Tuesday, December 29, 2015

YEAR END BLOG

Wow! I can't believe it has been so long since I last blogged. December got a little crazy. There were a lot of Christmas books to read for my Meridian column, my brother and his daughter came to visit for a few days, a couple of doctor appointments (my ulcer decided to act up), grandchildren's programs and recitals to attend, shopping, a couple of book signings, a few dinners and parties, four family birthdays and our wedding anniversary, picking up a grandchild from pre-school, cards to address, a Relief Society lesson to prepare, days serving at the temple, a baptism, etc. etc. Somehow blogging got pushed to the bottom of my "to do" list.

I'll admit I wrote a few blogs in my head, but they're mostly about politics and unprintable. How both major parties could come up with such losers for frontrunners is beyond me--but I promised myself I wouldn't go into that.

The Christmas bustle that swamped December was worth it. I heard from friends from long ago, family I rarely see or hear from, and had a warm and wonderful Christmas Eve with all of my children, their spouses, and the grandchildren present. Our oldest grandson married a lovely young woman a few years ago from another country. Her mother and little brother spent Christmas Eve with us also and have become part of our family since they have no other family in America. Of course there was plenty of good food and presents galore. There was plenty of noise and confusion too, but it was wonderful to all gather together. I also received a sweet note from a young woman who used to spend Christmas Eve with us when she was a little girl.

When the grandchildren were small we started a tradition of taking a picture on the staircase of them all in their new Christmas pajamas. They all still love having the picture taken, but most no longer change to pajamas nor do they smile for the camera.  Instead I think they try to outdo each other to see who can be the silliest. My pictures didn't turn out great this year, but I'll attach a few anyway.

I'll also close this blog with a wish for a healthy, happy, safe New Year for all of you.

  Before the unwrapping began.

 The nativity cast assembles.

  A whole lot of silliness.
 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Julie Bellon reviewed my new book By The  River for Meridian Magazine today.  I thought I would share it with all of you:
 
 
Jennie Hansen fans have been anxiously awaiting her new release and By the River does not disappoint. Kira Paxton is a woman small of stature, but big in heart. She wants to fall in love, be independent from her smothering family, and live a full life. All of those dreams are set on a collision course, however, after she makes the grisly discovery of a young woman’s body near her running trail. 
Her screams bring Ford Kettering to the scene of the crime and from that moment on he tries to help Kira heal from her horrifying experience. She could fall in love with him, but when the young victim’s identity is released, Ford is listed as a person of interest because he was her high school teacher.  The budding relationship between Ford and Kira is a strong pull throughout the story, and readers will enjoy experiencing it with them through all the ups and downs.  Readers will also relate to Kira’s family problems as she tries to transition from the role of sheltered daughter to independent woman and the difficulties that come along with that.  When Kira’s condo is vandalized and an attempt is made on her life, she clings to independence, but also allows those around her to help keep her safe. From all appearances, Kira has become a loose end to the killer and, despite everyone’s best efforts, he is drawing closer. She will have to use all her wits to stay alive through this story that has more twists than a switchback road with hairpin turns at every corner.
 
By the River has all the shivers and thrills you’d expect from a Jennie Hansen suspense novel.  The reader is kept guessing until the very end who the killer is and if Kira will survive not only physically, but emotionally. Ford is a relatable character, fighting for his own innocence and for what he might have with Kira. He definitely lives up to the slogan, “Ford Tough.” The other “character” that is a standout is Jasper the dog. Jasper is a scene-stealer who will win your heart with his fondness for shoes, canals, and mischief of any kind, but who also proves dogs can be a man–or woman’s–best friend. This is a quick read because readers will not be able to put it down–and you’ll never look at running trails quite the same way again.
 
Jennie is an accomplished writer with over two dozen published novels to her name.  She writes in several different genres including romantic suspense, mystery, historical, and western and most of her titles can be found in LDS bookstores or on Kindle. 
 
By the River by Jennie Hansen published by Covenant Communications, softcover, $14.99, available on Kindle $10.49
Julie Coulter Bellon is the author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels. Julie offers writing and publishing tips as well as her take on life on her blog ldswritermom.blogspot.com You can also find out about all her upcoming projects at her website juliebellon.com

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Holidays and Events Jumble

I can't believe it has been a month since I last blogged. In about an hour the neighborhood kids will start trick or treating and I'm having a hard time starting reviews for my Christmas column. Even though I've made a big start on my Christmas shopping and in my office the stack of new Christmas books to review this year is growing, I just can't think Christmas yet. (If anyone reading this has a new Christmas book or pamphlet that hasn't already been sent to me, please send a review copy quickly as this column runs shortly after Thanksgiving.)

My new book By the River is supposed to be released Monday and I'll be at the Salt Lake County Book Event signing copies next Saturday afternoon from one to five.  Please come say hello and I'd love to sign any books you've purchased previously as well as my new book which will be available to purchase at the Event.

My mind is still on Halloween, a recent sibling reunion in Idaho, and Birthdays.  Our son, daughter-in-law, and our youngest granddaughter took my husband and I to lunch today to celebrate both my husband's and my birthdays which happen to fall just a few days apart. Yesterday our four-year-old granddaughter came for a few hours.  She was still playing in the leaves and planning costumes. The three-year-old dressed today as Mickey Mouse and the four-year-old tells me she's a 50's girl, though playing in the leaves she looked like a little pumpkin.


 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

It's done!

My summer has been dominated by a long awaited makeover of our kitchen. We didn't change our appliances, most aren't terribly old, but we put new tile on the floor, added granite counter tops, had interior shudders installed, and welcomed counter-top to cupboard backsplash. Here are a few pictures I snapped of the finished project:

 Counter top and backsplash
 

More countertop and backsplash
 

 
Shudders and granite sink (Not a great picture-too dark)
 

 
Breakfast nook shudders

 
I tried for an overall shot- didn't work out too well
 

 
tile floor and new counter tops
 

 
counter tops, floor, sink, shutters, and a glimpse of backsplash
 
 
The whole project took longer than expected, two and a half months. We had a few glitches--one of the workmen sawed through our security alarm and we had to have it replaced. Special orders took longer than expected. We worked with Ogden's for most of the project and they were terrific! R.C. Willey pulled off a miracle in replacing the casters on our dining room chairs, both the plumber and the man who did the backsplash did exceptional work and the overall cost came in pretty close to what we expected. I'm happy with it and especially happy to finally have it done.
 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

MY NEW COVER

This is going to be short and sweet!  I now have a cover for By The River, due to be released in November.  That's just a little over a month away! Here goes: Ta dah!

 
 
Also for those of you who think I've stopped blogging, I apologize.  I've been kind of busy lately with the edits on both books, remodeling my kitchen (should be finished Friday. Then I'll post pictures), trying to keep up with my garden, and tending my four-year-old granddaughter.
 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

THREE LITTLE WORDS

Yay! I have two releases scheduled within the next six months.  My novel By the River is scheduled for November and the compilation of three love stories which will include my novella Rescuing Bailey is set for January. The other two writers who are joining me in this endeavor are Aubrey Mace and K. C. Grant.

Having just read a couple of romance novels, attended two family weddings, celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary, will attend a party for a brother's fiftieth anniversary this weekend, and finished the edit of Rescuing Bailey, I've been thinking about weddings more than usual. Then recently I sat at lunch with a group of friends and the conversation turned to weddings.  No, not more of that wedding stuff. One of my friends remarked, "Something goes wrong at every wedding no matter how hard everyone tries to make it perfect." Her comments brought on a flurry of stories of personal disasters.

One said her mother took over her wedding and wouldn't let her have any invitations to send to her friends. Her mother insisted it was her party and she was paying for it, so she was only going to invite her (the mother's) friends. The bride knew very few of the guests at her reception.

At one wedding the bride's mother wanted to make the wedding cake. She arrived late for the wedding with undecorated cake layers and a big bowl of icing. She said she just hadn't had time to finish it.

When I got married my parents and most of my family didn't make it to the wedding or open house afterward because a blizzard caused the highway patrol to close the road and they couldn't get through. I didn't have a cake because my mother made it and was planning to bring it with them. So my one brother who lived in the same city I did rushed out to buy cookies and lemonade.

At my older sister's wedding, mothers of both the bride and groom sat with a broken leg propped on a chair in front of them.

A large ceramic vase full of flowers was positioned too close to the father of the groom at a recent wedding reception. As he turned to embrace a guest, the vase went flying to shatter all over the area where the reception line had formed.

We followed the snowplow from our house to a brother's wedding in Montana that was four hours late due to the roads being impassable. (My family really should learn to avoid winter weddings.)

We survived the weddings of all five of our children and that of a grandson. Each one was an adventure. Working at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, I see a lot of brides which is fun. I often see and meet their mothers, attendants, and other family and friends. I can truthfully say most bridal parties laugh off the forgotten recommends, missing rings, impatient photographers, squashed bouquets, awkward attempts at humor by well-meaning guests, and ignore some of the more absurd attendants' dresses. Most couples see only each other and the beautiful ceremony.

Someone once said those who focus on the details and mishaps of the wedding will never be as  happy as those who enter into marriage only seeing each other. Those who are unaware or laugh off the mishaps are destined for a much happier marriage than those who bemoan the quirks that "ruined" their marriage. This is as true in novels as in real life; the best romances are those that focus on the relationship instead of on exotic settings, fabulous wardrobes, or detailed graphics. After all it's Three Little Words that really matter and that's to be the title of our compilation.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

WHEW! WHAT A MONTH!

Several people have asked if I've been having health problems again since it has been three weeks since my last blog. Actually I'm doing fine; life has just been a little crazy. My husband and I decided it was time to do some major work on our kitchen; granite counter tops, new flooring, shutters, back splash, cupboard hardware. It's been exciting and still is; we're not finished yet. It's time consuming too.  I'll post pictures when it's finished. 

In the middle of our renovation project I got the edit back for By the River, my next book which is scheduled to be released in November. Even though it didn't require a lot of rewriting, it still took a great deal of time to go through it thoroughly, but I got it turned in. (By the way, I'll be participating in Salt Lake County Library's Local Authors Event on November 7 and I'm hoping By the River will be available by then). 

Along with preparing and teaching a Relief Society lesson, attending a grandson's soccer games, a holiday, and all of the usual trivia of life, these two projects have consumed time I might have otherwise spent blogging. And guess what! The edit for the novella I wrote for one of those compilations of three novellas arrived this afternoon!  

My novella edit for Rescuing Bailey is due August 13th and our kitchen project is supposed to be finished around the first of September. August is shaping up to be a lot like July so if my blogs are few and far between for a little while it's not permanent, I'm not sick, and I promise to do better in the fall.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

OUR NATION'S BIRTHDAY


As a teenager, the Fourth of July included parades since I played in the marching band. Later as a mother it still included parades where my daughters played and marched or carried flags. And what would the Fourth be without a picnic and fireworks? Many of my Fourths also included fishing and stories about family members who served in various branches of the military. Above all it was a family day, in essence a small piece of what the historic events of 1776 were all about, a time when father, mother, and their offspring could enjoy the fruits of the sacrifices made for them so long ago. 

It was a novel concept back then that people might govern themselves; that matters of religion, education, employment, and self defense rightly belong to the individual. In order to prevent the kind of tyranny they had so narrowly escaped, those founding fathers drew up a constitution that called for an overall government limited to certain responsibilities. The remaining rights were to be restricted to the states in order to keep government as close to the people as possible. Such long time emblems of tyranny as a monarchy, state religion, and the education of only the wealthy were rejected. Opportunity, equality, and freedom became the new mantra of our ancestors who offered their lives in exchange for a new way of doing things. Farmers and shopkeepers became soldiers who suffered and many died for this dream. In the intervening years many other good men and women have died on battlefields around the world where they fought to preserve freedom and the simple red, white, and blue flag under which the revolutionaries fought has grown to include fifty stars. 

With the passage of time, freedom grew to include those who came here against their will and those fleeing poverty and a lack of opportunity elsewhere.  On the way there have been injustices; the Mormons were ordered exterminated by a narrow-minded governor, some areas denied black people the right to vote, Western states were ordered to stop allowing women to vote, some Hispanic transient workers have been denied payment for their hard manual labor and deported instead, Chinese railroad workers were often treated badly, Japanese families were incarcerated. There are, and likely always will be, some low-minded people who will continue to persecute those they consider beneath them, but real Americans revel in the success of anyone who works for it. 

The past week has been troubling for many Americans whether they support non-traditional marriage or not. There is great concern over the usurpation of state rights by the Supreme Court and serious, justifiable concerns about freedom of religion, parental rights, children's rights, divorce laws, and the legality of other potential matrimonial combinations. Most of these concerns could and should have been worked out without the drastic interference of a few unelected individuals. This is what legislatures are for. The hateful, insulting rhetoric being flung about by both sides of the controversy certainly isn't helpful either. Social changes brought about by majority consensus have proved to work better than those forced on people by edict. It will be a challenge and likely involve many contentious years to work out this issue. It's easy to say this doesn't concern me, but in fact it concerns all of us, and we all need to be involved in working out solutions that are fair to all Americans. Let's not let this issue be the one that destroys "justice for all" or the "freedom to worship according to the dictates of our own consciences." 

I'll be cheering at a parade, eat yummy food, and fly the stars and stripes this Fourth. I hope you will too. America is still worth celebrating. And just one more thing, a slogan I learned as a teenager, "Don't go forth with a fifth on the Fourth, or you might not be around to go forth on the fifth."
 
 

Monday, June 29, 2015

QUESTIONS TO PONDER


Life is full of unanswered questions. I don't mean the big questions, the whys, whens, and wherefores of life, but the little what-happened-to-the-other-sock kind of questions. 

Why does a charge on my bank card get posted before I get home from the store, but a payment can take almost a week to be posted? 

Why do birthdays come in batches? My children, grandchildren, and siblings have 8 June birthdays plus one the end of May and one the first part of July.

What is there about washing the car or windows that causes rain?

Why do I remember where I put something two days after I needed it?

Why do I spot every spelling or grammar error in another writer's book, but miss the obvious ones in my own?

Why do the missionaries stop to introduce themselves when I've just crawled from beneath a pine tree where I've been trimming off dead branches and I'm covered with dirt and sap with my hair looking a fright?

Where do all the tissues come from that wind up in shreds in my dryer filter?

What law of averages results in at least four grandchildren having soccer games, piano recitals, dance revues, and birthday parties the same day?

Why is it that whether I put extra insulin in my pump or a smaller amount, it runs out when I'm getting ready to go to the temple for my Wednesday shift?

Why is a trip to the bathroom a signal for the phone to ring?

What causes the only shirt I own that matches my green pants to be in the laundry when I need it?

Why do I always spill something or get a nosebleed if I wear a white shirt?

Ah life! It's filled with questions, great and small. You can ponder the mysteries of
neuro-science, debate the intricacies of world trade agreements, even postulate on which came first; the chicken or the egg, but I just want to know how my car keys got in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

REMEMBERING MY DAD


 
 
Since Sunday is Father's Day, I'm devoting my blog to my father today. He was many things during his lifetime, but first of all he was my father. One of his attributes that helped to shape my life was that he was a story teller. The stories he told of homesteading, of his adventures in Canada, a run in with a pack of wolves, his devastation at the loss of loved ones, and his adventures and interactions with others fired my imagination.  

My father, Jed Smith, was born across the river from Shelley, Idaho in a tent with wooden sides and a canvas top. That was his home for the first six years of his life. The year he started school his father took up dry farm land on the edge of the lava rocks sixteen miles away. They built a small house and pens for their stock, dug a well, put in a windmill, and his mother planted a garden. Grandpa worked away from the homestead, leaving the running of the farm to his wife and the three children, who were all under eight at this time. He only made it home about once a month to bring groceries to his family. 
 
One night Daddy heard an awful racket near the shed where their sow had recently given birth to new little pigs. He ran out to investigate and his mother ran after him with her .38. They found a coyote trying to get the baby pigs. Grandma shot and killed the coyote. The next morning Daddy and his younger brother had the task of hauling the coyote carcass away and burying it. Rattlesnakes and coyotes were a constant threat. 

After three years the family proved up on the homestead, but the crickets wiped out their crop that year, so they moved back to Shelley, painted and fixed up a chicken coop and lived there for almost four years. Though Daddy was only ten years old, he went to work for his grandfather building roads across Idaho and Wyoming. The flu struck their small community and my father and his mother, being the only ones that didn't get the flu, became the caretakers for family and neighbors for miles around. They bathed the sick and cleaned up after them, cooked huge kettles of soup to feed as many people as possible, cared for their stock, and washed and dried bedding. 

When Daddy was thirteen, the family moved to Canada.  He, his brother, and a sister were baptized the night before they started to Canada. Grandpa wanted to wait, but Grandma said she wouldn’t go to Canada unless her kids were baptized before they left. They soon discovered the closest doctor was twenty miles away and that he was an old drunk no one trusted. People began bringing their medical problems to my grandmother and she became the local midwife. Daddy was called out many times during the night to harness the horses and drive his mother to a neighbor’s house where he would huddle in the barn while she delivered a baby. 

Daddy's years in Canada were filled with hard work and little schooling, though he dated the schoolteacher. As the oldest he was expected to help support the family which he did by working on other farms and ranches, driving cattle, cooking for a timber company, mining, refereeing boxing matches, riding broncos in rodeos, and delivering supplies for the Hudson Bay Company by dog sled. In his early twenties he was accepted into the Royal Mounted Police Academy. When he graduated, he didn't become a Mountie because he wasn't a Canadian citizen and his family was talking about returning to the States. Instead he went to work for the RCMP doing many of the same things as the Mounties, but without the red coat. He delivered supplies to far flung outposts, inoculated the Indian tribes against a small pox outbreak, and assisted in a few arrests. 

One Fall, Daddy was threshing grain when a new worker arrived in the field. He showed the man what to do and they worked together all morning. At Dinner and after the man had gone, he found the man was Edward, the Duke of Windsor, who at that time was next in line to be king of England. 

When the depression brought about the loss of the Canadian ranch, the family moved to Camrose for a year. They rented a house and traded their crop for a Whippet car and $600. They then drove back to Shelley, Idaho.  

Daddy had a fine singing voice and began singing with a dance band where he became acquainted with the band's female singer. They were married shortly after. The two didn’t have many years together. She died three days before Christmas in 1939, leaving Daddy alone with three little boys, the oldest of which was not quite five years old. His sisters helped him as much as they could with the boys, but many times he tied long ropes to their overalls so they could go from the house to the barn and back, but no farther, while he did chores.

One night he stopped at a dance in Blackfoot to pick up his brother. He noticed a young woman who was having difficulty discouraging a would-be suitor. He cut in while they were

dancing and wound up falling in love with her. They were married after a short courtship and in the following years added five more children to the family, including me. 

My Dad was a farmer, but he wasn't afraid to take on any job that enabled him to support our family. He ran the farm for several years at the state mental hospital, spent most winters sorting potatoes in potato cellars, and worked for the Forest Service in Montana a few years. He was still growing a garden when he passed away a few months before his one hundredth birthday. 

There was a special closeness between my father and me as I grew up. Daddy held me in front of him in the saddle before I could walk. When I had rheumatic fever, he taught a private Sunday School class for me every Sunday morning. He taught me to fish and to shoot. He and I tramped deep into the Bitterroot wilderness area to fish together and when my older brothers all left home, I became the one who ran the dairy and irrigated when he'd be gone for weeks at a time on fires or look-out duty for the forest service. We both had an insatiable desire to discover and learn and we spent hours talking about religion, politics, medicine, the world, nature, and anything else that stirred an interest in either of us. Whenever I gave a talk, was in a play, or did anything he considered noteworthy, not only was he there to cheer me on, but he made sure everyone else knew he considered me special. As the years have gone by, I've become more and more keenly aware of how fortunate I was to grow up with a father who loved me, who taught me, and who gave me wings to fly. I love you, Daddy. Happy Fathers' Day!

 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

SUMMER PROJECT


This spring my husband and I started an ambitious project to redo the blocks around our front flower garden and to put a block wall around the large flower garden in our back yard. It's taken longer than expected due to rain, out-of-town trips for two weddings and a funeral, and the discovery that I have a large ulcer. Finally, the past couple of weeks we've had beautiful weather, other than one bad night and a few nose bleeds, I've felt well. Granted my husband has done most of the heavy work and I've tried to keep him from uprooting too many flowers, but it's coming together. What do you think?

 




The project isn't finished, but we're working on it.

Earlier flowers were a little ragged due to the wild weather, but I think these are gorgeous!


 

In case you haven't noticed I have a soft spot for flowers and growing plants. We moved a lot (22 times that I remember!) as I was growing up, but my mother always planted a vegetable garden and lots of flowers wherever we lived. One summer we lived in the caretaker's house in the middle of a cemetery and I thought it was the most beautiful place in the world. Both of my sisters and all of my children plant flowers. It wouldn't be summer without flowers. 

Recently I read an interesting article about bees. Honey bees are dying off and it seems pesticides aren't to blame as first thought. The real culprit is the lack of summer flowers. Fewer people plant flowers than once did and there aren't enough to sustain the bees through the summer, so they starve to death, which in turn, reduces needed pollination for the growth of human food. Environmentalists should be proud of me; I'm doing my part!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

REVIEWERS AND READERS

I've blogged about reviews before, but I'm doing it again. Some people say they never read reviews. That's unfortunate because reviews serve several useful purposes. They're a means of discovering what is new in the book market. They save money by giving readers a glimpse of both the subject matter and the quality of a book so people can make an informed decision concerning purchasing the book. They alert readers to a favorite author's newest release, they serve as a heads up concerning objectionable language, the presence of explicit sex or violence, and alert buyers to the general price of the book and sometimes to where the book can be purchased and in which formats it's available. 

Reviews are generally written with readers in mind, but authors can benefit from thoughtful reviews as well. A review will usually point out areas where the novel excels and in which areas it could be improved. 

Many readers like to share their enjoyment of a book on sites such as face book, Amazon or their own blogs. This is great and a benefit to both readers and writers. Unfortunately there are trolls writing reviews as well as legitimate readers and reviewers. These people get some kind of sick pleasure out of trashing books or poking fun of them. On the other hand I know a reviewer who gives every book five stars and a glowing review no matter what, which isn't helpful either. 

Here are a few suggestions for readers reading reviews. First, be aware of the difference between reviewers who write for a legitimate publication and those who just slap comments on a social page. Professional reviewers may not be as kind as your mom, but will usually give a pretty fair idea of what to expect from a book you may be considering.  Keep a list of bloggers, social page writers, and friends you can depend on to give honest critiques of the books they read. Ignore the rest. 

And here's a little advice for writers. Don't argue with a review. No matter how awful and unfair you feel a review may be it's best to ignore a bad review except to use it to improve the next book if any of the criticism is valid. It's okay to use positive reviews to promote your book, but be sure to credit the review author and the publication. Don't assume your book didn't get reviewed because the reviewer didn't like it. Reviewers receive huge numbers of books and there are many reasons for not reviewing a particular  one; such as already reviewed book or books on that topic recently, reviewed too many books by that particular author in too short a time, doesn't fit the particular publication's policy criteria, etc. 

For nearly fourteen years I've been reviewing adult level LDS novels for Meridian Magazine, a job I love. From a personal point of view, I find LDS authors are getting better and better and I thoroughly enjoy reading most of the books sent to me for consideration. There are some books, even though written by an LDS author, I don't review such as horror, occult, sexually explicit, profanity laced, or books critical of LDS doctrine. I also don't review children's or young adult novels. I do review books from established LDS presses, new publishers, national press, and self publishers in paper format or kindle e-reader format. Both marketing managers and authors are welcome to send books to me for possible review. (Contact me by instant messenger to get my mailing address.)   

Thursday, May 7, 2015

THE REAL THING

A few weeks ago I posted pictures of my garden covered with snow. Today I don't have time to blog, but here are a few pictures of my spring garden, minus the snow.




Thursday, April 23, 2015

CHANGE OF PACE TIME


Sometimes when life is at its most hectic there are moments of sudden humor. These moments give us a chance to catch our breaths, ease tension, and restore balance. Such a moment occurred this morning.  

From the kitchen window I spotted an argument between a magpie and a dove. Just as their disagreement was heating up and turning physical, a robin zeroed in on the pair like a flying missile. Both the magpie and the dove lost no time deciding there was someplace else they needed to be. 

Early in my writing career, both a teacher and a published author gave me the same advice. They said when one scene after another is filled with suspense and tension, the grand finale will have a bigger impact if there is a tension breaker that allows the reader to laugh or at least be mildly distracted before hitting him/her with the big super crisis.  

I woke up this morning feeling like I've reached that brief change-of-direction moment in my writer life.  I have a full length novel, recently submitted to my publisher, and I just finished a novella and sent it to beta readers. While I wait to hear if the novel is accepted and wait for my beta readers to return my novella for whatever repairs it needs, I'm at that change of pace moment. 

Once I would have immediately started another story, but with two manuscripts in the works I think I need a break. I promised myself that when I reached this point I'd clean my carpets. Last week's mud storm has left me with windows in need of a good washing. My garden needs some serious work and I have a Relief Society lesson to prepare. Today I don't want to do any of those things.  

I feel a bit like my granddaughter after her brother's soccer game a few days ago.  When the game ended she gathered up her little folding chair and her blanket and started to walk with my husband and me instead of her mother. We were parked at opposite sides of the soccer field.
 
"Where are you going?" her mother asked her.

"To Papa's house."

"You need to go home and have dinner."

"Grandma has popsicles." She stepped closer to me.  

Ah! That's what I need, something different and fun before plunging into edits and rewrites.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

HELLO SPRING!


Spring has arrived!  A little birdie told me so:
 

 

The lilacs are in bloom.

 

My bleeding heart is lovely this year:

 

 

There are tulips and hyacinths around here someplace:

 

Time to relax in the sun:
 

The patio chairs are waiting:
 

Ahhh Spring!  There's nothing quite like it.

 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

NOT MY BEST DAY


This has been a day of small annoyances. Ever have one of those days? Nothing big, just a series of minor irritations. I could blame it on my blood glucose numbers which have been a little out of whack for a week or so--probably because of Easter plus my sweet tooth. I could blame it on not getting enough sleep the last couple of nights. Or it could be, some days I just feel grumpy. 

To start things off this morning I discovered I made a stupid error in my column on Meridian and my editor didn't catch it. I changed the title of one of the books I reviewed from Until Murder Do Us Part to Until Death Do Us Part. I went grocery shopping and the store didn't have the brands I wanted of a couple of items. My computer wouldn't save my WIP to my backup drive, so I had to e-mail it to myself to be certain I have a back-up. Late in the afternoon I decided I needed a break from writing (it wasn't going well). I accidently paid a bill twice a couple of months ago and the store sent me a refund check. Since I needed a new pair of jeans, I decided to use the check to buy the jeans, assuming that since the check came from that store it would be accepted there.  Besides I have almost enough points at that store to pay for the jeans. I figured wrong. Not only did they inform me I would have to take the check to my bank to cash it, but they couldn't even look up my points. It seems that store requires customers to print off their account data showing points from their home computers or use a smart phone to access the points at the store. I bought the jeans anyway, but resent having to make another trip to my bank to cash the check. 

After all that, I was late starting dinner.  Half way through preparations I realized I was fixing both rice and potatoes. Maybe I should just go to bed. Surely I can't mess that up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CRAZY


This month has been crazy.  There have been five family birthdays, a funeral, a wedding, a lesson to teach, and all the usual trivia of life. Plus I serve at the Oquirrh Mountain temple on Wednesdays, write a review column every other week, got my taxes ready, just sent off one book to my publisher, and I'm about a third of the way through a novella. 

My husband's sister passed away earlier this month after a series of strokes.  The funeral was in Sandy, but she was buried in Lorenzo, Idaho.  For those who never heard of Lorenzo, it's between Idaho Falls and Rexburg. It was great to see so much family, but sad to bid farewell in this life to a dear sister. Those of us who made the trek from Utah to Idaho for the burial stayed overnight in Idaho Falls where we had a spectacular view of the Snake River and the Idaho Falls temple. 

The following weekend we traveled to a different part of Idaho to my niece's wedding in the Twin Falls temple.  It was a beautiful occasion and the bride was gorgeous. Again we enjoyed visiting with family, but it was certainly a happier occasion.  We stayed with my brother and his daughter in the country.  From his windows we saw plenty of cows, a rock-chuck, pheasants, and mules. It was kind of sad to see a lone daffodil blooming beside the rubble that was once my parents' house next door.
 
 

On the way to my brother's house we stopped in Twin Falls where two of my high school friends met me for lunch. It was the first time the three of us had been together since high school which was a long time ago.  One other friend had planned to meet us, but had the wrong date and missed our reunion. 


I discovered it's a real challenge to keep my blood sugar level steady while traveling and eating out. Not only is it hard to count carbs, but eating at irregular times creates problems too. 

And the month isn't over.  There are still two birthdays and a play.  Our oldest granddaughter has a part in her school's musical and we don't want to miss it. I wonder if April will be any better.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Enough or too Much


Life is a lot like scrambled eggs or this winter's weather.  Here in the west we've had a few snow storms, but nothing like the East coast has seen and not enough to ensure next summer's water supply.  Daffodils and crocuses are blooming.  I've seen a few robins, but the weatherman keeps assuring viewers we have more snow coming. My husband has been trimming roses, building tomato cages, and clearing leaves out of the flower beds, but keeping the snow blower easily accessible. 

A dear sister-in-law died this week and we have a niece whose wedding we'll attend next week. A nephew was a top scorer on an academic placement exam last week and a niece was the top scorer for her ice hockey team that finished second in state. 

Most people's lives are a series of contrasts, surprises, and unexpected jolts.  As writers struggle to make their stories realistic they walk a fine line between creating the unexpected and sticking to the main focus of the story.  Too many of life's intrusions and coincidences turn a story into a chaotic, confusing mess.  Not enough, makes the story incomplete and unbelievable. The perfect blend makes a story both memorable and enjoyable. 

A well placed element of the story which leads the reader to a wrong conclusion is called a red herring.  Even a red herring, however, must add to the story in a realistic way and enlarge the general picture the hero/heroine faces, though it doesn't lead to the solution to the mystery.
 
Life might be a bit boring if it flowed smoothly according to plan at all times. Books are like that too. As a reviewer for Meridian Magazine, I read a lot of books, and have been particularly aware lately of authors who achieve a nice balance in providing contrasts and enough day-to-day interference with their characters' objectives to feel realistic.  I've also read way too many that detail every second of the character's life and wander around in pointless trivia. Someone told me she skips over at least half of what she sees posted on Face Book.  May I suggest that if you'd skip over it on Face Book, don't put it in your novel?

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As a side note, please check out my reviews of four military and war books on Meridian.

Monday, February 16, 2015

RAINBOWS


On the southeast side of my house there's a large arched window. When the morning sun shines through it, it adds a colorful splash of rainbows to the walls of my curved stairway and the second floor landing. Those rainbows have proved to be a source of delight for my grandchildren. When Alena was two she pretended to gobble up my rainbows, then laughed and laughed, considering it some kind of joke on Grandma.  Today Jen turns four, but over the past two years, she has invented all kind of games with the rainbows.  Her current one is stepping between them and the sunbeams so that they disappear, then suddenly stepping aside so that they appear again.  She's even discovered that if she places her hand over one, the rainbow appears on her little hand. Some of the grandchildren have asked dozens of questions in an effort to understand the hows and whys of the rainbows' appearance. I've overheard the older ones explaining to the younger ones the properties of light that create the phenomena, and one wanted to "borrow" a piece of glass so he could replicate the rainbow and one who stubbornly insisted it must have rained during the night because rainbows are a signal the rain has ended. 

Christmas was only a few weeks ago and now in February, I have three grandchildren with birthdays, so I've spent quite a bit of time of late in toy stores or toy departments of both the brick and mortar variety and online. I've noticed toys are extremely expensive, the majority are centered on a specific movie or television program leaving little room for imagination, many are ugly or grotesque, and a good share of them are flimsy junk. I've also noticed my grandchildren have so many toys, there isn't much left for me to pick for gifts for them. 

Like most people my age, I'm aware our grandchildren live and play in a world far different from the one we grew up in. I grew up with seven siblings.  All eight of us kept our toys in one cardboard box. I dreamed of owning an electric train, but Santa always brought me a doll and a new dress.  But horses, dogs, baby chicks, kittens in the barn, and lambs or calves to be fed with a bottle filled our days. Yet, I too, stopped to stare in wonder at rainbows, those beautiful arches that span the sky following a rainstorm or that dance across the waters of an icy trout stream. They even glimmer on the surface of an oil slick or soap bubble or splash across a sun-drenched wall or floor.  I'm aware a tacky multi-colored flag is sometimes referred to as a rainbow flag and a troop of wandering freeloaders who pollute our forests has claimed the rainbow as their symbol; I'm not referring to that kind of man-made rainbow.  I marvel at the sudden burst of beauty found in real, honest-to-goodness rainbows.  Those are the rainbows that engender wonder, awe, and imagination. It isn't expensive toys, organized games and classes, day care, or structured agendas, but rainbows that invite children to dream, to learn, and to create.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Love Note

My blogs may be few and far between for awhile.  I'm trying to finish the book I'm working on and I've been asked to write a novella to be included in a compilation of three novellas.  My work in progress is a murder mystery.  I'm half way through the rewrite and hope to have it ready to send to beta readers in a week or so. The novella is supposed to be a romance and will be something new for me since I've never tackled a novella before. I haven't come up with a theme or subject yet.  Any suggestions?

In the meantime, here's this morning's Meridian column and a wish for a happy Valentine's Day to all my readers:

With Valentine’s Day this week it’s time to take a look at a few romantic stories. Love in LDS romances isn’t all hearts and flowers; it has more to do with commitment, respect, loyalty, sacrifice, and eternal values. Many Romances written by LDS authors are ridiculed because of their squeaky clean language and lack of sexual themes. In a world where erotica masquerades as love, pornography replaces respect, crudeness is substituted for tenderness, and commitment is scorned, many readers welcome the beauty of real love stories, stories that express the tender feelings of those who care enough for each other to share eternity, build a family together, and link their fate through whatever may befall one or both.
Romance is an element of almost all fiction. Even Western writer Louis L’Amour once said every book needs to have a woman. Some books such as Romantic Suspense put the emphasis on the suspense, but the romance is a strong secondary theme. The same is true of other sub or combined genres. With members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ emphasis on eternal marriage and forever families, it is only logical that many LDS writers turn to the emotions and circumstances that draw a man and a woman together to form this essential unit. Today’s reviews highlight several pioneer era novels written by LDS authors covering, different locations, and different circumstances leading to two people discovering the depth of their feelings for each other. They aren’t strictly Romances, but they are love stories.
Pioneering didn’t end with arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Many of those who reached Zion went on to face danger and trials as they were called to establish other communities throughout the West. More and more these pioneer stories are taking their place alongside the wagon trains and handcart marches of the first ten pioneer settlement years in the historical lore of the Saints. Only_the_BraveIn the style of The Work and the Glory series, Gerald Lund continues the saga of the San Juan pioneers he portrayed in The Undaunted, the story of the brave people who became known for their descent through the “hole in the rock.” Instead of continuing with the lives of the characters he created for that book, he moves the story four years ahead and to different families of characters. The major character becomes sixteen-year-old Mitch Westland and covers the next four years as he becomes a man facing Indians, outlaws, extreme weather, challenges to his faith, an unpredictable river, a lot of hard work, and falling in love.
Those first pioneers in the Southeastern corner of Utah in what is now referred to as “The Four Corners Region” were given three charges. They were to be buffers between the white settlers and the Native Americans, Shock Absorbers, softening the blows for those who were to come, and Lightning Rods, drawing the fires of heaven down upon themselves so the flames wouldn’t consume others. These charges and the turbulent changes and policies taking place in the 1880s both in the United States and in Utah made strong people stronger both physically and spiritually, turning boys like Mitch into unshakable men, and women like young Edna Zimmer into towers of strength.
Lund is as much historian as novelist. As in his earlier much loved series, each chapter ends with a section of footnotes detailing the sources used and the historical details of the real incidents he borrowed for his characters. He plans for this series to continue and merge with another new series called Fire and Steel. A long time educator, the former member of the Quorum of the Seventy (2002-2008) has devoted much of his life to studying the history and doctrine of the Church.
Betrayed_COVER
It’s 1851 in Niagara Falls, New York, when Julia Barrett receives a letter from her fiancé, Adam Wolcott telling her that after being away for two years he is coming home. In spite of her older sister Margaret’s words of caution reminding her he didn’t write to her during most of that time, she is anxious to see him and make plans for their wedding. While waiting for Adam at the designated meeting place, she meets Tom Harrison, a magician who is also a friend of her brother, James, who went west with the Mormon pioneers. When Tom arrives at her family’s farm later that evening, it is to inform them of James’s tragic death.
The Barrett family’s life is turned upside down as they mourn James’s death. Their plans to go west to join others of their faith in the Salt Lake Valley are delayed by Julia’s determination to stay behind to marry Adam, the sudden arrival of a black man they must hide and send on to the next stop on the underground railroad, and the murder of a neighboring family by a notorious crime family. A seven-year-old child is the one unaccounted for member of the dead family and a massive hunt begins for her. Almost everyone is either searching for the black man or the missing child. Tom becomes involved when he volunteers to scatter bits of the black man’s shirt away from the Barrett house to throw the dogs off his trail. While on this errand he encounters an old Indian man carrying the missing child. The old man warns Tom the child is in danger and begs him to take her to the Barrett family to keep her safe from the people who murdered her family as they will stop at nothing to remove the only witness.
Julia is aware Adam is keeping secrets from her, but worries more about the secrets she is keeping from him. She wants to tell him about being part of the underground railroad and about the missing child, but her family make her promise not to tell him. She feels a strong connection to Tom, but blames him for her brother’s death because he didn’t follow a prompting that could have saved James’s life.
Julia grapples with her testimony, with her desire to believe all is the way she wants it to be, with premonitions, her love for a child who needs her, her desire to please others, and her ambivalent feelings for two men for whom she has strong feelings. She is a well-developed character with whom the reader can identify. Adam, too, is a character with whom the reader can identify, one who is liked for the good in him and mourned for his weaknesses. Tom’s past is only hinted at, but his strengths are demonstrated in his actions. Minor characters are individuals who add depth to the novel.
Several interesting dilemmas are introduced in addition to that of which man she should marry. How can a person tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and a desire? Is it better to obey the law or to protect a runaway black man from a vicious slave catcher? And there are others concerning race, loyalty, and promises.
Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen grew up in Idaho. She is married and the mother of three children. This is her third published novel.
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For many Pioneers conversion, sacrifice, and the journey to Zion began on another continent and those pioneers’ trials began long before they reached America’s shore. Along with the challenges of being pioneers, there was the problem of learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture. Life continued on with its usual challenges, including falling in love. Tina Peterson Scott recounts the journey of a seventeen-year-old girl, Catherine Erichsen, who leaves Denmark with the 1863 migration of Danish converts aboard the John J. Boyd in her riveting novel, Farewell My Denmark.
Catherine doesn’t expect to leave Denmark with her parents and younger sisters. She is in love and plans to marry and stay behind to care for an ailing aunt. When her engagement is broken just before the family plans to leave, she opts to leave too, but is devastated to learn her sister and closest friend in the world refuses to go. The sister is determined to stay with the elderly ill aunt and is confident the man who has been courting her will propose, giving her an added reason to stay behind. The journey to Copenhagen where they will board the ship is difficult and Catherine is uncertain she can go through with leaving her country or her sister. She prays another opportunity to marry will come her way.
Aboard the ship she draws the attention of three men, all with admirable qualities, though one is nearly as old as her father and a widower. The other two are brothers closer to her age. Lars is tall, blonde, outgoing, and everything she has always dreamed her future husband should be. Josef is quieter, has red hair, and has captivating green eyes.
It isn’t long before it becomes obvious there is a thief aboard the ship. Valuable jewelry and family heirlooms disappear. Catherine sees and hears enough to become suspicious of two crew members. Foolishly she attempts to search their quarters and is caught, but not before learning enough to place both her safety and that of her two youngest sisters in serious jeopardy.
This well-researched novel is a mixture of the recounting of an important historical event, a serious examination of both faith and prayer, and the natural longing of a young woman for someone to love and to be loved in return. The characters are believable with great family interaction. The author, a native of Arizona, is a direct descendant of Danish immigrants and her deep love for Scandinavia shines through in her portrayal of the land and the people.
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ONLY THE BRAVE by Gerald N. Lund, published by Deseret Book, 272 pages, hard cover $21.99, Also available on CD and for e-readers.
BETRAYED by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, published by Covenant Communications, 291 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers. 
FAREWELL MY DENMARK by Tina Peterson Scott, published by Foutz Fables and More, 285 pages, soft cover $13.23, e-reader $2.99.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

WIN A BOOK

I didn't write a blog this morning, but I'm inviting readers to read my column on Meridian. I tried something new, using four new novels I particularly enjoyed reading, to stress the importance of creating characters with the faults and foibles that make characters feel like real people. In each of the four books I reviewed, the flawed main character goes through a growth process, making him or her a better, stronger person. I would love having you add comments on this topic.  So here's the deal:  Everyone who comments by midnight Feb. 1, 2015, on the V-formation blog, on Notes from Jennie, on my Meridian column, or on Facebook will get their name in a drawing for my copy of one of these four books: Deadly Secrets by Frank Richardson, Wedding Cake by Josi Killpack, Lady Emma's Campaign by Jennifer Moore, or Danger Ahead by Betsy Brannon Green.



 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Perspective


After six years as a newspaper editor I have a strong commitment to freedom of the press.  Still recent events have me thinking not only about the journalism instruction I received that became a part of me and the values important to me, but of some of the cliché sayings my parents used to teach me on how to make right choices.  Many of those old clichés have direct bearing on some of today's problems.

First off I'm as horrified as anyone by the needless massacre of the "Charlie" publication staff in Paris.  Murder is pretty hard to justify.  Still deliberately antagonizing fanatics as that staff did with their caricatures of Mohammad reminds me of a saying of my parents:  "Just because you can, doesn't make it right." Add to that "If you stick your head in a bee's nest, you'll get stung" and "If you tease the cat, you'll get scratched."
 
Along with a firm commitment to freedom of speech, I also believe in respecting other's religious views. Almost everyone knows the Muslim world opposes drawings, photos, or any kind of artistic depiction of their prophet. To draw caricatures of him is to insult and offend those of his faith.  Isn't this a lot like "poking a sleeping dog?" Or as my dad would say, "Be careful poking sticks at someone else's sacred cows." 

I don't like it when someone ridicules my religious beliefs and in a world where there's great emphasis on tolerance and acceptance of differences, I often find those yelling the loudest are the biggest bigots and show the greatest intolerance. I'll stand up for my beliefs and allow you the same privilege, but I don't condone either of us restricting or insulting the other for our beliefs. Freedom of speech doesn't mean it's all right to yell "fire" in a crowded building.  Neither does it mean you can trample on the religious beliefs of others or toss aside good sense.  In my view the magazine staff was wrong to publish a caricature they knew was offensive to adherents of Islam and to continue to "throw gasoline on the flames," by continuing to do so, but just as"two wrongs don't make a right" there is nothing right about the response of radical Islamists to this offense.  I suspect most Muslims are like me, the offensive drawings would cause personal hurt, maybe even anger, but they wouldn't make it worse by perpetrating a greater wrong. They would simply walk away and pity the offender for his ignorance. 

There are times journalists must publish something hurtful in their pursuit of truth and justice.  In this case poking fun of a religious leader served no purpose other than to insult.  The Islamic fanatics who murdered those who offended them accomplished nothing other than to enrich "Charlie's" coffers by creating a greater demand for the publication and costing further lives.  My mother would say "Some people don't have the good sense God gave a goose."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

NEW YEAR, NEW SIZE

I suspect the most common wish for most people as a new year rolls around is to lose weight. Losing weight generally means having better health, more energy, looking more attractive, and it gives our self esteem a positive boost. With each new year people vow to attend a gym regularly, take up an active sport, and eat less.  These fine resolutions seldom survive through the end of January.

 A year ago I lost 54 pounds. I don't recommend losing weight the way I did however.  Along with losing pounds I lost my pancreas and gall bladder and became a severe diabetic. A serious illness is not the best way to lose weight. Now it's a matter of working to continue to have new years to worry about.  For all of you, who like me, are striving to lose weight or keep from gaining weight, here are a few suggestions.

Start when you first wake up in the morning.  Sit on the edge of your bed and swing your feet out straight, then down, and up again for twenty swings. (Easy huh?)

Plan ten to twenty minutes of vigorous exercise each day at a set time like right after you crawl out of the bathroom first thing after getting out of bed. (How's that for a convoluted sentence?)This can be riding a stationary bike, walking up and down stairs, riding a bike, running, gardening, shoveling snow, etc.

Walk more, take the stairs instead of the elevator, tackle a major house cleaning project each day such as vacuuming, washing windows, or shopping (online doesn't count). Those people, like writers, who spend long hours sitting at the computer should plan on getting out of the chair and walking around the house or yard at least five minutes every hour.

Play something that involves movement such as taking the kids sledding, tramping around the zoo, play some sport, swim. Find an activity you enjoy and your chances of keeping it up improve.

Include two kinds of activities in your lifestyle.  Remember exercises that involve repetitive use of the long muscles of arms or legs strengthen the cardio vascular system while weight lifting exercise tightens and builds muscles.  (Working out with those small weights two or three times a week miraculously reduces belly fat.)

The one exercise we need to do less of is the one that bends the elbow of the arm attached to our forks.  Seriously people, chips, soda, processed foods, and second helpings have to go. As a diabetic I have to count every carb that goes into my mouth.  Reading labels and avoiding or reducing the carbs (found in starchy and sweet foods) is not easy, but it can be done.  An occasional treat is okay as long as occasional means once a week or once a month, NOT once a day.

Joining a gym or a weight reduction club or group is helpful for many people, but too expensive for others.  They're worth the price for those with a serious weight problem, but not absolutely necessary for the rest of us. Some people do better and stick to their plan better if boosted by a group, but for those with strong self-motivation or limited time you can lose that weight or keep off weight you've worked to lose by small changes in your lifestyle and a determined mind set.

It's easy to put off keeping those pounds in check until a better time.  Unfortunately I learned the hard way there isn't a better time.  It has to be now.  Besides I gave away my fat clothes and have had a difficult time finding a new wardrobe.  I don't want to go through buying new fat clothes.