Sunday, January 29, 2012


One of the most critical aspects of writing is the ability to create interesting characters that develop and evolve within the story. I love creating characters. They become vivid and real in my mind, and I come to care about them deeply. Even the bad ones. They always have some backstory that led them to the place and circumstances the reader finds them in, and because I know their fictional "history," I empathize with them even as I figure out how they will meet their date with eternal justice.

Where do great characters come from? Many of their physical and emotional characteristics are driven by the storyline--I make them fit the role I'm casting them into. But the small incidentals that make them rich and vivid often come from life--from people watching.

I love noticing small each uniqueness about people. I do look for interesting physical attributes, like stand-out hairstyles and "speak" to the world. But it's the idiosyncrasies that flesh out a character and bring them from flat to three-dimensional in the reader's mind. Things like curious speech patterns, make up application, a quirky walk or stance or habit like repetitive blinking or an interesting voice.

And I find true gems in the most ordinary places, for instance, today I was watching a gentleman conduct music. He was a burly man who I pegged as an aging athlete--probably a football player. He had tough guy written all over him, but there he was, beating out a four/four pattern, and I do mean "beating."

His arm was tight and stiff, requiring the assistance of his entire shoulder to articulate the appendage into proper position. And when it swung it achieved more of a swoop, almost appearing as if a sword should have been in his hand, coming down upon a enemy's head, or a large melon.

What I found most endearing about this sweet and willing chorister was the way he ended a musical phrase--not with a gentle circle, and not with the closing of a thumb and forefinger, but with an animated closing of his fist, as if he were clamping down upon a fly in mid-flight. You definitely got the message that it was time to stop singing and breathe in preparation for the next entrance.

His expression was one of pure joy. He loves directing the music! And he was very effective and easy to follow despite his stiff appearance. As I watched him I thought how he would make a perfect model for the saying, "Grow where you are planted." Someone planted him in what appeared to have once been an uncomfortable post, and yet he rose to the challenge and learned to love it.

So today's entry in my physical character list will be a stiff-armed ex-jock/chorister. And in the personality section I'll describe a tough guy who was given an uncharacteristic assignment, who rose to the challenge and came off conqueror. Sounds like a noble character, doesn't it?

Monday, January 23, 2012


Book Review from the

(Available online at

Book review: 'In God is Our Trust' blends faith and patriotism
By Sheryl C. S. Johnson
For the Deseret News
Published: Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

"FREE MEN AND DREAMERS, VOL. 5: In God is Our Trust," by L.C. Lewis, Walnut Springs Press, $19.99, 452 pages (f)

“In God is Our Trust,” the fifth and final volume in L.C. Lewis’ “Free Men and Dreamers” series, follows the Pearson family’s struggles and triumphs after the War of 1812. Lewis paints a tumultuous America where the Pearsons are surrounded by the consequences of a nation exploring freedom and bondage.

While providing an in-depth look at this segment of American history, Lewis ties up story lines from the five-book series while deftly addressing issues of slavery, immigration, westward migration and religious reformation.

“In God is Our Trust” explores sentiments of this era of history, bringing issues home with vivid, distinguishable characters. Lewis provides a powerful account of freedom and bondage, bringing about a greater appreciation for those who have gone before to build up this nation.

"As the characters struggle through life, making mistakes and learning when they stumble, they become stronger because of their faith in God. Lewis briefly explores the beginnings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, blending faith and patriotism. She illustrates how Joseph Smith’s accounts of visions and angels test the Constitution’s guarantees of religious liberty and how they strain and strengthen tender family relationships.

Lewis’ excellent research and attention to detail is evident from architecture to landscape. Her plot weaves seamlessly with historical fact, peppering story lines with points of view likely held by our Founding Fathers and their detractors.

The crisp details in this historical novel breathe life into a pivotal time in American history. Through characters, trials and plot, the author navigates a story that connects God, family and country, leaving readers with a greater appreciation for the blessings of liberty.

Sheryl C.S. Johnson blogs at
© 2012 Deseret News Publishing Company All rights reserved

Saturday, January 21, 2012


My son, Tom, wrote this editorial. No matter your political leanings, it offers some points about character that bear some serious thought.

Does granting forgiveness require us to erase all memory of lapses in character and fidelity, particularly when the subject is asking for the trust of a nation in order to become the most powerful leader in the world?

Good questions to ask. Here's Tom's editorial.

Newt Gingrich? Conservative? Really? I am shocked that so many Americans are willing to vote for a man that broke the most important vow of all, that of marriage, for more than six years. How can we expect this man to honor the oath of the office of the President of the United States when he can’t honor the more important oath of fidelity to a wife (or two wives for that matter)? As a devout Christian I firmly believe in the power of redemption; however, while I believe that a repentant man can attain full blessings in the life hereafter, this doesn’t mean that he deserves to be elected to the highest office in this life.

While I support Romney for President I would also be happy to see one of the other true conservatives in the Oval Office. Give me Santorum, give me Paul, but do not give me a man that lacked the capacity to be faithful in two separate marriages (not to mention that he was breaking the law of the state that he represented in Congress during his affairs – adultery is still illegal in that state). For that matter, while I disagree with a great number of Obama’s policies and ideas, as least he seems to be a man that honors his wife and family.

Again, while I fully believe the repentant man can be redeemed, there are certain things that one must forgo when he chooses to be untrue. The Office of the President of the United States is one of those.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I can't speak for all writers, but I can admit to a substantial dose of self-doubt. Some days, nothing worth reading is produced even after hours of hunting-and-pecking on my keyboard. On other days, I can hardly get my six trained typing fingers to move quickly enough to record the flood of ideas before they are lost. But even on those days when every creative piston is firing at maximum output, it might only take an episode of cleverly-written TV, or a chapter of someone else's work, to knock the affirmation of my work right out from under me.

Have you been there too?

It's not just writers. It happens to great cooks and wonderful stylists, to race car drivers, and singers, and dancers, and piano teachers. I tried to put everything into my mothering. I made my children's Halloween costumes and quiet books, read and sang until I was hoarse, tied receiving blankets around my neck so I could fly when we played super heroes, and snuggled under blankets while Ernie and Bert sang about brushing our teeth and turning off the lights.

I also canned bushels of fruit, sometimes staying up into the wee hours of the morning to complete that day's quota until I hated summer and early fall. And why did I have to have three hundred jars of fruit canned by the end of the season when there were still so many there from the previous year? I think it was because it was some quantiative measurement of my mothering and homemaking. It was something I could see and touch that told me I had gone the extra mile for my family, but also? It was a goodly number, one the older, expert homemakers would greet with respect. For some reason, at twenty-four, I thought I needed that.

Admiring can be helpful, but comparing is often bad. Oh, to get past the need to compare.

Maybe it was the crazy home I grew up in. We weren't the Cleavers. But oh, how I wanted to be June for my own little family. I looked for Junes at church, and patterned myself after them. Some of what I picked up was good, but the rush to be like them often left me glue-gunned scarred and exhausted and deflated.

I look around at the young mothers of today and say, "Embrace your uniqueness!" I can now proudly proclaim that I don't enjoy crafts. There! I admitted it! And guess what else? I buy canned fruit at the grocers! Man alive, was that a liberating change for me!

I like being fifty-something, but I don't want to be one of those women young mothers look at and compare themselves to. I surely don't want my daughters and daughters-in-law doing that to themselves. Admire a bit? Sure. I'd like that. And come to for advice now and then? Oh, yeah. I have a bit of that to share. But they are more confident than I was at their age, and more comfortable in their own skin. By and large, they have the very talents I always longed for and never attained. And that's why the Lord led me to writing. No glue guns involved, and no canning jars.

So today when I feel the need to compare a chapter to someone else's work, I'm going to be kind to myself. I'm going to own this moment, this talent, this chapter, and see it as a gift--something peaceful and fulfilling the Lord gave me, and I'm going to be thankful. Be kind to yourself today also!


Friday, January 13, 2012


I took my mother grocery shopping yesterday. She's a senior on a fixed income, a proud lady who took great pride in her sterling credit. We've had to take over her bills to a great extent because we discovered she would forego buying groceries to get her bills paid during a lean month.

We were picking up a few groceries in WalMart yesterday and I noticed the worried looks on faces as parents anguished over the rising costs, and as seniors carefully selected a few things, placing others back on the shelves. The economny is hurting people on a very personal basis.

I was urging Mom to stock-up this trip, but her pride makes it difficult for her to accept help from her children, so she compares ounce-for-ounce pricing on everything, and generally chooses the very cheapest item.

Another lady doing the same thing saw a kindred spirit in my mother. With a furrowed brow she said, "I don't know what we'll do if these prices keep rising. How will we eat?"

It began a lengthy discussion about politics and the current state of America. I immediately found that we completly disagree on party and choice for the next election, but we were spot-on in agreement on fundamentals. We need hope. We need some trust. We need some people who keep their word and won't economically napalm the nation in order to turn its course.

I have a few candidates I like very much, but I don't like the rhetoric and the hate. It reminds me of playground bullies who duke it out without regard for who catches a stray punch. Frankly, if I were their mothers, I'd tell them all how disappointed I am in them.

So here's my message for all the candidates, and for President Obama too. If you agree, please share the link to this post. Let's send out a cry for civility that will reach them on their buses and in the campaign headquarters.

Thanks. Let's smile and be civil in spite of them, and set the standard high.



Dear Politicians-- all of you!

Don't tell us all the dreadful things about the other guy, tell us what's great about you. We're strong, we're brave, we'll fight for a better America, but first, show us where you'll lead us. Inspire us. Say something positive. Show us your sterling character and demonstrate that you recognize ours as well. We are your future employers, your shipmates, the people in the same foxhole with you. Don't push us, bully us, or be condescending. Some of us handed you the world you want to lead. Show us you're worthy of that sacred trust.



Don't you love the image? This is my favorite hop so I'm giving away a pretty cool prize package--winner's choice of either a $25 Applebees gift card or two books to read after dinner!

First of all, a big thank you to Kathy at "I AM A READER NOT A WRITER," and "REVIEWS BY MARTHA'S BOOKSHELF" for hosting this giveaway.

I'm writing a new book--a political suspense novel--but still carrying on promotion for my FREE MEN AND DREAMERS historical series. The final book in the 5-volume, award-winning series was released in November, and your help getting the word out will get you entries this week.

My prizes are:

1) A $25.00 Applebees gift card, good only in the US and Canada, or

2) An autographed copy of any book from my shelf, and one other book I've enjoyed this year, (International winners will get one ebook download and a personalized note.)

Please note that each entry must be posted separately using the comment form below or it cannot be counted by, the program that selects my winner.

Here's how to enter:

1) You must be or become a follower of this blog by GFC or by email

2) Friend me on Facebook

2. Post the following ad blurb on your facebook page or twitter feed. You'll receive one entry for each place you post:

FREE MEN and DREAMERS--great American history-based fiction that educates and inspires. And now it's formatted for e-readers!

That's it! Thanks for the help! Now enjoy all these other great stops on the hop!

Monday, January 9, 2012


Today seems like a good day for an intimate post about life. Life is great, but life is hard sometimes. Last week was a hard one, and this week may be tougher yet.

We've got friends facing tough situations right now. We joined our prayers with theirs yesterday, petitioning the Lord for multiple miracles. What a comfort it is to know we have a Heavenly Father and a Savior who love us and who hear our prayers, and whether or not we get the outcomes we are all praying for at this time, we accept His will, and we know that He does have the power to heal every heart, every hurt, every need, and will some day.

My concerns are in no way equal to these friends' at this time, but as a wise daughter once told me, we can't compare troubles. She was very sick and facing a kidney transplant, and her friends stopped sharing their concerns with her because they seemed trivial in comparison. Amanda faced off and told them that if they felt they had a lot on their plate, then they did. End of story. We just can't compare plates with someone else. Some people are facing life and death situations, but some days, a run in a pair of panty-hose as you're running late for an important interview can be a deal breaker, especially if you really need that job. I used that great insight in "Awakening Avery," when Teddie was trying to console Avery. See, art does pull from real life.

My mother is in early onset dementia, or so we think. We've noticed the changes over the passing years--rapid anxiety, forgetfulness, mood swings, fear, she forgets to eat and misplaces things all the time assuming they've been stolen. Tomorrow, I'll take her to see a neurologist and we'll begin the process of being officially diagnosed. She doesn't want to go. She's afraid of what she'll hear, admitting that she'd rather just go on in innocent ignorance.

She can't see how hard these moment to moment emergencies are on those of us who love her and fear for her safety. She thinks we are trying to ruin her life and control her.

These sandwich years are very challenging, caught between the needs of young families for support and love, and the unforeseen but instantly-appearing Mom-emergencies. It's hard to find time to write, and when I do, I feel my umber mood is visible in my words.

So we carry on as best we can, don't we? I'm sure you each have a concern or two of your own that's pressing on you like an anvil. So what do we do to keep moving forward?

I'd love to hear what you do. For me, it's about maintaining some balance. I've picked up my level of scripture study, tried a new study plan actually, and it's been very nurturing to my soul. I'm also trying to pray with greater intent, to really talk to my Father in Heaven, one-on-one, because though I know He loves me, I sometimes treat Him like my busy grand kids treat me--with barely a passing wave as they hurry past to something more inviting.

I'm beginning an actual diet program tomorrow. I meet with a counselor. This is generally not my style, but with life being what it is right now, I need to take better care of me, and that means eating better and taking some of this weight off before other health issues arise.

I'm pulling back from the Internet too. I'm so easily sucked into it, reading blogs, news stories, some total time-wasting junk. Then I ask myself where the day has gone. Hah! I'm going to try hard to post what's needed, and then turn off my browser. I get so much more writing done with the Internet turned off, and housework too!

I'm going to stop work when my husband walks in the door, and be in bed by ten each night. Have you read the studies about the incredible necessity of being at rest by ten? Our body's systems rejuvenate from 10-2 A.M., and if we push past those hours and deny the body the opportunity to rest and repair, we're prone to a host of health concerns. They studied the effects resting between 10 and 2 had on graveyard shift workers, and they found that depression dropped, weight fell off, and other ailments declined. Likewise, when they put day workers on the graveyard shift, they found that all those problems increased. And I've been putting myself on that shift--well, no more.

I'm also going to carve out more time to be with friends, to meet new people and to really get involved in the upcoming election process. Can't wait!

So I guess this list constitutes my New Year's resolutions. I'm copying them down and we'll see how I'll do. Maybe some of these look good to you. Go ahead. Give them a try. And tell me yours. I'll see if any of your seem to be a good fit for me.

Thanks for listening to my rambling. Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I was once terrified of this stage of life, fearful that without multiple voices at the dinner table, or when there were no more ball games to attend, (the staple of our non-church social life), life would be so radically different that I would feel lost in my own skin. Well, NOT SO!!!

There was a transition period, of course, like the day we arrived home after dropping our last child off at college. We were driving into town and I realized that after a week's absence from home, we'd need a few groceries. I remember looking at my husband and timidly asking, What do I buy? Two peaches? One quart of milk? It was an astounding change considering the fact that in actuality, sending the last child off didn't mean one less mouth to feed. It meant the sudden departure of his entire posse of muddy-cleated, sweaty-uniformed, two-extra-gallons-of-milk-a-week-drinking Little Debbie Eaters. What was I to do?

I was a little lost for a time. Holidays home were my heaven, and I died again when the planes departed, but eventually I could watch my Lewis tribe return to their collegiate and married worlds without tears, and then my wise husband explained this new stage of life to me.
"It's our house now! We can do whatever we want!"

It was a daring thought! I considered the ramifications of such a wild and crazy notion, and then giggled, "Cool!" Now, what to do with all this freedom? Well, I could draft a long list, but let me share just a few tidbits from my new Empty Nesters Wisdom.

First, somedays there is a little extra time and freedom, and some days there is not. Why? A variety of reasons come to mind. For example, your parenting style is not likely to change, you just need more gas to hover your invisible helicopter over your children's new airspace. Are you a note-in-the-lunchbox mom? Then buy stock in the US Postal service, because you will likely feel compelled to attach that little sticky note to a thirty-two pound collection of non-perishable items intended to keep your Ramen Noodle-eating child from suffering malnourishment. (Don't laugh . . . prepare. You'll thank me later.)

But time is more flexible now, and there is freedom in that.

The most wonderful aspect of this new stage of life is that there is time for exponential growth. Like an unlimited enrollment at Life University where you get to explore and learn new things while living with the room mate you know really, really well, these years are delicious. In fact, I've come to think of them as dessert--a time when all the sous-chefs in your life have contributed to helping you prep for the great learning smorgasbord, and now it's time to indulge yourself and everyone in your circle into the richness of what you have become and what you will do with what you have become. (My editor is cringing over that last elongated thought.)
I want to be a more active voice in shaping the world now.

I'll bravely admit something. I'm generally a people pleaser. It's an unflattering characterization, I know, but I generally like to make nice. This was not necessarily so in my youth. In fact, I was somewhat of a political activist--sitting on committees to argue policies and define students' rights and responsibilities--but after marriage and children, something switched inside. Other people's needs came first and despite my internal passion about the world, in the minutia of life, my non-parental voice stilled somewhat. (Notice the honest admission that only the non-parental voice stilled somewhat. After all, my children may read this.) Anyway, I became more involved in facilitating the expression of others' opinions than my own.

I had heard quiet rumors of the tongue-loosening that occurs after forty. Alluded to in Relief Society, where the sisters of the the LDS church meet to teach and edify one another, this rumored fourth decade burst-of-courage-to-boldly-fight-for-truth-and-righteousness gave me reason to look forward to the big 4-0, and biological fact or not, I did find a new inclination to speak my mind. Perhaps it was, in part, because my astute children's own minds were awakening to the complexities of the world that was bearing down upon them that I began not just fussing over issues but writing to my representatives and calling their offices. The aperture opened a little wider as I hit the fifty year marker, and now, I not only have more life experience, I have the time and freedom to do something with it. (See? There was a point to all this rambling.)

Perhaps this fourth-quarter reawakened-desire to change the world is universal to men and women. I've really fallen in love with President Washington in the past two years. Flawed? Human? Of course, but judging the man within the context of his own time, he was, without question, both brilliant and inspired. I love to read his Farewell Address and I recommend that every American do, (Washington's Farewell Address) for in reading it, one is awed by how desperately he loved this land and us, the generations that would follow after him. So much so that even in the last days of his public life, after suffering physically and emotionally over this infant nation thoughout his life, and when he desperately longed for nothing more than a short season of quiet peace, he could not walk away silently. Like a waning father . . . like a great patriarch offering his final words of wisdom, he spelled out three concluding warnings to his future American children.

One- He called on Americans to be unified, warning that factionalism would occur in our nation if political parties were allowed to polarize the people. (Hmmm. . . .)
Two- He warned against making alliances with foreign powers, and
Three- He cautioned his fellow Americans about the indispensable values taught through religion and morality. On this topic he said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them."

There was no resting on his laurels. If anything, it was among his most profound moments.

So, to all you Empty Nesters, and to those who worry about those approaching years. . . Don't! See them as the great harvest of all the experiences you've had to date, and then use them to do something grand. It's in us. Just like our predecessors . . . it's in each of us.