Monday, December 29, 2014

Knowing your Destiny...

Valerie J. Steimle

Over the Christmas season, I had the opportunity to read James A. Owen's  
              Drawing out the Dragons.
Drawing out the Dragons is the first book of The Meditations series Mr. Owen has created to help other people in what ever they want to do.... How can he do that when he is a writer and illustrator? I wasn't sure what to expect.  I had to read this series because as the agreement went I got all three books as e-books of that series for free if I would read and post a review of them. To my delightful surprise, the first book was inspirational. 

For a starters, here is what the description says: 

 "I believe in you. You have a great destiny. You are meant for great things. And it s possible to live a wonderful, extraordinary life."
That is the promise offered by bestselling author and illustrator James A. Owen in this remarkable and inspirational meditation. In Drawing Out the Dragons, James shares personal stories and the deep truths he learned while navigating past obstacles and adversity toward a life of lasting belief and joy. We all have a grand destiny, but sometimes we feel we lack the power to achieve it. But we always have the power to choose. Every drawing, every life, is nothing but a series of choices and actions. Make your lines. Make your choices. . . . What you create from there is entirely up to you. Drawing Out the Dragons has the power to uplift, inspire, and change your life.

Well, that was a shot in the arm for what I needed to read.  Every year by the end of the year, I need to take a writer's break.  Usually by Thanksgiving I run out of writing steam and just need to vegetate until New Year's Day.  It's a natural thing for me and I don't miss writing at all during that time.  I still write in my journal but this rejuvenation period really fills my writer's cup.  I do other things that I normally don't have time for and with my two boys homeschooling I had the chance to do some wonderful end of the year field trips and activities without the worry of a manuscript or other writing assignments. So James Owen's book came at the right time and he wrote such a great story of how he started publishing and what it took to be successful, even after a debilitating car accident when he lost the use of his right arm.

James A Owen has written......

James A. Owen has written and illustrated five books in the bestselling Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series: Here, There Be Dragons, The Search For The Red Dragon; The Indigo King; The Shadow Dragons; and The Dragon's Apprentice. The sixth volume, The Dragons of Winter, and the seventh, The First Dragon, are forthcoming from Simon & Schuster. The series is now being published in more than twenty languages. He is founder and executive director of Coppervale International, an art and design studio that also published the periodicals International Studio and Argosy, develops television and film projects, and is redesigning an entire town, among other ventures. James has written and illustrated two dozen Starchild comics, the Mythworld series of novels, and more. He lives in Arizona with his family.

Now I have started  reading his 2nd book of this series called The Barbizon Diaries which has more inspirational messages and the 3rd book The Grand Design is patiently awaiting when I can open this book as well.

James A. Owen is an inspiration to us all no matter what career path has been chosen as he gives us the tools to be successful.  He sets the example of one who does not give up on his dream.....and isn't that what writers need to hear over and over again?  I think so.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Man Who Hated Christmas

Many families have traditions they carry out at Christmas, mine included. One involves reading scriptures, singing carols, and reading Christmas stories nightly for the twenty four eves leading up to the day we celebrate the Savior's birth.

One of my favorite stories is called "The Man Who Hated Christmas". 

Yes, that seems an odd choice at first given the season but let me explain. You see the man in the story doesn't hate the true meaning of Christmas, In fact, it's because of his high regard for the Christ child that he is saddened by the commercialism that has become associated with the holiday season. 

His wife is kind of like me, stumped for a really meaningful gift to give her husband for Christmas. Attending one of their son's wrestling match against an inner city team, he remarks how disheartened he is to see the poor boys without helmets or shoes.  

Inspiration strikes the wife and that year she foregoes getting him the usual sweater and tie and instead makes an anonymous donation of helmets and shoes to the inner city boys wrestling team. She places her gift on the tree in an envelope and on Christmas day her husband is delighted with his 'gift'.  So begins a tradition in their family.

As I rushed about stores this morning, mainly grocery shopping, I constantly held back tears, feeling overwhelmed with all I still have to do to be ready to celebrate Christmas. The shopping is done, the wrapping is begun, and all I really have left is to make and deliver treats for the neighbors. Most of my current to do list is unassociated with Christmas at this point. 

So, why the Christmas blues? 

The dread of disappointment of others. 

I'm not one who shows her love by gift giving. What if those I love and care about are unhappy with their presents? What if they are the types that receive love through gifts? How can I ever measure up? My intentions are good, but my execution is lacking. 

Honestly, I'd like to be like the man in the story. Skip my presents and do some good in the world and let me do the same for you. Wouldn't that fit in more with what the Savior taught? What he came here to do? Why we celebrate his birth?  

So, next year, make a charitable donation, put a pair of cozy socks and a bag of peppermint bark in my stocking, and I'd call that a good Christmas. 

What would you do to make your Christmas more Christlike? 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hearing the Spirit in a World of Chaos

The television.  The Internet.  Computer games.  The telephone.  The cell phone.  Pounding on the door.  Running errands.  Church callings.  Soccer games.  Doctor appointments.  The list goes on and on.  Today we are bombarded with more input than ever before.  Our brains seem about to explode from all the things we must do, places we must go, meals to prepare, dry cleaning to pick up … and then, at the end of the day, we collapse on the couch with barely enough energy to drag ourselves into bed.  We read scriptures with the family that morning, and we did get our family prayer said before we sent everyone to bed, but anything beyond that seems impossible.

And yet, we know we need to be able to hear the voice of the Spirit if we are ever to find peace in this world, to receive guidance for our daily activities, to know what choices to make, and to help us on our journey back to Heavenly Father.  We need that constant comfort and companionship.  How do we block out the sounds of the world so we can hear what is truly a still, small voice?

First, I think it’s important that we minimize the electronic chaos in our lives.  We’ve heard it said in general conference that turning off the television and the computer can be crucial in allowing room for the Spirit.  We obtain a lot of good from the Internet – we can study, read scriptures, find conference talks, do genealogy – but when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the games and the chat rooms, we spend more time on useless entertainment than we do in feeding our souls.  

Second, we can take a few minutes first thing in the morning to go to our knees and ask Heavenly Father to guide our day.  Johnny might need a ride to school and Sally can’t find her shoes, so time might be tight, but we can always fit in a few seconds to ask our Father, who loves us infinitely, to be with us.  Later, after the ride is given and the shoe crisis is averted, we can focus on our scriptures or other uplifting activities, but we’ve gotten our day off to a good start.  It’s okay to speed-pray … I’ve done it before and never felt chastised for it.

Third, we can make our spiritual nourishment a higher priority.  Yes, we may have company coming in an hour, but wouldn’t they rather visit with someone who is centered and calm than with someone who is frazzled from running around the house, scrubbing and trying to make everything perfect?  And if they are the kind of person who would rather sit in a spotless house than care about your stress levels, why are you letting them in your house?  

Fourth, I’m a big believer in the parent time-out.  This is where the mom or dad just goes in their room and closes the door.  They can leave an older child in charge, or they can wait until their spouse comes home, but they shut out the distraction of the rest of the household and be by themselves for a little while.  Sometimes it’s easy to find balance, and other times, it takes an hour, but as couples communicate their needs with each other, and take turns to cool off as necessary, they will find they are much more able to listen to those inner feelings and be guided toward making the right choices. 

Fifth, we can involve our children in our search for peace and calm.  We can make it a learning activity.  Start by playing them loud music, and then play them soft music.  Ask how each makes them feel.  Explain that we like the feelings in our hearts when things around us are softer.  Help them identify the feelings that they have when they are playing nicely together as compared to the feelings they have when they are fighting, and talk about how they would rather feel all the time. 

Last, we can take the moments we do have and make the most of them.  When I go to pick up my daughter from seminary, I often find that I have five minutes of quiet before the bell rings.  I like to close my eyes, breathe deeply, and try to center myself again.  In those quiet moments, inspiration comes and helps me with ideas for the rest of the day.

Above all, never quit trying.  The Lord is aware of our hectic schedules and He knows we don’t always have the opportunity to come to Him in private.  He will listen to us while we drive down the freeway, while we grocery shop … any time we think to speak to Him, He will listen.  And then He’ll take advantage of the first quiet moment we get to answer us.  I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christ is the Reason for the Season

by H. Linn Murphy

About this time every year the pace kicks into holiday mode. We see ever earlier sales. Black Friday is now a holiday children recognize. The Saving Christmas shows pepper the TV, punctuated by ads for glitzy toys, diamonds, gigantic screen TVs, and gleaming sportscars. We run around trying to do, make, and buy everything in time for the Big Day. We run around like ants, busy with making Christmas. But we often forget that Christ is the reason for the season. We not only forget to celebrate His miraculous birth, but the most remarkable gift anyone ever has or ever will give to us: Eternal Life. We forget God's gift to us: namely His Son.

We see all these festive decorations and gifts and helpful hints about how we should celebrate the holidays, but we often fail to see Jesus. And yet we marvel at the people from His own time and place who didn't see Him for what He was. They were too blinded by politics, or disdain for his upbringing and origins, or by their own problems. The Pharisees who should have been His biggest supporters because of their scriptural knowledge, were instead some of His greatest detractors.

 So who did see Him? Not Pilate, who thought of him as a sort of discomforting rabble rouser. Not Herod, rich and selfish King of the Jews. Not the powerful or the knowledgeable. It was the small people--the humble shepherds and servants, the craftsmen shutting their shops for the night, the publicans, and fishermen, and women drawing water at the well.

In this age, knowledge of our Savior gets overshadowed by glitzy movie and sports stars, by the rumble of science disavowing His reality, and by the jeers of the inhabitants of the Great and Spacious Building. We find ourselves either defending Him at every turn, or, like Peter at the cock's crow, weeping at our lack of faith. Sometimes the frantic pace of our lives takes Christ's place and fills the emptiness we've left as we chase the dollar bill, elusive fame, or power.

In the holidays, much of the greed and selfishness comes to a head. The refrain of "Mommy, I want that," fills the frosty air. There have been times when I sat wrapping those last presents that I felt my children had never been such brats all year and I wondered why I was rewarding such wretched behaviors. The gimme children never seemed happy. They fought over everything, especially about serving others by doing their chores. The whole season depressed me. It wasn't until, like Christ, we started focusing on the happiness of others that we started to find our own joy. 

Maybe it's time to buck the crowds, walk back down that Spacious Building ramp, and hop across the stones in the river, back to the Tree of Life. 

I remember once when I was little (we lived in Y Mount Terrace back then--married student housing). I had a Penny Brite doll, which I really loved. One home evening my dad asked us a sneaky question. "What's your favorite toy?" Thinking that I was going to get clothes for her or something equally cool, I piped up with, "My Penny Brite doll is my favorite." My sister, probably sensing more than I did, mentioned something I knew for a fact wasn't her most special toy. Then Dad said something that chilled my childish little heart. "Well then that's the thing we'll give away." My mom then made gorgeous clothes for her, and a box with homemade furniture in it for the doll. Wow. I bawled and bawled. I thought that was a really wretched thing to do. We took those offerings upstairs and gave them to another, poorer family. At first I felt so betrayed. And maybe I was, in a way, since I wasn't allowed to make that choice on my own. But I have never forgotten the way I felt at seeing that other little girl's eyes light up. (Then, because I was about five and selfish, I plotted for a little while on how I was going to take it back--but never did. There is hope.)

Later we enjoyed several 12 Days of Christmas forays. One time we lived in Oregon. My parents had moved down to Arizona and left my sister and me up there because of jobs and school, etc. That Christmas was going to be a little bleak for us. But also Mom had left lots of friends without a champion. Patricia was one of those friends. This season was especially lonely for her. She'd recently lost her husband and was feeling the pinch, once remedied by my mom's kindness. 
So my sister Lisa and I decided to do the 12 Days of Christmas on her. We bought all kinds of things we thought Patricia would like: a back scratcher, cans of soup, slippers, books, goodies and several other items. We thought we were being so sneaky running up to her porch, dropping the item for the day, ringing the bell, and racing away. 
Then one day we got caught. We were hiding in her bushes when some woman we didn't know walked out to the front porch and yelled, "Hey! Whoever you are, Patricia moved. You can have all the stuff we didn't eat back again!"

I remember thousands of meals my mom made and took to other people. I remember baking bread and every time we took it out of the oven, without fail the missionaries were there for a slice. Everybody stayed at our house--Young Ambassadors, BYU Folkdancers, Up With People kids, German Club kids, the indignant runaway children of friends. Everyone. I remember my mom giving everything from her suitcase to women in Zimbabwe, only coming home with what she was wearing and a skirt for me. She went to do service, handing out massive amounts of clothing, food, and sock dolls she made by hand. I remember her and my dad cleaning out ICU's and orphanages in Bulgaria and taking food and water to Bande Atche (or however you spell it), the epicenter of the tsunami in Indonesia. And I think of all the presents I've given her that she's turned around and given to other people. My mom lives to give. Thousands of people bless her name. That's how I want to be. Someday I'll make it.

I hardly remember any presents I ever got. What I do remember are those I gave that took some trouble. I remember their faces and how it felt to do something for someone else. Imagine, then, how Christ must feel when we accept His offerings. When we come humbly to kneel at His feet and give our lives into His careful hands, it must fill Him with exquisite joy. 

What a great birthday present!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Writer's Life

The life of a writer is different for each person. I personally use my own history and friends as fodder. Yep, in fact when I'm searching for names I find nothing works better than going through the friends I've made over the last forty years and looking for something that stands out. You want a name that sticks in peoples minds? Don't make it up, use one that is real. For my first published work the last name of my main character was Bogus. At school visits I am asked about my choice and I can honestly say that one of my besties growing up was Denise Bogus. What fun it is to use the names of people I care about and immortalize them in print. Another best friend growing up was Sara, and yes, the full name of my character was Sara Bogus.

Now, I do have to tell my friends that even though I use their names, the characters themselves in no way represent the person. In my just released YA, The Awakening, one of my characters is named John. His name comes from someone  I grew up with named Jon. He was really wild and tough. In the book though, John has allergies and can't fight. So, not my Jon, but just using his name makes me smile. And I hope it makes him smile too knowing that I was thinking of him.

Random events aren't safe either. I look back at my life as open season. When I write I include events that I remember happening, or at least imagined, growing up. When I'm writing about a school, I often picture my own schools and in my mind, the layouts match up. When I'm writing about something embarrassing, I often place myself in the shoes of my character and think about how I would have reacted, or actually use a real event.

As a writer, I am very observant of the world around me. It's true what they say, "Watch out. I'm a writer. You might end up in my book." I often see things in real life that  beg to be included in print. And my kids, yep I listen to their conversations to see what teenage dialog is all about these days. I'm kind of like a pirate that way. Of course, they also like to read my rough drafts and groan. 

What fun it is to be a writer? I am thankful for my gift of storytelling and imagination. - Dorine

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12 Indie Publishing Blunders to Avoid!

Misty Dawn Pulsipher

My good friend, Lisa Rector is self-publishing her first novel as we speak. I have done this two times, but for some reason we forget all the little details in between books when it comes to formatting and such. So it occurred to me that this might be helpful information for Indie Authors everywhere.

First of all, I used to think 'Indie' was one of two things: a nationality or a car race. Apparently, it's actually the term used for self-publishing. So here is what I've learned about Indie publishing over the last few weeks:

 1. When you think you have a final draft on your hands, you will make approximately 800 changes to your 'proof copy' once it arrives and you're done celebrating.

 2. You will go through about 3 packs of sticky notes, because you don't want to write in your proof copy.

 3. By the time you're done with the proof copy, you'll want to burn it.

4. Do yourself a favor and don't bother manually indenting your paragraphs with tabs. You will end up deleting every one of them when you convert your file to HTML for the Kindle Edition. Instead, highlight all your text (minus chapter headings), go to LINE SPACING, LINE SPACING OPTIONS, SPECIAL (select FIRST LINE), then LEFT INDENT and make the indent that you want. It will apply the indent to the first line of every paragraph throughout your document.

5. Instead of putting a few spaces between chapters, insert a page break (CONTROL+ENTER).

6. SECTION BREAKS are a catastrophe waiting to happen. Use with extreme caution and only when absolutely necessary.

7. When it comes right down to it - prevent unpleasantness such as ulcers and nervous breakdowns by paying someone else to format your book. Create Space does it starting at $249. You'll pay more than that in acid reflux medication and counseling alone - so it will totally be worth it.

8. Watch out for backward quote marks - they will be your undoing ... just ask Melissa Lemon.

9. Order a paperback proof copy and read through it - seeing your book in that format helps you think like a reader and not like a writer - and helps to identify plot/character issues and inconsistencies.

10. If you are a perfectionist like me, take it down a notch and be willing to let insignificant things go. Like each chapter starting on the right page instead of the left. You will drive yourself and everyone around you crazy otherwise.

11. To convert your document to HTML for the Kindle Edition, click SAVE AS then select WEB PAGE FILTERED.

12. Think of the whole thing as a process rather than an event. And One More Thing . . . While you're so absorbed with things like margins, page breaks, chapter headers, and indents . . . don't forget to check the spelling of your OWN NAME on the COVER. For some reason I never noticed the H missing from my last name, even though I'd gazed lovingly at my cover for hours on end and held the proof copy in my hands.

On launch day, after I had finally approved all the proofs and clicked the little "publish" button with glee, a friend noticed the spelling error. It was another day before it was fixed and re-uploaded. In the immortal words of Mad-Eye Moody, "Constant Vigilance!"

Get Lisa's debut novel here:

Monday, December 1, 2014

What a Whirlwind Year!

A year ago today, I had my dream come true. My very first book was published and I was thrilled to death. I didn't realize at the time that it would open a floodgate of awesomeness that would leave me breathless. Last Friday I released book number six. That's right, six books in one year. It was insanity to say the least.

There are several things I've learned in the last year that will help with any future books I put out, and I hope some of those tips can help you as well.

1. Love your cover. No, seriously, You should see the first cover I had on Stolen Luck. Google it and I'm sure you'll find it. Why did I go with it? I wanted the book out now. I wanted a book available for Christmas and working with that cover artist was difficult, so I dealt with it.

Don't deal with it. It's your book. Your baby. Make sure you love the cover because you will be selling your book to other people and you don't want the constant reminder. Believe me. You could be stuck with evil leprechauns for the rest of your life. 

Lucky for me, my publisher didn't like it either and was relieved when I told him to change it. While it still doesn't fit the genre, it was a million times better than the original.

2. Don't rush. Make sure edits are done well, covers are what you want, and everything is ready before you hit the submit button. I am constantly rushing into things and I regret it later. I'm thankful for those around me that remind me to slow down, enjoy the ride, and be happy with the better results. 

3. Read the contract. If you go traditional, know what that contract says. I am currently in the process of getting my rights back on a series, and a few things in the contract that I figured I would never have to deal with are the biggest obstacles right now. Find someone that knows contract law and make sure you're not making a huge mistake.  Look at the right of first refusal, royalties, buyout options, and responsibilities for both you and your publisher.

4. Don't stress over things you can't control.  Cover artists need time to create, editors need time to edit, formatters need time to format, and even printers need time to print. Take a deep breath and realize they're doing their best to make you look good.

5. When marketing, don't burn yourself out. When Twist of Luck was released, I went all out on a huge blog tour, and I didn't see a lot of return. It was still fun, and my readers enjoyed it, but I was totally burnt out at the end. Look around for fun ideas and research to see what marketing works now. My friend just did a Twitter party and it seemed to go very well. There are also Facebook launch parties, blog tours, cover reveals, and physical launch parties. Do all of them or do one or two of them. Know your schedule and what you can handle before pushing yourself into it.

Here you go! Good luck with all your publishing ventures!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

House for sale this Thanksgiving?

by Suzanne Warr

One day recently, as I polished the bathroom faucet til I could see my sparkly reflection in it, I thought about the silly parts of selling a house.  Not the obviously annoying things, like trying to keep muddy paw prints off the kitchen floor, and never sitting on your bed because you just made it.  Those at least make sense.  No, I'm talking about the really ridiculous realms that we desperate home-sellers wander in.  For example, you might be selling a house if...
  • you worry about whether your tp looks cheap or 'affluent.'
  • you hope the guinea pigs don't wheek a hello to the visitors, and beg for their snacks.
  • you fret that your bathroom rugs have a foot print on them, and therefor don't look perfectly fluffed.
  • you sort through all the pumpkins in the bin, hoping one of them will say 'buy this house.'
  • you feel the need to not only rake the leaves, but hide the leaf pile in the woods so no one will know how many leaves your trees drop.
However, in the spirit of Thanksgiving--and I am thankful to have a nice warm house in which to enjoy this family time--here are a few of the things about selling a house that leave me feeling grateful.
  • when I ask the family to tidy up and put everything away, I can blame the buyers.
  • pumpkin pie candles aren't a splurge, they're an investment.
  • friends can drop by unexpectedly without my having to scramble the house clean--hooray!
  • I get to live in my house at the prettiest it's ever been, for just a little longer.
  • The opportunities for creative housekeeping are witness the pic below.

That, my friends, is a brainstorming/plot board for my latest wip, and it's up on the wall in the kitchen where I can jot down ideas as I go by--just where I want it!  The painting which covers it lifts up and down easily, and no one's the wiser when the house is being shown.  Isn't that fun?  Creative?  And, just...kind of cool?  I think so.  It's something to be thankful for. :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

What are the Whitneys?

What are the Whitney Awards? And why should you care? 

According to the website the Whitneys are: 

The Whitneys are an awards program for novels written by LDS authors. Elder Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle in the LDS church, prophesied “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” It is our hope to be a part of that journey toward excellence by honoring the LDS writers also working toward that goal.
The Whitney Awards honor novels in the following categories: General Fiction, Romance, Suspense/Mystery, Speculative Fiction, Speculative Young Adult Fiction, General Young Adult Fiction, Middle Grade, Historical, Best Novel of the Year, Best Novel in Youth Fiction, and Best Novel by a New Author. Novels can be nominated by any reader (via this website or by mail), and nominees are voted on by an academy of industry professionals, including authors, publishers, bookstore owners, distributors, critics, and others.
The awards were founded in 2007 and operate as an semi-autonomous subsidiary of LDStorymakers.

Who decides who is nominated for a Whitney? 

The readers do. That means YOU!

Who is eligible for the award? 

The Whitney Awards are solely for novels. Eligible titles for any year’s awards must be released between January 1 and December 31 of the calendar year and must be at least 50,000 words in the adult categories and at least 20,000 words for the youth categories. In addition, the author must be a Latter-day Saint.

Once a book is nominated, then what? 

It goes to a panel of judges. Here is how it works: 

We do not give a rubric to our judges or to the Academy awards because this is a reader based award rather than a literary one. We choose judges who are sophisticated and critical readers and allow them to make their own judgments on writing quality and content. Doing otherwise (screening nominees based on content and writing quality) would be both time-consuming and based on subjective reasoning, therefore we have only required that the author be a member of the LDS church. All other factors such as content, language, and craft, are to be judged by each individual person voting in the award process.

Tier I: Nomination
Any reader who has no financial interest in a book (e.g. the author or employee of the publisher), and who is at least twelve years old, may nominate it for a Whitney Award. Nominations are sent in via the web form found HERE.
When a book has received five reader nominations, the Whitney Committee contact the author to confirm the book’s eligibility. The book is then placed into the category in which the author has deemed his or her book best fits.
Tier II: Judging
Each genre category has five judges who have been handpicked by the Whitney Awards president, often with input from the committee. Judges keep their status confidential during the year, especially in regards to which category they are judging. Judges read all official nominees in their categories. They cast their votes early in the calendar year, using a Condorcet-style ballot.
After the judges’ votes are tabulated, five finalists for each category are announced, usually in early February.
Tier III: Academy Voting
After the finalists have been announced, the Whitney Awards academy, which is made up of industry professionals and has hundreds of members, has the opportunity to read them and their ballots.
Academy members may vote in any category for which they have read all of the finalists. The same rule applies when voting for the three overall awards:
  • To vote for Best Novel, an academy member must have read all twenty-five finalists in the adult genre categories.
  • To vote for Best Youth Novel, an academy member must have read all fifteen finalists in the three youth categories.
  • To vote for Best Novel by a New Author, an academy member must have read all of the finalists that are debut novels for the year. (The number of finalists eligible for this award varies year to year.)

How can I nominate a book I've read for a Whitney?

Simply click the link below. It only takes a minute!

When can I find out who the winners are? 

May 16th, 2015 at the Whitney Award Gala, Provo Marriott Hotel, Provo, Utah.

Now, if you've read a book by an LDS author (several of whom contribute to this blog) and you enjoyed it, please take a minute to go now to the website and nominate those books. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2014. It's a great honor for an author to be nominated and know that readers believe their book is worthy of the award. 

Here's to the Whitneys!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tristi's Christmas Tips

It's almost Thanksgiving, which means that we'll be leaping into the Christmas season before we even know it. Sometimes things get so crazy around Christmas that it's difficult to relax and concentrate on all the real joys of the season. I'd like to share some little things I do that help keep things somewhat - note, I said somewhat - more organized and peaceful during this chaotic time of year.

1. Instead of having one wild, crazy present-wrapping day (or middle of the night), wrap the gifts as you purchase them. That way, you're only wrapping a portion of your gifts at a time - unless you've got mad skills and get 100% of your shopping done in one trip.

2. Make a list or chart or spreadsheet of what you've gotten for each person. That way, you can be sure at a glance that you didn't get Johnny three presents while Betsy only got one. I used to drag everything out and count it over a million times to make sure things were even, and now I just consult my list. Plus, having a list goes well with wrapping everything as soon as I buy it - even though they're wrapped and I can't see them, I know what's in them, so I don't have to worry about that.

3. Let each child choose their own pattern of wrapping paper so that there's no confusion over which gift is whose. They see their paper, they know that's their present.

4. If you have children who like to peel back the wrapping and peek at their presents before the big day, keep the gifts out of sight until Christmas morning instead of putting them under the tree. We started doing this when I had toddlers who couldn't understand the concept of "no touch," and I liked it so well we keep doing it.

5. Place each child's gifts in their own spot rather than mixing them up. Again, it solves present confusion and takes care of chaos. Because I don't bring gifts out until Christmas morning, what I do is create little piles on the couch and love seat, one pile for each child, and then I put their sock on top of the pile as a marker of what belongs to which kid.

6. Keep in mind that the most meaningful gifts are often not the most expensive. You don't have to spend a lot of money to touch someone's heart. Get them something that represents what they mean to you, or reminds you both of a fun experience you had together. Listen to them when they talk and remember little things that they say about their likes and dislikes. My favorite gifts ever are when someone says, "I remembered how one day you were talking about ..." That shows me that I matter to them, I have their attention, and they care enough about me to remember my saying that I liked something.

7. Ask your family members which Christmas traditions mean the most to them, and dump the ones that haven't seemed to create an impact. You never know what might be an important part of Christmas to someone. Our artificial tree is starting to become a problem child. I got it the day after Christmas about sixteen years ago. I paid ten dollars for it (how's that for awesome?) and we've lost some branches. I made the comment while putting it up a couple of years ago that we'd look into getting a new one next Christmas. My kids immediately began to protest. "Mom, this is one of my favorite parts of Christmas," my teenage son told me. "I love helping put together the tree and finding all the pieces." Huh. Who knew? On the other hand, I've been spending time on traditions that probably don't even matter. Cut it back to the events that are creating the most positive memories.

8. Find someone to help. Between the shopping and the wrapping and the parties, it's so easy to get overwhelmed and lose sight of why we do this in the first place. Look around and find someone you can help. Whether it's pushing their car out of the snow or slipping a twenty into their mailbox or taking over a sack of toys, whether it's inviting a lonely person to share Christmas dinner or shoveling someone's walk - find a way to be a blessing in someone else's life. That is the best and most sure way to feel the Christmas spirit. It seems that every year, I struggle to find the joy in the season until I go a little out of my comfort zone and help someone who's worse off than I am. Not only will this keep you focused, but it will set a great example for your kids.

Okay, now, back to your Thanksgiving preparations.  :)  Have a safe and joyous holiday, and may your turkey be moist and your rolls flaky!

Monday, November 17, 2014

What My Daughters Should Know

by H. Linn Murphy

I recently wrote a letter of sorts to my sons. This one is to my daughters.

I grew up, like lots of little girls, playing dress-up and dreaming of the day I would find my handsome prince and he'd toss me up on his horse, jump on behind, and gallop off, first to the temple, and then into the sunset to live in his castle happily ever after.

Well for starters, riding double with a saddle is unpleasant. And jumping there hurts like a mother. Castles are damp, drafty, and moldy (I know this because I've been to many of them). Don't let the movies fool you.

Welcome to reality. Your handsome prince might not be either. He could be really cute but really twisted. Or slightly toad-like but princely. He might not own a horse. Ever. Or he might gallop into the sunset with someone else, leaving you with a screaming princess under your arm and a shattered life. Maybe your castle is actually a hovel to begin with. Or always. Maybe you have to go be a scullery maid to put him through school. Maybe your handsome prince gets sick and dies early. Maybe he likes you...and the twelve other dancing princesses. Don't just latch onto the first dude who smiles at you. And don't expect that just because he takes you to get married in the temple it's a lock on Eternity. It takes two of you working like crazy to keep a temple marriage intact.

Date lots of people so you have a frame of reference. You need lots of toads to kiss before you find the Prince. Don't just fall into his arms because nobody else has opened his, or because all your friends are getting married. Or any other reason but that you love each other deeply and know you can build an Eternal life together. Who is he when you aren't around?

Don't just wait for a rescue. Make your own stories. Don't just wait for his. You might not meet your handsome prince until you get old and prune-y. You might not meet him at all. Things happen. If you sit around waiting for the cherry guy to fall into your arms, you could be waiting a long time. Go out into the world. Learn how to live on your own. Learn how to live within your budget. Go to school. Go on a mission if you feel called. Explore what kind of Child of God you really are. Get a degree. Learn to do things which make you happy. Learn to serve others. Get out of your cocoon and be a butterfly. Be worth something.

Be logical about your must-have list. Expecting a guy to be perfect is ridiculous. There has only ever been one perfect man on this planet and you'll not be going out with Him. So you're going to have to logically decide what's a definite must-have, and what items are just perks. Because if your guy is missing a few of your must-haves, they might not be changeable. Remember, though, that if your guy's nearly perfect, (somehow) won't he expect the same kind of perfection?

Expecting him to change for you is ridiculous. You might be completely ga-ga over him and find out that he can't keep a dime in his pocket. Changing that will be impossible. If he's casual about his priesthood responsibilities, that probably won't change. Laziness will stick. Dishonesty will still be there. If he skates along the raggedy edge of the law, hit the ground running, before the ring. Essential things about him will stay the same or only change for a little while. It's human nature. Keep that in mind.

Make a must-be list. For yourself. You can't expect him to do all of the changing. He won't. You're going to need to make changes. You're the one you can control. So choose right, before the problems arise. Change things about yourself that are weak or unpleasant. Make this a habit, not just something you do right before he comes to the door to pick you up. I had a roommate in college who was a full on slob. She'd race around the room tossing things in the closet and under the bed, hoping he'd think she was a good housekeeper, when in reality she sucked at it worse than the vacuum she never used. That's bait-n-switch. How would you feel if he was doing the same thing? Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

If you're a horse and you marry a rhinoceros, expect trouble. You're already going to have some problems meshing your lives together. If you add in extra differences, the mountain of problems increases exponentially. If you have mismatched (or nonexistent) spiritual beliefs, or come from other cultures, you'll have a much rougher road. You'll have to make extra decisions not only for yourselves, but for your children. If you go bullishly ahead with your choice, just know that you'll have to deal with the consequences sooner or later. You need to discuss how you'll make it work before he slides that ring on your finger and the kids come along.

Expectations can be a killer. Go into it with your eyes open. Life isn't going to be all roses and smiling cherubs. There are Maleficent Moments in everyone's existence. Be prepared. Be strong. Suck it up. Running home to mommy is for pansies. But getting wise council from her is smart. Your parents love you and want the best for you. They've been there, done that, and ripped up the t-shirt for rag material.

Train him early to talk with you. It's supremely important. You can't expect him to read your mind because half the time he'll be in his computer game world and you won't even be a blip on the horizon. You have to be able to work things out in a way that doesn't give you ulcers or get you locked up for assault with a deadly frying pan.

Take some time. Some girls take more time to pick out a pair of shoes than they do a boyfriend. I was stupid. I only took four (4, vier, quatro, chi, IV, yes four) days of dating and hanging out to decide to say 'yes' to my ex (the operative word being EX). I didn't give myself long enough to really explore the guy's personality. I had no good idea what made him tick. I had no clue what happened when he got mad. I could have talked to his best friend and found that, in reality, he was a pathological liar. I could have found out that he was actually in love with himself and any girl who worshiped him. I could have found out that he couldn't be bothered to keep a job. And I could have found out that he had a drinking problem. I didn't give it enough time. I didn't want anything to pop the euphoria bubble I was bouncing around in. Bad mistake. Take plenty of time to get to know him.

Infatuation isn't love. We went straight from him serenading me in the Spanish from his mission, to the physical kissing. I was completely hooked. If you go straight to being physical, hormones take over your brain and you lose that ability to think about anything at all. And you won't listen to council from friends or family, either. After the initial loss of all cognitive ability that comes with the kissing and cuddling, comes that period when you've ripped off the mask and see the not-quite-as-handsome guy beneath. Give yourself a chance to experience that before saying I do. Too many girls just jump at that bubbly feeling they get from kissing (or Heaven forbid sleeping with) the guy. Then when the mask comes off and they see the warts and moles and boils of his actual personality, they freak.

Life doesn't conform to your plan. You plan for life. Waiting for Mr. Right to come along is idiocy. Get schooling. Make a plan. Be flexible, because if there's anything I've learned, it's that plans always change. But at least you have one. Get a college education. Get a skill set. Be able to work and work hard. Work hard at home. Do your best. Be excellent.

When you marry him, you marry his family. If you don't think that's true, you'll be in a world of hurt. His family raised him. Sometimes people can rise above their upbringing. Sometimes they can't. Sometimes they go the complete opposite of their parents' upbringing, instead of finding a happy medium. How he treats his mother (especially when he doesn't think you're looking) is how he'll treat you. Remember, his parents are going to be your kids' grandparents.

Sitting around all the time eating bon bons and watching Netflix is uncool. He'll hopefully be going off every day to work hard to put food on your table and a roof over your head. If you sit around all day doing nothing, how is that fair? You don't have that right. Growing up means you accept responsibilities, not just that you can stay up longer and eat what you want. It means your efforts should match his. You aren't the Queen of the World and you aren't the scullery maid. You're his partner, which means you work hard too. It means sometimes you have to fix things. Sometimes you have to kill your own mouse. Sometimes you have to dig the garden or landscape the backyard. And you can't always expect him to come home from his grueling job and do all your work too. Do your own. Give 130%. 

Remember that relying on someone else to make you happy is a fallacy. You choose to be happy or not. If you need a guy to prop you up, you're going to be disappointed and unhappy a huge chunk of your life. Because at some point he's going to disappoint you. He'll definitely do things that make you want to bury him in the backyard. That's a given. If you let those things knock you off your perch, you'll be running to a lawyer as soon as he does something stupid. You have to know who you are and that you are loved and a valid, intelligent, gifted, worthwhile person in your own right. His love doesn't make you worth something.

You didn't marry Mr. Goodenough. Stop looking for Mr. Right after you get married. Your husband is IT. The words "Married for Time and all Eternity" should mean something to you. Those words don't mean married until rough seas make you feel like barfing. They don't mean married until someone cuter or richer or better in bed comes along. They mean you're married until long after the world ends and the Sun explodes. They mean you've got your man forever. Stop looking. Stop comparing. Be true to him in your heart and mind and actions. He'll be able to tell. He'll be your Prince if you let him be.

There are absolutely some things you don't have to put up with. Things can change even if you've done all your homework. You don't ever have to put up with being battered. You don't have to put up with him sleeping around with other people. You don't have to put up with porn. You don't have to put up with someone who hurts your children (and I'm not just talking about the occasional much-needed smack). You don't have to put up with criminal behaviors. If you choose to allow these things, you do so at your own and your children's risk. You are not a punching bag or a doormat. You are a Child of God. You are the Queen he chose to marry. Don't risk your Eternal Salvation.

Always remember that there are people who will love you whatever happens--God, Christ, and your parents. We want and expect you to succeed. We know that you can't do that without being close to the Lord and following Christ's example. If you make them the third partners in your marriage, you'll have a successful life.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Cover Reveal- The Awakening

It's finally here and I'm excited to share it with everyone. Ta Da... The Awakening, my YA fantasy coming out in December. I'll let everyone know when the buy links go up.

Nightmares really do come true, and for fifteen-year-old Kyler Birkwood, they are just beginning. Raised on a farm by his Aunt Martha, Kyler has no clue about the magical heritage swimming through his blood. When he discovers evidence of a mythical creature, a terrifying beast thought only to exist in fairy tales, his safe world shatters.

Left at a school of magic to hunt for clues, he is overwhelmed and disbelieved. As loved ones begin disappearing and Orcs roam the land, Kyler must undergo a journey that takes him from the High Courts of the King to the unknown forests of the East. His magic just awakening, Kyler is the lone hope for a world that will not listen.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lessons Learned From Bad Reviews

Romantic Tension vs. Sexual Tension (yes, there is a difference)

Hi, my name is Misty Dawn Pulsipher, and I am a clean romance author.

For some reason I feel the need to put this out there, wear a hypothetical sign around my neck so people know up front what they’re getting. I have always felt with my writing that it’s important for my characters to stick to the standards that have seen me right throughout my life. So, obviously, no sex before marriage. And even after the “I do’s,” I don’t want to read gritty details about their marital ecstasy. Some things are just better left to the imagination, and I don’t need yet another unrealistic standard to try and live up to.

So, for whatever reason I can make seem the most realistic in today’s literary world, in my books there is “no ding-ding without the wedding ring” as Maid Marian’s robust lady-in-waiting so eloquently put it in Robin Hood, Men in Tights. But it didn’t occur to me until a few reviews in on my first novel, Pride’s Prejudice, that I might have been unknowingly leading readers astray. Here is one snippet (okay, it’s a diatribe, let’s call it what it is!) that opened my eyes:

“To think that with all the sexual tension throughout the book, suddenly virginity becomes and issue made me check the back in two seconds flat to see if the author was a religious fanatic. Sure enough, that's exactly it. Here's the complaint because it's NOT THAT SHE'S A VIRGIN, it's that the author didn't carry that thread throughout the story. She threw it in as a preachy piece. It felt weird and changed the whole story to absolutely unbelievable. People this age have sex and people in this book are having sex. Are we thinking the other characters aren't doing it. Oh please, that part made this book maddening and I didn't like the unbelievability in it. If you want to write a christian P&P book, then carry that the throughout the book. Take the time and energy to introduce a reader to that idea early on so it doesn't feel like a preachy slap in the face.”

At first I could laugh about that review, pity the reader for having a pornography addiction and not realizing it. But as I started penning novel number two, Persuaded, that review gnawed at me. The words chewed on that sensitive nerve that is always exposed to criticism from readers. Suddenly it was clear to me that this disgruntled reader was right in a sense. I had unintentionally built up to a steamy climax that was never going to happen. I stress the word unintentional.

It wasn’t until I was watching one of my favorite Netflix shows and a simple kiss on the cheek got me all excited that I realized I’d been marketing the wrong thing. In this particular show, the focus had been on the relationship development (a work partnership) of these two characters. Once in a while there was a look from one or a line from the other, a little hint that each of them might feel something more than friendship for the other. Then the kiss on the cheek happened and I was like “Yes! They ARE going in that direction . . . I KNEW IT!” I think I almost fell off the couch, and I watched that little cheek brush over and over. My poor streaming device was so befuddled that Netflix finally shut down without my permission, and I was forced to finally call it a night.
But I didn’t fall asleep for quite some time, because the same question was circling relentlessly in my psyche: how could something as simple as a peck on the cheek get me so worked up?

That’s when I realized that the buildup was for the romance, plain and simple: the epiphany of both characters, the first kiss, the declaration. That little smooch had me going for several more episodes, perched on the edge of my seat waiting for just a little more. They didn’t full-on kiss until the end of the season, and long after they had ‘done the deed’ that little peck on the cheek was still my favorite moment for those characters.

Right then and there I decided to change my focus. Perhaps none of you struggle with this, but maybe some of you, like me, never realized that there are different kinds of tension. It is a good idea going into a novel to have a clear idea of which kind you want to market. Then the judgment calls that might stump you all along the way aren’t really an issue because the decision’s already been made. You’ll take more pride in your work, and readers won’t be so misled and disappointed.

I have to mention that without my good friend and author Melissa Lemon, this lesson might still be dancing around the edges of my consciousness. She taught me that Harlequin has nothing to do with true romance. Check out her books!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Choosing Gratitude as Your Attitude by Monique Bucheger

As the holiday season approaches, I find the two loves of my life (my family and being an author) merging and twisting together in an interesting and extremely busy way. I am the mother of 12, and the grandmother to 3, plus 2 bonus granddaughters. When the new year started, I had one sweet little granddaughter--so things are rolling along at a crazy busy pace.

Two of my daughters are pregnant with little boys due in December. The older one will probably have her baby any day--we spent several hours in labor and delivery last night thinking he may arrive. I pray he waits a few more days (in spite of my daughter's discomfort--which has been great recently--as I want him to have every chance at a healthy start. He's not quite 36 weeks yet.) 

My books are on tour with two different companies and are being well received--YAY! I've been contacted by new readers who have fallen in love with my realistic, middle-grade "Ginnie West Adventure" series. 

Because of my books, I am being given opportunities to stretch and grow as an author and a person in a variety of ways--which can be a little disconcerting--if not downright scary at times--as well as exciting, adventurous, and crazy in a wonderful way.

Any time we are given such opportunities, doubt about our abilities may creep in. The challenge is to listen to the encouraging voice inside that is cheering us on--all the while the new opportunities are making us realize that we have to make purposeful decisions.

In this season of gratitude, I love that my series is touching the hearts of new readers. The feedback I am getting is that Ginnie and her family are planting a desire in readers to make better choices, to be kinder, to reach out to others,  and to connect more with friends and family. 

All reactions that I hoped would happen while writing the series-- which deals with ordinary people doing extraordinary things--things we are ALL capable of, but don't always choose to do because we have to step outside of our comfort zone to make a real, positive difference for other people. 

My challenge to you--and myself--is that during this wonderful season of thanksgiving, that we take the time to enjoy and embrace the busyness in a way that makes life beautiful for those we love. Things like taking the extra time to REALLY listen to another person--without thinking more about how we should reply, to not allow jealousy or petty disagreements to become big, to give the benefit of the doubt in every situation. 

I truly believe that most people do not set out to purposefully hurt others. I find when I try to see a troubling situation through a new perspective--one colored with kindness or understanding--the situation is not nearly as bleak as first encountered. 

Sometimes it is even elevated to something wondrous or beautiful--which is how ordinary human experiences are made extraordinary and magical. 

Laugh lots, love much, write on! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Giving Thanks

November is full of all kinds of activities. Some people are busy trying to get their fifty thousand words for NaNoWriMo. I've done it a few years and I would do it again if I had a story brewing. Okay, so I actually do, but I also have edits for four other books that are screaming at me. 

In Australia, they started No Shave November, or more commonly known there as Movember. They celebrate it in honor of men's health.

For my sister, it's her birthday!

But my favorite part of November is Thanksgiving. I love the food, spending time with family, and yes, I've been one to take part in Black Friday.

There's another reason I love Thanksgiving though. Back in high school I was reading through my family history and came across one woman that surprised me. Her name is Sarah Josepha Hale and she is the "Mother of Thanksgiving."

Sarah was quite a pioneer in many rights. She wrote for several journals and was one of the first published women in America. When she married, her husband, David Hale, taught her to read and write. She wrote articles on slavery, but she also helped with a magazine that focused on women's rights.

Along with the magazines she wrote for (Godey's Ladies Journal and then editor for Ladies Magazine and Literary Gazette), Sarah also came out with a book of poetry, The Genius of Oblivion and Other Original Poems and is credited with writing Mary Had a Little Lamb! She has another book, Northwood that she published as well.

At that time, Thanksgiving was only celebrated in small villages throughout the country. Sarah wanted to have it made a national holiday and began writing to the President of the United States. She continued writing to five different presidents before President Lincoln agreed to make it a holiday in 1863.

Sarah believed strongly in women gaining an education and stated that it was the most important thing they could do.

As a junior in high school that wanted nothing more than to get a book published, Sarah was a huge influence on me. She didn't let anything stop her and wrote about what she believed in. One thing I love about writing and being published is that I can leave a legacy for those that follow after me. I just hope that I can leave the same kind of legacy as my ancestor before me.

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Fuels Your Fire?

by Suzanne Warr

Our feet ached, our heads were swimming, and we'd had entirely too much of both root beer floats and corndogs.  We'd had a good time, but we were all State Fair'd out, and ready for the comforts of home.  But there was one more sight waiting for us, and when everything else faded to the back of our minds, it would blaze on.

She was a fire dancer, tucked over in a circle of grass within the flower show.  She didn't have the audience that the pot-bellied pig races could draw, but that was part of the magic.  As she danced and wove through the air, her tumbling torches became fire wisps, and her spell quieted little ones and muted conversation.  We were still.

Me, being a writer, kept wishing I could step outside myself and scribble frantically the words and feelings running through my head, while of course also standing quietly, absorbing.  Afterward I enjoyed listening to my breathless daughter, and seeing the dazzled looks of the little kids who'd watched quietly while she danced.  This, I thought.  This right here, is wonder, and transport, and the intangible magic that we strive to provide with story.

It will be my inspiration, as I head into the holidays and set to work on my next writing project.  Since I may even Nano this year, I know it will get a little crazy, a little frenzied, and at the end of the day I'll be done, ready to crawl into bed and call it good.  Each time I try instead to write a little wonder and transport my readers, I'll think of this dancer with her fire elementals.  I hope she can inspire you, too, and Happy Nanoing to All!

Monday, October 27, 2014

A New Writer in our Midst....

Misty Dawn Pulsipher has come to join our little gang of writers, thanks to Lisa.  We were really needing one more writer and now we have one. 

                                                               Misty Dawn Pulsipher
Check out her books and links...

Misty Dawn Pulsipher has been writing since she learned how, but it was during her angst-ridden college years that her love for writing began to flower. She spent countless hours revising poetry inspired by unrequited love, and has the binder to prove it.
As a young mother, Misty’s writing overlapped her affinity for all things Jane Austen, and she couldn’t rest until she’d created her own version of Mr. Darcy. Misty’s modern Austenesque novels, Pride’s Prejudice and Persuaded, were self-published in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Misty suffers from a particularly potent case of OCD (obsessive creativity disorder). When she’s not writing or procrastinating an edit, she’s sewing, cross-stitching, or baking. She also boasts several collections, including a deck of cards from everywhere she’s been, enough bovine d├ęcor to supply Chick-fil-A for life, and thirteen versions of the board game Monopoly (at last count).
Though Misty currently resides in Maryland with her husband and three minions, she will always call Utah home—and insist that eastern “mountains” are actually hills.
You can check out her blog, Facebook author page, or contact her via email. If she doesn’t respond, don’t take it personal . . . she’s probably writing her next book.

Check out her books on Amazon:

Thanks for joining us, Misty.....

Friday, October 24, 2014

What My Sons Should Know

by H. Linn Murphy

I believe the scripture about men's hearts failing them in the last days is very real. And it's happening now. People are losing the ability to look beyond their own personal bubble to empathize with others' problems and challenges. Hearts are becoming vestigial organs, like the appendix.

If, my son, you are lucky enough to trap a woman into marrying you, there are a few things you need to know for future reference:

The most powerful words in a marriage? "I love you and this is why...." Find something to complement her on every day. Even if she's gained a ton of weight or she's got a bad haircut or something else has happened, there's got to be something you find appealing. Even if it's just her shoelaces or the way her hair shines. Saying something loving will get you miles down the road toward a happy home. And it will do wonders for her self esteem. If she thinks her husband is still interested in her, still loves her even after two weeks of wedded bliss, she'll bloom for you. And she'll try harder to look nice for you. Sometimes she might act like she doesn't believe you, but deep inside she'll eventually believe it if you keep it up. And if you don't, there'll always be that worry that you've lost that loving feeling and she's just running on fumes. Don't make her guess. Tell her.

Take care of your Spiritual Responsibilities. You are the Priesthood in your home. Act like it. Go to the temple. Make it a priority. When it comes time for FHE, call them together and have FHE. Call for family prayers. Give them blessings. Take your son out Home Teaching or to collect fast offerings if that's his job. Call the family in for scripture study. This is your job as a priesthood holder.

Own your own baggage. Everyone has troubles and challenges. Everyone. If you didn't have some flaw, the good Lord would have translated you already. So acting as if you don't, is pure hubris, and it's frustrating for anyone around you. Don't force your wife to consider rigging an angelic visitor because you won't listen to anyone else trying to batter through your lofty throne of pride. You do get some things wrong at times.

She's not always wrong. It's statistically impossible. Someone once said a room full of monkeys typing random letters on typewriters will eventually come up with the works of Shakespeare (poor monkeys). Well, your wife will sometimes be right. You need to acknowledge that. It really doesn't take much effort to let her know. But it will mean the world to her. When you hog all the credit, it's a total mental beat-down.

Do your own personal housekeeping. Sure she might stay home all day with nothing to do but eat bon bons and watch Netflix (extremely unlikely) but she isn't your purchased slave. Pick up your own dang socks. Put them in the dirty clothes hamper. Take your place settings to the sink. Do your chores happily. If there is something broken around the house, it's your job to fix it. If you don't know how, learn. It'll save you loads of money not having to pay someone else to do it for you. And best of all, it'll save arguments.

You need to work. Hard. That's a fact of life. You are the provider for your wife and children. Nobody else should have that responsibility. That means that you need to study hard in school. Put forth the effort to make great grades so you can then get into college so that you can then get a good enough job so you can feed and clothe your family and put a roof over their head. And you need to start that now. Life doesn't have to offer you nonstop entertainment. It's not one big video game convention. And don't just think you can test video games for a living. It rarely works like that. Find something to do to contribute to society. Find the work you love and love the work you find. But you're going to have to get off your rear and DO SOMETHING. Because if you don't make that choice, life will make it for you.

Your wife is your bride. Never forget that. You chose her. You put that ring on her finger and signed the license. She isn't your love slave, your maid, roommate, or unpaid cook. She certainly isn't your punching bag or doormat.  She's your wife. She's your Queen. Treat her like that. Remember that you aren't giving her these rights. She's already got them. She shouldn't have to earn your love or respect. And she shouldn't have to earn her children's respect either. By virtue of being a Child of God, she has just as many rights as you do.

Be her champion. And I don't just mean just when you're out in public. Always. Don't make her fight all her own battles with the kids. If you act like it's not a big deal when they yell at her, or tell her "no" when she asks them to do chores, or lie to her, they'll push the boundaries they do come up against. Pretty soon your home will just be an armed camp, and your wife will snap. You'll have 156 lbs of screaming hag on your hands, rightfully. Yes, she should act like an adult. But it isn't really your job to raise her. It is your job to raise your children. And if you allow them to treat your wife like she's a third class citizen, you're reaping the tornado. They won't respect anyone. Be her champion with loving patience.

Don't abuse her children either. There's a fine line between being a father and being a friend to the exclusion of your wife. Don't always force her to be the bad guy. Be the friendly father. There are going to be some times when you can't be their friend, but you can discipline with patience and kindness and love unfeigned. Set boundaries for your children. Enforce them lovingly. Let them know with velvet gloves on, that you won't allow them to treat your Queen like they are. Believe me, your life will run much smoother when your children understand that your wife isn't champion-less.

Ask her how she's doing. And when she tells you, respond with kindness. If you give her a calm way to address the things that happen in her day, she'll adore you for it. Pillow talk is a fantastic thing. When she's feeling fragile, it's your job, as the Prince she married, to find out why. It's not always your task to fix it, but you need to at least listen. Find out what makes her feel loved and do that thing.

Men have compartments in their heads. I call them rooms. The big important things have larger rooms. I once handed my husband a penny-sized box. When he finally asked what it was for, I told him it represented the Heidi room in his head. Everything else had enormous rooms: work, computer everything, Church callings, the kids. He never responded, which made me think the cube I'd given him was much too big. Give her the second biggest room in your head. God and Christ are the only ones who should have a bigger room.

Communication isn't just a perk of a great marriage. Talk with her. Respond to her questions and dig deeper. It's utterly essential. And it can't just be surface stuff about the kids or the bills or whether the dog needs a vet. You need to dig into the deeper layers and really get at the feelings and spiritual essence. And you need to do this while you're dating too. Practice something more than face-sucking. Surface talk is for roommates and people you don't particularly care deeply for. And don't wuss out and fall back on the "Oh men don't talk" thing. That's the Natural Man rearing his hideous, lazy head. Caring men do talk.

Show her you care about what she says and does and thinks. Don't just hand her the flower you got at church on Mother's Day and call it done for the year. This is a daily thing. She uses those words of love and encouragement as fuel. Good fuel can fill your home with happiness. Bad fuel will nuke the place. You choose what you want to come home to.

Don't accuse her of nagging. If she has to tell you repeated times that something is wrong, GET A CLUE. Something is not right in her world. How else is she supposed to address it? Apparently wigging out and lopping off body parts is frowned on. Don't wait until she feels like doing that. And yes, it might be painful, but you have to rip the Bandaid off and examine what's beneath it. Maybe it needs Neosporine. But maybe, since you've left it so long, it's going to need amputation. Don't let it get that far. Hello. Man up and address it.

When you have an argument (because you will) don't fight dirty. Dredging up all her past wrongs and flogging her with them is wrong. How can she address something you've glazed over? It's not fair. She may even have forgotten about the problem, it's been so long. This isn't a court room. She shouldn't have to subpoena witnesses, keep a record of every offense, and formulate a defense. If you have a beef, address it as quickly and Christ-like as you can, and not in front of others (certainly not the children unless you're both doing it deliberately to show them how to do it correctly and with kindness). Saving things for the next big argument will make it World War III and she'll feel like you're sniping at her from the building across the square. Own your mistakes. Work to address what's wrong. Give her credit where credit is due. Be honest about your feelings. Give tangible, logical, workable ways to fix the problem. Don't sweat the stupid small stuff. Be patient. Actually work to change what you've done wrong. Squash pride and selfishness.

Sometimes you're going to have to go out of your comfort bubble. Do it. Her happiness is worth a night of dancing or a trip to the theater. Do things she likes to do sometimes. I don't mean you have to be surgically sutured to her side, but it shows her how important she is to you when you gracefully endure discomfort or boredom to do things she likes (graceful being the operative word here. If you complain, all bets are off). And she'll be more inclined to do some things you like to do. Also, she might need a cooling down period too. Moms never get to go home from work. They live at work, and they don't get paid for it very often. You try working for the occasional child's smile or the split second the house is actually livable.

Don't ask her to do something and then make it impossible to do. My husband hates it if I touch his things. At all. And yet he likes a clean house. But to clean, I need to dust and move furniture and dusty stacks of papers. Sometimes he loses things. If I've moved anything an iota out of the way, he accuses me of their loss. He hates not being able to find tools in the shed but he won't let me clean it, putting everything in clearly marked containers. He wants to do it (or not) because he knows where everything is. But he forgets that he isn't the only one living in his house, or his bedroom. For years we haven't been able to walk into the shed or find anything out there, because he has to have it just so. All my growing up years my dad yelled at me until everything was clean. Now my husband yells at me if I touch anything. This is a great frustration to me. Don't do that to your wife.

When you want to do something, plan it with her. Otherwise she'll feel like she's only accidentally along for the ride. She has valid points and hopes and dreams (and a working brain) too. She should be your first mate, not the skivvy. And when you're out there on that family vacation, treat her like she's your love. Walk with her. Hold her hand. Thank her for things. Ask her how she's doing. If you want to buy a new car or a house, consult with her. She'll probably be spending a fair amount of time in it.

Open her door even after the ring is on. Take her out on dates. They don't have to be expensive, but something with just the two of you. Don't make her beg for them and complain when she does. You chose her, after all. In case you don't realize it, THIS IS BIG. This marriage thing is for real. It should last for the rest of Eternity. It takes maintenance. You can't just flick a ring on her like in a ring toss game and call it quits. You have to work hard at it constantly. And yes, you have to, or you'll fail. Lots of people do. It's never going to be easy with anybody. Ever. If you think it is, someone is selling you a water-spanning structure.

Treat her like you'd like to be treated, or better. If you would rather not be sniped or yelled at, and you'd like the Kingly treatment, imagine how she must feel. Nobody wants to be treated badly, and certainly not from the mate they've chosen to spend Eternity with. You're the guy she's dreamed of and planned for and secretly kissed her pillow for. You're her Prince. Act like it. Believe me, it'll be worth it.

Next time I'll write to my daughters.