Monday, December 31, 2012

Persevere in the New Year

Valerie J. Steimle

Today we have the opportunity to start over. Pondering on the months gone by, we can decide what brought us joy and what brought us sorrows.  We can think of our loved ones and our friends, recalling the happy times and how they enriched our lives.  We reflect upon what really counts and how we can spend our time in the New Year.   
From GoogleImages
            We can think about the beginning of last year and notice the improvements we have made.  If there have been no improvements, then it is not too late to change for the year ahead. A chance to renew our determination to do better this coming year can give us the jump start we need to follow through on our improvements.
            Grab a vision of your life and see the picture in your mind of the changes to come.  Hold on to that picture and let it propel you forward just as an athlete competes for a prize.  We will stumble sometimes and our vision will fall but have the courage to be strong and get back up again.  The difference between a successful person and one who isn’t successful is that the unsuccessful person chooses never to get back up and quits the process of trying.
            I’m reminded of Thomas Edison who was persistent in making an incandescent light bulb safe, practical and economical.  After one-and-a-half years of work and persistence in trying over hundreds of times, he was successful in achieving a light bulb with a filament of carbonized sewing thread which burned for thirteen and a half hours.

Here are a few things to remember about perseverance:

            Perseverance, despite all odds, means overcoming all difficulties. Knowing what your goals are and motivation to follow through are two ways you can persevere in the New Year.
            To persevere, one needs the support of everyone in your family and your friends and good relationships must be maintained. Although one can persevere through any distraction or misunderstanding, the support of others keeps the focus on your goal and you will eventually be successful.
From GoogleImages
            To persevere, you must be physically fit.  Your body cannot handle too many late nights and the junk food you take into your body-- so eat right, get enough sleep and exercise. The mind should be at peace and you can become focused on what you want to accomplish.
            Dedication to work is a necessary element towards perseverance.  Remember Thomas Edison and what he accomplished and with perseverance you can accomplish the vision of your life. It just takes perseverance.

From Marnie Pehrson’s, she says, “Think about the rippling affect you will create for others when you set goals for yourself in the new year. When we think about how we can help others, we are motivated to try harder.”
            As writers, we need this same perseverance.  Don’t give up on your dream of a published novel or non-fiction article. Don’t give up on what you want to achieve through your writings. Remember to persevere through the year to accomplish and achieve success.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gratitude for Technology

My father's turning 90 next year and he's about had it with all the burgeoning technological implements at hand. Of course, I can see what he means. My younger brother's family all came over to visit a few nights ago and, within minutes, all the grandkids were either texting on their cell phones or playing games on their iPads. As he puts it, there's so little face to face time anymore.

But all this tech stuff certainly has its he found out yesterday when we were able to Skype with my daughter on her mission. He got to see her, too, and talk with her. Still, he's definitely a curmudgeon about it all. As a writer, himself, he appreciates the computer and that's about all!

But I was so grateful to see her beautiful countenance, glowing with the joy of the gospel. I'm also so grateful for texting because, unlike my mother, I don't enjoy talking on the phone. My weekly writer's group holds our meetings by Skype. I can't imagine not using my Kindle or iPhone or iPad for reading now.

My brother-in-law couldn't believe it when I said I had an iPhone, an iPad with wireless keyboard and mouse, an iMac, and now a MacBook Air (my Christmas present). He asked why I needed both an iPad and a MacBook Air, but I've tried the iPad at writers conferences and I just can't take notes as effectively. Besides, I want to be able to get up from sleep at any time when an idea strikes me and start writing without waking my husband. Until now, I couldn't really do that since my office is in our bedroom.

So, despite what my father says, I see technology as a real blessing...And I think he will too once all our digital photos start streaming in to their brand new digital photo frame. After all, they don't have to lift a finger to turn it on. We, the children and grandchildren, are doing all the technological work by signing up with the hosting website and uploading our pictures to their frame from wherever we are.

And that's as it should be.

Now if only my brother hadn't given my 87-year-old mother a smart phone for Christmas.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas is Love

The First Presidency Devotionals are a wonderful jump start to the Christmas season. The music and warm messages of love from our Church leaders help me focus on what is most important during this season of remembering the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

“True happiness comes only by making others happy. … The spirit of Christmas … makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.” (quote from President David O. McKay). Love is essential in giving and receiving.  

President Thomas S. Monson said: "There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart—and our neighbors as ourselves. It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much; he who gives time gives more; but he who gives of himself gives all."

President Henry B. Eyring testified that Jesus Christ was the literal Son of God and the Savior of the world. He was the perfect gift from our loving Father.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf  spoke about being a grateful receiver: "At Christmastime we talk a lot about giving, and we all know that 'it is more blessed to give than to receive,' but I wonder if sometimes we disregard or even disparage the importance of being a good receiver." On this Christmas Eve I pray that we all will be grateful receivers with loving hearts for each gift that we receive on Christmas day and throughout the coming year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

That Man Might Live

This is the first 700 or so words of a short story I've been working on. Please, enjoy, and if you want to continue reading, please follow the link at the bottom of the page to my personal blog. I will put a red asterix *where the story left off, so you can find it easily. 

That Man Might Live
          I stared at the smooth dark table my father made for me when I moved out of the house seven years ago. It was the only thing he passed on to me, besides my woodworking skills. I was different from him in every other way. He died a poor, miserable old man, and I didn’t miss him, though I knew I probably should.
          “Did you hear me?”
          “Yes,” I said.
          I looked up at Mary. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her pale pink lips pressed together tightly. The crease in her forehead--only there when she was upset--was deeper than usual, interrupting the flow of her smooth, porcelain skin. Her dark blue eyes appeared black as they watched me from beneath thin, dark eyebrows.
           “Don’t you have anything to say about it?”
           I looked down at my tan hands, which were crossed over the table. “No.”
          “Why not?”
           My eyes moved to her face, the muscles in my arms tense, and my stomach turning the fish and matzah I ate for dinner uncomfortably, making me want to vomit. “I’m not angry. But I wish you would respect me enough to tell me the truth.”
          A small tear ran down her cheek. She brushed it away and re-crossed her arms. “I am telling you the truth.”
          “You expect me to believe you’ve never been unfaithful to me?”
          “Don’t you trust me?”
          “I thought I did.”
          “Well, what’s changed?”
          I stared at her still-flat stomach, the words unable to leave my lips.
          The next morning, I arose early so I could be at the site before it got too hot. Building houses during the middle of the summer--never a fun job--paid the bills and helped me get my mind off things.
I pulled on my dirty pants and my snap-button shirt, grabbing a baseball hat to cover my messy black hair. I would shower after I got home from work. Buckling my tool belt around my waist, I headed out the door, ready for a day of manual labor and great distraction.  
          The Pennsylvania sun shone brightly outside my apartment, and as I walked to work, my mind wandered back to the summer, three years ago, when I first met Mary. I had been working in Allentown, which was 8 miles down the road. The kosher deli she worked at was a block away from our site, and while eating most of my lunches there, I managed to get to know the quiet but charming girl putting herself through grad school. Those were simpler times.
          Most of the guys were already there by the time I arrived. Andrew seemed to spot me first and cat-called, his dark chest already obnoxiously bare, despite the chill that still clung to the morning.
          “Look who slept in this morning,” he said, rubbing his abs with his already filthy hands.
          “Morning,” I said. Usually, I was the first crewmember on site, but I wasn’t in the mood to talk about what had kept me up all night, especially not with Andrew.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gifts to Self

It's that time of year. I am making lists and checking them twice--and I'll bet you are, too. Finding the perfect gift for someone can be joyful or stressful, depending on the situation. My lists overwhelm me at times, but I remind myself that I always get through them by December 25th. Even if I have to stay up late on Christmas Eve, everything eventually gets wrapped and tagged and put under the tree. And then, the next morning, all the sacrifices and work are worth it. 

I'd like to suggest a gift we can all give ourselves--the gift of keeping our commitments. I'm not talking about promises to spouses or children, or responsibilities at work or church or in the community. I'm referring to the promises we make to ourselves.

With the New Year coming, we may be thinking about resolutions we want to make, changes we'd like to see in our lives. I like to think of those prayerful, mindful changes as gifts I'm giving myself. Why? Because it's a way to not let them get lost in the shuffle of all the other things going on in my life. But more important, it's a way to increase my integrity. 

When I get up early so that I can do yoga, I'm giving myself health. When I turn off the internet and face that scary blank page in my work-in-progress, I'm giving myself creativity. And any time I keep a promise I've made to myself--no matter how big or small--I give myself honesty and self-respect. 

Our lives are fluid and infinitely changeable. Challenges crop up; emergencies arise. Some days, we absolutely have to let things fall by the wayside so that we can save dinner or a deadline or a child's health or our own sanity. But let's guard against letting excuses gradually take us away from those precious commitments we've made to better ourselves. 

Remember--studies have shown that we each have a finite amount of self-control every day. We only have so much to spread between all those changes we'd like to see, so choose your resolutions strategically. Make your new commitments small at first; they can grow over time as they become ingrained habits, and then you can turn your self-control to other things. Little successes will become great things in less time than you think.

Remember this, too--the pain of self-discipline is far milder than the pain of regret. (I chant that to myself often as the alarm clock sounds or distractions sing their siren song.) 

So in the few days left until we celebrate Christmas and then ring in 2013, spend some time pondering what gifts you'll give yourself in the New Year. Then do your best to receive them--make them a part of you and your routine. I promise you: this time next year, all the sacrifices and work will be worth it. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Insulation vs. Padded Cell

The awe-inspiring ladies of my American Night Writers chapter, the Skyline Scribblers, have a saying. Friends don’t let friends publish junk.
I desperately hope they live this credo because I rely rather heavily on their input regarding my various WIP. And while I am eager to take their constructive critiques, I am also a sensitive soul. I cry at sappy love songs, romantic comedies, epic drama, Hallmark commercials, puppies, this list of things that make me cry . . . you get the idea. I don't have television because I don't want to watch the news. And though I get the Washington Post to my inbox each day as an affirmation that I am an informed individual, truth be told, most of the time I just delete it without reading a single word because I know the heartache and depression that are awaiting in the headlines. I tell myself that I am insulating myself from things that don’t really matter to my immediate reality, but I often wonder if that buffer is just the intellectual equivelant of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing Mary Had a Little Lamb.
I am nearing a place in my writing career where I have to either start putting things out into the world for agents and editors to say, "NO!" or acknowledge that this is just a fun hobby I do when I am bored. I'm not sure that my tender little heart can take something as crushing as a rejection letter, but I have seen the photos of mountains made out of letters collected over the years from really fantastic writers. I know it is part of the journey, the initial and potentially never ending hurdles between where I am and my dream come true. So where is the line? Where is the place where you stop being cautious and self-nurturing, and become the ostrich with your head buried in the sand while everyone stands around staring at your backside?
I was listening to a fantastic webinar by James Scott Bell last week and one of the listeners asked a rather remarkable question. She wanted to know, after amassing a stack of rejections some of which had be less than complimentary, when do you give up? Mr. Bell verbally dog paddled for a moment or two and then said (to paraphrase), "You have to answer the question, 'Are you a writer?' Then decide that this is something you are going to do for the rest of your life regardless of whether or not you get published."
I wanted to latch onto this idea so hard and just never let go. How freeing right? "I am a writer because I like to write and it never matters if I ever get published because this is who I am and what I do!" It sounds so great. But what if it is just more padding on the rubber room? What if I am sending junk out into the world and the reason for the forthcoming no’s is that I am just not good? What if I am deluding myself by holding fast to the belief that I am a writer, when really I should be doing other things?
I can’t imagine that I am alone in tackling this particular gremlin. So what helps you along in your creative pursuits, silver linings or the cold rain of reality?
Anika Arrington Necessary Nurture

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Have you ever been baking cookies and forgotten an ingredient? Maybe you got distracted and left out the baking powder. At first you didn't notice anything missing and maybe it didn't even seem to matter- at first. When you finally discovered that something wasn't right, perhaps you laughed it off but you didn't feel the same about that batch of cookies because it wasn't what it was supposed to be.

Sometimes those tiny ingredients are easy to forget and don't seem as important because it only takes a teaspoon, sometimes less to get the desired effect.  It is much harder to forget something like flour or butter.  You need so much that it is immediately obvious when they are not there. 

Holidays (and everydays for that matter) can be like a batch of cookies- at least at my house.  The bulk (flour and butter) of our time is caught up in the normal busy day to day combined with decorating, shopping, baking, and attending or performing in myriad concerts, and occasionally some of our vital ingredients (baking powder) are forgotten like scripture study.  Like the cookies, it isn't immediately obvious what was missing  but something is not quite right.  This can make the holiday seem like less than it should.

Fortunately, even if we mess up one day, we have the opportunity to try again the next.  It is amazing how just a few minutes given to scripture study can make all the difference in how we feel about and experience our days, and our holidays. It is like our baking powder and cinnamon providing  leavening and just the right flavor.    

Writing, too is like a batch of cookies.  Do we get so caught up in the bulk of the story and getting it done that we neglect important ingredients?  Do we have our research, build our structure, have the whole grand scheme laid out and forget to ask for guidance?  The words we write will influence those who read them. That is the point, right?  If we have our butter, eggs and vanilla all creamed together, and our dry ingredients mixed and waiting to add and we overlook the most important ingredient, the sweetener, we have wasted our time. What good is a sweet without the sweet?  

We have the desire and gift to create with words. God gave us this desire and gift and would like to make our efforts all that they are meant to be.  We just need to make sure to add the sweetness of His inspiration.    

The quality of our cookies, our days, our holidays and our writings depends on us getting all the right ingredients mixed in, not adding in too many ingredients and avoiding the ones that might ruin them (like anchovies).  I wish you all a Christmas holiday season that is all it is meant to be with all the right ingredients, the sweetness of Heavenly Father's inspiration and no anchovies.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let Go of the Cookie Cutter Christmas

December begins, and so do the dreaded words, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

Relax. What hasn’t been done so far probably wasn’t that crucial. And what remains that is vital can be done more happily with a few of the following ideas.

Savor the Season. Slow down, today, even right now. Delight in the simple pleasures—sparkling lights, annoyingly familiar carols, the fifth plate of gift cookies. These come once a year and remind us to celebrate the season. Appreciate the unexpected and perhaps undesired. Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard shares in Families Who Laugh…Last that one year she found her young daughter in the bathroom in the midst of hundreds of white paper pieces literally everywhere. Confused and in mother mode, Janene told her daughter to clean up the mess. Later, Janene understood after receiving a special Christmas gift—a homemade snow globe.

Can anyone say “mother guilt”?

So rejoice in what comes your way daily, especially the plentiful opportunities to lift someone's load. The other day while at breakfast with a friend we noticed a lady leaning on a walker. We offered to help with her packages and she accepted. In those few minutes I felt a tangible joy from simply being available to help another. These are the experiences that make Christmas fulfilling.

Don't force the celebration. So the cookies burned, or the person bringing the main dish didn't get the message. Live the dream anyway!  Let down and be part of the experience without choreographing a superficially successful one. My husband and I host a company party at Christmas time. Because some of his floor installation crews speak a limited amount of English, I’ve worried about everyone enjoying the evening. However, this year I promised myself to stop stressing and just enjoy the people, even if it meant some awkward silence. And it was amazing. I was able to talk with a woman who had suffered polio as a child and now walked with a crutch. She also volunteered for several organizations and was studying filmmaking at school. Currently, a few of her documentary films on homelessness and domestic violence were being shown in homeless shelters. What a fabulous connection we enjoyed. So let go of being the Stressed Out Happy Fairy (i.e., “Is everybody happy?”) and instead, be in the moment. 

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Watching the play "A Christmas Carol" with my son, I thought of a recent comment on the story. That even though Scrooge had had a change of heart—as incredible as it was—the other people in his life didn't know about the change of heart and still chose to frankly forgive him. The Cratchett's, Scrooge’s nephew and wife, had no idea of the three life-changing visits, but they welcomed his change with open arms.
We can do that, too. Even when a family member hasn't experienced a “mighty change of heart,” that's okay. We can still let go of being irked at their choices and choose to love them for this season. Instead of becoming angry this year, try a quick smile or change the conversation. Or plan ahead for predictable choices (i.e. Uncle Bob is always late, Aunt Midge is typically bossy). We can let Aunt Midge decorate the table as she likes—what does it matter in the long run? Just for now, we can open our arms and hearts without pre-conceived prejudices, and simply let people be.

As Christmas Day approaches, let’s give ourselves permission to let go of the cookie cutter Christmas. Instead, revel in the carols, sample the baked goods, and appreciate the unexpected but profound before us.

For FREE Simplify & Savor the Season podcasts, go here or to Scroll down to receive all four podcasts.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Promise of His Birth

I recently watched an interview of one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, and among all of her many quotable gems came this one in the middle of a discussion about revision:

The first sentence makes a promise the rest of the book will keep. The first paragraph enlarges that promise.

If we think about the entry of Jesus Christ into this teeming world of humanity in that way, what did the elements of his entry--the first sentence and paragraph of his life, so to speak--promise the viewer at that time, and the reader in our time?

A humble event in a tucked away corner of the world promised greatness to come, for all good stories show a wonderful character arc and what could be more of a change than a babe wrapped in poor rags ascending to the right hand of God?

A beaming new star promised sights never before seen, and indeed, Christ went on to perform miracles that were unimaginable--feeding thousands from a few fish, a small amount of bread, and a little wine; healing lepers, the blind, the crippled, the possessed at a single touch or word; and even raising the dead. 

Angelic choirs promised heavenly sounds never before heard, and how else would you describe the parables and teachings that followed? So many of God's children had turned a deaf ear to His call until Christ came. His voice opened the ears of the deaf so that they could, once again, sense the celestial music of truth.

Humble shepherds promised a multitude of followers and disciples, not the least of which would be the apostles He, Himself would select in order to organize His kingdom on earth.

Wise men promised the wealth of the earth laid at his feet--by rich men willing to give it all up for the pearl of great price . . . and by Satan, anxious to stop His ministry before it had hardly begun.

And a wicked king intent on destroying any and all possible heirs to his throne promised other rulers--rulers who would, in the end, see Him hung upon a cross in order to do away with the meddlesome rabble rouser. 

Little did they know that by killing Him, they would give birth to His story's sequel. 

And so, as in all great literature, the promise continues.

I wish you all peace, love, and joy as we enter into this Christmas season. May we keep His promise alive.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November A Month of Gratitude

For my first blog post on Mommy Authors I will list the things I am thankful for. Huge blessings come every day and I will never be able to express enough gratitude for the Lord's tender care.

 #1 I am grateful my daughter Serena found a new Neuro Oncologist whose philosophy and practice is integrative and include Naturopathic, holistic methods of treatment that blends with the therapy and supplements she has already been on since the beginning of her diagnosis with cancer: a Stage III astrocytoma-glioma (brain tumor)
#2 I am grateful that my son and his family were untouched by hurricane Sandy as they live in New York. 
#3 I am thankful for so many authors who support Writers Unite to Fight Cancer and came to the book event  to help raise money for my daughter's cancer treatment. We have so many new friends and feel surrounding by loving support.
#4 I am glad to have the Sabbath Day to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ and his infinite atonement. I am happy to live in these latter days when the gospel is available in its fullness.
#5  I appreciate a car that runs so I go visit my daughter from time to time and go other places I need to be. 
#6 I am thankful to live in this wonderful free country where we are allowed to vote and choose our leaders.
#7 I'm thankful for my sweet little companion - Pepito, my 4 pound teacup chihuahua.
#8 I love my immediate and extended family members who are so kind and supportive of one another.
#9 I am blessed with an intact apartment when I arrive home - a sturdy roof over my head.
#10 I am grateful for independent bookstores who allow Indy authors to hold fundraising and signing events. 
#11 I am thankful for all the men and women who have sacrificed to serve our country and keep it the land of the free, as well as assist others throughout the world in need of protection.
#12 Technology is wonderful. I'm so glad I can see and speak with my granddaughters that live clear across the united states using computer applications. I miss them so much, and being able to stay in touch is the next best thing to being there.
#13 I am grateful for freedom of speech. I can say and write those things I am passionate about without censure.
#14 Music is the breath of life - I love music. I am glad I can sing, play, listen, and participate with others in making a joyful noise. I am grateful for composers over the ages that had scribed melodious renditions. 
#15 I am awed by natures harmonious gifts every day - the songs of birds, the babble of brooks, the patter of rain, peace. 
#16 I am thankful for temples and that I have the privilege to attend one so close by. I am grateful for sealing power so that Families Can Be Together Forever.
#17 I am grateful for kind and helpful friends and neighbors.
#18 I am thankful for advanced technology that allowed and continues to support my brother, Jan before and after his heart transplant.
#19 I am thankful for my brother Eldon and his super wife Carol who live near my mother and bless her life with grandchildren to visit and priesthood when needed.
#20 I am relieved and blessed that my sister Maria lives with and takes care of my mother.
#21 I love my sister, Nella and am glad her daughter is happily married in the temple with a child and her son is faithfully serving a mission in Washington state. She is an example to other single mothers.
#22 I am thankful that we as a nation take a day to celebrate our bounty and remember from where it comes. Happy Thanksgiving!
#23 I am grateful for being raised in the church by good parents who taught me so many needful things including a love for music, a love for reading, a love for education, a love for farming, a love of preparedness, a love of genealogy.  I miss my father since he passed away, but know he is watching over all of his children and grandchildren from above.
#24 I am thankful for my favorite time of year - when the weather is mild and comfortable here in Mesa, Arizona.
#25 I am thankful for my brother, Brannick on his birthday. I am also thankful we can celebrate the birth of Christ in one month - God So Loved the World that He Gave His Only Begotten Son.
#26 I am grateful that Serena's partner Shannon is so loving, thought, talented and supportive.
#27 I am thankful that Laura is a stay-at-home mother who raises my granddaughters in the loving manner I wish I could have done for my children. She is the best wife for Kevin, talented and supportive. She comes from a great family who are the in-laws you dream for.
#28 I am grateful for the rule of law. I am also thankful for the right to dispute photo radar pictures.
#29 I am thankful for this season of the year when hearts are softened and people are more charitable. I am also grateful for those who serve others every day of the year whether it's Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or just another day we are able to breathe upon the earth God created for us.
#30 TGIF.  This comes once a week - 52 times a year. Yeah!
I hope that all of us will take time to thank our Father in Heaven for our numerous blessings. 
Margaret Larsen Turley, Administrator of Writers Unite to Fight Cancer (all published authors are invited to join.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


So it's November and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I think November is one of those months that gets mowed over in our haste to buy everything for Christmas. The stores go straight from Halloween costumes for prostitots, to advertizing great Christmas buys you MUST have or die.

I feel badly for Thanksgiving. Maybe it's the generation (or I'm just getting old and un-cool) but people seem to feel as if they are entitled to everything. They lay claim to buildings not theirs by tagging. They line of for free healthcare, food, gifts and countless other gratis goodies. Their hands are out for free toys and easy money.

But where is the gratitude?

When you think about it, we have so MUCH! My children have never known a day of hunger they didn't choose to inflict on themselves. They get a free education clear up to high school and sometimes through college. We have not just one car, but a couple of them. (Granted they don't run well and need fixing, but they have gotten us where we needed to go.) We have a house which isn't cardboard and has running water, along with a flush toilet. We have time for facebook and hobbies. We have some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world. We have places of matchless beauty. We can worship how we will. We have the freedom to vote and to travel wherever we want to go, to bear arms, to speak freely, and to peaceably assemble. The blessings are endless.

Perhaps when we are being grumpy about the check book not lining up or that we have to wait in line at the checkout stand, we can think of those people who don't have any of these things. We can ponder what it's like to have to run a half a mile under gunfire to the phone to find out if a loved one made it out of surgery. We can thank God for making this fabulous world full of interesting mysteries, natural wonders full of peerless, beautiful, intricate detail, animals in prodigious varieties, and an ever-changing kaleidoscope of people and cultures.

It's time to look beyond ourselves and make life better for someone else. Instead of running down to the mall for the unbelievably early Black Friday sale (which they're now having on Thanksgiving...BOO!) go do something nice for someone else. Don't just say you're thankful for something and quit there. Show it. That is my goal for this Thanksgiving. I'm going to be thankful.
By Heidi Murphy

Monday, November 19, 2012


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about my blessings a lot lately. I’ve decided that one of the things I am most grateful for is the fact that I’ve been able to travel a lot throughout my life.

There are a couple of different reasons for this. 1) I love seeing new places, 2) I think it’s important to see different cultures and perspectives in order to build charity and understanding for all of God’s children, and 3) each new place I see helps with my writing. I’m able to see new places that I can describe with authority, and they always, without fail, spark my imagination in a new way.

Obviously, you don’t have to travel in order to be an author. I get a lot of my inspiration from home too. It helps that I live in the Northwest, and it’s the most beautiful, most special, most amazing place on Earth, but you can always write straight from your imagination, even if you don’t live in Oregon or if you can’t or don’t want to travel.

But for me, travel has been imperative in developing my talents as a writer, and I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to visit many wonderful places in my life. This month, I thought I’d share a list of just a few of my favorite spots, all of which have either intrigued my imagination, inspired settings for my stories, or helped me develop plots and characters in some way.  

#1: Albany River Rhythms

Albany, Oregon hosts outdoor concerts along the banks of the Willamette River every summer. Oregon in general is a great place to people-watch, but it was at this particular concert that I was inspired to write one of the stories in my first novel, The First Year.

#2: Oahu 
My husband and I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii this last summer (June 2012). It was a really fun trip, but I ended up writing a story about one of the more negative experiences we had there: kayaking. I wouldn’t have been able to write about it though unless I had experienced it, and I think I was able to adequately describe what it felt like to be out on the waves for the first time consequently.   

#3: Opal Creek

Words cannot describe the beauty of this place. Oh, and that’s my husband! We went backpacking together, and then I spent the morning writing on a large rock that overlooked crystal-clear water, while Josh froze his feet off wading. I was able to capture the spirit of the woods a lot better than if I had written this particular scene from the comfort of my own home.

I know that the more you reach out and try to understand the world outside yourself, the more lives you will be able to touch through your writing. Reading about other places can help you understand the universal condition of the human spirit, but it’s even better to go to those places.  

I’ve been to England, Scotland, Yellowstone, Disneyland, Southern Utah, Florida, Washington DC, Virginia, Seattle, and all sorts of other wonderful places so far. I’ve had so many great experiences, and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to travel. I really believe it’s helped me be a better writer and a better person, and I want it to always be a part of my life.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Long Haul

This summer, we moved across the country into a house with a large basement. Between all of my responsibilities--family, church, and an extensive contracted writing project--I managed to get the main house livable in a matter of weeks. The basement was another story.

But this week, with holidays approaching, and with relatives and other visitors coming to stay who will want tours of our new place, I felt like it was time to tackle the basement. I knew it would be a huge job, and I knew that, due to circumstances and timing, I'd be doing it all by myself. I set aside time Tuesday afternoon and all day yesterday, and I got after it. 

Picture this: a dark, unfinished space, about 20 feet by 20 feet, with a concrete floor. Evidence of recent rat infestation. (We have a contract with a pest control company, but we are battling a situation that apparently has been going on for years.) And boxes. At least one hundred. Filled with winter clothes, sports equipment, camping gear, tools, holiday decorations, baby gear I can't give up yet, and lots and lots of memorabilia and keepsakes.

My goal was to finish the purging I started before the move, organize everything else, and to make the space as inviting as possible. Our exercise equipment is down there, and there's a workshop space, so the room needs to be usable. And I wanted things like Christmas decorations and sleeping bags to be readily accessible, yet out of the way.

I got to work. I sorted, I stashed, and I stacked. I hauled and shelved and swept. I checked my hair and the back of my neck for spiders frequently. The result, as of dinnertime last night? Fifteen huge, black garbage bags filled, twenty stacks of flattened, tied-up cardboard sitting out for the recyclers, and a driveway chock full and waiting for the veterans' donation truck. And a pristine basement with the remaining boxes neatly stacked and labeled, the treadmill and the rowing machine ready to go, and a workshop area that is tidy and waiting for the next Pinewood Derby car. 

I didn't give up--not even when I wanted to, which was only about every 20 minutes. The worst bit was when I was about two-thirds of the way through. That's when everything was at its messiest, the novelty had long since worn off, and I was hot, thirsty, filthy, and starting to ache. 

As I sat on the cement--surrounded by the detritus of eight lives, tempted to light a match to it all--the parallels to writing long-form fiction struck me. It's about at the 66% point that I want to give up on my novels, too. The great premise that so excited me at the beginning feels stale; I know my characters well enough that they start to annoy me; and the prospect of tying up of all the many loose ends of the plot seems overwhelming. It's all a mess, and I want to quit. 

But I go on with an eye of faith, holding out hope that I can finish. I trust the self that believed in this book enough to start it. I rely on past experience; I've been here before and know that my discouragement will pass once I clear some more hurdles. I take a deep breath and keep moving. I do my best to rediscover the joy in the journey (I always find it again)--and eventually? It all works out. 

Writing is exhilarating work, but it's work. Those of us who take it on are like pioneers, forging into the undiscovered country of our ideas and hopes and dreams. Pioneers with basements and novels to explore, tame, and conquer need vision and courage--and most of all, perseverance. Go forward and get it done!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Toddlers, Tinker Bell, and Time Management

I have toddlers. To be specific I have four children under the age of four years and a six year old. Between meeting their needs, and there are a good number of “special” ones, maintaining my household, and keeping my sanity I struggle like most moms to find time for the pursuits that bring me joy and personal fulfillment. My father was great proponent of the maxim that you make time for the things that are important to you. And while I agree, I have never quite perfected or even got a hold on the kind of time management that allows for everything that is needful in a given day.

What does Tinker Bell have to do with this? So glad you asked. She is the means by which I carve out an hour of get-it-done time every day. Well, her and Winnie the Pooh. We don’t have television in our home per say, just movies and Netflix. And more and more lately I have been keeping the idiot box switched off due to that nagging sense that my kids need to play more and watch less. But this has meant that my get-it-done time becomes Mommy-builds-blocks-and-has-tea-parties-time. Wonderful good fun, to be sure, but it left me with more undone at the end of the day than an hour’s worth of dishes and tidying. My one hour in the morning was apparently worth two and half or three hours of evening time. I would start on dishes after dinner, tidy a few things and it would be 9pm. I would go to sleep at 11 in order to get in writing and reading time, but my kiddos are obscenely early risers. I just couldn’t keep up.

And then I made a discovery. I had been stringing myself out, trying to give too many things my attention all at once. I was multitasking myself stupid. It happened one day while I was trying to send an email, while listening to an audio book, while trying to get my baby to settle down and go to sleep on the bed next to me. He was having none of it. I was getting nowhere fast. In a fit of frustration I pushed the computer away and looked my little guy right in the face demanding with my expression to know what on earth he wanted from me. He smiled. I melted, picked him up, and spent maybe five minutes singing him to sleep. I then finished the email, and went back to listening to my book.

Sometimes we have to split ourselves. We are busy. We’re moms, multitasking is in our nature. But we cannot be our best selves, as mothers, writers, wives, or friends if we are constantly splitting our attention. And until alchemy successfully bottles time (anyone know if they are close yet?), there is only one solution that I have found. Give time.  Give it away to one activity for a designated amount of minutes. I have a little digital timer, and I will set it for say thirty minutes. For those thirty minutes it is play time. Mommy is here, no distractions, no trying to listen to talk radio while we play picnic, just me and my kiddos. Then in goes Tink, and mommy is cleaning or making phone calls or writing or baking or something.  It only takes a little. And the work and the calls to be returned are still there when the timer goes off.  When I give my kids the time they need from me, which only seems like a lot when I am trying to do too much at once, they, shockingly are more willing to play nicely with each other, sit and watch their show until lunch, and be the angels I need them to be for the next hour or so.

I am still strung out. I still demand quiet mommy time on Saturdays when it’s Dad’s turn to watch the kids. But during the week, thanks to my timer and Tinker Bell, I know that the things that matter most are getting the attention they need.
Anika Arrington- Necessary Nurture

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Fresh New Start..............

Valerie J. Steimle

A while ago the four of us Mommy Authors were getting "cabin fever". We needed to get out of the house and move on with our writing.  We each had writing goals which  would take us in different directions and felt that our blog responsibility was getting very heavy.

So with much discussion and consideration, we all thought we would go our separate ways and shut down the blog.  I initially I agreed.  The next day I got back on the blog to take one last look and suddenly became very protective.

I knew we had worked hard to build up a great following and posted some great ideas and information about writing and being a Mom.  I didn't want to let it go!  I pondered and thought about what would happen if I took over the leader position and find more Mommy Authors to post during the month.  I suddenly became very excited and asked my cohorts in writing what they thought of the idea.  Everyone was in agreement so the search was on for eight new blog contributors.

It didn't take long after the post to our writer's group, American Night Writer's Association, to find eight wonderful writers who would take on this task.  Posting would only be once a month so it fit into every one's busy schedule.  Some of these ladies are published and some are not but are working on manuscripts and improving their writing. Most of them are moms and those who are not want to be. Some have adopted children, some have large families. All in all we have a very diversified group of wonderful women who will give us a great perspective and we will all learn from their experience.

So starting on Monday, we will have a new fresh start and I'm excited to see how it will go.  I hope you will all enjoy.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mommy Authors: Under New Management

Contest winner: Erika Name-Amonett has won our October Opening Words contest. Erika, please comment with an email address so we can send you your gift card.

The management here at Mommy Authors will be undergoing a major and exciting change as the new month begins.  As of next week Valerie Steimle will be blogging with a group of 8 new mommy authors!  The rest of the staff is, sadly, parting ways.  It has been a pleasure hearing from you and we hope that you will keep in touch with us each at our various other blogs.

Rachel has decided to focus her writing time on finishing her manuscript and actually making a post or two at her writer's site  She will be finishing out her "Book in 30 Days" series there, so make sure to stop by and read the final few posts.  Thank you to all of you and I wish you luck in your writing endeavors.

Ranee` has loved writing for Mommy Authors and connecting with all the great moms and writers out there, but as you all may know, she's got some exciting "mom" duties to keep up with for the next few months! So between a new baby and her own writing goals, she's made the tough decision to step away from Mommy Authors. Keep up with her at

Heidi has enjoyed her brief time at Mommy Authors, but is looking forward to spend a bit more time on other writing projects and her personal blog, Frantically Simple. Be sure to pop in on her there.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mummy Authors..........

Valerie J. Steimle

Today is Halloween and I am honored to write the post for this very spooky day. This writing is an excerpt from my next book which is being published as we speak..... or read.  Thoughts From the Heart: Writings from the Gulf Coast of Alabama will be available for purchase on Amazon in another week (so exciting).
So without further is my post for all of you mummies and ghouls.......

The Evolution of Halloween

            Today is Halloween....and many might not know, but today is the celebration of “All Hallows Eve.”  There is a long history of this festive day throughout all the ages, but in our modern world we sometimes forget the reason why we do what we do.
             The story of Halloween is entirely too long to write here but suffice it to say that the British Isles had the market on this holiday way back to the 8th century. "All Saints Day" was celebrated on November 1st (which is tomorrow) and the people in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales created a “Day of the Dead.”  The dead were honored and a feast was held, not as those who are dead but as the living spirits of loved ones and guardians.  “All Hallows Eve” events also included dressing up in unrecognizable costumes and mischief making to get treats to eat.  As the early Americans adopted this tradition from their European ancestors, it evolved into what we know now as Halloween.  But something very interesting has happened.
istock photo
            Back in the day when I was trick-or-treating, (60’s and 70’s) many children participated in this fun, seemingly innocent activity. I remember how much fun it was to go from door to door in our neighborhood to get candy and Hollywood wasn't as interested in scaring you silly. The 80’s and 90’s came along and my children went trick-or-treating as well.  I noticed then that there weren't as many children knocking at my door.  The movie rating changed from “R” to PG-13 so we get more violence and horror in what used to be considered unsuitable for “under 17”. 
            Now it’s after the new millennium, the focus on Halloween is mostly celebrated as horror and ghouls. Some churches would rather not dress up to collect candy as it has taken on this ghoulish version of what used to be a fun costume party. Old time “Fall Festivals” have been popular in some areas.  It is sad that there aren't nearly as many trick-or-treaters as there were even ten years ago and the emphasis in Hollywood is ghouls and horror. We find more and more of the horror scene on commercials and in movies
which reflect in children's costumes. 
            Maybe Halloween has decreased in trick-or-treaters because of the scare in the 70's and 80’s of neighbors putting drugs in candy and razor blades in apples. Maybe it’s because those parents from my generation of trick-or-treaters sees this holiday as a different celebration and don’t want to be sucked into the Hollywood’s idea of gruesome and ghouls.  Whatever the reason, Halloween has evolved into a time when community groups and churches promote fall activities and games instead of mischief and tricks and the few trick-or-treaters left have to get to houses by 9pm or else everyone is out of candy and has turned off the light.  It is amazing to me to see this metamorphosis take place and to think about what Halloween has become.
            On the one hand, Hollywood sees Halloween as an opportunity to scare you to pieces, while on the other hand many communities want safe and fun festivals for their children to still dress up and give out treats. I wonder what Halloween will end up being ten years from now?  It makes you wonder.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Author Interview: Lisa Nowak

I love Halloween. Besides the chance to pretend to be someone (something) else for an evening, and indulging in all the candy I can eat (and then some), I love Halloween reading.
There is something about the return of Oregon's gray skies and cold drizzle that makes curling up with a creepy book feel like just the right thing to do.
On this Halloween week, I'm happy to interview Lisa Nowak, whose recent YA release, Dead Heat, is a perfect spooky read.

Alex is a machine whisperer. He can tell what’s wrong with a broken-down car with a touch. But his gift can’t save him from the brutality of his meth-addict father. For two years, Alex experienced kindness through Cole, his mentor. Now Cole’s dead, and the violence in Alex’s life is escalating.
When Cole reappears as a ghost, Alex clings to the tenuous link. Then he learns Cole might’ve sacrificed his chance to cross over. Jade, the first girl to look beyond Alex’s past, assures him Cole can reach the Other Side—if Alex escapes from his dad. But a previous terrifying attempt has convinced Alex it’s impossible. Unless he can find the courage to try, his friend may be earthbound forever.

 Hi Lisa. Congratulations on the release of Dead Heat. I saw on your blog that you are more proud of this than any other project. Can you tell us more about why that is?

I'm excited about this book for several reasons. For one thing, it deals with issues like child abuse and that controversial topic of what to do when you think reporting it might result in more harm to the child than letting it continue. I know this isn't a popular subject, but I think it's realistic. Secondly, Dead Heat features a protagonist with a learning disability, and the story is told in first person through his slang and limited vocabulary. This is just Alex's voice (imagine a modern day Huck Finn) and I didn't think much about it until my editor told me how glad she was to see someone up-ending the stereotype about kids like Alex.

Dead Heat is a bit of a departure from your other books. It's darker and has a distinct edge. How did this come about?

Dead Heat never would’ve come to be had it not been for an agent rejecting my book Driven because it “wasn’t edgy enough.” Teens, according to him, won’t buy a book unless it’s edgy. I reacted with an “I’ll show you edgy, buster,” and Dead Heat was born. I still think his opinion was bogus, but I owe him one for shoving me in a direction I never would’ve taken on my own.

Alex faces some very real struggles in his life, from dealing with a learning disability to suffering abuse from his meth-addicted father. Was is difficult for you to write about such heavy topics? 

Actually, it wasn't. I find it harder to read books like this than to write them. When I'm inside a character's head, I feel like I'm living his or her reality. And Alex doesn't feel sorry for himself. He doesn't know anything different from what he's always lived, so as bad as it might seem to you and me, to him it's just normal.

Most of your books have male protagonists. Can you offer any tips for getting inside a teenage boy's head? For getting his voice right?

Honestly, I have no clue how I'm able to write from a teenage boy's perspective. It might be because I grew up as a tomboy and always wanted to be climbing trees, building forts, and getting into pinecone fights. It might be because when I was racing stock cars, I hung out so much with guys that I became very familiar with their behavior. Actually, up until a few years ago, most of my closest friends were guys. I suppose the only tip I can offer is to watch boys and pay attention to how they speak and act. If you don't have access to real live boys, watch TV shows and movies about them. One thing to remember about guys is that they don't come right out and admit to their feelings the way girls do. You have to convey what they're feeling through behavior and subtext. Which is what makes it so fun to write from their perspective, and also what makes it so rewarding to the reader.

I attended your summer workshop on different publishing models, and learned quite a lot. Thanks. Any advice for someone just starting to consider their publishing options?

Definitely. Your choice of publishing route shouldn't be about what anyone else thinks or what's going on in the industry. It should be about your personal strengths and what you want out of your publishing career. The simplest way I can put it is, if you have the skills and temperament to run a small business, you'll probably do well self-publishing. Otherwise, you'll be happier pursuing a traditional route. But there are some in-between options. I wrote a guest post about it on Literary Rambles a few weeks ago that provides a checklist to help you decide which path is best for you: 

Literary Rambles: Lisa Nowak Guest Post

Thank you for that link, Lisa. (Readers, seriously - go check it out.)
Do you mind sharing a little bit about your writing process? What is a typical day like for you?

That depends on the season, since I'm a landscaper nine months out of the year. But to keep things simple, I'll describe a winter day when I'm a full-time writer. If I'm being smart, the first thing I do after I get up is write. If I'm being stupid, I answer my email. :P I have no problem with making myself sit at the computer, so I can spend 8-15 hours there, but it wouldn't necessarily be productive (even if I could avoid the email/social networking trap). My best writing time is between 7 a.m. and noon, and between 4 and 9 p.m. Every once in awhile I'll get a second wind late at night and stay up until 2:00, but that's unusual. I've found that if I try to write during my down times, I don't get much accomplished, so I try to plan my social networking, emailing, marketing, etc. during those times. I'm an outliner, and I also tend to edit as I write. I know a lot of people advise against the latter, but it works for me. I only manage 500-1200 words per day, but I turn out very clean, tight first drafts, so it all averages out. My best tool for first drafts is taking a walk. I can spend all day at the computer and not squeeze out 200 words, then after dinner I'll go out with my digital recorder in hand and dictate 500-1000 words in a two-mile walk. If I'm on a roll, I'll walk an additional 1-2 miles. Sometimes I think I should spend the entire day walking around with my digital recorder. The bonus would  be that my pants would fit better. :P

One last question: Do you believe in ghosts?

I don't know. I don't disbelieve, but I've never seen one. After writing Dead Heat, I hope they exist.

Find Dead Heat on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barns & Noble.

In addition to being a YA author, Lisa is a retired amateur stock car racer, an accomplished cat whisperer, and a professional smartass. She writes coming-of-age books about kids in hard luck situations who learn to appreciate their own value after finding mentors who love them for who they are.

Connect with her here: