Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Days in South Alabama or Finding More Time to Write

Valerie J. Steimle

Snow days in South Alabama?  What has the world come to?  The last time we had a snow day in Southern Alabama was in 1996. This past week the whole south was shut down as it was inundated with the winter storm called Leon and it was quite icy and cold.

This being the case, after playing a bit outside with my two teen sons, I had the opportunity to do some extra writing.  No school, no going to work (for now) so I took the opportunity of getting some prime time writing done.

Here is what I came up with……

Writing Against All Odds

By Valerie Steimle

As the mother of nine children, people are amazed when I tell them I have published five books. Back in the old days, when typewriters were being phased out and desk top computers were becoming more popular, I took a pencil and paper and wrote all of my ideas for articles on paper and started organizing manuscripts for books. I wrote at night when all my children were in bed and the house was quiet.  This was not only a creative outlet; the time spent also provided emotional support for me as a mother.

Fast forward twelve years and after revisions and more revisions, typing everything on a desk top, I finally had a finished manuscript to submit to publishers which I did.  Not getting the response I had liked, (10 rejection notices) I decided I would self-publish this manuscript and did most of the editing myself.  I scraped the money together for self-publication and my first book was born. I thought I had done so well and I was on my way to fame and fortune until I realized a year later that marketing my book was much harder than writing it.  Yes, I had a few local morning show interviews and I did local book signings but this did not bring the income I had hoped for.

Putting promotions aside, I continued writing and knew my second book’s topic: Homeschool.  By that time in my life, I had slept, ate, walked, drove and thought homeschool as we did homeschool all of our children and I had accumulated a lot of information. It didn’t take long to collect my writings about homeschooling and I asked several of my homeschool friends to contribute a chapter to this book as well.  Again, time passed quickly and before I knew it, three years had passed by and my husband passed away suddenly.

That put a stop to everything I was doing for at least three months and I had to rethink my whole life goals.   I knew I wanted to continue my goal of becoming a best selling author. I knew I had to push forward and publish my homeschool book; which I finally did in 2006 (6 months after he passed). This had been my most successful book to date and I was very happy to hear how I have helped countless families take on a lifestyle which has helped many children in education and life experiences.

That was then and this is now. My present day life consists of only two children at home and I even remarried. My writing time has increased but so has my financial difficulties.  With the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, our employment has been cut in half.  I am fighting to keep my home of 19 years and I have to deal with menopause, low book sales, broken cars (including one that was consumed by fire with a box of my books inside, ugh!) and a number of other trials too long to explain. So I continue to write against all odds. There is always something that will get in the way of writing.  If we don’t decide now, we will never accomplish it.

I try to remember what truly matters in life.  When all is said and done in the end, every temporal or earthly possession does not matter.  Whatever fame or fortune gained will not count for anything.  Whatever frustration, resentments or grudges held towards others will mean nothing in the long run.  Whatever score kept of wins and loses won’t be seen on your heavenly scorecard.  What matters most is what we share with others and how we have helped make someone’s load lighter.  Whatever inspiring, uplifting writings we can promote in story or post will matter the most in life. So I continue and always will write against all odds.

Next time we have a snow day...I'll be encouraged to do a whole lot more writing.  In the mean time, pass me another snow ball and let's have at it!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What It Means to be a Mommy (Daughter) Author

Basically, it means I've hit a big wall in my writing.

First some background:

My father passed away at the beginning of January and even though my husband and I have just moved to St. George, Utah with our two children, I've spent more time in California this month than in Utah...and feeling guilty about deserting my own family for the one I grew up in.

I would have returned with my husband and kids after the memorial service, but my 87-year-old mother needs me right now. One of my sisters is living with her, but she works long hours and we just didn't think Mom should be left alone at this point during the day...and not only because of the loneliness.

Her eyesight is so bad that she's scheduled for cataract surgery tomorrow and I'm needed to drive her for the procedure, and the two post-op appointments. But even if her eyes weren't an issue, I'm needed right now.

You see, my mother's memory is fast failing her.

This morning, she asked my sister, "Am I 66 or 67?" At least she stopped and realized what she'd said a second or two later (once she noticed the look on my sister's face), but something tells me the day will come, all too soon, when she may ask that question in all earnestness.

It's a strange phenomenon to try to mother your own mother, and believe me, it's a delicate procedure. This is a woman who has prided herself for years on her independence, her driving, and her capacity to care for others. I'm walking a tightrope here...

And not writing.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What It Means to Be a Mommy Author

I like the title of this blog, "Mommy Authors." It clearly states our purpose - we are authors, but we're mommies first. We have kids of varying ages and in different stages of life. On my particular journey, I have a seventeen-year-old, a fifteen-year-old, a twelve-year-old, and a nine-year-old. Plus we homeschool. And I run two businesses from home. And my husband and I are very involved in our church assignments. It's a pretty wild, crazy, and wonderful life.

I well remember the days of being a young mother and juggling a newborn and a toddler at the same time, wondering if I would ever again get the time to write and wondering how to make dinner with a child glued to my leg. The time has gone by so fast, it's like it was yesterday.

Being a mommy author means that you become very good at juggling. Some days, you have a sick child, and so you spend the day cuddling and watching movies and making peppermint tea. Other days, the story won't leave you alone and you spend all day at the computer and make corn dogs for dinner. And other days, you frantically clean, trying to undo the damage from the sick days and the writing days. Then you begin the cycle again.

You stay up late to write, or you wake up early.

You scribble notes to self all over the house because that perfect scene came to your head while you were folding laundry.

You endure well-meaning, yet totally off-the-mark comments from friends, neighbors, mothers, and mothers-in-law who just don't get what you do.

You smile patiently when your husband's boss introduces you to his glamorous wife and says that "She wants to write. Isn't that cute? You know, she has twelve children," and you try to correct him that you really only have six, but they look at you like it's all the same to them.

We go through a lot. We put up with a lot. And you know what ... we wouldn't have it any other way. 

Who would trade in the sloppy kisses or the late-night hugs or the little voices saying, "Mommy, I love you?"

Who would trade in the finally finished chapters and the satisfaction that comes from completing another project?

And who would trade in the glee on our children's faces when we tell them that we wrote another book? They might not totally understand, but they know we're happy, and that makes them happy, and so we can all be happy together.

Being a mommy author is hard. In fact, sometimes I think that quitting writing would make my life so much easier. But I get to fulfill two life-long dreams at the same time, and truly, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy Birthday, Badger Princess

by H. Linn Murphy

 As I drop the Badger Princess off at school from Seminary today I tell Her to have a wonderful day. My daughter throws me one of 'those' looks--the ones like little red wagons full of dirty diapers. I can't figure out what I did to enrage Her already, but it must have happened sometime around first grade. I can't figure out if She has something clinical (a possibility) or simply feels that I have burned my Mensa card and shall ever afterwards be relegated to the short bus.

It wasn't always like this. She was born a gorgeous angel with golden curls and a radiant smile. I remember that smile from long ago. When I garnered one, it felt as if Heaven had smiled down at me and I'd done something right. She gave magnificent hugs which warmed a person clear down to their toes. She cried for an hour on the way home when we dropped Her big sister off at the airport to go off to college and again when N. went on her mission. She loved to help in the kitchen, and I let Her.

Somewhere along in there She became the fearless bug-stomper, the clonker-of-brothers (with their own trucks no less), and the student every teacher longed for. The first time my husband and I went to a parent teacher conference, the teacher told us She was their star pupil. The Hubs and I looked at each other and wondered how it was possible for that teacher to have two little girls with exactly the same name in class.

She continues to amaze us with Her tenacity for some things: school, drawing, violin, Her best friend (another badger princess), and a certain boy. To these things She grips with the strength of my high school cafeteria gravy (better than super glue). Her sister can, at times, still get Her to laugh and be sweet, although the same sister still claims that dealing with Her is like poking an angry badger (thus the name). In fact, we draw straws when we have to wake the Badger. Loser has the short straw. If we're not careful, limbs and life are forfeit. Luckily I know first aid.

I bring Her an early birthday present in its shiny bag. She pulls the dress pants out and sends me that same look She has perfected through long years of practice when talking to me. "Are we doing any celebrating other than at B___'s house?" is all She asks. I add the "Thank you, Mom! I love you so much! These are exactly the right size and just what I needed!" speech in my head. I pretend She hugs me with one of those long-ago hugs. It's all I get these days. It's a good thing I have a rich imagination.

I know She's not like this across the board. Her teachers still continue to give Her glowing commendations (except for the stupid ones who have managed to, like me, tick Her off one too many times). She is beloved by her friends. They never call me asking why She keeps pushing the verbal dynamite plunger, blowing up their relationships. They keep coming around, asking Her out with the regularity of mailmen. 

So it must be me. Clearly I've crossed a line somewhere. Her attitude deficiencies don't come without some effort on my part to gently guide Her back into some semblance of a relationship. I don't want Her to grow up thinking She can treat those who love Her like Javert treats the prisoners from Les Miserables. I don't want the heartbreak of a whole string of broken marriages tarnishing Her soul. "At some point," I tell Her, "every husband is going to ask you to do something you find occasionally disgusting or excruciating or miserable (like bearing him children and cleaning up after them). How are you going to treat him?"
She merely gives me her stock dry smile and says, "Well he'll love me and I'll love him."

Yeah, just jab that thing in a little further and give it a good twist or two.

Is it a matter of chores? Because if that's the case, I might just have to be horrendously sick. When I was growing up, I lived on what amounts to a small farm. We hoed fields of potatoes. We had an enormous garden to water, weed, and debug. We had 45 or so rabbits to feed and water. We had a flock of chickens to feed, water, gather eggs from, and clean up after. There were goats to milk, feed, water and doctor. We had a dog to feed and water and clean up after and various other animal pets. Every summer we built something (barn, garage, basement, sidewalks, root cellar etc). Plus we had fields of bindweed to pull first whenever we wanted to go anywhere. I finally told my dad we should forget trying to grow grass and stick with the bindweed since it has pretty flowers and is great on bruises. Of course I lost that debate as well. Pluck pluck pluck. "And make sure you get the four foot long taproot or it'll grow back."

As kids, we didn't talk back on pain of a beating from Dad. We didn't complain to their faces. I turned the air in the barn blue lots of times, but the only beings who heard me stood there placidly chewing their cuds through it. My mom never felt the cutting edge of my tongue.

My children take forced turns filling the dishwasher. And She grudgingly sets the table for a week. I'd say She has to clean her room, but I haven't seen the floor in that room since we tried to find the stuffed animal sheep for the Christmas nativity a couple of years ago. I stopped hounding Her about it for fear that my head would explode from the onslaught of shrieking. So the chores are extremely minimal. To hear Her, you'd think our chores had been switched. She sets up a howl if I even open my mouth to ask Her to do any work at all. She even anticipates my need and snarls at me if I look purposefully in Her direction.

If I open my mouth to protest such treatment, stand back. There'll be some kind of laser strike coming out of those gorgeous blue eyes, aimed in my direction. At such times it's extremely unhealthy to be within the same county. I'm at a loss as to what to do about this without an elephant tranquilizer or phaser set on stun. I'd love to get back to the angel I once knew--the one who loved me and cuddled up instead of squirming away when I touch Her. Sometimes I simply take Her in my arms and force Her to stand there and drink in my love. Last time She stood there like a garden scarecrow until I manually flopped Her arms around my waist. But after a while She finally tightened the hold. She didn't even moan when I told Her I love Her.

There are more birthday gifts and a cake and games coming, but not because She's been a stellar communicator. They come because we love our Badger Princess and for what it's worth, are glad She joined our family those seventeen long years ago. I just hope we both survive the next seventeen outside of a mental facility.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Power of Color

by Michelle Wilson

I have used the same scriptures for years, and they are literally falling apart at the seams. Add that to the fact that I now need 'reader' glasses to see the regular print, and you can imagine my joy when I received a brand new set of scriptures for Christmas!

Until I opened them and saw a sea of black and white

As much as I love the scriptures, these new ones felt like strangers. I shared this with a friend who said she loves new scriptures, that they give her a chance to 'start fresh' each time. 

I thought about that for a while and wondered if that's what I should do, just start fresh.

But I couldn't.

So, I embarked on the process of marking my new scriptures. Yes, I sit them side by side and mark the new ones to match the old. My husband thinks I'm crazy. Last night, for just a moment, I wondered if I was.

Then I wondered  if my color-coding and writing was a crutch. Why couldn't I just start fresh? Why did I need to have everything colored and spelled out for me? I know many people who don't highlight or write in their scriptures, and I'm sure they know their scriptures well and love them, too. So, why do I have this need to color up my new scriptures? Is it my spiritual ADD? Or is it that I my forgetter is becoming stronger than my rememberer?

I know the new scriptures have the same words, the same stories. But I then realized that it's the words which fill the margins and the colors that light up the page that make he scriptures mine

Nephi 'likened all scriptures' unto themselves for their profit and learning. That's what all those colors mean to me. They represent the impressions and inspiration I've received over the years. They are the personal answers and guidance God has given to me when I needed it. The verses are the same, it's the colors and written words where the scriptures become my scriptures.

 I can't tell you how many times I have asked God about my kids, my family, my career, my life, and found the answers in my scriptures. I have received confirmations of His love and approval; I've learned that the Atonement is for me. Many times I will find the answers to prayers not in the verses, but in the impressions I've recorded in the margins. My scriptures aren't just stories and doctrine, but they are the way I have, and can continue, to hear Him.

Yes, I can start fresh. And I don't judge the people who do. Perhaps they are more spiritual and don't need the constant reminders that I do. Perhaps they can remember where all their favorite verses are (I am a very visual person and most times remember that the verse is 'the red and yellow on somewhere in Alma on the right hand side left column.')  Perhaps they don't like to color. If it works for them, I am happy for them!

But for me, I can't start fresh. I don't want. 

So, bring on the colored pencils and red pen, because I've got a lot of work to do!

Are you a 'fresh start' kind of person? Or do you color, too?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Middle Grade ARC Giveaway!

book 2
I've got a ton of 2013 middle grade ARC's (advanced reader copies) to giveaway! To enter please fill out the rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it, click 'read more'. Please note, because of the weight of the package, this one is US only.- Dorine

Books include:
The Tribe-Homeroom Headhunters by Clay McLeod Chapman
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus
The Odd Squad- Bully Bait by Michael Fry
The Fairy Bell Sisters 1 & 2 by Margaret McNamara
Platypus Police Squad- The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett Krosoczka
Story's End by Marissa Burt
Odette's Secrets by MaryAnn MacDonald

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

At the beginning of this new year, I have a lot of things on my mind. New Years resolutions not being one of them. Not that I don't believe in goals, I certainly do, and I set new ones throughout the year as I either accomplish some or reevaluate and decide how to approach one that isn't working out. I am not the guru to go to for fancy plans to get your life in order and become successful. I have read many books on the subject, but when it gets down to it if you need an expert to give you a boost and guide your steps in the right direction, I am not the girl. I am not patient enough to wait for the beginning of the year, so I started most of my new goals as I thought of them before the year ended. I have already memorized three scripture mastery scriptures- no I didn't do it when I was in Seminary but I have wanted to for a long time, so I started. My diet has been being cleaned up and my schedule readjusted so that I can incorporate the exercise I let slide for the last year and a half since my last baby was born and I am trying to convince my children, husband and myself that I need to sleep sometime in order to function properly during the day- that one is the hardest so far- still up at midnight, missed that goal tonight or last night I guess would be more accurate.
I may not be patient enough to wait for the new year to begin my goals, but I love the freshness of the new beginning. There is something deceptively relaxing about the thought of a whole year to accomplish things in. I say deceptively because looking back on last year, it is not really that much time.
That is one of the things on my mind as this new year starts- time. I know this sounds crazy, maybe just flat dumb, but I recently had an epiphany about time. I am sure everyone out there already had this figured out, but it has taken nine kids, a husband, three dogs and a mom who needs help for me to understand- I can only do so much in a day. Everything I do takes time, there is only so much time in a day sometimes there is more to do than time to do it in. For the better part of this year I have been running around frustrated at myself for not getting the things done I needed to get done and wondering why it was always 4:00 pm before I had a moment, and that is time to make dinner and then it's dinner, kids ready for bed, prayers, bed- me laying in bed wondering why all I ever do is get up, work, go to bed and sleep like the dead. Well, I figured it out, there is nothing wrong with me, I have nine kids, a husband, a mom and (now) two dogs. That is where my time goes because that is what is important to me and I wouldn't change it for anything. I do remember having two kids and no dogs when my mom was healthy and I remember all the time I used to have. I remember having eight kids and two dogs and the time I had then. All I am saying is that it was such an incredible relief to know that there was nothing wrong with me, I am just severely outnumbered and it will get better in time. One of the first things I am going to do when I get some of that time is learn how to put cute pictures- or funny or whatever in my blog posts. That will be fun.
Picture a clock here.
The other thing on my mind is love. Now I am going to sound like a horrible person for a bit in this next story, I beg your forgiveness at the start. Thirteen years ago next month, we made the most ridiculous decision we have ever made as a family. We got two dalmation puppies.
Picture adorable spotted beasties here.
If you have never owned a dalmation, don't. I love animals, horses and dogs in particular. My life is just not right without at least a dog. If I did not already have several careers, I think I would really love to be a dog trainer- maybe in my next life. Just trust me here, don't choose the dalmation, especially more than one. It may have been the timing, I ended up pregnant a month after we got them and was sick as,well- you know. We named them Freckles and Fiesta, because of all the spots and the one was like a little party- that should have been a warning. Maybe we should have given her a tamer name- like Sleepy. Whatever the cause, it was not a good choice. The next six years were miserable, I have never owned a dog I could not work with or love. Then Freckles got sick. She was gone in three days. Three days of me up early and in the night to care for her, clean up after her trying to make her well again. When it was over I cried. I liked her better than Fiesta who was more stubborn than anyone has a right to be- especially a dog. Two years later, Fiesta got sick and almost died as well. The vet saved her. My husband brought home the most adorable puppy I had seen in ages- a brindled boxer. He didn't want me or the kids to be sad when Fiesta died which he figured wasn't too far off after what had just happened and what had happened to Freckles. Ranger has been a joy from day one- easy to train, obedient and fun. My guilt at being able to love Ranger so easily caused me to work harder to give Fiesta equal positive time, as long as I had a treat, she worked harder, too. For the next almost five years, I would grumble about this dog- grrrr- she made me so mad! I had tried, it was her fault- I am not a bad owner.
Picture Cruella De Vil here.
I threatened to make her into slippers at least once a day- and some days I meant it! I was afraid I would be stuck with her FOREVER! She finally got so old- her 13th birthday was December 25, 2013- 91 in dog years according to my 12 year old. I prayed she would just die peacefully in her sleep, but we had to release her from her pain Dec 30. I am still crying.
So what I learned from two obnoxious dalmation dogs and just figured out this last year- it may not be easy and it may not seem like you do at the time, but you love those you serve. You are doubly blessed (or more) if you can enjoy the serving.
Now there are more things on my mind, my son waiting for his mission call, my daughter in her new apartment and the cute chitesedle puppy she left with us, who might throw up tonight, my mother's Parkinson's and how my sisters are dealing with it- but at the moment, it is late- I am not even going to say how late- all I am thinking about is going to bed. I will just say that all in all, happy, sad, good and bad, last year was a good year. I learned some important things even if I didn't meet all of my goals and I am looking forward to this year. I hope my words gave you some pleasure and that they made sense- I always worry about that when I work this late. Have an EXCELLENT and HAPPY NEW YEAR!