Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 25: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 25: Finish what you start.

Little did I realize what a project this 25 lessons would end up being. My mom has taught me hundreds of things, 25 should have been easy, but it's amazing how they tend to overlap. Also, as soon as I sat down to write, everything seemed to fly from my brain.

Not a pretty picture--all those thoughts circling above me like bats where I couldn't reach them.

Someday perhaps I'll have to write about my fun adventures with bats, but not today. Today I'm going to talk about the importance of finishing what we start. When I was in high school, I can't remember if it was my senior or junior year, I was on the Academic Decathlon team, which met every morning for what seemed like all year, but was probably only two or three months while we crammed for the meets. Or should I say, meet, since we never progressed past our one competition with Delta to get to regionals.

Anyway, going to school an hour early for decathlon, staying an hour late for yearbook (It was eighth-hour day then, now I understand it's a regular class during school hours. Lucky ducks.) Then there was work and the school, and the dozen other things that keep a high schooler busy. By the time I reached the end of the training I was ready to drop from exhaustion, and totally ready to quit, but my mom talked me out of it. I was closer to the end than I knew and it ended up being a great experience for me--I even brought home a few medals. (Apparently I'm an economics genius or a really good guesser, because there was really no reason I should have placed in that subject BOTH years, despite knowing nothing about it.)

My mom's support through my years of writing with no results, my parents' willingness to work around my schedule so I can fulfill my dreams, and her never-ending belief that I can accomplish my goals have been so great. She probably going to tell me that my memory is faulty, again, but hey, it's my memory, and the fact that she may remember a few of the things I've recounted here differently doesn't make them any less real. And no, I haven't been improving the truth.

I love you, Mom!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 24: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 24: Cake Decorating

I think I've mentioned that my mom took a cake decorating class when I was a kid, and in those early years when she asn't working 60+ hours a week for the business we had lots of fun cakes. As we aged and she got insanely busy the cakes became more simple, but through watching her I picked up many skills and hints. More recently I've picked her mind several times when working on my decorating skills. It's because of my warm memories from youth that I had the courage to jump into decorating cakes recently. Click on the tag at the bottom of this post called 'cakes' to see what projects I've posted pictures from. No I'm considering my next decorating project. Any suggestions?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 23: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 23: Keep a Record

For as long as I can remember my mom has kept a journal. When I was young I believe she kept more than one, capturing many of the crazy and funny things each of the kids did when we were little and still cute. I admit, I've been rather slackerly on the journal keeping lately, but for years I wrote faithfully in my journal, in some of them I wrote on one side the page and used the other side to tape pictures, play tickets, invitations to events, letters and anything else that I talked about that day. One of my journals is easily twice as wide at the open side as it should be, I had some many little bits and pieces of my life crammed into it.

There are lots of ways of writing our personal history. I guess one could argue blogging is, in a small way (very small for me) a way of journaling. My older writes a family letter that she emails out to all of the relatives, and often includes photos. Since she lives in Mexico and only gets back to the states once or twice a year it enables us all to keep up with her family and what's going on next. A few years back she started keeping her family letters in a file, as a journal of her family's activities. Someday her grandchildren will mention something about studying the Swine Flu, and she'll be able to pull up her file and show them that their moms got to skip school for three weeks because of the F1N1 virus--even though there were no cases in her city. And the girls hated being home and missing school (I know! how many moms are lucky enough that their kids love school? Then again, how many of their kids only have 8 or 9 kids in their class?)

My youngest two sisters scrapbook a plenty, and the fourth sister melds the family letters with scrapbooking, and who knows what else (she's amazing, if she's not teaching one of her 19 piano students or taking care of her four kids, she's probably decorating a birthday or wedding cake).

I guess keeping a record is something we all learned from Mom.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 22: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 22: Keep a Full Pantry

For as long as I can remember my mom has had some kind of food storage. We were lucky that every place I remember living (other than that tiny place we lived in for six weeks when we first moved to town) had space for storage--even the tiny little red house had a cellar.

Mom tried several different methods to add to storage and keep track, I remember one that worked on the tally system and as she used it, she made a list of what needed to be replaced. I have several siblings who have absolutely no space for food storage. One sister has a kitchen pantry not much bigger than the standard hall closet, another moves every year or two, two live in apartments, and my brother's not much better off.

I've been blessed to have a bit more room, and to be able to make room when needed--which came in really handy when my husband had been laid off for the second time in a single year, our savings was gone and we didn't know how we were going to pay the bills. It's amazing how little you have to spend on perishables if you have the main ingredients for most everything else.

The fact that Mom taught me how to cook and use what's in my cupboards came in really handy.

Even now it's great to be abe to stock up on food when it is on sale, and have it there when I need it without having to make extra trips to the store every week. With all of the craziness in the world we're still working on our year's supply, and every week I'm working to build it up more. Mom and I have been talking about preparedness and being ready for those bumps in the road that can either be minor, or major, depending on how prepared we are to face them. With her encouragement hopefully I can be prepared for those bumps.

"CrAzY EiGhTs"

Well, my friend Christine tagged me, and I have a few minutes when I should be cleaning before I go to work, but I really just want to stay snuggled in bed, so here we go!

Here be Da Rules:
1. Mention the person who tagged you.
2. Complete the list of 8's.
3. Tag 8 other bloggers.
4. Tell them they have been tagged.

Eight Things I Look Forward To:

1. My book release in October
2. My sister and her family coming to visit from Mexico in July
3. My ducks/geese/chicks/guineas hatching (not all at the same time, mind you)
4. My husband's last day of working his insane schedule
5. The family trip to Bear Lake
6. Next spring's trip to Disneyland with assorted family
7. EMT ropes training with Air Med
8. My next book contract

Eight Things I Did Yesterday

1. Drove to Mt Pleasant, to Springvilee, back to Santaquin, then up to Orem, and finally home.
2. Talked to Danyelle repeatedly on the phone in between dead spots for cell coverage
3. Downloaded new software, uninstalled old sofware and ran monthly scans for several clients
4. Picked up ink cartridges for a customer
5. Attended my awesome critique group
6. Ate a veggie burrito from Taco Time
7. Was late leaving Fillmore to go north--again.
8. Picked up chicken feed in Spanish Fork

Eight Things I Wish I Could Do
1. Play the piano like my sisters
2. Travel to England
3. Lose, um, lots of pounds
4. Get someone else to come provide the muscle for my landscaping work
5. Drag myself to bed by ten o'clock so 5:30 a.m. workouts wouldn't be so hard
6. Keep my house clean
7. Make myself edit when I really don't want to
8. make myself want to edit so #7 wasn't necessary

Eight Shows I Watch
I really don't watch TV, but when I'm at my parents' we sometimes watch:
1. Walker Texas Ranger (sappy and badly written, I know, but I still like it)
2. Corner Gas
3. Psyche
4. Murder She Wrote
5. Hogan's Heros
6. Whatever else they may have saved with their DVR

Eight Friends I Am Tagging:
Kim
Tristi
Keith
Rachelle
Cathy
Joyce

Cindy
Karlene

And there you have it! Crazy Eights.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 21: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 21: Finding the Gifts is Half the Fun

I don't know about you, but we have some interesting Christmas traditions--one of which I am sure most people have never even considered. Way back when my parents had a super tight Christmas with almost no money for gifts for them wild brood. What they ended up giving us each was a dish pan (you know, the old style ones that are plastic, somewhat bigger than a standard-sized sheet of paper, and several inches deep. if you don't know what I'm talking about...you're too young. Sorry.) , colored pencils, regular pencils, a coloring book, some colored paper for crafts, lined paper (or was it notebooks? I can't remember.) And a few other miscellaneous craft items like glue sticks and scissors. That was it.

The fun of finding and unwrapping it lasted all morning!

Desperate to make the little bit of Christmas seem like a lot, my parents wrapped each of the items for our craft boxes individually, then hid them around the house. My dad wrote silly little rhymes (seriously, they were horrible, but that meant it was easy to write ones just as good in succeeding years.) for each place and we would all race to the place where the presents were hiding. We would each bring back our gifts to the living room and open them. We each had a moment to admire our new pencils (or whatever it was we'd opened), and then he would read the next rhyme.

You know, I didn't realize that year that there was almost nothing for Christmas. What we actually got wasn't all that important. The fun we had chasing after the gifts was the best part, and if my parents hadn't pointed out, years later, that the gifts had been on the slim side that year, I doubt I would have even realized.

Now that we're all grown and half of us have kids of our own, we still hide presents at Christmas when there are grandkids around. They insist. And I've written my share of really bad rhymes to tell the kids where to look next. It's a tradition we all love--even if we just watch the kids tear off in search of the place where cakes are baked.

Book Review: Spare Change by Aubrey Mace

I was really excited to attend The Whitney Awards last month, and to meet some great authors (Seeing Jeff Savage dressed up as Stephanie Meyers was pretty fun too.). I'm afraid I didn't get to meet Aubrey Mace, but as I had just purchased her book Spare Change, I was excited to get reading it after she won the award for Best Romance. The back cover blurb says:

New Year's resolutions are one of Riley's least favorite things - until this year.

Twenty-three and single, Riley thinks resolutions should be fun, not hard. Just before midnight, she vows to make the easiest resolution ever: save her pennies and at the end of the year, buy something nice for herself. Easy! ...Or is it?

Working at a cancer treatment center can change one's perspective, and before long Riley decides to donate her extra money to cancer research rather than reward herself. At first her resolution is her own secret, but all too soon the nurses figure out her plan, and then things really begin to get out of hand!

As people through the hospital, and then the town, begin to get involved, Riley finds herself at the front of the fund-raising campaign. She also finds herself face-to-face with Paul, the grouchy but cute bank teller. But can she overcome the memory of a failed relationship - and can he do the same? And who is the secret admirer who keeps leaving pennies and notes for her to find?
Aside from a million pennies, every flavor of ice cream imaginable, and maybe even love, Riley is about to discover that an ordinary person can be the catalyst for extraordinary events.


I really enjoyed this book. The characters were well-rounded and beautifully flawed. Yes, beautifully flawed. Do you have any idea how hard it is to give your characters really believable flaws, but still make them likeable? The other side of things is to not give them enough flaws so they end up seeming just a little too perfect. We'll just say Aubrey doesn't have this problem.

I love how the office Riley works at is so obsessed with ice cream--and that her favorite wasn't some variety of chocolate. I love the back-and-forth banter between her and Paul, and how they finally decide to bury the hatchet instead of arguing over little things. And I love the message that even little nobodies can do something spectacular if they put their minds to it. We're not nobody--no matter how much it may feel that way sometimes, and we can accomplish great things.

I wish I had written down all of the funny little lines that had me laughing out loud (while I was on the treadmill at the gym, mind you. I've long since given up on worrying about funny looks).

If you haven't read this yet, go find a copy and check it out. I'm looking forward to reading My Fairy Grandmother soon--also by Aubrey.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 20: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 20: Some of the Best Things in Life Don't Cost Much

When I think of my childhood, I remember lots of summer nights playing "becca" (a twisted kind of hide and seek that is best when there are lots of things to hide behind. I have no idea where this game originated. Maybe my dad, maybe my rather resourceful older sister.). The Scouts would stay over sometimes after meeting with whichever parent was the leader of the group and we'd play in the night air, or when we were older we'd invite friends sometimes for a night game.

Then there were the many, many hours we spent sliding down snow piles in front of the yard in old insulation bags--my parents used to sell and install insulation when I was young, so there were plenty to go around. The pile seemed pretty darn big back then--though it was probably really short.

Mom encouraged us to use the old camcorder to film little movies. I remember putting together renditions of Little Red Ridinghood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I know there were more, but that's all that comes to mind. The video tape still needs to be transfered over to DVD for all of the kids to take a copy home. I remember my parents pitching the tent in the yard so we could 'camp out' in the back yard, and lots of lazy summer days spent laying on the grass under a shady tree.

These things may not have been as exciting as the family trip to Disneyland, but they are images that stay with me even decades later, memories my parents provided for us at little or no cost to them. Yes, I'll always remember trips to Lagoon, going to the big Surfaces convention in Las Vegas (a convention for businesses that sell floor coverings). These aren't the main or most important things to me--regardless of how much fun they were at the time, or how fondly I look back on cramming into a photobooth with my sister and cousins. It was the everyday things that I carry with me, and that I try to share with my many nieces and nephews when they happen to be in town.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 19: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 19: Gardens are Great

Yeah, so if you've read my blog before, you probably noticed that I write about gardening a lot. Well, maybe not so much lately, because I'm a total slacker--I have blogs planned, I just need to squeeze them into my day. But anyway, some of my earliest memories are of my mom picking pease and beans in the garden in the Richfield house (you know these must be some of my earliest memories if I mention the Richfield house, because we moved out of it when I was starting preschool.). Oh, and the rubarb. I love rubarb. I can't get it to start worth anything in my yard, but I'm going to try again, someday.

Anyway, I digress. my mom hasn't always had a garden, but we did more years than not, even if it was just pease and tomatoes (There's nothing like a home-grown tomato. I don't care how much money hydroponic plants put into new, inovative systems, those winter tomatoes have no flavor.) I remember pretending I was Laura Ingalls Wilder and working in the garden as a kid. it was a bit of self-sufficiency even a kid could manage. She often grew a few flowers here and there, as well. I love flowers.

So when I got my own little patch of ground I just had to plant something. (We had the back trailer in a trailer park in Cedar City shortly after Bill and I married. The grass was smaller than the house, and the room for flowers/veggies was even less--and really only existed because we had the last trailer in the row). I put some flowers up front in the 4 or 5 square foot plot, half of which never even sprouted from the bulbs, and spent hours digging out back to create a mystical flower haven--if you pretended the cows weren't lurking on the other side of the chain link fence.

I wanted what my mom had, a little bit of color and something tasty to add to my dinner.

Now I keep looking at my weed patch and wondering if I'm going to drag myself out there tomorrow to emulate my mom again--who has a great little garden going. She's given me tomato plants and keeps reminding me to get the weeds cleared out and the veggies in. Her garden taunts me every time we go over. She's still being a good example. =)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 18: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 18: Judge Not

Okay, first, I need to quailfy that statement. When I had foster kids I had a teenager who was upset one of the neighbors wouldn't let their daughter go with my foster daughter and her mom to a concert. She was upset because she felt like my neighbor was judging her mom. The fact is, we are all required to make judgements every day. We have to decide whether we're going to need a jacket or an umbrella based on the weather report. As we approach an intersection, we have to judge whether the oncoming traffic is going to stop at the stop sign or come on through. And when it comes to our kids' safety, we have to judge whether a situation is safe for them or not. That's a parent's job. My neighbor didn't know the foster daughter's mom, had no idea why the kids were living with me instead of at home, or if it was a safe situation for her child. She made the best judgement she could under the situation.

That is not the kind of judgement I'm talking about here. The fact is, my mom doesn't shock very easily. I grew up in a pretty straight-laced home where the rules are the rules and what's right is right and what isn't, just isn't. Despite what some might see as my parents being inflexible (which they really weren't--I really got away with more than my share of things) Mom has a pretty open mind. She doesn't always like the choices we make, but she accepts them, and accepts us despite our occasional stupidity, or in my case, sheer bull-headedness.

I see the same quality in her every day whether it's dealing with things that come up in the family, in the ward or in the community she seems to accept new situations with aplomb and continue on --I'm not saying that there isn't a moment when she has to readjust her thinking, none of us are so automated that we're never surprised. But despite any private moments of worry, she treats everyone with the same friendly attitude whether they be a bishop or a pregnant teen, young mom, or a someone who's been in trouble with the law. She's a good example of remembering that we're all God's children, and deserve to be treated that way.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 17: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 17: Cinnamon Rolls were Invented for Long Trips

Okay so maybe that's not true, maybe they were just invented because they are dang good, but in any case, we often had them on campouts or on long car rides, especially if we were going to leave really early in the morning. My mom makes these incredible cinnamon rolls with a real bready dough, then tops them warm from the oven with scads of frosting. Fat city, but the tastiest things you ever ate.

Mom taught me a lot about cooking, actually. When I was a kid she used to make bread fairly often, and she makes terrific pancakes--but way better than the pancackes themselves is the peach topping she makes with chopped canned peaches simmered on the stove top with spices and thickened into a syrupy sauce. We ladle them over the pancakes and then top with ice cream or whipped topping--the best breakfast ever. Most of my neices and nephews still prefer boring old maple syrup, but when we get together for breakfast at Mom's the 'kids' from my generation all want pancakes with peaches.

Oh, I guess I got off topic, which was cooking. Because my parent run a store that doesn't close until 6 p.m. and my mom cooks dinner every night she generally stuck with simple dishes. No, frozen pizza was not a regular dish, and we almsot never ate out, but you'd be amazed how quickly she can whip together a pan of lasagna, or a chicken, broccoli and rice casserole (another dish we always totally loved--I don't make it nearly often enough).

The meals were simple, but tastey, and they were very budget freindly. Which is another amazing thing--she makes these things from scratch--prepackaged spagetti sauce was never seen in our house. It's amazing what you can throw together with a few basic ingredients. Hmm, guess I need to pull together some recipes to share.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 16: Lessons Learned From Mom

Day 16: There's Always Room for Music

I did mention, didn't I that we used to sing when we went on long car rides. My poor husband thinks we're all a bit nuts, and gives me worried sideways looks when I try to liven up our trips by singing. Well, he used to, I think after ten years he's gotten used to my oddities.

That wasn't the only singing we did, however. Some of my earliest memories were of my mom singing in church--both solos and in the choir--singing around the house, in The Messiah, and I can't forget "Good Mornin', Good Mornin' " from Singing in the Rain, though, of course I didn't know where the song came from then. That one was particularly irritating when we were devotedly trying to ignore the alarm clock and sleep in.

The house was always full of music, which is probably why all of my sisters play instruments (some of them more than one)--notice, I did not include myself in that number. And most of us sing in public. Since all of the other girls in my family play the piano, we always had music for Christmas Eve programs, Family Home Evening, and the like, which added so much to the meeting.

Music is also really hard for me to ignore. One Monday night when I was in high school I wanted to go to the school play. I had already been once and my parents told me no, it was Family Home Evening. I admit, I went to my room to sulk while they all met together downstairs. That was until they started singing the opening song. I want to say it was "Love at Home," though it might have been one of the other similarly themed songs in the hymn book. It was way too hard for me to hold onto my anger when there was music like that permeating my room. I don't think I ever told my parents, but that song was why I came downstairs and joined them for the meeting.

There were lots of other times when songs gave me comfort, bouyed me up when I was having a rough day. I may have been 'singing' primary songs in my crib before I could talk, but without the solid love of music shared in my home, I doubt I would have grown to love it so much.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 15: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 15: Take Time to Relax

So a few days ago I talked about what a hard worker my mom is, but she isn't all work (it just seems that way sometimes). My parents like to take their trailer out several times during the summer just to get away so they can take a total break from all of the work and telephones. When you own a business in a small town it can be hard to get away--everyone knows where you live and how to reach you on your home phone at all hours of the day (and night).

This weekend they had planned to pull the trailer to a favorite campground about half an hour away, but then realized between taking the trailer up to drop it off a day early, then going back after work tomorrow, coming back for church, then returning for one last night they would be doing a lot of driving.

Instead they decided to do a staycation (if you haven't seen the Corner Gas episode where the guy takes a staycation "in Hawaii" or wherever it is he goes that year --in the front parking lot of his gas station--you're missing out. I don't think we will have to talk to them as though we were writing a letter or postcard to them on their trip, like in the TV show, but hopefully they'll find the break relaxing anyway). As my dad said, they have a six foot privacy fence, a portable fire pit, a barbeque and plenty of Dutch oven equipment. I migth have to arrange to bring peach cobbler fixings for Sunday dinner if he's going to be Dutch ovening anyway. Yum!

We'll see if they can actually pull themselves away from their work while they are at home. The chance to unwind is totally necessary for our bodies and minds--especially when you are used to working 14-hour days, or more six days a week.

Oh, and if anyone from my hometown happens upon this post--I'm just kidding, they really did leave town. You can't reach them, so you'll have to wait until Tueday to talk to them. Leave a message! Sorry! =)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 14: Lessons Learned From Mom

Day 14: Keep in Touch

Okay, so I played with titles for this post for way too long, but you'll get the picture soon enough. The year I graduated from high school I had six cousins go on missions--three sets of siblings, all her sisters' kids.

Mom was a very good correspondant.

One of the cousins even had a comp from the MTC whose family had essentially disowned him, so she wrote him too. Seriously, I have no idea how she kept up with everyone as I'm fairly certain most of them received letters nearly every week. I wrote one of them semi regularly--once a month or so, and then I added a few other friends as they left on their missions the next year, but I can't imainge keeping up with that many letters going from South America, New Zealand, Europe, and here in the states. (I'm having a sudden brain lapse and can't remember where David went--Rebecca, I know you read my blog all the time, even though you never comment. Where was it again?)

What's funny is expectations. There was one person in particular she didn't expect to hear from much, but she did. Often. He became a very close correspondant during his mission. I heard many stories through her, for example about his being paired with another Elder who had his same last name, which was rather confusing to the people in Brazil.

Since none of her own kids served missions (You know, if you don't consider the fact that Laurel's whole life is practically a mission) maybe this was her chance to do her part to support family who was serving. In any case, she was a great example to us all about supporting family and strangers alike.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 13: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 13: Cheer Others On

This is going to be short because I've had an incredibly long day of work and driving halfway across the state (Okay, only to Utah County, but it felt like halfway across the state before I finished!).

It seems when you turn on the television, or even if you just overhear people in the line for the graoery store that so many people feel an intense competition to be better than everyone else around them. Petty jealousies abound--which is the cause of so much of the grief and pain around us.

My mom, however, rarely makes a negative remark about something someone else may have, or do. She taught me to rejoice with others when things go well for them, to be happy for the good things, even when they aren't necessarily happening to me. I think a lot of this comes back to attitude--are we happy with what we have, or do we covet what others own or their successes in life?

I'm sure there have been moments when those twinges of covetousness or jealousy have affected her, as they do for all of us, but she doesn't make a habit of infecting others with those feelings--as snide comments and snubs are sure to do. Her example has enabled me to see the good in those around me, and to be truly happy for friends as they reach special milestonees I am still striving for and may never reach.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 12: Lessons Learned From Mom

Day 12: Old Musicals are Fun

And you thought all of these lessons would be serious...well, sort of serious. I guess Lesson 9 was rather unconventional. From my earliest years I remember watching old musicals with my mom. I'm familair with all of the standard shows one might expect like My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, White Christmas, Singing in the Rain, etc. But, how many people in my generation know about The Happiest Millionaire? I can't imagine my growing up years without running around the room singing and dancing to Bye-Yum Pum Pum, (this is the ringtone for my mom and most of my sisters on my cell.) and Watch your Footwork. And if you've heard these songs and don't get the attraction...well, I guess you just had to be there.
I'm also rather partial to Family Band but then, anything with Leslie Ann Warren and John Davidson is worth several viewings! And this show is how I knew that Grove Cleveland was the only president of the United States to be elected to two non-consecutive terms. So you can learn something from old movies!

Actually, it wasn't just old musicals that run through our family like golden fine threads, but music in general. When we went on family trips we often sang silly songs (that was mostly my dad's influence actually, he spent a few too many years as a Scout master.), patriotic songs, and songs from our favorite musicals. Which of course, had to include Newsies. I think we could still, to this day, sing every song flawlessly--my parents might cringe at the opening bars of The World Will Know, or My Lovey-Dovey Baby, but we sang them all at the top of our lungs on long car trips. If it wasn't exactly a peaceful ride, it wasn't filled with whining and complainging that someone was looking at us funny or was on our side of the seat! I seriously have got to figure out what my husband did with my sound track. I swear I wasn't singing it loudly around him--he had no reason to hide the CD from me...

Thanks, Mom, I still love a good musical. We definitely need a Girls' Movie Night. I'm feeling nostalgic.

Tristi's Book Launch

Saturday after spending several hours making stops for our business on the way north, I finally made it to Tristi's book launch party at Provident Book and Humdinger Toys in Pleasant Grove, which is sadly closing this month. It was a great event with lots of people showing up to visit and buy books--I bought several things myself, and I already had one of Tristi's books! By the way, Provident Book is having some gret discounts right now, so if you live in the area, you should stop by and check it out before it's too late.


Anyway, I was really worried because I made a cake for Tristi as a surprise, and I wasn't sure how well it would travel, especially since it was in my car all day. I packed it in one of those refrigeration bags so it wouldn't get too hot when I ran into offices, and it came out looking pretty good. I have to say thanks to my sister at Kristi's Cakes, she has a printer that uses food coloring to print on edible rice paper so it's totally safe to eat. Her cakes look way better than mine. She can ship your photos anywhere for you to put on your own cakes, too.

Anyway, it was a totally cool event since I got to see a lot of people I know from bloggerville and several old friends. My critique group all made it--except our e-mail member, Danyelle, who, tragically, lives on the other side of the country (If you don't believe this is a tragedy, you should see how many cell phone minutes the two of us use every month!). Pictured are Kim, Tristi, Keith, me and Nichole

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day 11: Lessons Learned From Mom

Day 11: Keeping Life Together Takes Hard Work

Did I mention that my mom works full time, and has six kids? I thought so. Yes, she always had dinner for us (Okay, so sometimes it was 8 p.m. for dinner, then time for jammies--what do you expect when she doesn't close the store until 6?) . She also did an admirable job of keeping the laundry from swallowing the house whole...that's a lot of laundry loads.

Because of this, not only was she a good example of how you have to work if you want to keep life under control (we all have different ideas of what it means to have things under control--sometimes that may mean the house is spotless and the laundry is all put away--other times it may mean there are clean clothes waiting to be folded, and we remembered to run the dish washer--and we're feeling good that most of the floor is still visible. I've found the situation dictates what I'm willing to live with.) No woman does this without a little help around the house--in other words, we had chores every day. Generally we were expected to complete them *before* school, and we rotated our jobs weekly. This kept things simple enough, especially when the jobs were done every day. No matter how many showers we went through a day in our single bathroom (Yes, one bathroom, six kids, five of them girls--it was a blast!), it wasn't much of a hassle to clean when it got cleaned EVERY DAY.

And the same theory applies to every part of the house--except the dishes, and maybe the laundry. I'm convinced they have parties when my back is turned and multiply wherever they are when I go to bed. The laundry baskets fill overnight and even though there was only one plate on the counter when I went to bed, the entire span of countertops is full of dirty dishes when I get up in the morning. Then again, maybe my cats are having parties at night...Or they could be cooking treats for the geese and ducks I hear causing a rucus in the back yard at 2 a.m.

But I digress. We cleaned daily--that does not mean we all cleaned *well* daily--but something is better than nothing and generally the house stayed under control--which is incredible when you consider that we had four teenagers at once. The important thing is that she taught us all how to clean every part of the house. There were no women's chores or men's chores. I took out as many garbage bags as my brother, and he did roughly the same number of dishes.

Not only did we know how to clean, and how to do it well--which was a major advantage when we got out on our own--but we had Mom's example that sometimes you have to work all day and then come home and work all evening. She and my dad both still work insane numbers of hours every day at their business and then come home and work some more--this instilled a work ethic in us, and helped us see that life isn't supposed to be lazing around. We were meant to be busy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day 10: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 10: There are Many Ways to Show Love

Have you thought abotu all the different ways we tell our families that we love them? Do you even notice the things our loved ones do for us? I mentioned once befroe that my mom cooks three meals a day, from scratch, every day, even though it's just her and my dad now. there are lots of other things I remember over the years.

When we were young she took a cake decorating class. I remember Barbie cakes, a particularly good rendition of the Cookie Monster, and I have a vague recollection of Big Bird. In later years she didn't have the time for anything as fancy, but she always found a way to make it fun, even if fun was allowing us to decorate the top ourselves with candy.

I can't tell you how many dresses she made for me while I was growing up. And my wedding dress--which was so exactly what I wanted. This last is even more amazing when you consider that she also made my sister's dress, and the bride's maid's dresses for both our weddings (which were 3 weeks apart--not to mantion the refreshments. I still wonder how she managed not to collapse before my wedding).

From notes in the mail to my neices and nephews, to little reminders and phone calls (and more lately text messages) she keeps in touch with us all, and makes us feel special.

Twice as Tastey!

Just a quick note, I had to share. One of my hens laid the FIRST double yolker I've ever gotten. It was this huge green egg, about double the size of the others, so I knew it had to be, and I was right. It was a small joy--but I'll take what I can get.

And it was super yummy too!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 9: Lessons Learned from Mom

Lesson 9: Sometimes You Should Do The Unexpected

I've been debating on whether I should tell this story, especially since I wasn't there for it, but I've heard it so many times, I'm going to share, and hope my mom and sister forgive me if I make a mistake on a detail or two.

Being a mom is serious business, especially if you have a housefull of kids and a full time job. My mom was someone I could talk to and laugh with, but with one thing and the next she rarely let her wild side out. Or maybe it's that this incident was so completely off the charts unusual that very few other experiences compare. My sister will be the first to admit she was...occassionally difficult as a teen. She will probably say I'm being too nice, but we'll stick with this.

You know how it is when you're in high school, if it's not homework, or the job, or the boyfriend, or musical practice, it's friends or one of the myriad other things that fill a teen's life. Consequently my sister was out all evening at work--skipping dinner. When she returned home at nine-thrity or ten she decided a little Mac 'n Cheese was in order. Fifteen minutes later she sat at the table to enjoy it steaming from the pan, eating it with the wooden sppon she'd used to cook it.

Mom came in and sat across the table, they were talking and taking it easy while she ate--my sister wasn't an easy one to catch, so Mom took advantage of the moment. As they talked, Mom said something my sister didn't like. Now my sister (notice how I'm avoiding using her name?) can't remember what it was my mom said, and it didn't make her mad, but she pretended to be. She lifted the wooden spoon filled with noodles and pretended like she was going to flip them at Mom.

She swears she wasn't really going to do it. The spoon slipped--or that's her story. After she flipped food at my mom, Mom walked around the table, reached into the pan and scooped some up to rub in my sister's face.

That was the end of the food fight (a glorified term in this case, I know) because my sister was too shocked to reciprocate. Still, it's a favorite story when we all get together. This same sister said she used to stay up in the evening with Mom eating triscuits and canned cheese. Mom said if you want to get a teen to talk, feed them ater 10 p.m. Sometimes it helps to take that literally!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Day 8: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 8: Parents Need to Act Like Parents

I work in a retail store part time so I see a lot of families of all kinds. Some of those harried mothers remind me of my mom, and some...not so much. You see, when you watch parents (or grandparents) at a store like mine, especially when they have a whiney kid with them, you learn a lot about who is in charge.

It's surprising how seldom it's the adult making the decisions.

Now, I've said for years that the only perfect parent out there--the only one who hasn't made mistakens or given in when they shouldn't--is someone who has no children, and never has. It's amazing how childless couples and single people know the answer to every probelm that arises around them. Just ask sometime when you, as a parent are stumped--some childless person is sure to have the 'perfect' solution to fix whatever is going wrong. More often than not, they miss the mark.

I say this to illustrate that I understand every home and situation is different, and I know there are times when giving is in just easier than fighting with a kid for your own sanity. But when an adult is in our store with a young child (or even a teenager) and they say no, I totally admire them when they stick to their deicision despite crying, tantrums, wheedling, or any other methods applied by the child to try and convince the parent to change their mind. Especially when they have a tantruming child--it's far too easy for parents to give into social pressures, wondering if people around them are going to think they are cruel or mean not to give their kid whatever they want just to shut them up.

I admit, when we had a couple of toddler boys living with us, one often had random tantrums--generally there was no identifiable cause, no one had looked at him wrong, touched his stuff, played with his toy, etc. He would just throw himself on the ground and start wailing for no discernable reason. And I stood by, waiting for him to calm down in stores on more than one occasion--despite funny looks people gave me for ignoring the bad behavior. Okay, I have to admit that picking him up and trying to soothe him never worked regardless of the location because the problem wasn't something I could fix, even if I wanted to. It was much easier not to tease and cajole him with sweets or whatever else I could find to placate the kiddo. Don't get me wrong, I felt terrible that he went through these episodes. It was rough on him and tired him out, but there was honestly nothing I ould do about it, and picking him up generally made things worse.

How does this come back to my mother? My parents had fairly strict rules about being home when we were supposed to be, getting our chores done, taking care of responsibilities, being where we told them we would be. They expected me to follow the rules, and when I didn't, there were consequences--nothing too hard handed or overbearing, but they were always there. When I was grounded, there was a reason, and I didn't get out of my punishment until the time passed.

On the other hand, there were a few times when my mom decided maybe she had reacted to a situation, and she re-evaluated the punishment--but never in response to me whining or complaining about it. People around us often said my parents were too strict, that we would all go wild as soon as we graduated from high school and were allowed off on our own.

Guess what--we didn't. I admit, we didn't always make the right decisions, but as part of their parenting strategy, as we went through high school we were always allowed to make more of our own decisions. There was no pressure for us to attend a certain school, study a particular field. I was used to making the majority of my own decisions, and as I moved on to college and married life they have occasionally made suggestions when they saw options I hadn't considered closely, but they never pick apart my decisions or tell us we screwed up with this one or that.

If we made a mistake (like buying a brand new car weeks before I was laid off and my husband was injured at work) there was no condemnation from them--just acceptance that we were adults, and able to make our own decisions, and our own mistakes. And when we needed help, they did what they could--even if it was just to list options available to us, or to provide a listening ear.

I can't say how grateful I am that my parents are there to consult with when I have a dilemma (even if it's just which paint to put on my coop) or to support me through my struggles. It's such a huge thing for me to know that even if they don't agree with my decisions they accept that I'm old enough to make them, and capable of dealing with the consequences. They never belittle the decision or tell us we screwed, up, but let us figure that out on our own. And I don't think I've ever heard 'I told you so.'

Agent in Old Lace Book Signing

If you're going to be in the Pleasant Grove area this Saturday, stop by Provident Book at 661 W. State Street, between 3 and 5 p.m. to talk with Tristi Pinkston and buy a copy of her new book Agent in Old Lace, which has just been released this week. Don't be thrown off by the construction on the road there, you can get into the parking lot between the cones. I'm going to do an official review of the book in June, but let me tell you, I've read it and the book is terrific (then again, Tristi is just that kind of writer).

There will be some awesome door prizes, refreshments, fun, laughter, and a free sample of the perfume designed to go with "Agent in Old Lace" with purchase of the book. If you can't make it but still want a copy of the book, click here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 7: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 7: You can't beat Homecooked

Okay, first I have to state that I am not a culinary genius. I'm actually quite proud of myself when I actually cook a meal for my husband without his having to remind me that it's dinnertime--I tend to snack, then get distracted by other things like my laptop. The next thing I know it's 8:30 and he's wondering if he's going to pass out from low blood sugar, if I'm going to cook, or if he needs to order out a pizza before they close in thirty minutes.

My mom, on the other hand, works a long day (usually around 9-10 hours) at their store, then comes home and cooks dinner for my dad EVERY NIGHT. This after she actually cooks breakfast (my husband is a fan of Carnation Instant Breakfast and cold cereal, which is good because we're rarely up within an hour of each other). And, to top it off, she--get this--comes home at lunchtime and makes something for their lunch. Every day. Granted lunch is more often than not either reheated leftovers or sandwiches, but my husband only wishes he had it so good.

Maybe I shouldn't be admitting that.

All my life my mom has always cooked every meal. Granted, eating out on a super tight budget when you have six kids is really not feasible, but I don't remember having all that many dinners of sandwiches or scrambled eggs. Generally there was a casserole, or some kind of main dish and a vegetable. When I was younger and she had a little more time on her hands she made bread a lot, and she has the most scrumptious granola recipe.

My bread-making skills aren't too bad, now that I've put in some practice. The granola is very time consuming (mostly because it is baked in batches that I have to watch or they burn--because I'm just that kind of flake) and not especially diet friendly. Did I mention it was terrifically tasty? I learned the cooking skills I needed as an adult to prepare meals for myself and whatever family happened to be living with us at the time, which is a huge money saver, and makes me feel good--when I employ those skills.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 6: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 6: Find time to get things done

As a writer I often hear women (and sometimes men) talking about how they manage to squeeze writing time into their days. We're all busy with the million and one things we're supposed to do every day--something that isn't new.

When I was a kid my mom ws often up at 5 a.m. Actually, she may still be up that early. No, we didn't have cows or chickens that needed early feedings--it was the only time of day she could have the house quiet to write in her journal, sew those Christmas dresses, work on church lessons, or whatever else had to be done. And with six kids in the house, there was always someone interrupting during daylight hours, and well into the night--more often than not, multiple times during the night.

She could have foregone her journal writing, her sewing, and whatever else she did in those peaceful hours of the day, but it was important to her, so she made the time. The fact is, there's time in all of our lives to accomplish our goals. Even the busiest among us can squeeze in a few minutes to write in our journals, send a note to a friend, excercise, pick up a mystery novel, make a model airplane, or whatever else we really want to do. We can't do all of those things, but we can do one or two, if we're willing to make time for them, squeeze them in the cracks of our days.

What's important to you, and how do you make time for it?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Day 5: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 5: Sometimes you have to Compromise

Nope, this isn't what you think. Specifically what I thought of in this context was when Iwas little. We lived in a tiny little rental on a corner just a few blocks from my parents' current home. It had three bedrooms--if you counted that the "family room" was converted into a bedroom for the girls. And the little closet-sized room off the laundry had been converted into a bedroom for my brother and the baby. Yeah, did I mention it was tiny? Luckily it came with a large yard, trees to climb, an empty pasture nearby that we could explore with friends, and a swing under the pear tree.

I know now that my mom was ready to tear her hair out most of the time we lived there--she had 5 kids, and gave birth to #6 while we lived there, after all. She encouraged us to play outside as much as possible, and when we went to the store with her we had a big yard to play in out back (which sadly lacked trees, but boasted a garden, swing set and sand box). I remember often (probably most of the time) after she sent us to bed my sisters and I would get up and run around the room. We thought we were being sneaky as we giggled and bed hopped.

Mom was not left in the dark. She could have made us all miserable--especially herself--by coming in and forcing us to get back into our own beds and get to sleep. And sometimes she did, but I know a lot of the time she sat in the living room too tired from a long day of work (and wrangling us there), and coming home to do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, mediate fights, etc. Often she just let us giggle and think we were fooling her.

Why do I write about this? Because sometimes parents have to let the little things go for their own sanity. We may have been a bit tired the next morning because we stayed up too late, but there was no serious harm, and we all grew up well adjusted enough. Sometimes moms have to take a break. We don't hve to be super mom all of the time (and let's face it, even trying for a few hours can be exahusting!). As long as we kept the noise down and stayed in our room, there were many nights she let it go while she worked through the details that kept the house running, then settled down to relax for ten minutes before heading to bed to start it all over again at 5 the next morning.

As a foster parent there were plenty of times when I had to just let the little behaviors go. Sometimes I had to take a time out so that I could be a good parent and deal with the day-to-day things that popped up. Her example helped me accept some things aren't worth worrying over and focusing on those that are.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day 4: Lessons Learned from Mom

It's Mother's Day on Day 4, and since it's Sunday, I'll talk about church callings. For anyone reading this who isn't LDS, let me explain. In our church all of the teachers, leaders, musicians, etc are unpaid. We receive a calling from the Lord through the bishop (the leader of the congregation similar to a pastor) and then usually fulfill those callings for a period of a few years. My mom has done all kinds of things over the years from leading the music in Primary (the children's organization), to teaching teen Sunday school, teaching gospel doctrine, being a beehive leader (teaching young women ages 12-13), and now as the Relief Society president (the women's organization). I'm sure I missed some.

I've seen her worry about finding the right way to get through to teenagers, watched her get up early every morning to prepare gospel doctrine lessons, and more recently, fret about overseeing the Relief Society. All of these jobs have required a large amount of effort for her to be successful, and I know there were times when she came home after teaching a lesson when she was unhappy because she couldn't get through to the audience. Still, she never gave up, only searched for a more effective way to teach the next lesson.

I don't think it has ever occured to her to not accept a calling--if the Lord wants her to do the job, she'll give it her all, and she'll never complain about the time she spends or the fact that she's so busy and often foregoes sleep to do the job she accepted.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 3: Lessons Learned from Mom

Day 3: Education is important.

You might say that every parent tries to impress their kids with this fact. After all, education is important if you want to do something with your life. Unlike a lot of people, though, neither of my parents has a college education. My dad has some college, about a year's worth, I think. My mom went straight from high school into the work force though. I remember as a kid grumbling because I hated learning my spelling words. Why did she make me practice, anyway? Her response was that she wished her mother had helped her with spelling words, but my mom had to do it on her own. By the time I reached high school I had surpassed my parents' ability to help me with my math or science homework, but she was always there encouraging me.

Also, my younger sister, who is far too smart for her own good, took a physics class her senior year and had issues with the teacher's teaching style. She had her friends, who were also in the class, over to our house often, working on their homework together, trying to figure out the assigned work from the books. Though it meant she had giggling girls invading her house several times a week, the girls were always welcome, adn the homework managed to get done. (I know, a miracle that four teenaged girls could get together and still complete their homework!)

My parents were in no position to pay for my college, but they always provided me with a vehicle so I could have a job at school, and have a way to come home. One year when I was especially tight on funds they even let me put a gas fill up on their credit card, and they always paid for car maintenance. This with four younger kids at home and a tight budget. Because of this and a combination of hard work and scholarships, I was able to finish my bachelors with no student loans. I always felt their support as I strove to complete my schooling.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Day 2: Lessons I Learned from Mom

Day 2: Compassion and a willingness to give are important.

My mom has always been the kind of person who is willing to invite 'outsiders' to join us. When I was a sophomore in high school my older sister had a friend, Jolene. Jo had moved to our small town with a family who had spent a few months living in her area in Oregon. Once she got here she realized maybe she didn't want to live with the original family as there were a lot of thing going on in the house that she didn't want to be part of. After a year, my mom found out about this and offered to let Jo live with us. We rearranged bedrooms and she took a room upstairs, where she lived until graduation. She wasn't a relative, nor did my mom have a responsibility to take care of Jo, but she was more than willing. Jo never paid rent or helped with the grocery bill, she was just welcomed with open arms. She's still in touch with my family today.

Also, for a couple of years Bill and I had foster kids living with us. Whenever we brought them to visit familyw ith us, my mom made them welcome, gave them Christmas gifts just like the grand kids, and took time to listen to them. I know the first group of kids really loved coming to my parents' home, and I know she was the biggest part of that.

I think it's sometimes hard to open up your heart and home to strangers, but she has always been willing to let us bring home friends from college (I had a Japanese roommate who came to lots of family gatherings) to coworkers. Her example taught us all a lot.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

25 Lessons Learned from Mom: Day 1

My friend Karen Hoover mentioned today on my writing forum that she was going to honor her mother this month by writing something special she learned from her mom over the years. Since Karen's mother passed away last August she knows there's no better way to share her love and appreciation. She invited us to join her, and I think it's a great idea, so every day until the end of the month I'll be posting something special my mom taught me. These will be posted in no particular order.

Today I want to talk about faith. There have been some really tough things over the years, not least of which was her experience with breast cancer two years ago. Through everything she kept reminding me that she believed everything would work out. No matter how tired or achy she got she trusted in the Lord that she would be okay and that in time she would be able to resume her normal work again. She's healthy and working like crazy again now, and she continues to work to strengthen her faith.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Great Giveaways!

My awesome freind Danyelle has two great contest on her blogs this week. Each is for a $50 gift certificate to the Wedding Paper Divas--which has so much more than just wedding invitations and cards including personalized stationary and party invitations. There is one gift certificate at her Queen of the Clan blog, and another at her From My Wedding to Yours blog. visit both to win a chance for both gift certificates! You have until next Monday, May 11 to enter, but don't put it off or you might forget.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Writer Neurosis

Today in my writing forum one of the ladies posted about how she was preparing a query for one of her books and how frustrated and discouraged she was. She said her book felt like trash compared to other things she read in the market and she wasn't sure whose books hers was most like (to give the agent an idea of where it would be shelved).

Several of us responded that her writing was really good, that we all hated submitting, and that by the time our books were ready to submit we were all sure they were sludge and the publisher would hate them. Unfortunately that uncertainty is part of the neurosis that makes us strive to be publishable writers. More than one of us (from my group) stated that we wished we could take our manuscripts/queries back almost as soon as they left our hands.

So why do we put ourselves through all of this?

Writing is what makes us who we are--or at least it is a big part of me. When I'm agitated reading or writing can calm me, redirect my focus so I can go back to being a semi-normal person that my husband wants to be around.

It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Even if I never published (and I do intend to publish many books) just finishing the story, making it so much better than it start out, so much better than the things I had polished to death years ago (they may not be totally dead, but the plot and structure are only holding on by a few sinews). It's something I'm good at where I'm not in competition with anyone but myself.

And, inveterate introvert that I am, I don't have to put myself in front of mean or judgemental people when I'm still working on a draft. If I show my work to my writing friends they are nice even as they tell me exactly what's wrong and give me suggestions to fix it (granted, I did ask for their help or they wouldn't have read it to begin with).

I'm NOT saying that receiving critiques on my work isn't hard. The first thing I ever let a real writer read came back dripping with red pen (You know who you are, Josi), but after I got over being upset that my 'perfect' manuscript was deeply flawed, I was able to dig in and get the changes made. And when I submitted my next book for her to edit, she commented on how much my writing had improved since the first story. And since then I've learned something more about plotting, chracterization, etc, and through critiques in my writing group and among my critique group (and AT LEAST a million written words) I've finally gotten to the point that my work is publishable.

Does that mean my publisher is going to want the manuscript I gave them two weeks ago? Nope, it sure doesn't. I hope they want it. I think I did a good job on it--and I love my characters. But there are no guarantees, so I'll edit for some friends and try to figure out what's just *wrong* about the story I'm getting ready to send out for full critiques (you know, the one I had planned to send out mid April--yeah, that one) so I can fix it, because it may be all in my head, but I swear the thing is trash, even though my critique group really liked it.

In a few weeks I'll hear back from my publisher and will see what they think. In the meantime I'll try to stay away from the cookie jar, and keep from biting my fingernails.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Making Description Stand Out

I've been receiving David Farland/Wolverton's Kick in the Pants for Writers enewsletter for a few months now and always enjoy the tidbits he has to share. The latest edition is all about description and characterization and how to make it work. We're probably all familiar with the term less is more--and sometimes that's right, but sometimes, as Dave points out, more is actually more.

He talks about engaging the senses and making the scene come alive and mentioned that sometimes when he gets feedback from someone on his writing and they say a part is unimportnat, that it should be cut, what he does is bulk it up instead. This may seem backwards, but sometimes what that feedback is saying is that the writer hasn't made that scene/character/ whatever important enough.

I recently received feedback on a book I've been working on and one reader told me I could cut an entire character because she wasn't important anyway. I couldn't believe she'd said that because this secondary character was totally important to the main character's motivation. Worried that I had not written something right or gotten my point across, I called another reader and told her what the first one had said, and she came right out with the reason she was pivotal--then suggested maybe I should build the character up more and bring her into the story more fully. If she was important, maybe I needed to treat her as being important. She was right. So sometimes feedback--even when it seems totally off base, can lead you in the right direction

The following is a segment of the last email Dave sent out--there was much mroe than this, but this is the pith of the newsletter.

Tips for Bringing a Scene to Life

1) Especially at the beginning of a tale, use resonators to better tie into your audience's subconscious. A resonator is a word or image that gains power simply because your reader has seen it before. "Resonators" are often words that identify your piece as belonging to a particular genre, such as fantasy, romance, or horror. They are part of the secret language that is used within a particular genre to give the writing more power by referring to previous works written in that genre.

Thus, in romance, a resonator might be the word "grey," as in "Heathcliffe's grey eyes bored into hers, stripping her naked and piercing her soul." But a resonator may also be a word that carries strong resonance with real-life experience. For example, everyone who goes to a school might feel a sense of nostalgia when one mentions the "silent halls rich with the scent of layers upon layers of wax that have hardened for eons upon the floor."

Some words that resonate arouse a sense of danger in a reader--words like "smothering," "blood," and "cold," while others help awaken some other profound emotion. In some books, a particular thing or person may gain resonance with the reader when it is used as a symbol for other things.

Here’s an exercise. In the following opening paragraphs from my novel Wizardborn, consider the nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs and then see which ones you think have resonance—either by harking back to the fantasy genre, to real life, or by creating a sense of danger. Circle the resonators that you see.

Stars blazed in a cold blank sky, as if intent on igniting heaven. Raj Ahten raced in the Hest Mountains above Mystarria, sweat drenching him, his blood crusting from wounds at his knee and chest. His shirt of black scale mail, torn from battle, rang like shackles with every step.

The serpentine trail twisted over the torturous ridges and through the crevasses, curling among black pines that struggled up to bristle like spears through cracked rock and a thin crust of snow.

It was a bitter night, and though he detected no foes, Raj Ahten clung to his war hammer. After the rout at Castle Carris, reavers had fled blindly in every direction. Twice Raj Ahten had stumbled upon the monsters in the wood and brought them down.

Wolves howled in the shadowed pines. They'd caught his blood-scent, and now loped behind, trying to match his pace. Raj Ahten could smell his own vital juices, cloying amid the competing scents of snow, ice, stone, and pine.

2) Don't be afraid to overwrite in your first draft (you can always delete the excess).

3) Using precise language is of course essential. That means that if you are naming a person, consider using his name. If you want your reader to envision a pine forest, let them know that it is a pine forest, not just a forest, lest they imagine oaks or palms.

4) Appeal to all of the senses--sight (don’t just describe the colors of things, but also their textures), sound, smell, taste, touch (hot/cold/wet/dry/firmness/abrasiveness). Don't forget the sense of passing time.

5) In order to avoid the use of the to be verbs, consider putting the object being described at the front of the sentence, followed by a strong verb, followed by the thing that is acted upon. For example, rather than saying "The day was so cold that bits of ice hung in the air, driving into Theron's face as he plunged into the storm," you would say, "Needles of ice drove into Theron's face as he plunged through the storm."

6) You may often want to focus tightly on your viewpoint character. Describe the scene from his or her emotional perspective. For example, in describing a spring day for a young man who is sure that he has just fallen in love, I might describe the vivid greens, dwell on flowers, or birdsong, or the comfortable warmth. The same detail for a young man who is jilted might be described as more mocking of his situation, and we might dwell more upon the bones of leaves that lie thick beneath a maple tree rather than the purple crocuses thrusting up through them.

7) Give the object you're describing a past, present, and future. For example, when describing a city, you might describe in a sentence how it had begun: "The Keep at Tillock hunched on the red rocks overlooking the Rangell River, supposedly built to secure the only ford within sixty miles." You then describe how it looks today. "It had fallen into disuse when Gaborn's grandfather was young. . . . " You then describe how it will look in the future. "Captain," Gaborn warned the garrison commander, "Come week's end your men will raise the earthen wall here on the west bank by sixteen feet . . ."

Here are some examples of describing things in motion from my current novel:

“After the storm, the small animals of the field came out to dry, as was their won't. Mice scurried to the mouths of their burrows and dared the hawks as they sat pawing the wet that clung to their fur. Their black eyes blinked against the sun; whiskers twitched as they scented the damp earth.

“From every thicket on the heath, from every gorse bush and from beneath the boughs of every winding oak, the birds emerged. Sparrows like windblown leaves flitted among the hedges. Black grackles strutted on the hard pan, the rising sun daubing their oiled wings with rainbow hues so that they glimmered like shards of live coal. The sodden air teemed with birdsong-- whistles and trills and querulous twitters--making far more clamor than the single flight of mourning doves weaving across the sky could account for.

“By noon the birds would fall silent, Iome knew, but for the moment she felt persuaded to celebrate with them. #

Sir Borenson doffed his iron helm and rode to the orchard eagerly, thinking to fill it with fruit. From a distance, the pears at the treetops looked gravid--the sun had bronzed many and bestowed a few with gleaming flecks of gold.

But as he neared he found that the orchard had fallen into disuse. Leafy branches obscured limbs heavy with deadwood. The few pears near ground were still green and hard, pitted and scarred by the high winds that pounded down from the Alcairs in early summer. And as he drew rein, he could tell that even the pears at the treetop were not enticing to anything other than a few worms that called them home. Perhaps only want had made the fruits seem large.

In another two weeks, the air here would sweeten with the scent of ripening pears.

Today the old orchard smelled only of leaf and wood.

8. In addition to describing how things change over time, make sure that you signal to your readers how the protagonist feels about the thing described. Please note that feelings might also be in transition.

9. Especially when you open a story, you are trying to put things in motion. One way to do that is to describe things—even inanimate things—in motion by creating metaphors. Many a writer might have trees "march down out of the hills." Buildings can "huddle" or "lunge" or "straddle." By the same token, if you're trying to create a sense of rest in the story, particularly near the ending, make sure that you describe your settings and even creatures and people in motion as being still. For example, a hawk can “hang in the sky.”

10. The setting must intrude in every scene. Often, new writers create conversations where two people talk, and never give reference to anything other than their words. But a conversation can be interrupted by the sound of a dog barking, or your character might notice the smell of a nearby orange tree in blossom, or your character may be in the process of doing something, such as cleaning a weapon.

But the world must intrude into every scene, every conversation, no matter how briefly. And if the scene is fairly long, you'll want it to intrude in a number of ways that your reader (and your characters) won't anticipate. For example, in describing a medieval hostel, I might have such unexpected incidents as. "A mouse came racing from the pantry, past the roaring fire, chased by a yellow cat." Or "A fat trader had stacked so much wood on the fire that the heat from it would have blistered a blacksmith; yet he thrust his wet boots next to the coals and sat there contentedly as steam curled up from his soles."

So here are the bones of an old article that arose from my own writing exercises while beginning a novel. The novel, WIZARDBORN, went on to do quite well, and one reviewer for Publisher's Weekly liked it well enough to say that "David Farland once again proves himself to be a wizard of storytelling." Writing well often begins, I have found, with an author peering into a warm fire while pondering what spell to weave and how best it might be cast.

Writing Assignment:

Description Go into the novel that you are writing now and describe something that you want to describe at length. The object here is to “create” a moment or powerful image.

The previous article gives you an example of how I approach this.

In your description, do the following:

Describe an inanimate object, but do it using only active verbs. For example, “hoary pines guarded the hillside, while an ancient rock brooded at its top.” It is all right to use metaphors and similes to create motion.

In your description, appeal to at least three senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, color, feel.

Create a sense of physical motion in your description. There are several ways to do this. For example, you can have physical motion as mentioned above. But you can also have motion nearby. For example, if I were to continue describing the hill, I might place crows flying up from the pines, or a stiff wind that makes the boughs sway.

Add a sense of temporal motion in your description. For example, in describing a car you might describe how it has changed over time—from the moment that it was bought new in the showroom, to what it looks like now, to what it might look in another twenty years.

Add emotion to your description. Describe precisely what your protagonist feels about the place or thing that he is seeing. It is all right to use internal dialog.

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