Thursday, March 29, 2012


I love this hop because it provides an opportunity to share a personal glimpse, make people aware of a few important things, and hopefully help a needful charity. Thanks so much to Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer; to the Reading Away the Day's Blog; and to the Reading A Little Bit Of Everything Blog for hosting this hop.

My charity is the American Kidney Fund, and here's why. My daughter, Amanda, is about to give birth to her third baby, and what makes that pretty miraculous is the fact that Amanda is a kidney transplant recipient.

Here is a photo of Amanda, her husband Nick, and their eighteen-month-old son Brady, on the fifth anniversary of her transplant. And that darling little baby girl in the photo is Avery, born on that very tender day. We thought it was a tender mercy that the fifth anniversary of this life-saving surgery brought us another miracle--little Avery. In a few weeks, Amanda will deliver her third and last child, a son they'll name Wesley.

Amanda and Nick have been asked to be spokespersons for the Kidney Foundation, to give hope to patients struggling with the fear and shock of this diagnosis. Each spring they pack up their family and join the walk for the National Kidney Foundation to show people what miracles can happen with good medical diagnosis and treatment. I'll join them this year. I was blessed to be Amanda's kidney donor.

Amanda didn't even know she was in renal failure when she was diagnosed. The symptoms came on so gradually that she unwittingly adjusted to the fatigue and other issues the disease presented. Her kidney disease was the result of a genetic perfect storm. My husband and I each carried markers for a weakness that manifested in Amanda. But some kidney loss can occur because of overuse of Motrin or other OTC drugs, and other health issues can also lead to kidney disease.

Amanda was blessed with great insurance that covered this essential and expensive transplant, but she has made friends with other transplant recipients who have not been so fortunate, and for them, the Kidney Fund is a critical source of aid.

So be aware and prudent in your use of OTC drugs, and get a good annual physical that includes a renal panel. And when an opportunity comes to donate to the National Kidney Fund, remember Amanda, and please donate so others can also enjoy this miracle. Thank you!

Now, for reading all of this you deserve the giveaway info. My prize is two books--one new one the winner can select from the books I've written. (I'll personalize it for the person of your choice if you'd like to give it as a gift), and one gently-read book from my personal reading shelf. You can even name your favorite genre and I'll choose the second book for you. How does that sound?

You may enter multiple times, but each entry must be posted separately or the stubborn program that selects my winner will ignore your entry.

1. First, you must be or become a follower of this blog.

2. Friend me on Facebook.

3. Follow me on Twitter.

4. Stop by my web site, click the "CONTACT ME" link and send me a "hi" by email.

5. Be my friend on Goodreads.

Thanks! Now go enjoy these other blogs. The winner will be drawn at midnight on April 4th.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I try not to read other people's work when I'm invested in a manuscript. It throws off my concentration, sometimes makes me doubt the direction I'm going in my own work, and I constantly stress that an idea, a thought, a line from the piece I'm reading will inadvertently enter my subconscious and find it's way into my piece. As a result, I missed many great books written during the last eight years, so I'm probably one of the last people on earth to read "The Hunger Games."

Like most of the literate universe, I loved it, and hated it, at the same time. The concept and action riveted me and captured my attention during a five-hour flight. I didn't even hear the flight attendant come by for my beverage order or her snack offerings. At the same time, the concept and action disturbed me greatly. Perhaps it's the mother-thing. This book pushed every one of my maternal buttons with a sledgehammer.

I read through a host of reviews of the book on Goodreads, and I noticed that among the complaints listed was the simplistic writing style of the author. I beg to differ. Part of what made the topic and delivery so disturbing for me was Suzanne Collins's tepid matter-of-factness in regards to how life and death, want and plenty, civility and barbarism, were manipulated by the Capital.

I found that particularly chilling.

I've also heard several religious and philosophical arguments ensue over this book as commentators throw out broad questions regarding the its underlying message. Does it have a political agenda, illustrating the dangers of a too-large and too-powerful national government? Is it a commentary on the numbing effect violent media can have on ostensibly civilized people? Is it a warning about about what can happen when faith and religiosity are removed from a society? I'd love to ask Suzanne Collins to spill the beans on her own message.

The creepiness of this book breaks down to two major issues: the idea of a government that oppresses and then brutalizes its people to remind them of its unbridled power; and the idea that a citizenry could not only accept this concept, but actually turn it into a sport where bets are made and warriors are sponsored. Rome was guilty of both atrocities. Could it happen again? Is something equally vile happening anywhere right now? Headlines tell us it is in some totalitarian nations. Could it happen here? Some fear any erosion of freedom and liberty as a step towards a darkness from which we fought wars to save other nations.

The issue of a people who descend into such practices is more worrisome, requiring us to evaluate some of the more disturbing societal changes in our own day and sphere. Lately, so many child-kidnappings and mother-abductions have occurred that they appear to be appearing on our TVs and computers almost daily. Do we even notice any more? Or do we offer a few tsk tsks and hurry on to check our email. Are we becoming numb?

One theme of "The Hunger Games" was the idea that when everyone was safe, when they weren't hacking someone or being hacked, the audience would grow bored and a new dangerous element would be introduced. Does emotional numbness cause people to seek extremes because anything less bores them? What of publicized cage-fighting where men are penned up together so they can beat one another to a pulp? What does that say about our sensibilities?

On a less physically dangerous level, I remember the first time I saw an ad for the show "Jackass." I was absolutely stunned that anyone would set themselves up to be injured for fun. And I'd love to know how many clips from "America's Funniest Home Videos" resulted in an injury before the victim decided to post their accident on TV for money and attention. And what of all the televised courtroom dramas like Judge Judy, or the medical shows like Dr. OZ where people flaunt their most personal matters publicly, or the shameless talk shows where people appear to share their sometimes disgustingly vile personal secrets? Don't we already debase ourselves and others for entertainment? It's a slippery slope.

So here's to "The Hunger Games" and all the other dystopian novels that scare the beejeebers out of us. As brilliant as I think the book was, I'll be interested to see the impact this dystopian craze will have on a generation gorging themselves on books that depict a dying world where a few ruthless leaders oppress the masses. There is a glut of them on the market now. Some say that craze has peaked. I guess only time will tell if "The Hunger Games" movie mania will make readers hungry for more.

Monday, March 26, 2012


The LDStorymakers, a writing group I belong to, sponsors a magnificent 3-day writers' conference in early May. It's a wonderful chance to hone skills, network, meet agents and publishers, be humbled by the talent of others, frolic amongst like-minded peers, meet readers, sign books, and otherwise revel in the joy of writing. I love those three days so much.

But this year I'm withdrawing my registration, passing my slot on to someone else, and taking a bye on the writing fun for something I love even more. Family life and needs are taking precedence.

Some of the agenda items taking priority are joyful things, and some are purely needful, and right now finding time to write at all is hard.

It's funny that at the very moment I have no time to write, my mind is filled with a dozen story lines I'm dying to put on paper, and three current projects are taunting me back to the keyboard. But they will have to wait.

Some will say that's unprofessional, but I was a mother and a daughter before I was a writer, and my days still hold only 24 hours no matter how hard I try to think otherwise.

I don't know what psychological profile renders a person incapable of doing something halfway, but that's my dilemma. I can't write "a little" without utter frustration. I either have to be immersed in my story for clear periods of time or I need to withdraw. Nor can I dabble happily in family life when needs require more than that. Actually, book things forced me to do that for too long, and that leaves me distracted and useless to everyone. I need to focus on one thing at a time, and right now that's family and family things.

So aside from a few blog posts and an occasional article for the Deseret News, I'm off the writing circuit for a few months. I'm going to promote Free Men and Dreamers during the interim, and I'm planning a trip to Palmyra to sign books at the Pageant. Other than that, I'm going to spend time with my mom, and I'm going to help my busy daughter with her new baby, and visit all my other grandchildren. I'm going to travel a bit with my husband and work on a new project together, I'm going to dig into my family history while those who remember it are still here with me, and then I'm going to tackle the removal of the remaining remnants of my 1980's-wallpapering frenzy.

So while I'll get back to writing soon, family life is good and busy here in Maryland. I hope it is where you are as well.

Friday, March 23, 2012


I'm out in Utah right now, winding down my trip to meet my son Adam's first child. Here is the picture of Adam and his beautiful wife Brittany, and that cherubic baby is their son, Chase Alexander.

Meeting Chase has allowed me once again to experience one of life's most sublime moments--that of watching one of my own children as they become a parent.

The first moments of parenthood provide a mix of emotions for a new father--inexpressible joy, relief that mother and baby are well, worry if they are not, and ultimately, the weight of being responsible for a precious, completely vulnerable, child.

As parents, we get a few defining "grading" moments--instances where we are blessed to see how well the baton has been passed to a new generation. We teach, err, model, fumble along, and hope that somewhere in the mix our children are developing a desire to build their own families, and acquiring the tools to pull off that increasingly challenging role. And then the moment comes when a woman steps into the darkness and pulls a new spirit through the veil to mortality, while her husband watches in awe at the agony and ecstasy the birthing miracle requires. In that ethereal moment humanity is extended a reprieve from the darkness nipping at its heels. In that moment goodness and hope prevail as another man and woman put self-interest aside and pledge everything they are and have to the protection of another. I was privileged once again to witness that miracle this week.

So blogs and Face book pages, and even books took a back seat to simply observing the transformation of two twenty-somethings into first-time parents. It was remarkable, as it always is.

Friday, March 16, 2012


We haven't hosted a stop on a blog hop for a while so let's do one again. It begins after midnight strikes tonight, and ends at midnight on Thursday, March 22nd, and by then I'll be a new grandma!

This one is co-hosted by Kathy at "I'm A Reader Not a Writer," and Cindy at Books Complete Me. Thanks ladies!

The prize for my stop on the hop is a
$25.00 Amazon gift card!

And here's the info behind my stop on the hop. I'm planning a Mother's Day book for 2014 titled "More Than Mortal." It will be a collection of stories about extraordinary mothering moments from ordinary mothers, if there even is such a thing. I'd like submissions to be short, biographical or autobiographical glimpses--about two pages max--that illustrate a story of the great sacrifice, humor, love, acceptance, forgiveness, creativity, etc. of a mother--you, your own mother, or a friend.

Here's a blog post where I illustrate what I'm looking for. They can serious, funny, or both.

And I'd like you to help me spread the word to potential submitters by posting this on your social sites.

MANDATORY ENTRY 1: You must be or become a follower of this blog. After that, you'll get one additional entry for each place you post the ad below, up to three additonal entries.

Each post must be reported here as a separate post in order for my auto-counter to include it in the selection of my blog hop winner.

Here's the image and caption you'll need to post for each additional entry. Pretty, right?
Author Laurie Lewis is looking for personal stories about great mothers!

Thanks! Now enjoy these other great stops on the hop!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


The source of the conflict in a story is one element that defines the genre of a book. In other words, who or what will be creating the tension? Will the source of the tension be real, other-worldly, or tied to a particular period or place? The answers generally indicate a different genre of book.

Whatever the genre, I'm particularly drawn to story lines that draw upon the subtle tensions of moral choice, rather than danger, to create the conflict.

Consider Superman when he's caught in the agonizing moral dilemma of who to save. His one true love--Lois Lane--is at risk on one side of the planet, while a cable car filled with people dangles precariously from a rapidly unraveling cable somewhere else. He can only save one or the other. Who will he choose? That's tense.

Consider Abel Keogh's "The Third" where a man living in a militaristic future time period sees a forbidden third child being snatched from its mother and dangled by it's foot above the floor. The man doesn't know the woman, but he knows the abuser--a government bully with the power to ruin or end a person's life. Does he simply watch the child be injured, or worse? Or does he intervene, possibly placing his own children's lives in jeopardy? Intense.

In Free Men and Dreamers one conflict line ran thoughout the series. It's one I think we all can still relate to. Jed constantly struggled to find a balance between duty to family and duty to country. The other item pulling on us might be something else, or several something elses, but most of us can relate to the struggle to protect family, and the consequences of not being vigilant.

These types of dilemmas impact us deeply because we all can relate to the agony of having to choose between two "goods." Most of us have a fairly solid handle on the choices between good and evil, but set a good person in a situation where they have to choose between two goods, where some loss will occur no matter what they decide, and you are hitting most people where they live, in those moments when we wish we could divide ourselves and be everywhere, or do everything needful. Deciding which is the most needful thing--that's the burden.

For example, do you make that critical, job promotion-earning meeting, or do your attend the piano recital you swore to your increasingly distant child you would not miss again? Do you leave town for a week to attend the birth of a new grandchild in the west, or do you stay home to support your spouse as he receives an award? Do you tell your friend her husband is cheating on her, or do you hold your tongue because she's so happy and in love and you can't bear to crush her?

There are millions of scenarios of varying degrees of moral difficulty. These types of conflicts and the ensuing fallout are the ones that captivate me.

I'm a big fan of Nicholas Sparks' books. Generally speaking, you won't find guns, super bad guys, evil world domination plots, or otherworldly beings, at the root of his tension. Instead, he rips out your heart using elemental human drama--life and death, risk and self-protection, love and sacrifice. The list goes on, but you know what I mean. These are also the kinds of books I enjoy writing.

So, how do you like your tension?

Monday, March 12, 2012

So we're having a little word fun today. Good writing omits words that don't contribute to clarity in a thought, and which slow down the action. "That" is one of those words. "He knows that the dog is lost, vs. "He knows the dog is lost."

When a friend sent this article on the word "UP," I realized that while I'd never include it so frequently in my writing, I do toss it into conversations all the time.

So here's to "Up."
This two-letter word in English has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is 'UP.' It is listed in the dictionary as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends, brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and fix UP the old car.

At other times, this little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it soaks UP the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP. One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now . ... . my time is UP!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I've been a moving target this week, and between book writing and tax organization, I've neglected the blog again. So here's a few random thoughts I'll share.

Book stuff: Free Men and Dreamers Volume 3, "Dawn's Early Light" is on sale at the Kindle store for 2.99, and free to Amazon Prime members. Tell your friends. I'm excited to see how many downloads it gets.

Diet stuff: Okay, so I've lost 31 pounds since January 17th! Tom has lost 32! I'm aiming for another 20. The plan I chose is Ideal Protein. It's not for everyone, but the premise behind it matched my health concerns, and I'm having pretty good success with it.

Fun stuff: You know how much I enjoy word trivia, and my ex-FBI friend in Idaho sent me a cute essay on the two-letter word that has the most definitions in Websters Dictionary. (Paul and Stephanie, that means you two cuties are exempted, but thanks for sending this trivia my way!)Tell me what the word is and I'll send you a free book. Once we get a winner I'll post the essay. It's pretty terrific.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Anyone who reads my books or my blog knows I love the power, majesty and symbolism of water. I think every single one of my books has at least one scene set by water, and the entire book, "Awakening Avery" tells the story of a woman who returns to Anna Maria Island to heal and save her family after her husband's passing. I'm even working on a new book set against the sea.

This love began in my childhood. We were a family in crisis much of the time, emotionally at odds, and barely getting by financially, but Mom and Dad always made sure we had a tent, or a camper, and eventually a little boat, so we could escape to wonderful places. We seemed to transform and morph into something better when we traveled. I can't explain it, except to say that that only other times I felt the world ease that way were Christmases when Dad would push back the stresses and return home with his modest Christmas bonuses, from which Mom would make magic appear.

So we spent the better part of our summers camping by the water. When Dad was in the country he commuted back and forth to work from our tiny campsite by Maryland's Back River and during those idyllic days we kids ran around wearing nothing but bathing suits and flip flops.

We're talking about the 60's and 70's, before we knew the dangers of overexposure to the sun. I baked on blankets, on boats, and on water skis circling the river without concern about sunburns or skin damage. My mother is Portuguese and since her olive skin could bake to a beautiful brown, I figured mine could to.

Not so. I sustained some terrible sunburns. I remember one burn that was so dreadful it was all I could do to wear a half slip pulled up over my boobs. While Tom and I dated we converted him into a sun-worshipper as well, and he likewise sustained some terrible burns. Well, as warnings began to raise about skin cancer from too much sun exposure, I held my breath, and two weeks ago the risk caught up with us.

Tom and I both had spots that just worried us. I became so concerned about the lingering, odd appearance of mine that I bypassed the GP and the Dermatologist and scheduled an appointment to head straight to a cancer surgeon. Of all days, my appointment was set for Valentine's Day, and Tom tagged along.

The surgeon squeezed him in and we both ended up having biopsies of our spots. A day later we had the results. We each ended up having squamous cell carcinomas. Fortunately, this is the least worrisome, least invasive, and most operable kind of skin cancer, but the appearance of one means that other damaged areas may also show signs of cancer, and now we each have to be scrutinized head-to-toe every six months.

It's something we don't think about doing until we have a scare, but I'm now a believer that a dermatological scan should be part of every person's annual physical. Former sun-worshippers like me should definitely get a head-to-toe exam by a certified Dermatologist, but we're not the only ones at risk. So if you see some worrisome spot that looks odd, doesn't heal, or flakes, please get it checked. And you mihgt want to check out this site.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I've always wanted to do a Mother's Day book, and I'm starting on one now with a goal of 2014, and you can be in it. The planned title is "More Than Mortal," and I'm collecting stories about ordinary women who rise to greatness in important moments. Tell me your story, or share a great mothering moment about your own mother.

I'm looking for stories about real, everyday women who, when in the crucible of life, found a way to do something extraordinary.

Let me share a story of my own mother to give you an example.

I grew up in a family on a very tight budget. My father's job took him out of the country for months at a time leaving Mom, a very shy woman, in charge of managing all life's problems alone and with very limited resources.

I had been invited to my first semi-formal dance, an autumn high school homecoming gala, but I had nothing to wear and I knew there were no funds to buy a new dress. My poor mother had been limping around with a gaping hole in her only flat shoes, worn through by the brake pedal on the school bus she drove to supplement the family income. She was carefully scrimping a dollar here and there to buy shoes so she could work, so there would surely be no funds for the extravagance of a formal.

And then a miracle occurred. Mom told me she had made a little extra money driving for a field trip, and she wanted to use it to buy me a dress for the dance. The precious nest egg was fourteen dollars, and the only dress in the store in my size and price range was a yellow, cotton, summer dress on the clearance rack. Wrong season, wrong color, but we took it home with plans to make it work.

The dance came and was gone in an instant, but the memory that followed has been an abiding testimony to me of a mother's love. A few nights after the dance I awoke and found the kitchen lights on. There in the center of the floor, on her hands and knees, was my mother, her holey shoe placed over a section of corrugated cardboard as she traced an insert for her shoe. She carefully cut the shape out and trimmed it until it fit inside, and then, using a black marker, she painted the cardboard to match the rest of the sole.

She never knew I was standing there as the cost of her service and sacrifice was revealed, but I watched her more carefully after that night, seeing countless moments when a serving of something she loved passed to a child because she suddenly wasn't hungry. I've remembered these selfless moments, and I've tried to let them shape my own mothering. I saw greatness that night on the kitchen floor.

Greatness occurs in quiet moments, in moments of sacrifice, love, forgiveness, kindness, humor, and creativity. You've probably been the recipient of some, and you've probably been the subject of more than a few. So please, share your experiences. I'll select a few dozen for inclusion in the book, but every person who submits a story will be entered in a drawing for a prize package of books and gifts.

Please keep submissions to two double-spaced pages where possible. Email them to me at


Saturday, March 3, 2012


Tom and I just returned from a week in California enjoying family time and doing the touristy thing. No matter what we do or where we go, my eyes and ears are constantly on "book" alert, seeing new vistas as settings for future novels, memorizing off-beat experiences to insert into plots or to flesh out characters. This week provided so much rich material.

This pic is of an obscure California treasure--a pristine two-and-a-half-mile stretch of beachfront that remains virtually unchanged since the 1920's. A man named Irvine began buying up coast land for sheep ranching in the mid 1800's. During the next nearly 100 years the Irvine Company allowed squatters to camp on the land, and cottages began to be erected. In the roaring twenties, this area was discovered by Hollywood making this stretch the backdrop for seventeen films, including two versions of "Treasure Island," "To Have and Have Not," and "Beaches."

Japanese farmers leased the land and built a lovely community here, but in World War II they were sent to an interment camp in Poston, Arizona, and they never regained their homes.

Ranching continued on the lands, and in the 70's the Irvine Company sold the property to the state of California. Soon thereafter, the quaint cottages and their unique architecture landed the area a spot on the National Historic Register.

It's no surprise that large resort developers sought this prime real estate, and the California government approved the sale, but a third generation "Covist" whose family roots were deeply tied to Crystal Cove, resisted the move and took her fight to the state capital where she won. The land is now under the protection of the Park Service, and is a singular gem. There are pristine hiking trails where the native flora and fauna live peacefully without encroachment, and space for bathers, surfers, and hikers who want to see California as she was originally.

Let me tell you how absolutely romantic this place is--wild and free, beautiful and rough, with vintage cottages dotting the shoreline. There are photos of it back in its hey day when tent stakes criss-crossed the sand so summer nomads could enjoy the waterfront. Of the 42 original protected cottages, 17 have been restored to their vintage period and are available for rental. Seventeen more are awaiting funding before restoration can begin, and the others now serve as educational centers, park offices, and the home of the Crystal Cove Alliance--the organization that saved this treasure.

And so, I bet you want the name of this magical place, right? Yeah, I already gave it way. It's Crystal Cove, nestled between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

I fell instantly in love with this place, much as I did with Anna Maria Island some ten years ago. And like that Florida beach land which became the setting for "Awakening Avery," I'm looking forward to setting a book here. I've now got three books in progress. Focus, Laurie, focus!