Tuesday, December 29, 2015

At Seventeen....

Valerie J. Steimle

Seventeen is just the beginning of most everyone’s adult life. For some they see others as the world sees them. For others, they plow through and make their own way on their own terms. The world looks upon the outer shell of a person and judges success. Outer beauty doesn't matter; it's what is on the inside that counts.

This is what I taught my children when they were teenagers. Meaning, when you want to find a boy friend or girl friend, it doesn’t matter what you look like from what God gave you as a body, it’s what is inside that matters.  The same goes for what you see in others. Let’s face it, teenagers are shallow. What they see in beauty magazines is what they want in real life no matter what we sacrifice to get us looking that way.  The world shows us what is beautiful on the outside and teenagers want it.

We can tell how others feel about themselves by their countenance.  It is amazing how our thinking can be the window of our faces.  It can either help us or hurt us in what we feel to be important. For example, what is more important is how you place family, career and money in your life.  It is much more important to spend time with your family than spend too much time at the office over all.

If only the world would be more interested in how a person helped others instead of how beautiful their appearance.  This would set the example for the younger generation and we would have more good deeds done instead of those waiting for their “15 minutes” of fame.

 Everyone knows and likes to be with someone happy; someone who is excited and motivated to do good things in their life.  This person makes us feel good about ourselves.  The whole world seems to be a better place when we spend time with people who are happy and content with who they are and what their mission is in life.

When I was seventeen, a young singer by the name of Janis Ian recorded a song about being seventeen. It was so appropriate for where I was at that time in my life and explains exactly how many girls feel at this age, I’m posting the words here:

At Seventeen
“I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth
And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desp'rately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say "Come dance with me"
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems at seventeen
A brown eyed girl in hand-me-downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said, "Pity, please, the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve.
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
A guarantee of company
And haven…
At seventeen”
Janis Ian

The lyrics are somewhat depressing because there is no hope at the end.  Hope is what all people need to keep motivated during the trials and tribulations. From an email comes a prayer to those around us who need hope:
“May there be peace within you today.  May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are.  Let this knowledge settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.  It is there for each and every one of us.”

We can have hope and not follow what the world tells us.  Inner beauty is the most important and what we do with our time on earth and how we treat other people are the true indications of beauty.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas Eve!

by Suzanne Warr

If you celebrate Christmas, you and your household are probably in a fevered state, anticipating tomorrow morning.  All the planning, care, lists and running to and fro will be culminated in this one day.  Many of us can still feel an excited buzz when looking back on past Christmases, especially those when we were young.  A smile lifts our face and laughter sparkles in our eyes.

For those who look forward to and love Christmas morning, finding that someone prefers Christmas Eve can seem odd.  I know it hadn't occurred to me, as a kid.  After all, what could compare to the fun of discovering the stuff inside a stocking, or ripping open a present?  Now, as an adult, I think I enjoy Christmas Eve in a different way, but just as much.

Here's a great little film--Kipper's Christmas Eve--that our family loves.  He says it well:

Kipper is always chill, yet always enthused, much like the best kind of Christmas Eve.  I hope yours is lovely, and the rest of your Christmas weekend, as well!


Monday, December 21, 2015


Over a month ago I noticed something seemed to be amiss with my right breast.

11 years previously I'd had a lacto adenoma removed from my right breast while pregnant with my daughter. If you're not pregnant or nursing they call it a fibro adenoma. I was told that I might be susceptible to forming them and to keep a watch out. 

So, when I suspected something was up, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. As I expected, she ordered imaging to determine what was going on. There were really on three possibilities: adenoma/cyst, treatable cancer, or terminal cancer. 

I scheduled and waited three weeks for my date. 

I prayed. 

Not so much for it not to be cancer, though I certainly hoped it was not my time to leave this earth. My children are still young and I have much to teach them, and many moments in their lives I want to witness. Mostly, I prayed for peace while I waited and for the possibilities to not crowd my mind and keep me from experiencing the daily ups and downs of my life. I didn't want to be consumed with 'what ifs'. I also prayed for peace no matter what the test results turned out to be. 

God was kind. I was granted peace. 

Now, statistically speaking it was unlikely to be cancer. I carry few of the factors that put me on the high risk list. But it was possible. The three years I lived in Kansas I knew at least half a dozen women that were either going through breast cancer or were survivors. I've never known that many at one time, anywhere I've lived. And one side of my family tree is prone to cancer. Still, someone has to fall in that 15-20% of women who develop breast cancer. 

The day came, I went for my first mammogram. And as it was a diagnostic one, they wanted to use the 3D machine. Except, it wasn't working. They told me I could wait, or reschedule. I opted to wait. I happened to have the room closest to the 3D imaging room and could hear the technician on the phone trying to get the situation sorted. She mentioned more than one woman needed this technology to work. As the door to my room shut, I prayed again. This time that the machine would work, not just on my behalf, but on the behalf of the other women who needed answers like I did. 

The machine worked! And I said another prayer of gratitude. 

Mammograms weren't nearly as uncomfortable as I imagined they would be. Images, wait, more images, wait, onto the ultrasound. Two and a half hours later I sat in the nurse navigator's office. The issue turned out to be on the left side, not the right as I'd suspected. It looked to be a cyst. The recommendation was to do an ultrasound aspirated cyst removal. I scheduled it and two days later went in for the procedure. 

This part was more nerve-racking than waiting the previous three weeks. When I had the adenoma out before, I was over 7 months pregnant. They couldn't put me out to sleep but the blessed anesthesiologist made me feel really good. This time it was local anesthesia, not nearly as awesome. As soon as the doctor got in there, it was determined to be solid not liquid. Biopsy. And I got chipped. Now they insert a metal chip to mark the spot where they've removed the tissue. It is the size of a sesame seed. And no it doesn't set off metal detectors at the airport. It's there to show on further imaging. 

Results 3-4 days. More waiting. Turned out to be a very small fibro adenoma. In fact, so small that the biopsy removed half of it. Peace of mind. 

Trials, unexpected turns in our lives, can make us panic, frantic, crazy with worry. But when we turn to the Lord and ask for peace, he will grant it. It doesn't mean the trial is taken away or quickly or easily resolved every time. But while we wait on the Lord's timing, he can grant us peace. 

I am grateful for this gift. 

When have you been granted peace in a time of trial? Did you remember to be grateful for that blessing? 

May peace be granted to you. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015


This post was originally put on my other blog on September 13th, 2009. As I thought about what message I wanted to share on this blog so close to Christmas, I couldn't think of anything more appropriate than sharing my testimony of the Savior, Whose birth we are celebrating.

This summer, my daughter went to girls' camp. The stake leaders asked each ward to be a tribe, and to choose a name for their tribe that most fit their goals. Our ward chose to be "The Tribe of the Unashamed," taken from this quote:

"I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tinted visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, positions, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk with patience, am lifted up in prayer, and labor with power. My face is set, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided or delayed, will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table with the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, and paid up for the case of Christ. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me and when He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.” - Author Unknown, quoted by Elder Henry B. Eyring

When I first heard this quote, a thrill shot through me and enlivened me. We live in a time where it's so easy to ride the fence, to keep our beliefs a little quiet, not to call attention to ourselves. Peer pressure is stronger than ever before, and where we used to think of it as a teenage thing, it's something we face no matter what age we are. I was so glad that my daughter got to spend a whole week learning what it means to believe fully, whole-heartedly, and then to not be ashamed of those beliefs.

Today I had the opportunity to do some reading about the Prophet Joseph Smith. It absolutely never fails - the Spirit always testifies to me that he was truly a prophet of God, that the words he taught us are true, and that he died as a martyr to seal up his testimony of Heavenly Father's plan. I've had the chance to walk the streets of Nauvoo and sense what it would have been like to be there during Joseph's time, and felt the incredible power associated with a group of Saints, living together in harmony under the leadership of an inspired prophet. I dearly love the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I can't express enough how grateful I am to have the testimony of him that I have.

I'm so grateful to be led by a modern prophet today. Thomas S. Monson is a very familiar face to me, having held many key church positions throughout my lifetime. I know he comes to us at this time having been prepared by God for many years for this role, and I look at him with absolute faith and confidence that he will lead us in the ways God wants us led.

I am also deeply grateful for the knowledge I have that our Heavenly Father is truly watching over us with love and concern, and that He wants us to return to Him in His kingdom someday. I can't measure the gratitude I feel when I think about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the sacrifices made by both Father and Son to bring about that incredible blessing in our lives, if we will but just accept it. I have felt the comfort and the forgiveness and the assurance of the Lord in my life so many times, and I depend on it like nothing else.

I echo the sentiment expressed above: "The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, or be still." I also echo the scripture found in Romans 1:16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ."

How could I ever be ashamed of something I believe with all my heart?

Merry Christmas to you all, and may each of us use this time to become even more fully committed to those things we have said we will do. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Trip of a lifetime

If you've ever read my novels, you've probably noticed that I have a deep love for Ireland and Irish mythology. Every time I needed a new character to do something specific for my story, I would look through their mythology and find a creature that would do exactly that.

My dream for the last few years has been to travel to Ireland so I could see everything my books had talked about. I wanted to experience the Emerald Isle for myself. Partly so I could enjoy what I've grown to love, and partly to make sure that my research had steered me in the right direction for my novels.

This last August, Delta Airlines had an amazing sale using their air miles and I had the chance to do something I never thought I'd be able to do. We got to travel to England, and from there, we went to go to see Ireland and Scotland.

We left last week and started out in England. While my books have not been set there, I still got to go see some amazing things while I was there. The British Museum is full of artifacts that the British Empire stole from countries all over the world. Chinese, Japanese, German, and on and on. Every time I thought we were done, we'd find another whole wing of items. The Rosetta Stone is even in there.

But then we found out that one of the exhibits was about the Celtic culture. We bought our tickets and I went into devour everything I could learn about them. It was rich in history and had many items from that time. I was sad I couldn't take pictures while I was in there, so I tried to soak in as much as I could about the Celts and their history. MY history because these were my people. 

We also made at stop at King's Cross Station so I could get my photo with the cart going into Platform 9 3/4! 

The next morning we were off to Ireland. We took a train from London up to Holyhead, and then we took a ferry to Dublin from there. Amazing. Although I wasn't too fond of the up and down from the waves on the ferry. I got used to it about ten minutes from shore ... after a four hour trip.

We went right to the center of Dublin, and because we got there after all the sights had closed, we just walked around the streets to catch a glimpse of what we could. We found a memorial for those who had fought in wars, and a few cathedrals, and then we made our way back to our hotel.

I'd hoped to make to either the Blarney Castle or to a small forest near Kilkenny because they were both parts of my books, but we just didn't have enough time. The lady at the hotel warned us that while we could have gone to Blarney, it would have been cold, windy, and rainy. Not ideal when you want to climb 90 feet to the top of the castle...

We decided on a small place called Kilkenny. It was a 2 hour trip by bus, and then we stored our baggage at a hotel while we were there (Thanks to our concierge lady from the hotel in Dublin. She'd called in a favor.) 

Oh my goodness. It was the most amazing little place. The streets were cobbled in the pedestrian areas, and the stores were small and had the cool Celtic font the I love so much, and oh, there was a castle just hanging out in the middle of it.

We toured the castle and saw tapestries that were older than our country. It had been refurbished a few different times in it's history and was owned by a family until the 1920s when it was turned over to the city. 

Yeah, that's a castle. Just hanging out right there.

The dungeon
The whole castle. There used to be four walls, but Oliver Cromwell knocked one of them down.

My favorite little shop.

Afterward we went to lunch at a little pub that was in a home built in 1049. The owner was a woman who was charged with witchcraft, but she'd managed to escape before they burned her at the stake. The walls were a rough brick, and it was so cool to be eating in side a place that was so old. Plus, the Irish stew was to die for.

We'd planned to catch a bus back to Dublin so we could see Dublin Castle, St Patrick's Cathedral, and the leprechaun museum, but the bus didn't come for another five hours, so we were stuck in the most perfect little town ever. I didn't want to leave, so I counted it as a blessing that got to stay longer than we'd planned. 

Since we wouldn't get back in time to see anything in Dublin, we took the bus to the airport and went to our hotel. After dinner, we went right to sleep so we could get up at 4:30 in the morning to go catch a plane to Scotland. 

The plane actually took off at 7, but we still had to make the trip back to the airport from our hotel, and then walk back and forth to get from security to baggage claim and then to the plane. It was small and cramped, but otherwise it wasn't too bad. The ticket were also only 9 pounds, so we couldn't complain. 

We started out in Glasgow and walked around for a couple of hours, staring up at the architecture. It was amazing! It was colder than Ireland and we had to take our bags with us everywhere, so we didn't stay there for very long before hopping on the train over to Edinburgh.

They say that Edinburgh was built on seven hills. I'm pretty sure we walked up all of them. Okay, not really, but it felt like it. This was one place that showed up in my fourth Luck book so I wanted to get some research in. We also passed by the little shop where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Pretty cool!

After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we made our way over to Edinburgh Castle. Our plan was to go there and tour, and then head over to Holyrood Palace since both places were in my book. We missed the Holyrood Palace tour by eight minutes. Bummer.

BUT the Edinburgh Castle was amazing. Every wall was filled with the history of Scotland. We saw cannons, towers, dungeons, old bathrooms, bedrooms, a military memorial, and my favorite, the crown jewels. That part actually gave me some great ideas for this last luck book. So be watching for it!

Afterward, we talked to a lady about our family names and ended up staying there to talk for at least an hour. She was wonderful to talk to, but as we talked, it started raining outside. I'm not talking normal rain. I'm talking heavy, soak everything you own rain. We still made our way over to the palace (and just missed it) so we could at least get a picture, and then headed back to the hotel. We did try one souvenir shop, but we were too wet to actually want to buy anything. They tried to get us to buy an umbrella, but by that time there was no point. When we got back to the hotel, we had to empty out our bags, pockets, and everything else so we could use an iron and blow dryer to dry our clothes out. It was crazy! 

The next morning we headed back to England. The countryside was beautiful as we traveled the four hours back down to London. We took our stuff back to the same hotel we'd stayed at before and boarded a tour bus. We got to see Big Ben, the tower bridge, Tower of London, several cathedrals, and the London Eye. Sadly it was too dark to see Buckingham Palace, but I still enjoyed the tour. Afterward we walked over to Piccadilly Circus and toured the area. We found Hamley's toystore that had been there since 1760. Holy moly. We wandered through the streets again to find dinner and then made our way back to the hotel to collapse.

We only had one more morning, so we stored our things and took a train over to walk along the Thames River and to go see the tower of London. We didn't have a chance to go in, but we did stop at the gift shop, so that counts, right? We hopped back on the bus again, and toured through London, but had to get off before Buckingham Palace (sigh... we missed it twice) so we could get on a train and sprint back to the hotel to get our stuff so we get catch a train to the airport. 

While we sat there, we found out that the area we'd traveled through from Scotland to London was flooded. It was crazy! 

It was the most amazing trip we'd ever taken, and while we could have used another month or five to see everything we wanted to, I counted myself lucky that I could see the places that my characters had traveled in my books.  If you ever have a chance to go and research the places you write about, take it. Enjoy it. And soak in every ounce of history you possibly can. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

List of Strategies to Rewrite An Article

Valerie J. Steimle

If you are like me in writing blog posts and articles for online websites, then these little tidbits of information can really beef up your writing skills.  I can take any email or prior writing and morph it into something new and exciting... not bragging but this list if nine how-tos can really help when you are in a bind.  These ideas are actually a collection of information from different sources online so have at it and good writing....  

1. Write earlier. This teaches you what you already know and what you need to know. When I begged for more time on a story it was usually because I felt I needed more time to report, to understand the subject. "I need a couple more hours/days/weeks," I'd tell my editor. When I started drafting earlier, I began to see that the hole I needed to fill was already complete, but there are other gaps I wouldn't have recognized as quickly.

Revision doesn't mean more time, but rescheduling the time you have. Let's face it. Whatever time we have for a story most of us spend the bulk of reporting. After all, we're reporters. But there are ways to build in revision earlier in the process.

2. Hit the print button as early as possible. Computers are wonderful, but they give the illusion of perfection. To revise this column, I made a printout of the first draft, approximately 1,000 words written in less than an hour over two days. I began by crossing things out, penning in questions, examining the prose (which sentences held up, which need re-tooling, etc.)

3. Put it away. John Fowles, the British novelist ("French Lieutenant’s Woman"), described drafting as much as 60,000 words and then putting them in a desk drawer for a few months. Nice work, I can hear the journalists out there muttering, if you can get it.

Few working writers, especially those under daily or even weekly deadlines, have that freedom. But any attempt to put a story out of your mind will give your unconscious mind the chance to work on it.

As a Washington correspondent, there were days when the time between assignment and deadline was less than 4 to 5 hours. Even so, I tried to leave myself 10-15 minutes before deadline to print out the story, stick the printout in my back pocket and head out of the National Press Building for a quick walk.

I did my best not to think of my story, instead focusing my attention on the weather and the parade of lobbyists and tourists. Despite the distractions, by the time I made it two blocks to the Civil War monument in front of the U.S. Treasury building fresh questions about the story in my pocket began popping up like the tulips in front of the White House.

Had I really supported my lead? Should I move that quote higher up? Would that fact buried in the middle of the story make a more resonant ending? Did I need to make a quick call to check a fact or get one more piece of persuasive evidence? What could be discarded, what needed fleshing out?

4. Break revision into manageable tasks. Sometimes the sheer enormity of revisions overwhelms me. Make separate printouts — one for names and titles, another for verb constructions, a third to trim the fat from quotes.

5. Read aloud. Listen to your story and you can hear where it flags, where a quote runs on or echoes the previous phrase (The mayor said he's dissatisfied with the council's action. "I'm just not satisfied," Mayor Naughton said).

6. Diagnose, then treat. As you read, make quick notes ("cut," "move up?" "boring?" "stronger evidence?") Then go back and make the necessary changes.

7. Test your story against your focus. If it's about a young woman's fight against cerebral palsy, why does it begin with an anecdote about her grandfather's experiences in the California gold rush?

8. Find a first reader. Editors are our first readers--and our last line of defense. Show your draft to an editor--or a colleague. Ask them to tell you what works and what needs work. Ask for a movie of their reading. Better to turn in something to an editor that we know isn't perfect with an eye to finding the promise and the pitfalls in it and the path to a clear, concise, readable story than letting the whole world see our mistakes.

9. Develop patience. When I begin to write, the ideas often flow in a flood, leaving the landscape obscured by mountains of impenetrable mass, uprooted trees, houses and everything else in its path. Instead of a tidy piece of prose, what I have is a mess that makes my spirits droop. I wanted it to be so good and instead it seems so bad that I fear I can never get it to  the point where anybody else would want to read it. I have to keep telling myself it will come if I keep at it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Suzanne Warr

I briefly entertained the idea of making this post totally unrelated to Thanksgiving Day, but couldn't see the point.  And besides, I like giving thanks!  I am deeply indebted to gratitude for the peace and joy I feel every day.  Note--not the things I'm grateful for.  Rather, the giving of thanks itself.  While I am grateful--as witness the little turkey below--I believe that gratitude is the kind of gift which always comes back to you, like a boomerang, with more than you sent out.

So, how do you celebrate gratitude, and Thanksgiving?  We like to split our focus three ways.  The first is on our American Heritage, which kicks off the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the American Indian Heritage Festival, downtown.  Second we of course plan pies--this year, we'll be sharing three.  Chocolate, Key Lime, and Pumpkin.  Yummy!

Third, every year we draw and put up a gratitude turkey.  This year, since our son is serving a mission in Korea...our turkey is dressed as a missionary, too!

Such a handsome fellow, don't you think?  And of course we add thankful feathers to his fabulous self.  This year it took us longer than usual to get Mr. Turkey up, so he's not as fluffy as he could be.  But, he'll do. :)

I'd love to hear from you, in the comments, about how you celebrate this day, or how you emphasize and choose gratitude!  However, if you're hands are too full of pie to type, that's okay, too.  Happy Thanksgiving, and have a lovely day!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

You Need to Be an Amazon Associate!

Amazon has an amazing program called Amazon Associates. If you have two thumbs - or even if you don't - you should sign up. It's easy, it's free, and you will get rewards. I shall explain how it works.

1. Go to this link. Sign in with your regular Amazon account information (and if you don't have an Amazon account, you can create one).

As you sign up to be an affiliate, they will give you a code. Mine is trpildau-20.

2. Now that you have your code, you can start using it. This is where the fun happens.

Let's say you're me and you've just released a book. I'm using my novel Strength to Endure as an example. The link to purchase that book is http://www.amazon.com/Strength-Endure-Tristi-Pinkston-ebook/dp/B00IU0TW9M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1445708235&sr=8-1&keywords=tristi+pinkston.

That's a pretty long link, right? Well, for starters, we don't need that whole link. See that word "ref" there in middle? I highlighted it so you could see it easier. You only need the information in front of that word. Delete the backslash too so now your link looks like this: http://www.amazon.com/Strength-Endure-Tristi-Pinkston-ebook/dp/B00IU0TW9M

You can do that any time you want to shorten a link. Just makes things a little less messy.

Now I'm going to take my Amazon Associates code and put it on the end of that link. I'm going to hook it on there with ?tag=. So it will be product link, that little connection code I just showed you, and then my code. This is what the final link will look like: http://www.amazon.com/Strength-Endure-Tristi-Pinkston-ebook/dp/B00IU0TW9M?tag=trpildau-20.

I promise - this is easy. It just looks complicated for now because it's new information.

3. Okay, now that we have our link with code, this is what we post whenever we talk about the book. I post on Facebook that I have a new release, I send out a newsletter, I put it on my website - every single time I talk about my book, I use this link with this code. If a customer clicks on that link and purchases my book, not only do I get my usual royalty, but I also get a few cents' credit through the Associates program. At the end of the month, Amazon adds up all my cents and sends me a gift card to be used on the site.

4. But this is not all. Let's say my friend Katie Crabapple has a new release and I want to help her spread the word. I do the same thing I did a minute ago with my book.

I'd take her link, which is http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Patience-Homespun-Book-3-ebook/dp/B0088H8OZ0/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8.

I'd whack off everything after "ref," making the link now http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Patience-Homespun-Book-3-ebook/dp/B0088H8OZ0.

I'd throw my code on there, making it now http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Patience-Homespun-Book-3-ebook/dp/B0088H8OZ0?tag=trpildau-20.

I would then post this link everywhere, telling them about my friend's new book.

"But wait!" you say. "I don't want to make money off my friends like that!"

Here's the thing. You're helping your friends by advertising their book, and not one cent comes out of their royalty. The credit you get comes out of Amazon's pocket, not your friends'. It's a win-win for you and your friend.

5. And it doesn't end there ...

Let's say Geraldina from Kentucky uses my link and buys Katie's book. For the next 24 hours, unless Geraldina clicks on someone else's Amazon Associates link, everything she buys will be credited to my Associates account.


That's right. Let's say she buys Katie's book, and while she's on Amazon, she decides to pick up some ice cube trays and a video game and a new pair of shoes. A percentage of each of those purchases will get credit back to my account, and I'll get a gift card.

6. So, how much money are we talking?

The more items you put your code on, and the more purchases are made using that code, the higher your percentage will be. Right now, I'm making 6.5% whenever someone purchases using my links. If I refer/sell another 33 items, my percentage will increase to 7%, and it will go up from there.  (No, I didn't just use some crazy math skills. It's all laid out for me on the Associates site.)

What's cool is that when I look on the Associates site and look at my report, I can see a list of all the things that were purchased using the code so I can see where my efforts have been the most useful. I see lots of my own books on there, but then I also see things like crochet hooks and hangers, things that were purchased while the customer was also buying my book, and I can see that the code really does carry over to other things.

The fact of the matter is this ...

Everyone should be an Associate. It doesn't matter if you're an author with a product to sell - you can help other people sell their products, as I demonstrated above with Katie's book. The fact that I am an author is just icing on the cake because I can use the code on every single one of my books as well. There's simply no reason not to take advantage of this program. I saved up my reward gift cards for the last few months and applied them toward some Christmas shopping I did on Amazon last night, and it reduced my out-of-pocket expense by about a third. That's not bad, folks. That's not bad at all.

(My thanks to Kirsten Osbourne for teaching me how to use my Associates account. I had one for years, but had no idea what to do with it until recently.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Climbing the Unclimbable Mountain

By H. Linn Murphy

I've been hitting it hard with NANOWRIMO and have thus been kind of a sandbag where other writing is concerned. But I take pen in hand, tonight, to write about something close to my heart.

In my calling in church, I hear a great many things about families and children in our ward and others. Some people might think this job is one to seek because it carries with it a sheen of responsibility. "Oh, you're a ____. That must be so interesting. I'm only a ______.

Whoever seeks such a job is smoking the good stuff, however. (Merely a jest.) Knowing all of these things about people can be a real burden. I don't know if it's just me, but I find myself feeling very inadequate because I come up against these insurmountable-seeming mountains people are battling to climb, and I can only offer them an ice pick or maybe an energy drink, when what they actually need is a helicopter or at least a longer, stronger rope.

Today, instead of writing on my WIP and doing something with my son, I went to pick up a stranded friend and listen to her while she unloaded for four hours. She is one of these mountain climbers who seem only to come up against a higher peak whenever they look.

What can one say to all of it except "I think I feel your pain" or "Maybe we can put your name in the temple." I'm certain that after I visit with many of these people, they probably think, "That woman is a full-on loon. What's she doing in that calling?" I'm wondering the same thing. I'm totally waiting for the mantle of the calling thing to kick in. At times I have felt that happen, but not often enough.

I don't want to be one of those people who come off as uncaring or fake or otherwise unacceptable. But I am a human. And I have not been through most of the things they are facing (hopefully never will). Where am I going with this? Maybe all we can do in these situations is try to understand where they're coming from. Maybe the only two people who can completely understand are Heavenly Father and His Son. But we can at least endeavour to try.

At any rate, happy climbing, and here's your drink.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's Already November??

This is my favorite time of year. I love Halloween, dressing up, the Fall colors, and everything about October. But then the date turns to November 1st, and I realize how excited I am for Thanksgiving.

There's a trend on Facebook (and probably other social media) where people choose to say one thing they're thankful for each day. I enjoy reading what people are grateful, and it makes me think about those things in my life.

In October, I mentioned a panel I was on, but this time I want to mention a different panel. Chris Evans is everyone's favorite Captain America. He was the big guest slated for Comic Con and while I was ecstatic for my daughter to finally meet him (She's loved him since she was two), I hoped he would be nice instead of a jerk.

I had no need to worry. And, yes, I promise this is going somewhere.

Anyway, my husband won a pass to the panel that was only by lottery and I couldn't wait to learn a little more about this mystery guy. Everyone kept talking about his anxiety and warning others not to ask for hugs or get too close because it would freak him out. 

But he was late to his own panel. And while I needed it to get going so I could go meet my son and daughter, I was willing to wait. Why? Because he was backstage meeting several kids from the Make A Wish Foundation. He'd made sure when he set up the panel that there would be a whole row just for them. 

When he finally came out, he kept stopping what he was saying and turn back to the crowd to say thank you. Over and over again. He couldn't believe that there was such a huge crowd. He couldn't believe people kept cheering. And on and on. 

To me, he was already living up to who Captain America was to me. But then he said something that made all the difference in the world to me.  Someone asked him how he gets rid of the mind noise when he's having an anxiety attack. 

His answer?

"Gratitude. If you are grateful for the things you have, you will never have to deal with that head noise. It will just go away."

So this year I decided to join the masses and talk about those things I'm thankful for. And I'm so much more thankful for November and Thanksgiving (and a trip to Ireland at the end of the month...) I've decided to look for the good.  

I'm thankful for my family. All of them. My kids, husband, brother, sisters, in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and on and on. They're the reason I am who I am. And they're the reason I can write strong families for my books. I'm so thankful for them.

I'm thankful for prayer. I've seen so many miracles over the last year and I know it's because people come together to pray for that miracle.

I'm thankful for my warm, cozy home. It may not be spotless, but it's well-loved. There's laughter, singing, and dancing.

I'm thankful I get to live my dream.

I'm thankful for Delta and their choice to have a sale on international flights so we could use our miles to go on the trip of a lifetime. Along with that is Marriott and Hertz because, wow. Lots of awesome. If not for those points, it would be decades before we can go.

I'm thankful for the area I live in where there are so many opportunities for my family.

Speaking of which, it's time to go pick up one of my little blessings from a school activity. 

So what are you thankful for?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Writing Against All Odds

Valerie J. 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 and started 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, (5 or 6 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 our own 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 seller author. I knew I had to push forward and publish my homeschool book; which I finally did in 2006. This has 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, 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 18 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) 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, won’t 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 will matter the most in life. So I continue and always will write against all odds.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Getting Excited for NaNo & What I'm Writing for It

It's that time of year, when writer's across America get revved up for National Novel Writing Month in November. We call it NaNo for short. Otherwise the month is over before we can even tell you what that means. 

It means, those of us crazy enough to participate attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days or less! 

For me it's always less, due to weekends and holidays. I don't write during those days.Which begs the question, why do they pick a month with a major holiday in it? *scratches head* Not to mention Black Friday and the count down kick off to Christmas when we all start putting up the decorations, etc. Why not pick January and give us the extra day? 

Anyhow, this will be my third year to participate. I've pulled it off twice now successfully (and have 2 completed novels to show for it) I've marked on the calendar how many thousands of words I have to write each day, taking into account the aforementioned, plus kids appointments, husband's days off, etc. It's a little daunting, but on most days I only have to pound out 2-3K so it is doable. And I've started the outline. 

I'm actually excited about writing. It's been nearly a year since I did. Editing and formatting don't count. Necessary to producing a book, but not at all the same as writing!

But what to write about with so many ideas swirling about in my head?

I put fingers to keyboard (instead of pen to paper) and typed out a few cover blurbs to choose from for this year's project. 

I settled on Silver Star. Can't steal my title, it's already copyrighted. ;)

Here's the rough version of the blurb I'll submit to NaNo:

Country superstar Sara Silver has it all: fame, fortune, and a mantel full of Grammys. She also has a string of chart topping heartbreak songs to go with them -- all based on her bad luck with romance, which makes for great songs, but a miserable love life.

With her parents example of a working happy marriage as a guiding star, Sara should have no problem finding Mr. Right. Except, there seems to be a gap between finding a guy and finding the right guy to call hers forever. Somehow, that bit of wisdom wasn’t imparted to her before her mother’s death. And now Sara wonders if maybe she’ll never find love. Maybe she is destined to walk this life alone.

There’s also the problem of her recording label considering moving onto the “next big thing” if she doesn’t come up with another hit album and soon, like yesterday. After all, she’s been at this for ten years. Maybe she’s all washed up.

Exiled to a ranch in Wyoming to work out her music, or else, Sara determines not to let anything distract her...and then she meets Cal. Could he be the one to inspire her music and fill the empty hole in her heart or is he just another broken heart ballad waiting to happen?
Sound like something you'd want to read?

Comment below with a yes or no. Or better yet, share your own NaNo project. Good luck on your 50K!

Be sure and check out my NaNo tips on my blog:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Growing a Thick Skin ...

When I was a little girl, I was somewhat fascinated by a bump my mother had on the side of her middle finger. She explained to me that it was a callus that formed from holding a pen and writing letters. For some reason, I thought that was the coolest thing, and I wanted one too. As I got older, I was excited to see that I was developing one. It was like a badge of honor, the mark of one who writes.

Then I started typing more than writing, and eventually, I was using a computer for 99% of all my writing-related tasks. Pens were more for taking notes and writing to-do lists, and my callus began to shrink. Now, it's barely noticable at all.

We develop calluses to protect us from friction. The pen presses against the finger, and the skin of the finger hardens to create a protection. Sometimes we do the same thing emotionally - put up a wall to protect us from the harshness of the world. This can be a good thing, or it can be negative.

Think about the word "callous." It's related to "callus," but it's not a noun. It describes a state of being - "She was callous about her treatment of the sick dog." It means that someone has walled themselves off so much that they don't feel proper emotions. This can lead to damaged relationships and the inability to hear the Spirit when it speaks.

When I look down at this bump on my finger that has all but disappeared now, I remember this analogy. I want to be strong enough to withstand negative things that come my way, but I never want to wall myself off so much that I can't feel those subtle things like happiness and inspiration.

Just a thought for the day.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Writing Sex

by H. Linn Murphy

Recently I read a question on the ANWA Facebook page about sex selling. It's a topic I've been thinking about for a long time.

I read extensively. I read a variety of genres and time periods. That's also how I write. I put pen to the page and write what hits me. I am a storyteller. I write truths.

I thought back over several of my favorite books and series. It's anything from Lord of the Rings to Pride and Prejudice to Martian Chronicles to Elizabeth Hayden's books, Book of Mormon to How to Stay Alive in the Woods and A Light in the Forest. From Runemaster to Dangerous Favor to First Year Latin. Through out all of those books a single thread runs: No sex, no bad language. There is some violence (in the Book of Mormon of all places and among others) but it's not graphic.

I'll say it again. No sex. No bad language. It's trash. We don't need it to tell the story. If it's a story that cannot stand without sex, it isn't worth telling. What needs to come out is the truth of that story--the truth of the character. And that can happen without letting fly with the exact swear word put to paper. It can fly without telling us about falling zippers.

I thought about what I'd do if a publisher insisted. Then I made a decision. No. I won't do it. I don't write that kind of trash. I'm not saying my books don't contain some tense situations. They do. But I'm trying very hard to write books I'd want my kids to read.

I say this: Don't buy into the false ideology that if it isn't 59 Shades of Murk it won't sell. That's what those who are working for the Destroyer want you to think and to help them peddle. This is the deal. If your publisher insists that you have to add sex scenes for it to be real, hit the highway. Because he's lying to you. Otherwise Jane Austen wouldn't be selling a single book. Every one of her books has sold millions of copies, been made into movies, audiobooks etc. Even Mansfield Park, my least favorite. And not a single one had an ounce of sex in it. We were hard pressed to read about a single kiss.

In actuality, the Church has recently come out with information labeling romances with heavy sex in them pornography. That's right. There are now addiction classes for sex-filled romance.

I personally know of at least one instance where the wife got addicted to reading steamy romances. She bought them by the ton and read them non-stop--even on the way to church and the temple! She is now, because of those books, looking at the back end of a four year separation and a vitriolic divorce. Those books actually changed the chemistry of her brain. They change how a person looks, feels, and acts about the real act and about love. It renders a person incapable of recognizing real love. I've seen that first hand.

Bad language clogs our brains so that the Spirit cannot enter. It sits in our minds like silt, waiting to bog down any good thoughts and fill us with darkness.

Be the shining light. Be that huge beacon on the hill. Blaze forth with REAL love, REAL sacrifice. A REAL story for the ages.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Positive Portrayals of Women in Writing

I attended Salt Lake Comic Con this last weekend and I had the opportunity to be a part of four different panels. I enjoyed each of them, but I think the one that stuck with me the most was the last one I attended. It was called Positive Portrayals of Women in Pop Culture.

I was the only writer on the panel, while the other women came from different podcasts. They were more into pop culture and the latest and greatest television shows, while I was involved because of the characters in my books. I worried that I wouldn’t fit in or have a clue what to say among them, but I found that we had a lot more common ground than I’d first expected.

One thing that stuck out to me the most was that we made sure to point out over and over again that a positive portrayal is not simply making the female the super tough heroine who needs no one because she can win the battle herself. It was more about bringing depth to those characters and making them real.

As the different women spoke of their favorite shows and why they liked those female characters, I had time to reflect on the books I write. I thought of each of the main characters and why they were “strong” to me. I realized that it was their flaws and their need to get through their obstacles that made them who they were. Am I perfect at getting those characters down? Probably not, but I want to do my best to build someone who girls can relate to and want to be like.

Each of us have our own voice, our own likes and dislikes, our own backgrounds. We as writers need to make sure that we provide those same attributes for the characters in our stories.

So what does this have to do with portraying strong women? Or the girls in younger books? Everything. It’s not about making them tough enough to win a battle. It’s about making them strong enough to be the daughter or the best friend, or yes, the hero by showing who they really are. Give them a backstory, fears, and a reason to go on. Let’s make them strong by allowing them learn and be a better person than when the story began.

Think of your favorite villains who share their backstories. Maleficent’s movie showed her love turning on her and stealing her wings, causing her to lose everything. The stepmother in the new Cinderella movie only wanted love and comfort and watched the stepdaughter she’d tried to squash, get exactly what she wanted.

Think of your heroes. Hermione used her book smarts, her wit, and the strength of her friends to fight, but also to help Harry and Ron survive. Katniss was tough, yes, but she also stepped in to protect her family so her sister wouldn’t have to be part of the games. Aurora won Maleficent over by her love, her smile, and her kindness. Black Widow is a tough fighter who knew nothing else as she grew up, but when it comes down to it, kindness is what makes her the person I admire. The way she handles Hulk to calm him down, touches my heart every single time.

If you need tough females to make your story work, do it. But give her both the flaws and the strengths to make her the best person she can be.