Monday, January 31, 2011


We're living in what Johnny Mathis described as a "Marshmallow World," or snow, snow, everywhere. The forecast for this coming week is a delicious wintry mix of ice, sleet and slush. Hooray!

I don't mind this weather. In fact, if the truth be told, I rather love it because such a weather event shuts everything down and locks us in, and that sounds perfect to me.

But even paradise wears old after a while, so maybe you're ready, hungry, ravenous for spring. Well, I can't do much about that, but I can help us all begin to dream of better, more varied vistas. . .

How, you ask?

Think of a setting you drooled over in a recent read. In the comment block below, post the setting, what intrigued you, and what book it was featured in. It'll be fun to begin mentally planning our getaways. Introduce us to some exotic spots on the globe, or maybe some quaint but overlooked spots close to home. Post as many locations and their books as you desire. We'll draw a name on Friday and I'll ship the winner a copy of one of my books along with a copy of another book I've recently read. That's two-fer that'll keep a reader busy for a while.

Ready, set, inspire us!

Friday, January 28, 2011


Alison Palmer

First-time novelist Alison Palmer takes a nightmare of a premise and examines it with agonizing honesty in The Prodigal Son. This novel digs deep on every level, holding up a mirror for her readers who will likely see a fragment of themselves in every, suffering, complex character.

Imagine every parents' greatest fear--that in a moment of lapsed vigilance your child is kidnapped. Now compound that guilt by having this sorrow hit you on your worst day, the day life overwhelms you to the point you actually regret, just for a moment, being a parent at all. This is Sarah Wells' horror. For fifteen years, she and her husband soldier on in their marriage.

As hope dims on Adam's return, they carry on with their lives, raising their oldest son Michael, attending church and being good neighbors, but all the while, the underlying pain festers. And then one day, their missing child returns to their lives--broken, angry and unlovable--in the care of the person who stole him away, and every scabbed-over wound bleeds anew. All the old excruciating emotions return as well--guilt, sorrow, hope, anger, love.

Their faith in the Gospel of Christ injects additional questions that give the reader pause as well--"Are there some offenses for which we are not required to forgive?" And "Why isn't the peace of the Atonement working for me?" As time passes, Sarah realizes she is not alone in her wrestle. The impact of the Adam's loss had deeply impacted her husband, Jordan, and Michael as well.

Though The Prodigal Son is Ms. Palmer's first novel, it is by no means her first book. Palmer has five previous non-fiction books on raising and teaching children to her credit. She is also a nurse who has written extensively on a wide variety of medical topics. She pulls from both these worlds--child development and health--adding realism and believability to this book. She does not patronize, and you'll thank her for dragging you through the hard stuff, because The Prodigal Son will make you think, and feel, and be grateful.

Despite its painful honesty, this book is filled with hope. I couldn't put it down, and the lessons stay with you. One that hit me powerfully involves a moment of anger when Sarah blames the kidnapper for leaving her beautiful Adam broken and damaged. A friend points out a startling possibility--that perhaps that's who he would have been regardless of who had raised him, reminding us that being the best, most prepared and stable family we can be is no guarantee we won't suffer over rebellious children. And then the book illustrates, in painful detail, how a family in such distress, can use faith in Christ's Atonement to move forward.

The bulk of the book deals with the family repercussions created by Adam's return. The themes are broad enough to transcend this specific storyline. Most readers will easily identify with Jordan Wells' worries of spiritual inadequacy, Sarah's hunger to bore into her child's closed heart, perfect son Michael's frustration over the upheaval Adam's reappearance brings to his own world.

After careful consideration, Alison Palmer chose to follow a growing trend and self-publish The Prodigal Son. The formatting and layout are not standard, and that is distracting, but don't let these issues deter you from a spectacular read. My hope is that some savvy publisher will snap this book up and give it the attention it deserves. In the meantime, snap this one up. It's available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Some days I simply have nothing interesting to say. Ahem. . . . (Sadly . . . you may have already noticed that a time or two.) But fortunately, my writing community provides access to loads of talented and fascinating friends with great personal stories and insights into the craft. Tristi Pinkston, an LDS author with six published novels to her credit, is my guest today.

Newer fans to Tristi's work probably know her best as an author readers can bank on for a thoughtful read peppered with laughs. Pinkston's rapier wit delivered high intensity humor in her last two novels which pivot around matron Ida Mae Babbit and her frequently out of control band of well-intentioned, crime-fighting, Relief Society sisters.

Secret Sisters launched this uncharacteristic yet unforgettable cast, and Dearly Departed, Ms. Pinkston's most recent release, sets Ida Mae off on a rip-roarin' effort to secure your old age. You'll laugh and want to adopt these ladies. Tristi has a knack for creating adorable, endearing characters. She is currently giving away three copies of Dearly Departed in a Goodreads Giveaway.

But despite her gift for humor, Tristi Pinkston's long-standing fans know she began her career writing historical fiction, (Strength to Endure, Nothing to Regret) before venturing off into the area of romantic suspense in her well-recieved 2009 release, Agents in Old Lace.

With such a string of successful novels under her belt, Ms. Pinkston has advice to spare on the craft of writing, but this home-schooling mother of four is also a time-management genius. Think you can't find time to explore your hunger to write? Tristi will show you how. Here's how this busy wife, mother, author describes herself:

"I'm a Cubmaster, an online writing instructor, a freelance editor, a real good ignore-er of housework, and I microwave a mean corn dog. Or rather, I delegate the microwaving of a mean corn dog."

Whew! Got the picture? Feel inspired? Terrific!

Tristi and I were feeling whimsical this week, so we each drew up a few questions we've alway wanted to ask one another. Here is my interview with the delightful Tristi Pinkston.

1. Your name is so darling and perfect as a pen name, and yet it's your real name! So where did your first name come from, and what if your hubby's last name would have been Schnicklefritz? You know, no matter what I pair with "Tristi," it still comes out cute!

My first name—well, this is an interesting story. While my mom was pregnant with me, she was at the grocery store, and overheard a mother call her son “Tristin.” Yep, her son. But my mom thought, “That would be a great girl’s name.” So she came home, informed my dad, and when I was born, I was Tristin. Over time, that got shortened to Tristi. My last name—well, that’s a story too. I didn’t know my husband’s last name when he first asked me out. We were in a single young adult ward together, and we both knew who the other was by first name. When he asked me out, I said yes, and it was only the next day that I realized I had no idea what his last name was. It was kind of awkward on our first date. I tried to work up to it casually. “So, um, what’s your last name?” It was smooth. Very smooth. But pink is my favorite color, so it all worked out. If my husband’s last name had been Schnicklefritz, I probably would have used my maiden name on my books. It would just be better that way. You weren’t expecting such a long answer to your question, were ya?

2. Your "Secret Sister" books are so filled with whimsical women and small-town charm. What do you draw upon to create your characters and settings? Are you from a small town?

These little ladies just popped into my head, fully formed, and so did the town. I had to do very little to bring them to life. If I need a street, poof! It appears in my head. I just sit here and write down everything I see.

3. You've got one of the quickest wits in the biz. Share a tale or two when that gift saved you, or got you into trouble as a child.

I was actually a pretty serious child, and an even more serious teenager. My parents separated when I was thirteen, and I was thrust into an adult role pretty quickly. The grocery shopping and housework fell to me, and I never went through that teenage giggly stage that most girls go through. It wasn’t until my very late teens that I started to loosen up and have some fun.

4. I know your early books were historical fiction, and in fact, you tackled some heavy topics. What genre do you prefer, and do you see yourself returning to that genre again?

I will absolutely return to historical fiction. I love it. But for right now, cozy mysteries are what I need to do. Historical fiction takes so much work and mental dedication, and you really need to be in the right place emotionally to write it. For me, writing a cozy mystery puts me in a place of joy and discovery, and that’s where I need to be for right now.

5. What single book or author most influenced your desire to be an author and tell stories? What was it that touched you?

A single author? You’re limiting me to just one? Ya big meanie! Okay, let’s see. Ann Rinaldi was my inspiration for historical fiction. She has a way of taking a moment in history and bringing it to life. I knew I wanted to do the same thing for my readers. Dee Henderson was my example for romantic suspense with religious elements. That woman can sure tell a story. My cozy mystery mentor … hmmm. Selma Eichler. Ann George. Joanna Fluke. Dorothy Gilman. I know that’s more than one, but I can’t just narrow it down to one. It’s impossible! Ya big meanie.

Thanks, Tristi! You can read more about Tristi and her books on her blog.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Stink bugs are a huge problem here in Maryland. They're an Asian bug that hitched a ride to the U.S. in a piece of furniture, and since they're not indigenous, they have no natural predators here in the states so they multiply until swarms literally coat your outside walls and swarm you when you walk. And to my knowledge, we have no sure repellent for them either.

So they are a huge nuisance, entering even the cleanest, tightest homes on your clothes and in your grocery bags. We pick them off the walls and pray one doesn't get squished because the scent they give off is . . . well . . . stinky.

My daughter's two-year-old son, Brady, loves these pests. He will obsess over their whereabouts all day crying, "Bug! Bug! Bug!" until he gets hoarse. They're harmless, so Amanda will allow one or two to crawl in his hand so he can see them close up and feel the tickle. When Brady is finished playing with the bug, his mama instructs him to toss it in the toilet and say, "Bye bye, bug," and then . . . you've got it . . . flush the critter away.

For Christmas, Brady's daddy, Nick, bought him a bug terrarium, and they quickly found a few winter survivors for Brady's bug house. This was, perhaps, Brady's favorite Christmas toy. He 'd carry the terrarium around saying, "Bug! Bug!" while proudly displaying his pets for all to see.

One day, however, Brady was hollering, "Bug! Bug! Bug!" ad nauseum, until his voice became hoarse, (and until his mother and sleepless baby sister were about to go mad), so Amanda told Brady, "That's enough, Brady. Time for buggy to go bye-bye." Her plan was to distract Brady on to another activity, but a few moments passed and she heard noise in the bathroom. Unbeknownst to her, Brady had promptly obeyed his mother's directions.

She heard some bumping in the bathroom, and then the flush. When she went in to check on him, Brady had submerged the entire terrarium into the potty, and was attempting to flush his critters and their plastic chateau down the drain.

At the moment, his mother was of mixed humor. She had a mess to clean up, but the innocent attempt of the child to obey her was not lost in that concern. She had given a direction, and Brady had, to the best of his ability, obeyed her.

It provided an interesting reminder about example and direction. Could another line of instruction saved the day? You bet. "Brady, it's time to take the buggies out of their house and make them go bye bye." (Forgive me if this entire scenario makes you want to call PETA, but honestly, we are over-the-top sick of these bugs.)

Just because we know what we are saying, it in no way guarantees that the listener does . . . or the reader. We need to listen with our eyes, so-to-speak--to create a visual image of what we're saying, so we can see the instructions as the child would. Or as the reader would.

In writing, it provides another reason to get additional eyes on your project, to have several people read your work to be sure they see and hear what you intended. It's particularly true in a long section of dialog where, in avoiding dialog tags, we can confuse the reader as to whom is speaking. A miscue here can complete alter point of view, perspective, and in some cases, the entire book, leaving our reader, and our work, well . . . in the toidy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


My daughters-in-law, two gym-enthusiasts, tuned me into the newest exercise-craze--Zumba Dancing--which is a mix of Latin, Caribbean, and African rhythms and moves. The music was energizing, and who of us hasn't dreamed of knocking out a sexy Samba on the living room rug?

I always pork up during every intense writing project, (it's a gift) from sloughing off exercise and snacking instead of eating proper meals. One day, when I was reduced to pulling out a pair of "larger-sized-I'll-starve-before-I-succumb-to-wearing-these-again" jeans, (have some of those?) I saw an advertisement on TV for Zumba DVD's and Rhythm Sticks. I bought some.

The reason was two-fold. I needed an exercise that didn't bore me so I'd be encouraged to yank on my fleece (you'll appreciate this older post about my exercise-attire-swagger) , plus I wanted to up my cool, with-it, on-board quotient with my girls, even though I know that the very act of using those words, and feeling a need to do it, means the cause is highly doomed to failure.

I've been Zumba-ing all week. Now mind you, I broke the introductory session into a three-day program. (Not the introductory DVD, the introductory, explanatory, show-you-how-to-do-the-moves session...)

The results? My feet ache, my calves throb, my arms are ouchy and my back is a bit sore. But what did Jane Fonda say bout exercise? "Feel the burn?" It must be working some muscles!

All-in-all, I love it! I don't dread popping in the DVD and I already feel some changes in my core. Does it meet it's promise that I'll feel sexy? (Insert a loud guffaw right there.) Right now I tightly shut the blinds because a peek at the Laurie-Zumba show could be considered a crime against humanity, and if anyone filmed this and put it on Youtube it would become an instant, viral humiliation of epic proportions.

Seriously, the important thing is that I may have found something that even if performed awkwardly and clumsily, seems fun and effective. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, so I modify some of the moves, but I think if I pair this with the stretching benefits of a very basic and clumsily-performed Pilates DVD, I can get maintain an enjoyable cardio and stretching program that takes only 30 minutes and keeps me moving.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I didn't write this little tale, but I agree with it, and let me also add a little historical perspective.

Unfair taxation was at the heart of the Revolution. Trade was at the heart of the War of 1812. At it's most basic core, oil was at the crux of the Desert Storm. Money and business matter. A healthy economy is as crucial to liberty as armies and laws. Every American should realize that by now.

So with this sobering intro, I share this little post. It's not new, but hopefully we'll all look at it through new eyes, and apply the lesson.

One Light Bulb at a Time

(This additional intro is offered by an anonymous contributor.

A physics teacher in high school, once told the students that while one grasshopper on the railroad tracks wouldn't slow a train very much, a billion of them would. With that thought in mind, read the following, obviously written by a good American.Good idea ... one light bulb at a time Check this out. I can verify this because I was in Lowes the other day for some reason and just for the heck of it I was looking at the hose attachments. They were all made in China . The next day I was in Ace Hardware and just for the heck of it I checked the hose attachments there. They were made in USA . Start looking. In our current economic situation, every little thing we buy or do affects someone else - even their job. So, after reading this email, I think this lady is on the right track. Let's get behind her!)

My grandson likes Hershey's candy. I noticed, though, that it is marked made in Mexico now. I do not buy it any more.Jack Links Beef Jerky Meat is made in Brazil ! What's wrong with USA meat??? Won't buy theirs anymore either!My favorite toothpaste Colgate is made in Mexico ... now I have switched to Crest. You have to read the labels on everything.

This past weekend I was at Kroger. I needed 60 W light bulbs and Bounce dryer sheets. I was in the light bulb aisle, and right next to the GE brand I normally buy was an off-brand labeled, "Everyday Value." I picked up both types of bulbs and compared the stats - they were the same except for the price. The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand but the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in - get ready for this - the USA in a company in Cleveland , Ohio .So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day that are made right here.

So on to another aisle - Bounce Dryer Sheets... yep, you guessed it, Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada . The Everyday Value brand was less money and MADE IN THE USA! I did laundry yesterday and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been using for years and at almost half the price!

My challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for everyday things and see what you can find that is made in the USA - the job you save may be your own or your neighbors!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I recently read a comment by a writer poking fun at writers over the things we do to avoid writing. On first glance, it would appear to be contradictory. Writers who purposely avoid writing? Then why do they write?

Good question.

Let me put the idea into an alternate frame of reference. Do you have a water streak running down the cabinet under the kitchen sink? Maybe a tub that needs a scrub? Do you always attend to those chores right away? While that example addresses the avoidance issue, it misses the rest of the "to write or not to write" conundrum. Let me try another example.

Have you ever watched a cooking show, printed out the recipe, purchased the ingredients, put them away, and then delayed making the dish until the fresh ingredients spoiled, resulting in having to put off the dish for another day?

Avoiding the water streak and the bathtub ring is pure avoidance--we know what clearly needs to be done and we just don't want to do it. Some days, that's how I feel about writing.

The recipe? We want to make that perfect dish, in fact, our mouth salivates to taste it, but maybe we're not in the mood to make all that mess and have all that clean-up, and maybe we're just worried that after all that investment of time and effort, it'll be a flop. Similar concerns are what prevent most budding authors from ever getting published.

And sometimes we just stand before an opened cook book or fridge with no idea what we want to prepare. That's the very worst feeling for a writer.

I completely relate to these problem. I don't fully understand them, but avoidance and procrastination appear to be universal problems for authors and writers, and I'm assuming for people who labor in the other arts as well.

Every time I hit a roadblock, can't find the right word I'm seeking, or see an unexpected change coming in the plot, I leave my chair. Sometimes I grab a snack, wash a dish, change a load of laundry, dust a table, get a drink, pull up Facebook for a minute or just walk around. If you watch closely, I pop in and out of Facebook about fifty times a day for minute or two. If you see me on there, I've probably hit a snag.

For me, it's a problem with a variety of causes at its root. Sometimes I'm just not "in the groove" and able to "feel" my characters or the day's scene. Sometimes I just plain don't like what I've written and I know before I can proceed I have to do some painful "word-ripping" which I delay until I'm certain about where I'm now going to head. Sometimes I'd just rather watch a rerun of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" and flake out.

What helps? Some people actually force themselves to sit there until they bust through the roadblock. I'm too time-conscious to sit unproductively, so I get up and attend to some other need. Besides, I think better when I'm active. Some people go to the library to write where there are fewer distractions. Now that's an idea that has merit.

I an a snacking-writer, and that plays havoc with my waistline. I need to keep my blood sugar level even or I literally fall asleep at the keyboard. I've awakened to erratic keystrokes in my manuscript, and one day I nearly fell out of my chair. So I'm learning to leave the keyboard when I get tired and unproductive, rest or rejuvenate, and then return.

I work a lot of plotting and character development out in in the car while I'm driving. I often arrive home with a clear view of where I'm going. And music inspires me. I have a few choice pieces of music I play when I need to write a battle scene, and others when I have an especially tender scene I need to imbue with power.

I take my writing problems to bed with me as well. I pick one roadblock and mull it over until I fall asleep. Perhaps it's merely the idea that with the rest comes clarity, but I generally awake with the answer to my problem.

If you're a writer, or an aspiring one, this is my best advice: just begin.

Like priming a pump, writing anything will spur the imagination and get the juices flowing. When roadblocks occur, as they surely will, you'll figure out what works for you, but don't stay away from your work-in-progress too long. Momentum and familiarity with a piece move the work along.

And while I've written this post, I've spent 25 minutes avoiding work on book five, "In God Is Our Trust." Time to get back to work!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Carole Thayne Warburton

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and in some cases, I’d have to agree, but you can bank on the award-winning and mysterious cover of “Sun Tunnels and Secrets” to intrigue you from first glance, and lead you into a small town adventure with twists and mysteries galore.

Carole Thayne Warburton drew from her personal experience of the region as she wrote this charmer. Two diverse cultures clash near remote, religious Grouse Creek, Utah when this innocent world with a pocketful of well-kept secrets is upended by the arrival of hippies and tree-huggers who converge upon the desert’s Sun Tunnels during the summer solstice.

The author grabs your attention with the first line—“It looked like a body.” And the unexpected pairing of that start with a cast of frequently grousing, eighty-something sisters on a trip to help their youngest sibling mourn the passing of her husband, takes you through the first of many hairpin plot twists.

The ladies’ disturbing discovery, and their handling of the situation, entangles them into the troubles of four young people, who become invested in a complicated, sometimes raucous, and frequently tender quest. As they dig into everyone else’s secrets, their own begin to be revealed, and the principles of loyalty, love, and forgiveness are put to the ultimate test. In the end, the greatest theme is this: despite our differences, at our core, we are the same.

Ms. Warburton’s dialogue is delicious, her characters are rich and diverse, and her settings make you want to book a pick-up tour of the old western desert. I was so inspired, I went online to research the Sun Tunnels and I hope to visit them soon.

I did find the letters between the wounded Kelli and her brother, placed at the beginning of most chapters, to be more distracting than insightful, but they don’t detract from the pleasure this sweet novel will bring the reader.

Moreover, Carole Thayne Warburton has intricately woven multiple plots into a suspenseful story that will challenge and delight readers of all ages and genres.

Published by Walnut Springs Press, Sun Tunnels and Secrets is available at Amazon, Deseret Book,and your local LDS bookstore.


Thanks to everyone who entered, and for the lovely comments about by books and the Free Men and Dreamers' trailer. I look forward to chatting with the new followers of this blog, and more contests and giveaways are coming soon for all.

The winner of this contest was Librarypat who has been notified. I hope you'll all check back often to see what I'm writing from THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HILL.

Laurie LC Lewis

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I'm hosting a stop on "The Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop" which runs from 12:01 AM Friday, January 14th to 11:59 PM Monday, January 17th. All 180 participating blogs are linked together below, so you can click and easily hop from blog to blog. Each host is sponsoring a different prize, and each has a different question or requirement for entry.

I'm an author writing a historical fiction series titled, "FREE MEN AND DREAMERS." It's set against the almost forgotten period of the War of 1812, when life and freedom were fragile, and when America was jsut beginning to realize the dream of "One Nation Under God. Here are what some readers have said about my books:

“Oh, Say Can You See,” crackles with tension and suspense. Although I know how the Battle of 1812 ended, I found myself staying up late at night and turning pages in an urgent attempt to find out what happened to the country and to the characters I came to know and love. This book is a magnificent love story—love between man and woman, love between friends, love between siblings, and ultimately, love between citizens and their country. 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.

"Once started, I had to read the whole thing through, and many parts brought tears to my eyes." (Ernest Runge, a Viet Nam veteran and history enthusiast)

I hope that makes you want to dig in! If so, then you'll love the prize I'm offering--a brand new, nylon, American flag, and an autographed copy of your choice of either book one: "Dawn's Early Light," to begin the series; or book four, "Oh Say Can You See?" which was written to serve as a stand-alone read about the writing of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

You can enter up to four times, but each entry MUST be submitted individually to be counted.

1st entry: be, or become a follower of this blog.

2nd entry: Watch my book trailer and leave a comment at

3rd entry: Post the above link to the book trailer to your Facebook or Twitter page

4th entry: "Friend" me on Facebook and tell me your favorite reading-time snack.

Enjoy the hop!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We try, as much as possible, to gather our arm of the Lewis clan together for a major holiday and a family vacation. It doesn't always work out, but we make a valiant effort. Things were easier before the children began full-time jobs and the grandkids reached school age. Now we're not complaining mind you. We love full-time employment, and we're all for education, but balancing needs and juggling all these individual schedules practically qualifies me for a stint in Cirque Du Soleil!

Tonight I began work on "Lewis Vacation 2011." It wasn't pretty. We had done the preliminary wrangling over Christmas. Gathered in the afterglow of the season of peace, everyone began laying their special needs on the table, and drawing their individual lines in the sand so-to-speak. So much had to be decided--where would we go? Who would travel cross country, and whose backyard would we be near? Did we want to be near the beach? Or the mountains? Near a theme park or on a cruise? We finally nailed down the location, and today I began the wrestling match called, "Booking the Lewis Vacation."

Years ago, we purchased two time share weeks that are exchanged through a third party, and today I began investigating what dates were still available in the system. I call, and I'm quickly reminded why my hands get clammy every year at this very moment. It's daunting and time consuming, and when it's over, if I have been victorious at booking something that holds any promise, I feel as if I've won the New York City Marathon. Why, you ask? Let me show you how this lovely, computerized, digitized, simplified process worked for me this year. . . .

I call the first number on my "new list of customer service options," and a digitized voice reminds me that the system has changed, (YIKES) to a new and "better" plan than before. Great. . . I now remember the two-hour imprisonment called "a preview" of the new Destinations Program" which Tom and I endured this summer. We walked out with a fat notebook of tings we didn't, and still don't understand. I roll up my sleeves and prepare for a re-education.

"Hello, how can I help you?" a perky voice asks.

"I'm here to confess that I don't remember how to use the new program, and I have weeks or points or something in the old system, and some random credits somewhere else. Can you help me book a vacation using all my stuff?"

"Let me see what you have. . . . Oh! Sadly, your current inventory is in the old system. You'll have to be transferred."

A long pause ensues, followed by a click and another perky person who also declares how desperately she wants to help me. I rattle off all the pertinent identifying information--account number, passwords, address and phone number, to which this angel of vacation-mercy replies, "Is Mr. Lewis there? We've switched systems and you are no longer in our database. I'll need him to add you as an authorized user on his account."

My blood boils when this happens. "His account? He hasn't looked at or used this account since the day we bought it. I'm the scheduling guru, lady. . ."

We'll at least that's what I wanted to say. Instead I said something more gentile like this:

"I've been handling all this for fifteen years."

"I'm sure you have. I apologize, but our system doesn't recognize you, and I can't add you without Mr. Lewis's permission."

"Permission?" (I'm fuming now.) "I'm a co-owner on this account"

"I'm not challenging your ownership, and I do apologize, but if you're not in my database, I can't give you access to the account info. I just need Mr. Lewis to authorize you. Can you just call him on another line and we'll be on our way."

"I'm fifty-three and the only person in this family who has ever booked a vacation through you. Just look at the records."

"I do apologize," she replied mechanically. "There must have been some glitch in the upload of the new system, but I can't help you without Mr. Lewis' permission."

"Fine," I reply in resignation, "but I find this whole situation humiliating."

"I'm sorry..."

"Please put that in your report," I add.

"This entire conversation is being recorded. They will know you're humiliated."

I somehow find less comfort in that than I supposed. I dial Tom on my cell phone and press the two phones together in a telephone sandwich. In the most annoyed tone possible, I say, "Tom, our time share company can't find me in their database. They need your permission to add me as an authorized user."

Tom's hard swallow indicates he clearly senses my mood. After a nervous chuckle he tells the woman, "She is THE authorized user."

The customer service person is even perkier than before. "That's all I needed. Thank you, Mr. Lewis. Now, Mrs. Lewis, how can I help you?"

I grit my teeth and make every effort at playing nice. "I'd like to book a vaca. . ."

"Oh, no!" I hear on the other end of the phone. "I just realized you purchased your time shares through %%@^%$ company. That's handled by an entirely different desk."

No joke. . . The good news that the next transfer took me to a perfectly lovely person who actually helped me book vacation. It was a 2 1/2 hour wrestling match from start to finish, but we did it! And the best part, I'm now an authorized user of something I already owned. Isn't that grand?

Sunday, January 9, 2011


. . .as in, back to work, back to gittin' er done, and in my case, back to the keyboard.

I've got a spring deadline for book five, which we are now pretty certain we're titling, "In God Is Our Trust." After putting out three books in twelve months--"Dawn's Early Light" in December of 2009; "Awakening Avery" in May of 2010; and "Oh, Say Can You See?" in November of 2010--I needed a brief respite, and I retreated to hearth and home for eight weeks with no writing. Fortunately, I've got the bulk of the manuscript finished, and the opening chapters are coming together in my brain, so things should come together nicely.

"Awakening Avery" and "Oh, Say Can You See?" are both currently nominated for Whitney Awards, which is exciting because any recognition at this point is a reflection of reader support. So thank you if you nominated one of my books. The finalists will be announced on February 1st, so please keep your fingers crossed!

I've got a busy week ahead. I hope to write 10,000 words this week and I've got that package to mail off to Glenn Beck. You can read the details below, but if you've got an extra hand, please cross your fingers for that effort as well.

Your letters have been a tremendous boost to me over the holidays. Many thanks to each of you who wrote, facebook-ed me and twittered. I'm so excited to get back to work!

I'll be launching an American History Scavenger Hunt this month, so watch for details on that. The prize packages will be sweet. I've also got another book giveaway posting on Goodreads this month. It will run until January 31st. Last but not least, join me on my blog for the "Dreaming of Books" book blog hop beginning January 14th. As you can see, we've got lots going on as we continue to spread the news about "Oh, Say Can You See?" and muddle through winter.

I hope your New Year looks promising!


Friday, January 7, 2011


For years, friends have approached me, and readers have written, asking if I've sent copies of "Free Men and Dreamers" to Glenn Beck who showcases patriotic books.

I've always resisted the idea. First, even though the history I include in the books is solid, the books are novels wrapped within that great history, and Glenn Beck seems to like his history straight up and unembellished. I also thought I'd never be able to actually get the books past his staff,(who surely screens through the mountain of mail and packages Mr. Beck receives,) and into his hands. When I've explained my reasoning to people, they've tended to scowl at me and ask, "Well, what have you got to lose?" Well, to those who urged me on, my position may now have changed.

Last summer, I accompanied my husband Tom to a fund-raiser at Quantico Marine Base, in Virginia, to benefit the Wounded Warriors. The sponsor of the event was a businessman named Pete, with a patriotic heart who, like my husband, sells goods to the military. We spent several days together at a military show after the fund-raiser. Each night, Pete would gather a group together and we'd have supper. The conversations varied, but several times we talked about current events, history, and my books.

My husband told Pete he too felt I should send a set of Free Men and Dreamers to Glenn Beck, and weeks later a huge box arrived at my house. Inside was this beautiful commemorative humidor bearing the White House insignia. It was designed as a gift for generals and dignitaries, but Pete gave one to me, along with another gift, to use as the receptacle for my books.

As it turns out, Pete explained that he had given Glenn Beck one of these commemorative boxes last year, and Glenn auctioned it off for hundreds of thousands of dollars which he donated back to the Wounded Warriors, a cause also dear to his heart, so I know the box will be dear to him.

So now I'm preparing a letter to explain this package, and I'm preparing to mail the whole kit and caboodle--the four current volumes of Free Men and Dreamers, the extra gift Pete tucked in for Glenn, and this beautiful box--off to New York and Glenn Beck's office. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I hope Glenn will enjoy the books, but I'm certain he'll love the wrapper!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Our children straggled in and out during this family holiday, allowing us some lovely one-on-one time with our L.A.-residing, single son, and some wind-down time with our oldest son's family after the major hoopla had ended. I'm so grateful that during that wind-down time my son suggested we head to D.C. with his family and visit some of the Smithsonian's wonderful museums. It was a spontaneous decision, and it provided a tender experience shared between my grandson and I.

We began at the Air and Space Museum which dazzled my thirty-three-year-old son, his wife and their two-year-old far more than it did their four and seven-year-old who found the cartoon of Mickey flying the highlight of the venues. That was except for the paper-airplane-flying lesson and contest. Every hour on the hour, the hands-on area features some wonderful, educational activities for families. The science behind the games were terrific and the children all loved it. I highly recommend it.

We next visited the Natural History Museum. These Utah residents have spent dozens of hours at the zoo and the dinosaur exhibits at Thanksgiving Point, but even so, they were fascinated by the animal displays, particularly the ocean exhibit. There are crocheted replicas of coral reefs that are spectacular as well as whimsical, and if it sounds unscientific to imagine a yarn-made reef, go see it. You'll be dazzled. It was the absolute highlight of my grand daughter's visit.

The children were running out of steam by the time we reached the American History Museum--my favorite. We hurried in less than an hour before closing so we could visit the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit. With the bicentennial drawing near, a wonderful venue has been created, and I was spell-bound.

I remember well my first visit to the museum's Star-Spangled Banner exhibit. Back in those days the flag was sewn to a linen backing and suspended, revealed to spectators through am electronically-controlled curtain that was drawn back to reveal the flag. It was a dramatic display that left goosebumps on my arms. I only had a dollar or two to spend at the museum store, but I remember how I and every child breathlessly spent a portion of that precious money on a postcard of the real Star-Spangled Banner so we'd always have a picture of our very own.

The stories we were told about the flag and its tattered condition have been proven incorrect over the years. Science and technology have verified which of the many accounts of the Battle of Baltimore and that perilous night were actually true, and the new exhibit reflects that new information.

I've been fortunate to spend some time with the exhibit's curator in the past three years, while researching my Free Men and Dreamers books, and the additional information he taught me came in handy this morning. My grandson's heart was breaking as his parents packed to return home. He snuggled close to me with tears in his eyes, telling me how he wanted to stay with us a while longer. I secretly felt the same way, but instead I tried to lift his spirits by reminding him what he had to share with his classmates when he arrived back in Utah. After all, he had seen the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, and now he could tell his friends that he had also seen the real Star-Spangled Banner!

The story was already unclear to him, so we snuggled together as I told him about the whole story--about the burning of Washington and how Dr. Beanes had been kidnapped as the British returned to their ships. I spoke of Francis Scott Key's efforts to save his friend, and about how his heart ached as he heard the British discuss their plans to raze Baltimore. Tommy's eyes grew large as I explained how Key sat on a ship in the Baltimore Harbor, watching the bombardment, and how he began to record his feelings on the back of a letter. As I repeated the words of Key's poem, little Tommy's eyes grew larger still. "I know that!" he said.

He began repeating the words to the "Star-Spangled Banner" as I explained the meaning of its somewhat obscure language. At the end, he smiled once more. "Isn't that a great story, I asked. And it's all true, and you've seen the flag!"

I saw the change in his eyes. Now he was ready to tell his friends about his visit to see the great banner. Now he understood that he and his folks and grandma had shared something special, something he might not fully appreciate until he was a man, but already the seeds of patriotism were swelling, and I was privileged to see it begin.