Thursday, June 30, 2011


As Tom and I were driving to the D.C. Temple we noticed a crowd gathering in front of the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department's Station 5 house. Afterwards, I Googled the station to see what had been going on there, and discovered they were dedicating a 9/11 memorial. We stopped by and two of Station 5's members were gracious enough to give me a interview. Gracious with their time, John E. Thompson and Jean Ward provided living examples of the spirit engrained in these first-responders. Here is the story.

The events of 9/11 are deeply personal to the volunteer firefighters who call Kensington Maryland's Station 5 “home.” When hijackers crashed a plane into the Pentagon, Station 5’s members gathered at the house, overcrowded their ambulance and engine, and raced to the scene, rescuing the wounded, recovering the dead, and battling the fires at the emblem of America’s military might.

James Stanton, KVFD fire chief is understandably proud of his crew. “We didn't have to call them. We didn't have to send out a page. They knew they were needed, and they showed up."

Days later, Station 5 volunteers responded to another 9/11 need when a request arrived from New York City for help at the embattled World Trade Center site where thousands perished when two hijacked planes brought the Twin Towers down.

Speaking of that call for help, Master Firefighter John E. Thompson, a 43-year veteran of the KVFD said, “We were asked to provide an engine company and an ambulance, and we were there for several days. . . They had to fight the guys off because everyone wanted to go.”

A small crowd gathered Saturday, June 25, at Kensington Volunteer Fire Department’s Station 5 for the dedication of a very special set of monuments. 16-foot twisted beam of steel juts from an inscribed black base which reads:


Nearby, a piece of granite pull from the point of impact at the Pentagon rest upon a similar base inscribed with these words:


The half million dollar memorial project, the vision of KVFD President Steven R. Semler, was funded through donations and volunteer labor. The 9/11 Families Association assisted Station 5 in acquiring the beam. “This beam is from the point of impact between the 91st and 94th floors. It was given to us by the Port Authority of New York City and the 9/11 Families Association. We went up there, picked it out and brought it back,” said John E. Thompson. The Department of Defense provided the block of granite from the Pentagon.

Steve Heidenberger, president of Heidenberger Construction, served as project manager, reaching out into the community for contractors willing to contribute materials and labor. For Heidenberger, the project was deeply personal. His brother, Tom Heidenberger, lost his wife Michelle at the attack on the Pentagon. Steve Heidenberger said he wanted the memorial to be built from volunteer labor and goods, not money. His brother Tom hopes the memorial will also serve to teach future generations about 9/11. Said he, "They're going to ask, 'Mommy, daddy, what is this? Each of us will be able to explain to them what happened and the thousands of people who lost their lives that day."

Following speeches and the dedication of the monuments, a 3500 pound bell, one of the “Bells of Remembrance,” inscribed with the names of the firefighters who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, was rung in commemoration.

The monuments rest upon a red brick patio that pulls visitors out of the bustle. Gray bricks are interspersed throughout, engraved with the names of the contractors who contributed to the project. For a gift of $100, private individuals can have their own names or a message inscribed on a brick as a permanent remembrance. “The money raised [from the sale of the bricks] goes back to the 9/11 Families’ Association and other similar charitable efforts.”

In 2005 the firehouse was also invited to serve as the site one of four test rose gardens. The rose bushes are grown to determine climate hardiness for specific varieties being considered for three memorial rose gardens in New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, PA. Several of the varieties are named specifically to commemorate 9/11 with names such as “Veterans’ Honor” “Firefighters,” “Forty Heroes,” and “September Mourn.” Jean Ward, a lifetime member of the fire company, and caretaker of the rose garden, explained why roses were being chosen for the planned memorial gardens. “Because the rose is a sign of remembrance.”

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 fast approaching, many remembrances will occur as Americans pause to reflect on the greatest attack on the Continental U.S. since the devastation of Washington during the war of 1812. This one is right in our nieghborhood, and worth a moment to stop, reflect and remember.

Families and organizations interested in buying a brick can submit requests to

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I recently posted an article about the Star-Spangled Banner titled "The First Icon of America" in The Deseret News Online for Flag Day. It included a quote from of a British man who upon visiting the birthplace of the flag, Fort McHenry, commented that no other country reveres her flag quiet the way America does.

That comment stirred up considerable controversy from a particular reader who felt I had insulted the rest of the known universe for stating such a politically-prejudiced comment. Never mind that a Briton said it.

Other readers shot up to defend the right to say whatever we want about the flag and it got a bit testy. I was saddened that to some people, the right to even cheer and love the flag was seen as insensitive.

On the other side of the equation, I was equally saddened to see, through one reader's comment, how skewed our view of American history really is. Worse yet? That reader was a teacher.

Fables abound in American history. Some innocently arose due to mythical nature ascribed to these beloved American heroes. Sometimes history was skewed because the most common form of entertainment of the day was dinner conversation, and a guest with ample storytelling skill, and good stories to share, could get invitations to the best parties. Such was the case of Mason Locke Weems, author and disseminator of the "George Washington-cutting-down-the-cherry-tree" story.

Some fables grew because family connections to history, and good timing, could prove financially beneficial. Case in point being the Betsy Ross story, which no historian will touch today. Yes, she sewed flags, and yes, she was acquainted with Robert Morris and possibly George Washington, but no document, no writing of Ross's, and no entry of any of the principles, confirms any part of the tale that she sewed the first flag of the nation. I know that news breaks the hearts of a generation raised on that sweet tale, but the truth is Ross's grandson was in danger of losing the family home around the time of the centennial, and he began spinning that tale just in time to bring guests to his home to see where the flag was made. It saved the home, and tainted history.

The comment made against my article was from a woman who rejected the story about the Star-Spangled Banner being lowered during the Battle of Baltimore when a storm began. Instead of the large banner flying through the wind and rain, which likely would have made the flag too heavy, causing it to possibly snap, the smaller storm flag flew through the night, and the large garrison flag was raised before dawn so the British and the Americans would see that the fort had withstood the 23-hour bombardment.

She also didn't like the idea that the tattered edges of the flag were made by the fort's commander, Major Armistead, who cut pieces off the end and mailed them to friends and patriots who wanted a memento from the valiant banner. Like her, I too was told those tears were sacred battle scars. As a child I had been taken to the Smithsonian to reverently stand and gaze upon the scarred fabric, and I was awed. The true story is less dramatic, but carries its own patriotic charm, about a beleaguered people who rallied around this rectangle of fabric until it became precious--a thing to be treasured. That's no small matter, is it?

A few months ago I came across a You Tube video by a pastor telling the story of the Star-Spangled Banner. His version was dramatic, and likely caused many to shed a tear, but it was terribly flawed and inaccurate. He was called on it, and the person making the comment straightened out the facts in a beautiful, non-judgmental way. In the end, the pastor apologized, re-wrote his presentation, and continues his efforts to spread American patriotism and love of country using solid facts. Bravo to that pastor and the man who corrected him with kindness.

History evolves as documents are uncovered, archaeologists make new finds, and scientific testing improves. Truth should be what we seek. In the end, the real story will be as compelling as a fable, because it tells the true response of a people in their own day. Holding the line on truth in recording history will become more critical. Parents need to take the lead on this and expose their children to America's past. Don't count on textbooks and teachers to do it all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Three of my favorite things combine in one irreplaceable moment--Early American history, Williamsburg, Va, and Motab!

Monday, June 20, 2011


Thank you to the "I'M A READER NOT A WRITER" blog for setting up another great hop. This one runs from midnight Monday, June 20, to midnight on Friday, June 24th.

The prize this hop is a reader's choice of any volume from my FREE MEN AND DREAMERS series plus an American Flag!

TO win, do any of the following. Each item adds an additional entry. Each entry MUST be posted separately to be counted.

I'm writing historical pieces for newspapers now to reach new readers, so our entry opportunities include visiting places where I post. Here's how you enter:

1. You must be or become a follower of this blog.

2. Stop by KSL online and peek at my most recent article at

3. Link to the above article on Facebook.

4. Link to the above article on Twitter

Thanks! Now visit all these other great blogs!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

FOR FATHER'S DAY-Tom's Favorite Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Can be very mild like Kraft or very sharp depending on what cheese you select. Unless you like a very pungent dish, avoid extremely strong cheeses. We like a mixture of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack. This is a good budget stretcher and it can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.

2 Tbls. Butter 1 tsp. dry mustard
2 Tbls. Flour 2 c. (8 oz.) elbow macaroni
1 tsp salt ¼ c. buttered bread crumbs
2 ½ c. milk 2 c. (8 oz) shredded cheese

Cook macaroni as directed. Drain. Melt butter. Remove from heat. Blend in flour, salt and mustard. Add milk, heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens a little and is smooth. Add 1 ½ cups cheese, heat until melted, stirring occasionally. In a buttered 2 qt. casserole, combine sauce and macaroni. Top with remaining cheese, bread crumbs, and paprika. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned and bubbly. Serves 4-6

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes
Category: Main Meals Servings: 8

ENJOY! Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Tomorrow is Father's Day, and I thought I'd post this quote:

"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 tell me something wonderful about your dad or father. Post yout comment below. Ready, set, brag!

Friday, June 17, 2011


I recently began submitting articles to a group of related magazines and newspapers. It's a diversion from the work on my manuscript, but an effort to reach new readers. I'm not an utter newbie to reviews and having other people critique and express their opinion about my work, but the news world is a different arena, and freelancers will find themselves requiring more immediate literary first aid.

The article goes online, and minutes later subscribers are letting you know whether or not they agree with your take on a topic. Some are kind. Some comment as if they've been sharpening their claws for just such a moment.

Controversy spurs more readers, as they incite their neighbors to also rail against the writer, so seasoned news-vets welcome the negative comments as well as the positive. But me? Not so much. I'm a novelist with tender, "please love me" skin, and this is a very uncomfortable platform.

I've written a few humorous "lifestyle" pieces, and about four historical articles. I then wrote a slightly controversial article about Hollywood's liberal agenda and that piece had surpassed all the others in total hits. But it also garnered the most comments--about one and half per every thousand readers, most disagreeing with the article's subject's position.

My peers express the same over reading negative reviews. It's our nature. What drives us to create tender characters and compelling story lines comes from our own experiences, our own fears and concerns. In short, WE are in every line we write, and that makes negative reviews sting.

I'd love to survey men and see if a negative review affects them the same way it affects the women. Is it that need to be liked? That personalization of all negative feedback that makes a single person's negative opinion erase all the positive?

When the US Women's Soccer Team won the world title they were asked what made them so successful. One of the players answered, "Our coach. He coached us like men but treated us like women."

When asked to elaborate, her explanation was profound and has remained with me, proving itself to be true over and over. "He coached us like men, pushing us hard, to be our best and to keep improving, but he treated us like women. He understood that if you tell a roomful of men, 'Someone on the team isn't pulling their weight,' the men will likely look at one another and say, "Which one of you isn't pulling your weight," but if you say the same thing to a roomful of women, they will each say to themselves, "He thinks I'm not pulling my weight."

It's incredible, isn't it? Maybe I should write an article about that!

Anyway, sales are up on the books since the historical articles appeared, and though the release date is delayed, we're still hoping for a late summer release on "In God Is Our Trust." Thanks for all the support!


Monday, June 13, 2011


My Flag Day article as it appears in Deseret News Online.


On June 14th, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the design of a national flag with these words:

Resolved, that the Flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.

Betsy Ross, pictured above, was long attributed with the task of sewing that first national banner. Historians have recently stepped away from tying her to the creation of that banner, saying only that she was a flag maker, and that she may have known General Washington. But the importance of the adoption of the flag remains the focus of national Flag Day ceremonies.

The holiday status of the day is attributed to two school teachers who designed celebrations for their students around the adoption of the Stars and Stripes. In 1885, BJ Cigrand, planned a program for the students of the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6 to mark this patriotic date as "Flag Birthday." Cigrand maintained his observance of the "Flag Day" during the next few years.

Four years later, kindergarten teacher George Baulch also planned a program for students his New York City school. The New York School system adopted the commemoration. Flag Day observances began occurring at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia and various patriotic groups began holding their own commemorative events.

Though Flag Day was established through an official Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916, the date wasn't set aside as a national holiday until August 3, 1949 when President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th as National Flag Day.

Local areas will be hosting a variety of commemorative events. Baltimore's Fort McHenry, and her Flag House museum, each of which are connected to the beloved Star-Spangled Banner, make spectacular places to enjoy this celebration of the Stars and Stripes. But everyone can participate in the "National Pause for the Pledge." Wherever you are at 7:00 p.m., stop for a moment, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

In honor of Flag Day, I'm giving away a 3x5 foot American flag and a copy of David McCullough's "1776."

Here's how you enter:

1. You must be or become a follower of this blog.

2. Share a personal, patriotic moment in the comment box below.

Thanks! The winner will be drawn June 15th at midnight.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


My closet is bursting with books--sooooo many books. I've selected a few I've read, enjoyed and reviewed, and I'm giving them away in a bundle.

So yes, they're previously read--a bit tattered at the edges, and they cover a multitude of LDS genres--a gripping, historical fiction; an eerie YA fantasy; a sweet historical romance; an inspiring biography; and a darling suspense.

Yes, that's five, used, loved books in all! Interested in getting them?

Let's do something fun for an entry. I'm pretty stressed-out as we finish up Free men and Dreamers, so I could use some easy warm-weather recipes that comfort and come together quickly. Send me a recipe, and I'll enter you in the drawing.

Enter as many times as you want,but you must already be, or become a follower of my blog. That's it. Ready, set, enter! We'll pull the winner on Saturday, June 12.

Monday, June 6, 2011


The line about "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," no longer applies to Hollywood, at least not since author Ben Shapiro's candidly revealing book, Primetime Propaganda," and the videoed interviews with Hollywood execs upon which it is based hit the shelves and net.

Media's liberal influence on American culture through its programing and writing is no secret to most, but the arrogance with which some execs confess to Hollywood's manipulation of the national socio-political conscience shocked this writer.

Ben Shapiro pulled off the media equivalent of a Coup d-Etat when he secured permission from 39 Hollywood's members of Hollywood's elite club of producers and writers, willing to do an taped interview.

“Most of them didn’t Google me. If they had, they would have realized where I am politically,” he said. “I played on their stereotypes. When I showed up for the interviews, I wore my Harvard Law baseball cap — my name is Ben Shapiro and I attended Harvard, so there’s a 98.7 percent chance I’m a liberal. Except I happen not to be.”

The interviews are slowly being released onto the Internet. A few are already up. Some are too shocking to post without warnings, as these self-proclaimed open minds assail conservatives as "idiots" and "medieval thinkers," chuckling as they discuss how they snookered America. They openly admit only one train of thought is allowed to pull into the Hollywood station, and anyone whose ticket isn't punched "liberal" or "progressive" can't play or ride with the big boys and girls.

And don't think it's just the obvious envelope-pushers like MTV or the occasionally racy family shows like American Idol's Lady Gaga spectacle, that are setting the political and social agenda. No, no, no, my friend. It's in all of them to varying degrees, like seasoning changing the national flavor, one comment at a time.

Here are a few examples. I've ordered the book. Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven't already, you may want to walk away from your TV.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Are you looking for a great gift idea for


Father's Day is fast approaching,

and in lieu of a signing, we're bundling a


Father's Day package dads will love!

Seagull and Deseret are selling volume two,

"Twilight's Last Gleaming"

at a special discount, so. . .

Buy volumes 1 and 2. . .

"Dark Sky at Dawn" and "Twilight's Last Gleaming,"

And I'll personally add volume 3,

"Dawn's Early Light"

to that bundle for $8 for your special dad.

That's less than half-price!

I'll also send along personalized book plates and bookmarks.

Purchase your copies at your local store, or online.
Just scan and email a copy of your receipt to
by June 11th,
along with the name of the recipient,
and I'll sign the bookplates, and send your book and free gifts along in time for Father's Day!

* * *
Volume four, "Oh Say Can You See"
is on store shelves now,
and volume five, "In God Is Our Trust,"
will be available in late summer 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I recently posted on Facebook that I had found a misplaced piece of critical electronic research which brought me great relief and no small amount joy. It was critical because it was the most comprehensive report on an event I'm using in "In God Is Our Trust," an event many people will think is too over-the-top to be true. I needed proof.

It's often the case in historical research, that the truth is far more compelling than any fiction we could write, creating two dilemmas--the above-mentioned need for corroboration, and the difficulty in writing believable fiction that matches that level of real tension or conflict.

I can't tell you what I found without giving away a major plot line in the book, but I can tell you it occurred in Philadelphia, and that it changes the lives of one of our most beloved characters. You'll hate what happens, but you'll turn pages furiously to a satisfying resolution. And it's all based on real events.

I spoke with my publishers a few days ago, and explained that this manuscript is becoming more complex than I imagined, so we're pushing the release back to late summer. I apologize for that, but I need this book to answer everything, to resolve every plot line, and to satisfy you and me. And it will, just a bit later than we planned.

In other news, I never got around to mailing the set of books to Glenn Beck yet. I can't explain why, but now I'm ready. We're boxing them up in this amazing White House humidor, and sending them off this week. We'll see what happens next.

My web site is locked up, so we need to redo that as well. Lots going on. Crazy days right now, but a good kind of crazy.

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Flag Day is fast approaching on June 14, and in a day when some people treat saying the Pledge of the Allegiance to the flag as a grave controversy, I’d like to raise a voice of celebration for the red, white and blue, and for the day set aside to honor it.

Next year, America will mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812, culminating in 2014with the bicentennial of our National Anthem and the flag that inspired it. Sadly, unless you live in a War of 1812 historic zone, you may have heard little hoopla over this anniversary, a sobering thing considering that most historians agree that this is the moment America became united—the United States of America.

I live in Maryland, surrounded by War of 1812 history—-the Chesapeake Campaign and Commodore Joshua Barney’s audacious Chesapeake Flotilla; the dark days surrounding burning of Washington; the critical Battle of Baltimore; its star-shaped guardian--Fort McHenry; and the most famous and beloved of all flags, the Star Spangled Banner. The Smithsonian has gone to extensive efforts to preserve and study this American icon. The exhibit is beautiful and a must-see for anyone coming to Washington D.C.

There are fables and myths that abound over America’s banner. Though Flag Day celebrants visiting Philadelphia will still see Betsy Ross’s house front and center that day, most historians shy away from her fabled place as the sewer of the first American flag. Two highly respected historians each told me to avoid her story with a ten-foot pole while researching material for FREE MEN and DREAMERS, attributing her story to a grandson who took a few threads of truth and aggrandized his grandmother’s place in history to get the needed funds to pay the mortgage on the family home. Search the Internet and you’ll still see tributes to Betsy Ross as Washington’s go-to seamstress, but this article most closely illustrates the reasons why Betsy Ross’s involvement is becoming more fable than fact.

The Flag House Museum in Baltimore celebrates the Pickersgill women who sewed the famed and beloved, Star-Spangled Banner. The Flag House will be hosting its observance of the holiday beginning on Saturday, June 11, but a trip here is a spectacular treat anytime. Learn about how the flag was sewn at night on the floor of the malthouse, (brewery), the only floor large enough to lay it out.

Visitors to the Baltimore area should place Fort McHenry on their must-see list as well. This is the famed star-shaped fort that survived the British assault September 13-14, 1814, and was memorialized in Key’s National Anthem. Here’s a link to the fort’s summer newsletter of activities.

So whether you visit the Smithsonian, Baltimore's plethora of flag sites, or others in your own community, there are lots of patriotic things for families to enjoy while teaching critical American history and instilling the crucial values of honor, gratitude, and patriotism.

Whatever you do, try to include this national observance of the day--at 7:00 p.m. Americans a on June 14, Americans are asked to pause and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance wherever they are.