Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I hope your Christmas was wonderful and peaceful, and that your plans for the New Year reflect hope and optimism.

Despite a crazy schedule right up to the last minute, we too enjoyed a very merry Christmas, though things have been hectic around the Lewis house these past few weeks. On top of swapping out the fall decor for Christmas regalia after Thanksgiving, our sweet, surrogate sons--missionaries--moved out the end of November, and we began some remodeling on the basement. An army of workers filed in and out in December, and then the reason for all the hub bub--the arrival of family for the holidays--commenced.

I took sick with some respiratory thing at the end of November, and I haven't been able to shake it yet. Christmas came and went and I couldn't sing a carol, and anyone who knows me knows how much I love to sing, especially at Christmas. Oh well...

Our children and grandchildren will be with us for another week, (all except Josh who had to leave because of work--sadness. . . )and then life will kick back into madness as I prepare the final volume of Free Men and Dreamers for a spring/summer release.

We recieved word a few weeks ago that both "Awakening Avery" and "Oh, Say Can You See?" were nominated for a Whitney Award! A nomination reflects reader support of a novel, so thank you, thank you to everyone who nomnated these books! On February 1st, we'll discover which books made it into the finals. There is a wide slate of excellent books in each category, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed with guarded optimism.

I'm taking a break for a few more days, and then it will be back to work to complete volume five. Until then my calendar's filled with family time.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Nostalgia is an inseparable part of Christmas--nostalgia over wide-eyed babes now grown with little ones of their own, for belly laughs and awe, for cherished family gatherings involving faces now gone, and filled with moments when heaven seemed tangible. I'm going to post a few of mine over the next few days. Perhaps they'll inspire the elf in you, or perhaps you'll share your own.

SANTA PROOF- When our oldest son, Tommy, was about ten, his Santa-doubts were voiced. Fearing his doubts would taint the magic for the younger children, we devised to ruse to keep him believing a while longer.

He was to be a package in a Christmas play involving Santa. We took the bow from the family wreath and used it to adorn his costume, but alas, it was left at the party and Tommy felt very bad about that. On Christmas Eve, after plates of cookies and mugs of milk were left for Santa, along with a carrot for Rudolph, the kids went to bed, and the magic ensued.

We took a piece of red flannel and stuck it to the fireplace screen. Nest, we appropriately devoured the treats, leaving traces or crumbs anbd carrot bits, and then Tom wrote little Tommy a note in a mysterious scrawl that said something like:

"Thanks for the treats. Ask your dad to fix the fireplace screen. I tore my britches on it. And here's your bow you left at the party. Thanks for being my helper that night. Love, Santa."

It sealed the deal for Tommy for another year or two, perhaps making him a nerd in the process as far as his friends were concerned, but the magic and the effort we went to were well worth the ignominy. On his last Christmas with us, before marrying his bride, we awoke and all the stockings had been pilfered with a note left behind telling us to search for them. We wondered which of our friends would have sneaked into our house to pull off these shenanigans as all the sibligs tore through the house searching for their stockings. Miraculaously, they were far more excited about solving this mystery than they were about presents, but low and behold, it was Tommy, who wanted to do something that would make our last Lewis Christmas together one we would always remember. And oh. . . . how we have. . .

Monday, December 20, 2010


Midwinter's Eve is the longest night of the year so why not spend it entering some great giveaways?

This a quick hop that runs from 12:01 AM on Tuesday, December 21st to 11:59 PM on Wednesday, December 22nd. Each participating blog is hosting their own giveaway with their own entry requirements. All participating blogs are linked up through a Midwinter's Eve linky. After you have entered one giveaway hop to the next giveaway on the list.
To enter my portion of the contest, do the following:

(Please note: Because I use to choose the winner, each entry must be submitted in a separate posting to be counted.)

Have a great Midwinter's Eve!

1. Be or become a follower of this blog- 1 entry.

2. Add my newest release, "Oh, Say Can You See?" to your Goodreads to-read list- 1 entry.

3. Post the book's trailer ( on your Facebook or blog--1 entry for each.

4. Post this link on your Facebook page with this caption: "Preview the first five chapters of "Oh, Say Can You See?" The link is 1 entry

Enjoy! Here are the rest of the stops on the hop!

This spectacular blog hop was sponsored by "I Am A Reader, Not A Writer."


I think one measure of maturity is the moment when we love the card as much or more than the gift--when the message of friendship and love expressed in those words warms our heart beyond what the gift can do. Words last forever, after batteries die, candles burn down, cloths wears thin and the lingering scents no longer do.
We love to overhear a kind word about our children or ourselves. It is so with authors and their books.
Releasing a book near a holiday is tough for several reasons. The first few weeks after a book's release are critical, requiring intensive blogging, signings, interviews and reviews at a time when all you and everyone else really wants is PEACE.

"Oh, Say Can You See?", which is likely the most critical book of my Free Men and Dreamers series, was released near Thanksgiving, and I wanted so much to give it the debut-push it needed, but I also didn't want to feel like I was spending Christmas peddling my novel.
Joyfully, gratefully, other sweet people have been helping out, providing lovely reviews and giving OSCYS lots of holiday attention. The quote below are some of the kind words that have been shared on the blog tour for "Oh, Say Can You See?" My most sincere thanks to these fine authors for reviewing my book, and for their generous comments during a very busy season.

“This book is poignant, haunting, gripping—a timely celebration of this country and her people.”
Braden Bell, author of “The Road Show”

“I'm awestruck at L.C. Lewis's mastery of detail-rich prose.”

Marsha Ward, author of “Man From Shenandoah” and other compelling westerns.

“I was able to picture each person I "met" in the pages of her novel.”

Rachelle Christensen, author of “Wrong Number.”

“You will be drawn into the story by events, but want to continue to read because of the characters . . . You will have no problem reading this book even if you haven't seen the previous works. But after you read Oh, Say Can You See?, you'll want to have the rest of the series.”

Lynn Parsons, co-author of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel)

“L.C. Lewis has the remarkable gift of being able to create three-dimensional characters who step into incredibly detailed and accurate historical accounts of real-life events. I can’t say it enough, the detail was excellent.”
Marilyn Bunderson, author of “The Mark.”
I think I'm beaming brighter than the lights on my tree. (And that's saying something since there are 2000 lights on that poor little evergreen.)

Friday, December 17, 2010


Christmas morning can be a daunting time for a mom, especially if you want to get something hearty and nutritious into your family before they tear into pies and cookies. It's especially difficult if you are also cooking a Christmas dinner the same day.

Years ago I found this delicious breakfast casserole recipe. The family loves it, and because it's assembled the day before, you can pop it in the oven before opening gifts and it's ready just as you finish up. We top the nutritious egg casserole off with some less nutritious but splendid and easy sweet rolls also made the evening before. These are staples of a Lewis-family holiday, and they have become as traditional as our tree.

I hope they make your Christmas morning special and peaceful!

Breakfast Casserole
This is the most delicious Put-It-Together-The-Night-Before recipe I've ever found. Perfect for a busy but special morning event.

1 pound spicy pork sausage 1/4 cup onion 2 1/2 cup hash brown 5 large eggs 2 cups shredded cheese 1 3/4 cups milk 1 cup Bisquick 1/4 t. salt 1/4 t. pepper

Cook and crumble sausage and onion together until sausage crumbles. Stir in the hash browns and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain on paper towels, then place in a 9X13 baking dish. Mix together the eggs, cheese, and the next four ingredients. Pour over the pork mixture. Chill overnight or at least 8 hours. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes in 350 degree oven, then remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Category: Breakfast
Servings: 8

Sweet Rolls

Yummy and evil!!!

Frozen bread dough
2 sticks butter
Brown sugar
powdered sugar
few tablespoons milk

Thaw 3 loaves of frozen bread dough until it is easy to work. Roll into a rectangle 12 inches wide by ½” thick. Spread with butter, then sprinkle cinnamon all over. Next, sprinkle a layer of brown sugar over the top. Roll up jelly roll style. Cut into 1 to 1½ inch slices. Arrange in a greased pan or pns. Let rise 2-3 times. Bake in 350 degree oven for 18-22 minutes, (until no longer doughy in center.) Frost when cool. (Frosting- Melt on low 1 stick butter. Add +-1 lb powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1-2 tsp. milk. I double this.)

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes
Category: Breakfast Servings: 12

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Author Interview: Kaylee Baldwin, author of "Meg's Melody"

First-time author Kaylee Baldwin will soon be debuting a heart-tugging women's fiction novel titled "Meg's Melody." The front cover art caught my attention months back when Kaylee shared the design. The back cover blurb gives insight into the tender storyline:

She paced the small confines of her bathroom as she waited the obligatory two minutes for the result. Yet, part of her sensed the truth. Not only did Austin take her self-esteem and plans for happiness, but he also took her get-out-of-this-marriage-free card.

The plus sign glared at Meg from the white plastic frame of the pregnancy test. The test fell from her hands and clattered into the bathtub as Meg’s back slid against the wall until she reached the floor.

“I’m pregnant,” she said into the quiet.

Meg never imagined she'd end up like this. With nowhere else to turn, she's forced to rely on the family she pushed away, the church she abandoned, and an unexpected friendship to help her find her forgotten melody. Meanwhile Matt is still mourning the loss of his wife. But determined to keep things together for his daughter's sake, he decides starting over in a new place might be just what his family needs.

This touching story combines romance with redemption and real conflict to remind you it's never too late to find joy. Kaylee Baldwin's capable hand renders a sincere, heartfelt story of rediscovery and hope. Perfect for romantics of all ages, this book will captivate your heart and rekindle your belief in the magic of music.

Despite the hectic December pace, I was able to catch up with Kaylee who was kind enough to answer a few questions about life as a new author.

Kaylee, when did you start to write and how long did it take you get published?

I started writing Meg’s Melody about three years ago. I tried to write a little bit every week, but life kept getting in the way. Finally, about two years ago, I got serious about writing, joined a critique group, and finished the bulk of Meg’s Melody in about six months. It took about ten months of submitting and revising to get accepted by a publisher. Now, seven months later I finally have a copy of my book!

How do you choose your characters' names?

I love choosing character names! Meg is one of my all-time favorite girl names, but it is also the name of my husband’s ex-girlfriend (you know, the one right before me, that we don’t really talk about.) So, naming a child Meg was nixed, but I can name my characters whatever I want. Matt and Johnny are also two of my favorite boy names. I flipped through baby name books and the yellow pages to come up with the other names that I used.

What motivated you to write your current book?

Not wanting to shave my legs. There was this one night, mid-winter, when I didn’t want to shave my legs because it can be a real time-eater. While moping about this, I started feeling the voice of a character build up inside of me. So I pulled out a pen and a spiral notebook and wrote down a whole story about my character going on a shaving strike after her husband leaves her. It went through all of the stages of hairy legs (from prickly to soft), until she finds out she’s pregnant and decides she should shave before going to the OB. Thus, Meg’s voice was born.

What advice would you give aspiring writers today?

Just keep writing! It can get really discouraging at times, but just keep revising, learning, growing, and trying. There were many times you may want to give up, but a walk around the block, a pep talk from someone who believes in you, a personal deadline, and rewards for meeting that deadline can give you a lot of motivation to keep pressing forward.

What are you working on now?

I’m editing my 2nd novel right now, a contemporary YA novel. I’m also working on another LDS romance that follows a minor character from Meg’s Melody.

Thanks, Kaylee. Merry Christmas. Readers will be pleased to know they can preorder a copy of "Meg's Melody"at Amazon or Barnes&

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The "OH, SAY CAN YOU SEE?" Blog Tour Begins!

So, what is a blog tour, you ask?

It's an online opportunity to promote a book using social media.

A more fun definition? It's an online literary party where a book is highlighted and prizes are offered. And for the next ten days, "Oh, Say Can You See?" is being discussed.

Our prizes highlight the patriotic theme embodied in this Star-Spangled novel about the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of our National Anthem.

We'll be giving away autographed copies of "Oh, Say Can You See?", and the grand prize is a signature sterling silver bicentennial necklace designed exclusively for the release of "Oh, Say Can You See?"

Visit these stops on the tour and enter to win.

December Blog Tour Dates

Braden Bell's Blog at


Tristi Pinkston's blog at

Marsha Ward, "Writer in the Pines" Blog at

Rachelle Christensen, "Rachelle's Writing Spot" Blog at

Anna Del C. Dye's Blog at

Stephanie Abney, at "Stephanie Says So" Blog at

Lynn Parsons at "Parsons' Posts" at

Susan Dayley's "Looking Out My Back Door" Blog at


and Marilynn Bunderson's Blog at

Liz Adair at "Liz Sez"
and Valerie Ipson's "Of Writerly Things" blog at

Kathi Peterson at "Kathi's Writing Nook"

Follow the instructions, leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win an autographed copy of "Oh Say Can You See?" or any of the previous books in my Free Men and Dreamers series.

Post this comment and link on your Facebook page and be entered to win a full-sized American flag:

"Read the first five chapters of the Star-Spangled novel, "Oh, Say Can You See?"

Come back and leave a comment telling me where you posted and you'll be entered to win!

Happy reading!

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." -Buddy the Elf

I love to sing, and Christmas is the season I most want to belt out a cheery carol, or render a tender tune about the Infant King. I like to crank up a cherished holiday CD while I bake or wrap gifts, and I love those melodies lingering in the air like a sweet musical scent of cinnamon.

I missed the opportunity to sing carols during the preceding weeks. I did play my Josh Groban Christmas CD a few times, and I tuned my radio station to Christmas music a few times, but in truth, I filled the days with Christmas labor--shopping, cleaning, readying the house for the exciting arrival of the family--and with book business surrounding the launch of "Oh, Say Can You See?" And now that it's time for baking and crooning, for caroling and Christmas hymns, I have laryngitis.

Some little malady is plaguing our congregation this year, leaving half of us stricken and voiceless. I so want to sing to my grand babies, and do a duet with Bing or Frank or Perry. Last night, I attended a John Tesh Christmas concert at the historic Maryland Theater in Hagerstown, and it killed me that during the group sing-a-long, I could only mouth the words.

This same dilemma happened to me some years ago, when my youngest son was an infant. I couldn't sing for months--couldn't even sing a lullaby to my baby--and for someone who once considered recording professionally, that was tragic blow. Christmastime was rolling near that year, and my voice returned with a five note range that settled down in the deepest part of my register. I prayed and asked the Lord to give me just enough of my voice back so I could sing to my babies, and I promised that in return, I would take my gravelly voice and sing tenor or anything I could reach. And that's what I did. Months later, the voice returned, as strong and clear as it had ever been.

Since then, I've screamed at thousands of youth basketball games and battled my sinuses' unrelenting efforts to control my entire head, and the voice has changed, but I still want to sing those sweet songs of Christmas praise. So I'm going voiceless for a few days, hoping resting the old chords will restore some voice before the season is past. Cross your fingers for me, and belt out a tune of Christmas cheer in my stead.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

DESPITE ALL ODDS-The Challenges and Triumphs of Writing a Multi-Volume Epic

The blog tour for "Oh, Say Can You See?" officially kicks off today. As bloggers/reviewers were preparing their articles and interviews, author Braden Bell asked one question that required a bit of introspection:

"You don't write an epic multi-volume historical series casually. What was it that made you want to write this story, and what has kept you going in spite of challenges?"

There have been some daunting challenges, and years of investment in this series, which makes me wonder how many times my family has likely revisited that same question. Such a project is a family-affair, because what is required to complete such a task requires great understanding, patience and sacrifice from everyone who must pick up the family-slack while the author is preoccupied with her work.

I've been living with Free Men and Dreamers rattling around in my head for well over a decade now. In 1997, two of my boys attended EFY, a youth summer church camp, at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, and during that week I feel in love with the historic old city. Despite the crush of tourists, there's a reverent spirit there. I felt I was in a sacred place. I've felt that same spirit in the historic city of Philadelphia and at Fort McHenry and Hampton.

Right then and there, I knew I needed to capture the spirit I was feeling by writing a book. On a subsequent visit, I went to the Visitor's Center and picked up a book about the culture of early America to use as a reference, but I received word that "Unspoken" was being picked up by Covenant, and I set the historic project aside.

A year later, I returned to the project and cracked open my reference book, and when I thumbed through it, I noticed the historian had referenced Lucy Mack Smith and her family as examples of the time period. I was astonished, and for the first time, I began to see them not only figures from LDS Church history, but as historical figures. It sounds simplistic, but this was a huge shift in my thinking. It made perfect sense of course. Joseph Smith's family has been the subject of two hundred years worth of scrutiny, until they are arguably the most documented family of their day.

I knew a great deal of that history, but my awe and respect for Joseph Smith and his family left me feeling inadequate to write about them, so I leapt my manuscript's setting to 1850 Maryland to purposely avoid events in Joseph Smith's life. While my editor was intrigued with the first draft, she sent it back with the advice to broaden the story and tighten up the history.

I began teaching the Doctrine and Covenants course in Early Morning Seminary, and I read several other books about the Smiths, including Lucy's biography of Joseph, There I found a line about Lucy's brother Stephen Mack, an officer in the War of 1812. Again, the connection to the Smiths amazed me. I realized that Joseph Smith was a child during the war! I had never made that connection before. As a Marylander, I had been weaned on War of 1812 history--the Battle of Baltimore and "The Star-Spangled Banner" story, but I had never connected Joseph Smith and his family to this portion of history. I began years of meticulous American history research and correspondence with some of the great historians in the region. It was fascinating. Among that research, I found references to typhoid outbreaks among the troops which were settled along the Canadian border and the Atlantic Coast. And who lived in the middle? The Smiths, whose own struggles with the disease, including a near-miraculous surgical story about Joseph's leg, have been well-documented and retold!

On and on, I found connection after connection between the Smiths and American history, until I could see God's continuous hand not only in America's founding, her preservation, and in her preparation to become the cradle of the Restoration. I felt compelled to back my story up and refocus it on this 1812 generation, the first American-born generation, comprised of the children of the Founding Fathers and the generation being prepared to receive the great spiritual awakening that was about to flood forth.

This project has felt like a calling, compelling me to continue on with the story despite all odds, at times financing the project with my husband's support. The final volume will be released in the late spring, mere months before the commencement of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and "The Star-Spangled Banner." With the help of the Spirit, I hope readers will feel Free Men and Dreamers testifies of God's love for this country, and of our duty to defend its founding principles.

I neglected professional advice when told to lay this project aside and move on, but I simply couldn't. The spirit of the project compelled me on. I hope readers will feel that same spirit too.

Today, Braden Bell posted his review, the first stop in the "Oh, SAY CAN YOU SEE?" blog tour. Stop by, read his review, and enter to win a free book or the lovely bicentennial necklace I designed for the book's launch. Thanks!

Here are the rest of the stops on the blog tour:

December Blog Tour Dates

Braden Bell's Blog at


Tristi Pinkston's blog at

Marsha Ward, "Writer in the Pines" Blog at

Rachelle Christensen, "Rachelle's Writing Spot" Blog at

Anna Del C. Dye's Blog at

Stephanie Abney, at "Stephanie Says So" Blog at

Lynn Parsons

Susan Dayley's "Looking Out My Back Door" Blog at and

and Marilynn Bunderson's Blog at

Liz Adair at "Liz Sez"
and Valerie Ipson's "Of Writerly Things" blog at

Kathi Peterson at "Kathi's Writing Nook"

Follow the instructions, leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win an autographed copy of "Oh Say Can You See?" or any of the previous books in my Free Men and Dreamers series.
All the weekly entrants will also be eligible to win the grand prize—a signature silver bicentennial necklace designed by me and created by Sterling Obsessions specifically for the release of the "Oh Say Can You See?"

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


At no other time of the year is multi-tasking more necessary than during the weeks preceding Christmas. Laundry still needs, washing, meals still need cooking, mending, cleaning, employment, lawn work, childcare, civic and church duties still each need time and attention. But on top of that, we try to prepare for the biggest meal of the year, the biggest celebration of the year, attend more events per day than any other time of the year, and be more giving, sharing and kind than during any other time of year.

How's it going?

The other day I was supposed to be rehearsing for a small group number to be performed at our Ward Christmas party, but I was struggling with a cold, and we decided to have me stay hone and listen to the rehearsal by phone. Pretty cool option technology now opens to us, eh? I could continue decorating the tree and simply pause for the call.

Well, my beleaguered daughter was scheduled to take the youth caroling, and asked if I could watch her children. "No problem," I replied, thinking I'd pop a little Blues Clues on for the toddler and set the infant in her carrier when the time came to "rehearse."

A call came in about an issue that had to be attended to that very night. Meanwhile, my publisher and I were shooting emails back and forth because rumors were circulating that "Oh, Say Can You See?" had been nominated for an award. (You see where this is going, right?)

All things were doable, one at a time, but no. . . that would require a perfect world. So here's what happened. . .

Brady was content to watch Blues Clues, but Miss Avery could only be happy if I held her. Okay, the call came in, we began to rehearse via cell-phone. Now imagine this, if you can. Our pianist was delayed, so my friend Judi brings the music up from a web site through her iPad. Another friend, Lynette, brings up a metronome ap on her iPhone to keep time. Juli then patches me in via her own iPhone, and we begin. Oh, did I tell you that another member of the group was entertaining the little children of the young mother playing the flute. Now you've got the picture.

I moved to the adjacent area to minimize the singing on Blues Clues. After a few minutes, Avery began to squirm. I bounced her on my knee which added a lovely vibrato to my own nasally voice, while making it impossible to focus on the music. I balanced my cell phone on my shoulder to provide a free hand with which to turn the music, but my cheek hit the touch screen and ended the call.

We began again.

It's became a bit too quiet in the family room. The taped episode of Blues Clues had ended and when I glanced at Brady he was climbing the ladder. I set Avery down, redirected Brady, restarted Blues Clues, all while singing. Avery was not happy about being set down, and becomes inconsolable. Time to warm the bottle of breastmilk her mommy had left. While gently warming a container of hot water, I try to make peace with Avery. Steve on Blues Clues gets out his Handy-Dandy notebook and Brady now wants to "draw." While rocking Avery, making a bottle, getting a pad and a pen, I continue to sing. The house phone rings. I've got that urgent issue I need to attend to. "How'd that run-through go?" my choral colleagues ask. "Not great," I confess.
We decide to meet in person on Sunday.

I attempt to attend to the urgent issue while Avery chews on my thumb. The bottle is still too cool. Blues Clues ends again. Brady is opening the pantry seeking a snack.

I stall the urgent phone call until the bottle is ready. Avery is now delighted, and Brady is back on the ladder pulling ornaments off the tree.

I hang up the phone, turn down the lights, grab the two babies and sit on the sofa. Brady pulls out his eight-pack of jumbo crayons. "Ahnje," he says. I was astounded. "Yes, Brady! That's orange! You're so smart!"

We run through the colors again and again. Brady breaks into a happy-dance that thrills Avery so completely that she's willing to spit out her bottle to laugh. Nothing seemed quite as critical after that. We snuggled on the sofa together, gazing at the partially-decorated tree, finally gittin' the really important things done.

Kids and Christmas

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


More Food Traditions
The longer I write, the more I realize how deeply I dip from my past to create family dynamics in my books. We were a rather dysfunctional little group--near stereotypes of the dominant father, submissive mother, and the assorted children who knew their place--as if we had all been called up from Central Casting. And even though we brushed the poverty line most years, Christmas really was the best time of the year at our house.

My parents' Christmas Club account assured us that treats denied us the rest of the year suddenly appeared during these magical days. Of course there was that sea of assorted pies, but there were also trays of cookies, three varieties of fudge, bowls of nuts and brightly-colored hard candies. Simple things taken for granted today were extreme joys during my childhood. We felt we had secured the grand prize of the day if we were able to con Mom out of a few of the treasured Hershey Kisses she used in her Peanut Butter Blossoms!

As you can guess, there was very little meandering from the traditional Christmas dinner during my childhood. Dad expected his favorite dishes to appear, and my mother had those recipes down to utter perfection--turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, corn, and the her utterly divine fruit salad made from cut up apples, bananas, canned chunk pineapple, nuts, and whipped cream. Divine!

Because most of the items appeared only at major holidays, their importance was ingrained in my child-psyche. A can of pineapple still holds an almost reverent place in my mind because of the special recipes in which it was a pivotal ingredient. Even to this day, I have to have several cans in my pantry or I feel something's dreadfully missing. Funny, isn't it?

I feel the same way about the other ingredients of Christmas--the nuts, the chocolate chips, Jello in all its varieties. I don't use them often, but I still buy them by the sack at Costco so I'll never run out.

Tom was out of work some years ago when the children were small. We had our year's supply of food in the pantry, and several hundred bottles of fruit I had canned. It was a hard winter for Tom, but we ate well every night. And though he was only making a fraction of his former salary as he picked up constructions jobs here and there, his dignity was maintained because he was still providing for us through the preparations we had made earlier. And the children never felt a pinch. I pulled out the chocolate chips and baked cookies. I opened the pineapple and Jello and made delicious salads, and to them, life was perfectly normal.

See . . . there is magic in our pantries!

Here's my favorite Christmas Jello Salad. Yes, it contains canned pineapple. . .


1 large pkg. Raspberry Jello
1 C hot water
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 large can crushed pineapple
1 C broken walnuts (I prefer pecans)
1 pint sour cream

Dissolve Jello in hot water. Add cranberry sauce. Add pineapple. Then add walnuts. Pour 1/2 of mixture in mold and let set. Spread sour cream over this. Pour remaining Jello mixture over top. Chill for four hours.

Monday, December 6, 2010



Of all the themes mingled within "Oh, Say Can You See?"--of love under fire; faith in God; loyalty to friends, to nation, to principle--the one most touching a pulse point in readers is how Key channeled his excruciating concerns into an rallying anthem as he sat upon a ship in the Baltimore harbor, watching and worrying during the ferocious assault on Baltimore.

Weeks previous, he had secreted his children away to protect them from the dangers looming as the British made their way to attack Washington. With the assault on Baltimore, he had again been forced to hide his family away, and then he was subjected to sit helplessly as the enemy descended upon the teeming city.

The moment was profound for Key, but it's what he did with it, what he created during it, that stirs us.

It is these moments, when we are in the flame-scorched crucibles of life, and what we allow them to make of us, that define us. Scholar, teacher, religious leader Elder Neal A. Maxwell called these moments the Divine Tutorials.

We've all experienced these character-defining moments. We've had a few economic downturns that took us to the edge of faith, but our hardest trials have been medical--watching our children hurt or suffer through long illnesses that alterred dreams and caused changes in their course. Many of us might feel we are experiencing one right now in this economy.

Some of these trials may have left us bitter. Some likely made us better. It's not outcome but attitude that determines what and whom we will be at the other end. Will we be stronger, wiser, more grateful, more faithful, less complacent, quicker to love, slower to judge after these experiences? Or will we crumple, fold, hate, and blame? Will we build upon these moments, or use them as excuses?

Key turned his anxiety into action, rallying a broken people. His sensitivities for the oppressed were further livened as he became a more vocal advocate for those without a voice. I think of the WWII generation, often called the Greatest Generation. Like a Pheonix, they rallied from the ashes of the Depression to save the world and build a nation like none before. We can do that. I think it's already beginning.

Have you experiences a divine tutorial? What was it and how did it change you? What did you learn?

Sunday, December 5, 2010


A friend passed this cute idea idea along to me, and since I'm back at work on the final book of Free Men and Dreamers, I snapped up this chance to fill my blog with something cute that I didn't have to write. Lazy? You bet, but I looking at it as a lovely December blogger-gift. Sadly, the cute graphics didn't come through clearly, and my technology-challenged brain doesn't know how to post them and keep them sharp. So if you'd like the entire spread, in full color, emial me at and I'll forward Enjoy!

12 Days of Christmas

This is a set of gifts to give to friends, neighbors or family for the Twelve Days of Christmas. Technically, the twelve days of Christmas start with Christmas and go until January 6th, but for this gift, you can use it more like an advent, starting on the 13th of December and ending on Christmas Eve.

Wrap each item and attach a tag with the poem for each day listed below. If you fold the poem over itself then they won’t read it before the day and know what it is – Just leave the Picture Number showing. The gifts can be given in a box or a sack with the first initial poem attached.

Some of these items could be used to help them build their storage so you could buy more than one for that purpose.

Here is your shopping list for the Twelve Days:
Day 1: Can of pearsDay 2: Package of Chocolate Doves and Turtles Candy BarDay 3: Chicken Noodle SoupDay 4: ChapstickDay 5: Can of Pineapple RingsDay 6: Graham Crackers, Chocolate Bars & Large MarshmallowsDay 7: Sparkling WaterDay 8: Milk DudsDay 9: Epsom Salt or Bath SaltsDay 10: Starburst Candy Day 11: Bubbles! Day 12: Christmas CD


Poem for Box or Sack–

Day 1: Can of pears
Now in the song, it's a partridge and pear -When I looked, my trees were all bare.So I ran to the store at a hurried pace.Pears they had plenty, but no birds in the place!

Day 2: Package of Chocolate Doves and Turtles Candy Bar
Did you know two turtle doves areExtremely hard to find?So here are Turtles ‘n Dove—The chocolate candy kind!

Day 3: Chicken Noodle Soup
Three French Hens are chickensWhether they are French or not!So here is chicken soupTo heat in your pot.

Day 4: Chapstick
When Four Calling Birds cackleTheir mouths get all dryTheir lips start to crackleSo give this a try!

Day 5: Can of Pineapple Rings
Only Five Golden Rings?There really are moreOf gold pineapple ringsI got from the store.

Day 6: Graham Crackers, Chocolate Bars, Marshmallows
Six Geese a Laying * Sigh * we're back to those birds!I tried taking their eggs but their cries could be heard.So I gave up and went all the way to the store, To get you ingredients to make delicious s’mores.

Day 7: Sparkling Water
The Seven Swans were swimming in water so clearIt sparkled and shimmered, I shed not a tearInstead I felt thirsty, a drink would be niceSo here’s sparkling water, now you add the ice!

Day 8: Milk Duds
The Eight Maids were all milking,Milk foaming like suds.And then they all vanished Just leaving "Milk Duds".

Day 9: Epsom Salt or Bath Salts
Nine Ladies Dancing, they put on a show,Their feet got so tired, wouldn't you know.From dancing all night, they had aching feet,So here are some bath salts to give your toes a treat.

Day 10: Starburst Candy
Ten Lords a-Leaping.Who could reach the stars first?To send back to usThese delicious "star bursts".

Day 11: Bubbles!
Eleven Pipers were piping – A wondrous sight.'Cause the pipes they were blowing made bubbles so light.Want to join in?
Here are some bubbles for you.Blow lots of big ones
And have lots of fun, too.

Day 12: Christmas Music CD
Twelve drummers drumming –
How they're hurting my head.They gave me a headache,
I just went to bed.Music should be soothing, a listening pleasure. So here's a Christmas CD for you to treasure.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I was going to post my favorite Jello recipe today, with a cute note about childhood and helping in the kitchen. But that will wait until tomorrow.

My plans changed when a friend posted this link on her Facebook page--

I cried as soon as I saw the first shopper stand and join in. It was a sign of reverence, a token of belief in Christ and in the reason for the season. It serves as a reminder of the power we each possess to make a difference in this world. Especially if we are bold in our convictions.

For years, our congregation produced a noteworthy Christmas concert. We worked for months perfecting the music. We decorated the chapel like a Currier and Ives print. We baked cookies and served cider, and we packed the chapel past the overflow partition and deep into the Cultural Hall with neighbors and friends, many of whom were of different faiths, but sharing our common faith in Christ. It was the highlight of my Christmas for many years.

Music sends a powerful invitation to the Holy Spirit to come and abide in us. I love music. All kinds, and at Christmas, I have some favorites.

I love Handel's Messiah, but I also love the old voices--the crooners and balladeers whose sweet melodies flowed from my parents old RCA--Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como and Sinatra. They were the songs I grew up with, made childhood memories with, and, perhaps I'm slightly prejudiced, but I think they were the best Christmas performances of all times.

Let me hear a bar of two of "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. . ." and I'll tear up. Play "The Messiah" and my throat will grow tight. "Send strains of "White Christmas," "I'll Be Home For Christmas," or "Away in a Manger" anywhere near me, and I'll feel my arms prickle. It is magical.

So what's your favorite Christmas song? Let's make a list.


Thursday, December 2, 2010



My mother is Portuguese and French--a city-girl born in Oakland, California. My father was German, English, Welsh and French--a farm boy from Baltimore County, Maryland. My husband is . . . well. . . the product of most of Europe, but he was raised on Pennsylvania/Dutch cooking, and as you can guess, it's easier to denote our children's bloodlines with the simple phrase, "they are vast and varied." That variety is evident in the traditional foods we eat at holidays.

Food is a powerful foundation stone for our family. Some of what we eat and how it is prepared is the result of ancestry, like my husband's beloved spaetzles and sauerkraut. Some of it is the result of family history, like the way I frequently cook my turkey in a paper grocery sack because during WWII, the women didn't have access to foil. The tradition continues, and for however weird it may sound, a buttered paper bag roasts a divine bird!

Pie-baking is my mother's hallmark. It was not at all unusual for her to bake twenty pies at Christmas time. The staples of the dessert table were pumpkin, pecan, chocolate, lemon meringue, coconut cream and chocolate mousse. At my house we've narrowed that down to pumpkin, pecan and lemon. Here is the most simple, yet divine pecan pie I've ever eaten. It's Mama Dip's recipe, a restaurateur renowned for her southern cooking. It's a breeze to make and it will last just about that long once it's out of the oven. Enjoy!

Mama Dip's Pecan Pie


1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 cup light Karo Syrup
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell


1. Preheat over to 350 degrees
2. In saucepan, melt butter, but do not brown.
3. Mix in sugar and corn syrup until sugar dissolves. Stir in eggs. Mix well. Stir in pecans.
4. Pour into pie shell and bake for 1 hour.

I hope my children will hold on to some of these traditions as well.

Joan Soward's, "THE STAR PROPHECY"

Three-time author, Joan Sowards, debuts an LDS Christmas charmer in her new release, “The Star Prophecy.” The supposition of a young Nephite man who journeys to seek the Christ Child is original and timely, a read that resonates with LDS readers across the board. From the backliner:

“You are crazy. No Nephite has ever returned.”

Most people laugh when they hear of Enoch’s dream of returning to Jerusalem to find the infant Messiah. Even Enoch's future father-in-law mocks him when he asks for a postponement of the long-awaited wedding to his beloved Rebekah. A few take Enoch seriously—the shipbuilder Omnihah, Enoch's teacher David, and Nephi the prophet.

Five years previously, a Lamanite named Samuel had stood on the wall of Zarahemla and prophesied that “five years more cometh” and the Christ would be born in Jerusalem. Time is running out! Enoch knows he must set sail across the great waters in search of his dream—to see the face of the Messiah.

The Star Prophecy is a surprising story of courage and love, faith and fortitude. Sail with Enoch and friends across the sea through hardship and adventure in search of the Christ Child.

What other authors have said about Joan Sowards “The Star Prophecy:”

"I love Joan Sowards' inventive mind. She begins this adventurous tale with 'what if?' and tells it so well that the reader closes the book thinking 'why not?' The Star Prophecy adds a surprising new dimension to the Christmas story." --Liz Adair, author of “Counting the Cost”

"Action-adventure, romance, inspirational, and historical fiction all rolled into one make the Star Prophecy and exciting page turner." --Margaret L. Turley, author of “Save the Child”

Sowards work crosses into many genres, but each of her books is rooted in LDS standards and culture. Says the author, “The Star Prophecy" begins its tale in the land of the Nephites. "Haunts Haven" is a paranormal mystery romance. "Chocolate Roses" is pure romance with a Jane Eyre parallel. I haven't been able to get away from the LDS genre, I guess, because it is so ingrained in me.”

Sowards credits her daughter with the inspiration behind The Star Prophecy, but there is another tender family element driving that inspiration.

“My daughter came home from Institute class with the premise for The Star Prophecy. I loved it! . . . I felt electrifying tingles come over me, the ideas began to flow and I wrote the first draft in three months--an incredible experience! The main character, whose quest it is to find the infant Messiah, is named Enoch after my nephew, a beautiful, bright child, who passed away at the age of four.”

With three books now credited to her, Joan Sowards knows which aspects of the writing craft are the most and least appealing to her.
“I love crafting the story, plotting, writing subplots. The final editing process can be exhausting, but I'm grateful for my editor! … As soon as Haunts Haven hit the stores, I was expected to promote it and myself. I've never felt comfortable with that.”

The author also has generous praise for her mentor, LDS author Kerri Blair, and her ANWA writing group, for their support and tutelage. Sowards has this advice for aspiring readers:
“Don't give up. Be ready for when you are ‘in the right place at the right time.’ Learn the craft of writing and be open for critiquing. There's a lot to be learned from other writers.”

And what is Joan Sowards working on now?

“I'm writing a story about a recent ASU college grad who takes a summer journalist job in a seaside village in Oregon. The working title is Clairvoyance. I love the characters.”

Getting to know the author…

Favorite food? Mexican
Favorite dessert? Anything chocolate

Jeans and T-shirt, or designer clothes? Jeans, but I believe in dressing up for church.

Guilty pleasure? Ice Cream.

Favorite flower? Roses

Q: Where can we purchase your novels?
At LDS bookstores and on Amazon.

The Star Prophecy

Chocolate Roses

Haunts Haven

Thank you for the Interview.

Thank you, Joan!
Joan’s blog is She’d love hearing from readers!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I've been a writing-slug since "Oh, Say Can You See?" hit the shelves last month. I've been marketing and signing, but I've taken a break before the final push on the last book of my Free Men and Dreamers series, "In God We Trust," due out next spring.

In truth, I heard the happy sighs of my family when the Herculean push, (up at six and at my desk until midnight and beyond) to meet deadline on OSCYS was over, and I have to admit, I was a bit fried. We've been kicking back, and living a normal life. I've spent hours playing with my two local grandchildren without watching the clock. There was a trip to Utah to visit my other three cut cuties who I get far too little time with. Tom and I have been watching reruns of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and I've been cooking again. Imagine?

This week is my last slug-week. I need to decorate the house and make the final Christmas purchases, then it's back to the computer, but I feel ready now. In truth, I couldn't have written a decent word this past month. You know when you're forcing the work, and when it's flowing from inspiration. I feel the juices flowing. The thrill to create is calling to me again. Yeah, the time is right to write. Not obsessively. I want to feel the peace of this season, but there is also joy in creating during this time.

I'll be signing once again at This Is The Place Book Store in Kensington, Maryland, from 10 until 3 on Saturday, December 4th. I'd love to meet a ton of readers that day, so come out if you can.

Thank you to everyone who has sent me a kind note about my books. What a wonderful Christmas gift that has been. I hope all your holiday preparations bring you joy.
Here's my best holiday cookie tip. This recipe can create about a million options. The cookies are inexpensive, and for busy families, it's an option that reduces the stress of cookie-exchanges and holiday serving. Enjoy!

Laurie Lewis

Cake Mix Cookie Dough

Take any cake mix, 2 eggs, and 1/3 cup of oil to create a basic cookie dough. Now let your imagination run wild and design some beautiful variations. Here are some of my favorites. I add about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of additions.

Yellow Cake Mix and Toffee Chips, (Not butterscotch morsels but real toffee.)
Chocolate Cake Mix, Macadamia nuts and White Chocolate morsels
Chocolate Cake Mix and Peanut Butter morsels
Butter Cake Mix and Chocolate Chips
Yellow Cake Mix and instead of adding the oil., add 1 cup of Peanut Butter. Add Chocolate Chips is desired.
White Cake Mix, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Pecans.