Thursday, January 31, 2013


There's a lot of hate and meanness in the world, a lot of hurt and disappointment, but the past few days I've found myself thinking of just the opposite.  There is a lot of goodness and kindness in this world too.  Perhaps it was the excellent lesson on service taught in my ward's Relief Society last Sunday that got me thinking along these lines.  Maybe it was being able to at last begin returning to the temple. Or it might have been a kindness shown a friend of mine during this sloppy stormy weather this week that added to my thoughts. A mother of three small children, she found she needed to make a trip to the grocery store.  When she got there she couldn't find a parking spot anywhere near the building.  Dragging three small children through a foot of slush is no fun! When she finally spotted a parking spot near the building, she discovered another shopper had found it first and was ready to pull into it.  She pulled back and the other driver motioned for her to roll down her window.  Instead of the rude comment she probably expected, the other driver said it looked like my friend needed the spot more than she did so she'd just block the spot so no one else could get it while my friend circled around and came back to where she could pull into it.  

Like everyone else I've been the recipient of kindness and service.  I've had doors slammed in my face too--literally.  There was a time when I left a doctor's office carrying two crying two-year-olds, a diaper bag, and my purse.  On reaching the outside door and discovering it didn't have a push door opener, I was relieved to see a man walk toward us, and being a bit on the naive side, I expected he would open the door for me.  He opened it alright, but slammed it behind him, sending me and my babies sprawling.  

Women tend to think of service as providing meals for those who are sick or who have just given birth.  I only know of one occasion when a meal wasn't appreciated.  I remember as a small child accompanying my mother to a neighbor's house when she went to deliver a meal she'd prepared for the family whose mother had just been hospitalized.  The children, who were old enough to have better manners, informed my mother they didn't like the main course she'd prepared and that they didn't like spice cake; she should have made chocolate cake for them.  That aside, sharing a meal is a wonderful act of service, but there are other ways to provide kindness to friends, family, or neighbors.  Right now I'm aware of a woman who is driving a neighbor's children to school each day so their mother can stay at the hospital with their critically ill baby sister.  There are people who shovel or snow blow neighbor's walks and driveways.  I've often taken books to people who were incapacitated.  I once had a neighbor who routinely picked up an extra gallon of milk when she went shopping to give to someone who might need it.  The gift of an hour or two of time to free a caregiver to shop or take a breather is a huge gift. The small courtesies of a smile or pleasant word should not be underestimated.

When my daughter and her husband adopted their first baby, the proceedings required that she take the baby to Utah until the adoption was formalized.  Though Utah is her home state and where the application originated, she was living on a military base in Washington and her husband was in Iraq.  She hadn't expected to be unable to return to her base home and had left their dog in the care of a neighbor.  A dear friend offered to drive to Washington to get the dog for her.  I consider that truly going the second mile. 

During the past five months I've been the recipient of many large and small services and I appreciate each one, so thank you to some very special people.  There will continue to be a lot of things wrong in our society and I don't expect to see a sudden end to cruelty, spitefulness, and plain meanness, but I am convinced that if some of us work to hush the strident tones of our voices, look for opportunities to serve, and applaud the kind acts of others we'll create a world much closer to the one we want to live in.
By the way today is the last day of the January Wish List contest!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Writers have a thing about words.  Today Rob Wells asked on face book if anyone ever used the word surreptitiously in conversation, not in writing, but does anyone ever actually say surreptitiously? He mostly got a lot of smart aleck comments from other writers, but it's actually a good question. Most of us have much larger reading vocabularies than speaking vocabularies.  Then too there are some words that sound fine in print, but spoken aloud they give the impression someone is putting on airs. And oddly enough most of us harbor a number of words we can define, but not pronounce.  Unfortunately a number of us occasionally use a word that just doesn't fit. 

Speaking of pronunciation, is there anyone who hasn't snickered at a newscaster's slaughter of place names.  Tooele, Utah; Hurricane, Utah, Superior, Montana, and Acequia, Idaho come to mind. 

When a person is speaking there is no way to tell if the speaker is using the right word or its synonym.  Writing is different. Just this past week I've run into some interesting printed disasters.  Someone wrote aloud meaning allowed, another complained of a soar throat, instead of a sore throat.  It took me a few seconds to figure out that another writer meant pique when she wrote peek. There were a lot of laughs generated over confusing bear with bare. 

One place where one word is often used for another is when people say, "If you think that, then you have another thing coming".  Thing has nothing to do with anything being thought and doesn't even make sense.  The sentence means if you think some particular thought, you should think about it some more.  The sentence is about thinking not things.  "If you think that, then you have another think coming."  In other words, think again!  Because this is so commonly misused, it's actually become acceptable in some quarters, but I find it annoying.  

Most writers are like four-year-olds when it comes to words.  We're constantly enlarging our vocabularies.  Sometimes we pick up great words from each other; other times they're not so great.  After reading a Sheralyn Pratt novel I find myself saying "snarky" a lot.  I got "Squeee" from Stephanie Black.   

I like crossword puzzles and was irked a few days ago when a clue concerning a diamondback clearly was neither a snake nor a baseball player, but was terrapin which is a tortoise.  I turned to my trusty unabridged Random House Webster and learned something new.  There is a kind of tortoise that is called a diamondback. 

My favorite statement about words came from Dan Yates.  When he was asked what was his most important writing tool, he said, "Words."  Then went on to elaborate that he uses big words, little words, lots of words.  I agree with that, I too use words.  Sometimes I use them better than other times, but I'm just grateful for this marvelous means of communicating and sharing stories.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


According to a long ago college professor, we're living in an extremely depressing time period. The professor claimed popular fiction and movies say a lot about the mental state of people of any era.  During World War II people turned to comedy because they were depressed and scared, but continued to hope.  He listed several other examples, but the one that stayed with me concerns the paranormal.  If the professor is right, then the upsurge in fantasy, the supernatural, the occult, magic, and mythical creatures in today's books and movies denotes depression and fear without hope. 

I'm not sure why I remembered that old lecture and I'm not sure what was used to back up those premises.  Perhaps it came to mind because the last half dozen books I've read have all had some supernatural element--and these were all books by writers who are active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group that is usually pretty conservative and pragmatic.  Usually as far as LDS writers stray into this field is to touch on miracles, angelic manifestations, and glimpses of the afterlife. Let me say up front, most of these books are very well written and carry positive messages that go beyond the supernatural or paranormal.  I enjoyed the stories and admired each author's ability to tell a tale.  However, though it may be just a matter of taste, I've had enough. I'm tired of ghosts, demons, and assorted magical paraphernalia.  Right now I have a strong preference for realistic people doing realistic things whether they do it now, in the past, or in the future. 

My personal reading tastes have gone through phases since I was a small child and read every animal story I could find.  In the third grade I was fascinated by fairy tales and mythology. From there I leaped to girl sleuths.  I read all the Tarzan books I could get my hands on and from there explored science fiction.  Westerns came next.  My love affair with historical epics and sagas followed and alternated for years with mystery/detective books.  Romance novels became a quick, easy break from stress.  During all the years I worked as a librarian, I dabbled around with all kinds of books and as a reviewer I read a wide variety of genres.  Though I don't like horror, I can tolerate the horror elements Jeffrey S. Savage and Gregg Luke add to their mystery/suspense novels because they're great writers and spin fascinating yarns.  I find some science fiction novels clever and interesting, but most seem to go on much too long and I lose interest before I finish.  Generally the Young Adult ones are better than the ones aimed at adults, if they don't get too silly.  Overall, I enjoy a broad spectrum of novels.  I'm more interested in well-written than genre, but I get tired of too many books of the same type read consecutively.  Today I cringe at the thought of checking out from the library a dozen or more books of one genre as I once did.  And did I tell you to hold the supernatural?  I've had enough for now of ghosts, demons, and things that go bump in the night.

That's something I enjoy about today's LDS fiction; there are enough genres and literary works to suit most tastes, phases, or preferences.  There are enough styles, too, to satisfy readers who prefer simple, straight-forward tales to the complicated "most of the story is found between the lines" type of story. There are books with strong LDS themes and ones where a reader would have to search pretty hard to find anything remotely church related.  I can't help laughing when I hear people say they don't read LDS fiction. He/she read so-and-so's book and decided LDS fiction was inferior and not to that person's taste.  I don't care how popular one author may be, his or her books cannot be judged as indicative of all LDS fiction. If a person doesn't read general market romance, he/she will not be impressed with LDS romance. If a person has zero interest in historical novels why would that person expect to enjoy an LDS historical?  Even so, as a person who once overloaded on a single genre, I suggest readers try different types of books from time to time.  It's surprising what one may discover.

A wise teacher once told me "never get too grown up to believe in fairies."  I've decided he was right.  Each life needs a bit of magic, but for now, hold the ghosts.

Don't forget every comment this month is a chance to win a book from my review shelf or my new book, Where the River Once Flowed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Where the River Once Flowed

I've been trying for two days to post this picture of my new book cover.  Blogger made some changes that make posting pictures more complicated.  Darn it!  I only do simple.

Now I'll see if I can get the book blurb to post.

New Mexico, 1879—The Sebastian Hacienda is a lucrative and coveted ranch deep in the fertile wilderness of New Mexico, a property held for generations by the powerful Sebastian family. After the death of his son and heir, proud and formidable Don Sebastian has only one hope for the preservation of his land: his beautiful young granddaughter, Iliana. Desperate, he makes a shocking deal—the property will be sold to Ross Adams, an American cowboy, on the condition that he marry the stunning young Iliana and bequeath the land to her sons. A bargain is struck, but not everyone is pleased with the outcome. Neighboring rancher Ben Purdy has his eye on pretty Iliana—and on ownership of the Sebastian Ranch. In his ruthlessness, Purdy is willing to go to terrible lengths to acquire them both, even if it means destroying everything in his path . . . Utah Territory, 1891—Travis Telford was born to be a cowboy. He left his family to chase the dream of someday owning his own ranch, but years of nomadic living as a ranch hand have proven taxing. After several seasons of horse trading with the American owner of the Sebastian Ranch, Travis finds his life dramatically altered by a routine stop at the property. He finds the ranch in chaos and the rancher’s beautiful widow Iliana in the midst of a turbulent land battle. His instinct to protect Iliana is undeniable, and as the danger mounts, only their reliance upon each other has the power to save them.

The book will be released in February, but it is already on Deseret Book for advance orders.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tech Daze

Technical toys aren't my thing.  Perhaps it's my generation; I didn't grow up with all the techno stuff that litters our current way of life.  Case in point:  I got a new printer for Christmas and I can't even find the off/on switch and I had to call my son-in-law to figure out where to put the ink cartridges.  Now I've got to find someone to show me where the controls are and how to use them.  Life was simpler when switches were clearly labeled and gizmos came with instruction booklets. Now even if I can find instructions on the internet, I don't know any more than I did without the instructions.  (Where are the good technical writers?  Perhaps they've gone to the same place good copy editors have gone.) 

I always marveled that my dad had experienced so many different stages of transportation. As a boy he rode horses and drove horse teams, as a young man he drove a dog sled team for the Hudson Bay Company, drove tandem spans of mules or horses pulling logs, plowed with oxen, learned to drive a car and experienced the changes in cars and trucks from the early twentieth century through the very early twenty-first century, saw tractors revolutionize from the old hand cranked Farmall to the big GPS controlled tractors of today, he took the train, and he flew in bi-planes, helicopters, and finally a 747.   

During my life I think I've seen almost as many changes in communication as my dad did in transportation. I remember walking beside my sister, carrying a note written by my mother to a neighbor when I was very small.  A few years later I exchanged letters with pen pals. I remember our first telephone (others had telephones long before we did). Once I accompanied my dad to the grain elevator in town.  It was next to the train tracks and I watched as a man in a little building operated the telegraph key.  Radio, television, and now our world is full of telephones that do everything but feed the dog, toys that talk and fly, e-mail, texting, facebook, and dozens of other computer generated communication devices and programs. 

Those first articles I wrote for a farm magazine when I was a child were laboriously printed out by hand.  If I made a mistake, I had to start over.  Free lance articles I wrote later were typed on a typewriter using carbon paper.  Again if I messed up, the page had to be retyped.  As a newspaper reporter I used white out or correction tape.  When deadlines were tight or the operator typing the material into those first early computers, which didn't have screens, was busy elsewhere, I sometimes had to type the stories in directly myself, print them out, and cut and paste in the corrections. My first books involved a lot of trips to the post office as my editor and I mailed changes back and forth.  Today with a push of a button our changes and corrections land on each other's desks almost immediately.  And my readers can read it on paper or a hand held e-reader. 

I won't argue that all of these advances in technology haven't made many things in our modern world easier and more pleasant.  I miss getting letters, but I love keeping up with friends and family on a daily basis through facebook and email.  I like being able to travel quickly to places which once would have been nearly impossible or to be there for family emergencies.  My mother was the first woman in sixteen generations of my direct female maternal ancestors to reach her fortieth birthday, that makes me very grateful for medical advances.  Yet with all the good, I find a loss in quiet, reflective moments, personal one-to-one relationships, and instead of gaining more time, we seem to be pushed to tighter, more demanding schedules.

I relate well to my not-quite-two-year-old granddaughter.  She divides food into two categories, m-m-m-m and k-k-k.  Any object can become a car if it's driven on the piano bench with the proper motor sounds.  Animals are birds (dees), cats (mows), or dogs (panting sound with her tongue sticking out).  Anything shiny or pretty is Ooh.  If she likes you, she blows you kisses or presses her open mouth against your cheek. I  love the way she takes this complicated world and simplifies it into a place that makes sense to her.  I often feel I need to do that.  No matter how fast I run, I can't seem to keep up with technology, but hey, with a little help I found out how to turn my printer on.