom, respect for one another, peace, and prosperity.  Happy Birthday America!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Book Trek

There's a Summer Book Trek again this summer sponsored by New LDS Fiction.  One of the requirements to join and be eligible for some great prizes is to publish a list of the books participants plan to read this summer.  Here's my list, which will be added to as new books arrive:

Family Size by Maria Hoagland
Through Cloud and Sunshine by Dean Hughes
Glimmer of Hope by Sarah M. Eden
Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden
In the Shadow of an Angel by Lynn Larson
Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears
Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
Swept up by the Sea by Tracy and Laura Hickman