Saturday, September 29, 2012


I'm breezing through a new manuscript right now. I can't wait to rush to the computer in the morning, I hate that groggy feeling at night that signals the end of productive writing time. I think about the characters all day, running their dialogues around in my head. When I can't get to the keyboard I use my phone's digital recorder and speak ideas into or conversations into it, and I text myself messages, like "don't forget to have Agnes use the gas leaf blower to. . . ."  (You'll have to wait to read that funny scene.)

I love it when writing comes together like this--with all the pistons firing, the ideas flowing so fast I can scarcely type them before a new one barges in. I've thought about getting the old "Dragon Speak" software out so I can dictate the story. I honestly think I could tell it a one long sitting, That's how clear it is to me right now.

I haven't had this clarity in a long time, and the reason is, my mind was complicated with so many other issues. The difference now? I'm writing about events currently occurring in my sometimes crazy world. Every day yields living research, and every day a new hilarious, frustrating, tender story unfolds.

The new book had gone through several titles already--Ricochet, Moon River, The Dragons of Alsace Farm. Right now I'm settling on The Rabbits of Alsace Farm, a far cry from a title about dragons, but both fit the story, and this one highlights a more tender aspect of the story.

Intrigued? OOhhhh. I hope so.

The story is coming together so seamlessly, and so fast, but in truth, it has been about a decade in the making, and portions of the writing date back to things I literally wrote a decade ago. It's basically a quilted manuscript, and here's why. I started a sequel to my first novel, Unspoken,  soon after it was released, but it wasn't picked up. The main theme wrapped around two young men who were each broken in their own way and vying for the same young woman. I have always loved the minor character, and the settings, but the manuscript sat on a shelf for ten years, as did the parts I loved.

About three years ago my mother began showing serious indications of dementia, and last January she was medically diagnosed. Since then, the family has been on a roller coaster ride of emotions from worry and stress, to sorrow and parenthood. Some days are very hard. Some are priceless.

Enter a very compassionate, mildly disabled  married couple willing to live with Mom and be her helper in exchange for the right to live on the farm and raise some animals and crops. This arrangement is now a model that might one day bless the lives of others in my mother's situation.

The book isn't biographical about Mom and her friends, but the scenario touched me and I saw the good that could come from offering a a glimpse into the complicated world of supporting a parent with dementia.

But I needed a character in a situaiton similar to my mother. And who could characterize the goodness and vulnerability of this couple? I pulled those beloved characters from my old manuscript. Like I said, it's coming together seamlessly.

I'll be posting on here about the book, and also about Mom and her caregivers from time to time. I hope you'll follow along. So many families will have parents who begin the slide into the terrible rabbit hole of dementia, (she how the title fits in?) and I hope my experiences will help others support their loved one with humor and grace.

All the best.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Readers love characters they can identify with, but they also want heroes who are fallible, redemptive, and larger than life. So as a writer develops characters, we try to create a person who is generally imperfect, while being perfect in his own way. I recently attended the funeral of such a man. Here is what I learned from him.
This man was very successful in his profession, a loving husband, father, and teacher who loved working with the youth. His career could have absorbed him, as it was dotted with stellar accomplishments, but it did not. And even though he designed many beautiful structures around the nation, the two things he was lauded for at his funeral were the amazing tree houses he designed for his extended family, and the local community center he designed for his hometown that could never have afforded to hire him.

 His smile and confidence were infectious. He laughed loud and spoke softly when each was needed. He was a great listener, not a hearer, but a real listener, and the beautiful home he and his family lived in was known to always have it door opened wide for anyone who needed them.

His love for his family and the youth of the Church was both his hallmark and the bane of his leaders at time. He was raised by parents who were soldiers in the Gospel. No matter what was happening in their lives, they were at their meetings, fulfilling their callings, doing the Lord's work, lifting others, solving problems, and planning activities to bless the general Church. As their son lay dying, the mother knitted by his bedside to give the man's wife a reprieve, but when the wife returned, she wiped he tears and returned to her mission assignment each day.

Leaders who worked with this man soon discovered that he had a different plan. He accepted callings and assignments, and performed them beautifully, but he bypassed many meetings, firesides, etc., filled his own well, taught himself whatever principle was being taught at some meeting in far less time, so he could then attend a soccer game, a science fair, a choral concert, or a Pinewood Derby final. If there was a choice between an assigned, calendared meeting and a chance to support people, there was no questions where he would be.

When I attended classes this man taught, the Spirit was strong, the youth were compassionate and energetic, the lessons were tender and spot-on. He sent them out for the day with a challenge to be better. What more could one ask? Some questioned why he didn't show up at meetings to help  teachers struggling with difficult classes, noting that his experiences could benefit more students than just his own class or quorum. Some referred thought he cuold be a better team player. 

No one says that anymore. Everyone now understands the true gift this man possessed. His talent was more than time-management skills, or his vibrant testimony, or his generosity, or his love of family. His real gift was his ability to follow the Spirit.

He had a very limited time on this earth to be with his family, to set them on a good course, to make their financial future secure, to teach his sons to be men, and his daughter what to look for in a man. His time was short to whisper confidence in the ears of as many youth as possible, and to instill a love deep enough in his wife's heart to carry her through the lonely years ahead. He heard the Spirit whisper what his life mission was, and despite the disapproval of others, he followed it with exactness.

 My take-away from this was three-fold. First, we are not cookie-cutter people. The Gospel is true, and the principles are unimpeachable, but we will need the Spirit to know how to apply them in our own lives. Our missions in life are as individual and different as we are, and sometimes fulfilling them may require us to step out of the herd, to buck the norm, even at the risk of being called cocky or a renegade. We will need the Spirit with us to know what, when, for how long, and how far we are to go.

My second take-away is about judging. We need to trust each other, and have the Spirit with us to know when a friend is acting in accordance with a separate, personal spiritual directive than ours, and when he is lost and needs help. That is not an easy or light matter, but I think if the people who fret over the choices of others would go to them, brother to brother, sister to sister, and speak with them spirit to spirit, instead of indicting them from afar, the Lord will give us them our answer and our own confirmation.

 Thirdly, keep our eyes on the Prophets and principles. After reading President Hinckley's biography I realized the difference between principles of the Gospel and Church culture. The Hinckley's were stalwart on doctrinal issues, but their family choices frequently bucked Church culture, and they taught their children that they trusted their choices, so long as they were adhering to Gospel principles. Likewise, this man lived the principles. He never shaved truth, justified his actions, bucked responsibility, or rebelled against any doctrine, , but choices about how he spent his time were sacred and personal, and he never apologized for following the promptings he received.

One thing I notice more and more at General Conference are references about the need for us to live by the Spirit. The Brethren seem to be telling us over and over that this will be the single most critical factor in safely navigating through these times. Perhaps that's why this man's life and passing touched me so deeply. Let's make sure we are asking for this gift daily. Let's check ourselves from time to time, asking when was the last time we felt the Spirit really guiding us. If it's been a while, let's pray to have it more abundantly, and be sure we're doing the things that invite the Spirit into our homes, and hearts. Let's listen to each other, not just hear, but really listen, to know when we need to pray for each other.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I had knee surgery so my computer time is down a bit right now, and when i make it to the computer I'm trying hard to really dig into the new manuscript.

My new projects are not American history-related, but I can't shake the patriotic passion/panic Free Men and Dreamers dredged up in me. And with the election looming, with supposed news stations spinning reports with logic-dizzying velocity, it's easy to become overwhelmed, confused, depressed, and worse--disengaged.

Please don't allow the spinners to send you packing from your patriotic right to determine the course of this nation. Please take a moment and breathe, let your inner compass speak truth to your heart. You'll know what to do, what name to choose, what course to endorse with your sacred vote.

These videos set my heart ablaze. The rightness and directness of their message made it easy to remember what the American creed is, and how I can be engaged in its continuance. Frankly, I was shocked by how some of the comments hit me, clarifying my thinking  until I embraced some previously rejected ideas. That takes some doing.

Spend a few minutes watching these, then allow your heart a few more  minutes to ponder which candidates reflect these values.

See you at the polls.

Monday, September 17, 2012



I'm writing this at six thousand feet above ground, on my return trip home from teaching two workshops at the LDStorymakers Midwest conference in Olathe, Kansas. I always end up humbled after LDS writers's conferences. The talent that gathers awes me, both by those published and those whose names and book titles will be hitting shelves in the next year or two.

Danyelle Ferguson, John Ferguson, Lynn Parsons, and their committee threw a flawless conference. great class topics, a terrific assembly of teacher/writers/mentors, great food, amazing speakers, and spurts of clever fun tossed in. Kansas did herself proud, opening her arms and doling out hospitality as sweet at their signature cherry crush candies. Thank you, thank you Kansas!

Once again, stellar authors generously set aside deadlines and family time to enthusiastically nurture new talent and celebrate the successes of new break-out writers.

Imagine the opportunity to get advice from Lisa Mangum, who is not only an editor a Deseret Books, but a nationally-acclaimed author racking up a to-die-for list of awards. Or how about getting writing tips from suspense queen Traci Hunter Abramson, or sweet mystery diva Josi Kilpack? What fantasy-lover wouldn't love getting into the mind off Karen Hoover? And when Heather Justeson, Don Carey, and Steve Westover step in front of a class, you know you're going to get terrific advice.

So if you love to write, and a smaller, more intimate setting suits you, mark your calendars for next year's conference. Check out website next summer for details. And if large, stellar conferences are more to your liking, prepare to register the the LDStorymakers annual conference in Provo, Utah May 10-11, 2013. Registration opens in December. Details for this premier conference are also on the Storymakers' site.


I was asked to present two workshops at the first annual LDStorymakers' Midwest Writers' Conference--one on PLOTTING, and one on writing HISTORICAL FICTION. I combed the Internet and a few writing books to gather a variety of information from various authors. The links to those original posts are included in the presentation.

These two power point presentations are now up on my web site. Scroll down the page to find the buttons. Here's the link:

I hope they aid you in your own writing.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I remember the impressions of that day so well, but the memories are not so clear, jumbled up in emotion rather than logic. Who could have known what that beautiful day would bring--the crisp bright sky with beaming sun-rays piercing the morning. School was back in session, but I had left my position with the school system at the end of the previous school year and this fall was the beginning of a less-complicated, more peaceful writer's life.

Or so I thought.

I had risen early, feeling sick that day. I looked out on that perfect, pristine morning sky and decided to enjoy the luxury of unemployment--being able to sleep in until my head stopped spinning. Tom had left earlier to head to DC for a conference with the military computer buyers. He was only miles from the Pentagon.

I turned the Today show on to catch up on the morning's news and immediately I knew something terrible had happened in New York City.

My immediate reactions was likely similar to those of everyone else--run a quick inventory of the family. Where were they and did they know? I called my recently widowed mother who was angry and frightened. As soon as I felt she was calm I began calling the kids, and the the unthinkable happened. The Pentagon!

Tom called to say he was all right and to describe the organized chaos unfolding as officers scrambled to return to code red duties. We all wondered what was coming next. Our middle son appeared to be safe, tucked away at school in Utah, but we had a son in Philadelphia, another important east coast target, and our daughter had returned home, having transferred from Ricks College in Idaho to UMBC in Baltimore, and our youngest was in high school, placing the largest portion of our family in the hot zone between DC to the south, the biological-weapon storehouse at Fort Detrick to our west, and the Underground Pentagon a few miles to the north.

Two friends had sons living in New York at the time and a member of our congregation was supposed to be in a meeting at the World Trade Center that day. Just weeks prior, Amanda had driven her friend to his new NYU digs mere blocks from the financial district. They even grabbed lunch at an eatery in the World Trade Center so she knew exactly how close he was to Ground Zero. No calls were getting in or out, but as images began showing hordes of people walking, running, fleeing over the bridges, we all prayed and waited and hoped.

Once the second plane flew into the south tower our innocence was stripped away. This was no accident . . no error. This was a exquisitely-planned assault. And when flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, all bets were off around here, and everywhere. Anything was possible, and even likely to happen.

Eventually we heard from our friends in New York. Some fled across the bridges on foot in a mass exodus. Amanda's friend was within blocks of Ground Zero when the attack occurred. Our friend from church had been delayed that day. Had things gone as originally planned, he would have been sitting in a meeting, trapped inside. The things they each witnessed were indescribable--tales of horror, tales of great courage, of great humanity in response to unspeakable inhumanity.

Like the heroic passengers of flight 93, good people of conscience set the bar high for all of us, and in turn, we responded beautifully.The next day, like many of my neighbors, like many of yours, I'm sure, I rushed to the craft store for red-white-and blue ribbon, but there was none to be had. The shelves were picked clean by the dozens of people already in line to cash out or waiting for the bow-makers to create a patriotic tribute for them.

Bows and ribbons, flags and banners waved from everything and everything. We came together. We were one nation under God again. We were humble and grieving, but defiant and ready. We were bent, but not broken.

Here's a link to a timeline of that days events. It's hard to read, but remembering is important, but as we remember we must also temper our pain with civility. The date is again harrowing up powerful, potentially destructive attitudes.

Mark DeMoss, and Lanny Davis, two men of opposing political views have found enough common ground in their love of America and her core ideals that they have overcome divisiveness and become good friends. Together, they authored an article for the Washington Times entitled, "Civility Makes Strange Bedfellows” in which they call for a new civility in our public life. They've also formed a civility initiative which you can read about at

The basic premise of the project is a threefold pledge which any person of conscience should be able to accept. The pledge includes these three promises:

I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
I will stand against incivility when I see it.

Perhaps just reading the pledge makes us each realize we need to tweak our attitude.It doesn't mean we dilute our personal beliefs, or abandon long-standing values or positions. It's all about the manner in which we express our opinions and the tactics we employ to create change.

Today is a day to respond with reverence, service, civility and love. Let's return to our knees in prayer. Let's fast and pray to God for help, for guidance, for wisdom, for aide. Let's smile at one another in unity and love. Let's make the air ring with the Pledge of Allegiance, with the Star Spangled banner, with the sounds of joy.

We are Americans! We are proud to wear that title.
God bless this land and all her people.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Writers and other word nerds love language, with all its idiosyncrasies and peculiarities. One category of language oddities are contronyms, words which mean their opposite--auto-antonyms also called contronyms. Confused yet?

Author and friend, Braden Bell, (The Roadshow, The Kindling), shared this list with me some months ago, and I thought it was worth passing on. Dazzle your family members at supper tonight. There's a link at the bottom that leads to site with others, but can you name some more without looking? Here goes. Enjoy!

Cleave: to adhere or hold together , i.e. "cleave to your wife"
to separate, sever or split apart: he cut the meat with a heavy cleaver; think cleft palate, cleft hooves.

Sanction: to give official authorization or approval
to penalize for violating a moral principle or law.

screen: to obscure or hide
to show or review

dust: to clean up particles
to sprinkle or cover with

buckle: to fasten
to give way

temper: water down or moderate
make harder or strengthen

wear: to deteriorate by use
to stand up to use

apology: admit fault
give a defense or explanation of

Here is a list of a lot more:

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Many thanks to Kathy at I'M A READER, NOT A WRITER, CLEAN TEEN READ, and One Librarian's Book Reviews, for hosting this clean read hop.
I think you'll enjoy this hop. I reviewed a lot of books this past year, and my shelves are overflowing, so I'm giving away three books this round.
One is winner's choice from the books I've written, one is a bio I thoroughly enjoyed, and one is a fun mystery you'll giggle through.
You can enter three ways, but each entry must be posted separately to be counted.
1. Become a follower of this blog-baby of mine.
2. Follow my blog via email. (The link is on the sidebar.)
3. Be my friend on Facebook. Begging for friends is pitiful, right?
4. Follow me on Twitter.
Thanks! Back to the next manuscript. Chat soon! Now check out these other fine blogs and prizes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Launch of "ALTERCATION" Book Trailer

YA author, Tamara Hart Heiner, is launching the trailer to her new book, "ALTERCATION," today. "Altercation" is the sequel to her successful suspense novel, "Perilous."

Enjoy the trailer, then click here to read more about Heiner's books and the author herself.

I'm also including a link to Amazon's Kindle page for the book.