Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why and How To Write Nonfiction

I'm out of, well, country, this week, so here are some notes from a recent workshop I presented: 

Reasons To Write A Non Fiction Book
1. You’re already an expert on ... something. Do you have parenting skills, nursing insights, do your friends rave about your Thai cooking, can you re-seat a rattan chair or keep iguanas alive? 
2. They sell, and, if you find a niche, often earn more money than fiction
3. It’s easier than you think! Just lay out facts, add details, maybe a sketch or two, get a proofreader, and off you go. 
I know it’s effective, easy and profitable. I’ve self-published eleven nonfiction books, with much less angst than my novels, and they’re bringing in significantly more money each month!  My first, a book on cruise vacations, is still selling dozens a week after 2 1/2 years, and has over 310 reviews on Amazon. The much shorter kid-activity series is nothing more than my files from my seven years as a Girl Scout leader and four as a den mother in the pre-Pinterest era, arranged with line drawings. 
The How To:
See A Need, Meet That Need. The best-selling non-fiction books fill a gap, or add a twist to a topic that interests people. Ancient crocheting techniques may not be a best-seller, but How To (almost anything!) books sell like crazy.
Identify Your Audience. The narrower it is, the more successful the book can be, with the exception of a few highly niche markets. A highly-technical topic may require more detail than a book on party games. 
Keep It The Right Length. Fiction books have strict rules about length, depending on genre. Nonfiction can be anywhere from a pamphlet to epic-length. Around 20,000 words is a good starting point. This frees up time; I finished six of my shorter nonfiction books in under three months.
Know Your Competition. The trick is to present it in a way that is relatable, understandable, and utilize your unique voice. Use your voice to fill gaps not covered by other eBooks in your niche. Zero in: “Low carb” is ho-hum but “Low carb traveler” is a unique perspective. Do some research and see what else is already available, then figure out how you can make it your own.
Write What You Know. If you have years of experience gardening with carrots, traveling by kayak, or cooking for a veggie-adverse family, speak up! What talents have you developed through Church activity? Go ahead and research. You don’t have to know it all beforehand, but be familiar with your subject. Readers see right through flim-flam.
Use Real Life Examples to make your book relatable. Unless you’re writing a yawn-worthy college textbook, make it interesting, not dry. Add in personal stories and real-world experiences to enhance your point, yours or other people’s. Your readers want to learn from you, so share!
Read. Research up-to-date information, identify your competition, find gaps and find a way to fill the need. Read reviews on other books in your field. What are reviewers complaining about? Are they getting the same old thing with no unique perspective? Are they expecting more advanced strategies? Use their negative reviews of your competition to fill that gap with your own book.
Watch The Market. Be aware of seasons; Camping and gardening books sell better in the spring and summer, holiday craft books do better in the autumn, be aware of travel seasons if you write travel books. Try to release your book at the proper time.
Humor is Your Best Friend, regardless of topic. Humor relieves tension, spruces up boring areas, and helps your book be more relatable, as well as cementing facts in your readers’ minds. A two-line story can make even papercuts interesting.

Try a search online for “How To Write Non-Fiction” and while you’re there, look up “How To Self-Publish.” I find that works best for   nonfiction.. It’s a faster way to get books Out There, which is especially important for very current topics. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Time Enough

by Kari Diane Pike 

Time. I can spend it, waste it, kill it, or use it wisely but no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to find a way to save it. I remember people asking me what I would do with all my spare time once all our children were in school. And again when our youngest left home for college and a mission. That was two years ago and I have yet to find all that spare time I hear others talk about. 

To be completely honest, I do have a little more "control" over how I use my time. I don't often have little ones who need to be fed and bathed and dressed and hugged. My laundry loads shrank from three to five loads a day to just three or four loads twice a week. So yeah. There's that. 

The past two weeks have been stuffed with doctor appointments, tending grandchildren, end-of-school activities with said grandchildren - piano recitals, choir concerts, lunches, etc. all on top of the usual need to prepare meals, shop for groceries, water the garden, and so on. Today is a family wedding, so lots of out-of-town guests, food prep, errands, and more. And no time to write...

What I have discovered however, is that when I tend to the most important things, I have time enough and to spare. Time expands to fill every need and even some of the wants.

How do you find time?

Life is magnificent. 


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Business of Indie Publishing: Print Editions

by Marsha Ward

I’ve just finished taking a course on business for fiction writers. One of the things I’ve learned is that an Indie Publisher should have many streams of revenue. Here a few sales and there a few sales adds up.

One revenue stream often neglected by Indies is print editions. I’ve heard that I should rectify this situation.

It must be true. Many times I’ve heard one of my friends say, “Well, I’ll buy it when it comes out in print.” Make that two, no, three friends. There must be more who I haven’t heard from.

I’ve always thought, Well, it’s only a novella, and I don’t plan to do it in print. It’s too small.

Always Learning New Stuff

But I’ve learned that nothing is too small for print! Bundling several projects together can make a larger printed product, but it’s a valid idea to have ALL work in print.

So, I’ve taken a bit of time away from writing to do some business “housekeeping.” That is, I’ve been making print editions of a couple of pieces of my work. I will continue to do this in the future.

I also uploaded an updated print cover for The Man from Shenandoah with the correct Book Number, and will do the same with Spinster’s Folly after TMFS clears the process.

Besides that, I’m toiling over new print editions for the last two of the Owen Family Saga novels, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms. Once they are ready to go, I’ll rescind permission for iUniverse to print those books. My relationship with them will then be at an end.

FYI, prices of the print editions for Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, and Spinster’s Folly have gone up a dollar each, but Amazon is holding the line with sales at the lower prices. I don’t know how long that will last, however.

Now In Print:

Newly published is a print edition of Western Stories: Four Tales of the West, with a brand new cover! It’s currently available for $6.99 plus shipping and handling from CreateSpace, Amazon, and

Work continues on a mega print edition of The Complete Owen Family Saga. That has been quite an undertaking. I’ve had to change the font and margins several times in order to keep the book within the page limit for the size. At first, I thought I might have to go up to 8 1/2- x 11-inches, but I figured out a way to keep it at the familiar 6-x 9-inches.

It will be a thick book. The minus is that it has over 400,000 words, so the font size is smaller than I would like. However, it’s going to have that stunning yellow cover. I might do it in the silky-feeling matte cover. The five novels within are in the best reading order. Those are big pluses.

I trust these moves will be good for business.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Anger and Rage From a Writer's Perspective

For those of you who don't know, I have a son with Down syndrome. I've been blogging about him  from the moment I discovered he'd have Trisomy 21. I've discussed Jacob-related miracles, stories from the three months he's spent in the hospital, his open-heart surgery, and numerous milestones that make up his life. As a result, I probably love Jacob more fiercely than my other children because I've had to fight so hard to keep him in our family.

In addition to blogging, Jacob has his own Instagram Account so I can share him with others also touched by people with disabilities. Not only can I share and rejoice with family and loved ones who had a hand in Jake's development, but there are people whose lives are similar to mine. Together, we rejoice in the triumphs, mourn the lows, and pray for miracles as needed.

Today, I experience my first troll on Jacob's account.

Last week Jacob's big sister had a pirate themed birthday party. So, I took a picture of Jake with a patch over his eye, looking fierce. The caption was, "Arrrr! I'm a pirate!" and posted it on his Instagram account along with a couple of Down syndrome related hashtags.

The troll, someone who doesn't follow my account, then proceeded to say something nasty about Jacob, and tag one of his friends to come look at Jake's picture.

Arrr! I'm a pirate!!
In that split second, when I realized what had happened, my blood boiled, ears burned, jaw pulsed, stomach roiled, and heart surged with adrenaline. My fists balled into fists and lips pursed into a tight line. I'm pretty sure I may have suppressed a growl too.  This was an honest-to-goodness fight-or-flight reflex, and Mamma Bear was ready to rumble.

I resisted the urge to hunt that troll to the ends of the earth and inflict unimaginable amounts of misery on them. How dare they say such mean and hurtful things about a child who cannot stand up for himself.  Instead, I blocked the troll and immediately made Jacob's Instagram private.

And then I spent the next several minutes, from a writer's perspective of course, examining that instantaneous reaction I'd experienced. In essence, I dissected my emotional reaction, noting each physical and emotional reaction I'd felt.

It's been decades since I've felt rage. I hope never to feel it again. But, should I have a character in one of my stories who needs to show and feel rage, I now have first hand documentation of what that emotion feels like.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kota: the big heart with the booming bark

by Terri Wagner

As many of you may know I did not have the opportunity to have children. So my dogs are my children. And yes I do love them that much. It helps ease the pain of not having children. Each one that passes over the rainbow bridge carries a piece of my heart. Later today Kota will pass over that bridge straight into the arms of my father.

I just want to share how this decision and the conference talk Kari mentioned has eased my pain. This past summer, dad and I noticed our then 12-year-old Labrador Retriever, Kota, was having walking issues. We took her to the vet who assured us her lungs and heart were clear and strong, but her arthritis was getting worse. We changed the regime she's been on for a couple of years to help ease some of that pain. It helped. So much so she passed her 13th birthday and stayed around during my dad's decline. Now it is her turn. The arthritis is winning, and her daily walks only cover 20 feet or less depending on a good day or a bad day. I tried to ignore it, butt the Spirit gently told me to let her go.

I called the vet as soon as I heard those words so I couldn't back down, but they couldn't schedule her until today. I thought great 3 days to spoil her rotten. And I have. But what I didn't expect was an onslaught of conflicting feelings. It's not that bad. She's having a good day. She can handle a few more months. I need her.

In the past, I always had my dad to talk it over with and make a decision. This time it is all up to me. Over the course of a few days, I have prayed so hard to be firm and follow that first prompting. It has been both horrible and wonderful. Every time I wavered, someone would step forward and say something to me that was sweet confirmation. I cannot tell you how grateful I have been for those confirmations or how many times I have tortured myself with second guesses.

As for Kota, she came to us because of a divorce situation with strong hints there had been abuse. I only know she opened her heart to every creature animal or human that has come into our home. She would comfort crying babies and even let the toy Yorkie literally run in and out of her open mouth when he was a very small pup. She also has a booming bark. No noise ever escaped her. And I always felt safe. She sounded like she would tear you from limb to limb, but I saw her walk away from confrontation again and again. My house will be very silent without her in it. But I am so very grateful for the prompting and the confirmations. And the testimony I have of where she's going and who will be there to greet her.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Wrong Words, Part Two

Wrong Words, Part Two

     As I mentioned a while ago, I’m taken in  by words, and I especially like offbeat usages. Often I’ll read a word or phrase that’s just plain not correct, but funny. I keep a running list of the best (worst?) ones.

         A letter-writer insisted she had to get in her “two sense worth” on the  subject. I’m not sure which of her senses she meant. The topic was heated; perhaps she meant touch, and taste?

        The same writer said, “farbeit for me to interfere...” I’m not sure what a farbeit is, but she did go on to interfere, with gusto. She concluded with, “if this is not fixed, it will happen moor and moor off in.” Suddenly, we’re into geology.

    Perhaps, as I read in a novel, she just had “a skewered view of things.” I love skewered foods; I wrote a whole book on edibles prepared on a stick. In this case, I don’t think she meant impaled. More likely, off kilter, as in skewed. 

Another novel talked about the crime scene being secured, “for all intensive porpoises.” As opposed to the casual ones? And did you hear about the camping sea mammals? Yup, a call went out to "all in tents and porpoises."
        A character said she was so scared, she “had an outer body experience.”  I’m not sure what that looks like, or, again, what the opposite might be.

        In the same novel, an enraged character “emitted a scream of furry over a problem even she couldn’t phantom.”  A cute little furry scream sounds adorable, but not if a phantom’s on scene. I'd scream, too.

         Later on, I read in a tabloid, “He’s diluted if he thinks that!”  Really, that’s a risk? If we think certain things, we can be watered down?

      A man in a novel I read had a “sorted passed,” but really, what can you expect from a guy who has a Southern brawl and wears denim overhauls.

        A leader was written up as having a “lazy fare” style of leadership, which has more to do with lunch than power.  

       In a court transcript, a young recorder transcribed the lawyer’s description of the plaintiff as being a “pre-Madonna.” Not quite!

       In the same transcript, a professor “got her ten-year at the university.” That’s a very long degree, and I somehow doubt the transcriptionist had the same education.

        I’ve read several times about angry people getting their gander up. I, too, have a flashpoint temper, but I never feel like waking a goose over it.

       Some of the funny things that catch my eye have to do with positioning, such as putting  the cat before the horse, developing a pier-to-pier network, a fog so thick the man can’t see his hand in front of his foot, and rockets that jettison us through time and space. Ouch!

          A man wrote the person he was interviewing “was very nervous and kept covering his hands with his mouth." If nothing else, that’s awkward.

        Foodstuffs find their way into wrong-word lists, such as a team of horses that’s evenly yolked, finding a leek under the sink again, and having a rye sense of humor. Cheese grader is a legitimate job description, but what’s it doing in the utensil drawer?

         Some  are simple misspellings that change the meaning quite completely. A teen who pours over the textbooks has a mess to clean up. An admiring man who puts a woman on a pedal stool had better be prepared to help pedal. Wealthy folk often have access to better medical care, but are they the only ones who are well healed? 

          "Manner" and "manor" seem to cause a problem, every time. I can understand “to the manner born” because I believe in etiquette, but does my necklace have more value because it was “packaged in a manor”?    

      I read an article that referenced a local "flee market". I don't like them, but I'm not that melodramatic. Or fast.

        How did the bad guy get away? “Must have had an accomplish” makes sense; had he failed, there’d have been no getaway at all.

        A colleague, told about a problem, mused, "I'll have to put my thinking tap on," which makes good sense for initiating the flow of solutions, right?

        A man in a book confessed to being a secret "drug attic.” Wow, I’d like that kind of space.

       In this political climate, I’ve read about protestors who insist their freedom includes the right to "impose their fews on others." Sadly, I suspect that’s all they have to offer. On the other hand, they’re entitled; it’s their dew, after all.

      Not all of these will be flagged by a spell-checker, so as you write, ask a friend to look over your work. You have a friend, right?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

General Conference Tender Mercies

by Kari Diane Pike

Every six months, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a general conference during which "the First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other General Authorities and General Officers of the  Church...deliver messages of inspiration and guidance..." (

I look forward to hearing these messages because I know from experience I will be enlightened and be given answers to questions and solutions to challenges I face. The 187th Annual General Conference was no exception. In fact, I can't think of a conference I have enjoyed more. At the end of each talk I kept thinking, "Wow. That is my favorite talk." Every single time. I laughed. I cried. I felt the sweet whispering of the Spirit witness the truth of the messages shared. And I rejoiced. I rejoiced to hear that our brothers and sisters in far away places will get a temple close enough for them to get there safely. My heart sang with the choirs, the songs I can longer sing with my own voice, but that I can feel in my heart.

The week leading up to General Conference, I challenged my early morning seminary students to pray about any questions they have and ask Heavenly Father that they might find answers as they listened to the talks given. I promised them that if they did this with sincere intent, they would be given answers. A little part of my mind chided me for making such a promise, but I knew it was true. I also knew that I had my own questions that concerned how to reach each of those incredible young men and young women.

One student proposed a question during class that I felt I hadn't answered to her satisfaction. The subject was off topic and caught me unprepared. I prayed that I would find an answer during one of the conference sessions. I wasn't disappointed. In fact, Elder Choi answered the question directly. I couldn't wait for seminary on Monday so that I could discuss the topic with my students.

Sunday evening after General Conference we chatted online with our children and grandchildren. I loved listening to everyone share the thoughts that inspired them most. The only child we couldn't talk to was our youngest son, currently a young volunteer in Moscow, Russia. Here's a little bit of what I wrote to him:

I was particularly touched by Elder Rasband's admonition to listen to the Spirit and act on impressions the first time they come. When we second guess ourselves, we question the Spirit and may lose opportunities to be an instrument in the Lord's hands (not Elder R's exact words...but what I got out of it). Anyway...I set a goal to listen and act the first time. Oh boy. I have so far to go!
Well, Thursday, a friend's name to my mind while I was preparing my seminary lesson for Friday. For a moment, I thought, Yes, I will send her a text as soon as I finish this lesson. I don't want to get distracted from this important thing. I want to magnify my calling. Instantly, I had a strong impression that the Spirit had brought her to my mind and I should text her that very minute.
So I did. "Thinking of you and your family. How did the dr. appt. go yesterday?" hugs~   and this is how she responded just a minute later: " The hard stuff is today. Thank you. This text was an answer to prayer. I asked the Lord to allow friends to show forth love to me today and this is my third contact, perfectly timed. Thank you."

Another experience shared...[One friend's] nonmember daughter-in-law watched conference with her Sunday afternoon. The dil's been slowly taking the discussions. She sobbed during Elder Costa's talk. She said it felt like he was speaking directly to her. So she must have told the missionaries this, then they shared it with someone and now...Elder Costa and his wife visited their home!
Over the past several days other family members and friends have shared experiences with me how their testimonies of Jesus Christ have grown as they've exercised their faith and put into practice the messages and admonitions they heard during General Conference. So much evidence of the Lord's promise:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my aword shall not pass away, but shall all be bfulfilled, whether by mine own cvoice or by the dvoice of my eservants, it is the fsame. (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38)
 Tomorrow is Good Friday - a remembrance of the day that Jesus Christ suffered and bled and died and gave everything He had so that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father again someday. Not only did He save us from the bands of death, but He redeemed us. He made it possible for us to become more - more like the eternal beings Heavenly Father created us to be - more like Him!

I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. I know that He is my Savior. I know that He restored the fullness of His gospel to the earth in these latter days through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that we have a living prophet (Thomas S. Monson) and Apostles on the earth today and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized just as Christ's church was organized in His day. I know that The Bible (the word of God given to His ancient prophets and apostles), and The Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ (given to His prophets in the ancient Americas) are the word of God.  

I know that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me and I do love Him. And I love all of you - even though we may have never met in person. I know that you are magnificent because you, too, are of divine heritage. God loves you. He is there for you. And it's never too late to reach up to Him.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Random Thoughts

by Terri Wagner

Dealing with the practicalities of dad's death has put me in some weird zone...I can't finish a formed thought before another takes it place. So today here are some of the random thoughts in no particular order that are taking up space in my head today.

Why did President Monson say so much in such a little bit of time? How can I ignore his soft voice asking me (a prophet asking) to please read the Book of Mormon every day? But I just taught that last year in Gospel Doctrine. I like church history better. But a prophet asked me...I can't ignore that.

Is Daisy sick? Has the cancer spread? Is she eating enough? At least I know dad will be there to take her over the rainbow bridge. Who came up with the rainbow bridge? Is Kota ok? Why does my stepmom keep telling me to put her down? She's got arthritis but she still wants to walk, run, comes up and down the stairs. Do I have to worry about this right now? Is leaving Jasper with the stepmom during the week right? Is he ok? Is his cancer progressing?

Do I have to change all the bills to my name? Will I have to pay deposits if I try to change them? (Tears filling my eyes putting in dad's old email account and passwords.) Can I just pay them this month and deal with this later? Hmmm, wow, this is one is already in my name?

School closed because of bad weather? It was just a bad thunderstorm thank goodness. More coming tomorrow? But we are testing. It. Has. To. Be. Done. Breath just breathe.

Wait maybe I can do one of those "read the BOM in a year" where it's already figured out, and I can just follow the formula? Why did the TV dvr conference in two separate places? Why did Family Search send me relatives and then make it so hard to connect them? Where is the Sunday am session? This was ALL of President Monson's talk, not just a piece of it?

I need to get back to school and charge up computers in case something goes wrong. Wait, it doesn't matter if I'm starting the BOM chart on April 5. I can just call it January 1st.

It's Monday I have a whole day to think about my ANWA post. Better check on it. Wait it's Tuesday, we were off Monday due to the bad weather that didn't happen.

Wait I have a talk on the Atonement April 23rd, didn't someone speak on the Atonement and say something about us saying it wrong???

It's Tuesday FHE is tonight, do I have to do anything? Maybe the prophet meant people who haven't read it recently??

That's my life right now. Hope I made you chuckle.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I Can Do Hard things

 I Can Do Hard things

        I recently visited my son’s young family for a week. Their little boys are four and two years old, delightful little people. Their parents teach them, “We can do hard things.”  Their concept is good; make the effort, stretch a little, do something harder than seems doable, then revel in the sense of accomplishment that inevitably follows. 
         However, little boys are clever things, and they find ways around their parents’ mantra. “Put your dish in the sink when you’re done eating/pick up the pillows/go brush your teeth.”
      “No, that’s an easy thing, and I only can do hard things.”
      Their mom shared a book of quotes she’d written on her mission years ago. One stood out to me: We Didn’t Choose The Picnic. I love picnics of all forms, which is unfortunate, because I live in western Washington where picnic season is very short. Alas, I digress.
       I asked, “What does this mean?” and my cute daughter in law explained that it means the same thing; we choose to do hard things. While many others in the world seek nothing beyond entertainment—the latest movie, the biggest boat, the most exotic vacation spots—they choose to focus on building a strong family, and a secure financial future, a strong spiritual life for their children and posterity on down generations. They have fun, but it’s not their sole purpose on earth.
       As a writer, I sometimes feel marooned by Hard Things, as well as easy things in time-stealing costumes. I’m currently working on a novel, which I planned to publish in November 2016. It’s now March.  I have four other books in various stages of research. I just returned from a trip, still haven’t caught up from the previous trip, and I leave in three weeks for another jaunt. I realize that All Caught Up is a mythical place, but I’m seriously swamped here. Every January, I choose a word to focus on during the new year. This time, I chose Balance. I had in mind I’d learn to calmly do what needs doing, picking up joy along the way like Easter eggs in a field. Instead, I feel like a tightrope walker in a hurricane.
        While at my son's home, I had time to lazily read three whole novels, something I haven't found time to do at home in months. I remembered how much I love to read, and how easy it felt to lie in the sunshine, soaking up words that I had not written, sentences I had not composed, plots I had not crafted. 
      Nevertheless, I can do hard things, and I go onward. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Embarrassing Moments - The Night of the Invisible Fire

by Kari Diane Pike

Embarrassing moments. Everyone's had a least one. Or a dozen. Writers live for them - particularly if they happen to someone else. While the distress during the moment may turn our faces red, bring tears to our eyes, or even send us scampering to hide under a blanket fort with our thumbs in our mouths, embarrassing situations often become the stuff that makes the greatest stories.

Some years ago I shared my "Great Fish Story". Yeah. That was awkward. Don't ever listen to random college students on spring break. You might end up throwing some poor fisherman's freshly caught dinner back into the ocean because of the mistaken impression you could save the marine ecology one fish at a time.

Coming in a close second is "The Night of the Invisible Fire". Our young family of seven had relocated from California to Flagstaff, Arizona about ten months earlier and had just moved into temporary housing for the third time since the big move. A poor local economy forced my husband to accept a job in another town across the state. He worked during the week and came home only on the weekends.

One Wednesday night, I dreamt that the house was on fire. I remember trying to open my eyes, but the smoke made them sting and I kept choking on the fumes. Our dog kept barking and barking and I couldn't find her anywhere. I started coughing and woke with a start when I realized something was actually wrong. The dog really was barking and my eyes and nose and throat burned. The smell...I couldn't figure it out. The nauseating odor reminded me of a time the neighbors had an electrical fire in their car.

I leaped off the bed, forgetting to grab my glasses and felt my way down the hall to wake up the kids and get them out of the house. But who to wake up first? How could I get them all out in time? Panic clouded my thinking. I hesitated at door to the girls' room. I needed to calm down so I didn't upset the kids. The idea of a fire would scare them enough. I tried to take a deep breath and slow down my racing heart. That's when I realized the smell wasn't as bad in the hallway. My tears had washed away the sting. I peered back down the hall - as well as my nearsightedness would allow anyway. I couldn't see any smoke.

The closer I got to my bedroom, the worse the fumes became. I grabbed my glasses from the bedside, turned around and walked through the kitchen and living room. No smoke. Just that nasty, burning smell. I opened the front door to see if something was burning outside. Nothing. Nada. Back in the house. I took a deep breath and coughed out the invisible, acrid stench that filled my throat. Something was definitely wrong. What should I do? I wanted to call the fire department, but what was I going to tell them? I decided to call my friend Stephanie who lived down the road. I knew she rarely went to bed before midnight and the clock on the wall read 11:55.

Stephanie answered on the second ring. "Hello?"

Hearing a my friend's voice slowed my heart from its marathon pace down to a 10K - pounding, but not heart attack mode.  "Hi Steph. It's Kari. I'm sorry to call you so late."

"It's okay. What's wrong?"

"I had a dream that the house was on fire and woke up to a terrible burning smell and I can't find smoke anywhere, but the smell burns my eyes and throat and I almost called the fire department, but I don't see fire anywhere." I paused to catch my breath. "I don't want to waste their time. Can I bring the kids over to your house until I'm sure everything is okay?"

"Of course. You are always welcome. Do you want us to come help? Did you try calling the non-emergency number and see if they can send someone over to check things out?"

"Oh, good idea. I'll call right now. I'll call you back in a minute."

I called the non-emergency line and explained the situation. "Would it be possible to just send an officer over to quietly check things out?"

"I'll dispatch someone right now, Mrs. Pike."

A minute later, sirens echoed up the street. Oh dear. Now the whole neighborhood is going to get woke up. Not one, not two, but three fire trucks appeared around the corner, accompanied by two police cars. A tall fireman climbed out of the first truck that pulled up and approached me. I repeated my story and he ordered the others to search the house and yard and alley behind us.

I hurried back into the house to get the kids. I couldn't believe they were still sound asleep. The floor creaked behind me. I turned and the fire chief motioned for me to follow him outside.

I pointed to the girls' room and whispered. "I was just getting my children up to take them to a neighbor's house."

"I don't think you need to wake up your kids, Mrs. Pike. We don't see a fire anywhere. Let me show you something."

I followed the chief out the front door and around to the back of the house. He stopped and pushed aside a loose board, revealing access to the crawl space under the house and right below my bedroom window.

"We didn't find a fire, but we did find a skunk. I think your dog got in there and scared it good. I hope you have lots of tomato juice. They say it takes the smell off pets and people." The corner of his mouth twitched and I knew he was struggling to keep a straight face.

"Oh. Well, then. That's good! I'm so sorry I bothered you. Just write in your report 'Hysterical woman whose husband was out-of-town'. I'm sure y'all will get a chuckle out of this for a long time." I ducked my head and reached my hand out to shake his hand and thank him. One large, warm hand wrapped around my cold fingers. He placed his other hand over the top and held it for a moment. I peeked up, too mortified to look straight at him. The fire chief smiled.

"It's okay, Mrs. Pike. Better safe than sorry. We get calls like this all the time." Chief motioned for the rest of the rescue workers to load up. The police officers turned off the lights flashing on their vehicles, turned on their engines, and drove away.

Stephanie pulled up right as they left. She jumped out of her car and ran up to the door. "Are you okay? We heard the sirens and knew it had to be for you. What happened? Are the kids okay?" She stopped to take a deep breath. "Whoa. Ew. Did the dog get a skunk?"

Ummm. yeah. About that.

So...readers, how do you handle embarrassing moments? Have you ever noticed that some people are more prone to them? What about the people who have no idea they should be embarrassed? Or should they? What do you do to make it easier to laugh at yourself? When's the last time you let yourself enjoy an honest-to-goodness belly laugh? Do it. It's good for the soul.

Life is magnificent.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Life Is Out of Control!

by Marsha Ward

Okay, so I have to post-date this post because I'm posting it on a day on which I'm not scheduled to post, but life is like that recently. What I mean is, it's all messed up.

Not life, per se, but my scheduling thereof. I've been postponing working on finishing one nonfiction project so I could finish another one. Well, the recipe collection is now completed, and it's available in print as well as ebook formats. Here's a link to my website with details.

But have I resumed writing the last two chapters on the other nonfiction project?

Um, no.

Because I'm testing something out for that project, by formatting another of my books for print! That's a difficult project, due to the length of five-books-in-one. I'm trying to keep it under the limit of 840 pages. I might need to go to a bigger-size of book, like 8 1/2 x 11-inches, but I hope not.

Perhaps I should abandon the present test format until I have time for the large book, huh? Maybe do the testing on a shorter work, like a novella or a short-story collection? The formatting is taking a lot of time that should be spent in other ways, like getting the testing done so I can get back to the original task: finishing the nonfiction project!

Because I have other work to write. Sheesh!

It would help if my Internet were cooperating. We have a lot of wind today, and for some reason, wind affects my satellite connection in bad ways.

Whiny Wednesday, anyone? Oh, that's right. It's not Wednesday!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sharing the Writing Process With My Teenaged Son

the bookshelf of a teen-aged bibliophile
Nathan's books - well, 1/4 of them, anyway.
Connecting with my son through writing has been one of my biggest rewards.

Nathan is 17 1/2 now. He's at that age when most boys hold up in their rooms, blast music or play video games, and block their family out of their lives. At least that's what my brothers did growing up.

Nathan, on the other hand, reads.  He's been fanatical about reading from the moment he discovered new worlds unfolding on the pages in front of him. At one point, he had thousands of books downloaded on his phone. He keeps telling me he needs another row of shelves along his bedroom walls for books.  I continue to put it off. If I build a shelf, he will want to fill it. And that gets expensive fast!

As I've written my Unleashed! series, Nathan has always known at least one of the books would be about him.  He's been a good sport so far, bless his soul.  He's endured photo shoots, questions about hypothetical situations and how he would handle them. We've had actual arguments over how my imaginary characters would or would not act. The boy has an incredible grasp of human nature and strategy.

This weekend, I mentioned to Nathan how I didn't think my first chapter of Unleashed! was strong enough to catch the Literary Agents' attention. To my surprise, he agreed.  Then, he proceeded to tell me four different areas that were weak, or unbelievable. After hearing his reasoning, I hung my head, and trudged to the computer to create an alternate beginning.

I've spent the last week slaving over my laptop, and finally have it finished.  Nathan likes the new start much better.

If you're interested in offering up your opinions, let me know and I'll send each of the versions to you. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say.

Now, I'm off to go pick a fight with him about whether or not a seven-year-old girl is physically capable of taking down a 300 lb man.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bending Phrases

Bending Phrases by Deb Graham

I taught my granddaughter to read. Not long afterwards, we came to A Big Word.

"Honey, do you know what that means?"

She sounded it out. "Flex  ibble. That means all bent out of shape."

I like words. I like their origins, their usage, their colloquial twists, the twists they take with various dialects across America. Region phrases, such as “fair to middlin” or “catty-wompus” delight my ears. Some words baffle me.  I fly often (more than I’d like!) and always puzzle over de-planing at the end of a flight. Never have I  de- bus-ed, de-boat-ed, or de-car-ed.

I’m always on the look-out (listen-out?) for a new way to express a point. I find myself irked at too-often repeated phrases, including A Lot On Her Plate, Out Of The Box, and Take It To The Next Level. They’re rendered meaningless by overuse.

I like the ways English can bend to make a thought clearer. But I admit I keep a running list of abuses, found in print, as if somebody’s editor was asleep at the time. English is flexible, but not that much. Still, they’re good for a smile.

 Here are some of my favorite abuses of words:

In a published novel, a character said she was “full to the gunnels.” Gunwales has a fine history, and the fact that it lost a few letters in pronunciation on the way from England is not the problem. It’s not “gun whales”, either, which I’ve also seen in print. Whales are unarmed. (Hint: if it’s a trite phrase, yet your spellchecker flags it, and you can’t find the word in a dictionary, you might need another’s opinion as to the spelling, instead of making up your own.)

He raced down the hill at breaknet speed. Now, that’s a good idea; if you’re tearing down a hill, get a net.

In a magazine article, a writer alluded to “that trite old phrase, ‘there is no mayonnaise in Ireland.’” It took me several moments to figure out she meant “No man is an island.”

I’ve read about how “gossip spreads like wildflowers.” I like that one; especially if you’re spreading something good somebody did, wildflowers is a lovely image. Wrong, but lovely.

A newspaper article referred to a man who’d won a “pullet surprise.” Was it a chicken dinner?  Oh, wait...Pulitzer prize!

I think “self phone” makes total sense, albeit wrong...many people are totally tuned into self only with the ubiquitous things.

Somebody wrote me a letter telling me they’d been trying to reach me by curtsy call, and unable to do so, had resorted to the letter. A what? A curtsy, like at the end of a stage performance? No; a courtesy call!

In a novel, “two men ran down the street, their cloaks bellowing behind them.”  Can’t say I blame them; if my outerwear began shouting, I’d run, too.

I read a note saying she needed to “reign in her enthusiasm.”  Wonderful—that’s the only way to rule!

A mother admonished her kids to “stay within earshout,” which makes total sense.

  In a report on hurricane recovery, a reporter wrote, “a Katrina survivor said that he’d lived in FEMA trailers, tents, and Kwanzaa huts for the first year after the storm.”  Kwanzaa huts? A whole year of celebrating Kwanzaa? What fun!

In a mystery, the author insisted her character was a “bonnified Scotsman.” I think she meant bona fide, but who am I to argue? Later on, this man with the bonnet became “embroidered in battle.”  Perhaps he did need the bonnet.

I’ve read several instances of “pealing paint,” but mine just sits silently on my walls, never ringing out at all. Sigh.

Did you know the difference between humans and other mammals is “a posable thumb”? It’s a funny image, to think of thumbs, posing like models.

Several times, I’ve read “her eyes shot across the room.”  That’s gotta hurt. Glad my eyes are better anchored than that!

“It’s not my first radio,” insisted a character in a novel. Perhaps this is why I’m more comfortable writing nonfiction; I don’t have to keep track of how many radios one owns, or what that has to do with the character’s ability to solve a mystery.          
Somebody insisted her mother was “lack toast and intolerant.” Perhaps she was grouchy because she was hungry. Give the woman some toast, already.

Several times I’ve read in a book this phrase: “a shutter passed through his body.” I don’t care what was happening previously; now we have a death at hand.  “Udder despair” is another common error; the heroine is sad, and suddenly, she’s thinking about the business end of a cow.    Why?

“Lawn force meant agencies” are not immune. A police report read a man was charged with “wreckless driving.” I thought that was the goal. The report continued, “...then chaos insured.” Oh, good. Chaos can be expensive to repair.

In a book, a police officer “upholstered his gun.” We all need a hobby, right?

An interview quoted a rock musician as saying his shirt was “from my hippy dipping days.” They don’t like that much.                           

Some bent phrases seem more believable than the intended words. Here are some other good ones:

turn into a new leaf (that would be fun to see)
it’s a doggy-dog world
she balled her eyes out (that’s gonna hurt)
it’s a mute point (oh, good; we didn’t want to hear about it anyway)
Flamingo dancer     (well- trained birds!) 
he’s in intimate danger (another good reason to group date)
two sense worth  
hammy downs  (is this outgrown clothing, or lunch?)
a look of otter confusion
 in the mist of a project (that explains the lack of clarity; a brain-fog)
a fine tooth-comb  ( I brush my teeth, but never comb them)
mid-evil style of dress (can’t you just see it?)
 not aloud to say a word  (shh)
  she let out a grown (like growing pains?)
an outer body experience
I want to speak my peace (but they never do)
for all intensive purposes
Wreaking haddock through the store ( are generally not ill-behaved)
 “His doctor sent him to a specialist, a eurologist.” If he’s sick, geography won’t help)
from the gecko (get-go I understand, but who listens to lizards?)
It was a pigment of the imagination (of course! Imagination should be in full color)
“Whoa is me,” she sighed. (stop, already)
He acted like a bowl in a china shop (pretty inert, if you ask me!)
She’s on maturity leave.

And finally, “Be polite to the wizard, or he’ll wave his hand and your toast.”    Just unhand my breakfast! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Finding Peace

by Kari Diane Pike

The tight grip of the blood pressure cuff released with a hiss, accompanied by the tap-tap-tap of the keyboard the nurse used to type the data into her computer. Two minutes to go until the next reading. I shifted under the hook-and-loop straps that crossed my chest, hips and ankles to prevent me from falling if I passed out during the test.

Nurse Rylee looked over her shoulder at me. "Are you doing okay? Let me know if you start to feel light-headed."

"I'm okay. Just tired of standing here." The thirty-minute standing part of the tilt table test was almost over. If I fainted, they would stop the test. If nothing happened, they would give me a dose of nitroglycerin and make me stand there another thirty minutes to see if they could recreate the syncope I had experienced at home a few weeks earlier.

Only thirty seconds to go...oh. Whoa. Heat spread out from the core of my body - as though someone had ignited a gas burner - through my limbs and up toward my face. "Ummm...something's happening. Oh, my head." My head felt like the hot air balloon I had once seen being prepared for take off. My peripheral vision started to go gray and then, just as quickly, someone turned off the switch. The heat drained from my face and limbs and my head felt heavy and dull, but I didn't pass out.

Rylee took my blood pressure and watched the activity on the EKG. "Well, your blood pressure definitely spiked there. But you stayed conscious. That's good. We just have to wait for the other nurse to come in before we start the next part of the test. So tell me. What do you do for a living?"

I shifted my weight from foot to foot trying to get the circulation back in my tired feet. "I have been a stay-at-home mom for thirty-eight years. Although I did do day care in my home for twenty-something of those years and have done of lot of free lance writing. I also teach childbirth ed and am a certified doula."

"Oh. That must be it." Rylee opened the privacy curtain to let the other nurse know we were waiting for her. "You just have something so calming about you and I've been trying to figure it out."

At that moment, the other nurse and a PA walked into the testing area and handed me a tiny white pill to place under my tongue, preventing me from further conversation with Rylee.

The rest of the test was unpleasant, but uneventful. During the drive home I told my husband about Rylee's comment and how I wanted talk with Rylee some more and tell her how I had prayed for peace of mind and how I knew that no matter what happened, or what the test results were, everything would turn out okay.

Later that afternoon, I sat down to study and prepare the following week's seminary lessons. We are getting ready to study Philippians 4 where I find great reassurance when I read verses 6-9, and 13.

Reading those verses again, I pondered on what it really means to have the "peace of God". I went on a scripture search. Isaiah 52:7 and Mosiah 15: 16-18 teach about how Christ redeemed us from our transgressions and our responsibility to publish peace. I asked myself and then in prayer asked Heavenly Father, "What does it mean to publish peace?"

Christ is the Prince of Peace. As part of the armor of God, we are admonished to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. We are comforted and strengthened by "the peace and power of [His] Spirit that will flow unto [us]" (Doctrine and Covenants 11:8). The Lord is the founder of peace. He has power over death - both physical and spiritual. There is hope.

It was during this point in my study that I realized that what I really wanted/needed to know is what is peace? So I looked up peace in the dictionary. Then I looked up the root of the word "peace".

"Peace" has the Hebrew root [slm], which means to be "complete or whole" or to "live well". Deeper digging - root verb shalom meaning be be "complete, perfect and full". "Wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of discord."

Another source mentioned a word the Kekchi Indians of Guatemala have that comes close to the meaning of shalom that defines peace as "quiet goodness".

All of this pondering on peace teaches me that peace is active and vibrant. When we do as Paul taught and "in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God", He blesses us with the "peace of God which passeth all understanding" and guards our hearts and minds from needless fear and worry (Philippians 4:6-7), because  we "can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [us]" (Philippians 4:13).

Elder Richard G. Scott taught, "As you exercise that agency and include [Father in Heaven] in every aspect of your daily life, your heart will begin to fill with peace, buoyant peace. That peace will focus an eternal light on your struggles. It will help you to manage those challenges from an eternal perspective" (Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority," Ensign, Nov. 2014, 93).

To publish peace is to testify of Christ, not just vocally, but in the way you live your life every day. Love, live and serve to the best of your ability the way Christ did, knowing that He loves each of us and that He is always with us. We can feel that inward peace, wholeness, and completeness that living after the manner of Christ brings, even during difficult challenges. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it will all work out. I hope and pray that Rylee finds the peace she is looking for.

Life is magnificent.