Monday, June 28, 2010


Four days to deadline, and I'm simply not there. This is the point at which I hate the craft of writing, I dread the current project, and wonder why in the world I put myself and the family through this stress.

I'm not alone. Here are a few YouTube clips ( one and two) from another author who is also in the "whiny boat" with me.

I want to play! I want to swim! I want to mess around with dirt and bugs and the garden hose with grand kids!

So yesterday, after church, my daughter's family came over and while the men attended to manly Church business and my very pregnant daughter rested, Brady and I played. We read books, grannie-wrestled, tossed balls, played horsey, sang songs and laughed so hard he looked at me as if Grandma was a little touched in the noggin'.

And then today I awoke at 4 a.m. with so many ideas I couldn't sleep. Two thousand great words about the Battle of Baltimore and those courageous defenders were laid down before breakfast.
And the best part of all? I'm rested and happy and loving the craft again.

Yep, balance is good.

Friday, June 25, 2010


I love to write, but I love research almost as much. Sometimes the days are long and the document you need to corroborate your point eludes you, but it’s nearly impossible to scratch around old documents and records and not find a few things that give you an “aha!” moment and make your arms tingle.

It’s like a treasure hunt. You begin with a single question, or a reference in a book, and then you pull out your keyboard and go “digging.” Inspiration helps too. Sometimes an idea comes about where to search and you know it wasn’t your own. You just know that someone wants this story told, and told well. And those shivers are the best ones of all.

This week, I’m writing the portion of “Oh Say Can You See” that actually details the Battle at North Point and the assault on Fort McHenry. I needed to write a scene that built up to those moments, to create a perfect denouement when we get there, but I wanted it to be historically accurate. So I returned to an old record written by a British soldier who fought at Bladensburg and in Baltimore.

I had read portions of his account of the attack on Washington before and pulled out details to keep my story tight and true, but this day I scrolled almost exactly to the point I needed and I began to read a journal entry describing his thoughts before heading into this battle. He described the rush of adrenaline, the feeling of a being a gambler for the highest possible stakes—life and death— the attitudes of the men—some somber but some rowdy, bawdy, obnoxious as they burned off some of their pre-battle energy, knowing they may not return to the ship ever again.

It was a perfect find, and that tingle was there. I had a sense that this was an encapsulation of a letter he had written home to put his parents’ minds at ease, to let them know he was going into battle without fear, and facing his mortality squarely, his peace made with God.

It was a great little gem, and I felt a bit like a voyeur, stealing a glimpse of a unique personal moment. It was impossible not to wonder what a soldier today would feel if he or she read it. Would the feelings be the same? I think they transcend time, taking us back to the basic things we each cherish and fight for--God, family, country.

The bottom line? Time is but a reference and the baseline of humanity is eternal. It makes doing that genealogy and family history a little more urgent. We were real . . . such words seem to whisper to us. Yes, they were, and they live on, in what they wrote, and in how we remember.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I've typed the letters off the keyboard . . . again. Too rushed to head to the electronics store for a replacement, I draw new letters on with White-out. Crazy, I know. My son was home for a few days and saw the mess I've made of it. He asked me why I let my seventeen-month-old grandson draw on my keyboard. Things are bad over here right now. . .

I'll turn this manuscript in in a few days, and then the promo will begin, the most uncomfortable part of being a writer. We begin with a noble idea, to wrote something that will make a difference in someone's life, and we end up feeling like used-car salesmen. (No offense intended.)

Now, to some extent, self-promotion is a necessary part of business. It's called "increasing your marquee value," and it happens in all aspects of the business world--spokespersons and advocates take the podium to bring awareness to the cause they are promoting, and more often than not, they become the focus. Take Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray and George Foreman for example. Who'd a thunk that with a bowl of cookie dough or a pound of ground beef an entire empire could be born?

As an author, as in any other business, I have to do a certain amount of "kingdom building" to establish my name, build a fan base and promote my work. Fortunately or not, I'm terrible at it, but self-promotion in any form takes the person to a slippery, awkward slope.

Speaking at the 2008 BYU Women's Conference, Sheri Dew warned us about people who seek to "build their own kingdom". I've thought a lot about that phrase since hearing her deliver it. At what point do people's efforts turn from the task at hand and begin redirecting the light back to them? Do we notice when the "doing" becomes an opportunity for someone to "build" their own kingdom?

I was listening to the news and a feeling of foreboding washed over me. Thirty minutes later, nestled in the company of members of our congregation, all I felt was peace. The news and financial forecasts were the same. What had changed? One set of people was bent on building ratings while the other was building the kingdom of God, one smile and handshake at a time.

We are all guilty of building our own kingdoms at times, but perhaps the antidote is to test our motivation from time to time. When we raise our hand to comment in class, when we rise to the podium to bear a testimony, when we visit the sick, comfort the sorrowing, offer our hand, the building of whose kingdom is at our heart? I think it's a good standard to use for self-evaluation from time to time. I've done it, and sometimes it stings.

Imagine if we applied such a standard to our politicians, business leaders and social spokespersons, measuring their words against their actions. And imagine if we only supported people whose actions supported the building of His kingdom, whose decisions furthered the causes that not only pleased people but lifted them. Now that's the kingdom I'd like to build.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I've been a dreadful blogger lately because every waking minute has been consumed by the approaching delivery of babies--nursery preparations for a real, pink, squishy little grand daughter, to be named Avery, (after my book), expected July 29th, and two literary babies the publisher is expecting me to deliver to him beginning June 30. Wonderful days. . .

But tomorrow is Father's Day, and our youngest son, Josh, who now lives in LA, is home for about 100 minutes, so we're trying to squeeze six months worth of loving into a millisecond, chatting his ears off, plying him with favorite foods--in this case crabs and steaks. (Pull out the wallet, this is going to ouch a bit.)

But what a delight that his arrival home to attend a friend's wedding coincided with Father's Day? Amanda, our only daughter, lives nearby with her growing family, and they do their best to keep us entertained, but having one of our sons come home on this weekend is the best present Tom and, for that matter, Amanda can have, as they tag-team to make this weekend special.

As to fathers, I caught this quote this morning:

"The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage. A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, 'Daddy, I need to ask you something,' he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan." -- Garrison Keillor

That quote is not accurate and applicable in this home. Tom turns to butter when any of his kids lay an arm across his shoulders. Dad was the Good Fairy, and Mom? I was reality, baby! I was the law, Dad was mercy. He loved being mercy and fun. His job took him away from home a good bit of the time, so his arrival meant baseball and cookouts and a long list of repairs to essential things that broke while he was away. He was a hero who could fix anything--a bike, an overdrawn checking account at college, a cell-phone or computer disaster. He still does and he still can. He's our McGyver.

It's hard being a hero with a shrinking following as his fans and admirers grow up and leave home to faraway adventures of their own. But like that old "Cat's in the Cradle" song, his boys are growing up to be a lot like him. And what better tribute is there to Father's Day than that?

In honor of Father's Day I'll host a one-day contest. Tell me something wonderful about your dad or father, and I'll enter you to win a copy of "Dawn's Early Light." I'll draw the winner tonight and send an email you can tuck into your Father's DAy Card. Post yout comment below. Ready, set, brag!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


A particular section of "Awakening Avery" is generating some interesting buzz from readers:

. . . Every word she penned before meeting Paul was written to meet her grandfather’s exacting standards. She could still hear his voice, pushing her, inspiring her. “Ask yourself the hard questions, Avery Xandra! Follow where they lead!”

Disillusioned and unsettled, she took a shower and redressed, all the while hearing her grandfather’s voice in her head. “Don’t just tell a story, Avery Xandra. Take me somewhere. Teach me something.”

The challenge had always seemed too daunting at first. “What could I possibly teach you, Grandfather?”

She still remembered his soft, encouraging rebuke, delivered with a cock of his head and the rapid click of his tongue. “Has anyone else dreamed your dreams? Asked your questions? Seen inside your heart? Show me those things—teach me about those things.”

This section is striking a chord with readers. Perhaps it's because the questions and points cause them to examine their own lives.

Most revealed knowledge has resulted from someone asking, "Why?" or "What?" or "How?" or "Who?" And parents quickly learn that asking questions is sometimes the best way to jump start a conversation with a reluctant child.

But not all questions are created equal. President Eyring addressed the topic of adding power to our questions in an article entitled, "Questions Invite Inspiration." The above section of "Awakening Avery" was inspired by this article, taken from a talk, then Elder Eyring, gave to CES instructors in 1998. Since reading this piece, I have become impressed with the great spiritual power available by asking carefully-posed questions.

Elder Eyring points out that questions fall into three categories, or levels of response:

1. Questions that produce a factual answer, primarily pulled from a memory
2. Question that produce a list of potentially correct responses that require thought
3. Questions that require the responder to search their feelings and pull from past experiences.

Here's an example:

Level one: Who suffered on the cross?
Level two: What was accomplished as a result of the Atonement?
Level three: Can you remember a time when you felt the Atonement working your life?

Can you feel the difference in the power of the questions? A powerful thing happens when we use level three questions--memories invite the Spirit to come and witness of truth. These types of questions are so powerful, and the resulting effects are so tender, that they must be used gently and respectfully.

Now apply them to a parent/child situation.

Level 1: Who was driving the car?
Level 2: How did you end up at the party?
Level 3: What were you feeling when you called me to come and pick you up?

Level three questions provide additional opportunities to gently explore further. For example:

When did you first feel those feelings?
Where do you think those feelings come from?
How can you use those feelings to avoid danger in the future?

When used in a classroom, or in a family group setting, a question posed to one person will stimulate thoughts and memories in all listeners, so all are engaged directly or indirectly.

It requires some practice to think this way and become comfortable with this type of questioning, but the power of our questions increases greatly when we invite the responder to search their memory for feelings and spiritual experiences.

Try it during your next FHE lesson, or use it as you explore the next chapter of your manuscript. I'd love to hear how it works for you!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I turned on CNN this morning as I generally do each day, and the Gulf oil spill was the number one topic. Dr. Sanjay Gupta was in Chalmette, Louisiana conducting an interview with two fishermen's wives who are training to be peer counselors to help families deal with the devastation caused by surviving two catastrophic events--not in a lifetime, not in a decade, but within five years.

My ears perked up when I heard the name "Chalmette, Louisianna." Chalmette sits in a bowl below the mighty Mississippi, the hardest hit area after Katrina. Tom and I visited Chalmette a year aftger Katrina while I was conducting research for Free Men and Dreamers, and we were dumbfounded by what we saw. It was a leveled mudland and the few buildings that still stood were marked with X's to indicate the toll the flood had taken in lives. This devastated wasteland was the site of the famed Battle of New Orleans, and despite the damage, or perhaps because of it, the Park Service was open and ready for business. Why do I say they were perhaps open because of the damage? Let me share a portion of my interview with one of the rangers from an article I wrote four years ago:

Finding Chalmette was no easy feat. Our attention was riveted by the complete devastation all around us--abandoned shells of homes with large X's marking the dreaded casualty numbers, broken roads, uprooted trees and mountains of debris just bulldozed into piles by the side of the road for want of any other place to put it. The rangers were on guard at their stations in a portable trailer that sat in the bowl of the plantation site because their former facility had been washed away by the mighty Mississippi that literally flowed some two feet away and twenty feet above their heads, subdued once again by earthen walls and levees.

I asked the ranger if they had many visitors these days and she nodded thoughtfully. "How are the children handling all this?" I asked her. "I assume some of them lost their homes and maybe some family members too." She shrugged and became resolute. "I sit them down right there," she said, pointing to the carpet, "and I tell them about Ole Hickory, (Andrew Jackson). I tell them all that he suffered--that he was taken prisoner by the British when he was 13, during the Revolution. He was starved, beaten, slashed by a sword and that his entire family died as a result of the war leaving him alone and an orphan by the time he was 14. But he never gave up. I tell them look at what he went on to accomplish. And then I tell them that they're made of the same stuff as Ole Hickory, and even though they've been through some hard times, they're not to give up."

I was awed by that civil servant and I knew she was probably changing lives, redirecting darkened hearts to a new, brighter path, imbuing hope back in. I imagined Primary teachers saying something similar about Brigham Young and the pioneers to rows of wide-eyed LDS children, or teachers using George Washington to inspire a new generation of patriots. Oh, I hope so. I hope so.

I hope they still have the strength to fight on that way, but the devastated residents along the Gulf are afraid to breathe the air, afraid to drink the water, fearful of eating the seafood that was the staple of their diet and the source of their livelihoods for generations. They mourn what appears to be the loss of their way of life and homeland, and they ache for the wildlife and beauty decaying before their eyes.

The spill is now bigger in square mileage than Maryland and West Virginia combined, and steadily growing. It’s already affecting parts of the Florida panhandle and threatening Florida’s gulf Coast.

I fell in love with Anna Maria Island some years ago. While struggling with some medical issues, its beauty and peace became my healing place. I set “Awakening Avery” there, highlighting some other wondrous nearby locations I came to love like Sarasota Bay, the magnificent Ringling mansion, the Ca D’Zan and Bradenton Beach. Look at this pristine paradise. They’re all on alert now, and in danger.
The Gulfstream is expected to carry the spill around the tip of Florida and up the coast. And then, if the Atlantic currents pick it up, it will blacken the eastern seaboard venturing off into the Atlantic Ocean itself.

Where are the sign-waving Green Peacers? Why do I not hear their voices? Where is the Federal Government? Pull in everyone with an idea, or a resource! Are we really saying that we’ve thrown our best and brightest at this and we can’t stop the leak? Are we really saying that?

If this isn’t personal to you yet, it better soon be.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I'm still swamped. Writing under deadline pressure is not fun, but I keep thinking how wonderful it will be to see the Free Men and Dreamers project completed. It began almost six years ago with a concept, and by December, the final two volumes of this patriotic series will be on the shelves, and I will be able to rest for a while.

Maybe not. . . The marketing of a book is a daunting task as well. We're still introducing readers to "Awakening Avery." The first official wave of reviews are in and they have made the craziness of AA's spring rush worth every chewed-off nail.

Bloggers all over the cyber-sphere are running the blog-tour promotion. We're giving away autographed copies of the book as well as a pretty awesome necklace I designed specifically for the launch. It's a tradition I've begin--to have a piece of jewelry made for each new book. I'm sharing one with our blog tour winner, so I hope you'll visit th blog sites and enter.

So while all this is going on, I'm back to the computer, or with my nose in some historical record. Bombs are bursting in mid-air and my arms are prickling with pride. Summer adds to those feelings of patriotism, doesn't it?

So let "Awakening Avery" inspire you to pour a tall lemonade and dream or heal by Anna Maria's coast. Or if summer means star-spangled parades to remember our patriotism, Free Men and Dreamers will fit your bill. In either case, I hope you'll share a bit of summer with me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010



Summer's here and what better way to kick it off than with a blog tour for AWAKENING AVERY. We're giving away some books and a very special signature necklace co-designed by Nicole Lefebvre and me for the book's launch! Read on!

"Avery can't cope with the death of her husband and is finally convinced by her son to return to the family's Anna Maria Island vacation spot. With the help from some new-found friends, Avery swaps her house with a widower named Gabriel. As Avery and Gabriel step into each others lives, they begin a correspondence that leads to spiritual and emotional awakening for each of them."

Two readers will win their own copy of Awakening Avery! Yeah! And one lucky grand prize winner will win the beautiful necklace pictured, custom-designed and created by Nicole Lefebvre of Sterling Obsession, just for the launch of "Awakening Avery." The all Sterling Silver, 20" rolo chain, holds a wire-wrapped, blue chaldony briolette; a ampule of sand; and a starfish, all reminoscent of the book's island setting.

The winner will have their choice of a heart that says "live, laugh, love" or "Awaken!" that captures the spirit of the book.

The contest opens June 2 and will close June 13 at midnight MST.

Entering the contest is easy--all you have to do is blog, tweet, follow, or
comment and then fill out this little form here

1. Follow our reviewers blogs. (1 entry for each blog you follow.)

2. Leave a comment on a review.(1 entry for each review you comment on.)

3. Blog about "Awakening Avery," the contest, or a review. (3 entries for each blog post.)

4. Follow us on twitter. (1 entry for each person you follow.)

Laurie Lewis

Walnut Springs Press

Nichole Giles

LDS Women's Book Review

Sheila Staley

Kimberly Job

Joan Sowards

5. Tweet about the contest. (2 entries for each tweet.)

6. Post about the contest on your Facebook. (2 entries for each facebook post or status update about the contest.)

7. Become a fan of Walnut Springs Press or Laurie LC Lewis on Facebook. (1 entry for becoming a fan.)

8. Anything else you can think of that will spread the word. (3 entries for every social media site you post on.)

If you mention it on goodreads, shelfari,google buzz, make it your status on gmail chat, MSN or yahoo messenger let us know. We'll reward your creativity with entries.

Author Blog Tour Schedule
June 1 Sheila StayleyWhy Not? Because ISaid So!LDS Women's Book Review
June 2nd Alison Palmer - Tangled Words and Dreams
June 3rd Kimberly Jobs - Scribbled Scraps
June 4th Nichole Giles - Random-ish by Nichole
June 7th Deanne Blackhurst - The Book of Deanne”
June 8th Tristi Pinkston - *Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author
June 9th C.S. Bezas - For the Love of the Written Word
June 10th Joan Sowards - Joan Sowards
June 11th Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen - The Write Blocks

Let the fun begin!