Feb 28, 2017

Cover Reveal: From Julia's Kitchen: Owen Family Cookery

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard
Early next month I’ll publish an exciting new project: From Julia’s Kitchen: Owen Family Cookery. This ebook contains Julia Owen’s prized recipes, plus a note on each recipe telling about it.

Of course the idea that a fictional character has collected recipes, or “receipts,” as they were sometimes known in those days, is pure fiction, but the recipes are real. Sign up for my Readers mailing list below to get the first notice of the release of From Julia’s Kitchen, right in your inbox.

Feb 23, 2017

To Cuss, or Not To Cuss, That is the Question

Recently, I sent one of my stories to a beta reader.

She pointed out that my character cussed at the beginning of the story, and then just...stopped.  No event precipitated this action. No one complained or corrected her in the story. The character just stopped.

This one comment caused me to pause.  I'm pretty sure my character cussed only three times in the entire book. All biblical - i.e. words you can find in the Bible. However, because I am LDS, and my beta reader was LDS, this was something she was acutely sensitive to.

Then I got to wondering about what kind of message I want to convey to my readers. I know swearing probably won't even register on most readers' radars. And that's fine.  But as a writer, I fully expect that my status in the LDS church will be known. 

And if I want to be published, I also expect to be telling everyone and their dog that I've written something worth reading.  Am I okay with letting my kids read my book, knowing there's swearing in it? How about my Relief Society President, or my Bishop? My niece? Other impressionable teens? Am I okay with letting my protagonist's language be an example to her readers, or am I choosing to model current language standards?

My answer may not be the same as yours.  And that's okay.  No two books should ever be alike. I guess because I am LDS, and because language and morality is integral to my belief system, this particular subject, struck a chord with me. It was a reminder to be aware of who I am and what I want to stand for. Because people will be watching, and hopefully one day reading, what I have to say.

Feb 21, 2017

Time Capsule Birthday Gift

by Terri Wagner

My Hollywood attractive nephew's first child, a boy, had his first birthday last Saturday. Since they live quite a ways away we had to skip the actual birthday party. But the parents wanted a very unique and fun birthday gift idea...a time capsule. We all write a letter to him to be opened on his 18th birthday. My parents loved the idea since by the time he's 18, they will be watching from the other side...so they say. Probably true. It started a firestorm of ideas. And we each have come up with our own perspectives.

My dad dusted off a ring he received from Lockheed Aircraft for 2,000 hours of combat duty in Vietnam. He had it polished, and engraved. On one side he listed his squadron numbers and on the other the dates he was in Vietnam. On the inside of the ring he inscribed "pro liberatiat partra" or Latin for "my country's freedom." I'm not sure how an 18 year old young fella will appreciate the ring at 18, but he will surely like the rolled up 100-dollar bill. Later, I'm sure he will cherish the ring.

In dad's letter, he followed my lead and wrote of his 18th birthday. He was in the Air Force stationed at Goose Bay Labrador in Canada. It was 20 below. He was part of the aircraft crash group as top nozzle guy so not only was it cold and dark, he was on top of the fire truck where it was windy. The crew was waiting on a plane that reported an engine fire. Dad said the aurora borealis was particularly bright that night, and he was awed at God's handiwork. Several jumping-jacks later the plane appeared, engine fire out. So the long cold wait was for nothing, which in this case was a good thing. No cake, no ice cream, no presents, no acknowledgement.

My mother is going to write about my stepfather, since this child is named after my dad and stepdad. My sister has written a rather long letter about the Plan of Salvation and her testimony of the gospel. This particular part of our family is not LDS. I would love to be a fly on the wall when an 18 year old reads that. Me, I came up with the idea of writing about your 18 birthday. I was a freshman at Alabama, living in a dorm room, celebrating with friends. I think my dad's story beats all of ours. Would love to know what my stepdad was doing at 18. Wonderful gift idea. Hope I'm around to watch him open the time capsule.

BTW this is the RCAF Goose Bay Labrador Northern Lights

Feb 18, 2017

Okay, I admit it.

I’m afraid of the dark. There, I admitted it. I know it’s silly to be on edge half the time; I know I’m Too Old to be afraid of the dark, but here we are. I don’t like dark; it makes me feel panicky. I sleep with the hall light on, and always leave a light on when we travel. I tell husband it’s so we don’t bark a toe if we get up in the night, but it’s really because I crave light.

 Have you ever been in  a really dark place? A moonless night, a power outage, the back of a closet? Can you think how it made you feel?

The darkest place I’ve even been was a cave in Kentucky, when the guide suddenly turned off the lanterns. I was fine, clutching my light source. I didn’t know he had a remote switch. The darkness was tangible, pressing all around me, so thick I could feel it, and my instinct was to RUN. Had my legs not been paralyzed by fear, I would have been out of there so fast-!

In Hawaii, we got up at 3am to drive  90 minutes to the highest mountain top just to watch the sun rise. We met a few dozen other crazies at ten thousand feet, all huddled in the cold to watch the day begin. In that place, there’s only a sunrise once out of nine days; the rest of the time the day just gradually brightens. The day we were there, the sunrise was glorious, as if God invented new colors just for the occasion. As the first threads of light flamed the horizon, the group applauded.

I’ve never driven anywhere to see darkness, and I certainly never applaud it.

 I love light.  I crave the stuff, like other people crave water when they’re thirsty.  What is light? It's the absence of darkness, but it’s so much more.  When we’re in the light, we can see farther, and possibilities open before us. In light, our spirits rise, we physically and emotionally feel better.  We say, “come see these pretty colors,” and “look what I found.” That’s harder in the dark.

We’re  busy. We’re all busy. We can’t do it all, but we  can do a little bit to push back the darkness.

We have the power to change things; why not change them for the better? Instead of causing discord, cause harmony. Even quick smile can warm a soul, and spread light, and encourage others to draw closer to the light of Christ on their own.

 President Gordon B Hinckley said, “Try a little harder to be a little better.”  I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions, but hey, I can do that. 

Feb 16, 2017

Some Talents Are Overrated

by Kari Diane Pike

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a hidden talent. My devoted eternal companion regrets not recording the event. He claims I executed a faint that would make my corset-wearing Victorian grandmothers proud. What can I say? After nearly forty years, my man can still make me swoon.

It all started when I walked into his office to discuss our plans for the evening. I stepped through the door, took one look at the love of my life and the whole world started to spin. My heart skipped a beat or three, my peripheral vision disappeared, and everything started to turn gray.

"Doug, I think I'm going to pass out."

He swiveled his chair around to look at me. "What?"

"I...I..." All I remember after that is wanting to sit down before I fell to the floor. What seemed to me to be just a moment later, I woke up with Doug kneeling beside me and lifting my head. "I'm awake. I'm awake. I'm okay."

But I wasn't okay. When I sat up, my heart raced so fast I couldn't count the beats. I tried to get to my feet, but even with Doug's help, I couldn't move. The heat in my face and the pressure in my head made me think of one of those old Disney cartoons where steam comes out of the character's ears.

Doug tried to help me up again. I told him to leave me alone and run across the street to get help from our neighbor the nurse.

He let go of my arm and frowned at me. "I can't leave you here by yourself. What if you pass out again? I'm not going anywhere."

After another minute I caught my breath enough to stand up. "Honey, help me get to the bedroom so I can take my blood pressure. The reading will give us my heart rate." Except it didn't. My heart beat so fast the monitor couldn't read it. I closed my eyes and tried to visualize my heart slowing down, but it continued to race like a locomotive that lost its brakes on a downhill slope. Another minute passed. I tried to lie down, but I couldn't breathe in a prone position. I perched on the edge of the bed. Doug stood next to me and wrapped his arms around me.

I leaned my head against his side and tried to swallow the increasing tide of panic. "Doug. Call 911."

"Let's just get you in the car and take you to the E.R."

"No. If I pass out in the car, you won't be able to help me. If we call the paramedics and they have to transport me, they have the right equipment and know what to do."

Doug grabbed his cell phone and dialed 911.

"911. What is your emergency?"

Doug described our situation to the dispatcher. About the time he gave her our address, my heart rate returned to normal. Just like that - as if nothing had happened. The fire died down, the tracks leveled out, and my sweat covered body shivered in the chill that took place of the heat.

"Doug. Doug. Tell them never mind. I'm okay now. My heart is okay now."

Guess what. Once you call 911, they have to come check things out. There's no such thing as "just kidding" in that kind of situation. While Doug remained on the phone with dispatch, I reclined back onto the bed. I felt so silly when just a couple of minutes later six, not two or three, but SIX firemen came into the room. They looked like they had just stepped off the set of one of those Hallmark romance movies - you know- tall, buff, and ruggedly handsome. If I had been single and thirty years younger I might have been tempted to swoon again.

Anyway...when I started to sit up, those young men ordered me to stay down and asked Doug and I questions while they took my vitals: blood pressure, oxygen levels, heart rate, blood sugar, and temperature.

Everything was back to normal except my blood pressure. Much too high and it had nothing to do with the company in the room.

"Mrs. Pike, we can call an ambulance to transport you to the hospital, or..."

"Actually, I'm okay now." I started to sit up, but they ordered me to stay put again.

"You don't understand. You have two choices. We can call transport, or we can walk you to your car and let your husband take you to the E.R., but you are going to the hospital."


Doug brought me my slippers and with a fireman on each arm and others in front and behind me, I walked out the door to the car. Once they saw me buckled in, they turned things over to Doug and off we headed. The rest of the story is pretty unexciting. When the E.R. doctor asked what happened, Doug told her that I performed the most graceful faint he had every witnessed and wished that he had recorded it. My blood pressure ebbed back toward normal and three hours and several blood tests later, we returned home.

In a couple of weeks I have an appointment with the cardiologist. He wants to see if he can recreate whatever caused me to faint by putting me on a tilt table. I suggested that the Tilt-A-Wheel at the fair would be way more fun and a lot less expensive, but he didn't go for it.

Why tell this story? This experience made me ponder a bit more on my mortality and the ups and downs that make my stomach flip and my heart race. President Gordon B. Hinckley once described life with this quote:
Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.
“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride (“Big Rock Candy Mountains,” Deseret News, 12 June 1973, A4).
What I really want to remember in thanking the Lord for the ride is that each and every day is a gift. Every morning when I wake up, there are new and exciting things ahead. Because of the Savior's Atonement, no matter what happens, everything is going to be okay. No matter how challenging the gift might prove to be, it will all work out.

To quote Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
... Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—...You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come (General Conference, October, 1999).

During my life's journey, I've learned that the steepest mountains and the harshest of deserts offer the most spectacular vistas - something miraculous and amazing. And while I think the Victorian Era's fascination with fainting was highly overrated, I am grateful for the reminder that Life is Magnificent.


Feb 14, 2017

February Romance Fix

by Marsha Ward

What better time than Valentines Day to tell you about a nice deal in FREE Clean Romance eBooks that I'm involved in?

In exchange for your email address (so you can get to know all us authors and other books we have written) you can choose among our FREE eBooks and pick one or several of those offered. You can have them all!
And as you enjoy our FREE eBooks, you can learn a little about us as people, as well as authors.

This promotion comes to you through My Book Cave, a service offering ratings, yes, RATINGS on books, just like you get ratings on television shows and movies. What an idea!

With FREE eBooks and collections from such stellar writers as Julie Wright, Elizabeth D. Michaels, Heather B. Moore, Laurie Lewis, Melanie Jacobson, Rebecca Talley, Joyce DiPastena, Lois D. Brown, Marsha Ward, and others, how can you go wrong?

Go now to My Book Cave, open your free account, and select a bunch of yummy Clean Romances.

Oh, did I tell you there's also a Gift Card Giveaway? Enter the sweepstakes to win a $10 Gift Card from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. Tell all your friends! Click here to begin your February Romance Fix now.

Feb 9, 2017

Learning to Love the Journey

I've been working on Unleashed! for nearly 5 years.

That's a long time to be working on a single story. In my defense, I had no real writing experience. I needed to learn how to tell a story. Everything, up until now, has been through hands-on learning.  Critique groups, ANWA meetings, articles, pod casts, videos, more articles, reading other's work, then reading more books about writing.  I've fluctuated from 50,000 - 125,000 words, and everywhere in between, so many times, I have whiplash.

But, you know what? I wouldn't trade it for the world.  This journey has had enough highs and lows to qualify as a world-class roller coaster ride. But that's the beauty of it.

As a child, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wasn't really sure, but I knew I didn't want to be bored. I figured I'd be a firefighter, or go into the military, or maybe even SWAT.  I never imagined I'd find my excitement sitting at a desk for hours at a time.

In my imagination, I can flit from a romance novel, to a comedy, to an action flick, then into a world of fantasy, all without skipping a beat.  What am I in the mood for? Let's create it!

I may have authored 19 different drafts of the very same story, but each one is unique in it's own way, building my characters from a one-dimensional concept, to a three-dimensional person a reader can connect to, root for, and laugh with.

Have I mastered this writing thing yet?  Not by a long shot. But by golly, I'm having fun figuring it out.

Feb 7, 2017

Tellng the Whole Truth is Dicey

by Terri Wagner

This is not really a writing post, but as with many things in life, can relate. I usually feed our missionaries about once a month. I skipped January because I have had company since December 16, and all of them haven't left yet. So in February, I was asked to feed all four missionaries, I usually only have the English speaking pair. No problem makes up for skipping January. Armed with a friend and in public, we all met at the local Mexican restaurant, their choice, and had dinner.

After the usual pleasantries, I was asked about my conversion story. I gave my five minute spiel. But was asked how long did I wait between the first lesson and baptism. I laughed and said about nine months which is about right. The following question was why did it take so long? Usually I give a reasonable but not wholly true response. This time I had one of those uncomfortable moments we all get. The Spirit whispered very softly, just tell the truth. So I blurted out, chastity was my issue. I have no idea what they thought or why I was directed to tell the "whole" truth. And to their credit, they never missed a beat and turned to my friend also a member and asked her about her conversion story.

I'm pretty confident I heard the Spirit correctly, and fairly confident, it was the answer I was supposed to share. Why? I'll probably never know. But it got me to thinking about that "whole" truth aspect. The scriptures are rife with people who shared half truths at the behest of the Spirit, Abraham, Sarah, Esther, Nephi...it reminds me of the advice or perhaps commandment of being wise as serpents and gentle as doves. But sometimes the truth just jumps out at you, demanding to be acknowledged.

I see that most of all on political posts on FB. I was getting so gleeful over my admittedly sarcastic comebacks to a family member's posts, I vowed to just stop responding to her posts. It's been hard, but I haven't responded to one since January 1st. However, I was responding to one post and got cyber "jumped." I figured I would since I felt 180 degrees different, but ONE out of many, asked me why. So I gave the whole truth, and she accepted it. The others just continued to "boo me off stage." So what about this tangle of whole truths? I am beginning to feel that responding in kind is not the answer, but I also doubt I can say anything that will change anyone's mind. And really that applies to more than FB posts, but in many of life's situations. And even in writing.

Feb 4, 2017

What's Your Favorite Tree?

What’s your favorite tree?

Scientists estimate about 100,000 tree species on the earth, most of which grow in tropical regions. They say the number of trees worldwide might total twenty-five per cent of all living plant species. So, which is your favorite?

When I was a child in western New York, our back yard boasted a sweeping horse chestnut tree. While the kids in the neighborhood cherished the spiny chestnuts for weaponry in never-ending battles, I enjoyed climbing its wide branches. So sturdy they barely moved in a stiff breeze, they were a great spot to take a book and read on a summery day.

Our family uprooted when I was ten, moving to the Deep South. Our new yard had more than  two hundred slash pines. They’re ideal for making telephone poles and wood pulp, but they couldn’t withstand that first winter's ice storm. When more than two inches of ice coated our world like crystal, over seventy slash pines crashed down in the night. “Weak roots,” diagnosed the community,wielding chainsaws.  

Dad had a running battle with a weeping willow when we moved to Illinois. The graceful, long branches annoyed him no end. Every spring, he’d be out there with his clippers, trying in vain to coax the willow into a maple tree shape.

A few miles from campus in Hawaii stood a marvelous banyan tree, bigger than a city block, with so many branches twined together, holding it fast to the earth, it was hard to tell where roots and branches began or ended.

Mangoes are the most popular fruit on the planet, and to make a mango, you need a mango tree. I’m fond of crisp apples, too; another tree.

The sight of a tall palm tree against a cloudless blue sky calms my soul; that explains the eight-foot mural in our entryway. Ah, palm trees. Okay, they’re herbs, not trees at all, but I like them.

You have to honor the mangroves in Florida, which take their job very seriously. Along with providing protection and habitat for small critters, their roots filter water along the coasts, while harboring small fishes safely among its roots dipped in the shoreline.

And then there are the giant redwoods of northern California.  Standing fully 365 feet tall, it’d take about fifteen adults, holding hands, to encircle the massive trunks. Yet, their roots are only five to fifteen feet deep. The roots of redwoods intertwine, supporting one another.  If a tree is in crisis, say, from a forest fire or insect infestation, its neighbors can send fluid, nourishment, even a form of antibiotics to heal the affected tree.  In one study, gallons of a harmless dye were put into the roots of one redwood, and color showed up four miles away, in two other trees! Redwoods can live up to four hundred years. We can learn a lot from a redwood.

What’s my favorite tree? Maybe it doesn’t matter; maybe just knowing they stand tall, holding each other up in storm or fire is enough to remind me We're not alone, either. In this world of pain, with division all around us, trees stand unmoved. So shall I.

Feb 2, 2017

What Adelaide's Lament Would Look Like If She Had Been a Writer

by Kari Diane Pike
What Adelaide's Lament Would Look Like If She Had Been a Writer
(adapted from the lyrics to "Adelaide's Lament" by Frank Loesser [Guys and Dolls])
The average [wanna be author]
Basically insecure
Due to some long frustration may react
With psychosomatic symptoms
Difficult to endure
Affecting the upper respiratory tract
In other words
Just from waiting around
For [word her book has been sold]
A [writer] can develop a cold
You can spray her wherever you figure
The streptococci lurk
You can give her a shot
For whatever she's got
But it just won't work
If she's tired of getting [rejections]
From [her publisher]
A person
Can develop a cold
The [writer remaining unpublished], uh
Just in the legal sense, ahh
Shows a neurotic tendency
See note
Where's note? Uh
Chronic organic syndromes
Toxic and hypertense
Involving the eye,
The ear and the nose and throat
Oh, that's very interesting
In other words
Just from worrying
Whether [she'll ever get published
A writer
Can develop a cold]

It seems that every time I put my BIC HOK TAM (see Marsha Ward's earlier post), I come down with a cold. I've had some interesting health challenges the past couple of years, but they were all related to drug allergies and doctors trying to fix things that weren't broken. 

I rarely get colds. Until this year. And the harder I try to get my book written, the more I end up in a doctor office. I realize that there is little to no correlation or causation between these two things. I just think it's interesting that they have occurred together. Oh well. At least these experiences give me something to write about. 

Oh, and talk about something to write about - I woke up yesterday morning and found a notification in my inbox about a flight dear hubby purchased for me: round trip to London from Phoenix (the end of May) with two of our daughters. We get to spend 10 days temple hopping in Europe. I am beyond excited. 

New Flash! There's more:  I just got the best text ever from our youngest daughter and her husband: "We have a baby!" So tomorrow morning I'll be heading north to Utah to meet our newest granddaughter. Squeee! 

Life is magnificent. 

Now if I can just get rid of this chronic organic syndrome. Perhaps the cure is to finish the book.