Monday, December 22, 2008

Word of the Week #34

Status: HOLY COW it's snowing... and snowing... and snowing...
Song: "Let it Snow"

horripilation [haw-rip-uh-LAY-shuhn; ho-] - noun

Definition: the act or process of the hair bristling on the skin, as from cold or fear; goose flesh

Usage: The event of showering in the winter is always a battle between instant horripilation and the razor (at least with my legs).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Publishing industry up for a bailout?

Status: Finally have a pretty good query letter. It only took a week. Halleluja!
Song: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" (one of the greatest, and least heard, Christmas carols, IMHO)

As far as the title of this post, I don't have any inside information or anything. It's just that so many industries and companies are against the wall over foolish business practices, and the publishing industry is no different. For those of us interested in the economical ramifications on publishing and writerly scribblings, here are some explanations from some blogs I follow.

C[r]ash Flow. An explanation of why the publishing world was hit so hard. *Note: I saw this happen with my own royalty statements. This comes from the Editorial Ass blog.

Here is just some of the bleak news from not too long ago.

Here's a great essay by Richard Curtis that I found through the EditorialAss blog.

I don't know if you've taken a gander at Amazon's e-book reader, the Kindle. I don't know about any other book addicts, but I drool over it. I want, I want. That's the future of publishing - but transitioning is going to be interesting.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Word of the Week #33

Status: Cold. Brrrr. (A high of 30 today. Yuck)
Song: "Little Drummer Boy" by Josh Groban

caitiff - [KAY-tif] - noun, adjective

1. cowardly and mean
2. a mean, cowardly person

The caitiff driver that dented my car door in the parking lot took off without even a note.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Status: WAHOOOOOO!!!!
Song: "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang

I finished my book!!!!
Hip Hip Hooray!!!!

That's right! We're talking 300 pages, 75,000 words of pure, finished awesomeness!

I actually have a few things to go back and fix, but they're so teeny tiny minor that they really don't count. Now begins the hunt for an agent, since I plan on going national with this one. I've got about 40 to try.

I'll be back in the blogging groove now. Yippeeeeee!!!!

*There are 17 exclamation marks in this post, but I really think this big of an accomplishment deserves 20. So... !!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Word of the Week #32

Status: Been MIA, I know, but I can most assuredly say that, except for a couple more tweaks, I am finished with my latest book. Yea!! (After the tweaks I'll really celebrate - be ready)
Song: "Message in a Bottle" by The Police

This week's word of the week (4 days late) is just because it's fun to say:

lugubrious - [loo-goo-bree-uhs] - adjective

Definition: mournful, dismal, or gloomy, esp. in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner.

Usage: Eeyore and Marvin from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are beloved lugubrious characters.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A little note

Status: So close to finishing my current book
Song: O Come, All Ye Faithful (because it's that time of the year)

Just a little apology for being such a blog slacker, but I'm frantically working on this book o' mine and it's almost finished. Like this week (barring the world collapsing, which it is likely to do now that I've vocalized it). But I have to say that I'm really enjoying my final WOW climactic scene. So fun!

I'll be posting regular and brilliant blogs after this is all done. Cross my heart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Since we mentioned Terminator

Did you know there's a new one coming out? It's called Terminator Salvation and Christian Bale - love him - is John Connor. Oooooh, I can't wait!

Here's the teaser.

Word of the Week #31

Status: Still MIA, but the book's almost finished. Yea!
Song: "You Could Be Mine" by Guns N Roses (just cause we cycled to it in class this morning and I love the Terminator movies.)

Lucullan - [loo-KUHL-uhn] - adjective

Definition: rich; magnificent and luxurious

Usage: I'm still recuperating from the Lucullan feasting of last week. All I can say is I don't want any more turkey for a while.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Word of the Week #30

Status: Briefly coming up for air between finishing my WIP and Thanksgiving preparations
Song: "When All Is Said and Done" by Vertical Horizon

volte-face - [vawlt-FAHS]- noun

Definition: An about-face; a reversal, as in policy or opinion.

Usage: Many politicians become adept at volte-face with a smile, sometimes on a daily basis.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jaime rants about politics, toothpaste, and Obama as a vulcan

Status: A little sore from working out
Song: "A New Hope" by Broken Iris

This year was a year of firsts in politics here in the U.S. And if you were paying the slightest bit of attention to the Presidential Race, then you can think of plenty of those on your own. For my rant today, the first I want to talk about is the first time I think politics actually has surpassed the ridiculousness of celebrity worship. Perhaps this is not a first, and I just haven't paid enough attention to enough politics, but I'm still going to rant on it anyway.

You know what set me off? The news headline that "Web-savvy Obama may be without email."

You're freaking kidding me, right? Whether I voted for him or not, I support the new President of our country, and I don't mind hearing all about the policies he wants to implement, or who he appoints to his cabinet. Meetings with other prominent leaders, okay. I'll even concede cool things about the White House the Obama's can expect to enjoy.

But do we really need to stop what we're doing to contemplate which breed should be the "First Puppy?" And I know Barrack Obama playing basketball is more news worthy than wars in the Middle East. Don't forget how important Michelle Obama's choice of apparel is (you might not believe the blogs devoted to her dress choice. Um, get a life people?) Stories about the potential "First Grandma" are mildly okay. She's a cute old lady, so I'll let those ones slide. These are just some of the headlines I've seen dashing around the Web on a normal day.

It more than smacks of hero worship. And frankly, it's driving me batty. I see more about Obama than Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, etc. etc. I couldn't care less about the minutae of an actor's or actress's life, so why do I care if Obama's email service is down? Did we get a whole news story when some other senator couldn't get into his email? And maybe I'm a little off here, but I *think* that it will get fixed before he takes office. Certainly the U.S. Government can make sure the President of the United States has internet access--somehow? (Although, with some of the government programs I've had to slog through, maybe that's too optimistic.)

How long before our President starts doing celebrity endorsements? I can see it now.

"Hello, I'm President Obama. When I'm going into a peace summit with world leaders, I want to make sure my smile is at its best. The only toothpaste for the White House is Crest Whitening. Not only is it the one most recommended by dentists, but with its patented whitening formula I can knock the socks off any dictator who may or may not be a tyrant, but we won't actually call him evil, even though he slaughters tens of thousands of his own people. But if he uses this toothpaste, at least his smile will be without reproach."

If I see a headline talking about the Obama's getting a haircut, or which toothpaste or shampoo they use, I will totally lose it.

**I was looking around for a picture of President-Elect Obama for the blog and came across this one that would have made milk shoot out my nose if I'd been drinking milk at the time. It in no way is disrespectful to Obama. Well, any more than putting vulcan ears on him can be. If someone made John McCain look like Scottie I would have loved it just as much. (And if you find a pic of that, let me know.) I come from a Trekkie family, so this is hilarious to me. I got the picture from Enjoy!**

I'm sure vulcans value their pearly whites, too.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Word of the Week #29

Status: Trying to finish up my current book, so the blogging may be scarce for the next little while.
Song: "Cloudless" by Peter Gabriel

lugubrious - [loo-goo-bree-uhs] - adjective

Definition: mournful, dismal, or gloomy, esp. in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner.

Usage: Here's hoping the "Twilight" movie that comes out this week won't be too lugubrious, since it's a story about love that just can't work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remember Veterans Today

Status: Grateful for the millions who serve and die for our freedom
Song: "Hammerhead" by The Offspring

Thank a member of the military.

Happy Veteran's Day

*I went on a field trip with my son's class to the cemetery this morning and took all these pictures myself. Yea!*

Monday, November 10, 2008

Word of the Week #28

Status: It's raining, it's pouring...
Song: "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by Scorpions

vituperation -- [vy-too-puh-RAY-shuhn] -- noun

1. The act or an instance of speaking abusively to or about.
2. Sustained and severely abusive language.

The issue of Prop. 8 in California has reduced many to simple vituperation instead of reasoned discussion.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bad Writing Contest Winners

Status: Not liking shopping on a Saturday
Song: "Numa Numa" by O-zone

A friend emailed me the link to a local paper's Bad Writing Contest Winners for this year. It seriously made my day. Here are some of my favorites:

Best nod to a runaway bestseller

When Bekka — sweet, adorable Bekka, scrapbooker, scripture chase champion, pure, innocent chaste Bekka, who made her own modest swimwear and provided Rice Krispie treats for every missionary homecoming — when Bekka announced her engagement to Ed, everyone in the ward knew it was right, because Ed was, as any fool could see, Bekka's perfect match: good looking, strong, and a vampire.

—Eric Samuelsen

Best romance

Theirs was a romance straight out of the Old West, replete with trusty horses, cowboy hats, boots, spurs, six-shooters and shouts of "yee haw!" which is probably why the condo association had them evicted.

—Lynn Nielsen

Best cliffhanger

From the tips of her toes to the ends of those pesky hairs on her head that even spray and brushing never hold down, Sarah sensed something huge was about to happen to her, and it does, too, on page 157.

—Steve Warren


Detective Smyth, a former English teacher, stepped over both mutilated bodies and a spreading pool of blood on the floor, to use a can of yellow spray paint (that the killer had left behind) to correct typos in angry words scrawled on one wall: "Yu'll never katch me, kops!"

—Robert B. Robeson

You can see the whole list here.

And some more hilarious, milk-snorting winners from the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest here.

Here's my favorite from that one:

"Die, commie pigs!" grunted Sergeant "Rocky" Steele through his cigar stub as he machine-gunned the North Korean farm animals.

Dave Ranson
Calgary, Alberta

Now I'm in the mood for some bad writing. *crack my knuckles* I may just have to make up my own list. Anyone else want to contribute?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Recommended Reading: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Status: Just got my hair cut. Yea! I now have bangs.
Song: "Running from the Scene" by Manic Bloom

Well, it's been a bit of a HEAVY week, what with all the politics and elections and everything. Sometimes when things are heavy, you just have do something totally light and brainless to balance yourself out. Some people like to veg out and watch TV, but every time I try that I usually spend my vegging time flipping channels. (How is that with over 100 channels there can't be anything good on?! I would even settle for watching The Mummy for like, the 14th time. I love that movie.)

Since I'm a book addict, here's a recommendation for some light, fun, and completely anti-heavy reading.

**Note: I tried writing a few catchy back-cover blurb type paragraphs to entertain and enthrall, but I couldn't write anything that tops the product description from Amazon. So I'm going to shamelessly steal their description here. Just understand that it actually came from some professional copy writer who is obvisouly better at this than me.

A hero with an incredible talent...for breaking things. A life-or-death rescue a bag of sand. A fearsome threat from a powerful secret network...the evil Librarians.

Alcatraz Smedry doesn't seem destined for anything but disaster. On his 13th birthday he receives a bag of sand, which is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians plotting to take over the world. The sand will give the Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop them! infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutziness.

(See what I mean?! How can I compete with that?)

I loved Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians. It is one of the most fun and clever books I've read in a really long time. Even though the target audience is young adult, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The first-person narration is a hoot, and the author not only pokes fun at himself but many aspects of society as well. The whole story is ludicrous and off-the-wall, but pulls together wonderfully by the skillful talent of Brandon Sanderson. I laughed out loud numerous times, and actually even snorted at a real clever slam on Harry Potter at the very end.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Brandon Sanderson a few times, and he is a warm and fun guy with a good sense of humor. Brandon is well-known in fantasy circles for his Mistborn series, as well as recently being chosen to complete Robert Jordan's epic Wheel of Time series after Jordan's death.

Brandon told a group of writers that he wrote Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians as a break from the heavier fantasy he normally writes that, according to him, "tends to take itself very seriously." With these books, Sanderson was going anti-serious. After reading Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians you will never hear the word "rutabaga" without smiling.

Just recently I finished the second book in the series, Alcatraz versus the Scrivener's Bones, and it was just as fun and clever as the first book. (Which was a relief, since sometimes the sequels don't quite live up to the first - not in this case.)

Some people find the first-person, tongue in cheek narration distracting, but I loved it. I highly recommend these books to balance out the serious and heavy in your life.

You can find out more about Brandon Sanderson and his books at his website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't forget to VOTE!!

Status: Going to vote
Song: "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood


Monday, November 3, 2008

Word of the Week #27

Status: It's been one of those days
Song: "Crazy" by Seal

addle - [ad-'l] - verb

Definition: to make or become muddled or confused

Usage: Helping my friend navigate her medical bills is addling my brain.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Review: A Future for Tomorrow by Haley Hatch Freeman

Status: Thoughtful
Song: "Arcus" by Amythestium

A few weeks ago I was asked to participate in a blog tour for a non-fiction book, A Future for Tomorrow by Haley Hatch Freeman. I was happy to agree, but when the book arrived I hesitated a little to start reading it. A Future for Tomorrow is the true story of the author’s struggles with Anorexia, the eating disorder that very nearly killed her. It is a story that I think should be shared, but it is often painful to read. Sometimes I had to put it down and go do other things, just because I was caught up too emotionally.

I am grateful that I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder, although as a dance major for a few years in college, I regularly met with faculty who were concerned about eating disorders among dancers. And I have had girls close to me suffer with anorexia. Fortunately, none of them lost weight to the point of the author, but it was frightening nonetheless.

As an author myself, I know how scary it is to bare pieces of your soul to whatever stranger reads your book. I must commend Haley Hatch Freeman for her courage in laying open her heart and soul to her readers. She doesn’t hold back, and on every page you can feel her desire to help others through her own experience. She even includes pictures in the back of the book so that others can see her close to her lowest point of under 100 pounds, and how much better she looks after recovery.

The messages of hope, and how Haley leaned on her faith and what she knew of the Savior are uplifting and priceless. But perhaps what I most appreciate about the book is the insight I now have into the mindset of an eating disorder. I have been told that eating disorders are usually not about food, but about other issues like control and self-esteem. Through this book, you really begin to see what that means. I truly think that Haley’s honest sharing of how she viewed food—what she thought and felt in association with it—will be invaluable knowledge for me, even though I do not struggle with the disease.

Sometime in the future, I may need to lean on my new understanding with some girl. And I have no doubt that many more girls than we realize will struggle with this, especially with a society so obsessed with a beauty that isn’t even really attainable, because it isn’t real. (Click here for a rant on that subject.) Armed with more knowledge, I feel more prepared to keep an eye out with my own daughter. For that, I want to thank Haley Hatch Freeman.

A Future For Tomorrow is a book I would highly recommend to parents, youth leaders, teachers, and teenagers themselves. It is very much an LDS book, but I would give it to others not of the LDS faith in a heartbeat, because of the in-depth look into the eating disorder.

You can find out more about Haley Hatch Freeman and A Future for Tomorrow (and even buy an autographed copy. How great is that?!) at her blog or her website. You can also order the book at Amazon (but it won't be signed).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Word of the Week #26

otiose - [oh-shee-ohs] - adjective

1. Ineffective; futile.
2. Being at leisure; lazy; indolent; idle.
3. Of no use.

Usage: I didn't get much written last Saturday, it was a pretty otiose day.

Status: Taking a deep breath
Song: "Send Me an Angel" by Sleepthief

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In the Mood For a Little Vampire?

Status: Almost finished making grape juice. Yea!
Song: "Let Down" by Another Cynthia

My kids are so excited that it's almost Halloween. I haven't figured out any of our costumes yet, but that's another story. The stores are sporting Halloween decorations, Halloween costumes, and Halloween candy. So, I'm going to jump onto the Halloween bandwagon. What says Halloween more than Vampires? And, because I'm addicted to books, let's talk about some vampire books out there. And there are lots trying to ride the coattails of the Twilight phenomenon.

**Note: I will mostly talk about YA vampire books, because my experience with adult vampire books has not been fantastic. They run the gamut from gag-me gross to soft-porn with fangs. So--we're avoiding those. But if you have read some good adult vampire books that you're willing to recommend, then by all means, go ahead!

Here we go! Let's start with the big one:

1. Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

These books are vampire romances--heavy on the romance. I like them, but not necessarily because of the romance part, which sometimes smacks of a Harlequin paperback. I still devoured the books in a short period of time. Twilight is by far the best of the 4 book series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn).

The story is based around Bella Swan, who falls in love with hundred year old vampire Edward Cullen (in a 17 year old body). The series goes through their relationship, as well as a feud with other vampires and werewolves. These are like literature junk food, but who doesn't love some potato chips and Nutty Bars once in a while? The movie based on Twilight will be out in November.

You can find out more about the series and Stephenie Meyer on her website.

2. Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

These books boast a strong, female protagonist with excellent voice. Add a cast of well-rounded characters, good writing, and some new twists to the vampire idea, and you have a breath of fresh air on the vampire scene. The books in the series are: Vampire Academy, Frostbite, and Shadow Kiss (available this November).

The story is set in the wilderness of Montana, where young vampire aristocrats and their bodyguards go to a boarding school (to quote a review, it's the bloodsucking equivalent of Hogwart's). The main character is Rose Hathaway, bodyguard to vampire and best friend Lissa.

You can find out more about the books and the author at her website.

3. The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine.

Brainiac Claire has to attend a community college before her parents will let her go to an Ivy League school far away. Unfortunately, she doesn't realize until too late that the small college town is really run by vampires. This is another interesting premise, and a real easy read. I enjoyed the books, but be aware that there is some swearing.

The books in the series are: Glass Houses, The Dead Girls' Dance, Midnight Alley, Feast of Fools, and Lord of Misrule (will be out this January). I've only read the first two books of the series, but will probably read the rest.

You can find out more about the books and author at her website.

4. Vampirates by Justin Stomper

This series may have to take the cake for unique idea. It combines Vampires and Pirates in a brilliant smushed word: Vampirates. Grace and her brother Connnor are suddenly orphans, and decide to brave the sea rather than be adopted by a detested family in their hometown. They are separated and rescued after hitting a huge storm, and enter the world of pirates and vampires, who happen to be pirates, too. Besides a fun idea and unique characters, I found the books surprisingly well-written. (Why it was a surprise to me, I don't know.)

The series starts with Demons of the Ocean, followed by Tide of Terror and Blood Captain. You can find out more at the Vampirates website.

5. Den of Shadows Series by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

For those who may be tired of wussy, good-guy vampires, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes goes back to vampires who prey on humans with little remorse. I've only read one of these, Demon in My View, but have the others stacked up on my nightstand. These books are really short, so can be finished in just hours. These may be good starter books into the YA vampire scene. The books in the series are Demon in My View, Shattered Mirror, In the Forests of the Night, and Midnight Predator.

You can find out more about the books and the author at her publisher's website.

5. The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Claire

These aren't vampire books, but they do have vampires in them. They mostly involve demons and demon hunters. I'm just including the books here because I really, really like them. Sometimes when you read as much as I do you start getting tired of the same sort of thing. Well, these books are not the same sort of thing. And they are very well-written.

Teenager Clary discovers she can see supernatural beings that no one else can and gets drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters (teens who kill demons and monsters). It's creepy, thrilling, and leaves you eagerly reaching for the next one. City of Bones is the first, followed by City of Ashes, and ending with City of Glass (will be out March 2009).

You can find out more about the books and the author at her website.

There are a few books that really suck (ha ha) for your Halloween season. I know there are many more out there, like the Vampire Diaries (couldn't finish - I'd pass), Vampire Kisses Series (haven't read), and Cirque Du Freak Series (haven't read). Here's a site with more of a list.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Word of the Week #25

*This comes from reader Deborah. Thanks for the suggestion!

inimitable - [i-nim-i-tuh-buhl] - adjective

Definition: incapable of being imitated or copied; surpassing imitation; matchless.

Usage: What a great word for the Silver Anniversary of the inimitable Jaime Theler's Word of the Week.

**Doesn't this sound like an ominous, slightly creepy word? So not what you think it means :)

Status: Trying to think of activities for the last day of Fall Break
Song: "Bye Bye Beautiful" by Nightwish

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pet Peeves I Have as a Reader

Status: Determined to push through
Song: "When Doves Cry" by Prince (or is it just "sign" or the "artist formerly known as Prince"?)

I have a little bit of residual snarkiness from last week, so I decided to do a snarky post about pet peeves that I have as a reader, because, after all, my opinion is the only one that matters, right? (In case you can't tell, I love the word snarky. It ranks up there in my list of favorite words. I like twit, too. And the French way of pronouncing psychiatrist. Hmmm. I feel a future blog idea coming on.)

Drum roll.... Jaime's pet peeves as an avid reader:

1. When the author can't think of another way to show the hero as sensitive and loving except to make him cry all the time. Or mist up, or get choked up, etc. I like a man to appreciate a sunset, but if he starts blubbering, I'm leaving. If I want someone to cry at the drop of a hat, I have a 5 year old daughter for that. These books not only get put down, but thrown across the room. If only the hero was there in person, then I could forgive tears at being hit by a book in the face.

2. Building up to an awesome climax, only to have the PC ending of everyone talking it out and walking away. Whhaat?! Where's the smackdown?

I like action movies. I like the ending of Sahara where Matthew McConaughey shoots a cannon into the windshield of the bad guy's helicoptor. (And it only has a little bit to do with the fact that it's Matthew McConaughey doing it :) We get a thrill of vicarious justification in the Knockout ending. It doesn't mean I'd like to see someone get hit by a cannonball in real life, but don't hype it up, then let it fizzle out on me like a can of opened pop left on the counter all day. That's just sugary sweet with no punch. Ick!

3. Large sections of nothing but contemplation, followed by some more thinking, some philosophizing, and maybe a cup of tea. I'd also rank up there wandering around for months in a tent, hanging out forever in a cave, and just mooning into someone's eyes for three chapters. And yes, those are specific references to specific books.

If it's a thinking book, then fine. But I've read some great books that make you think while the characters are doing something--other than chatting at a coffee shop.

4. Fantasy kick-butt female characters that wear next to no clothing. I don't care how good she is with a sword, or axe, or staff, or 15 daggers, if she's wearing a fur bikini, she's not going to fare well in a fight. Sorry. And it's a dead giveaway a man wrote it. I doubt he's ever tried doing anything remotely physical in a bikini. She'd be too distracted by trying not to pop out.

5. A book that has to use more than 3 pages to list the characters. Unless it's War and Peace, (which I must admit I haven't read, but it sounded good) I don't want to have to refer to a spreadsheet to keep everyone straight. Maybe it's just lazy of me, or maybe it's the fact that everything else in my life is complicated and I don't want my few minutes of spare time to be just as stressful as juggling my family's schedule.

6. Bad guys who are bad... just because. Just because we all know bad guys are e-vil, the fru-its of the de-vil. (So I Married an Ax Murderer reference) Although I could see a really fun humorous book about a bad guy who is just bad because he is supposed to be. Maybe he's a really bad, bad guy. Or maybe he wants to buck the system. Maybe a villian coming of age story...

Hold on just a second. I'm going to go write that down.

*Okay, I'm back.

7. Books that take forever to get into the story. I might give them to chapter three, but if I'm still thinking "So what?" I'm moving on. The time of Moby Dick is gone, people. To quote my brother, "If it's not instant, it's not worth it." Of course, he was talking as a bachelor about food preparation, but I think it sums up the Instant Generation.

8. Characters who change out of the blue. In real life people don't change like that. Of course, if one of the other characters says/thinks something like, "Hmmm. Where did that come from? I wonder what made him change out of the blue?" then that's okay.

So there are some of my pet peeves. I'm sure that I can think of more pet peeves in the future, but the snarky feeling is wearing off. I guess I'll go do dishes. That should bring it back.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Word of the Week #24

Status: So close to finishing my WIP, if I could just get my main character through this stupid door
Today's Song: "What If I" by Kristy Thirsk

morass - [muh-ras] - noun

1. any confusing or troublesome situation, esp. one from which it is difficult to free oneself; entanglement.
2. a marsh or bog.

Jaime beat her head against the top of her computer desk, thinking that soon there would be a forehead-shaped groove. The action didn't jump start her brain cells--it never did--but she couldn't help but hope for a burst of inspiration to drag her out of the current plot morass. Ah, the glorious life of the writer.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Recommended Reading: The Richest Man in Babylon

Status: It's cold outside
Today's Song: "Just Dance" by Lady Ga Ga

Many of us have had finances on the brain the last couple weeks as the world's markets take a hit, stocks drop, and we are in the middle of what the media calls a "credit crisis." I think that now may be a good time for individuals, families, businesses, and countries to go back to some sound finance basics. In fact, a year ago would have been a better time to go back to the basics, but until someone figures out how to rewind time, we're stuck with the present. :)

A book that is great at getting down to the basics in an easy-to-read way is the classic book, The Richest man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason. It first appeared in 1926 as a series of informational pamphlets on basic financial management, which were then compiled into a book.

If the idea of reading a book on money and finances makes you break out in a cold sweat and your head spin, don't worry. This is an easy one. The Richest Man in Babylon gives financial advice through a collection of parables, kind of like Aesop's fables, set in ancient Babylon. Each story presents basic tenets of how to get ahead financially in any time. It reads a bit like a collection of short stories.

I liked the tale "Seven Cures for a Lean Purse" where Arkad, the richest man in Babylon gives a class teaching how he rose from an ordinary Joe-Schmoe (not a Babylonian term) to being so wealthy.

The Seven Cures are:
1) Start thy purse to fattening - take 1/10 of what you earn and save it for the future.
2) Control thy expenditures - don't buy frivolous things even if you have the money for them.
3) Make thy gold multiply - once you build up some savings invest it.
4) Guard thy treasure from loss - invest in things where your principal is safe.
5) Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment - own rather than rent (I don't think he means the outrageous home purchases that have us in trouble right now)
6) Insure a future income - Save for retirement and for family after your passing.
7) Increase thy ability to earn - work hard, look for opportunities, and better yourself.

That wasn't so scary, was it?

We could all use some better money sense. I'm not encouraging you to run out and buy a copy of the book (although if you want to you can probably find a copy at any secondhand store), but for sure check it out from your library.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Writing Non-fiction Part 3

Status: Ecstatic I finally finished sealing the cement in my driveway - and yes, it was as bad as I thought it would be.
Today's Song: "I Don't Care" by Apocalyptico

I'm sorry for taking so long to get to this part. I had family in town, and you know how sometimes when you have company other things get pushed back. But I'm back in the saddle (or computer chair) again and, as promised, here are some steps to writing any sort of non-fiction. This works for shorter pieces like articles, and even for something as long as a book.

So... drum roll... 5 Fast and Easy Steps to Writing Non-fiction.
(I have to admit I found these steps from this article, but I'm not sure who the author is.)

1. Brainstorm on your topic
2. Group your material
3. Check for more needed information
4. Order your groups
5. Write each section

That doesn't look like much when you just list them, but let's try this out, shall we? For our little exercise I'm going to pick "Triathlons for Beginners." I want you to know that I just pulled this off the top of my head, so I don't have anything prepared. (I also raced in my first Triathlon a couple months ago. Yea!)

Step 1 - Brainstorm
Don't limit yourself in this part. Even random thoughts could lead somewhere. So, here goes. (Remember I'm doing this as I write this post)

* types of triathlons
* how to train
* what to eat
* how to start
* music to keep you going
* do you need special clothing?
* good training program
* finding a triathlon to enter
* open water vs. swimming pool
* avoiding injury
* how long to train
* some famous triathletes
* is time important on your first one?
* the next step
* personal triathlon experiences
* swimming tips
* biking tips
* running tips
* how to not look like a drowning rat in the water
* passing etiquette
* what are those ankle things they wear?
* race day - what to expect
* how to stay motivated
* avoiding "bonking"
* spandex

I could just keep going, but that should be enough to get the point across.

Step 2 - Group your material
Take your brainstorming and start grouping things that may go good together.

Group 1- famous triathletes, types of triathlons (or basically, what is a triathlon?), open water vs. swimming pool

Group 2 - personal triathlon experiences, the next step

Group 3 - good training program, what to eat, how to stay motivated, music to keep you going, avoiding injury, swimming tips, how to not look like a drowning rat in the water, biking tips, running tips, avoiding "bonking"

Group 4 - finding a triathlon to enter, how to start, how to train, how long to train

Group 5 - what to expect on race day, do you need special clothing, spandex, is time important on your first one, what are those ankle things they wear, passing etiquette

Step 3 - Check for more needed information
This is the time for research. Go find what you will need to flesh out your topic. As you research, you will probably also find more things to add to your list. Just plug them in the right grouping or make new groups if you need to.

Step 4 - Order your groups

Introduction - Group 1
Getting started - Group 4
Training (and more training) - Group 3
Race Day - Group 5
Conclusion - Group 2

Step 5 - Write each section
Do I really need to explain this one? The sections in an article may only be a few paragraphs, and the sections in a book may be as long as a chapter or several chapters.

There! That wasn't so bad, was it? You can write non-fiction, just take it a step at a time. And don't forget, non-fiction does not equal boring! Happy writing...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Word of the Week #23

Status: Already feeling those muscles after a million lunges
Song: "Black Gloves" by TS Hartley

genius loci - [gen-i-oos loh-kee] - noun

Definition: the distinctive character or atmosphere of a place with reference to the impression that it makes on the mind.

In a small way, jello, large church activities, and dozens of kids underfoot contribute to the genius loci of Utah.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

3 Steps to Change the Nation's Future

I know this has nothing to do with writing or books, but it easily falls under blogging about anything else I feel like :)

Are any of you a little unsettled about the financial welfare of our nation? Does the idea of throwing $700 billion at the problem make you nervous, especially when we are already so in debt that the gov't doesn't have $700 billion?

Here's an alternative from financial expert Dave Ramsey. Check out his plan to change the nation's future and pass it on.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." --Edmond Burke

**And I might slightly change it: The only thing necessary for the triumph of short-term political expediency is for the people to do nothing.**

Monday, September 29, 2008

Word of the Week #22

Brobdingnagian - [brob-ding-nag-ee-uhn] - adjective

Definition: of huge size; gigantic; tremendous

Usage: The Brobdingnagian financial bailout the government is discussing has many tax payers worried.

Note: I was reading a book that has beautiful writing (and enough vocabulary words to keep my Word of the Week going to the end of the year) when I came across this word. It stopped me dead. I had no clue, even in context, what it could mean, not to mention how to get my tongue around its pronunciation. You all probably know this word, but I guess I should read Gulliver's Travels.

Status: Getting back into the writing groove
Song: "Underwater" by Vertical Horizon

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Writing non-fiction part 2

As promised, here's the next part to my musings on writing non-fiction.

If you're writing just because you want to, or to share with friends and family, then you can write about whatever you want, however you want. But, if you plan on selling your writing, then there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. These questions could even apply to fiction.

1. What type of piece is it?

There are four general types of non-fiction:

a) Expositive - informs or explains a subject. For example, a book on how to organize small spaces.

b) Persuasive - presents reasons and evidence to convince the reader to think or act in a certain way. Self-help and motivational books fall in this category.

c) Narrative - describes real-life events. Biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies fall into this category, as well as stories about actual events, like SeaBiscuit, The Perfect Storm, etc. *This is different than historical fiction, where the main characters are fictional. In narrative non-fiction, the characters are the real people who experienced the event.*

d) Descriptive - uses details related to the senses to create mental images for the reader. *I'm honestly a little fuzzy on what exactly this is, or for examples. I think essays fall in this category, but you really don't see a lot of essays outside academia.*

2. Who is your audience?

If you're writing for kids, you will use different words than for adults. If it's technical information in a certain field, then you need to know the jargon. Figure out your audience and write to it. For example, PEOPLE magazine articles will be faster reads than how-to articles about home painting techniques.

3. What is its purpose?

Why would people want to read it? What's your end goal? What makes your writing different? (This is an especially important question if you want to sell your work to editors or agents.)

4. When will it be read?

This is more important if you're dealing with topics that have to do with holidays, trends, or events. If your writing is timely then plan accordingly. For example, Christmas articles/books usually must be submitted many months in advance and right now is a vertiable avalanche of books on political candidates.

5. Where will it be read?
Is it a magazine or e-zine article, book, pamphlet, blog, etc. Guess what? Blogs are non-fiction writing. *gasp* Although many blogs read more like fiction, even though they're not. Hmmm, maybe blogs would fall into the Descriptive Non-fiction category. What do you think?

*Tip: Humor will help your non-fiction writing in almost every case. Almost. Medical journals--not so much.

So there are some questions to ask yourself. If you can answer them, it will help hone your writing.

I think this post is long enough for today. My little girl is needing some attention. Check back in a few days for Writing non-fiction Part 3 where I'll show you an easy exercise to write any kind of non-fiction.

Status: Grateful the allergy medicine is working.
Today's Song: "My December" by Linkin Park

Monday, September 22, 2008

Word of the Week #21

mephitic - [muh-fit-ik] - adjective

Definition: offensive to the smell; noxious, pestilential, poisonous

Usage: A small classroom filled with twenty ten year old boys on a hot August day can have a very mephitic atmosphere, so the teacher requested donations of air fresheners.

Status: windblown
Song: Here it goes again by Ok Go

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Non-fiction DOES NOT equal boring

Status: trying to ignore a headache
Song of the Day: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police

I have written and published two non-fiction books, so I have a special place in my heart for non-fiction.

What is non-fiction? The boring definition is: informational text dealing with an actual, real-life subject. Even though the definition may sound dry and boring, bringing to mind college textbooks that break your back and require caffeine to get through, non-fiction does not equal boring!

I taught a class on non-fiction at a writer’s conference with Shirley Bahlman (who is anything but boring) and we tried hard to get this point across. Most people read non-fiction to learn something, for reference, or to be entertained. Yes, to be entertained.

Here are some excerpts of some non-fiction books, and I don’t think any of them sound boring:

“Whatever may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich.” –From The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles

“There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land. It wasn’t until refugees started passing through our town that we began to see that it was actually taking place in our own country. Families who had walked hundreds of miles told how relatives had been killed and their houses burned…. Apart from their fatigue and malnourishment, it was evident they had seen something that we would refuse to accept if they told us all of it.” --From A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

“We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberations. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of this world.” –From Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

“America is always at its most powerful and most influential when it is combining innovation and inspiration, wealth-building and dignity-building, the quest for big profits and the tackling of big problems. When we do just one, we are less than the sum of our parts. When we do both, we are greater than the sum of our parts—much greater.” –From Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman

“I came to the painful conclusion that while I often felt content to be an LDS woman, so much of my life was dictated by routine and habit that I rarely paused to rejoice in my divinity. And I had to admit to myself that even sometimes I merely felt resigned to be me. I realized that I did not truly rejoice in who I was. Like most of us, I looked forward to and planned on having joy once I made it back to Heavenly Father, but I just wasn’t finding it on the way there.” –From Enjoying the Journey by Jaime Theler *I know, shameless plug. But it’s my blog, after all.*

Have I convinced you yet that non-fiction doesn’t have to be boring? Do you have an idea for a non-fiction book or article that’s been buzzing around in the back of your mind like an annoying mosquito in your bedroom in the middle of the night that won’t let you sleep?

Does it help if I tell you that non-fiction out-sells fiction? That non-fiction lasts on the shelves longer than novels? That you can write about literally anything? And I mean anything. There’s a magazine out there devoted to the porta-potty industry. And they need articles. Or what about the magazine actively looking for articles on raising sheep? *These are real, honest-to-goodness, magazines. I didn’t make it up*

So you can write about anything, don’t necessarily have to have a degree in a field to write about it, and especially with the Internet, you can find people who are interested in the topic. And, best of all, it doesn’t have to be boring!

Soon I’ll post easy steps on writing non-fiction that anyone can follow. And then we'll turn to fiction, because I love it, too.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quickie post

Status: Brain is mush
Song of the day: "Headlock" by Imogen Heap

I know I'm a bit behind in posting, but it's late (for me, crazy woman who gets up around 5:30 a.m.) and my brain is toast. In my brain-is-mush haze I came across a good blog post by author Ally Carter about writing for the YA market. She talks about the wrong questions people ask about writing for YA.

Check it out here. And I promise to write something more soon. Night!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Word of the Week #20

vertiginous - [ver-tij-uh-nuhs] - adjective

1. whirling; spinning; rotary
2. affected with vertigo; dizzy.
3. liable or threatening to cause vertigo.
4. apt to change quickly; unstable.

1. I used to chase dust devils to try and get caught in the vertiginous air.
2. Even though I don't have a fear of heights, being really high up makes me slightly vertiginous.
3. Spinning my daughter around and around is a vertiginous game (for me).
4. With the news of Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, Wall Street showed its current vertiginous nature.

My Status: Feeling Better
Song of the Day: "Feeling Good" by Muse

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Recommended Reading: Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

I'm recommending another favorite series today. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer is targeted to a young adult audience, but my husband and I both really enjoy them, along with all three of our kids, my older brother, and many other authors I know.

The word I would use to describe these books are: clever. Oh, and imaginative with fantastic voice. Technically, I guess that's 4 words. In case you can't tell, I really love these books.

Artemis Fowl is brilliant, devious, a technological genius, filthy rich, and the mastermind of a criminal empire. He is also twelve years old. His father is lost (along with the family fortune) and presumed dead. His mother slipped into a catatonic state from the shock, and Artemis is left holding the reigns of the "family business." He has big plans to restore and surpass his family fortune, but not in a normal way. His scheme is to trap a fairy from the world underground (where magical creatures retreated to once humanity overran Earth) and hold her for ransom for fairy gold.

But the fairies haven't been living underground on fairy dust alone, they are technologically superior to those on the surface. Well, to everyone except maybe Artemis Fowl. Unfortunately for Artemis, the fairy he kidnaps is Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaisance), the first female on the squad who is not only tough as nails, but very good at what she does. Things don't go according to plan, either for Artemis or the fairy comrades who come to rescue Holly. The result is a rousing tale, full of characters we like and leaving us anxious for more Artemis adventures.

Author Eoin Colfer describes Artemis Fowl as "Die Hard with fairies." I think that sums it up pretty good. Artemis Fowl, published in 2001, is the first of the NY Times Bestselling series. So far there are six books. The first, Artemis Fowl, is followed by Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, and the most recent, Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox which was just released in July, 2008. Pop by the really fun Artemis Fowl website, complete with a book trailer for The Time Paradox and an online game.

You can't beat reading these books, but I would also recommend the audiobooks. We have checked them all out of the library and had a blast listening together as a family. Nathaniel Parker does a fantastic job as the reader, and I enjoy his performance as much as the award winning audiobooks for Harry Potter (which are excellent, if you haven't listened to them).

Eoin Colfer lives in Ireland with his wife and two sons. He was a teacher until the publication of Artemis Fowl, which allowed him to resign from teaching and concentrate on writing full time. You can find out more about Eoin Colfer on his website.

My Status: Fighting a head cold.
Song of the Day: More Than This by Peter Gabriel

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Hound of Rowan Review Part 2

A while ago I posted a review of the book The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff. I'll be the first to admit that the review wasn't exactly glowing (you can read it here), not because of the writing or story, but just because I felt it was too similar to Harry Potter.

Well, the author stopped by and left a comment. Here are some things Henry Neff could have said:

* Oh yeah, lady! Let's see you do better.

* Who's the one with the book deal, hmm?

* I read the excerpt of your work and guess what? It sucks rocks!

* Obviously my agent and editor disagree with you. Do you have an agent? Didn't think so.

* The gazillion people who have bought the book have better taste than you.

* Did you notice I also illustrated the book? I can sketch in my sleep better than you. (Probably true.)

* Pthththth.

* Whatever. What do you know anyway?

* I don't see you with a national title.

* Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries! (For those going "huh?" it's a Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail reference.)

I wouldn't have blamed him for any of those comments, but he didn't say anything like that. In fact, he was very gracious.

So because I am impressed with his response, I'm going to pick up the second book in the series and read it. I'm hoping I like it better, because after checking a little more into the author, he seems like a genuinely nice guy. I mean, how could you not like a guy that admits on a public website that he's a terrible dancer ? I quote: "If you ever see me cavorting on a dance floor, please call me a cab." You can find out more about Henry H. Neff at his website. And the illustrations were pretty cool.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Contest and Free Book!

Have you been thinking to yourself, "Man! I really need to get a copy of Jaime's book, Enjoying the Journey" but just haven't gotten around to getting one? Well, here's a super-easy way to get your hands on a free copy.

It's a contest!!

Author Anne Bradshaw reviewed Enjoying the Journey on her blog and is running a contest for a free copy. How to enter:

1) Check out her review.

2) Post information about the contest on your blog with a link back to hers .

3) Leave ONE comment on the contest post telling her you've completed #2.

A winner will be chosen at random on Monday, September 15th, and announced the same day. The book will be signed and mailed by the author.

So, for me... enter and spread the word and maybe you'll get a signed copy delivered to your very own mailbox! How easy is that?!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Word of the week #19

hirsute - [hur-soot] - adjective

1. shaggy; hairy
2. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of hair

Usage: The cavemen in the Geico commercials are definitely hirsute examples of humanity.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What am I working on?

**This picture is from an ad for the lapdog writing stand - got to make sure I don't mess with copyright issues**

I think many writers are curious what others are writing, so I'll share a little of what I'm working on. My last book went through sooo many re-writes that I needed to take a break from non-fiction for a while. So I am in the latter stages of finishing up a children's fantasy novel. Especially for the boys who like magic, mayhem, and cool weapons.

The idea was born during a bedtime story I told my son one day. He kept begging me to repeat it and I thought, "Hey, this would make a good book." It has changed and developed since then, but he knows this book is for him.

Right now I am almost finished with the rough draft (coming in around 300 pages) and at the same time editing the first half of the book. My working title is The Gateway, but it isn't a title that sends tingles up and down my spine. The publisher will probably change it anyway. Did you know the publisher has final say on the title?

It's been a lot of fun and I have a lot of respect for fiction writers. For all of you who may be curious, here's an excerpt. It's the first couple pages. Be kind in your comments :)

Dread kicked Bryan Abbott’s heart into overdrive, his palms sweated, and his lungs struggled for air. He would have welcomed even the sound of someone creeping up behind him, would have raced to greet the source of the footsteps, just to have someone—anyone—close to him. But as he waited in the deserted parking lot, there was no doubt that he was alone.

Thirteen-year-old boys should have outgrown such a baby fear, so Bryan was pretty good at faking it—most of the time. Movement made it easier. Bryan sprinted toward the duffel bag he had dropped on the sidewalk. It was just like his dad to be late. Jump—soar—land. It happened often enough.

He readied himself for another long jump. He always had swim practice on Fridays. His dad knew that. But today the Rec Center closed early for the first night of Franklin’s Fall Festival.

Jump—soar—land. Yes! That was the longest one by far! Bryan bowed grandly to the nearby trees, hearing in his mind the roar of applause.

Bryan sighed and plopped down on his bag. His dad probably forgot it was his weekend. Again. Bryan’s parents switched the weekend schedule around because of something-or-other, and his dad always forgot when they changed things. Or he got busy at work. Or he had other plans. Or a million other things came up.

The daylight fought a losing battle with the approaching darkness, sending out feeble strands of orange and purple that got swallowed halfway across the sky. The early autumn air had a distinct bite now. Bryan stared miserably across the empty parking lot and the equally vacant road leading to it. Icy drops of water from his wet hair trickled down his neck.

How long had it been since the last person left the Rec Center? One hour? Two? Logically, Bryan knew it couldn’t have been that long—probably half an hour at the most—but his pounding heart wasn’t listening to logic right now.

He jumped to his feet. Got to move!

Chewing on his lower lip, he paced the sidewalk. With loud crunches, his footsteps pulverized dead leaves littering the ground. He wasn’t really alone. People lived in the houses across the baseball field. But it was getting darker and no lights shone in the house windows.

Bryan rubbed his hands together. How could his dad do this again? He knew Bryan hated waiting alone.

With a massive swing of his leg, Bryan punted his bag so hard it soared over the curb and skidded to a stop in the parking lot. Fine! He was leaving.

Bryan grabbed his duffel bag and ran across the baseball field. The middle of town would be full of people at the Fall Festival. And it would be harder for either of his parents to find him in the crowd—if they bothered to look for him. Let them worry a little bit.

A small light flickered in the air to his right. Probably just a firefly. Normally he liked to try and catch them, but all Bryan wanted to do now was get to the Festival.

Darkness crept across the sky—only a thin line of sunlight shone above the mountains on the horizon. Bryan walked as fast as he could on the cracked sidewalks. Once in a while he saw more small flashes of light from the corner of his eye, but he ignored them.

Weird noises encircled him—creaking, snapping, and skittering like bare bones grazing concrete. He craned his neck from side to side, searching the deepening shadows. Just keep moving.

In his rush, Bryan didn’t watch his steps carefully enough. He stumbled over tree roots and uneven concrete. A large chunk of sidewalk caught the edge of his shoe and he went sprawling, skinning his hands and knees. Just great. More bruises to add to his almost-constant supply.

His best friend, James, liked to say that Bryan could trip over a shadow. He tried to laugh when James said that—which was a lot—but it was more embarrassing than funny.

He was hurrying past a really creepy house when a bright orange light flared over the neglected front lawn, illuminating the blank windows like glowing eyes. A small light drifted at eye-level. Fireflies didn’t glow orange or flash that bright. As he looked at it, the orange light continued to hover and pulse dimly. Fireflies didn’t pulse, either.

The light flashed again, morphing from orange to yellow. Then it throbbed yellow.

Bryan couldn’t resist a mystery. He walked closer. The light gleamed bright in the darkening night again, but green now. As he drew near, it drifted away from him.

He halted. The light stopped and hovered, still pulsing.

Bryan took another step. It flashed again, this time red, then moved farther away. When he tried to move closer, the light floated away from him, staying far enough away that he couldn’t get a good look at it.

He decided to try something different. He sprinted to the light. It darted away down the road, faster than he thought possible. Then stopped. Almost like it was waiting for him.

It continued to dance, tantalizingly just out of reach, clear into the center of town. Bryan tried various ways to get closer, and failed each time. As he drew nearer to the bright lights of the Fall Festival, it grew more difficult to see the mutant firefly—or whatever it was. Ahead of him, it darted around the corner of the library building.

Bryan careened around the corner after it and was abruptly drenched in light and sound. Most of the town was gathered for the Festival. The large front lawn of the library was full of people. He unclenched hands he hadn’t realized were balled into fists, and the knot in his stomach unraveled. He looked this way and that, but couldn’t see any small, hovering, color-changing light.

If you want to read the whole first chapter, you can check it out here on my website.

Have a great week!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Book Review: The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch Anderson

How can I be thinking about Christmas when summer is barely over? After being lucky enough to participate in a blog tour for Stacy Gooch Anderson's book, The Santa Letters, I definitely have Christmas on the brain.

The story:
One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in life itself.

Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma Jensen finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach; not her job, not her love for her children, and certainly not the season. Money is tight, and emotions are taut, and this year Christmas will be a meager, empty, and painful experience.
Only six-year-old McKenna believes in miracles and the magic of Christmas. The rest of the family knows that Christmas can never be the same.

But when a mysterious package and an ornate letter arrive on the doorstep, things begin to change.
Each day, a package and a letter signed Santa arrive for the family, and together they come to understand that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever, and that God s love can heal any wound, no matter how deep. The Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a journey through a Christmas experience that will have the power to heal them all.

I must admit, I'm not a fan of mushy Christmas stories. I love the Christmas carols, the lights, the Christmas Spirit, and the focus on Jesus Christ, but things like Christmas specials on TV make me roll my eyes. I must admit that I picked up The Santa Letters with trepidation, prepared to trudge through something "heartwarming," "uplifting," and be force fed dripping sentimentality.

The Santa Letters was not what I was expecting. I didn't have to force myself through it at all. And while perhaps a couple times it got close to the line of dripping sentimentality, it never crossed over. You feel for Emma, and can really sympathize with her pain, grief, and despair. Stacy Gooch-Anderson does not write in flowery prose or with imagery that will dazzle, but the more down-to-earth writing style brings home difficult emotions and really lets us identify with characters that could really be you or me. How many of us don't go through times when, although we may not be facing the death of a spouse, we feel as if we just can't go on, yet we have to.

I would have enjoyed a little less head-hopping and think the story could stand on its own if it stayed mostly from Emma's point of view. And sometimes Santa got a tad long-winded in his letters. Regardless, The Santa Letters is a wonderful story to help us remember the blessings we have and how we can turn to God to get through tough times. The Santa Letters is heartwarming and uplifting, but not hit-you-over-the-head heartwarming and uplifting.

I also love that it is based in real life experience. (I must admit I am stealing Stacy's story from the first stop on her blog tour over at Shirley Bahlman's blog, where you can find a great interview with Stacy.)
Question: What gave you the idea for writing the Santa Letters?

Stacy: A few years back, I found out that two of my sons had been in a sexually abusive situation. And since some of the perpetrators had been wards of the state, there was a lot of pressure for us to back off. At one point, I had so much anger for what DCFS had put us through that I almost let it destroy me. But this wonderful little voice reminded me of all the things my parents had taught me and insisted that if I wanted to raise sons with integrity, love, compassion and forgiving hearts, I had to learn to do that myself and be an example. Since there was no money for Christmas - it all had gone to legal and counseling bills - I came upon the idea of the Santa Letters as a way to help our family heal and remember all the gifts we had been given throughout the years. I never intended our experience to become a book but I had a friend who when she found out what we'd been doing, she encouraged and challenged me to share it with others.

You can find out more about Stacy and The Santa Letters on her website, and stop by her blog.

For a special treat, here's a trailer for The Santa Letters.

You can order copies of the book online at Amazon or Deseret Book.

Word of the Week #18

Just because I like this word. Not to be confused with mop :)

fop - [fop] - noun

Definition: A man who is overly concerned with or vain about his dress and appearance; a dandy.

Usage: If your date constantly checks out his appearance whenever you pass anything remotely reflective, he may be a bit of a fop.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Recommended Reading: The Mandy Dyer Mysteries by Dolores Johnson

I'm recommending a fun murder mystery series today. Specialized murder mysteries (where the main character is a caterer, or a cook, or a wedding planner, or shows dogs, or races horses, etc. - and funny enough I have read series with all of those) seem to be making a splash the last 10 years, but I haven't come across many that feature a dry cleaner. The Mandy Dyers Mysteries by Dolores Johnson fills that void, and does it very well.

The first of the series is Taken to the Cleaners, first published in 1997.

Mandy Dyer is all business. She has to be. Left high and dry by her would-be-lawyer ex-husband, Mandy turns to her uncle's Denver dry-cleaning company-and soon finds herself in charge. Now, amid the hissing presses, rattling rails, and the fanciest computer system around, Mandy is making a go of it-even if her social life isn't. Then Betty the Bag Lady comes in with a man's suit, slashed and stained with blood.

How much evidence can one piece of clothing hold? From the blood to knife gashes and some long strands of blonde hair, Mandy, working alongside a handsome Denver detective, soon realizes that the garment, too small for murder victim-just might fit the killer. But with a prominent lawyer dead and a potential witness missing, returning this suit to its rightful owner isn't going to be easy--until Mandy, a woman who suddenly has one too many men in her life, figures out how to make a killer come clean.

Mandy is a fun and humorous protagonist, who feels very real and approachable. The characters are likable--even down to Mandy's cat--and the story flows well. The mystery may be a little more solvable than I would have liked, but I enjoyed the book so much it didn't bother me too much. And I did run to the library afterwards to read the rest of the series.

Taken to the Cleaners
isn't going to change your life or perspective of the world, but it's perfect for a light, fun read. The rest of the books in the series are: Hung Up to Die; A Dress to Die For; Wash, Fold, and Die; Homicide and Old Lace; Buttons and Foes; Taking the Wrap; and Pressed To Kill.

Dolores Johnson worked as a journalist on newspapers in Oregon, California, Wyoming and Colorado, but she always wanted to write and sell a murder mystery. You can find out more about Dolores Johnson and her books on her website.