Nov 28, 2014

Black Friday and Christmas Decor

by Marsha Ward

Today is supposed to be the day when merchants finally get into the black on their financial books.

You may have noticed that many stores started their Black Friday sales a week early. I'm told that is because the economy has been so bad that desperate times call for early sales to attract customers . . . and money, to make Black Friday really mean businesses are "in the black."

I say good luck to them all. I'm just glad I'm not out in the mess.

I don't pretend to have any fashion sense or decorating skills. However, I've felt for a while that I should make some attempt to decorate my outdoors for Christmas. Here is my attempt. It took me two hours to get two strings of lights attached to my porch railing, and although I had thought to put lights on my deck railing, my muscles and I have thought better of that plan. Therefore, this is all it is, folks. I have a wreath for the door, which I will put up when I'm less racked with pain.

Speaking of pain, I'm nursing a sore left arm. I was given a medicine that I was not told could have a side affect of tendons snapping! This earned the medication a "black box warning" due to having a potential complication so dire that the next step up would be an FDA-mandated pulling from the market.

Of course I didn't know any of this until AFTER I took the medicine, and AFTER I hefted several heavy boxes full of books at an event at the end of October, and AFTER I saw a newscast that mentioned the "black box warning." My left arm has been sore ever since the event.

Whether my tendons actually snapped or stretched, or what, I'm not sure. The upshot is that I have suffered quite a lot of pain in my left arm, which restricts my ability to type. I hope to get help for the problem this coming week. Enough is enough, but I'm hoping to be told "the body will heal itself with this or that assistance," not an "oooo, immediate surgery is indicated" sort of diagnosis. Please wish me luck!

Nov 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can't decide what triggers more feelings of coziness and delight and sweet memories - the heavenly scent of fresh bread and rolls just out of the oven or the savory aroma of a stuffed turkey roasting in a bed of onions and garlic and all the other stuff that makes it so yummy. Of course, if I were to open a debate, I would feel negligent if I left out the sweet fragrance of cakes and pies and puddings cooling on the counter, tempting fingers young and old to snitch a little taste. What I do know for certain - I am blessed beyond measure.

Last week presented me with a number of challenges - you know, stuff like our cars and appliances joining some kind of "modern conveniences union" and going on strike all at the same time. The week ended with both my husband and son going out of town and leaving me home alone with our psycho cat and a phone that only now and then charged enough to turn on and check for messages. Feeling sorry for myself, I sat in front of my computer - which did work, thank goodness - and consoled myself with a dinner of left over pizza and Lindt chocolate. Scrolling through Facebook, my thoughts turned to friends and how they have blessed my life. My first world problems transformed into opportunities to feel and express gratitude.

When my husband returned home Sunday evening, he gave me a new bag for my scriptures and journal and all the other writing stuff I tend to carry around. As I cleaned out my old bag, I came across several personal notes and cards from friends and family -  sweet words of comfort and thanksgiving that lifted my spirits yet again as I read them and thought about the angels who wrote them. So, here is the purpose of this post today: Never hesitate to say "thank you" or speak or write a kind word. It doesn't take a lot of time, just a moment or two - but the affect can be eternal.

Thank you for being my friends. Thank you for letting me share my little thoughts with you every other Thursday for the past seven (eight?) years. Thank you for always being there when I've needed encouragement and love. I hope this holiday season brings you lots and lots of everything that fills your heart with joy.


Nov 22, 2014

A Fun Writing Lesson - Deepening Your Character

by Cindy R. Williams

"You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.  --Ray Bradberry
'riting is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia --I.L. Doctorow

These two quotes have nothing to do with what this post is about other than as a writer, I think they are fun.

In my last ANWA Chapter meeting, Joyce Horstmann, had us fill in a "Deepen Your Character" sheet. Many of us have done numerous character lists in order to flesh out our characters. This list had two questions that I hadn't seen before; What is a "Known secret?" and what is an "Unknown secret?"

Hummmmm . . . interesting. I loved these two questions!

In my case, my dragon's known secret is that he is remarkable because he is the youngest dragon to earn his "Winders Warrant" which is akin to a human getting his drivers license. He is also great ancient dragon magic, something that is no longer common in dragons. This is not generally known, but I do make sure the reader knows this.

The unknown secret is one that I cannot share here. Not that it is racy or anything-- since I choose to write wholesome things--but if I share it, it will be like telling you the end of the movie and ruining it all.

There was a beauty to these two questions.They are not simple. I found that by being asked to think about the answers helped me clarify the entire plot of my book.

Give it a try.

What is your character's known secret?

What is your character's unknown secret?

Nov 19, 2014

The Wet-Sponge-Headed Marionette Rears Its Ugly Wet Head

by Andilyn Jenkins

Sometimes my brain feels like a saturated sponge. Tasks, conversations, reminders, text messages, ideas pour over it and then pool around it until they start dripping on the floor.

Sometimes my eyes close when I ask them not to, like the mall.

Drip. Drip.

Sometimes I feel like a string connects my jaw, neck, and shoulders and throughout the day, the rope cinches tighter and tighter until I can’t open my mouth and my shoulders are touching my ears.

Sometimes I feel like my hands can handle any abuse. They endure washing, scraping, pulling, tickling, patting, carrying, typing, texting, stirring, drumming, cracking, scratching, cleaning, clapping . . .

Sometimes my knees drip. feel like drop. achy knees.

. . . rubbing, wiping, sealing, folding, zipping, fixing, pushing, holding . . .

Sometimes my feet feel like cold Slinkys—the further I stretched them, the more knotted the muscles became.

* * *

Sometimes I feel like a wet-sponge-headed marionette with diamonds for hands and a wonky spring in my step trying to go shopping at 9:01 p.m. in slippers.

My mom says some days are just like that. Even in Australia.


Nov 18, 2014

Life can change in an instant

by Terri Wagner

Big changes are in store for my family and me. Not sure just yet how they will affect my blogging time, we will have to see. Over 15 years ago, my father divorced his second wife in what must have been the most amicable divorce of all time excepting Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. We were all a bit sad as we loved her, and felt their divorce was more about stepping up to take care of children/grandchildren than a lessening of affection for one another. They both had children from first marriages that were stumbling into dark places that took their time and efforts away from each other. I was much older when they married, and soon moved off to Virginia. So I really did not know my stepmom as well as my other siblings.

Fast forward 15 years, and you have a great grandchild without a responsible mom or dad, and absentee grandparents. Epitomizing their generation, my father and this wife are stepping up to the plate, remarrying, and adopting this three year old. They will move into the house dad and I have been living in for the past three years. I will be moving out to the trailer on the property. So my Internet access may be limited. We live in a spotty access area, with an only and at best third-rate provider. Getting access through a long-range router from the house to the trailer has never worked well. Suffice it to say, I may only have access when I walk on over to the "big" house, LOL.

It will be a culture shock for me. I've been taking care of dad for so long now, I just assumed it would end when he moved on the "big" house in the sky. I salute this 81 and 78 year old for stepping up to care for this beautiful little girl. I hope she remains a part of my life for many years to come.

I should probably add this is proof no one should give up on marriage. It does mean I will be freer in different ways than before, and limited in other ways. I am grateful we have been frugal (that's thanks to my dad more than me), and can afford to not only provide assistance, but have extra to decorate. Finally, a place of my own that I can decorate totally and only for me. Well not so fast, to make this transition as financially painless as possible, we settled for a small trailer without any custom additions. So I'm kinda stuck with light brown walls, brown fake wood floors, brown/blue countertops made I'm sure out of some sort of plastic. So my cream and blue beachy decor may have to wait until I again take possession of the "big" house.

It hasn't all happened yet, but by next year, I will be in really weird place I never saw coming. Not to mention the dogs. Wonder how they will take to the pack sorta breaking up as it were. Still I am really excited to see my dad happy. Wives provide a companionship a daughter just can't. I'm happy for her because she needed help building a future for her little great granddaughter. And again they are providing a sterling example of what family does and is.

Nov 17, 2014

Writing and Beach Trips with Besties

By Claire Enos

The coast from behind the suites we were staying in. Those
buildings are the other buildings at our resort.
Ahhhh the life of a young single adult! This weekend, I got to visit the Oregon Coast with a couple of my best friends. They are writers as well and we got to hang out and write and just be together which rarely happens. We didn't get much actual writing done (which was the whole reason for the weekend at the coast) but we did get to talk about writing, and get inspiration from the ocean, and do some role playing to help us get into writing again.

Top left: Katie, Kiara, and I
Top right: Kiara and I pose on the beach
Bottom left: Kiara and I kissing the whale statue!
Bottom right: Kiara, Katie, and I on the beach
Because of this weekend, I now have a new goal for myself. My goal is to get into the habit of writing every single day no matter what. I read this quote somewhere: "Write until it becomes as natural as breathing. Write until not writing makes you anxious." I plan to use that as my inspiration for writing every day. It doesn't matter if I'm working on a blog or on a manuscript, as long as I write for at least twenty minutes a day.

I am so glad I got to spend this time with my besties and that we were able to have so much fun. And who knows, maybe one day we'll write the story we started together. If you might be interested in reading some awesome blog posts by the three of us, I will hopefully soon be debuting a new blog I call "Operation Tiger Stripes" featuring the creative and awe inspiring writings of Katie, Kiara, and ME!

Love you all!


This is my favorite from the weekend!

Nov 15, 2014

November, My Thankful Month

November has always been a thankful month for me. This year is no different. I have so many things to be grateful for I can't count them. (And I won't bore you with all of them.)

The gratitude feelings I want to share today are for my writer and blogger friends. I remember going to a writing workshop a few years ago and hearing the presenter say she had made so many great friends on line. I thought to myself, that may work for others but not for me. I'm older than most of the writers here, and I'm not very good on my computer. And the younger women will make good friends, but there's no one 'more mature' like me out there.

Well, several years later, I have come to find out I was wrong on both counts. I have gotten a lot better on the computer (because my kids and dear friends teach me how to get around in this electronic world.) But more importantly, I have made some wonderful friends—friends I will have for life. 

Some of them work in the temple just like me.
Some of them get discouraged just like me.
Some of them take a break once in a while just like me.
Some of them change genre's just like me.
Some of them are in my weekly critique group, and we will love each other to the end.
Some of them like to go to lunch just like me.
Some of them enjoy book signings just like me.
Some of them are dedicated wonderful bloggers, and I admire them a lot.
Some of them are just ordinary people like me.

In short, all of them are friends, and I will love them to the end. All of you have opened up a new world of friendship and caring that I never expected to find. Thanks for enriching my life and making it better than I ever dreamed it could be.

Happy Thankful November to each of you. Lots of love, Christy

Nov 14, 2014

Downtime Decompression

by Marsha Ward

I recently released a novel, one that took me two years to write and publish. Of course I wasn't writing solidly for two years, but with intensive research and several drafts, not to mention the publishing side of the equation, traveling to conferences and workshops, and life in general, it was a long two years.

Now I'm in a sort of downtime lull before I begin another work of long-form fiction. I need time to decompress from the stress and focus of the completed task before I begin another like process.

I've had people ask me what I do between writing novels. The first thing I do is take a couple of weeks to recover. No writing. Plenty of recreational reading. Sleeping in.

But that can't last forever. When I'm tired of being a lazy lout, what do I do?

I write shorter fiction. Much shorter, like six thousand words or fewer. I have three stories in the works right now.

Or I write poetry. It's a totally different discipline of writing.

Or I think. I collect my thoughts. I let ideas swirl around in my mind, mulling over grand "what if's" for a new work.

Or I analyze and plan. What methods of publicity for my works are best? Should I up my quarterly e-newsletter to six times a year? Should I learn more about using Goodreads? Spend less time on Facebook? More?

Since my books typically come out in the last part of calendar years, a new year is right around the bend, so another thing I do is try to figure out my calendar of projects and travel for the following year: How can I juggle writing and production with traveling to events? What conferences will I attend? Should I make a box set of my novels? What awards will I seek? Will I make the deadlines? How can I make my website more useful? What did I leave undone this year that should be put on next year's list of projects? Do I have enough inventory of books? Too much? Should I consider cutting back on travel and/or memberships in writing associations? What is my most effective time of day to write? Why am I not on Wikipedia?

Whoa! Enough with the questions. They could take over my life. It may be time to start writing a new novel.

What do you do with your downtime?

Nov 13, 2014

Be Enthusiastic!

by Kari Diane Pike

A couple of years ago, I set a goal to increase my physical health. Our daughter Kati encouraged me to train and participate in her neighborhood 10K as part of my fitness goal. My initial response was "Ummm..NO." Why would a fifty-something, overweight grandma wog, sweat, and crawl for six-and-a-half miles? Not to mention suffer public humiliation. I blogged about my decision to sign up here. Despite my fears, I ran and finished that race standing on both feet and I will never forget the smile on my grandson's face as he cheered,
Yay, Grandma! You did it...and you didn't even come in last!
Last week, my husband and I made a trip to Marana to help tend grandkids while Kati and her husband Chris hosted this year's Gladden Farms 10K and Half Marathon. I missed the start of the race, but I stood at the finish line as the runners started coming in. Memories of my own race flooded back. I remembered the heat, sweat, thirst, fatigue, pain, numbness, despair, hope, and jubilation. I could relate to the effort these runners had put into achieving their goal and I rejoiced for and with them. They inspired me to renew not only my fitness goals, but my life goals. And I wondered - why had I let my enthusiasm for those goals slip away in the first place?

If you spend any time on Facebook, you've seen at least one or two or a half-million video clips of free-spirited little tykes dancing and singing just for the pure joy in it.

Little children love life. They are filled with enthusiasm. Did you know that the Greek and Latin origins of the word enthusiasm mean "Inspired from God," "Having God within," or "Divinely inspired"? Children's hearts are filled with pure love and the way they so freely share  that joy is demonstrated by their guileless expressions. 

Sometime during my growing up years, I let the fear of what others might think crowd out my passions - the things I feel most inspired by and enthusiastic about...the things I love.  I realize now that I've been letting that fear hold me back from writing and sharing the things of my heart.

Yesterday, I came across an essay in LDS Living magazine that tells about the author's experience in a church congregation where one member sang the hymns very loudly - and very badly. While it bothered her at first, the author described how she grew in understanding. The closing lines of her essay read: time his voice inspired others to sing out. Instead of spending more time worrying that others might hear our less-than-perfect voices, we focused on raising our voices in praise to Him. Thanks to this brother who was unafraid to share his voice, in turn, many others found theirs. ~Erin Hallstrom, LDSLiving, Nov/Dec 2014, pg14
 When someone asks me, "How are you?", I usually respond with "I'm happy." I'm going to change that. Next time, I'm going to say, "I'm enthusiastic!" And I'm going to use that enthusiasm, that inspiration from God, to share my voice and hopefully help others do the same.

What are you enthusiastic about?


Nov 8, 2014

Miracles of Missions

by Cindy R. Williams

We are told share our talents. We seek after things of good report. In an attempt to do both, allow me to share with you two mission miracles.

Four years ago, our oldest son served a mission in Cuiaba Brazil. While he was away, we had a flood on the main floor of our home. Long story short, there was enough money in the insurance settlement to buy enough tile to cover the entire main floor, even though the only about 1/3 of the floor was damaged--that is if we provided all the labor ourselves.

We did, and now have some lovely tile. We have often referred to this as the "Tile Trial" because at the time, the carpet was about 15 years old and in need of replacing, but with the recession, there wasn't a penny to rub together, yet we were blessed with this lovely new tile floor.

Our second son is now serving in the Texas Dallas Mission. About two months ago, the big 100 year storm hit us hard. Oddly enough, the upstairs of our home, the master bedroom in particular, flooded. The insurance settlement this time was enough to install top of the line hardwood flooring not only in the damaged bedroom, but the other two bedrooms, walk-in closets, landing, staircase and even the formal front room. That is if we provided the labor ourselves.

I visited with our oldest son, now attending BYU-Provo, about how interesting it was that we had two floods, one while each boy was out on their missions that has resulted in all new flooring through-out the entire house. He thought we were pretty clever to figure out how to have floods just where we needed new carpet.

Of course,  we could not even have begun to make something like this happen on purpose. But as we talked more about both situations, we came to the realization that with the cost of the flooring, plus what it would have cost to pay for the labor for installation the total for the new flooring each time would have equaled $12,000. The cost to equip and send out a missionary for two years is the same amount.

Our Heavenly Father blessed by giving us back all the money spent on our sons for their missions.

We are so humbled. How our Father knows and loves us.

I wonder what blessings the Lord has in store for us when our third son goes on his mission?

Nov 5, 2014

Aaron, I Miss You When You're Gone Because . . .

by Andilyn Jenkins

We’ve been there. The girls are together, and one person mentions a negative quality about her husband and three other women laugh and rush in on their personal anecdotes, describing the smell, habit, or argument in colorful detail. We’ve tried laughing so we don’t look haughty but not adding to the conversation. We’ve tried changing the subject. We’ve tried negating their comments with a positive anecdote about our husbands. And sometimes we fall into the fun and add our (or should I say, “his”) story. All attempts leave us feeling like we’re a) chicken, b) unsympathetic, c) a show-off, or d) cheap.

No more.

Tonight, I want to brag, brag, brag about my husband. I’m going to leave out all smelly habits, pet peeves, and annoyances. Aaron and I have them. Just like you. But our relationship gains nothing by putting our most recent arguments on display for others’ amusement or critique.

After I’m done, I want you to add to it. Take advantage of this opportunity and the month of gratitude by posting here or on Facebook or in a text to your spouse five things (at LEAST) about your honey that you miss when he/she is gone. I look forward to reading yours.

  • You kill the spiders. (This made the list first because you’re sleeping, and a little bug just tried to cozy up next to me on the couch.)
  • Your jokes never get old.
  • You work hard for our family.
  • Our kids get crazy happy when you come home.
  • Evelyn thinks you can fix anything—and she’s usually right.
  • You clean the toilets.
  • You go to the store ten minutes before dinner because I forgot to buy cheese.
  • You love my chocolate chip cookies.
  • You encourage and support me in everything I want to take on.
  • You actually look at my fingernails after I paint them and conjure up an opinion on them because you know I care, even if you don’t.
  • Same goes for hairstyles, clothing choices, jewelry selections, etc.
  • You don’t care about my fingernails, hairstyles, clothing choices, jewelry selections, etc. because the subtle differences don’t change the “me” you’re in love with.
  • (Awe man, the little bug came back after I flicked it away. And it WAS a spider. Right now, you’re grateful for your loving wife who didn’t wake you up. I squished it with my bare hands. I'm going to have nightmares.)
  • You make the best salmon, ribs, steak, roast, and hamburgers I’ve ever tasted. Remind me why we eat at restaurants?
  • You cook dinner every Sunday.
  • You pinch my bum when I'm cooking.
  • You call your parents at least once a week.
  • You listen to me talk and talk and talk and talk AND TAAALK (anyone else singing “Pioneer Children”?)
  • You value my advice and counsel.
  • You introduce me to all the new, awesome music.
  • You update me on world news because I can’t be bothered to turn it on.
  • You tiptoe around the bathroom getting ready in the morning so you don’t wake me.
  • You let me sleep in 99.9% of the time (and I’m going to continue holding you to this statistic.)
  • You’re my sounding board.
  • We support each other’s faith and devotion to serving God.
  • When I’m not killing spiders with my bare hands and wrestling babies, you make me feel dainty.
  • You’re my tech support.
  • You tell me I’m great when I get zero kills but only die twice in Call of Duty.
  • You love spending time with my family.
  • No matter the space or time, you’re there for me and the kids.
  • You’re proud of me.
  • You’re my children’s super hero.
  • You’re my best friend.
  • I love you.

Nov 4, 2014

Election Day

by Terri Wagner

These days I enjoy the shortest commute I have ever had...about 7 minutes, a bit more if I leave in time to "catch" a school bus stop. However, I've discovered there is a small downside...I have a much smaller window to enjoy the radio. I generally listen to a semi local morning radio show called Rick and Bubba. I say generally because when they get into the hunting season, I tune out literally, and semi local because they are based out of Birmingham. I don't always like listening to this famed duo because they have a decidedly male pov, and yet, that's why I listen more often than not.

Today the topic was voting and voting ID. No, I am not going to make this a political discussion although in fairness I should say I support voter ID.

However, today in jest, they mentioned how on earth did women get the vote when at the time the entire political structure was composed of white men. I found myself laughing. How did we manage that one?!

I supposed when the founding fathers limited voting to property owning men they had a purpose in that. Since my forever love is hard-core history, I studied up on the subject years ago. I am sure there is more out there about it than there was when I had a chance to study it. What surprised me was their reasoning. And frankly I can't fault it...the property aspect that is. When you have to pay taxes on property, your attitude and feelings about candidates changes because it directly affects you. And nearly most of us pay some sort of property tax. When I lived in VA, we paid personal property they got that passed, I'll never know. But every year I had to pay for my "personal" property which in my case was a car. Kinda put a damper on buying new cars I can tell ya. I once went from a PP tax of $9.72 to $396.50. However, because, I did have to pay, I paid attention to who was running and at least what their stand on the PP tax was.

I think it would be hard to vote without knowing how it affects your future earnings, present property situation, or and maybe especially your family. Doesn't really matter at this point who gets to vote (as long as they only vote once of course), but that you vote. So go vote. Be wise. And let's make our founding fathers (and mothers) proud.

Nov 3, 2014

Becoming Who I Want to Be

By Claire Enos

As I was looking through old posts on one of my blogs, I found this gem. I didn't post it all that long ago, but I enjoyed re-reading my thoughts on life and all the obstacles I've been facing. I hope you enjoy!

"I can feel it. I can feel the tugging from all directions. The random comments from friends saying I need to do this or that. The comments from people I don't know saying a woman needs to do this or that.

"Get a job."
"Finish your schooling."
"Don't worry about dating."
"Get a good career."
"Take care of yourself."
"Pay off those loans."
"No one wants to marry someone in debt."
"Choose a better major, you won't be able to get a good career with that one."

And, for some reason, I listen. I begin to change my view on life and the things that make me who I am. I start making plans to finish school, go on a mission, go back to school, and work in between. I start worrying about my loans because somehow it might keep me from falling in love and marrying some man I might meet in the future. My whole focus begins to change, from my spiritual goals to my material goals. I stop focusing on God, and I start focusing on my life.

I'm not saying any of these things are bad, but maybe we are placing too much emphasis on the material things in this life. We are spending too much time worrying about money, rather than focusing on our spiritual well-being. We stop thinking about studying God's words, and praying to God for help, and we start thinking about how we can rely on our own strength over God's. Alone, we can make waves; with God, we can move mountains.

I've noticed that it is those moments when I become lax about praying and studying my scriptures that I start to stumble over the roots and branches in my way in the forest of life; after I stumble off the road and into the forest itself. But, when I put God first, those roots and branches no longer become a problem, they are merely bumps on the side of the road I'm traveling.

So, I want to encourage each of you to think on this. Maybe we should stop focusing so much on materialistic aspects of life, and start focusing on God and His work. He'll guide us, and we may not always understand why the road has led us to where we are, but at least we'll always know there is a good reason! Endure to the End!"

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did re-reading it. Sometimes I just feel like we need to be reminded of what's really important in life.


Nov 1, 2014


Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. Anne Frank

I love this time of year. The fall colors sweep the earth, making a giant collage of colors.

Everywhere I look I find variety. It seems as the seasons mature, the earth yields delicious fruit of the vine

before it slips into the frosty wonderland of winter.

I am grateful for the season changes and the cycle of life that surrounds me.

I can't imagine what Heaven looks like, but it will have to go some to be more beautiful than the surroundings God has already provided for us.

The creation of beauty is art. Ralph Waldo Emerson

God truly was an artist.