Saturday, May 31, 2008

Girls Day Out

My mother and my cousin are visiting from KY. They came out for Megan's graduation. On Saturday, we met my sister and her friend, Candace, in Midvale for a "surprise" that she had planned for the five of us.

First, she shows up with drinks for everyone—SoBe Lean Cranberry Grapefruit. I have a new addiction!

This SoBe Lean is sweetened with Splenda so I can drink it and it's only 5 calories. Yay!

Normally I hate anything with cranberry juice in it but this stuff is great. It also contains Citrimax (from a rare tropical fruit with good stuff in it), Carnitine (an amino acid that the body uses in metabolism), and Ginseng (for energy).

I recommend it to everyone. Yum.

Then she has the new deluxe edition of Eclipse which features the Breaking Dawn cover on the reverse side of the Eclipse cover and the first chapter of Breaking Dawn in the back.

I read the chapter aloud (no, I'm not sharing any details) while we . . .

. . . had DELUXE PEDICURES! Oh my goodness. I've never had a pedicure before. Even though my girls have encouraged me to try it, I've been reluctant because I have funny toenails (due to an accident with a heavy table that resulted in the crushing of both big toes and toenails that fell out then grew in all weird). So I've been too self-conscious—but today I couldn't refuse because she'd already paid for the pedis.

It was like heaven! They massaged our feet and legs, did a hot wax treatment, then painted our toenails. We were pampered for an hour and a half as we read the Breaking Dawn chapter and sipped our SoBe drinks. I will definitely have to do that again.

And the results?

Can you tell which toes are mine?* You have to look close to notice the deformities. In fact, I was so pleased with the results that we went to Old Navy and I bought 4 pair of sandals. I haven't worn sandals since the table incident in 1995.

Here I am, modeling one of my new pair of sandals.

*Starting at the noon position and going counter-clockwise, pink toenails are Patti (cuz), Candace (friend), Mom, Me, Suan (sis).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Graduation Day

Graduation Day was wonderful! I was just a little disappointed that the mayor didn't show up and turn into a giant snake so we could chase him down and fight vampires and blow up the building, but I'll deal.*

There were a bunch of us there to hoot and holler when Megan walked across the stage to get her diploma—including my stylin' grandson, Rayder, who graced us with the presence of his cool self.

After the ceremony, we took pictures. The sun was bright and it was hard for me to see. I ended up having heads cut off in several of my shots. :( But here are enough to give you the idea of how happy the day was.

Megan and her proud parents: Jim & Karlene

Megan and "the boys"
Stephen (BIL), Jim (Dad 2), Rayder (nephew), Craig (Dad 1), Grandpa Ross (Craig's Dad)

Megan and "the girls"
Karlene (Mom 1), Grandma Lucy (Karlene's Mom from KY), Rayder (he gets to be in both photos because he's just cool), Melanie (sis & Rayder's mom), McKenna (sis–back),
Elle (sis–front), Whitney (Mom 2)

Megan & Patti
(my cousin from KY who somehow missed being in the photo with all the girls)

And one of my fav photos of the day: Megan and her sistahs
McKenna, Elle, and Melanie

(Megan's brothers aren't in these photos. Christopher was working and
I didn't know Austin was there. He showed up as we were leaving. Sorry, Austin.)

*Click here

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tackle It Tuesday: The Freezer

As I was cleaning out my freezer, I thought of so many funny, funny things I could say in this post. Now that I'm sitting in front of the computer, the brain is empty.

Here is the before:
I should be embarrassed to say that I threw out meat that was dated "Use by Feb 12, 2005." There were also several ice cream containers with one scoop of ice cream left in them and 4 scoops of freezer-burn ice. Bluh.

Here is the after:
Good news is I found a frozen lasagna that's still good. Looks like we'll have dinner this week.

And here's the freezer door with my frozen mac and cheese neatly in a row:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where did the time go?

Today is my baby's last real day of high school.

Monday is a holiday.

Tuesday they practice for graduation.

Wednesday is Senior Sluff Day (which she is sluffing because she doesn't like the activity).

Thursday is GRADUATION.

And Friday—do they really expect already graduated seniors to come back for the last day of school?

So, today is a milestone for her. And for me. And I don't know whether to dance for joy or curl up in my bed and cry.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston

Last month, I read Season of Sacrifice, a new book by historical author, Tristi Pinkston. I've been waiting for her blog tour (which kicked off May 1) to post the review. It was almost too long to wait because I was impatient to share this book with others.

Sarah Williams is a young Welsh immigrant, coming to Utah to join her sister Mary Ann Perkins. When the Perkins are asked to join the San Juan mission to pioneer a trail through Southern Utah, they take Sarah along to help care for the children. But a six-week journey turns into six agonizing months of hard work and toil as the Saints blast their way through a cliff to bring their wagons through what would become the famous Utah landmark "Hole in the Rock." Finally settled in the San Juan, Sarah's true hardship begins when Ben Perkins asks her to be his second wife. With their faith and testimonies challenged to the core, both Sarah and Mary Ann struggle to find the true meaning of Christ-like love and obedience. Will they make it through?

I was very impressed by the sacrifices Ben, Mary Ann and Sarah made. They struggled to survive, to stay together as a family, and to live according to their beliefs. Several times since reading the book, when faced with a challenge of my own, I have remembered their steadfastness and perseverance and it has inspired me to keep going. You can purchase this book of strength and courage at Tristi's website.

I'm excited to share this interview with Tristi with all of you.

What spurred your interest in writing Season of Sacrifice?
We've had a red family history book sitting around in my house for ages, and I just picked it up and started to read it one day. It was one of those things that I figured I'd get around to, probably when I was eighty, but for some reason the book spoke to me and I picked it up. I was immediately drawn into the story, and it is that book that provided the backbone for the novel I would eventually write. As I read, I felt compelled to tell the story of my ancestors in a way that would reach many people, and not just my family.

This book is really Sarah's story. She is your great, great grandmother, right?
She is. She and Ben had a daughter named Sarah Elizabeth, who was known as Sade, who then had a daughter named Thora, who had a son named Joel, who was my father.

How has knowing Sarah's story helped you with your own life challenges?
Sarah, to me, is the perfect example of unquestioning obedience. She really struggled with her decision to become a plural wife, but once she gained the testimony for herself, she never wavered. She did without for most of her life, not wanting to strain the overall family finances. She worked hard every day to provide for her children. Her testimony was her rock and her foundation. Whenever I feel sorry for myself or wonder just how I'm going to make it through, I think about Sarah and how her close relationship with Jesus Christ sustained her. And that helps me keep my priorities in check.

How did you find out all this information about your ancestors?
In addition to the red book, I was blessed to have another volume of family history loaned to me by my father. It had belonged to my grandmother, and when I opened it up, I found typewritten sheets that were my great-great-grandfather's journal and life story. From these sheets, I was able to take many quotes of things he actually said. I also found quite a lot online—as Utah celebrities, so to speak, they were featured on many websites.

I'm sure your family will cherish this book, but it really has an appeal and an influence on others as well. I was very inspired by their struggles and their commitment to continue on in faith, regardless of the cost. Did you know as you were writing it that it would touch others outside your family?
I didn't know it, but I hoped it, and so far, I've been proven right. I did have a lot of author friends say to me, "How sweet that you're writing a family history story, but you know, no one is going to buy it." They were looking out for my best interests, but I knew then as I know now that this isn't just any family history story. My reviews have been fabulous and I'm thrilled to be sharing the story in such a public way. It deserves to be told. These pioneers deserve to be remembered.

Other than the setting, how is this book different from your other two, Nothing to Regret and Strength to Endure?
Nothing to Regret and Strength to Endure are both largely fiction. I set my stories against a historical backdrop and wove factual details in throughout, but Season of Sacrifice is mostly history. I only added emotions and details—everything else in the book comes straight from history. I classify it as a historical novel rather than a historical fiction novel for that very reason.

Was the writing experience different because you are related to these characters? Did that make it easier or harder to write the story?
It was very different because everything had a personal meaning to me. I felt more of a compulsion to get it right. I didn't want to say anything that would lessen the greatness of their lives. I wanted this book to be a memorial to them and I felt that pressure keenly. At the same time, I truly felt that they helped me from beyond the veil. The entire book was written in eighty hours, which is unheard of for me.

Was there a moment in your life when you knew you were destined to be a writer?
For me, there wasn't a moment—it's been inside me my entire life. I started writing at the age of five and have never stopped. I just always, instinctively, knew this was what I wanted to do. I really identified with the characters of Jo and Anne in Little Women and Anne of Green Gables respectively—I knew how badly they wanted to be published and I felt their angst.

Are there any "tricks" you use to keep yourself motivated to write?
I don't try to force it. If it's not coming, it's not coming, and I can't make it. I'm a very from-the-guts kind of writer, and if my guts aren't in the mood, I don't write. This had led to several hiatuses, but they were needed. I do find that taking long baths and showers and just letting the story flow through my mind at the same time helps to keep the ideas coming.

What advice would you give a beginning writer?
Just sit down and write the book. Don't think, "I'd like to write a book someday." Write it now. Stop waiting for the time to magically appear, because it won't. Make it. Carve it out of stone, if you have to. And then don't be afraid to take criticism. Let people read for you and tell you how you can improve.

What do you have in the works? What book are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on a comedy/mystery called Secret Sisters. I'm having so much fun with this book and really feeling the joy of the craft. Then I'm going to be reworking a Depression-era novel I wrote a couple of years ago. I've got other things slated, but those are my two projects for right now.

Get to know Tristi better by visiting her blog. All of Tristi Pinkston's books are available for purchase at her website.

UB Make & Take Workshop

I know this is Memorial Day weekend coming up and a lot of people will be off camping or whatever. It's also very short notice, but I'm just lucky I'm posting this today and not Friday. But anyway, I'm doing one of my fabulously fun Urban Botanic Make and Take Workshops on Saturday.

Come create a new fragrance for summer!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (Drop in any time)

Location: Pleasant Grove (
e-mail for directions)

If you live in (or will be visiting) Utah County this weekend, come make something fun and yummy at my Make and Take Party!

  • Drench yourself in lilac or honeysuckle

  • Choose one of our three magnificent musks to create something for a hot summer night

  • Or try one of several new recipes, like Sunshine and Pomegranate (aka I Died and Went to Heaven!)

  • 10% off all orders placed at the Make and Take workshop

  • Bring a friend who's new to Urban Botanic and both you and your friend receive a free gift!

Questions? Send me an e-mail.

See the new Home Collections HERE.

See the new unscented product packages HERE.

Take the personality test HERE.

*Promotional pricing and discounts only available at the Make and Take workshop.

*Due to changes in the new Urban Botanic party format, I will no longer be doing Make & Take workshops outside my home.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Honoring Miss Snark . . .

I miss Miss Snark. She retired her blog a year ago today. LDS Publisher is great, but Miss Snark was just, well, snarkily hilarious.

Your Refrigerator and You: The Key to Your Inner Psyche

Okay, okay. I know there's no such thing as an "outer" psyche, but it flows better. Really. Say it out loud:

Your Refrigerator and You: The Key to Your Psyche

Your Refrigerator and You: The Key to Your Inner Psyche


Anyway, I cleaned out my refrigerator this morning as part of my I'll-get-organized- if-it-kills-me! project. Here's the Before photo.

I'm really an organized person. Really. Just because you can't prove it by the shape my house is in doesn't mean it isn't so. "A place for everything and everything in its place" is not a platitude for me. It's how I would live if I were in control of my life.

Take, for instance, my fridge. I like my fridge organized just so. When I want a nouggie, I want to be able to open my fridge door and know exactly where to look for it. I want it to be in the same place every time. If there are no nouggies in the nouggie spot (heaven forbid), I want it to be because I've eaten them all—not because they are scattered across every shelf.

So, how did my fridge get this way?

Well, never mind that. The real question is, WHY did I let it get this way.

I don't know the answer to that either.

So on to the after photo.

Isn't that just beautiful? I wanted to label each of the shelves so my fam would know where to put things away, but the batteries were dead. :(

So what did I learn about my inner psyche? I'm probably more OCD than I thought I was.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I won!

Remember the short story contest I told you about?

My story, Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails, won Publishers Choice in the published author category.

Here's the link to proof that I won.

Here's the link to my story.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Have you been here, done this?

Yesterday ended up being a rough day. I had to run 7,246 errands. I finished all but one.
My errands included going to the mall, which I loathe. If I could stay home and do all my shopping via the Internet, I would—but there's this whole it-takes-too-long-to-ship-it-here thing and I needed stuff that very night—stuff that could only be found at the mall.

While walking the mall looking for my stuff, I passed Mrs. Cavanaugh's and got some sugar free chocolate covered raisins.
This particular treat is very hard to find. Usually when I happen upon them, I get a small bag. But I needed to reward myself for braving the mall, so I got a whole pound. As I was running the rest of my errands, I ate a few handfuls. They were delicious.

By the time I got home, several long and torturous hours later, I was exhausted. And sick.
Sick that required lots of laying on my bed with very loud moaning and groaning, which I fully indulged in because I was the only one at home.

I felt a tad better later in the day, but not much. I went to bed early and watched TV. To console myself for feeling so miserable, I ate half the bag a few more of the yummy raisins. Around 10:00 p.m. I was really feeling sick again, but the moaning and groaning was done softly because I didn't want to wake my daughter or worry my husband.

This morning, I still feel icky. I slept in until nearly 9:17 a.m. I then drug myself out of bed and forced myself to read my favorite blogs do my most pressing chores. I also checked up on some of my attempts to find semi-legitimate employment—employment where I will be highly esteemed and respected by my peers, as well as paid a lot of money to do very little actual work. It seems nobody wants me under those conditions so to ameliorate the sadness, I took a rest and ate more of those absolutely scrumptious raisins.

Within minutes of eating the second handful, I was SICK WITH A VENGEANCE, once again requiring lots of very loud moaning and groaning, which again I indulged in because it's only me and the dog here and he pays no attention to me at all, what with being involved in some very important work of his own.
It was in the midst of today's third violent session of moaning and groaning that I made the quick and astute connection between said moaning and groaning and the delicious sugar free chocolate covered raisins, of which I'd only eaten a very few. . .

Some people are just born brilliant.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Oh. My. Gosh.

I loved The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I've read her Twilight books, and aside from the fact that they're romance and Bella is an idiot, I've liked them just fine. In fact, I liked them well enough to create fragrances for some of the characters. But I'm not going to stand in line at midnight to get book #4. (Oh, wait. Actually, I am—but only because my sister and some other friends are having a Girls Night Out on the evening of the debut and we've decided to include that in our plans. But I digress.)

But this one? The Host? I'll stand in line at midnight for the sequel! (Okay, no. I probably won't because I turn into a pumpkin around 10:00 p.m. BUT I'll be at Wal-Mart around 6:00 a.m. to get my reserved copy.)

Anyway, back to the book itself. I loved it. Oh, yeh. I said that already. Here's the promo:

Earth has been invaded by aliens. The war is over and we lost. Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

This is billed as a romance, a love-triangle, but for me there was enough thrills and excitement, suspense, and action that I totally didn't mind the brief kissy-face interludes. Told from Wanderer's perspective, this is a great look at interaction between species, and what it means to be human. Sometimes the pace is a bit slow, but I liked that. For me, that was part of it's charm. It gave me some space to breathe in between the tension.

And I loved the way she ended chapter 58. I'm all, "What the HECK?!" It can't end this way. Thank goodness I turned the next too pages. (Stephenie's kind of clever that way.)

I found this story to have interest and depth. The characters were well-formed and consistent. The plot and logic worked for me. I just really liked it. It's going on my list of all-time favorites. I even have two copies of it—Megan gave it to me for Mother's Day, and then I got a signed copy when Stephenie Meyer came to town. My sister stood in line to get her's autographed and got one for me as well. (Thanks so much!)

I absolutely LOVED this book and give it a resounding 5 out of 5!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tackle It Tuesday: Some Kitchen Cabinets

I decided to do the Tackle It Tuesdays with my home makeover project, only I can't remember who hosts it. If anyone knows, please leave the URL in the comments section so I can play.

Today I worked on three kitchen cabinets. This first one we call the "treat" cabinet:
This is where we keep all the treats for the kids. They can eat anything in this cabinet without asking. I know, I can hear the gasps now. But my kids did not abuse this, as you can see in the "after" photo.
Things I threw out of this cabinet: 5 pounds of miscellaneous candy (leftovers from Halloween, Christmas, Easter, . . .), 2 packages of stale cookies, 3 partial boxes of very old microwave popcorn, and a few other this and that's.

Wondering why there's so much tomato soup in the treat cabinet? Megan took tomato soup for lunch for quite awhile. Then she got tired of it and this is what's left.

Next I tackled the "snack" cabinet. This is where we keep the baby snacks, the adult snacks, the dog and cat snacks, and the chips. Hard to tell them apart in this "before" photo:
Okay, about all those bags of chips...I only eat tortilla chips when I make nachos. I want my nachos to be big. When we get down to the end of the bag, the chips are all little and crumbly and don't do well for nachos. DH is supposed to be eating them but he's behind schedule. I took 7 partial bags of chips and put them all into one big bag for him. Aren't I a good wife?

Also tossed from this cabinet were expired hot chocolate, old stale crackers, and peanut butter that no one liked (plus it was about 8 years old). I feel bad about this because I'm sure there are hungry children somewhere nearby who would have loved to eat these things before they went bad, but . . . I'll do better in the future, I promise.

Last, I went through the "cereal" cabinet.
This one wasn't too hard because most of those boxes were empty or very nearly so. Don't ask me why I have so many empty boxes in the cabinet. I blame it on the kitchen elves.
Much prettier now. The sad thing is, I came across a cool bowl my sister gave me when my kids were little.

I kept this bowl out on the counter for years and it always contained little snacks and treats that the kids could have whenever they wanted. (Once again, amazingly, they did not abuse this.)

Look at it now.
I have no more little kids, no reason to fill up the bowl. (I'm tearing up now.)

I'll put it away for a year or two and then fill it up for my grandkids.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull is book #3 in the Fablehaven series. I didn't get reviews posted of either of the first two books, but I gave them both a 4.5 out of 5.

I really like this series and suggest it for middle grade readers and people who love simple fantasy.

Strange things are afoot at Fablehaven. Someone or something has released a plague that transforms beings of light into creatures of darkness. Seth discovers the problem in its infancy, but as the infectious disease spreads, it becomes clear that the preserve cannot hold out for long.

In dire need of help, the Sorensons question where to turn. The Sphinx has always given sound advice—but is he a traitor? Inside the Quiet Box, Vanessa might have information that could lead to a cure—but can she be trusted?

Meanwhile, Kendra and members of the Knights of the Dawn must journey to a distant preserve and retrieve another hidden artifact. Will the Society of the Evening Star recover it first? Will the plague eclipse all light at Fablehaven? Find out in
Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague.

I felt this book could have been edited just a bit tighter, losing maybe 50 pages. There were a few places where it went on longer than needed. Also, I have an issue with this cover. The first two books had their villains on the cover. The centaurs in this book are not villians. Their one of the good guys, even if they are kind of snooty about it. The illustration that should be on the cover is the one of Ephira (pg 459). I think it would have looked really cool. But boys won't read books with girls on the cover, so I'm sure that's why they went with the centaur. But still. Ticks me off a bit.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. We get to see Kendra again for awhile. We discover a few more secrets about Fablehaven's past and Kendra's powers. Seth acts a bit more responsibly. The satyrs are still incredibly funny (they're my favorite characters). I'm looking forward to book #4.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

The angel checked the list of names of the spirits due to head down to Earth soon. Only one more needed placement.

She tipped the clipboard so God could see the last name on the list.

“Where are we going to send her?” the angel asked. “She’s a unique one.”

“They all are,” said God with a smile. “But you’re right, this one requires some thought. She has a gentle heart. If we send her some place too harsh, it will break her.”

“Gentle heart?” the angel asked. “Did you hear how she snapped at me yesterday? That one has a critical streak in her. She was upset because we’d placed the flower bed too close to the fountain and the mist from the water sprayed her in the face when she leaned over to smell the roses.”

God chuckled. “Yes, she is a little sensitive to physical discomfort. We’ll have to find a family that will be understanding of that. And we'll need a mother who will teach her to be sweet to those in need and accepting of those who are different; someone who doesn't gossip and who never speaks an unkind word about anyone.”

“This spirit is not very observant of those around her, either," said the angel. "Last week, I could have used some help moving the baby spirits to a new nursery. I must have walked past her twenty times, loaded down with boxes. But there she sat with her nose stuck in a book. She didn’t even notice I needed help!”

“Hmmm, yes. She is a bit self-involved—”

The angel snorted.

“Perhaps more than a bit,” God conceded. “But it’s not because she doesn’t want to help or won’t help if you ask her. She simply focuses so hard on what’s immediately in front of her that she doesn’t notice what’s going on around her. We’ll need to put her with a mother who can teach her to look beyond herself; a mother who is very, very good at giving service to others; a mother who will drag her along and make her help give service to the needy and the elderly. This spirit will need the constant reminder that a mother’s good example offers.”

"A good mother like that is going to be hard to find,” muttered the angel. “We have so few of them. Seems a shame to waste one on this spirit.”

“Waste?” asked God with a frown.

“Poor choice of words. But you know what I mean. Will this one even notice?”

“Given time, I think she will—especially when she grows up and is out on her own. She'll face situations where she won't know what to do and say. And she'll think to herself, 'If my mother were here, what would she do?' and then she'll go and do it."

"Well, if you say so," said the angel. "Are there any other attributes we need to consider?”

“She needs a mother who will encourage her talents; a mother who will praise this spirit's attempts at being creative, at writing—because when she faces the criticism of the world, she'll need the echo of her mother's words to keep her going. She'll need a mother who will be there for her, no matter what; who will support her through the hard times because she’s going to face more than a few of those. She needs a mother who will teach her my gospel and show by example how to live it. She needs a mother who will point out all the beautiful things of the world, who will help her work hard, who will be a bright and shining inspiration to her all the days of her life.”

The angel was stumped. She tapped her pencil on the clipboard, thinking hard. "I'm not sure we have anyone like that."

God smiled. “Yes, we do. I know just the mother for her. . .”

Happy Mother's Day to the most wonderful woman I've ever met—stunningly beautiful, inside and out. Blessed with so many talents and wonderful gifts of the spirit, you have been such a light and a strength to me. I never go wrong when I'm following your example. The greatest compliment I ever get is when people tell me that I am like you.

I cannot imagine a more perfect mother than you. I love you.


Friday, May 09, 2008

I may not be a techno-geek, but...

Back in August 2006, I set up some blogs for my publishing company, Rosehaven. The main blog would allow me to do some marketing, as well as give authors who had submitted manuscripts to me a quick and easy way to check up on the status of their submission. I captured 4 other blog URLs that I intended to use in the future to help promote LDS books and authors.

Authors loved the original blog (especially the status pages, which have now been deleted) and it worked really well—except for the fact that my company closed 4 months later. With all the turmoil of moving and closing down, I forgot I had those blogs.

Then back in January, LDS Publisher asked if I was ever going to use THIS blog, and if not, could she have it. I was happy to give it to her but—uhm—I couldn't remember my user name or password and the file where I kept that info had been blown to smithereens when my computer crashed. I spent hours upon hours determinedly attempting to remember how to access the blogs, testing every user name and password combo I have every used, but no luck.

She ended up using THIS blog URL instead—and she's so mad she's barely speaking to me anymore. (Actually, that's not true. She's punishing me by making me help with the posts for the LDS Fiction blog.)

But anyway, that's a very long backstory to say that today, I tried again to access those blogs—and after 2 hours (added to nearly 10 hours spread over the past 5 months), I DID IT!

While I couldn't set the blogs up with the original Rosehaven Google ID (it wouldn't let me; I don't know why), I was able to add them to this profile. Yea!

I am so proud of myself. While I probably won't win any techno-geek awards for this, I think I deserve a smoothie or something. It s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d my brain to the limit.

I'll be releasing most of the blog URLs back into the ether soon, but I want to wait a few days, to enjoy the fact that I can, indeed, access them now.

And that, dear friends, is my home makeover/declutter project for this week.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Short Story Contest

I'm a regular reader over at LDS Publisher. The other day she was complaining that she doesn't have enough stories submitted for her short story contest. Since a lot of you are writers, I thought I'd give you a heads up. I know this is short notice, but this contest doesn't have a lot of rules.

Basic rules:
Summer has to be featured in the story in some way.

500 to 1500 words; unpublished story; any genre.

Deadline: Friday, May 9th.

You can use a story that you've written years ago, as long as it meets the other criteria. So go through your files and submit something!

And there are books for prizes!

Click here for official rules and details.

I've submitted a piece, but I can't tell you which one because they're allowing readers to vote starting next week. But I'm SURE you guys can give me a run for my money. SUBMIT!

(P.S. — If you're not LDS, no problem. Story does not have to have anything to do with religion.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Two Reviews for Middle Grade Fantasy Lovers

The Spring Reading Thing is just past the halfway mark. I'm making good time on my fiction list; not so good on the non-fiction—and behind on the reviews. I read Season of Sacrifice, but won't post my review until May 21st, when Tristi visits my blog on her virtual book tour. But I do have two books for a quick review.

Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham (aka Rebecca Shelley, who I met at a writers conference in March; she is very nice) is part of the Dragonlance series for middle graders—readers ages 9 to 12. Inspired by A Practical Guide to Dragons by Lisa Trumbauer, the codices are written by fictional character, R.D. Henham, "a scribe in the great library of Palanthas. In the course of transcribing stories of legendary dragons, the author felt a gap existed in the story of the everydragon: ordinary dragons who end up doing extraordinary things. With the help of fellow scribes, R.D. had filled that gap with the Dragon Codices." There will be a total of ten books, one for each color of dragon. Cute idea and I think it will be well received by its intended age group. The Bronze Dragon Codex and Black Dragon Codex will be released later this year.

Mudd and his sister, Hiera, race to find a key to open a door that will lead them to the silver dragon, who will hopefully help them rescue their friend and teacher who was kidnapped by the evil red dragon. They are aided on their journey by a young dwarf named Drakecutter (who seeks to save his father's life by retrieving a magical ax stolen by the red dragon), Iroden (a possibly enchanted elf who seeks to be returned to his natural state), and Kirak (who may or may not be human).

I liked the basic plot and storyline of this book. I thought it had a lot of potential but I felt the characterization was a little weak. There needed to be more foreshadowing of the characters' attributes—for example, partway thought the book, Mudd decides he needs to break into a library. We suddenly discover he's got a passion for picking locks and carries lock pick tools with him everywhere. This should have come out much earlier in the story.

Also, the author (or perhaps the editor/publisher) is part of an evil group of people determined to delete all the irregular verbs from the English language. (This is a pet peeve of mine and I can rant about it for several minutes at a time without taking a breath.) When I read that the dragon dived (DOVE), and leaped (LEAPT) and pleaded (PLED), it's worse than fingernails on a chalboard.

I rate this book a 3.75 out of 5. Perfect for 4th though 6th graders, but older teens or adults will find it a little lacking in depth.

Professor Windsnicker's Book of Proper Etiquette for Well-Mannered Sycophants, by Clover Ernest/Obert Skye, is a support book for the Leven Thumps series of books by Obert Skye (beginning with Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo). This is the "training manual" for sycophants, like Leven's friend, Clover, and Winter's, Lilly. It won't make a lot of sense unless you've read the series.

Written in the style of a textbook, Professor Windsnicker lectures the sycophants-in-training on how to properly do their jobs. Chapters include "Grooming and Robe Maintenance," "Dealing with Name Changes," and "Appropriate Places to Sit" (as in, sitting on your 'burn'—the person you are helping.) At the end of each chapter, we have Clover's notes on the Professor's topics—we learn things about him that aren't in the regular books, such as his developing feelings for Lilly, Winter's helper.

The humor in this book comes from the exposed ignorance of Professor Winsnicker. For example, a sycophant (as Windsnicker refers to his pupils) is "a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite" (see which is exactly what Windsnicker is revealed as, while Clover and Lilly and others of their ilk are actually altruistic helpers to those trying to save Foo. I loved Clover's doodles which are scattered across nearly every page.

I rate this book a 3.75 out of 5. If you are a Foo fan and own every book in hardcover, then this is a must for your collection. You will love this little book as well. If you're a casual reader of Foo, check it out from the library. It's good for an afternoon of chuckles.

Although I've already reviewed both of Stephanie Black's books, Fool Me Twice and The Believer, I want to just brag for a moment. I met the gifted and talented, albeit twisted, Stephanie Black this past weekend at a book signing in Orem.

It was great to meet her in person and spend a few minutes one-on-one with her. I had intended to take photos to prove I'd met someone so brilliant and auspicious, but I forgot—so you'll just have to take my word for it.

If you haven't already read her books, put them at the top of your reading list. They are both wonderful. Unfortunately, you may have to find The Believer at the library because it's currently out of print, although a few bookstores may have one or two copies still on the shelves. I have two copies of this book. Maybe I'll use one as an upcoming prize for my Summer Reading Challenge (to begin on June 20th).

Monday, May 05, 2008

Spahetti muscles be darned!

In my imagination, I am an Amazon Woman.

I am strong. I am healthy. I can move furniture, and plant gardens, run marathons, hike in the mountains, lift boxes, take road trips, and do all the interesting and fascinating things that my mind dreams up.

In reality, I am the proverbial 98 pound weakling—

—except I'm a woman and I weigh a little bit more than 98 pounds.

When I was in 6th grade, my P.E. teacher told my mother I had muscles like cooked spaghetti. That has not changed in the years since then.

And speaking of my mother, she's always been a big supporter of my dreams and ideas—my biggest fan. She has always encouraged me to try new things, to be brave. But one time I told her I wanted to live on a farm and grow vegetables and have horses and chickens. The thought of ME doing the physical labor required by a life on the farm had her laughing so hard tears were literally streaming down her cheeks and she could hardly catch her breath. For 10 minutes straight. Her face turned bright red, bordering on purple. Even after she calmed herself down, for the next few hours, every time she'd look at me she'd make this funny snorting kind of noise and have to excuse herself to go laugh in the other room (to spare my sensitive feelings, I presume).

I was so well-known for my lack of strength and stamina that my cousins once had this calf that was so skinny and sickly they didn't expect it to live. They named it after me.

The great divide between my mind (who I think I am, what I think I can do) and my physical body (who I am, what I actually can do) gives the Grand Canyon a run for its money. It's been this way for my entire conscious memory of life on this planet. I've spent a good portion of time puzzling over this: why would God give me so many wonderful ideas and the desire to do so many, many different things, yet not give me the strength and the stamina to do them? I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned in there somewhere but I haven't got it yet.

But—on to the practical application of all this: the Home Makeover aka Clean Sweep aka getting-all-the-crap-out-of-my-way-so-I-can-breathe that I started 19 months ago is still an ongoing project. I will start on a room, then get so overwhelmed and tired out that very little gets done. In 19 months, I have cleaned and organized my DH's room. I have cleaned and partially organized the living room, with the exception of the bookshelves. And I have painted and moved into my room, but it is not yet organized. I also had a huge yard sale and got rid of several truck loads of stuff, but you wouldn't know it by looking in the garage now.

So, I've decided that even though I move very, very slowly and I can't just whirl through my house and dejunk it the way an Amazon Woman would, I am re-committing to doing a little something each week.

With before and after photos.

And I expect appropriate cheering and compliments in the comments section.

This week's project? I'll decide after I take a nap.

See more artwork by Marty Devine here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

[This is a good review. I promise.]

Before I talk about The Journal of Curious Letters, I have to say something about the only other James Dashner book I've ever read. Dashner has a series of four books, the Jimmy Fincher saga, that begins with A Door in the Woods. I bought this book because one of my children (then in 5th grade) really liked it.

I so hoped that I would like A Door in the Woods because I'd met James Dashner a couple of times and he's a very funny and likeable guy. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. While the basic plot was good, there were a few places where it got cloudy and confusing. I didn't much care for his writing style—written in first person, Jimmy Fincher would refer to himself as "scrawny," etc.—things kids would not really say. I felt the author was trying to force it, and sounded a little too much like an adult trying to talk like a kid. There were also some typos and grammar mistakes, more than I think a published book should have. While I'm sure 5th grade boys love this book (and the entire series, for that matter), it didn't cross over into a story that older teens and adults would like. (IMHO)

So when The Journal of Curious Letters came out and it starting getting a buzz about it, I was a little reluctant to plunk down the bucks to get it. First, it's hardcover, therefore a little more expensive. Second, I love fantasy and nothing ticks me off more than a poorly done fantasy story. Third, I really like James Dashner as a person and I really wanted to like his book, but I was afraid it was going to be too much like the Jimmy Fincher series for me. My plan was to check it out from the library, but it was on terminal hold. So. When I found it on sale ($2 off is still a sale), I gritted my teeth, bought the book and hoped for the best.

Boy, howdy! Was that the best $15 and change I've ever spent! I LOVED THIS BOOK! (Yes, I'm yelling it—ergo the capital letters—in a very high pitched squeal—ergo the colored text.) In fact, this is my favorite book so far this year.

Okay, so here's a little bit about it:
What if every time you made a choice that had a significant consequence, a new, alternate reality was created — the life that would've been had you made the other choice? What if those new realities were in danger? What if it fell to you to save all the realities?

Atticus Higginbottom, a.k.a. Tick, is an average thirteen-year-old boy until the day a strange letter arrives in his mailbox. Postmarked from Alaska and cryptically signed with the initials "M.G.," the letter informs Tick that dangerous--perhaps even deadly — events have been set in motion that could result in the destruction of reality itself. M.G. promises to send Tick twelve riddles that will reveal on a certain day, at a certain time, at a certain place, something extraordinary will happen. Will Tick have the courage to follow the twelve clues M.G. sends to him? Will he be able to solve the riddles in time? Will Tick discover the life he was meant to live?The first volume of an outstanding new children's fantasy series, The Journal of Curious Letters is filled with adventure, humor, riddles, and, oh, yes — danger. . . As M.G. warns Tick, Very frightening things are coming your way. Will you join Tick and his friends on an amazing journey through the Realities? What will your choice be?

I read some reviews of this book that say, "there are chunks of text that are overwritten" and "moves a little sluggishly." I disagree. There were slower parts, but that gives you time to catch your breath. The characters were fun and funny. I really liked Tick's personality. I like that he lives at home with both his parents, in a loving family. The plot is solid; it surprised me with unexpected twists and turns. Some of the "clues" were really tough to figure out. (Okay. I confess. Some I couldn't figure out on my own but I'm not a genius like Tick.) I liked that the magic was somewhat tied into science. And the book gave us a satisfying ending while still leaving us leaning (if not hanging) over that proverbial cliff while we for the next book.

I absolutely LOVED this book and give it a whole-hearted 5 out of 5!

(If James Dashner reads this review, I hope my raving endorsement of The Journal of Curious Letters makes up for my negative comments about The Door in the Woods. So why did I start this review with those negative comments? Because other fantasy fanatics I know didn't care too much for The Door in the Woods either. We've talked about it. I want THEM to know that The Journal of Curious Letters is VERY GOOD. That it's worth the money to go BUY IT. Also, this is NOT a paid endorsement.)