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.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Clogged Pipe

For months my bathroom sink drain slowly kept taking longer and longer to allow the water to flow down and away. As the back up continued to worsen, bits of stuff that floated in the water got left behind to leave unsightly reminders of the problem. 

Every time I washed my hands, brushed my teeth or ran the water in that sink it reminded me there was a problem waiting to be fixed.

Ever count how many times you use your sink each day? Try it. You'll be surprised. 

Perhaps the even bigger question becomes, why did I let the problem become so big and go on for so long before finally biting the bullet and fixing it? 

The answer: there are only so many hours in a day. 

It's been an extremely busy fall for me. I've had a major event that I've either been the chairperson, co-chair, or other organizer for nearly six weeks straight and it just hadn't made it to the top of the priority list. It's a long list. (It took me three hours just to clear one email account after all that time and I'm still working on the second one!)  

Eventually I grew tired of seeing the scum in the sink. It was time to take matters into my own hands. 

So, last Tuesday night after cleaning my bathroom, I tackled the dreaded job. I assembled my supplies: snake, toothbrush, knife, wrench, assistant (my 6 year old son), and muscle (my husband). 

I disassembled what I could, then called in the muscle to take apart the U-bend of the pipe. When we got it apart, I cleaned it with good old fashioned hot water (in my utility sink) and elbow grease. 

The stuff coming out of the sink and white pipe was black, smelly, gunky. In short: gross. 

But guess what?

Once everything was snaked, clean, and reassembled, my sink worked like new. 

And now every time I use that sink, I smile.   

So, what does this have to do with writing? 

Pick an aspect that you dread about writing: outlining, editing, cover art, grammar, finding beta readers, finding an agent, finding a publisher, promotions, reviews, etc. 

At the time it's a pain and we put it off, but once the task is accomplished, we feel so good that we smile. And that pushes us to go through it all over again.

And while I think it'll be a while before I have to clean out my sink pipe again, I know how to tackle it, who to call in for support, and will smile when the water runs cleanly down the drain. 

What is your clogged pipe that you're putting off? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Teaching Children to Work

As I talk with other moms, I hear a wide variety of opinions about giving children chores. Some feel that children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood and shouldn’t have “undue” stress placed upon them. One friend grew up in a home where her only chore was picking up her bedroom, and before she got married, her mother put her through a course in how to keep a house. Others were raised doing chores from the time they were old enough to reach a sink, and so they knew how to run a home when it was time for them to marry. As I look at the differences in situation and rearing, I have to say, children who are taught early how to work are children who are prepared for their futures.

Shortly after I was married, I spent some time managing a fast food restaurant. It was easy for me to determine which of the employees had been taught to work, and which hadn’t. Some of the teens were at a loss to know how to mop a floor or wipe a counter, and they needed instruction on the most simple things, let alone counting out the cash drawer or doing more complicated tasks. Other employees jumped right in, handling the dishes with the ease of having done it many times at home. I’m sure you can guess which workers I preferred to have on my crew each night.

This doesn’t just happen in a fast food setting. Companies on every economic level are looking for employees who are willing to get in there and get the job done, who are self-starters and only need an assignment before heading off to see to its completion. Children who are taught at home to work will grow up to be these employees who can motivate themselves and see to it that their department succeeds.

I realize I can’t make a broad generalization, but I will say that from what I’ve personally observed, children who aren’t taught to work don’t feel as confident. They take things for granted. They assume things will be handed to them, rather than earned. They tend to be disrespectful to their parents. They don’t understand the value of money. When they are asked to do something, it’s so contrary to what they’re used to, they become sullen and resentful.

I agree that our children should have happy childhoods. But I’d like to know where it’s written that chores make for unhappy childhoods. I’ve had many pleasant moments washing dishes with my daughter or folding laundry with my son. It’s a time to connect and to bond. Chore time doesn’t have to be miserable. It can be fun. And when your children grow up and see what you’ve taught them through those chores, they will thank you for building them a foundation for their futures.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Flame On

by H. Linn Murphy

When I was little, I lived in Colorado. The Fall heralded a nip in the air and a halo of russet, scarlet, and gold around nearly every tree. I remember shushing my feet through piles and piles of crackly leaves, the scent of wet mold wafting up.

The zucchinis were blimp-sized and we had to launch them into people's car windows because everybody had an overabundance. Cornstalks grew tall and whispered in the freshening wind. The grinning orange pumpkins abounded, tourmaline monarchs enthroned on porches and walls.

Now I live in a sere place where the flora aren't flowers, mostly, thankful for the memories of a beloved childhood. These colors stay the same drab, pointy colors they are all year. We don't have much of a pageant. The sky remains a dusty cerulean now that the random summer rains have seeped into the ground. The heat lays like a stifling, too-heavy blanket over everything.

Last week, though, our family traveled up to the land of the leafy feast. Shimmering golden coins, a wash of vermilion smearing across the jagged mountains, and again, just as in childhood, a crop of pumpkins on every porch. Now my children have something to be thankful for: a new memory.

Going to the mountains is only slightly less a banquet of spiritual food than crashing ocean waves. There's simply something so soothing about listening from the inside of a tent to sussurant whispering of the wind through the shimmering coins and frothy furs. I close my eyes and let the soft soughing lave away the cares and annoyances of the day.

Too soon I am back in my paint-starved stucco monstrosity. I hug the memory of a caress of cool night air to me, wrapping it around me like the sweaters which sprout from it, missing that feeling. The temperature outside reads 93, even though the sun has long gone down.

My poor desert waif children have never known what it is to swim through the stinging air to their first day of school. Such a sting only comes with the advent of Christmas decorations here. Last week they learned the joy of a brilliant maple shower of leaves, experienced the grip of winter-chilled water, and felt the frisson of delicious apprehension at a wolf howl in the darkness. Now they, too, know what they've missed.

I'm glad. It's good that they know what it felt like to play Kick-the-can beneath a harvest moon. I'd like the color green to be not just a memory, but a daily sight. I'd love to introduce them to the joys of lying in the grass without the worry of being eaten alive by ants. And I want for them the waterfall of Autumn colors painted across the mountains.


Monday, October 13, 2014

ANWA Northwest Retreat

Sometimes I just don't have the motivation to write. I think every writer hits that wall sometimes. One of the best remedies is to attend a writer's conference. This past week I attended the NW ANWA (American Night Writers Association) retreat. It was just what I needed.

ANWA is a group of LDS women writers. So getting together is not only motivational but spiritually refreshing. Our keynote speaker was Carla Kelly, the writer of many historical romances and novels. She gave wonderful advice including, be the writer you want to be, and my favorite - when asked what you do say, "I'm a writer". Carla has two Rita Awards for Best Regency of the Year from Romance Writers of America; a Whitney award; two Spur Awards for Best Short Story of the Year from Western Writers of America; a career achievement award from Romantic Times; and goodwill from readers. Her words inspired courage and the desire to keep writing.

I also attended a wonderful class on deep POV and was totally thrilled to hear Michelle Moore, chief publicist at Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain, talk about marketing. With my new YA fantasy, The Awakening, coming out in December, I knew I needed to start planning, and her ideas fit my needs. Another class, self-publishing with Liz Adair really helped me see the amount of effort that goes into trying to put a book out there. She also helped me realize that I needed to copyright my novel. 

The companionship of my sister writers was inspiring and needed. So, if you are feeling down about your writing, go to a conference and bask in the support.

There are a couple of conferences coming up-

and coming Feb. 19-21, 2015, the national ANWA conference in Phoenix, AR

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Being Neighborly

I have always had a hard time getting out there and meeting people. It's not that I don't enjoy talking. If you know me well, you'll know I never stop talking. But being the one to step out of my shell to go introduce myself is something I don't do.

I've learned that the more I sink into my writing, the harder it is to talk to people. Well, living people. I'm so busy writing dialogue and making sure everything flows, that I forget there are real, live people out there that might want to talk to me.

Enter my church calling. My husband and I were called as the heads of the service committee. We help find service to do and make sure the ward knows what's going on. In order to do that I have to talk to people—even if it's mostly by text. It has been amazing. I've helped enough people move in to the ward, we're at the point where when I get a call to move someone, my kids don't ask why they have to go, it's "When are we leaving?" All the way down to my four year old.

Has it made it easier for me to get out and talk to my neighbors? Not really. I'll do the service and sneak back to my couch. But it's allowed me to help those that are in need.

This last month my ward has been doing a service project for missionaries in Africa. We're helping fill bags so that those in Africa that want to can go on missions. I wasn't sure how it would go, but I wanted to try to get bags for an elder and a sister. 

The offerings have been amazing. I have wanted to sit and let tears pour down my face as I go through bags and bags of items that were donated. 

While I may not know this elder and this sister, I hope they'll know how much love went into putting their bags together. I never want to forget how to reach out a hand and help my neighbors when they need it most.