Monday, December 30, 2013

Remember Who Your Enemy Is

Valerie J. Steimle
If you recognize that statement then you have either read The Hunter Game series or saw Catching Fire; the second installment of this series which came out in theaters in December.  I saw this movie with a friend and it had a profound affect on me. 

On the way home from the theater, I thought about how that movie related to my life. My friend and I discussed how the angst in the story affected us and how we ourselves would react in a situation like the story in The Hunger Games. Would I just stand by and let others die for no good reason? Would I let government control who gets to eat and who doesn’t?  Would I let a government get so powerful as to dictate who dies and who lives and not do a thing to stop it?  I don’t think so.

I thought about all the hours I have written article after article about supporting the strength of the family. I have written about the evils of pornography, abortion, divorce and losing our freedoms and for the most part, I am not paid. So why do I do it?  Why do I spend all this time writing, writing, writing to help others understand what is really going on in our country without payment? 

I do this to remember who our enemy is. I write to tell others of the battles we are fighting in our society. I write to remind others that we should never give up on our high moral standards and keeping families intact from the filth of entertainment thrown at us from every direction. We are not fighting a battle against governments, terrorists or dictators; we are fighting a battle against the Adversary; the one who is referred to as Satan or the devil.  He is the real enemy and those who understand what is at stake needs to join the battle against evil.

A perfect example of this is from the media. Miley Cyrus and Phil Robertson both were given media attention. The young singer posed half naked on a wrecking ball and did some inappropriate body language in public, which was photographed and widely distributed. That is all you see of her. She was once a child’s TV show star and with this horrific example to the younger generation we are left speechless.   

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty makes an honest statement in a magazine interview of how he feels about another group of people and he is asked to leave the A& E show. Lucky for him the rest of the country came forth in utter disgust and told the whole Duck Dynasty crew to jump networks and keep on going.  I’m not a big fan of either but I do support family prayer and the freedom to express religious conviction. Promote the good in others. Remember who your enemy is.  

From church leader Dieter F. Uchtdorf we learn: “We would do well to slow down a little, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes and truly see the things that matter most” (General Conference October 2010). 

So for a reminder of what is important in the New Year of 2014, remember who your enemy is. We are helping our fellow man become better people. Let’s promote goodness. Let’s raise the standard of excellence in entertainment, education, and family life. Make it a great year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Transitions

You read that right. "Transitions" not "traditions."

This year, I'm understanding better than ever before the transitional nature of that first Christmas as we get ready to move. In fact, we've packed up almost everything EXCEPT Christmas and some essentials (like our computers…which will get packed, along with everything else, on the 26th).

Like Mary and Joseph, we are on the move. 

Unlike them, we have arranged for help. The movers are packing up whatever we have left (besides what we'll take with us) on the 26th and 27th. Then we have a weekend without TV, which will probably be a welcome respite as we take time to reflect on the coming year. On the 30th, the movers load up all our furniture, boxes, etc. And on the last day of 2013, we head off for our new family adventure in St. George, Utah.

Unlike Mary and Joseph, there'll be room for us in the "inn" in Burley, ID because we made reservations for us and our two cats in advance. Still, traveling in two vehicles with two cats will not be easy. Nothing like riding the back of a donkey, but probably a lot noisier.

And unlike Mary and Joseph, we don't have to flee into Egypt (no, Idaho does not count as Egypt) before settling our family in a new home.

Seriously, though, I can well imagine Mary's thoughts about the transitions and responsibilities that lay ahead for both her and Joseph as she pondered over the glorious signs and occurrences that accompanied the birth of this tiny infant, so seemingly helpless…and yet, God's Son.

I, too, am pondering what lies ahead for my family, particularly my children. I'm not so sure that infancy or adolescence presents the most challenging stage of life for our youth. I may be past fifty now, but I can still recall the loneliness, insecurity, and isolation of being a young single adult in the Church.

I pray this transition will bring joy in the new year. I believe the fact that we are making this change at Christmas time, a season of joy, is a sign of better things to come. A promise for the future not unlike the promise of the Christ child. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Whole New Perspective on Christmas

I grew up with the iconic image in my head of Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem and then giving birth to the Christ Child in a stable, surrounded by animals and streams of heavenly light. I knew the story really well and read it every Christmas Eve with my family. But it was December of 1998 that brought it all to life for me.

My first child was a little girl, a tiny little pixie child who now, at the age of seventeen, is still just over five foot tall, which drives her insane. She was always quiet, always picked up her toys - she really never gave me any fits at all.

In December of 1998, though, I was pregnant with a colt. Or a calf. I'm not sure which. But it easily could have been both. I was being kicked and pummeled and kicked some more until I was sure every rib I owned was broken. I was so, so puffy - I was doing the whole slip-on shoe thing because no regular shoe had been invented that could contain the amount of puff I was carrying. I discovered that year that I'm allergic to live Christmas trees, something that we didn't know until it was all set up and decorated in the corner of our living room and the insides of my nose were getting raw.

I had just entered into the stage of pregnancy I love best - the part where I go into a deep, deep depression and I'm positive I will be pregnant forever. As in, the child is never coming out and my stomach is just going to grow and grow until it completely takes me over. You really don't want to come near me during that last week or two of pregnancy. I can kill people. With my bare hands and the power of my gaze.

I was sitting on the couch, sniffling (because of the Christmas tree) and feeling sorry for myself (because I was never, ever going to have that baby and I'd be pregnant forever) while my daughter examined our little nativity scene. She was two and a half, and her whole little face was covered in awe as she named each of the pieces. "Wise man. Wise man. Wise man. Wise horse. Wise sheep. Wise pig." And as she sat there looking at the nativity, I looked at it too. Suddenly, I understood that story more clearly than I ever had before.

Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. 

Let me repeat myself. Mary, nine months pregnant, swollen and bloated, ready to go into labor, rode a donkey to Bethlehem. Pregnant. Donkey. 

Oh, wow.

This was Mary's first pregnancy, which means that her labor was probably longer, which means that the odds are good that she went into labor while she was on the donkey. Maybe the donkey ride sent her into labor. Regardless of how all that played out, she was very, very uncomfortable. More than I could even imagine - no one has asked me to ride a donkey ever, let alone while pregnant.

Mary had just traveled miles away from her home, and was giving birth without her mother. That would have been so hard. We don't know if there was a woman in the village who came to help, or if Joseph helped her, or if she delivered entirely by herself. Given the culture, I tend to think that Joseph didn't help her, but again, we don't know. Either way, the isolation of not having her mother or a good friend nearby must have been so hard to deal with.

And then ... it was a stable. With animals. And animal smells. And animal ... presents. Yeah. Smelly presents. 

When I looked at it from this perspective, understanding truly how hard it was for Mary to go through all that, all alone (Okay, she had Joseph, but let's be honest. Men can't understand what it's like. They can try, but they can't do it. It's not possible.) I began to think about Christ's birth from a totally different perspective. I also regarded my pregnancy differently. I wasn't riding on the back of a donkey - I was sitting on a couch. I wasn't having to deal with animals and their little surprises while trying to bring a baby into the world. I was so, so blessed to have the things I did.

And then, on December 9th, when I brought forth my firstborn son and wrapped him in a receiving blanket, I felt the joy and the wonder and the love that every mother, Mary included, feels when they look into the hazy eyes of their baby. There might not have been choirs of angels and adoring shepherds, but I felt guardian angels welcoming this new little one to the world.

We will never understand everything Mary went through. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to bring a child into the world knowing that he was destined to die for all mankind and then to rise again. Her experiences are something that the rest of us will never know firsthand. But we are united with Mary, as we are with every other woman who has ever had a child. We know those feelings of joy and wonder. We know what it's like to hold our baby for hours and watch every breath and every flutter of every eyelash. We know what it's like to ponder that child's future and wonder what lies in store for them. Mothers everywhere are united in our sorrows and in our joys.

Christmas of 1998 was the Christmas I came to know Mary. What a beautiful gift that was to me that holiday season. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Twelve Days of Christmas

by H. Linn Murphy

My family has had a storied past with the Twelve Day's of Christmas. It's 12 days worth of small little gifts mainly to show the recipient that someone is thinking about them. We love it because doing it gives us a chance to step outside ourselves at a time when selfishness can run rampant. Kids actually go ga-ga over being the runners. Ours used to fight over who got to carry the gift and who got to ring the bell.

I lived in Oregon for a year or two after high school. My parents had a home there for eight years. Everyone knew them. And let's just say my mom is very outgoing. We had a different family over for scones every single Sunday when we first moved up there. Mom's friends ranged across a broad spectrum, from little old widow ladies and homeless people to a Romanian man who taught Mr. Steinway's son how to build pianos.

After some years, they moved down to sunny Arizona, leaving my sister and I to clear up loose ends. One of those ends happened to be Patricia, one of Mom's widow friends. We knew she was desperately lonely, so L and I decided to do the Twelve Days of Christmas for her. We went down and bought things we figured a lady in her situation would like and could use: fruit, fluffy slippers, cans of soup, a back scratcher, and Bing Crosby Christmas music to name a few.

Every day, starting the 13th of December we'd sneak over and take turns dropping off a gift at her door, ring the doorbell, and bail. The other would hide and watch the door if they could. Often there wasn't anybody home, so we'd have a nice leisurely jaunt to the car.

One day nearly at the end of those twelve days L dropped something and dinged and ran back to me. Just as she dove behind the bush I was occupying, the door opened. A youngish pregnant woman bent down and picked up the gift. In a loud voice she said, "I don't know who you are, but Patricia moved. You should come get the gifts we didn't already eat." L and I sheepishly retrieved the inedible presents, vowing to call Mom and find out where our target moved.

And here we thought we'd been so sneaky. That's half the fun, though. And if you can see their face, it's all the payment you need. Most of the time we try so hard not to get caught that we don't have the opportunity to watch. Still, we can be assured that at least one corner of the world got a little brighter that Christmas.

So now I've got to go put the rest of the groceries away and stash that little box of orange Jello my new target said she liked in my bag o' 12 Days stuff.

You have two days to plan yours, Ladies. Or you did when I wrote this. Now you're a little late, but nobody dictates whether you can spread the cheer after the frenetic holidays are over and everybody's kicking back like a portly lady taking off her girdle. And by the way, you don't have to wear a suit. In fact, we favor ninja clothes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Path to Publishing Success

Years ago, the only way to get your book read by anyone was to secure a deal with a traditional  New York publisher. My how things have changed!  

These days there are more than one path to take. There are traditional publishers, indie publishers, and,thanks to the electronic age, self-publishing. With one touch of a button, your book can be available for millions to download and read.

It seems the question for us writers isn't so much of 'when' or 'if' we will get published, but 'how?"

Is one path better than another? Which path should I pursue? How do I know which way to go, which path to take?

With the explosion of ebooks, anyone can publish a book, and some are very successful at it. You retain creative control and all the rights. But you also have full responsibility to edit, polish, and market your book like there's not tomorrow. With the thousands of ebooks out there, it takes a loud voice to be heard. It's easier to publish this route, but can be harder to sell a large number of books.

On the other hand, with a traditional publisher, it is really hard to get on with one. Query letters, slush piles, pitch sessions, months of waiting, rejection. It can be emotionally exhausting! But, if you do get signed on, chanced are your book will get in front of A LOT of people.  However, in most cases you give up a lot of control--they typically have the last say regrading the title, cover, final edit of your book, release date, and marketing/promotion.  But, chances are, they will get your book in front of more people than you could on your own.

Then there are indie publishers that fit happily between.

The big question is: Which path do you take?

David Farland (one of my literary heroes) wrote a wonderful article about the path to publishing success here

Author Mike Resnick told Mr. Farland: “If you look at any five successful authors, you’ll find that each of them took a different route to success.”

So how do we choose which path to follow?

Regarding electronic self publishing, Mr. Farland says: 

Some people are getting rich by self-publishing, yet when you try that, the field is glutted with books that used to get tossed from the slush pile. It’s hard for self-published authors to gain an audience, and it will grow harder.

Add in the problems with uncertainty about paper book sales in the future, and the landscape becomes hazier. Will my traditional publisher keep most of the profits from my novel for the rest of my life? Is that fair? Is the small amount of money that they pay in advance worth the trade?

Will there even be bookstores in America in ten years? My suspicion is that no, not on the scale that there are now. Do you see stores that still sell VCR’s (if you’ve been alive long enough to even know what I’m talking about)? Ten years ago, there was a DVD rental store on nearly every block, but now they are almost all gone. Why? 

Destructive technology. There was an old way of doing things, and there is a new way of doing them. My wife is home from work sick today, and she’s watching “Skyfall” on Netflix. Now, we own the DVD. She could go rummage through the basement and hunt for it. But it was easier to just turn on Netflix. Electronic delivery of movies is the wave of the future. Redbox, the last vestige of DVD rental stores, is already on its way out. Their selection is poor and getting worse.

How much more cumbersome is a book than a DVD? Lots. When I went to China to work three years ago, twenty DVDs took less space than a hardcover novel. Fortunately, I had my iPad, so I could take books.

My point is, the book industry is facing destructive technology. I doubt that in its current form, the book industry will last another twenty years.

This last year, 55% of all sales were electronic. In 18 months, every school in America should provide children with tablets to read from. When that happens, the paper book market as we know it should dry up.

When we reach the point where 80% of all book sales have gone to tablets, the box stores will all but disappear—other than the occasional “boutique” store.

So as an author I’m in a tough spot. I love good old-fashioned paper books, much in the way that I loved my VCR tapes. But I don’t think that they will be with us much longer. Electronic delivery is faster, easier, and more economical.

To this, Mr. Farland adds:

With some fields, self-publishing is the preferred way to go. If you’re writing romance or self-help books, you don’t need a publisher.

So what about traditional publishing?

But if you’re breaking in as an author today, does that mean that you should ignore traditional publishers? Not necessarily.

If you are looking to jump start your career, traditional publishers still have a lot to offer, particularly if you’re trying to break into some major markets, such as middle-grade, young adult, and the thriller market. Even as paper books dry up, it may be that publishers will take the lead in marketing new novels, so that the biggest hits are still selected by purchasing editors, manuscripts still get massaged, and professional marketers push the books.

When we stand at the fork in the road, with our beloved manuscript in hand, and we ask ourselves, which way is the right way? The answer from Mr. Farland is this:

If I have one piece of advice for you, it’s this: Don’t look for “the path” to publishing success. If you’ve ever had to negotiate through a swamp, you know that paths usually turn into muddy bogs at one point or another. Often the best way to your goal is to pick your own track the best you can—looking for one strong foothold at a time, watching out for the snakes and alligators (agents and publishers) leaping out of sinkholes when you need to, and always keeping one eye on your goal.

At first I was kinda bummed. I was looking to the writing guru (who has published more than 50 books) to answer my question, to tell me which way to go. But as I pondered his answer more, I understood more that he is right. There isn't' 'one path' to publishing success.

What works for one writer may not work for another. What works today may not work tomorrow.

There is not one path to guaranteed success.

But, there is one thing that can guarantee success. It is what my husband told me over and over again. He said, "The only way you will fail is if you stop trying."

It isn't so much that path you choose, but the decision to take step after step, and never stop.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What is Christmas?

The other day we put up decorations for Christmas. I was so excited to see the lights go up and all the little decorations come out of their boxes. One of the things I collect are nativity scenes, so I arranged them all on the shelf by the door. My family has another tradition of placing a small nativity in the center of the tree to remind us that Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus Christ.

Over the years I thought I'd been doing a great job stressing the true meaning of Christmas, but it seems I dropped the ball with my littlest. I buy window decals for the little ones to stick in all the windows so that they feel like part of the decorating team. This year I was excited to find a nativity scene. While my littlest put up the other decals, I worked on placing the nativity high up in the window so that it could be seen by those outside. When we were done I stepped back to admire my work. My son came up behind me and said, "That doesn't look very Christmasy."

Oh the horror! I asked him why we celebrate Christmas, and he knew the answer, phew. Then he added, but it doesn't have Santa or snowmen or lights to make it look Christmasy. I think he sees Christmas as two events that happen on the same day. I have some work to do. - Dorine

Monday, December 9, 2013

A spot of news and nostalgia

Sometimes it's easy to long for days gone by. To get nostalgic for the way things were way, way back when. But the fact is life, society, technology changes. And with it so does everything else. In this article by David Farland he does a great job of illustrating why the writer of today has to seek out the one break out novel. They can't count on the slow and steady build up that would one day lead to being a leading author. The market wants the one big book. Moreover, this article on how the numbers shake out for writer's earnings in the last year, makes it pretty clear that most of us plodding along, unless we write the next NYT BEST SELLER, are more likely to need a day job. 
The advent of new technologies that made it possible to just get your stuff out there through Createspace and Smashwords, has also made the way to a career or even a relatively lucrative hobby via writing more unclear than ever. 
The market though was always fickle. Living as an artist carries inherent risks. Yet, despite the ebb and flow of public tastes, economic forces, and the availability of space in the market, still writers write.
We persevere despite the changing tides, the disappointments and set backs.
I just learned that my first novel, The Accidental Apprentice, will not be released until July 2014. It makes me a little sad. It also makes me relieved to have more time to prime and polish before it goes out into the world. (also more time to tackle other projects like ANWA Time Out for Writers) Moreover it will be perfect summer reading whether you are out and about or hiding from the heat like we do in AZ. 
And this sort of thing is not new either. Deadlines get pushed, time tables shift, money that should have been available for marketing goes somewhere else. As someone with an all or nothing mindset, living in this kind of constant ambiguity is the stuff of nightmares. My writers, and I dare say my fellow mothers, how do you cope with the vagaries of living as an artist? 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where to Start Your Story

"Your story really starts in the fifth paragraph," I said. "Everything that comes before that is backstory, but this," I pointed, "this particular sentence is where something changes, where the excitement begins. Take out those first four paragraphs, and I'll show you where to weave bits of them back in to the rest so that your reader has exactly enough information." 

Our second son is applying to colleges right now, and one prestigious film program that he'd love to attend requires a three-page short story as part of the application. He had a fascinating idea for the story, and after he drafted it, he gave it to me to look it over. As I read, his writing impressed me, but I immediately knew how he could make the story a thousand times better. I told him so.

He made the changes I suggested, and guess what? I was right (always a banner moment for a mother of teenagers).  He then asked me how I knew where the story should really start.

"What you did is very common," I answered. "Every writer I know struggles with getting the beginning exactly right. But knowing where to start and where to end--those are key skills for any storyteller."

Even Hemingway acknowledged this weakness--and I'm not even sure it IS a weakness, as long as we realize that the first pages of any story we write often should be discarded eventually. When we fill those first, fresh pages with words, we're just getting warmed up. We're articulating what we, the writers need to know about our plots, our settings, and our characters. We're finding our voice. We need to get the backstory out on paper, to make it flesh--as long as we know that we then need to be subtle about when to let that flesh show. 

When I was nine, I desperately wanted to read The Hobbit, but I couldn't get past the first few pages. I tried several times, not giving up because all my friends were reading it, and I wanted to be in on the secret. Finally--and I don't know where I got the idea to do this--I skipped the first chapter and started reading the second chapter, whereupon I was instantly hooked and got through the rest of the story with ease and huge enjoyment. Later, when I was fully invested in the world of Middle Earth, I went back and read that first chapter. 

Once I finished The Hobbit, I started The Lord of the Rings, and encountered the same problem. But this time, I skipped the first chapter almost immediately--and later, when I was evangelizing non-stop to others about the series, I'd counsel them, "Skip the first chapter until you're really into the story. Then go back." 

But admissions officers--and many of today's readers--don't have that kind of patience (nor should they, in the case of the admissions officers). And most of us writers don't have the prestige of a last name like "Tolkien" to persuade readers to stick with us through an avalanche of information that they don't yet care about knowing. In a world of ever-decreasing attention spans, we need to hook our readers right away. And it can be a little, subtle hook; it just needs to be an effective hook. I recently read an article in which the author wondered how Tolkien would have revised his manuscript after getting feedback from today's agents and editors. Would Gandalf storm through Frodo's door on page one, demanding, "Is it safe?" Maybe so. 

What's the trick to finding your beginning? First of all, don't worry about it while you're drafting. Anxiety over where and how to begin will keep you from actually starting. But once you're through that first draft, you can go back and fix things. Remember what Anne Lamott says--it's literally infinitely easier to revise a [bad] draft than a nonexistent draft. 

Second, read other great, recently written openings of both short stories and novels and dissect them. (I specify "recently written" because writing an opening the way Tobias Smollett or Agatha Christie would probably isn't going to fly these days.) What's the balance of dialogue and narrative? How quickly are you immersed in the voice and style and tone of the story? Read good writing and copy it (not literally, of course). That's not wrong; great writers have been doing just--reading and imitating--for centuries. 

Third, many times you need other eyes to see the real beginning. You've created this world. You think you know everything about it--but you don't. You're too close to it, like a mother who can't see the defect in her precious child that is painfully obvious to everyone else. Ask a critique partner and another writer and someone who reads a lot to read your first few pages. Likely, they'll point to a moment where the world changes, or where the protagonist is in trouble or encounters something new. We may not have noticed the subtle shift in the narrative, but fresh eyes often will. 

Fourth, be conscious of your story's arc. An arc is more or less symmetrical, so look to your end to know how your beginning should be shaped. (And sometimes the reverse is true.) In the case of my son's draft, his last sentence revealed a clever twist that shed light on the entire story--so he worked to make sure the beginning would allow that ending to pay off as satisfyingly as possible. 

Fifth, don't give up. Keep working on it until it's right. If it takes twenty revisions, so be it. If writing well were easy, everyone would be doing it. I'm a big knitter, and I know from hard experience that beginnings are challenging (though there are challenges and pitfalls all along the way). I'm getting used to the yarn; I'm setting the foundation of the pattern. There's a lot of ripping out and starting over; it's just part of the process. Writing is the same way. We may be tempted after a lot of struggle to just leave it as it is, and hope that others won't notice the flaws. Trust me: they will. Get your beginning exactly right, so that your story has the very best chance of being read all the way to the very end. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I can't believe it is already December!  November really flew by.  I can't believe that it is the first Monday of December and my Christmas tree is not decorated- gasp!  I am one of those goofy people who think Thanksgiving should be allowed a time of its own to be the holiday. So we don't do Christmas till December, but the lights and decorations take so long to put up and take down, it is wasted if you don't have them up the whole month- besides they are pretty and fun and I love Christmas time even more than Thanksgiving.

So I am sitting here in disbelief and mildly stressed that I did not fulfill this one family tradition- decorating the tree for our first family night of December.  The kids noticed, well the little ones did. My plans got derailed and it got too late, too fast.  Dad was not stressed about it at all, just thought it best to get them into bed- my race horse instinct kept kicking in, telling me-"You can do it. Keep trying."  Maybe I could have but I put the kids to bed promising tomorrow. My eight-year old cried.

In the grand scheme of things, missing this one day won't have a long term effect on our tradition (I hope). The tree will be decorated tomorrow.  The boxes are in the living room and my three- year old and fifteen- month old have proven how efficient they are at covert seek and destroy missions.  Mystery boxes full of pretties are too much of a temptation.  With that kind of pressure, it is a done deal.  So I am trying to relax.

I love traditions.  When my husband and I went through training to become foster parents, one of the things we were encouraged to do was to share our traditions.  Traditions give you roots. They help put things in perspective and that helps make life easier to deal with and more pleasant.

Over the years we have passed on traditions from our childhood homes, created new ones specific for our family or for the year or the circumstances.  Some have changed slightly or been altered completely to accommodate our family's growth.  I love that my six- year old knows that today is tree-decorating day without being told and that she is excited about it and will be ready to go at it tomorrow.  Maybe my kids will forget that we missed the day this year and just remember that we got it done and it was beautiful.  I love that my fifteen-year old and twelve-year old know how to make fudge and have done so already- YES!  I love the Christmas music they play on the piano and various other instruments.  I love that they join me when I randomly start singing Christmas carols or songs.  I do not love shopping, never have but I love taking my kids out one by one so they can find a gift for a sibling.  We have friends who only make gifts to give for Christmas and I think that is AWESOME!  Some day I might be organized and mature enough to try that one but for now I am okay with shopping.

My dad used to give my sisters and me each some money and take us to the store so we could buy gifts for the family.  It was great because we always wanted to get that one thing we knew a sister, Mom or Dad would love.  Being young and living fifteen miles out of town made it impossible without his help.  Dad was great at teaching us to think about others.  He only had three girls at home at that time.  We have nine so we have altered it to fit us.  We draw names, then I take one child out at a time and let them choose something.  It is wonderful how well they have gotten to know each other's interests. likes and wishes.  It is great for me to have that time with them. What is great about it is not the things we buy so much as the thought that goes into the purchase- kind of like O. Henry's  The Gift of the Magi- well we are not sacrificing heirloom watches or hair, but the idea of knowing and loving the person in order to give a good gift is the same.

Which brings up another tradition, the Christmas stories- the accounts of Christ's birth in the scriptures, A Christmas Carol and a multitude of other small, warm, fuzzy Christmas stories.  Well, I missed the target tonight, but I have the rest of the month to make up for it.  There is still plenty of tradition to go.
I hope you all have a magical Christmas season enjoying your own traditions. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Newest writer for our blog...

We must bid a fond farewell to Margaret Turley who is busy with her writing and her fight for cancer project which I'm sure helps so many people.  Good luck in all of your endeavors, Margaret.


Let's give a big welcome to Tristi Pinkston who is our latest contributor.

Here is something about Tristi and her links....  (how does she have time for all of that..I don't know) but I look forward to reading her posts....

Tristi Pinkston:

Tristi Pinkston is the stay-at-home, work-at-home mom of four wildly creative children who keep her on her toes as she attempts, bravely, to homeschool them, knowing full well they're smarter than she is. Tristi is the author of over twenty published books ranging from LDS historical fiction to cozy mystery to nonfiction. She is also a full-time freelance editor and author mentor, and presents regularly at writers conferences up and down the Wasatch Front (Utah). She sits on the board of directors for iWriteNetwork and has just started up a publishing company, Trifecta Books. She may or may not be willing to admit to a small addiction to television shows such as Dancing with the Stars, The Biggest Loser, and The Adventures of Merlin.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grateful for a Change

There are two ways to interpret that title:

1) As opposed to my usual disposition, I am currently feeling grateful.

2) I am currently feeling grateful for a coming change in my life.

So which is it?

How about both. 

I'm never nearly grateful enough for all my blessings--my health, my loved ones, my Savior, the peace and freedom we enjoy in this country, the opportunity to attend the temple frequently, my husband's care for all of us, my beautiful children, and the gifts the Lord has bestowed upon me, not the least of which is my inclination for writing. 

I'm particularly feeling grateful for the blessing of health right now because, for the second year in a row, I'm suffering through a cold during Thanksgiving. Not fun. I'm missing out on the usual aromas of a turkey meal with all the trimmings being prepared by my wonderful husband. And when we eat in a couple of hours, it won't be quite as tasty because my taste buds are being suffocated. I couldn't even get up the energy to make my homemade butter horn rolls. But we must have the bitter to know the sweet and I'm determined to be healthy and strong next November!

By then, we'll be closer to family--both his and mine--because we're moving to St. George, Utah at the end of 2013! I'm grateful for this coming change. Not only will it bring us closer to my family in Southern California, and many of his relatives in Utah, (as well as several Utah writer friends) but it provides a fresh start. A fresh start at being a better neighbor, a better mother, a better Saint, and, hopefully, a better writer.

I haven't been able to write for a few months now due to pressing family needs. I'm hoping that this relocation, once we're settled, will help me find my voice again.

So I'm grateful for a change, however you want to take it. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pushing to Reach New Audiences....

Valerie J. Steimle

As a published author of five books, sales wax and wane. I am in a financial slump in book sales and I need a bigger audience to discover my work. How do I do this?

From the Futurebook conference held on November 21st sponsored by The Bookseller website there were some pretty good suggestions.  Push Entertainment’s Simon Scott talked about what authors can do. He focused on the importance of always trying to understand how to connect with people and “keep to the core fans of your work who are willing to buy” up front.  Announcing upcoming books to remind “lapsed” fans that you still exist which also helps them connect with you again is a great way to keep the sales numbers up. Authors (especially self-published ones) who go the extra mile will reap the benefits of better book sales.

Ruth Spencer, a marketing manager at Random House, suggested a concept not really known to publishers and authors: verticals or vertical integration.  Meaning authors get together with other like authors and promote each other.  Banding together to help each other promote books helps reach higher audiences. There is always power in numbers.

Another suggestion came from author and entrepreneur, Joanna Penn. She talked about what self-publishers have always known: the need to take a lot of risks.  Self-publishers “must always be writing new books (or articles) and have a consumer focus”. Keeping to one category in writing is like cutting off your availability to readers. There is a whole world out there waiting to hear what you have to say in many areas of life such as social media, speaking engagements or website articles. Using e-book promotions also help authors reach a bigger audience. They really do work.

This is a very well needed boost in the arm for authors who are trying to keep their heads afloat in the publishing world.  A well managed push into more areas of expertise helps authors reach more readers….and in reality….that is the name of the game.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Incomprehensible Journey

by H. Linn Murphy

I had a beautiful poem all ready to post for today and somehow I lost it on the computer. I tried and tried to get it back via several ways. It simply went bye-bye. All that long hard work down the flusher. I'm sure there was a reason for it. I think this situation is like many in my life.

I don't always understand why some things happen the way they do at the time they are happening. But later, often the meaning comes clearly to view.

I had a son who was ready to turn in his mission papers. He'd been working hard and pretty much had all he needed. He seemed jazzed about going out to serve the Lord. He was, at the time, very immature, though.

On graduation day I had two graduating. My oldest son was riding next to me in the car on the way to one graduation. I looked down at his arm and it was bright purple. "Ack, move it around!" I told him. He did and nothing happened. I ended up sending him to the hospital with his dad while I went to his brother's graduation, expecting all the time that they'd come sit in the seats I saved.

It turned out my son didn't leave the hospital for two days because he had a blood clot in his shoulder. He wasn't able to even think of a mission for almost a year, until he got off the anticoagulation medicine. At the time we couldn't think of any reason why he should have gotten a clot at his age. We had a rough time understanding why the Lord didn't just heal him and send him out into missionary service. We kept having road block after road block.

Finally the ordeal was over and the boy finished preparing to go out. He was a week away from his farewell talk when he told his dad he wasn't going. Again we questioned why. I'm still wondering what happened. I don't understand his choices. I don't understand the Lord's reasoning in this. Maybe if the boy had gone out, he might have encountered situations so difficult for him to navigate that he might have left the church. Maybe there was some other reason why he wasn't to go to that mission at that time. We're still clueless.

There is still time for him to go, even though he spent most of his mission money on a car and an apartment of his own. Maybe if he makes it his decision, he'll surprise us and go. And maybe not. It's his journey.

My job is to have faith in Heavenly Father's methods, whether I can see a reason for them or not. He's the one with the 360 degree perspective. I am the sheep who will come at his call, not stand bleating in a bush because I chose to stray. He calls and I go.

Meanwhile, his younger brother is serving in Russia, loving his mission.

Monday, November 18, 2013

What Makes You Think You Can Write a Book?

by Michelle Wilson

I was chatting with a friend of mine a few months ago who has harbored a long-hidden desire to write a non-fiction book about the gospel 

"Why don't you?" I asked.

"I don't know. I just feels . . . presumptuous. I mean, what do I have to offer? Who am I to think I can write something and make people pay money for it? What qualifies me to write a book for help others? What makes me think I can write a book?"

In speaking of my non-fiction writing, I have always loved to write inspirational tid-bits for women, so much so that I wrote a book. It was after  I wrote a book and signed on with a publisher that my friend and I had this conversation. 

I have to admit, the moment he said that, my wheels started turning. I looked at other inspirational books out there. Many were moving stories of faith and inspiration by people who survived amazing circumstances. I never did. Don't get me wrong, I've had my ups and downs, but I've never had to endure what I would call extreme hardship. Some books were written by scholars and experts in their field. Not me. I never graduated college. Don't even get me started about high school. Some books were written by church leaders. I was just called as a ward missionary. The Bishop must not trust me, because he called my husband as my companion. I guess I used the term "Goin' rogue" one too many times in my last calling. Lol. 

I looked at these authors and I began to wonder, what do I have to offer? What qualifies me to write a book for others? "What makes me think I can write?"

I'm embarrassed to tell you that the questions festered inside for longer than I want to admit. Underneath the excitement of my upcoming release, they mulled around the back of my mind. The questions grew louder as I attended different conferences and read other inspirational books and stories. 

I'm not a survivor, scholar, expert, or leader. I'm just me. What do I have to offer?

Then a scripture came to my mind that I had read just about a year ago. It was morning of the last day of my first writer's retreat. I picked up my scriptures, and as I often do, I said a prayer and let the pages fall open. I looked down and read: 

 "And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer. And how blessed are they! For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare that the Lord reigheth!" (Mosiah 27:37-37). 

This was referring to Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Of course they weren't publishing books, but they were getting a good and righteous message out. By doing what the Lord asked them to they "published" peace and good tidings of good. It wasn't all their doing, Heavenly Father was using them as His instruments to share a message. 

I recognized then, allowed myself to forget for a while, but understood once again that the thing that qualifies me to write isn't past experiences, education, or position. He has given me the talents and desire to write. It is my willingness to be an instrument in His hands that qualifies me to write. So when I write, I acknowledge His hand, and all that I write I do with a prayer and a purpose--to write what He would have me write. 

What makes me think I can write a book? God does. 

This does not apply only to non-fiction, either. 

Over this past year I've met many talented and amazing women writers--most of them fiction writers. Some have great confidence in their abilities and their purpose. Yet, others (more than not) question their ability, their qualifications, and even themselves. They wonder why they are writing and writing, yet never getting published. They wonder how many drafts it will take until their book is done. They feel guilty for trading family time for writing time, so they steal hours from their sleep to write. They are discouraged, impatient, and doubtful. They may even be asking the same questions my friend did, the very questions I allowed myself to entertain. What makes them think they can write a book?

I would say to them:  He has given you the talent and the desire to create ideas, stories, situations, people, and places in your mind and, through the keys of your keyboard, bring them to life. Acknowledge His hand, and write with a prayer and a purpose. Bring to life the stories and messages He only can through you.

What qualifies you to write a book? What makes you think can write?  He does.

And there's not higher qualification than that.

PS- I joke about my calling, but for the record, I know my Bishop was inspired to call me as a ward missionary, and I am where I'm supposed to be :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kids on Meds

I just wanted to share my personal experiences involving my son, ADHD and medication. From the time my son was young he was super active. My older son was a very quiet kid, and so I thought maybe this son was showing the wild boy gene. As time went on I asked the doctor about his behavior, and she said that he might have ADHD, but that she couldn't be sure until tests were given. Tests she didn't recommend until he was in school.

When my son was in kindergarten I mentioned my concern to his teacher, but she said he was just like all the other boys and not to worry. In 1st grade I mentioned it to his new teacher, and she said she would keep a look out for signs. Over half the year went by, my son regularly did not finish his homework, bounced around and distracted other students. I was surprised when I got a letter sent home that said he'd passed part 1 of the gifted and talented test and he should be further tested. To my shame, I thought there was some mix-up and didn't have him tested.

It was during his third semester conference that the teacher and I sat down to talk about his behavior. She mentioned that he was easily distracted and distracted others. He was also very good at math, but his reading was way behind. I finally got the confirmation I'd been looking for when she agreed with me about ADHD testing.

I took him to the doctor and received questionnaires for both me and the teacher to fill out. When they were done I brought them back to the doctor. Unfortunately, the teacher and I showed my son with completely opposite symptoms. It didn't help the doctor at all. The choice was to apply some behavior therapies, such as sitting at the front of the class, using a cardboard cutout around his desk to keep him centered, and using a timer to make him do his classwork. I was also given a prescription for a small dose of Ritalin.

At first I tried the behavior therapy, and it did improve his behavior, but he still had problems overall. I was worried about using meds, so I put them off. Then I read the most amazing article about ADHD kids and the new parental trend of not giving medication. There have been many years to study the research and results of kids on meds vs not on meds. The overall all feeling of the article said that around a decade or so ago, a huge scare went through parents about having over medicated children. Many parents stopped the medicines all together. The results have been a generation of children with ADHD who never learned to cope for themselves. They have a high drop-out rate, high drug rate, and a low level of job/work.

As I read the article I knew it was right. I'd seen the same thing happen to families around me. So, I decided to try the Ritalin. During the last month of school he was on the low dose. After thirty days we went back to the doctor with new questionnaires filled out. The medicine didn't work, in fact I felt it made him a little more hyper than normal.

Since school was out, I decided to wait until 2nd grade to try again. The summer went by in all its craziness, and then school started. I purposely did not set up my son's medicine check until after three full weeks of school. I wanted the teacher to see him as he really was so that she'd have an opinion when the medication started. I told her this at the open house, but lol, she forgot.

The doctor upped his dosage slightly and he began another thirty days. After the failure last time, I was unsure it would help, but I needed to try. I called his teacher and told her we we're beginning the medication now. She said thank goodness. She told me she'd forgotten I'd mentioned it and had thought herself in for a whole year of his behavior.

Guess what? The medicine worked beautifully! It took several days to regulate, but then my son was acting so much better. Was he still a bit hyper, yep, but he was also focused, listening to the teacher, not distracting others, and doing his homework. When I asked the teacher for her questionnaire at the end of the thirty days she hugged me. The doctor had found the right dosage, and there was no glassy eyed drugged behavior that people had scared me into worrying about. I think the right dosage is key there.

The only side affect we've noticed is a lack of appetite at lunch time. So, he gets extra snacks after school and at bedtime. As my son learns to control his behavior with the use of the medication he will learn coping skills and some day in the future be able to come off of the Ritalin and control his actions. In the meantime, his schoolwork and learning are no longer suffering. I feel such hope again, and I hope this might help someone else.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I am Not a Pigeon

I hate taking to the internet when angry. It rarely results in anything productive. But from sources foreign and domestic I feel like I am being told who I am. As a writer, as a person, as mom, as a woman. Maybe it's just time for an internet hiatus, there are too many messages running about the interwebs whose only intent is to tell others where they should be standing. 
I think this blog post (minus some of the cursing, except for the excerpt beneath the Shakespeare pic, which is just too hilarious) from author Larry Correia sums up my current feelings both on the NYTimes article in question, but to anyone who thinks my personal affiliation with any group gives them the right to tell me who I am. I am a woman,daughter, sister, wife, mother, writer, teacher, missionary, friend, Mormon, libertarian, food enthusiast, ANWA member, white, Arizonan, high school graduate, and none of that means beans when it comes to my potential as a human being. 
It also does not mean that I have to agree with every sentiment expressed by every other member of that group, or even any other member of that group. 
I guess one of the blessings/curses of being able to connect to hordes of folks in a matter of clicks is we often think it gives us some kind of insight. We think we know this or that person, or the groups to which they feel comfortable belonging. It allows access to groups we normally wouldn't know anything about, while simultaneously convincing us that all we need to know about any group is a few quotes from people on Facebook.
Maybe I'm worn out from finishing this novel while raising my babies, helping my hubby go gluten-free, and generally juggling about a million different balls at once, but I don't think I can take much more of others telling me the size and shape of the box into which I fit. You don't know which hole I fit into, because I am not a pigeon. 
*I didn't proof read this, try not to judge.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Picture Day

Me in sixth grade, circa 1976

This week marks 15 years that I've been having children get their school photos taken for Picture Day. Our youngest is in kindergarten now, and she was excited to be introduced to the ritual. 

Every family has its own philosophy and tradition when it comes to Picture Day. As I walked my kids up to the school yesterday morning, we saw little girls with big curls and dresses and little boys in ties with slicked down hair. I've seen a lot of adorable photos of kids all gussied up thusly, but that's not how we do it. First of all, I'm just not that organized. But more important, I decided back when our oldest was in elementary school that I wanted my kids' photos to represent who they really were that year. 

(Our son, Daniel, last year in third grade. I love this photo a) because you can tell he has lost patience with the photographer, and the look on his face slays me; and b) he's wearing his Zelda shirt.)

Not this:
(I have no idea who this kid is. I just found her photo via Google. But I feel bad for her.)

Now, I usually am on the ball enough to make sure the kids have had a recent haircut and are wearing something clean. But as far as dressing up, I've gone from minimal dress-up--encouraging a polo shirt or turtleneck--to just letting them choose their favorite (non-holey, clean) shirt. That way, when I look back through a photo album in years to come, their images will reflect reality. 

I've come to the same position when it comes to my online presence. Back in 2007, when I started blogging, I was a lot more cautious about the image I thought I was projecting. Did I look successful? Composed? Smart, interesting, creative? I crafted my posts pretty self-consciously, with an eye toward projecting a certain image. 

But over the course of the last six years, I've seen that what I respond to in others' posts is authenticity. Honesty. Plain speaking. The heart-to-heart. I've realized that when people confess their faults, I almost always love them more, not less. And I can't be the only one, so I've chosen to be more secure about letting my own weaknesses show--at least a bit. No one likes an over-sharer, after all. But no more gussying up online. It's just me these days. And that feels fine. It's still nice when the image is flattering, but it's easier to connect with a little bit of reality, don't you think? 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Little Rambling Gratitude

I love the month of November.  Two of my children have birthdays this month. It is the end of the birthday season at my house and that is something to be grateful for. (We celebrate from July to November two birthdays a month most months- it is great but exhausting!)  

My favorite meal to cook and eat is this month.  I love Thanksgiving.  I love pumpkin- seeds, soup, pie, cookies, smoothies, cake.  Yeah, I think I would eat it cooked with butter like squash but I haven't tried that yet.  I love sweet potatoes unless someone breaks tradition and puts salt and pepper on them, then I am polite and eat them, but it is just wrong. MMMM, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, home-made rolls, cranberry sauce- the jelly kind with no lumps and all those pies-YES- I love Thanksgiving and I am looking forward to it.

 I think what  love best is the cliche- probably not a good writerly thing, but I do love the focus on gratitude.  I am grateful all year.  I have so many things to be grateful for one day would not be enough time to consider them all, but I love this time when it seems like everyone is counting their blessings.  Gratitude.  What a great concept.  


For little hands that smudge my windows
and grip my fingers tight

For windows to smudge and fingers to grip
and gooey kisses good night

For little hands now grown large that can wash
my window smudges

For the faithful hearts that guide those hands
to wash them without grudges

For bigger hands and hearts made
to share smudges and dreams

For struggles managed together
no matter how hard it seems

For dreams just for dreaming sake
maybe they will come true

For reality that grounds the dreams
and keeps them pure and new

For sunshine, roses and puppy dogs
grass and worms and frogs

For rainy days and nights
with or without lights

For hugs and shoulder punches
giggles, hiccups and tickles

For sad times that hurt
but show what happiness is

I am so glad for all these things
even when my heart weeps, my spirit sings


Gratitude can make such a difference in how we see our lives, our struggles, our families.  Being grateful takes us out of ourselves, giving us perspective in our relationships and other areas of life.  Just think of the difference it would make in our world if everyone could have that perspective. 

Thanksgiving may be and American holiday but gratitude is a world wide possibility.  I hope my corny, cliche ramblings will give you a smile.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Books for 2013

Looking for something Spooktackular to read with your kids? I've gone through the book releases for 2013 and compiled a list of some awesome looking reads.- Dorine

Picture Books:

 Crankenstein- Little Brown 2013

by Samantha Berger, Dan Santat- 

He may look like any ordinary boy, but when faced with a rainy day, a melting popsicle, or an early bedtime, one little boy transforms into a mumbling, grumbling Crankenstein! When Crankenstein meets his match in a fellow Crankenstein, the results could be catastrophic-or they could be just what he needs to brighten his day! 

Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat- Antheneum Books for YR.
by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin -
Farmer Brown does not like Halloween. So he draws the shades, puts on his footy pajamas, and climbs into bed.

But do you think the barnyard animals have any respect for a man in footy pajamas? No, they do not. For them, the Halloween party has just begun. And we all know these critters far prefer tricks over treats.

There are big surprises in store for Farmer Brown!

Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat! (Pinkalicious)- HarperFestival
by Victoria Kann
When a big storm shuts down all the power in Pinkville, Pinkalicious must turn into Pinkagirl to save Halloween!

Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover -Disney-Hyperion
by Anne Marie Pace, LeUyen Pham 
Before Vampirina can host her very first sleepover there are a few things she must keep in mind: be polite and offer her guests food (like blood pudding); plan some games like scavenger hunt (but keep the clues simple so no one gets lost); and don't forget to dance! Vampirina may be a little nervous at first, but by following a few simple rules she will host the Best Sleepover Ever.

Middle Grade-

October Ogre (Calendar Mysteries #10)- Random House Books for YR
by Ron Roy, John Steven Gurney 
In the tenth book of the Calendar Mysteries, an early chapter-book mystery series featuring the younger siblings of the A to Z Mysteries detectives, there's a haunted house in Green Lawn! It's Halloween, and the Shangri-la Hotel has been transformed into a haunted house, complete with an ogre out front. Bradley, Brian, Nate, and Lucy are ready for some scary fun, but then they notice that none of the kids who have gone in the hotel have come back out. What's happening to them? Ghosts and witches and ogres aren't real . . . right?

Rise of the Balloon Goons (The Notebook of Doom #1)- Scholastic
by Troy Cummings (This whole series rocks)
Alexander has just moved to a new town where he is about to uncover all sorts of monsters! He finds an old notebook with the word "DOOM" inscribed on the front cover. The Notebook of Doom, which Alexander now holds, contains top secret information about monsters! In this first book, Alexander goes up against spooky balloon goons--unique and twisted arm-waving balloon guys!

The Emerald Ring (Cleopatra's Legacy)- Cedar Fort
by Dorine White (Me! There's a great Halloween scene)
Ordinary tween life turns upside down when Ancient Egypt intrudes on modern middle school life. Twelve year old Sara Guadalupe Bogus reads about adventures, but unexpectedly is drawn into one when a mystical emerald ring that once belonged to Cleopatra becomes stuck on her finger.

A series of burglaries spook Sara’s small Ohio hometown. Concluding that the root of all the crimes is the emerald ring, Sara realizes it’s up to her and her friends, Heidi and African exchange student Kainu, to save the town and protect Cleopatra’s legacy. Filled with magic, the ring thrusts Sara into a world filled with nightmares, allows her to shape shift into an Egyptian cat and battle assassins.

 The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus #4)-Hyperion

by Rick Riordan

Can't pass this one up! The final in the Percy Jackson series.
At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.

My Weird School Special: It's Halloween, I'm Turning Green! -HarperCollins
by Dan Gutman  (Author) , Jim Paillot 
It’s Halloween, and you know what that means! Candy! Costumes! More candy! What would happen if a kid ate a million hundred pounds of chocolate in one night? One thing’s for sure—when A.J. and his friends from Ella Mentry School go trick-or-treating, it will be a Halloween to remember.

 The Grimm Conclusion (A Tale Dark & Grimm #3)- Dutton Juvenile
by Adam Gidwitz , Hugh D'Andrade 

Once upon a time, fairy tales were grim.

Cinderella’s stepsisters got their eyes pecked out by birds.
Rumpelstiltskin ripped himself in half.
And in a tale called “The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage,” a mouse, a bird, and a sausage all talk to each other. Yes, the sausage talks. (Okay, I guess that one’s not that grim…)
Those are the real fairy tales.
But they have nothing on the story I’m about to tell.
This is the darkest fairy tale of all. Also, it is the weirdest. And the bloodiest.
It is the grimmest tale I have ever heard.
And I am sharing it with you.
Two children venture through forests, flee kingdoms, face ogres and demons and monsters, and, ultimately, find their way home. Oh yes, and they may die. Just once or twice. 
That’s right. Fairy tales

Have a goulishly good time and read!