Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Perspective


After six years as a newspaper editor I have a strong commitment to freedom of the press.  Still recent events have me thinking not only about the journalism instruction I received that became a part of me and the values important to me, but of some of the cliché sayings my parents used to teach me on how to make right choices.  Many of those old clichés have direct bearing on some of today's problems.

First off I'm as horrified as anyone by the needless massacre of the "Charlie" publication staff in Paris.  Murder is pretty hard to justify.  Still deliberately antagonizing fanatics as that staff did with their caricatures of Mohammad reminds me of a saying of my parents:  "Just because you can, doesn't make it right." Add to that "If you stick your head in a bee's nest, you'll get stung" and "If you tease the cat, you'll get scratched."
 
Along with a firm commitment to freedom of speech, I also believe in respecting other's religious views. Almost everyone knows the Muslim world opposes drawings, photos, or any kind of artistic depiction of their prophet. To draw caricatures of him is to insult and offend those of his faith.  Isn't this a lot like "poking a sleeping dog?" Or as my dad would say, "Be careful poking sticks at someone else's sacred cows." 

I don't like it when someone ridicules my religious beliefs and in a world where there's great emphasis on tolerance and acceptance of differences, I often find those yelling the loudest are the biggest bigots and show the greatest intolerance. I'll stand up for my beliefs and allow you the same privilege, but I don't condone either of us restricting or insulting the other for our beliefs. Freedom of speech doesn't mean it's all right to yell "fire" in a crowded building.  Neither does it mean you can trample on the religious beliefs of others or toss aside good sense.  In my view the magazine staff was wrong to publish a caricature they knew was offensive to adherents of Islam and to continue to "throw gasoline on the flames," by continuing to do so, but just as"two wrongs don't make a right" there is nothing right about the response of radical Islamists to this offense.  I suspect most Muslims are like me, the offensive drawings would cause personal hurt, maybe even anger, but they wouldn't make it worse by perpetrating a greater wrong. They would simply walk away and pity the offender for his ignorance. 

There are times journalists must publish something hurtful in their pursuit of truth and justice.  In this case poking fun of a religious leader served no purpose other than to insult.  The Islamic fanatics who murdered those who offended them accomplished nothing other than to enrich "Charlie's" coffers by creating a greater demand for the publication and costing further lives.  My mother would say "Some people don't have the good sense God gave a goose."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

NEW YEAR, NEW SIZE

I suspect the most common wish for most people as a new year rolls around is to lose weight. Losing weight generally means having better health, more energy, looking more attractive, and it gives our self esteem a positive boost. With each new year people vow to attend a gym regularly, take up an active sport, and eat less.  These fine resolutions seldom survive through the end of January.

 A year ago I lost 54 pounds. I don't recommend losing weight the way I did however.  Along with losing pounds I lost my pancreas and gall bladder and became a severe diabetic. A serious illness is not the best way to lose weight. Now it's a matter of working to continue to have new years to worry about.  For all of you, who like me, are striving to lose weight or keep from gaining weight, here are a few suggestions.

Start when you first wake up in the morning.  Sit on the edge of your bed and swing your feet out straight, then down, and up again for twenty swings. (Easy huh?)

Plan ten to twenty minutes of vigorous exercise each day at a set time like right after you crawl out of the bathroom first thing after getting out of bed. (How's that for a convoluted sentence?)This can be riding a stationary bike, walking up and down stairs, riding a bike, running, gardening, shoveling snow, etc.

Walk more, take the stairs instead of the elevator, tackle a major house cleaning project each day such as vacuuming, washing windows, or shopping (online doesn't count). Those people, like writers, who spend long hours sitting at the computer should plan on getting out of the chair and walking around the house or yard at least five minutes every hour.

Play something that involves movement such as taking the kids sledding, tramping around the zoo, play some sport, swim. Find an activity you enjoy and your chances of keeping it up improve.

Include two kinds of activities in your lifestyle.  Remember exercises that involve repetitive use of the long muscles of arms or legs strengthen the cardio vascular system while weight lifting exercise tightens and builds muscles.  (Working out with those small weights two or three times a week miraculously reduces belly fat.)

The one exercise we need to do less of is the one that bends the elbow of the arm attached to our forks.  Seriously people, chips, soda, processed foods, and second helpings have to go. As a diabetic I have to count every carb that goes into my mouth.  Reading labels and avoiding or reducing the carbs (found in starchy and sweet foods) is not easy, but it can be done.  An occasional treat is okay as long as occasional means once a week or once a month, NOT once a day.

Joining a gym or a weight reduction club or group is helpful for many people, but too expensive for others.  They're worth the price for those with a serious weight problem, but not absolutely necessary for the rest of us. Some people do better and stick to their plan better if boosted by a group, but for those with strong self-motivation or limited time you can lose that weight or keep off weight you've worked to lose by small changes in your lifestyle and a determined mind set.

It's easy to put off keeping those pounds in check until a better time.  Unfortunately I learned the hard way there isn't a better time.  It has to be now.  Besides I gave away my fat clothes and have had a difficult time finding a new wardrobe.  I don't want to go through buying new fat clothes.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TOP TEN (Plus a few)


Each year there is a flood of top ten lists published; top ten movies, books, news events, etc. Once more I'm joining in the game, listing my favorite novels of 2014.  The only problem is I can't narrow my list down to ten so I'll call it My Top Baker's Dozen.  I can't place them in numerical order either so just consider them all number one.
 
*Keepers of the Sword by Guy Morgan Galli

*Danger Ahead by Betsy Brannon Green

*We Three Kings by John Pontius

*Drone Games by Joel Narlock












*Drop Zone by Traci Hunter Abramson

* Falling by Clair M. Poulson












*Ring Around the Rosie by Julie Coulter Bellon

*The Quantum Breach by Tanner Zane



*Run for Your Life by Jean Holbrook Mathews 

 
*The Insider by Sian Ann Bessey
 
 
*Deadly Alliance by A.L. Sowards

*Lady Emma's Campaign by Jennifer Moore

*Wedding Cake by Josi Kilpack

 








I read many other enjoyable books as well.  This has been a great year for LDS themed adult novels.  There are a few Young Adult novels I hope to read eventually and one Middle Grade novel, Rebel Princess, by my daughter Janice Sperry I enjoyed.  Unfortunately there are still about a dozen adult LDS novels in my "to read" stack I haven't gotten to yet and some of them may turn out to be favorites too.  I've reviewed all of my top novels listed above on Meridian though some of the reviews aren't out yet, but will be posted soon. If you would like to read any of the reviews go here.

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MY CHRISTMAS CARD TO YOU




 
 
Part of my childhood was spent in a small mountain valley where on Sundays, special occasions, and Christmas, church bells rang out the glad news. Locked in my memories of Christmas mornings  is one when the valley was covered with a thick layer of snow.  The air was sharp with cold, and frost had turned the trees to fantasy sculptures. As I stood outside before entering the barn, I heard the bells.  The sound carried from down in the valley creating one of those perfect moments of beauty that became a piece of what Christmas means to me. 

Over the years my parents, my siblings, my husband and children, friends, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, ward or branch members, those who read my books, and even those I only know from mutual interest internet groups have woven their way into my Christmas feelings and memories. I've given and I've received.  The secret Santas, the homemade gifts, the shopping binges, the parties, concerts, and school plays have taught me the joy of giving and gracious receiving. 

A great musician learned by chance that I'm tone deaf and made it his mission to teach me to hear. Among the pieces he painstakingly helped me to differentiate the sounds from noise to music were the old Christmas carols.  Years later, working in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, the organist on the shift where I serve discovered that I can hear the melody of songs played on the chime setting of the temple organ. Since then she always adds the chimes anytime she plays the organ when I am present.  Thus music has become a deeply appreciated part of Christmas for me. 

When family or friends gather, food becomes one of those social mediums that brings us together. At no time is this more true than at Christmas.  Most of us have a favorite food we associate with Christmas.  My older brothers gave my sisters and me a box of cherry chocolates for Christmas each year when we were little.  Without cherry chocolates would it still be Christmas?  I grew up with a goose, not turkey or ham for Christmas dinner. Mama's carrot pudding, oranges, and raisin filled cookies all mean Christmas to me.  

There are those who remind us Christ wasn't really born on December twenty-fifth. Others are adamant that the gift giving and parties distract from the true meaning of Christmas. Some make a big deal over wishing someone Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.  Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think it matters what day we celebrate as Christ's birthday; the important point is to recognize that He came and the manner of greeting matters far less than the sincere heartfelt desire to wish another a message of caring.  Giving gifts, providing comfort, warmth, and good meals for the homeless and poor, the gathering of families in love for one another are the very things He taught us. It's good to have a time to pause and reflect on our beliefs, acknowledge those who have helped us in life, join together in families and friendship, give the best gifts we can, and spread good will throughout the world.  As for me, I choose to also make Christmas a time to worship and a time to ask God's blessings on all those who have touched my life for good. It's a time to remember Jesus is the greatest gift to mankind.   

Christmas is a time to wish all of you a blessed Christmas. May this season bring you warmth, joy, peace, and the best of memories.

 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

THE BUSY SIDE OF THE SEASON


There are days I feel like I might meet myself going out the door as I come in.  The past couple of weeks have been like that. With four major surgeries in a little over a year and learning to deal with diabetes, there are a lot of things that didn't get done during the past two years, so I decided to tackle some major house cleaning before Thanksgiving, get my Christmas shopping done, and finish the novel I'm writing.  Then there was a Relief Society lesson to teach, a book signing, books to read for the Meridian column I write, Christmas decorating, Thanksgiving, etc., etc. 

The housecleaning exhausted me and had a bad habit of dropping my blood sugar count. I managed to get some major projects done, however not all I'd hoped to do.  Anyway by Thanksgiving the house looked pretty good. All of our children and their families were here for dinner that day.  The food was good, but just being together was even better. We had three tables and twenty-six people!  That's a lot of people in one house, but well worth it to have the people who top my list of things I'm grateful for all together. 

I did something this year I've never done before.  I managed to stay within my budget for Christmas. Shopping for twelve adults, five teenagers, five elementary age boys, two preschool girls, a husband, and a few assorted friends and neighbors takes some strategic planning and lots of lists.  There have been some great sales and when going to the stores became too exhausting, I resorted to a little online shopping. 

We were almost through decorating for Christmas except for the tree when our three-year-old granddaughter came for a quick visit before pre-school. She approved it all, especially the music boxes and the M&M Christmas tree jars.  She even had to try the Nutcracker soap dispenser in the bathroom. When it was time to leave for school, she wanted to be sure it would all still be there when she comes again. 

 

The cat who visits us every day isn't so sure he approves of our Christmas tree. It's kind of scary and too close to the back door where he likes to mooch a snack. Actually we put up two trees this year, a pre-lit artificial tree and a cute little real tree.  The pre-lit tree takes center stage in the living room and the little tree is in a big flower pot on the front porch.
 
 
Sadly I didn't get much writing done, but I'll try to do better in the next few weeks, right after one granddaughter's choir concert, another one's dance recital, a school program, the ward party, wrapping a gazillion gifts, preparing another Relief Society lesson, celebrating our wedding anniversary, and reading a few books.  (Be sure to read my Christmas Books column on Meridian Thursday, Dec. 4)

 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

DOUBLE BOOK SIGNING


I'm doing a little blatant advertising.  You don't even have to get up early, though it will be the day after Thanksgiving.  My daughter, Lezlie Anderson, and I will be signing our Christmas books at Seagull Book ( 1720 S. Redwood Road) this Friday, November 28 from ten to noon. This is a fun store and a great place to Christmas shop or just look at books and eat chocolate. Please come or as Lezlie says, "we'll feel like dorks."  By the way, I didn't write Christmas Treasures by myself; there are stories included by eleven other well-known writers.
 

 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

NOT SO TERRIBLE TWOS

As life becomes a little overwhelming with wars, rumors of war, disasters, diseases, and all manner of ills, I find myself thankful for two-and three-year-olds and other assorted toddlers.  Perhaps that's part of the purpose for small children.  They provide a different perspective on life.  They teach us faith--and they make us laugh. 

A few weeks ago my small granddaughter informed the clerk at Harmon's grocery store that "You need to clean your store."  Taken aback the clerk asked if she'd found something dirty. Little Jen pointed to the array of Halloween spider webs overhead.  "'piders!  Get a broom." 

 

Attending a baptismal service for one of my grandchildren, the then two-year-old impressed me with his generosity when he passed out candy-like fruit chews to every child around us until I realized he was only giving away the blue ones which he adamantly disliked. 

As foster parents we once were blessed with a half-starved two-year-old who had never had solid food.  Slowly we added fruits, vegetables, and cereals to his diet.  He stood by anxiously waiting every time I baked cookies. He became an enthusiastic fan of cookies warm from the oven. Then came a day when my husband and I sat in church with him between us waiting for the sacrament prayer to begin.  All was quiet, then the other ward that shared our building rang a bell to signal their class time was ending.  Andy jumped to his feet shouting, "Cookie done, Mommy!" 

When it came time for our first grandson to get a haircut, I somehow got elected to do the honors. Chris wiggled and ducked, turned his head, and refused to sit still.  Finally I handed him a cookie, hoping it would distract him long enough to get the job done.  He sat still for about a minute and I cut quickly, letting his hair drop wherever. He then solemnly handed back the cookie, telling me, "Don't like fuzzy cookie." The cookie was covered with fine, blonde hair. 

Nate was quiet and behaved beautifully in church or while shopping, then suddenly he would announce "Done," then he would squirm, run off, yell, and be unmanageable.  This is the same child who "worked" instead of "played." 

A friend's three-year-old grandson is in love with cleaning.  He loves to Swiffer and demands that she shop at Walmart because he likes the way the cleaning products aisle smells. I wonder if this obsession will last through his teenage years. 

Jen does her best to teach me lessons in logic and fairness. If I give her a treat, she holds up her other hand and lets me know she has two hands so she needs two treats.  Once she was with me when I received a call from another grandchild's school telling me he was ill and needed to be picked up.  Naturally Jen went with me to get him, but once he was safely strapped in the backseat beside her, she insisted I should go get the other boys (five boy cousins nearly the same age). She's sure that the boys are a group package and should all come to my house if one does. 

A long time ago, when I was a small child, I found a small pine tree of only five or six inches tall, that had been uprooted.  I took it home and an elderly neighbor invited me to plant it in his yard.  He dug the hole, then let me do the rest.  Through the years I've often thought of him and the things he told me that day about planting trees and raising children.  He said trees and babies represent faith.  Those who don't believe tomorrow will come or that babies will grow into fine adults lack faith. I'm convinced he was right.  Planting trees and appreciating the wonder of toddlers is what keeps us believing a better tomorrow is possible and that both the trees and the babies, grown tall, will help it happen.
 
 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

ASKING FOR INPUT


Over on Meridian where I've been reviewing books for almost twelve years, I'm making some changes in my column.  First off my column is going to switch from weekly to bi-weekly.  But the most important change is going to be to the content.  This is where I need reader input.  What do you want to see? 

Several writers and author forums have advised authors to not read reviews of their books.  This is because of trolls who haunt sites like Good Reads and get some kind of sick pleasure out of posting nasty comments and reviews.  There's something about being able to post anonymously that brings out the sickos. Real reviewers don't attack authors or make blanket negative remarks.  If there is something wrong with a book, an honest reviewer will point out what the flaw is and often suggest a way to correct the problem.  Real reviews are an examination of a work, not an attack on the author. 

One thing I want to do is help readers understand literary jargon and to know the difference between genres.  I find it a sad commentary on the reading public when someone gives a book a low ranking number, star, etc., simply because it isn't the kind of book the reader prefers, such as finding a book is an historical novel when he/she thought it was a romance. It's unfair to pan a book because it's a genre the reader doesn't care for. I think it might be helpful too, to let readers know what to expect from a novel since book covers and blurbs don't always indicate the genre and sometimes a book fits into more than one category. 

I review for an LDS-oriented magazine.  In the future I want to place more emphasis on books that carry a message compatible with LDS values and I'll write about that value.  This doesn't mean the book has to specifically mention the Church or a particular doctrine of the Church, but it does need to have a theme compatible with LDS standards. I review both books from the well known LDS publishing houses, small publishers, and indies.  Contact me by email or on facebook private message if you need my address.

A few years ago I asked readers what they wanted and I was overwhelmed with requests for a warning concerning typos, spelling and grammar errors, and all of the messy results of a new electronic age. Does anyone still want this? This situation has improved, but not gone completely away. 

Another thing I will be doing is grouping books with a common theme together in one review.  I'll do this both when the books represent a common genre and when they illustrate a common point in spite of being from different genres, time periods, or styles. 

This is where you come in.  I want my column to benefit readers and writers.  Let me know what I get right, what you want to know about fiction, and what doesn't work or what you have a differing opinion on. You can use the comment section with my column on Meridian.  You can tell me here or on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A WRITER'S GARDEN


 

October is a time to tidy up, clean up, and put away. The harvest is done.  Only a few die hard potatoes are left in the garden.  The last brilliant roses are defying the coming snows. The season is nearly over.
 
 
 

Every year the onset of cooler weather is my signal to trim back my perennials, root out the annuals, dig in mulch, roll up and drain the hoses, rake leaves, put away the patio furniture, and generally get my yard ready for winter.  I learned a long time ago that the more effort I put into making all secure in the fall, the more beautiful and work free spring will be.

 

Like most writers I find an analogy to writing in almost everything around me.  I've often compared spring to the excitement and discovery of starting a new work.  Summer as the patient slogging through the grand vistas and discouraging, blistering middle, and fall as the completion, the time of harvesting or finishing a novel.  October is that period of clean-up; the time of going back through the manuscript to check the spelling and grammar, ensure that it's in the best possible shape. Review the comments of beta readers. It can be seen as exhausting necessary work or it can be filled with satisfaction from knowing you've done your best and you have a completed, ready for submission story ready to send to an agent or publisher.

 

October is also the time to plant tulips.  Tulip bulbs, or those "big seeds" as my granddaughter calls them are almost magical and are often used as symbols.  To me they are a symbol of faith, a promise that no matter how deep the snow and how low the temperatures fall, spring will come.  Each writer needs a bit of tulip faith.  Even as this season's manuscript is sent on its way, seeds, big seeds, need to be planted.  Start that next manuscript before you hear back on the one already sent.  Dream big.  Plant big seeds.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LIBRARY AUTHOR EVENT

This just might be a bit of blatant advertising.

Come see me and forty or so other authors this coming Saturday, September 27, between one and five in the afternoon at the West Jordan Library, 8030 South 1825 West.  We'll be in the Viridian Event Center.  I don't have a new book out, but I do have a short story in Christmas Treasures, Covenant's newest compilation of short, true Christmas stories by a dozen different authors.  Deseret Book and King's English will be there with copies of many of my books for sale along with those of the other authors. I'd love to meet readers who have checked out my books or borrowed them from friends over the years as well as those who have purchased them. 

This will be a new experience for me since it will be the first time (I hope not the last) that my daughter Janice Sperry and I have been invited to sign our books at the same event. I'm also looking forward to seeing many of my fellow local authors. 

Here's a list of most of the authors who will be there: 

Ken Baker, Laura Bastian,             

Anne Bowen, Mikey Brooks, DJ Butler, Juli Caldwell, Stacy Lynn Carroll,Cindy Christiansen, Jaleta Clegg, Angela Corbett, Kristyn Crow,             

Julie Daines, Kristyn Decker,Peggy Eddleman, Bonnie Glee, Josh Hanagarne,
Ka Hancock, Jennie Hansen, Cindy Hogan, Marion Jensen, JR Johanssen, Kim Justeson,
Fay Klingler, Alysia S. Knight, Wendy Knight, Caren Liebelt, Dene Low, Lisa Mangum,
Carol Masheter, Shallee McArthur, Mark Minson, Andrea Pearson, Bobbie Pyron, Jess Smiley,
Janice Sperry, Joy Spraycar, Carolyn Steele, Sherry Taylor, Jaclyn Weist, Robison Wells, David West, Martha Sears West, Lance Why, Camron Wright, Michael Young