Thursday, February 28, 2013

My review of Sisters in the Mix by Joni Hilton is posted on Meridian now.  This is a funny book, but even though I laughed at the sisters, I couldn't help being grateful my sisters and sisters-in-law are wonderful, caring people and my closest friends.

Today is the last day to add a comment to any or all of my February blogs or reviews to become eligible to win my new book Where the River Once Flowed (or any other LDS novel on my bookshelves). 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thinking about Geese

My neighbor, the one who lives directly behind me, has turned his yard into a poultry run.  He has six big geese and somewhere between thirteen and twenty multi-colored chickens.  The chickens don't hold still long enough to accurately count, but they're pretty and colorful.  Another fifty plus doves and a few pigeons hang out there too to freeload off the generous amounts of food the guy tosses out for his birds. I suspect it's not legal to have so many geese and chickens in our neighborhood, but as far as I know no one has complained.  The roosters can't tell time and will crow any time of day, not just when the sun comes up, but it's the geese who are really noisy.  They honk when the kids go by on their way to school each morning and they honk when the kids walk past on their way back home in the afternoon.  They honk and flap their wings when walkers, runners, skateboards, bicycles, strollers, or dogs pass by.  They greet snowplows, snow blowers, loud cars, the firetruck, and any other vehicle that passes on the street with a cacophony of honks and hoots.  I've awakened in the middle of the night many times to hear them still honking away. 

We had a large flock of geese on the farms where I lived as a child.  There was KC the gander and his harem along with varying numbers of offspring.  KC was the meanest, noisiest alarm system ever invented.  We never worried about anyone helping themselves to our gas tank or unauthorized visits to our small orchard.  KC stood guard--or more accurately dive bombed with screeching honks and painful pinches to any exposed body parts of invaders who dared enter his territory.  Even us kids had to make sure KC was nowhere around before leaving the yard for a mad dash to the outhouse or barn. I discovered geese are tough old birds; they look after each other, give each other advice, and show up when they're needed.  Even peddlers stayed in their cars until Mama shooed KC to the barn.  Is it any wonder that when I was invited to join a group of writers who called themselves the V-Formation after the supportive wedge geese form as they travel thousands of miles each year, I eagerly accepted the invitation? 

Sometimes hearing my neighbor's geese makes me smile and brings back memories of being a child growing up on the kind of farm that has almost disappeared from America.  A few days ago my older brother celebrated a birthday and he and I found ourselves reminiscing about the past and our childhood.  We laughed over the scrapes we got in and expressed our regret that the life we knew then is gone forever.  And we agreed that on cold snowy mornings when the wind is screaming around the eaves of our houses, both of us have the same thought, "I'm so glad I don't have to go out to milk the cows this morning." 

My neighbors geese were not so big or loud last summer and his chickens were smaller too.  We weren't as aware of them then as we are now.  Sometimes I wish they'd be quiet, but mostly I enjoy this reminder of that time when I was a white-haired tomboy and I had a whole world to explore and had to run to keep up with my big brothers.  When summer comes and I have a garden to care for, open windows to invite in a bit of breeze, and the patio invites me to take my laptop outside, I'll wish those geese were Canadian honkers who fly away to northern lakes--or an inviting golf course--anywhere but where I have to listen to their discordant honks and bleeps!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review and Interview

My reviewof Do Over by Shannon Guymon is posted on Meridian this morning. You can read the review or better yet, read the book, but I want to focus now on the description of the heroine, Iris. She's young, pretty, been badly hurt and wants a complete change in her life. One thing she does is change her hair. Her long auburn locks are cut and she has the tips bleached then tinted to look like flames. The book is a light fun read, perfect for escaping the winter doldrums, but a funny thing happened while I was preparing this review. I received a picture of a great niece I hadn't seen for a long time. This is Katie, but she's exactly how I pictured Iris.



I don't often do interviews, but I agreed to let Tanya Parker Mills interview me a few days ago. You can read the interview here.  It was fun answering her questions and she included some pictures from my childhood along with my answers to her questions. I somehow missed her book, A Night on Moon Hill, when it was released in 2012, but since it's a finalist for a Whitney Award I decided to find and read it. To say I'm impressed is an understatement.  Picking which book gets my vote in the general category just got a lot harder.


It's always a little difficult for me this time of year to read the Whitney finalists I've missed during the year and keep up with new books to review at the same time.  This year I'm not even trying.  I'm just reading four categories and concentrating on new books.  I've got one Whitney finalist waiting for me at the library and two partials to finish, one I can hardly drag my way through and one I'm anxious to get back to.  Then I'll be done with the Whitneys unless I decide to do another category.  How about you?  If you're reading the Whitney finalists, how close are you to finishing.  If not, what are you reading and have you nominated any of the books you've read this year for the next Whitney contest?  Remember each comment is a chance to win my new book Where the River Once Flowed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


What makes a novel a good book?  There are as many answers to that question as there are readers, but with this being the time once again when winners are selected for the Whitney Awards, I think it's a good question for each of us to examine.   

I'll be honest and admit I'm not sure how some of the finalists got published, leave alone selected as finalists.  On the other hand there are some exceptionally fine books on the list that will leave those voting with a struggle to decide which outstanding book to choose as the best in its category.  Whitney Finalists. 

Those eligible to vote include both published and want-to-be-published writers who belong to the sponsoring organization, LDStorymakers.  Also eligible to vote are industry specialists such as a select number of publishers, editors, book store employees, critics, bloggers, and any published LDS writer whether in the LDS or general market.  No set criteria is given to these people; each must answer for him/herself what makes one book better than another. Sometimes this is hard because the LDS writing community is fairly small and most of us know each other on a personal level. It's only natural to want a good friend or someone in your critique group to win. There's a temptation too when voting to give more weight to a favorite genre than to one that is usually avoided. 

Whether or not I enjoy reading the book is my first criteria. Second is, did I gain some insight from the story?  Other questions I ask, and these are in no particular order:  Can I identify with the characters? Does the plot develop well and hold my attention? Is it well researched?  Is the vocabulary appropriate for the expected audience?  Does the author intrude on the story or insult his/her audience? Does the setting feel right?  Does it start and end well? I can forgive a few typos and most punctuation errors, but have a harder time overlooking repeated misspellings and poor grammar. 

One more is: Is the story believable? All fiction requires the reader to suspend belief to some extent, but there is a limit to how far most of us can stretch our sense of credibility.  I don't like patronizing political correctness, but I don't like crass rudeness either.  Another no no for me is cheesy sentimentality or an over abundance of cutesy. 

Every year since the Whitneys began I have plodded from beginning to end through every finalist-- and enjoyed most of them. There have been a few notable exceptions I considered a waste of my time, just plain boring, not up to what I consider LDS standards, and some that just didn't appeal to my taste.  This year I won't be reading all of the categories, but I will vote in those categories that interest me most, primarily the genres I read for my review column on Meridian. Admittedly there are a few books in the areas I won't be voting in that I've read or plan to read at some time, but I don't have time now, or in some cases, the desire to read all of the books in those categories.   

Sometimes I wish there were a way to choose the top books of the year strictly by the readers, no writers or reviewers allowed.  Some suggest that sales numbers are more indicative of how good a book is than a vote by the author's peers, but even this method doesn't always denote quality since the fad factor enters in, as does the effectiveness of the publisher's advertising strategy and the depth of marketing given the book.  The huge number of books, many self-published, appearing on electronic sites now also confuse any means of measuring what is the best.
Each year many people volunteer their time to read all of the nominees in a category, then whittle the nominees down to five finalists.  I applaud them.  Their task isn't easy.  I also applaud Heather Moore and all who are working with her to manage a very large time intensive awards program.  Your efforts are appreciated! 

Now if you've stuck with this blog this far, please accept this challenge. If you were voting and hadn't been given a list of finalists, which one, two, or three books which you read in 2012 would you choose as the "best"?  Please set aside all other factors and just tell me which books you most enjoyed reading.

One more thing, this is a short month so there are only two more weeks to enter to win a copy of my new book, Where the River Once Flowed. All comments (tasteful) on any of my February blogs or Meridian reviews count as an entry.  Multiple entries accepted.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My new book is here!

This is my twenty-fourth novel, but it is still exciting to get a box of books with my name on each book!  Let me know what you think!  I'm not having a launch party.  That's not something I can handle yet, but I'll be doing several signings closer to conference weekend and I'll post a schedule as soon as I have one.  Happy reading!

Friday, February 1, 2013

January Winner

The Wish List Winner for January is CHRIS.  Since I have a number of people who go by Chris who follow my blog, let me clarify that this is the one who commented on my blog WORDS.  Let me know if you want a copy of my new book, Where the River Once Flowed, or if you would prefer another book send me a list of at least five LDS novels you would like and your mailing address. I'll send one of them to you.  (A slight disclaimer:  Since I now receive many books to review on my kindle, prizes have to be chosen from those I have in print format.)

The February contest begins now.  You only need to comment (tasteful) on one of my blogs or reviews during the month of February.  This month's prize will be a signed copy of Where the River Once Flowed.