Monday, December 26, 2016

It is of God

Good morning. Happy bloated-after-the-holidays day!

Queen of procrastination here. I promised myself I would have the Book of Mormon at the top of my read list this year on my lovely book-packed Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. Guess what. A week ago, with only two weeks left in the year, I realized I better get started with reading the Book of Mormon. Don’t get me wrong, I read sporadically during the year, but not the whole thing. So I popped in the BOM on CD and got started. I am up to Mosiah. But it will be at the top of my challenge by the New Year.

As I listened to Joseph Smith’s testimony of how the angel Moroni appeared to him, I reached the part where Joseph tries to work after a night of interviews with the angel. Joseph collapses in the field and receives another vision where the angel tells him to go back and tell his father about his heavenly visitations.

I’m cleaning in my kitchen, and before the next paragraph starts, I mutter to myself, “It is of God,” meaning the whole thing, the heavenly visits and the testimony of Joseph and the subsequent translation of the Book of Mormon. As soon as I said those words, on the CD, Joseph’s father tells Joseph the same thing. “That it (the heavenly message) was of God.”

A warmth flooded my body then as the Holy Spirit washed over me, confirming the truth of the words I whispered aloud and the words of Joseph’s Father. Even with all my procrastination of my goals, I will always know the Book of Mormon is of God and that it is true.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Time

It’s that time of year with the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Is it commercialized? Yes. Is there too much attention to the lights, shopping, baking, wrapping, and such? Absolutely.
            Do we have to shun all such frills? I say no, not if we keep the true spirit of Christmas in our hearts.
            I’m going to expand on something our bishop (if you aren’t LDS—he’s the equivalent of a pastor or priest) mentioned last Sunday. He came to realize that although the busyness, Santa, and such don’t directly have anything to do with that sacred birth, it’s okay. Those things still bring attention to Christ in the secular world. People who may not have heard of Him any other way notice the blinking lights and good cheer.
            It’s a time for giving. Charities gain much needed funds due to the generous feelings this season brings. Families are drawn together. The lights can represent the light of Christ within every person on earth. Santa can teach children about giving anonymously. The list goes on. I would ask the reader to look for themselves and discover how the secular trappings of the season point back to Christ.  
The center of this celebration is and always should be the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. He did what no other person could do. He suffered for us. Without him all would be lost. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. His birth brought angels to the earth singing to shepherds. Kings from the east traveled from afar. I’m quite certain they didn’t arrive the night of His birth as depicted in manger scenes. That too is okay—it’s part of the story.
What’s important is that he was born, showed mankind how to live, and ultimately suffered and died that we might live back with our Heavenly Father when this life of testing is over. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016


This is something I wish was going around at my house more often this Christmas. Gratitude. 

Lately, I've noticed my oldest acting "entitled." How did this happen? It's an attribute I've striven as a parent for my child NOT to cultivate. A enormous list of wants for presents under the tree from this non-believer who has Santa's cell phone number and can text him at will and whim. 

Where is the gratitude for what is already in her possession? Where is the willingness to share? Does she not know there are people without homes, food, and no hope of ever having a cell phone? That there are places in the world where instead of wanting their two front teeth, they'd rather have clean water in their town/village instead of hiking miles to get it, sometimes mulitiple times a day. How does she not see the bigger global picture? 

More importantly, how do I get her to see it? 

The other day she threw such a fit, the third in a series this week, that I was ready to tell Santa to unwrap the presents and send them back. No gifts this year. Perhaps that would shake her back to reality. But then, how do we explain that to the Believer in the house? Your older sibling was so naughty she didn't even rate coal, instead she got nothing? That wouldn't go over well and I have no wish to spend Christmas Day with a ticked off tween on the rant. 

Image result for images Simplify Christmas

I bought a sign a few years ago, it reads, "Simplify Christmas. Celebrate Christ." HE is what Christmas is supposed to be about. Not a jolly red man in a suit, or a castout reindeer with a shiny red nose, or even the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. (I really don't have any complaints with a Christmas Carol. Dickens message about caring for your fellowman is in line with Christ's teachings.) 

The season is about gratitude for God's Plan of Happiness and for Christ being born. It is about reflecting on HIS example and how we can make changes to become more like him. It is about sharing the joyful message, sharing HIS light, sharing what we have with those who are without. 

Yes, yes, you nod. That is all very well and good but you have nearly thirty years experience and maturity to draw on for your bigger picture perpsective. Your oldest child doesn't. 

True. And though I tell her about the sacrifices made on my behalf by my single mom and how I was aware of how much I learned about the cost and value of things which made me appreciate them, she doesn't get it. 

So, my question to you is, How do you help your child to cultivate gratitude and see the bigger picture, not just at this time of year, but all year long? What do you do to put HIM at the center of your life and your child's/children's lives? 

'Cause I'm all ears.

Otherwise, we might simplify Christmas next year to the point of no presents under the tree. 

Happy Holidays! May they be merry, bright, and full of light...and gratitude.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Great Christmas Race

by H. Linn Murphy

Every Christmas we join the mad rush to buy just the right Christmas presents around oh...Christmas Eve if you're my husband. It drives me nuts. I try to start doing things much earlier in the year, but it comes to no avail.  He's very rigid about what he wants for gifts (that is such a foreign concept to me. It should be a PRESENT, not an order) and won't make a list until about three days before Christmas Eve. The years I've bought things not on his list have been tough. You should have seen what happened the year I bought him a used row boat. A few weeks ago he almost sold it to some guy from the street.

One year I'd gone  to garage sales and gotten things for everyone I knew they'd like. The Hubs looked at what I'd gotten them and began what has become his new tradition. We have to do what seems like a spread sheet. There are rows for music, games, clothing, movies, books and miscellaneous. I plug stuff I've bought into its little slot and write down the price of that thing. Then he totals the line until we've spent basically the same amount on everyone.

It sounds all neat and democratic. It actually means that all those things I bought at garage sales or made don't fit neatly into any slot, and thus frustration. It means that he goes out to try and make his sheet total up. It means that after the beautiful dinner and the live nativity scene and the watching Santa on NORAD and taking Crazy Mary home, that we spend the rest of the night 'til around 5:30am wrapping presents. Which also means I'm stone dead for the whole of Christmas day.

And I hate it.

We're talking zombie apocalypse here. And the kids, until last year insisted on coming to get us up and the crack of freaking dawn. Last year was the first time ever that they decided to sleep in. Which gave me around three hours of sleep. Unfortunately now I have a new child--the dog, who wakes me up about 5:30am to play countless games of Keep-the-dog-ball-away-from-Heidi-while-still-making-her-stay-outside-to-throw-it. 

Last year I did one small change. I made the kids help me wrap presents (not their own, of course). It helped immensely. Then we were only up until about three am. So that's my dream for this year--early wrapping.

This is what I'd actually like to do:

*We start early. *We make things, or shop sales or maybe shop online. (What would actually be really hilarious is if we gifted them with their own take to whatever place they decide to call home.) *Then if there are a few little things, we go together and have fun finding them. *We then wrap them together very early (before December) so that we can enjoy a Spirit-filled Christmas, full of service, music, good food, friends, and family and most of all, Christ

In fact, I'd almost like to celebrate Christmas on the 27th. After all, we don't actually celebrate Christ's birthday on the correct day anyway (it's actually around April 6th). Because that's when the buy Buy BUY season goes bye-bye. The massive doses of silly shows end (I absolutely HATE that Mr. Freeze from Frosty 2 and the song that goes with it even more. It has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas) and the pressure with it. It's that dead time which, if done right, could be filled with peace and joy and the actual celebration of Christ's birthday instead of Mammon's.

Please don't get me wrong. I love Santa and presents and so many other aspects of Christmas. I love the traditions we have. I just don't love the pressure for all of it to be perfect, instead of how we treat each other being perfect.
This is what will really happen:

Now they've got boy/girl friends or spouses or any number of other places to go on Christmas. All our carefully constructed traditions will systematically be blown out of the water and we'll find ourselves on Christmas Eve (or day) waving at the receding car like the parents on FIDDLER ON THE ROOF as their girls go off to the Ukraine or some other back-of-beyond place. It already started to happen that way last year. Somebody has to go to another house on Christmas since they came to ours on Thanksgiving. Somebody doesn't want to dress up for the Nativity Scene so they trundle off to the boyfriend's house. And suddenly it was just the youngest who only wanted to play video games. It was a little empty. I know that's life, and I know I used to wish they were more grown up about things, but this is now.

I worry about what will happen when the kids all leave. What will Christmas look like then? I already get a glimpse when we go to church by ourselves. Lots of times we don't even ride together. I guess there is such a thing as too much peace on earth. Maybe.

Monday, November 28, 2016

How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?

If it was up to me, as a writer, I'd be stuck in revisions, obsessing over perfecting my novel. So last year I came up with a plan to write two novels in a year. The writing plan forces me to move on when I'm spending too much time in one section. Each month attacks a different step for each novel.

An explanation follows below, with a concise list afterward. While I am working on one step of novel 1, I am at a completely different spot with the novel 2. It doesn't matter how I divide my month. I might work for a week straight on novel 1, or alternate days. If I spend the first half of my month on only one novel, mid month I switch it up.

This way I am never bored, or driving myself nuts if I am sick of something.

1. & 2. Snowflake and outlining. I give myself a solid month to plan my novel. And even though it's a solid month, I'm also working on revisions for my second novel. I divide my time between the two. If I become tired of outlining, I have something else to break up the monotony.
3. While my other novel is out with beta readers, I have a month to write 50,000 words for the novel I just outlined. My own NaNo.
4,5,6 & 7. This step is filling in the gaps that my rough draft left. I read through the draft and compare to my outline. I expand scenes. I analyze the scenes to make sure they accomplish their goals.
8. I hate saving revisions until last. So I start tackling revisions as I go along. Alternating with months of analyzing my draft. I have my own personal list of revisions that I check off as I go.
9. I go back and compare everything to my notes again and expand descriptions, and even add scenes.
10. More revisions. Focusing on misused words and poor grammar.
11. Steps 4-7 again.
12. Finally time for beta readers! I give them a whole month with a very polished copy. I would hate to have them tripping over obvious typos.
13. Finish revisions list and work on suggestions from beta readers. Beta readers suggestions can be overwhelming so I allow a month to allow time to stew.
14. It's so important to edit your novel backwards and even read it out loud. You will catch many mistakes.
15 & 16. This is the polishing. Sending to an editor. Type setting. You want to allow plenty of time for this if your editor doesn't have a fast turn around. My editor is usually done in two weeks, and I edit from her suggestions for about two weeks.
17. Publish. Allow a nice month to sit back and catch your breath. Implement promotion plan.

A Year’s Writing Plan at a Glance

1.     Snowflake
2.     Waypoints and Outline
3.     Rough draft
4.     Compare to outline and waypoints. Make adjustments.
5.     Read through while scanning for mistakes and content.
6.     Elaborate scene descriptions and emotions.
7.     Scene analysis
8.     Begin Revisions list
9.     Repeat steps 4-7
10.   Continue Revisions list
11.   Repeat 4-7
12.   Beta readers. Let the novel rest while working on the other one.
13.   Finish Revision list and Beta reader suggestions.
14.   Work through novel backward while editing. Read out loud.
15.   Send to editor. Edit. Type set
16.   Final read through. Proofreads.
17.   Publish and Promote.

A chart to keep each month straight. Feel free to adjust the months based on what works for you. January and July are better NaNo months for me, so I built my calendar around those. The numbers correspond with the Year’s Writing Plan at a Glance.

Book 1
Book 2
1 & 2
4, 5, 6 & 7
15 & 16
1 & 2
4, 5, 6 & 7
15 & 16

 So how long does it take for me to write a novel? A year. Two novels in a year. This is working for 4 hours a day, five days a week.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


            The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us to be thankful. Gratitude should be part of our daily lives. Still, it’s good to take extra time to reflect on our blessings this special day. I’ll mention the 2 most important things I’m thankful for.
            Christ and his atonement is first on my list. He makes it possible to repent and return to live with God the Father of us all. We can never show Him enough gratitude. All he asks is for us to follow Him and keep his commandments. One of the most important ways to show Him gratitude is to love and serve those around us.
I’m also grateful for my family. I have the greatest husband in the world. Sure we’ve had our ups and downs as everyone does, but together we make a great team. I’m blessed with 8 children each of whom found a great spouse and they all have dazzling children. One of the super cool blessings is that they love and support each other. Some have left our faith, but they are included and loved. They love and support the rest of us. When holidays come, all of them who can come do so. Many of my friends have children who say, “If ‘Jane’ comes, I’m not going to go.” Even the grandchildren seldom fight at family events. Notice I said “seldom” not, “never.”
The list of things I’m thankful for could go on for pages, but it would make this post too long. One more thing, I’m very grateful for friends both near and far including the ones I only know on the Internet. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Circle of Influence

Valerie J. Steimle

My life has drastically changed over the last month.  My writing has taken a back burner for quite a long while but the spell was broken a few days ago when tragedy struck and I was snapped out of my fog. A good friend; a very good friend had been in an auto accident almost two years ago now.  I visited her in the hospital.  Her ankles were broken and feet just about crushed. Her wrist broken and there were other bumps and bruises that were too many to count.  But she survived. Not only did she survive but was on the mend starting out in a wheel chair and learning to walk again and then graduating to using a cane but the plates they put in her feet had caused her pain and the bone was growing around the plate.  The surgery the doctor’s scheduled was supposed to fix that and life was going to be much better for her.  But another diagnosis came up right before the surgery of Sleep Apnea and that is what got her.  She went under the anesthesia and never came out. So young at 40. So unexpected.

My whole world was spinning around when I found out.  She was a friend to many.  She had such a large circle of influence.  A marketing genius in a large company, an instructor to students in night classes, a Young Women’s leader at church, a mother, daughter, sister and wife.  The list goes on and on. She was taken to the next life leaving behind so many that she loved. So this time of reflection, when I know my friend has gone on and left behind such a hole, I think about our own lives and our own circle of influence.

Like the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, what would happen to us if someone close to us was snatched up to the next life unexpectedly and left a hole. How would the world go on without us without our good influences?  What if we were the ones taken, what kind of hole would we leave?

What are we doing in our life to help others and show that we care for them? My friend would not only ask about how we (ourselves) were doing but also about our families. I have heard this more than once from others about her. How she cared about our children and grandchildren.

From The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, President Lorenzo Snow said this: “We have been sent into the world to do good to others; and in doing good to others we do good to ourselves. We should always keep this in view, the husband in reference to his wife, the wife in reference to her husband, the children in reference to their parents, and the parents in reference to their children. There is always opportunity to do good to one another.”

The legacy my friend left behind will be felt for generations because of all the good she has done quietly and without fanfare; a wonderful example of a human being.  A circle of influence lasts forever.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

If I Only Had a Brain

I’ve been so scatterbrained lately that it makes it hard to read anything or write. It’s even harder to plot my outline for NaNoWriMo. I have six different projects I want to work on and about six first chapters that don’t have plots to go with them. All I want to do is write, but I can’t do that do that without direction.

I go through periods of mental disarray. But it’s even more frustrating because I want to be productive.

I also want to focus and read my scriptures, but that has become increasingly difficult. I can’t set mind to one task, develop a habit, and follow through.

As I sat in church this past Sunday, I pondered my dilemma. The topic in church was the Book of Mormon, and once again, I was frustrated over my scriptural study habits. But as the first speaker dove into her talk, a feeling washed over me, confirming that, no matter how often I do or don’t have an opportunity to read the Book of Mormon, I still know it’s true. I still have a strong testimony of the words, even though my memory might be lazy and I don’t always remember the chapters and verses I read. But I know the words testify of Christ and of his visits to America.

My thoughts brought to mind something I saw on a T.V. series. I am paraphrasing the actor’s words, but she said to another character, “I feel sorry for you because you can’t believe in something you can’t see.” That’s exactly how I feel. I can’t begin to understand those who don’t believe in God. I cringe when God and Jesus Christ are called myths. I feel sorry for those who cannot believe in something they can’t see. Do these people believe they have spirits? Do they believe there is a purpose to life? What do they believe about when they die? I’m sure they all believe something different, and that’s fine, but at least I know who I am, where I came from, and where I am going after die. I know this because the Holy Spirit speaks to my spirit and confirms a witness of the truth. This is something that can’t be seen, but is felt.

So back to my scattered brain. Even though I have a hard time lining up my priorities in life, and keeping my mind clear, I know and have a core base of truth to hold me steady.

My encouraging words? Hold on to what you do know, and life’s purpose and direction will eventually be clear. That’s the hope.

by Lisa Rector

Monday, October 24, 2016

I Love Having a Large Family

            Let me say at the outset. Not everybody has the privilege of having children by choice or not. We all have our own path to follow in this life. As long as we are doing our best to live a righteous life, that’s what counts in the end.
Life was hectic when my husband and I were raising our 8 children. I had a saying I heard once that kept me going. “What doesn’t get done—doesn’t get done.” I made the children a priority. Playing games with them was more important than mopping the floor daily.
            Some of them haven’t followed the path we would like. They don’t go to church, they have developed habits I don’t approve of, but they are good law-abiding people. They earn their own way and are doing a good job of raising children of their own.
            One of the blessings I have is that all of my children love each other. No matter what path they have chosen, they are siblings and help one another when needed. Holidays are a joy whether all of them gather together or not. I’ve heard it isn’t so with some of my friends. That’s sad. As adults my children help me in many ways.
            When I needed to set up a program to keep track of my writing expenses, my son, who works with figures in his job, set one up for me. He even created a small spread sheet so I can figure out what size my counted cross stitch projects will be if I use a different size of fabric than the pattern calls for.
            When I was on a mission in Thailand, I asked my daughter that’s into photography why my red flowers came out faded. She told me to stand so the sun wasn’t directly on them. That cut down the glare, and my reds were much better.
            One son works in the computer field, so I use him a lot. When he comes into town, he fixes issues and gets my computer in order. A son-in-law lives in the next town over, and he also fixes computer stuff.
            A daughter is in marketing, and helped me create a marketing plan for my writing. She’s going to help me get started on Twitter before I send out my novel Hidden Heritage in the next couple of weeks.
            I recently moved into the 21st century and now have a smart phone. Our youngest daughter has been invaluable in getting that going.
            This post isn’t long enough to tell you about all of the things my children help me with today. Each one has helped in many ways. Those things are only a side benefit. More important are the memories of camping trips, hiking together, trips to Disneyland and other amusement parks. Quiet evenings at home sharing spiritual thoughts are dear memories. I miss Christmas caroling neighbors and friends with a plate of cookies, but I carry those memories in my heart. I’m thankful we went to sporting events together. We were there, and stayed to the end of the Miracle Bowl. (Look it up on U-Tube. It’s always mentioned when sports enthusiasts mention the top 5 comeback endings in college football.) We once sang “Silent Night” in Spanish for a church Christmas program. I could go on and on, but I won’t.
Most important is the love we share with one another.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

RONE Awards

Vocal Crush won a 2016 RONE award for  Best Contemporary Sweet Romance!!!

I'm super grateful to have my efforts recognized by In D'Tale Magazine and a hefty piece of glass to set on my desk. :)

My trip to Burbank to the In D'Scribe Con was a new experience and education in the various genres of romance authors write. I had the opportunity to attend some excellent classes and meet some wonderful writers. Romance genres don't create boundaries, people do. I roomed with some amazing women, Lindzee Armstrong and Jaclyn Weist. Both are excellent authors. Go get their books!

Lindzee Armstrong
Jaclyn Weist

I wore a fantastic costume to the first ball. I added the wig and mask for pennies. Thank goodness all the stores are stocked with Halloween fare!

And my little black dress to the second. Where I got snagged by Debra Holland to pose with the male models. That is a story all it's own.

These people are serious about their parties. I dressed up every night. The last night was the black tie/red carpet affair: The RONE Gala.

I took a pic with the sweetest writer: Rachel Jones. She is truly a Georgia Peach!

And that's when I became an award winning author. I hope that doesn't give me writer's block!

I had the opportunity to share this moment with my sister whom I hadn't seen in 9 years as we live on opposite coasts. Love this woman! She inspires me. I loved having 4 days to spend in San Diego with her and her family after the conference. I hope it won't be 9 years before I see them again.

It's time to gear up for National Novel Writing Month aka NaNo in the writing community. Not sure I'm going to succeed this year with so many days unavailable to write for really good reasons: family. Plus, I'm having trouble deciding what to write about! More contemporary? A series? Regency? A modern twisted fairytale? So many options! Time to pick one and get outlining.

Please submit my latest book, On the Corner of Heartache and Love, for a Whitney Award: 
Whitney Nomination 

Thanks for all the support!

Saturday, October 15, 2016


by H. Linn Murphy

I have been very lax lately. This is only two months and two weeks late. Life has taken a much busier turn. End of excuses...;o)

So I went to a class on dialogue when at ANWACon16. I'm always up for better dialogue. However, there's at least one point I hope to contest:

The lecturer said, "You need to dump all accents and slang of the period and use only the way a person says something to indicate that person's difference."

What? I asked myself while pondering all the work I'd just done on my brand new d├ębutante work.

She somehow missed my look of abject horror amidst the sea of faces and blithely continued her journey, which otherwise offered some outstanding ideas.

"We're supposed to get, from sentence length, that Juan is from Ecuador and not Minnesota?" I asked myself under my breath.

"I think that's absurd," I told my seat partner (SP), later. "When I read a book with a handsome Scotsman in it, I hope to find a few dinna's and oots. I think portraying a Regency belle with completely modern language is silly. It makes no sense to me to have my valley girl speak the same way as my starship ensign. A character needs to have their distinct way of speaking, or it isn't believable."

SP agreed. "Of course you don't use the same words for a child as you would an adult, among other things." 

I might have plowed into the runway in a massive conflagration if not for her acknowledgement, and that of several editors and other great books I've read.

"There are, however, exceptions," I said. "Or maybe I'm taking exception and this isn't part of it. Don't use language that takes the reader out of the book. Read your work out loud to someone who doesn't think the sun shines from each of your orifices. If they get confused or lose interest, think of a better way to convey what you want to say."

SP's smile warmed my heart. "I like that. I too was worried about this problem."

"Your words have to work," I said. And it's true.

Friday, October 7, 2016

It's Going To Be Okay

Valerie J. Steimle

I just sat there watching.  Watching the garbage men throw all of our trash into this humongous collector’s truck with a big claw.  The contents were the sum of the past 24 years living in Alabama. It was piled pretty high. My husband and I raised nine children there until he passed away at fifty leaving me to raise the last five on my own for the past ten years. I became contemplative as I watched all of this mess go into the big bin and my youngest, now 17 asked, “What are you thinking?”  He knew by the look on my face that my brain was off in deep thought.

It seemed that our whole life was in the contents of that trash. There were old puzzles with missing pieces, twenty years of homeschool work, my writing drafts on paper, old bills, old clothes unfit for humans, and other stuff that no one would be interested in keeping.  Just twenty-four years of life. Though, all is not lost to me it was quite the pile and made me realize that I am sliding into the empty nester stage.  I still have those memories in my head as I have filled 10 journals and 5 photo albums with all the good we have done together.

I am moving out of this house now which pushed and shoved me into cleaning out the attic and getting rid of the clutter from nine children and two husbands.  I remarried after Bob passed but now I find myself single again. It will take some adjusting back to just me with Henry along side.  He has a year to go until his LDS Church mission so in one year I will really be on my own. That’s a scary thought. I have never really been on my own. Oh sure, I spent four years at college but I didn’t consider that on my own. I
always had roommates and I was so involved with the lives of many people around me like family and close friends, I didn’t feel on my own.  But now I am (although I am moving closer to my oldest with her four children and that will help to have family).

I have little regrets as I think about the years I have lived so far.  There are a few but for the most part of I have tried to always make the right decisions. Not only for myself but for my children and husband. I haven’t been writing lately because I just can’t find the gumption. It left me somehow. Although every so often I find myself pounding out an article that moves me and feel passionate about.

Our life here on earth is a great learning experience but sometimes I just can’t see it that way.  When I have my senses around me then I can put everything in perspective. Just recently The Piano Guys came out with a new song and video to go along with it. Listening to this song has an amazing effect on my mood and psyche. 

I had the worst Friday recently probably in all of my life (except in losing both husbands) and listening to this video lifted my spirits in an amazing way. When we are in the midst of a trial it is difficult to see the sun through the clouds. If we just hang in there, eventually everything will be okay.

Click to watch Video: It's Going to Be Okay.. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Writing Path

My writing path is crooked. I am a self-diagnosed dyslectic. When I was a pre-teen and teenager, I told stories to my nieces and nephews. I don’t remember what they were about, but the children liked them better than when I read to them. Except for one—they insisted I tell a ghost story. I don’t like ghost stories, they still give me nightmares. I pressed forward anyway. It went along pretty well, at least they were listening. Time came for the ending. It was dumb. They said so. They never asked for another ghost story.
            My big stumbling block was spelling. That followed me through high school and junior college. When I was in high school, some teachers graded B/C. The first letter was for content and second grammar and spelling. I got an A/F from a teacher who said there was no such thing—yep, you guessed it: spelling. I started 2 novels in high school. I’ll mention the one titled 5 Girls in a Trailer.
            It was about me and 4 friends taking a road trip in a trailer I’d seen. It went pretty well, except for the spelling, until I got to the Arizona-New Mexico border. I lived in southern California, and had visited Grandma Mac in Phoenix, Arizona regularly. This was my first lesson in the need to research. I didn’t know what we would see or do further east.
            When I went to the local junior college the first time (today we call them community colleges), I took what we then called Bonehead English 4 times. I knew grammar perfectly. The 4th time, the teacher said, “Miss McNeil, don’t raise your hand. I’ll call on you if nobody else knows the answer.”
            The problem once again was spelling. They didn’t teach spelling. At the end of the pass/fail class we had to write a 500 word essay. More than 5 spelling errors and you failed the class. I dropped out that semester for other reasons.
            I even gave up reading because I read so slowly. When Star Wars came out, I couldn’t read the opening credits because they went too fast. I have since conquered that, but don’t have space to delve into it here.
            Helping my children with spelling words and grammar check helped tremendously for the spelling part. When spell check catches things like “comming” enough times you learn.
            In the early 1990’s I felt a call from Heavenly Father to go back to college. This post is already too long, so I won’t go into that here either.
            After I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Literature and Writing, I started writing once again. The rest of the story is too long for this post.
The main point is, in my senior years, I’m striving to fulfill a dream that started when I was young. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

On the Corner of Heartache & Love Giveaway!

On the Corner of Heartache & Love is here!

What's it about?

Maren's stuck at the intersection of heartache and love, but happily ever after might be just around the corner.

After three years, Maren Summers is elated to finally have her dream wedding to her dream man, Kevin Bryant. In her sights is the promotion to Weddings she’s worked so hard for at the newspaper. Happily ever after is within her grasp…

Until Kevin jilts her at the altar, elopes with another woman, and becomes her boss. Devastated by the twisted turn of events Maren moves in with her best friend and notices the not-so-homeless guy on the corner, Zane Whitfield. As his heart-wrenching tale unfolds—his vow to wait a year on the corner for his lost love—Maren sees his compassionate human-interest story as her ticket away from Kevin, weddings, and her heartache. But as the New Year approaches, is Maren headed for heartache again if Zane's lost love returns or has time changed more than one heart?

Where can you get it?  Amazon

SALE! All my previous books are on sale for $0.99! Such a deal! Amazon

About the Author:

Lisa Swinton caught the romance bug early by way of fairy tales and hasn’t been able to cure it since. Instead, she feeds her addiction with romance novels and films. In between being a dottore’s wife and mother of two, she occasionally puts her B.A. in Musical Theater to good use via community theater and church choir. In her elusive spare time she enjoys researching her family tree and baking (especially with chocolate). She loves traveling, Jane Austen, and all things Italian. In her next life, she plans to be a professional organizer.
You can visit her at:

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Monday, September 12, 2016

The Enchanted Calamansi Tree

The summer before I started grade four in the Philippines, we moved from the haunted house (that's a story for another day) to a government housing unit near what I believed was an enchanted calamansi tree.

Calamansi is a round, quarter-size green citrus fruit that tastes like key lime. This tree was rounded at the top and not very tall. The reason I thought it was enchanted was it stood like a gatekeeper at the edge of a ravine that I had to jump to access sprawling undeveloped land.

I was still mourning our move from a spacious house and yard to a crowded condo situation, where our unit was one of four on the first floor of a four-story building. Our yard was narrow and small, about all that would grow were papaya trees that smelled fragrant when the fruit was ready to harvest. Water usually stood in puddles on the dirt, rife with mosquitoes that feasted on my bare legs when I played house on crates in the back. The next-door neighbor had no indoor plumbing and used their yard as their toilet until someone with authority told them to stop. Another neighbor wasn't all that friendly. The only consolation I had was a stray cat came over often and I could feed it a saucer of milk.

So, for the few remaining weeks of that summer, I escaped to my ravine, the enchanted calamansi tree appearing to me as though it glowed its welcome.

In the tract of land beyond, a river wound its way past huts, water buffaloes knee-deep in mud, and women washing their laundry in aluminum basins. Floating in the water, dark green kangkong plants that resembled spinach grew in profusion. Dragonflies as big as my pinky finger — we called them tutubing kalabaw, after water buffaloes — hovered, then landed on the kangkong leaves. I caught and released them all day.

Then one afternoon, I pulled up short at the ravine with a little gasp. Men in tractors were tearing up the land past my enchanted calamansi tree. Someone had hammered a “No Trespassing” sign into the dirt.

I ran home to my father and demanded an explanation. He said a developer was preparing the land so they could build more houses.

“But it’s our land!” I said, near tears.

He studied me for a moment, then gave me a sad smile. “Unfortunately, it never was."

The ravine seemed wider than ever as my bubble burst and reality set in. It meant I could no longer play in the river, catch dragonflies, nor tiptoe on rocks to cross the water. I could no longer escape to a fantastical world by way of my enchanted calamansi tree.

In a way, though, that tree stayed with me. It’s gone, true. Concrete and houses have taken its place, but something magical took root in me that summer. On quiet afternoons in my office, when I write my novels, I feel like I am leaping over the ravine, past the enchanted calamansi tree and into an imaginary world beyond.

Jewel Allen is an award-winning journalist, author and memoir ghostwriter. Visit her at

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Men are, that they might have joy.

by Lisa Rector
Men are, that they might have joy

 As I looked around my house, at the remnant of our family’s cookie-frosting activity, as I switched laundry from the washer to the dryer and then loaded the dishwasher and wiped down the kitchen counter and took the trash out, my purpose in life spoke to me. I didn’t think that such mundane tasks would have such meaning, but I’ve been blessed lately and my heart was full as I cleaned up, so it was open to the Spirit.

For a long time I’ve struggled with being a mother and embracing it. Even before my daughter smashed screaming from my womb, breaking my tailbone in the process. I resented motherhood for what it did to me. I became a prisoner to my hormones, fighting a depression so dark, only those who’ve been there could understand.

I celebrated my freedom from depression once again, on its five-year anniversary, August 4th. All day my heart sang praises for all my blessings, while still wondering about my purpose. Even after studying and learning that true greatness is in all the small things we do every day to serve others, I still didn’t feel what that meant.

But as I tackled my chores, with the Piano Guys playing at top volume, soaking up the beauty of what it means to be in the moment, even while wiping down floors, the Spirit whispered to me.

Men are, that they might have joy.

Heavenly Father wants us to experience joy in life and share it with others. He wants me to raise my children to grow up and feel joy and see beauty. Because of this, God made the earth for us.
Heavenly Father wants us to experience joy in life and share it with others. He wants me to raise my children to grow up and feel joy and see beauty. Because of this, God made the earth for us.

I even shared in the spirit of two woman not of my faith, who came to my door. I didn’t turn them away, but I invited them to sit on the chairs outside, and I listened to their message. They were happy people, feeling the joy of this life.

God gave me my ears to hear, my eyes to see, and my soul to feel. He gave me my life. And I can find joy in each day, even when my body is lacking energy. But His strength buoys me up and helps me feel joy in the suffering too.

I began a new book this summer, a novella. I had great plans for working on my Lost Emrys trilogy, but it wasn’t coming to me. My brain kept whispering scenes to me about this other novel I planned to start next year. The storyline is about a woman who loses everything to a selfish sister who steals her life. In the end, the main character loses so many things, but she’s able to see her purpose in life and the things that are most important, despite her tragedy. I think I was meant to discover my character and her story along with the discoveries I am making about myself. My character’s story is far from finished, and I look forward to the continued insight it will give me.

Other good things lately. I feel empowered by my weight loss. I took control back into my life. I found comfy clothes I love so I can be happy in my own body. I feel beautiful. My skin is clearer. I have much to be thankful for.

Truly, my purpose is to have joy. To embrace every moment. I am a mother. I see and know the beauty in this world. And the great secret? God made it for me.