May 31, 2014

"I Love You, Sister Monson"

By Christy Monson
In our mission ward, we have a family that was just baptized. There is a grandmother, three daughters, and eleven children. They all live in the same house. It's quite a system they have worked out. The grandmother and two of her daughters work. The third daughter stays home to care for the children. (They are all in school except for the baby.)
The first day we went with the elders to teach them, all eleven children (including the baby) lined up on the large sectional with their Books of Mormon open to the chapter the elders were teaching that night.
The little six-year-old boy came to sit by me so I could help him answer the questions. He wanted to read part of the chapter out loud, but there was so much chaos with everyone else reading, he needed an adult advocate to talk above everyone so he would get a turn. I helped him, and we sound out the words he didn't know.

From that night on, he's been my buddy. I don't every go to his house or see him a church without him saying, "I love you Sister Monson." He writes me notes, and always wants to give me a cookie or piece of candy. 

Don't get me wrong. He's not a shy little angel. Last Sunday he conned me out of four sticks of gum, and got the Bishop to give him two pieces of candy out of the jar in his office. This kid will get what he wants in life.
I love the way he is so open with his feelings. He has no trouble saying 'I love you.' He is always willing to share treats with me. Would that we could all have that uncomplicated honesty coupled with the gift of giving to others. 
On this mission I already know that I'm on the receiving end of the service and the love. I'm getting a lot more than I give, and having a fabulous time in the process.

May 30, 2014

The Blessed Month of May

by Marsha Ward

God has treated me very well during May this year:

My novella, Faith and the Foreman, was published in theTimeless Romance Anthology: Old West Collection to good reviews and high placement on Amazon's lists (thus making me a "best selling author")

I've been making good progress on finishing my current novel work-in-progress, Gone for a Soldier

I received word that my last novel, Spinster's Folly, was named a Finalist for Western Fiction in the International Book Awards

I participated in a multi-author sale that netted me book sales beyond my wildest imaginations

One of my short stories, Cottonwood Cowboys, not only got price-matched by Amazon when I made it free at, without any action on my part (such as begging my friends to let Amazon know about the free status of the story on other retail outlets), but suddenly rose to the top of the free Western Short Stories List and remained there for several days. Woohoo! #1!

That reiterates my status as a best-downloaded author, so I'm very grateful for the blessings I've seen this month. I've got to get back to work on GFAS.

What has been your most blessed month?

May 29, 2014

Getting Squirrels to Run the Same Direction

by Kari Diane Pike

"So, now that you've completed your degree, what are you going to do with all you spare time?"

If only I had a dark chocolate truffle for every time I have been asked that question...Mmmmm...truffles. But I digress... I get it that people are curious. They wonder why I even bothered to obtain a degree in the first place. I mean, I'm "middle-aged" and I am still a stay-at-home mom with only one child left in the house and he's sixteen and gone most of the day, so life is easy. My time is my own and I can spend my days puttering around, going to lunch, watching movies, shopping, and doing my nails - oh, and eating chocolate. Right?


My problem is in trying to answer that question. Why do I hesitate to tell people that I'm writing a book? Maybe because I don't have anything to show for my efforts yet? Perhaps I don't want them to ask when I will finish it? Am I afraid of being held accountable? Or maybe the reason is because I haven't found a way to park my backside in the chair and really get serious about putting my research into an actual book. I have never before had so much trouble focusing. Yes, in the past I've been distracted by "more important" things like feeding my family and cleaning the litter box, but this time it's different. I know what I want to do, but I seem to find every reason imaginable why I can't do it.

During my run this morning, I tried to think of ways to eliminate the "squirrels" scampering in different directions in my head. I tried to visualize trapping them and setting them free somewhere else. The visualization became one of squirrels running in hamster wheels, but the wheels weren't turning because multiple squirrels were trying to run in opposite directions in the same wheel. Some of the wheels connected to each other, like gears. Then I saw a pattern of gears - all stuck in place because the gear in the center was out of alignment. 

Are you still with me? I think what I learned about myself is that I am always going to have multiple tasks, projects, challenges, whatever you want to call them. I will always have the same 24 hours a day (minus time for sleeping and eating...oh to think of what I could do if I didn't have to sleep or eat...except I love doing both)! I am the mother of a large family and I will always have "stuff" to do. The trick is to balance the gears and set things so that everything is turning in the right direction with the proper amount of force. Balance isn't about having everything "equal". My body requires a balance of nutrients, but that doesn't mean my sodium and magnesium levels are the exact amount. That would kill me. Balance has a deeper meaning for my body and for the way I spend my time. Some "gears are small and some are large. Some turn slowly and some fast. It comes back to the wise old adage about "a time and a season for everything." 

So, how do I get the gears to line up? My first step is to name those gears and write them down on paper. I think I'm going to look for one of those children's set of gears and put a label on each one and then organize them so they all turn together - a good visual, don't you think? The exercise will help me establish priorities and give me a way to track my progress. I think that has been a big part of my problem - not being able to see progress in the little things. You know, it only takes one little loose screw to stop the clock. But that's another visualization for another day. 

How do you keep your writing goals in balance with the rest of your life?


May 28, 2014

My Bag of Tricks

by H. Linn Murphy

I have the memory of a nail clipper. Which explains why I keep forgetting to look at the announcement of my due date I've red-lined.

So today I blithely went about working up the new outline for my newest Sci fi book (the 19th of my books), totally forgetting about my imminent due date. So this is going to be my subject--not the lack of organization skills--but the way I like to outline.

I don't like to be tightly locked into a strict plan in which I have no wiggle room. To me, my stories need to have some structure but also a chance for some serendipity to happen. Lots of times the story I want to tell and the story my characters insist is their reality are two different things. Lots of times theirs is a better, more truthful story.

By truthful, I mean that it sticks to the reality of the story. If you have a character who only wears frilly long dresses, pearls, and gloves and carries her chihuahua in her Gucci bag everywhere she goes, and you have her suddenly talking like a longshoreman and breaking into Escrima, it's going to sound off. I'm not talking about a legitimate twist here, but an untruth to the character. A twelve year old modern boy probably wouldn't comport himself in such a way as to indicate he might be in all actuality a grandmother of two and eighty of the year 1843.

You see what I did there? It didn't fly.

On the other hand, flying by the seat of my pants has lead to chaos in the past. I sometimes found myself navigating strange paths for days on end and unable to slog back to the real story.

So this is the way I like to work it:
I go through and lay out the main points I want to hit like forks in a silverware drawer:

-Averil breaks out her phaser and lets the Xiril have it in two of his brain pans.
-The Xiril goes down in a haze of green droplets but gets back up one last time.
-Averil pushes the Xiril off the rotunda.

This allows for additions and changes:

-Averil breaks out her phaser and trains it on the Xiril's third brain. 
-"I'm going to enjoy destroying your entire civilization."
-The Xiril goes down in a haze of green droplets but gets back up one last time.
-Averil pushes the Xiril off the rotunda.
-Averil leads her unit to take out the other two lieutenants.

Then I go through and start plugging chunks of story into the mix, erasing the outline as I go:

Averil leveled her phaser at the lowlife who had killed her grandmother. She shivered and had to keep realigning the sites to the blackened figure of the Xiril. The Xiril laughed at her, advancing. "You'll never destroy me, human. Not before I take out your entire civilization."

Averil let a ragged breath escape, thumbed the firing bead of the phaser and sent it's ray not to the Xiril's visible brain, but to the invisible tertiary brain. Then she moved to it's primary. The secondary brain was the only one she could reason with. That one could stay.
-Averil leads her unit to take out the other two lieutenants. 

That way I can play with the story a little bit. If I do the whole outline this way, I can use it to add bits in, even out of order.

Another trick that saves my sanity is a character bible, usually situated at the top of the manuscript (and later erased), or in another file I can readily pull up.
I detail what that character looks like, how he/she thinks, any salient behavioral points (ie. intrepid, selfish, fearful), points about the story like addresses or descriptions, and anything I need to know if I'm taking chunks out of order. 

I also keep a 'slag heap'--another file I can toss things into that don't work in that place in the story but might work later or in another project. It makes effecting changes in the manuscript much less painful if you know your good hard work and countless hours aren't going down the drain. The slag heap has saved me countless times, especially if I accidentally erase something I didn't mean to.

When editing, don't rely only on spell check. Sometimes you really actually mean 'he tilted his head' instead of 'he titled his head.' And go through it more than once, preferably with multiple Beta readers. The fewer go-throughs, the more mistakes you leave in there.

Don't forget to BACK IT UP! BACK IT UP! BACK IT UP! I do it in two extra places because I've lost twenty five pages before, and the gnashing of teeth wasn't worth it. Thumb drives are your friends.

I hope these little hints can help the newbie writer. Most of the rest of us have our own systems. These work well for me, however.

May 24, 2014

Mother-In-Law Moving In

by Cindy R. Williams

My husband and I are entering a new season. We aren't yet empty-nesters, however, Barbara, my husband's mother, will be moving in on June 28th which just happens to be my husband, Jeff's. B-day. Happy Birthday Jeff!

I lie awake at night making plans on how to make our home pleasant for her. There are two bedrooms on the main floor with a bathroom. One of the bedrooms has a window in the backyard. We are having it removed and a new glass door with a side-by window and transom installed. We will replace the mirrored closet doors since the old ones tend to come off their track. Next comes the new carpet. The bathroom is undergoing a complete make-over from shower, to tile, to vanity and even a new toilet. It will be lovely. I have a small fridge in her room, and will glue a large tile to the top to make a counter, then also install a cupboard on the wall above it for cups, plates, snacks etc., so if she gets the munchies she won't have to walk up the two steps to enter the kitchen.

I realized the other night that I have been planning for her physically, but note emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In fact, the most important thing I can do is make sure my heart is right and I have a bright and positive attitude. I need strength, patience swarming in kindness to make this work.

I would appreciate any suggestions from those of you who have walked this walk?

May 20, 2014

Sayings that Amuse

by Terri Wagner

Humor is an odd thing. It is so individualized. What I think is hysterical, another person may find offensive; and vice versa. I have always enjoyed sardonic humor. Please do not confuse that with sarcastic humor (although sometimes I do find that funny too). However, I do not enjoy slapstick humor. It's just me. I did have a hard time as a young person differentially between sardonic and sarcastic. I was informed that at times I had offended more sensitive people I never meant to insult or hurt. So I delved into the difference between the two and tried to walk that admittedly fine line.

So here's a few of the sayings (past and present) I have found funny. Hope it brings a smile to you today.

May 19, 2014

A Change of Heart

By Claire Enos

Something I learned in the last few days: There are two changes of heart. One is superficial. It's the idea that you want to change, and you know how to change, but you aren't willing to go through with the hard work in order to change. The other is deeper. It's a complete change of heart. It's not only seeing how you can change, but going the extra fifty miles to change for the better.

This can also be applied to other things, such as goals and jobs and other fun stuff! For example, I've been saying I want to write, and I do (sometimes). However, I've never sat down and just forced myself to write. I always use the excuse that I have writer's block. If I want to be good, though, I need to just write. Just get words down on paper, and the more I do this the better I will be at writing. Eventually, maybe I will have a finished manuscript. So, that is what I am doing now. I am making a list of goals, and I am going to start doing some of it!

Having a Change of Heart is good! So, what can you change? How can you start right now?

Alright, now get OUT THERE and DO IT!


May 17, 2014

The Kindle and Southern Charm

by Christy Monson
The first Sunday of our mission, I sit down in Relief Society. A cute little southern lady (probably about eighty years old) enters the room, dripping with costume jewelry and aqua blue eyeliner to match her jacket. Her red lipstick has a sparkle to it. 

She sits down beside me and says, "Hi, you all are new?"
I introduce myself. She smiles, "I'm Marguerite and this is my new Kindle. I just got it."
"It's very nice," I say.

"Everyone in church has electronics now. They are all punchin' so I decided I should punch too. Will you help me use this durn thing?"
It takes three swipes for her to unlock it because she's pushing too hard. I show her where home is and help her find the Moroni icon for her scriptures. (A member of the bishopric has already downloaded her church library.)

We practice touching the screen softly so she can get where she wants to go. We find the lesson in the priesthood manual and follow along.
"The print is too small," she says in a too-loud voice while the teacher is talking. After the meeting we make the print bigger so she can read it.

The following week she appears in a purple silk dress (eye liner, lipstick, and jewelry to match.) "I tried to open this durn thing during the week, but I can't figure out how." She giggles.
We practice unlocking it with a gentle touch and find the scripture references and the lesson.
"Thanks," she tells me. "See you next Sunday." 
Next week her suit is bright pink with complementary make-up and accessories. "I just love this," she says, opening up her kindle. "When I get in bed I can read my scriptures without my glasses."

We are making progress. I show her where the page numbers are and how to search for something. We find and follow along with the lesson. At times she loses her place, but I help her find it again.

As we leave Relief Society, she looks at me and says, "Now where is that little house?"

I smile and show her.

The pleasure of becoming friends with Marguerite is one of the greatest blessings of our mission. I will treasure her southern charm and youthful attitude the rest of my life.

May 16, 2014


by Marsha Ward

I felt impressed today to express my gratitude for a couple of things.

Firefighters. I live in an area prone to wild fires. Forest fires, actually. I'm so grateful for those who put their lives on the line to save mine and my possessions.

A lot of family members and friends live where wild fires are raging in Southern California. I'm so grateful for not only firefighters, but first responders, the military, and others who are on the lines and in the air. (If you can't view that video, it's of giant helicopters from Camp Pendleton, one after another, lifting water from San Marcos Lake to fight the San Marcos, California, fire.)

Members of the Armed Forces. Tomorrow is Armed Forces Day. My nephew has served in the Air Force for 25+ years. Thank you, Shel!

What hit your gratitude meter today?

May 15, 2014

Angels and Miracles

We live in a magnificent world.
by Kari Diane Pike

I've witnessed many miracles in my life. They happen every day, although I don't always recognize them until much later. Sometimes the Spirit will whisper in my ear or touch my arm and prompt me to take notice of even the little things, like a flower growing the crack of the pavement or a smile from a stranger.

I love how Heavenly Father helps us be in the right place at the right time. That's a special kind of miracle. The daughter of a close friend was married last weekend. I had planned to attend this special event, but finances and responsibilities at home became big obstacles. Then as a Mother's Day gift, one of our daughters felt prompted to buy me a one-way airline ticket and then drive me home the day after the wedding. She served as my angel.

When I walked into the crowded wedding party waiting room of the Salt Lake Temple, I slipped unnoticed into the seat next to my friend. She turned and looked at me as I placed my hand on her arm. She burst into tears.

"I knew you would come. I needed you here so much. I've been waiting for you.You are the only other person I know who could be here and understand what I am experiencing."

Heavenly Father truly knows what each of us needs and He sends His angels to help us. What a privilege it was to be my friend's angel that day!

On the drive from Salt Lake City to Riverton, where the reception was being held, I felt the need to stop and get gas, even though I still had half a tank. I had my daughter's car and it seemed to "tick" more than usual, so I bought a quart of oil and opened the hood to check the fluids. I stared at the engine and tried to remember where the dip stick was located. The harder I looked, the more foreign things appeared. I had on my best clothes and I felt like an idiot. I closed my eyes for a second and prayed.

"Heavenly Father, I know this is a little thing, and I feel so silly. I'm in my best clothes. I can't remember how to check the oil in the car. Would you please help me figure it out? Better yet, if anyone's available, would you please send them over to help me with this simple task? Thank you."

A few seconds later, a man in jeans and a Carhartt jacket called out as he jumped from his pickup truck and hurried toward me.

"Can I help you? I'm a mechanic. I got off work early and when I saw you lift your hood, I figured I could just keep on working for a little while." He smiled and shrugged like it was no big deal.

I explained the situation and the angel mechanic checked the oil. It was fine. Then he offered to listen to the engine and diagnose any problems.  I thanked him profusely. When I got back into the car, I offered another prayer - one of immense gratitude.

Heavenly Father  knew exactly what I needed. I felt His continued support throughout the trip home as we passed safely through severe winter weather and treacherous road conditions. Did you know angels can come in the form of truck drivers as well as mechanics? I think I drafted that Walmart semi with Oklahoma plates for more than two hours before the roads cleared enough that I felt I could move on.

The view on I-15 South between Fillmore and Beaver, Utah. May 11. 2014
Life is magnificent. Heavenly Father is magnificent. Miracles still happen and angels are everywhere. Be someone's angel today. It gives you lots of stuff to write about!


May 14, 2014

Weaving Beyond the Pale

by H. Linn Murphy

I was reading Mary N. Cook's talk When You Save a Girl You Save Generations in the May 2013 Conference this morning in preparation to teach a lesson for church. The talk was about raising righteous girls so that they can bless their families and all those around them.

It occurred to me that as righteous woman writers, we are helping to raise a generation too. We are reaching out of our circles of influence into the wider world beyond. Our words can have far-reaching impact. We can influence people we have never and may never meet in our lifetimes.

Sister Cook's talk used the analogy of weaving, ie. weaving our lives into the Lords, weaving our lives into the lives of our ancestors and then into the lives of our progeny. That analogy really struck a chord in me. How can we as righteous Latter-day Saint women weave our messages into our writing without being preachy? How can we do the Lord's work and still be read by those who want nothing to do with religion?

I write over a myriad of genres. I write the stories bursting to get out of me. Several of the ones I have on the string right now are expressly for the LDS market, even though that market is extremely narrow. Those are the stories which enthrall me--stories about righteous people or those who find their way out of darkness. I hope to be able to fill the niche I hunger for. Why can't more LDS people build that niche? I'm certain there are more people out there hungering for fantastic fiction--clean, moral and engaging.

About half of my work is for the non-LDS market. Even though I can't be overt about it, I try to weave my values into the books I write. I want to write books my very picky Bishop would read. Will I catch the Fifty Shades of Trash crew? No. I refuse to wallow. Do my characters face massive problems? Yes. The rub comes in skillfully weaving hope and light through an interesting theme and vivid word pictures, engaging the mind and cultivating answers to the questions the reader doesn't even realize she's asking.

We are in effect helping to raise the new generation of readers. Too many of Satan's soldiers are writing filth today. They clutch at the minds of our children with salacious, poor-quality drivel. Even the schools have joined that side and are encouraging our children to slog through the muck. It thus behooves us to step up to the line and write our little hearts out. We need to fill our schools and libraries and homes with so many great books that the Adversary goes home to pout, dragging his mind-rot books behind him.

Pens at the ready?

May 12, 2014

My Mother Village

By Stacy Johnson

My heart aches for my sweet sisters who are unable to bear children of their own. I can't imagine the hurt they carry in their desire for a family. I have repeated often that it takes a village of mothers to raise my posterity and while some of these women are mothers, some are not yet. But, they are still mothers to me as they assist me while trying to raise mine.

Mother Doctors/Nurses/Dentists. You give the medical care to my children that I cannot. And, when you ask my kids about their eating habits, exercise and how they feel, they know someone else cares about their health and how they treat their bodies. Thank you for calling them by name (even if you had to read it off the chart first) because it makes them feel valued.

Mother neighbors. I can't have my eyes open all the time or be everywhere at once. Many thanks to my friends who keep an eye out for my kids when they are riding their bikes around the neighborhood or at the park. I'm grateful for the neighbor who goes to the elementary school orchestra concerts because she is the adopted grandma on the street.  I'm even grateful for the one neighbor who called the police on my kids who were swimming at the abandoned house that one time...kind of. Thank you for helping keeping a safe environment for my children.
Mothers Day 2014 with all eight kids...not an easy selfie.

Mother teachers. It can't be said enough how much I rely on you to help teach my children to share, to follow rules, to speak kindly, to wait turns, to be responsible for assignments, to be on time, to be honest, to reach out to others, and to serve. Oh yes, and throw in some reading, math and writing somewhere in there. There are days when you are with my child as much if not more than I am. I can't thank you enough for strengthening the values being taught at home.

Mother coaches. I'm grateful for the ones who put their arms around my kids and remind them that even the the major league ball players strike out once in a while. Thank you for getting my girl a pack of ice for her back when she got hit with the pitch. Since I'm more of a "suck it up" type of mom, I'm thankful you are there to remind me to have more compassion.

Mother Friends/Sisters/Cousins. They are happy to give rides to their nieces and nephews and make cupcakes for their birthday parties. They remember them on their birthdays and they shower them with attention at family get togethers. They like to skype with my kids or text them randomly to see how they are doing. They invite them over to play when they know I need a break or child free errands run. Thank you for knowing I can't do this alone.

Mother Leaders. Maybe you are a youth leader, a volunteer at the school, girl scouts, or activity days, or maybe you work at the library reading to the children for story hour, you have invested your time in my child's future. You could be the girl at the Circle K who comps my kids a drink from time to time and makes them feel special. Maybe you are a janitor at the high school who asks my kids how they are doing in school and you know their names and their different activities. Maybe you have hired my kids to mow your lawn or trim your bushes and taught them the value of hard work. You could be the music teacher who inspires my child to create music or at least learn to appreciate the art of it. You may be the author of some of the books my kids read, broadening their view of the world and helping them understand life. Thank you for all of that.

Every woman in the lives of my children is important and valued. Even if you don't have children of your own, you make a difference.
For all you do, there are not words to express how much I love you.
I can't do my job alone.
I need you.
You are important to me.
Happy Mothers Day

May 10, 2014

Jane Austen's Life Instructions

Cindy R. Williams

I, like many of you, love all things "Jane Austen."  Today in Deseret Book, I bought a tiny four by five inch purple book for the small sum of $5.95 titled JANE AUSTEN'S LITTLE INSTRUCTION BOOK. Each tiny page makes me smile . . . and think.

Here are a few of her instructions:

  • "One cannot have too large a party."  Mr. Weston, EMMA
  • "Perfect happiness, even in memory, is not common."  EMMA
  • "It is very unfair to judge of anybody's conduct without an intimate knowledge of their situation."  Emma Woodhouse, EMMA
  • "Do not let us be frightened from a good deed by a trifle." Mrs. Norris, MANSFIELD PARK
  • "Do not let your kindness defend what your judgement must censure." Marianne Dashwood, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
  • "Let us not desert one another." NORTHANGER ABBY
  • "There is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than a book!"  Miss Bingley, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
  • "The liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language." NORTHANGER ABBY
  • "How quick come the reasons for approving what we like." PERSUASION

I do say that Ms. Austen has a fine mind. Each of these statements gives one food for deep thought.