Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It takes a village

Several times over the past week, I've heard the comment "It takes a village to raise a child." This comment is often followed by the phrase, "And it takes a village to bury one." In this case, we buried two.

Tragedies come in all shapes and sizes. Some affect only a few people, others concern millions. This week as the news has been all about the wildfires in Southern California, a family in my community experienced a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. Two young children, twin boys, drowned in a bathtub. What comes to mind first when reading this? Where were the parents? Who would leave young children unattended in the bath? These common questions led to a number of negative blogs and reports, harsh comments that could only add to the unbearable agony of the parents and family members of these young boys.

I heard of the accident shortly after it happened. The news literally took my breath away. This couldn't be true. These precious little boys couldn't be gone. I couldn't fathom how the accident had occurred, but I did know that I didn't have the whole story. Knowing the parents, I couldn't imagine the boys being left unattended, especially in the bath. Perhaps the reason I couldn't imagine it was because the reality was so completely different from what the news had led people to believe.

The twins hadn't been left in the tub. They had gotten there all by themselves. How they bypassed several safety measures, we aren't sure. What I do know is that the outpouring of love this family has received has been simply overwhelming.

Their hearts are still broken. This new reality is one they don't want to live in, yet they have experienced so much love and kindness and their home is constantly filled to overflowing with people wanting to help. The parents want to celebrate the lives of their children who were taken so early from this life and so many people want to help them remember the good times.

Friends and family have traveled from all over the world. Neighbors and acquaintances have bonded together, each offering their unique talents to give the family as much support as possible. No one can bring their beloved twins back, but perhaps together family, friends, neighbors, and yes even our little village, can lift them up as they mourn their loss and learn to heal and hope again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Target Practice

As I picked up my son at preschool today, the ground rocked from a round of artillery at the nearby military base. He stopped walking and looked up at me to ask, "What was that?" It took me a minute to figure out what he was asking about. After all, over the past dozen years I've gotten used to the sound of artillery in the distance and the ground shaking on occasion.

Until Luke asked the question, I hadn't thought about the fact that the firing ranges have been relatively quiet over the past few months. I can only guess that the drought has limited the military's ability to use some of the ranges for fear of wildfires. Last night it rained for the first time in weeks giving Virginia a little relief from the drought, and the Marines are clearly taking advantage of the wet fields.

As the ground shook again, I stood in the middle of the sidewalk next to my son's school and tried to find a way to put into words what was going on at the military base. After all, I'm a writer. I should be able to describe something as simple as an artillery shooting range to a three-year-old. Still, I found myself hesitant to use words like bombs and guns. It's not the kind of stuff you want to tell a little boy about when they're being fired close enough to rattle his school and house.

Before I managed to find an adequate answer, a teenager walked out of the school with his mom. Another round went off and the boy nodded in the direction of the base. "Sounds like the Marines are having target practice again."

Luke looked up at me and said, "Mom, it's target practice."

Gee, why couldn't I have thought of that?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Have you read a Whitney lately?

I have been asked to blog today on the Whitney awards and the exciting news that ExclusivelyLDS.com is sponsoring this new award program which will now award cash prizes to the winners as well as trophies.

If you haven't heard of the Whitney awards, well, I hadn't either until August. In fact, the first time I heard mention of them was when I was notified that I had been nominated for one. When I was out in Utah for the LDS Booksellers Convention, the booth for the Whitney awards was near my publisher's booth so I was able to ask about them. The Whitney Awards are brand new, beginning with books published in 2007. Here are the basics:

To be eligible for a Whitney award, books have to have been published in the calendar year of 2007 and had to have been written by an author who is LDS. (A list of eligible books can be found at www.ldspublisher.blogspot.com.) The categories a novel can be nominated in are Best Romance/Women' s Fiction, Best Mystery/Suspense, Best YA/Children' s, Best Speculative Fiction, Best Historical, Best Novel by a New Author and Best Novel of the Year.

Books have to receive at least five nominations to be considered for an award, and anyone can make a nomination as long as they don't have a financial interest in the book they are nominating. Apparently the five books that receive the most nominations in each category will be considered finalists, and then a committee will decide on the winner. More information can be found at www.whitneyawards.com.

So, if you've read a good book lately written by an LDS author, now's your chance to cast your votes (or nominations.)

As Apostle Orson F. Whitney said: We shall yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. . . . In God's name and by His help we will build up a literature whose tops will touch the heaven, though its foundation may now be low on the earth.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Finding balance

Are today's kids overscheduled? I met with my potential swim team a couple of weeks ago, and was innundated with the typical questions of how I will deal with conflicting schedules between my high school practices and the local year round team practices. I generally try to find a good balance so that my swimmers feel like they are part of my high school team and still don't overtrain. Still, it got me thinking.

Some of these swimmers are already attending ten practices a week. Added to that, they will be required to attend three high school practices each week. Of course, they also have the hours they spend at school and doing homework. It seems like every minute of their day is jammed packed, and many of these kids have had their schedules dominated by structured activities since early childhood.

While structured activities are certainly important, is today's society taking away our kids' childhoods? Homework starts in kindergarten where I live. When I was a kid, we didn't have any homework until 3rd or 4th grade. We were excited about getting homework because that meant we were big kids. We participated in sports, but we had a different sport for each season. Year round teams meant you were trying to make the Olympics. Today, kids almost have to participate on year round teams if they want to compete even at the high school level.

When my oldest daughter decided to go out for the JV cheerleading squad at school, her friends all thought that I wouldn't let her since being a cheerleader would prevent her from being on the swim team. They assumed that since I am the swim coach that swimming is my top priority. Thankfully, my daughter knows that I want her to be active in things that she enjoys regardless of whether it's something I'm involved in or not.

Still, I worry about how many teenagers I talk to who are going out for sports because their parents are making them. Many parents feel that they have invested too much money in a particular sport to let their child give it up. Maybe they don't realize that the rewards are supposed to come from their child's happiness, not some bragging rights of how good their child is or how far they have gone in a particular activity.

This fall I have one daughter on the JV cheer squad, one daughter playing rec. soccer, and another daughter in piano lessons. I enjoy watching each of my girls in their different pursuits, but the thing I enjoy most is looking outside my window and watching my little ones running out in the yard with the neighbors. I love seeing the kids at play, using their imaginations to have fun. These are the days that they'll remember, the ones when they were simply allowed to be kids.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hi, Luke

Wandering the halls of the local high school is a normal occurence for me. No, I'm not a teacher, or an administrator. I don't substitute or volunteer. I'm just a coach. I've been coaching the swim team there for more than a decade and during that time I have been a frequent visitor at the school, often with a child in tow.

Yesterday, after picking my son up from preschool, I had several errands to run at the high school. Coincidentally, he attends preschool in the early childhood education classroom at the same high school where I coach. Together we went into the front office where one of his preschool teachers serves as an office aide. She saw us walk in and shouted out a greeting to Luke as we passed by. As I approached the finance office, the athletic director's assistant heard my son's little voice and called out for him to come visit her. He did. After all, she always has candy on her desk.

We then left the office, my son carrying his funsize candy bar in his little hand, and headed through the cafeteria where a lunch shift was just beginning. Every five seconds someone shouted out, "Hi, Luke!" Though Luke is often on the shy side, he waved at several of them, saying "hi" to others. After my three-year-old greeted several of his teenage friends (and one of my swimmers greeted me), we went into the library so I could check out some needed equipment. We were barely in the door when someone sitting at a nearby table looked up and said, "Hi, Luke."

At this point I'm wondering what's going on. Granted this child has spent much of his life in the halls of the high school, but usually the greetings are from people I know, and it's usually my name being called out. My son only started preschool last week, and he is already being treated like the most popular kid in school.

I realize that he has already been in the high school yearbook a couple of times (the swimmers insisted he be in their team picture), and several of my swimmers on the boys team figured out early on that having a baby around was a sure way to attract girls, but still! As I'm laughing to myself about my three-year-old's sudden popularity, my oldest daughter appeared in front of us. She was in the library studying with her history class and offered to take Luke for me while I talked to the librarian. I gladly took her up on her offer.

With my hands now free, I took care of my business, learned how to use the equipment needed for a rules clinic that evening and headed back into the library where my son was happily sitting next to his sixteen-year-old sister. I scooped him up, thanked my daughter for her help, and headed for the door. I hesitated for a moment at the counter to thank the librarian. The words "you're welcome" were barely out of his mouth when the aide standing next to him looked up and said, "Oh, hi Luke."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Daily sacrifices

Last night I was going on about my daily life, serving my one day a week in the library at church in case anyone running youth night needed anything. A friend came in trying to locate some electronic equipment for an upcoming activity and mentioned that her husband's plans for the evening had changed drastically. You see, there had been a hostage situation in a nearby county and the gunman was still a threat. She said it so casually, her concern tempered by experience.

Her husband isn't one of the front line police officers, but rather one of those individuals who works for the government in an area that requires him to put his life on hold every time a major emergency arises. Even though I used to work in one of these types of jobs, it still hits me every time something like this happens. Many of us watch the news and forget about the people living it first hand, not just the victims but the emergency responders who perform in so many roles.

We expect our armed forces to keep our country safe, we expect the police and fire departments to protect our communities. We even expect the intelligence community to be practically superhuman in ferreting out the information that will keep evil at bay. What we don't always think about is the training these people go through day in and day out, the mundane tasks that ensure important details will be available when needed, and even those extra hours they put in because of unexpected dangers that arise.

So this morning, I'm reminding myself that there are a lot of people out there worrying about their husbands or wives, sons or daughters, fathers or mothers. They are praying for the safety of these family members to return home safely, whether it's from a hard day on the job or months away at war. Maybe the rest of us can offer up some prayers, too, that peace will rein today and that the Lord will watch over those protecting our freedoms.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thermostat Wars

Every couple seems to have one person in it that is always hot and the other that is always cold. I sometimes wonder if the Lord planned it this way, sort of a test to make sure we can negotiate on the trivial stuff to help prepare us for life's bigger challenges.

Early in my marriage, my husband and I had the very logical discussion about how I should win this battle half of the year and he should win the other half. After all, if we kept the house a little warmer in the summer and a bit colder in the winter, it would help save energy ... and money. This wasn't to last however. After all, logic rarely wins out in relationships, especially once kids get involved. Believe me. My kids get involved...and they're on their dad's side.

I'm the one in my family that's always cold. I don't know if this is a result of growing up in the Arizona desert or genetics or just my own quirkiness, but I'm definitely prone to sneak over to the thermostat when no one is looking and turn it up by a degree or two. It never lasts. One would think that out of four kids, at least one would take after me. Not one. Everyone else in the house seems perfectly content to live inside a house that is just a few degrees warmer than a refrigerator.

You would think that with a background in intelligence I could win this battle, but no. I had to go out and marry someone who is both brilliant and observant (and constantly teaching our children to be the same.) These are the times when I have to remind myself that these are good qualities...just annoying sometimes.

Just how bad can it be? Fall is beginning and I'm already sleeping with three blankets instead of two. I'm rarely seen around the house without a sweatshirt on, even in July. I've even been known to keep an extra pair of socks in my desk drawer for when I forget to bring some downstairs from my room. After all, with a commute like mine I wouldn't want to have to backtrack...it would take a whole, oh thirty seconds.

So I sit here wearing my flannel pajamas, sweatshirt and thick socks and consider. The man who always wins the thermostat wars in my house is also the one who has to commute 90 miles each day for work. I only have to walk down the stairs. He actually likes the fact that I'm home to be here for our kids instead of being out in the workforce earning a second paycheck. He doesn't complain that the house is often messy because I spent all day playing with the kids or writing on the computer. He's supportive of my dreams, even those that seem out of reach, and often sacrifices to help them come true. Maybe this is why I really keep losing the thermostat wars. After all, what's a little sacrifice for the one you love?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Visiting Venezuela

Marsha asked me what I had been doing in Venezuela when I had the lovely experience of no water for five days. She got me thinking, and remembering. Quite simply I was an exchange student.

I guess it was the overachiever in me (yes, I was chronic in my youth) that gave me this need to finish learning Spanish. I hated to do anything halfway, and taking a couple of years of Spanish in high school didn't seem like it was going to teach me as much as I wanted to learn. Somehow my mother understood this and when she stumbled across an opportunity for me to be an exchange student, she made it happen. I found out years later that she had borrowed the money to send me, and I'll always be grateful for her understanding my need to go.

I was seventeen when I left, having just finished up my junior year in high school. I went on a summer program -- after all, I wanted to learn Spanish, not give up my only chance at a senior year in high school! I flew all day to get from Phoenix to Miami and then stayed the night in a hotel in Miami. Believe me, this was a big adventure for a seventeen year old with sisters. Having the bathroom all to myself was, well, there simply aren't words to describe it.

My travel to Caracas was a little more complex, but that's a story for another day. Let's just say unexpected layovers, diverted flights, eventually arriving at six in the morning....

The family that took me in for my summer stay was incredible. They had two children, a daughter a year older than me who had just spent the school year in the U.S. and an older son who was married and out of the house. The parents spoke little English, but were kind, generous and patient. Their home could best be described as a three bedroom condo. It was on the sixth floor of the building that housed their jewelry store on the ground level. The bakery was across the street, the photo shop right next door.

I had lived in Phoenix, but never had I experienced this kind of city living, the kind where you went to the bakery for fresh bread every morning, or to the butcher for fresh meat each afternoon. The shops closed down for two hours each day for siesta and we went out every night (except when we watched Miss Venezuela win Miss Universe on television.) Gasoline was only $0.24 a gallon so travel was cheap. We, along with just about everyone else in the city, traveled to one of the beach towns each Friday afternoon, returning on Sundays.

Discos, restaurants, shops, and parties. Life was never dull and somehow through the whole experience I learned the culture and how to speak the language. I can still remember the morning I left. I stood out on the balcony staring out at the early morning sky. I was trying to remember every detail, the sounds of the city, the beauty of the sunrise, the feeling of belonging I had found with this family I now considered my own.

When I left that day, I had already starting making plans to return. I would try to get into the University somehow. Returning to Caracas was paramount in my mind, but it wasn't to be. I think deep down I knew I wouldn't be coming back, at least not any time soon. My early acceptance letter to BYU was waiting for me when I got home, and almost instantly reality struck. I wasn't going to see my family in Venezuela again.

I always feel a pang of homesickness when I see Venezuela on the news even though I know it is a changed country since I lived there. Still I doubt there will ever be a time that I won't look back on that summer abroad with fond memories. Someday, just maybe, I'll be able to go back and make some new ones.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Simply water

Today is blog action day, the day I promised to write about something environmentally related. I thought about the many things in our society that we could do to improve our environment, but I kept coming back to the same thing. Conserving water.

This life-sustaining resource is simplistic. We keep it clean, we drink it, we use it in our daily lives. We don't even think about it...unless there isn't any. I grew up in the Valley of the Sun. To the uninitiated, that's Phoenix and it's surrounding communitities. Every year when I go back to visit, I see the commercials about conserving water. The advice seems so simple, yet someone is paying to drill it through everyone's head for a reason. Water is scarce in the desert, a most precious resource.

The commercials tell us simplistic things like not running a dishwasher that is half full, using lower water settings on the washing machine, not to run the water continually while you're brushing your teeth, and so on it goes. Each time I visit Phoenix, I am reminded of the reasons these habits are so ingrained in me. After all, I spent my entire childhood in Arizona watching these commercials. Okay, I didn't watch television all day, but I still saw plenty of commercials during my 18 years there.

Usually after a visit, I come home to Virginia and revel in the lush greenery and the fact that water is a resource that many take for granted. Watering lawns doesn't have to be monitored because it isn't necessary. My husband still laughs about the time I first came to visit his parents' home in Virginia and I asked why they didn't have a sprinkler system. When he stopped laughing at my question, he explained that they let the rain water the lawn. Only rarely did they have to do it themselves.

That rarity is here now, only we can't water our lawns. You see, my county is under mandatory water restrictions. That's right. Here in typically lush Virginia we have a drought. The reservoirs are dangerously low, rainfall is practically non-existent. The lawns are turning brown and outdoor plants are dying off. Restaurants can't serve water to their customers unless it's requested. Prayers for rain are increasing daily.

I've been without water before, truly without it. When living in Caracas, a water main break caused the city to cut off water supplies to four major sections of the city for five days. I know exactly how much water it takes to fill up a toilet, what it's like to crave a shower but have to settle for a washcloth and a cup full of water, what it's like to not be able to drink anything that didn't come from a carton or a can even though you can't stand the contents. Perhaps it was this experience that gives me the understanding that I can go without electricity for days, just don't make me go without water!

When circumstances (or nature) deals us this kind of blow, all we can hope for is that we're prepared for it. We need to keep a basic water supply. Two weeks is ideal, but at least three days worth if at all possible. After all, if a natural disaster hits, that's usually how long it takes for help to arrive. We have to do the basics as well, just keeping our water clean. We need to make sure that we don't litter, that we don't dump harmful waste into our sewer systems. As a community, we need to take care to protect this natural resource daily. After all, we never know when the day will come that water is the most important resource of all.

It is my hope and prayer that none of us are ever truly without water. I also hope that we will all live as though today might be that day. After all, we don't know what the future will hold, but we still have to prepare for it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cleaning chaos

I did it! Sort of. Now don't get too excited. I didn't finish writing another manuscript. My editor didn't call to tell me that they're accepting a novel I already submitted. No, my great accomplishment of the weekend is a clean house. Sort of.

To understand the significance of this accomplishment, let me help you visualize the normal state of my beloved home. I have a three-year-old...need I say more? Okay, I also have two very active teenagers, one of whom prefers to be anywhere but at home, and the other who prefers to hide in her room (I think her room is behind that door) to read books, draw, and pursue other solitary activities. The nine-year-old wants only one thing: to be outside playing with the neighbors. My husband commutes 90 miles a day, so he is understandably not likely to do a lot of housekeeping when he is home. (I'm grateful that he sometimes cooks dinner!) The result of these very active lives that intersect at my address is, quite simply, chaos.

People who live around these parts can tell you I'm not the sort that gets embarrassed if people drop by unannounced and find me sitting at my computer amidst a cluttered house. After all, why should I get embarrassed about getting caught living my normal life? Walking through the door is often an obstacle course, causing the visitor to pick their way through shoes, toys, and yes even broken airplanes. The antique cradle that sits inside my front door to hold my family's shoes is usually surrounded by flip flops, cletes and tennis shoes. The cradle itself is often empty.

My son's building project of the day is usually in the middle of the family room except on Monday nights when we insist everyone pitch in to help clean it so that we can have our weekly family activity nights. (By Monday nights, we usually have mulitple projects to clean up.)

So what changed my normally chaotic atmosphere this weekend? No games. That's right. Not one. No soccer games, no football games, not even a piano recital. We had the whole weekend with the kids at my command, list of chores in hand, and the threat that no one was leaving until I could see every surface in the house. As they started on their lists, I did mounds and mounds of laundry -- eight loads counts as mounds, doesn't it? Every time I came down the stairs after sorting yet another load, I could see a little more progress.

Sure enough, by the the time I went to bed last night, I could see all of my floors, the laundry was done, and the shoes were all in the shoe box. You know what this means, don't you? No one is coming over today. After all, they would probably think that they were in the wrong house! I heard about a sign not long ago that I need to get to hang by my front door. It reads something like, "My house was clean yesterday. Sorry you missed it." It fits, don't you think?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Broken Plane

My son's plane broke. This shouldn't be a big deal. After all, toys break all of the time. (At least they do in my house.) Unfortunately, the minute the toy plane broke, it became my son's all-time favorite toy. When he asked me to buy him a new one, I tried to explain that we had gotten it from the museum gift store, that we can't replace it at the regular stores we go to. He's not asking for a new plane anymore. He's asking to go to the museum. He's three-years-old. Is this a good thing?

Yes, the beloved plane came from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. The plane itself was only about five dollars, cheap by gift store standards. The museum isn't that far away... only about an hour drive from here (assuming no traffic, which happens from approximately 1am to 2am daily.) Entrance to the museum is free. The problem is that in DC parking is at a premium. Okay, I exaggerate. Parking is nonexistant (unless you really do go there around 2am, but that's too scary to consider.)

I had hoped that this obsession with the plane would cease, but every day since the plane broke my little one has asked to go to the museum. My next course of action was to explain that we can't replace every broken toy, especially one that was purchased so far away. I thought I was winning this argument until the rest of the truth came out. My son hadn't broken his plane, a sibling had. It was an accident to be sure, but the bottom line was that his plane was broken beyond repair by a big sister, and my son is devastated because apparently this plane has always been a favorite toy.

So now, I am contemplating making the drive into Arlington (down the road from the National Cemetery), catching the Metro (subway), and then walking with a three-year-old the 1/2 mile (or more) to the museum just because my son's plane broke. Summing it up, I will get to spend three hours in traffic, an hour on the subway, an hour at lunch in Arlington (not bad if you don't consider dining with a three-year-old), thirty minutes walking between the subway and museum, and an hour or so at the museum, and five minutes in the gift shop (because I am not buying anything else besides a new plane!) Then we also add in parking in Arlington, $4, subway fare, $6, toy airplane, $5, Tylenol for the headache and back ache that are sure to ensue, $3, spending time with my three-year-old alone in Washington, DC, it had darn well better be priceless!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The fiction vs. non-fiction brain

Yesterday was a non-fiction day. I wanted to work on my next novel. Really I did. I just made the mistake of starting on non-fiction activities too early in the morning and that completely ruined my plans. I don't know why I can't write fiction and non-fiction in the same day. Actually, it isn't just the writing. It's the living. If I start paying my bills, managing investments, and planning for the future, I get so entrenched in reality I can't seem to pull myself loose. This is definitely not a good scenario for a fiction author!

I know the reverse can be equally true. On the days that I get up early, start writing and really get going, wild horses can't drag me away from my computer. Okay, maybe a wild three-year-old can, but barely. On days like these, I lose myself completely in my fictional world. I start caring so much about these characters that were born in my imagination that I think about them all the time. The characters take on a life of their own. Their future is as unknown to me as it is to them, and I find myself typing faster and faster so that I can see what happens.

As for finding the balance between the fiction and non-fiction aspects of my life, that's an ongoing challenge. I find that the non-fiction side of my brain tries to be dominant whether I want it to or not. The obstacles that come up are endless, some of them unavoidable (feeding hungry children) and some which can be planned around (phone calls and surfing the internet.) For today, I'm going to find that story that's brewing in my mind...and take the phone off the hook.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Honesty and integrity

Are we teaching our children how to be honest and develop integrity in their daily lives? I was forced to ask myself this question this morning when I went to talk to my daughter's interim cheerleading coach. We had gotten word that my daughter was going to be benched for today's game because she had a dentist appointment yesterday and had to miss practice. I promptly went in to see the coach (we'd cleared the appointment with the previous coach) and provided documentation for the missed appointment. The woman was extremely nice and said that she had been informed of why my daughter was absent, but that she was just waiting for the note from the dentist before she would allow her to cheer in the game. Logical, right? I thought so.

What got me wondering about honesty and integrity was the fact that the documentation is needed in the first place. I have been coaching high school sports for more than a decade and one thing I have found to be alarmingly true is that if the parents put their child's participation above all else, the child isn't the only one who is going to lie to get their way. Over the years, I have seen forged doctor's notes, forged school passes, and had parents straight out lie to me in order to convince me that their child shouldn't be benched. I should say here that fortunately I haven't seen much of this personally. Generally I coach terrific kids from great families. It's those few that don't have great examples to follow that I worry about.

The simplest lies, the seemingly harmless stretched truths can be devastating when seen through our children's eyes. If I have someone say I'm not home so that I can avoid a phone call, what am I teaching my children? If I write a note that my daughter is sick so that she won't have to participate in the activity she hates most in PE, I have taught her that lying is okay to get what you want. Kids face this kind of deceitfulness far too often, from the media, from their friends, and sometimes from the adults in their lives. These kids are going to be our future leaders. It's about time we all step up and take responsibility for our actions. We need to be willing to honestly say, "That was my fault," or "I was wrong." After all, if we want our kids to follow our example, we'd better start setting one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


The day I had been waiting for was finally here. The day that my youngest, my baby, would go to preschool for the first time. I foolishly thought that the three hours of uninterrupted time would translate into some productive writing time, but I should have known better. I was a bit nervous dropping him off. After all, my son, like many three-year-olds, doesn't particularly care to have Mom drop him off anywhere and then leave. I braced myself for the tears, which thankfully never came. He looked a little shell shocked when I left, but he didn't cry.

I got home, got the last of my children off to school, and then wondered what I was supposed to do now. Almost an hour passed before I realized that I didn't have to watch the Disney channel. I could watch anything I wanted on television. Well, I didn't want to watch TV anyway, but the point is that I could! I got on the computer, uninterrupted. I set an alarm on my watch so that I could write for a while without worrying that I wouldn't lose track of the time. (I do that sometimes, especially when I'm writing.) I even managed to do the dishes and get somewhat organized for a meeting I was conducting tonight. Still, I struggled to concentrate on anything for long. I couldn't get used to the absolute quiet in the house.

Still a bit nervous about how my little boy was faring at his first day of school, I left early in case there was traffic on the mile stretch of road between my house and the school. Before I made it to the preschool room, I got caught by a few acquaintances at the school, passed a few minutes chatting, and then eagerly slipped in the back door of the classroom. No one was crying. Definitely a good sign. I looked around, searching for my child, and he was nowhere to be seen.

Now, I have to give myself a pat on the back here that I didn't panic. After all, his older sister pulled the same trick five years ago. Wise to the ways of preschoolers, I peeked in the plastic tunnels and found my little boy playing happily inside with two darling little girls. Smart boy, huh? I told him it was time to go, he looked at his new friends, looked back at me and said, "Can we stay a while longer?" So much for him getting traumatized by his first day at school. Maybe tomorrow, I'll get adjusted too!

I'm Done!

I'm done! Kinda, sorta, maybe. I signed up to participate in the book in a month challenge which ends today. Little did I know exactly what that would entail when I started. I began with a blank page on that first day a month ago with the goal of putting in roughly fifty pages a week. Since my last few books have been drafted in about a month's time, I was excited to go through the process with other writers to help cheer me on and that I could help encourage.

Not even a week passed before my goals changed drastically. My novel, Freefall, is coming out in the spring and it dawned on me that I had not yet been asked to abridge it for the audio book. I foolishly hoped that an abridgement wouldn't be necessary, but deep down I knew better. So, after checking in with my editor, I put my newest project (all 27 pages) on a shelf and started on the abridgement process. (If you want to see how painful it was, look at my earlier posts!)

I was just finishing that process when I received another novel that my sister-in-law had been reviewing. That led me to decide to do some editing on that one (Lockdown) and prepare it for submission. That was three weeks ago.

Here's where I should put a plug in about how you should never ask a question if you aren't ready to hear the answer. As I was submitting Lockdown, I asked my editor what was happening with yet another novel (working title Royal Hearts) that I had submitted a few months earlier. The evaluations were in, but only two were favorable. The third suggested some major changes. So, my book in a month challenge became a "submit two books in a month challenge" instead. My editor sent me the evaluations, which I looked over and tried to dissect. I rewrote the novel, sent it out to my sister-in-law for her invaluable suggestions and then rewrote again.

Yesterday morning, finally, I was able to send in the revised manuscript. Now I am keeping my fingers crossed (at least when I'm not typing) that the two novels I've submitted will be well received by my publisher. Whoever thinks it's tough writing a novel hasn't yet suffered through the long weeks, sometimes months, of waiting to see if the fruits of their labors will be realized. For those of you out there playing the waiting game, I feel your pain!

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Last spring during the General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), my brother-in-law told a comical story of his four-year-old son, James. Somehow, James had made the connection that all of three members of the first presidency for the LDS church had first names that also belonged to characters on the show Thomas the Tank Engine. James eagerly looked forward to watching conference so that he could see Gordon (B. Hinckley), Thomas (S. Monson), and James (E. Faust.)

After receiving the sad news that James E. Faust had passed away recently, several members of the church speculated on who would take his place as the 2nd counselor in the first presidency. My brother-in-law came up with the sure fire way to figure it out. Looking through the first names of the remaining twelve apostles, he noted that only one had a first name that was the same as a character on Thomas the Tank Engine. Good luck in your new calling Henry! (I mean President Eyring.)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

New Ideas

As I finish up editing another manuscript, I am looking forward with anticipation to starting another novel. My mind reels with ideas, plot lines, and characters who want to be born. The possibilities are endless of where the story will take place and where the characters are going to be from. Occasionally I find myself making notes of these ideas as they pop into my mind so that I can dig them out on another day.

When I first started writing I worried that I would run out of ideas. I had a few basic plot lines I thought I could develop, but I was convinced that as soon as I used those up that my writing career would be over. Thankfully, that doesn't appear to be the case. The more I interact with others, the more I see on the news, the more I watch my friends and family, the more stories I have that need to be written. I can't wait!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Revision, revision, revision

One of my greatest blessings in my writing adventures has been my sister-in-law, Rebecca. She has been helping me review and edit since I first managed to write a complete manuscript over ten years ago. Through the process, she taught me how to write and then proceeded to cheer me on as my first novels made it into print.

As she was helping me revise yet another novel, I was reminded of how much fun writing can be. On the phone tonight she pointed out a few ill-worded phrases and enjoyed a good laugh at my expense (or rather the expense of my characters.) As we giggled over some of the funny phrases that definitely didn't belong, I realized that Rebecca didn't just help me learn how to write, she also taught me how to take criticism.

Several months ago on my way to Arizona I sat beside a man who was also a writer. He had self-published a couple of books and was carrying them with him on the plane. As we chatted about writing, he made the comment that the reason he never tried to publish through traditional channels is that he didn't want anyone changing his words. I gently explained that I believe my novels get better with editing and that it is a team effort between editor and writer that produces the best possible product. He didn't agree. I didn't bother to argue. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Personally, I am truly grateful for the many people who have been part of the editing process for each of my books. I can't say I've always agreed with everything suggested, but I can't count the number of times that an editor (or a relative) caught a problem I had never even considered. Every once in a while, we even get a laugh out of the process.