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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, November 28, 2008

His Holy Name by Dallin H. Oaks


My two boys are being baptized this weekend, so covenants have been on my mind a lot lately. Because of my own ponderings I thought I’d share what I consider to be a classic title from my bookshelf with you.


His Holy Name by Dallin H. Oaks was published in 1998, but it has been a title I’ve referred to many times over the years. It’s a smaller book, but packed with excellent points to ponder.


Elder Oaks writes in the introduction that the book, His Holy Name, came about from his own search for answers on a very important question. When he was called as an apostle he was given a charge to be a special witness for the name of Jesus Christ: not just to testify of Christ but also His name. That’s a very interesting distinction. It cause Elder Oaks to do a lot of thinking, searching, and questioning of other spiritual giants to figure out just what it meant to stand as a witness to the name of Jesus Christ.


One of Shakespeare’s famous questions has to do with a rose smelling just as sweet whether or not it was named rose. It’s an interesting question for any of us. If I were named Sue, or Nancy, would I still be me? Does it matter if my husband calls me by my first name or a pet name? What about how my children address me?


Now, take those same questions and apply them to the way we refer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. What does it really mean to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ when we are baptized? How do we honor that name? There are many different names applied to Heavenly Father and the Savior of mankind in the scriptures. Does it matter which name we use at any given time? Why are we specifically commanded not to take the names of deity “in vain” and what does that really mean?


Deep stuff, huh? Fortunately, like many things in the gospel, the answers can be simple, deep and poignant, or doctrinally philosophical in nature. It all depends on what we bring to the table. That’s one of the reasons I like Elder Oaks’ book. The answers to these questions could fill hundreds of pages. I get lost in those big doctrinal tomes. I lose the spirit when I read them because I’m so overwhelmed by information. Sure I can find it parts. I can be uplifted and inspired in small chunks, but I’m still a child as far as the nature of the gospel: I prefer purity and simplicity to deep understanding. Give me “Jesus loves me this I know” over “in the sixth year of the reign of the judges. . .” any day.


His Holy Name can satisfy any type of gospel reader, but it is short, sweet and to the point. Elder Oaks asks questions and answers them. Then, he tells you what he’s learned about honoring the name of the Savior and what it means in our covenants and everyday lives. I came away appreciating the Savior more, and understanding my relationship to him more, and that’s the best thing that can be achieved from any title.


If you can get your hands on it, I recommend His Holy Name as a quiet Sunday read that will bring the spirit of the Sabbath to your heart and remind you what your really doing when you go to the temple or take the sacrament. It’s one of the best doctrinal resources I have on my shelf.



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Monday, November 24, 2008

How to Promote Your Home Business by John McLain


I have a confession to make. Much to my husband’s dismay I have been considering starting my own business. It’s a purely selfish venture. I want it only to feed my own addiction to books, but I keep telling myself it actually might be lucrative as well. Uh huh. I really only want it for the books.


On the other hand, most of the “what to do about money” books that I’ve read lately say the only way to have a booming income is to invest or own your own business. Even in these weird economic times if you’ve got a great home business you’re probably still better off than many people who are loosing their jobs left and right.


My weird compulsion to start a business and the thoughts that I’ve had on how to survive when your boss fires you made me very excited to review a new book by John McLain. How to Promote Your Home Business: Free, Easy & Low-Cost Ways to Market Any Enterprise is just the type of resource I’ve been looking for.


How to Promote Your Home Business is short, sweet and to the point. It gave me the “here’s what you need to know” and “here’s how to do it” information I like without a lot of fluff. Mr. McLain is also serious about the “low-cost” aspects of self-promotion. He means it when he says that. I found very few things in there that Mr. McLain recommended spending a lot of money on. Almost everything had a free or very minimal price tag. The only exception was his recommendation to pay for website design rather than trying to figure it all out yourself. Even then, he pointed you in directions that could help you do it yourself. He just also pointed out that this was one area that could get more “interesting” than you wanted it to.


How to Promote Your Home Business is useful for those who own a private business, need to start one, need to find a new career or anyone who has something that needs to be shared with others. Yes, I consider writing among those things. I learned a few things about promoting my books in Mr. McLain’s book as well.


This book talks about how to present yourself in almost any media form. It’s not totally comprehensive, but that’s good. It’s also not overwhelming. Mr. McLain doesn’t spend six chapters telling you how to write a press release, he breaks it down into the KISS method of reasoning. He pays more attention to how to grab someone’s attention than on how to format and phrase every paragraph. For me, that’s a good thing. I’m not so good at following rules if they get to complicated. The good thing though is he doesn’t leave you stranded. If you feel like you need more help or want to investigate things further, he gives you up-to-date resources for that as well.


It covers topics such as:

  • Media lists
  • Using emails
  • Associations and networking
  • Cold calling
  • Radio, magazine and television ads
  • Freebies and bill stuffers
  • Extensive information on how to market yourself on the internet.


Another plus about what’s not in the book: It’s not filled up with lots of self-promoting fluff. A lot of times books like this carry an underlying message that says “we’re the experts and you can’t really expect to do things as well as we have so just give us your money and we’ll (sort of) go to work for you too!” How to Promote Your Home Business really does have you in mind.


It’s good stuff that doesn’t waste your time getting to what you need to know. Thanks John McLain for How to Promote Your Home Business. You made my home business idea seem doable on a limited budget. That scares my husband to death but it gets me pretty excited! Take a peak if you have a home business, a book to promote, or just an idea you’ve been tossing around. It might be more doable than you originally thought.


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Friday, November 21, 2008

Books I'm Thankful For

In honor of Thanksgiving, I took a few minutes to trace over the titles on my many bookshelves and feel an extra measure of gratitude for the gift of books in my life. I started brainstorming for titles that have really made a difference in who I am and my outlook on life and thought it might spark some moments of thanksgiving for you, too.


Keep in mind that the titles I’ve called out in this blog aren’t exactly a list of my top favorites or even the best books I’ve ever read. They’re the books that have been read at the moments that I needed them. They’re the ones that have touched me in specific ways that still tie me to them.


The Book of Mormon- this one goes with out saying. I love the scripture and I’m truly grateful to have them in my life.



Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent- When I read this book it reminded me there really were things to love about nursing when I thought I’d lost all love for the profession. (I was an OB nurse)



Charly by Jack Weyland- Yes, I know LDS literature has come a long way, but this was the first book that actually got me excited about reading books specific to our culture. Some of my fondest childhood memories were trips to Arizona for summer vacation. There was an LDS bookstore owned by some of my mother’s family. Once a year we’d walk in with mom’s savings, pull everything off the shelf that caught our eye and that the staff recommended and haul it all home to West Virginia to read until the next summer vacation. That was also one of the clearest messages I learned from my parents overall: reading and good books, not to mention supporting loved ones, mattered.



The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes- One of the few writing books that have let me know it’s okay to be as weird as I am about writing.



Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One by Patricia C. Wrede- The book that got my older children excited about reading. Indecently, this is also the book we were reading when I said “this is what I want to do” and finally got serious about it.



Dragonsong (The Harper Hall Triology) by Anne McCaffery- The book that got me excited about reading in general.


The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss- For some reason this one struck a chord with me about learning to focus on the best parts of yourself and letting other people worry about what they do best instead of trying to be everything to everybody. It also taught me that you don’t have to be perfect even in the things that are your “best” things.


I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise (Children Surviving Cancer) by Erma Bombeck- My favorite of her books, and always good for perspective.


Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch- I was given this title at my first child’s baby shower. By the time she was two she’d learned to use it against me. Being released from “time out” inevitably meant a plea from her to read her this story. It worked in her favor every time. J


Lunch Walks Among Us (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist) by Jim Benton- The first book to make my boy’s eyes light up at the possibilities of reading.



The Miracle of Miss Willie by Alma J. Yates- This title has always stuck with me. It was fun, touching, and reminded me that life is all about connecting with others and seeing the good in them.


No One Can Take Your Place by Sheri Dew- I’m a big fan of Sheri Dew for a lot of reasons, but this title just walked into my life when I really needed it to.



Planting the Seeds of Faith by Alison Palmer- This the first book I ever published. Seeing that book for the first time as a full and tangible dream come true taught me a lot about being an instrument in God’s hands to accomplish His purposes and your own life’s mission.


Put off thy Shoes by Ted Gibbons- This book taught me what prayer was really supposed to be like.


Rules (Apple Signature)by Cynthia Lord and Faraway Child- the books I most relate to as the mother of an autistic child



This Life is a Test by Ted Gibbons- One of the few nonfiction church books I loved as a teenager. I could actually relate to it.


Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe R. Dominquez- This was the first money book to really put things in perspective for me at a time when I really needed some perspective.



Now, you tell me. What books have walked into your life just when you needed them to?

Tell me about the books you’re most thankful for.


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Monday, November 17, 2008

Escaping the Shadows by Lisa J. Peck

Escaping the Shadows by Lisa J. Peck is an LDS novel about spousal abuse that highlights the viscous and damaging chains it can wrap around someone's life.


It's told in a somewhat unusual format. I've seen it before in national chick lit books, but this is the only LDS book I know of that is written this way. I could be wrong, though. If you of another book written in this format, let me know. I'd be curious to read it.


What's so unusual about it? Escaping the Shadows is written entirely as emails. Unlike the national titles I've read, you only ever get the main characters perspective. From the beginning of the book, you follow Charlene through her abusive marriage as she writes about it in emails. These emails are written to friends and sometimes her husband. She talks about her reasoning and justifications, what she thinks about what is happening to her, things she is learning from her therapist, and things she is learning about herself. You follow Charlene through her first recognitions that no matter how you paint it, her marriage isn’t healthy, through the tough decision to divorce her husband and on to trying to find a new life for herself and leave the old nightmares behind her. As anyone who has faced this type of situation can tell you, none of this is an easy task.


I can't say that I particularly cared for the email format of this book, I found myself too often drawn out of the story. That has been my experience with national titles of this format type as well. It has to be really well done to hold my interest. That being said, however, I can see where using this particular style would be useful. Even though I was frequently disengaged with the story, it was interesting to see the entire process not only from the abused woman's perspective, but also how she rationalizes and explains what is happening to someone else. All the important elements are there, you see all of the thought processes, but only as they would come out to another person, not true internal dialog if that makes sense. That is very useful because it gives the reader a set of parameters, key phrases, and other clues that someone you might know may be using to tell you about what is happening behind closed doors. It can help you anticipate what they might say and do as you offer a helping hand. So, from that stand point Escaping the Shadows holds true merit.


One of my other impulses about the content was that an abusive husband would not let her near a computer and would know exactly what she was doing on it. It felt almost unbelievable to me that she would have access to technology that he would not know how to “control”. Just another me thing since my husband is very techno-savvy and we live in such weird times that every parent really does need to know what is going on with that personal computer.


Escaping the Shadows is also available in a national version, Silent Cries, which does not contain the specific LDS references. From the peeks I’ve gotten at the inside of Silent Cries, I much prefer this version. It is told in actual story format and gives a clearer picture of what is going on while still teaching important lessons. But when I had the choice I took the LDS version because that viewpoint was important to me in understanding abuse. I trusted Lisa to include the same universal material in both titles and I wanted to specifically understand the Mormon element. It is world-shattering enough to be in an abusive relationship. I can not imagine doing so in a religion that focuses so heavily on forever families and honoring marriage covenants. I needed that perspective in the book I chose.


These titles, Escaping the Shadows and Silent Cries, could be important books for someone in need of answers and healing. It would be a nice suggestion for those in need. Both titles do contain a lot of practical and everyday information that women in abusive situations need to know about if they are struggling with trying to find answers and understand what options for escape they actually have. Regardless of the writing style, both books offer a source of hope and that’s important, so I keep a copy of Escaping the Shadows on my shelf and hope to add Silent Cries as well. You never know when it might be your friend, who needs to know the type of information you gained from reading Lisa’s titles.


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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Looking for Young Readers

Have I ever told you the story of how I started writing? Just after my youngest was born, (who is now almost 8, thank you very much) I decided it was high time for me to put my foot down and start writing. I had been threatening to become a professional writer since junior high and I figured I was way over due to start on my road to imminent fame. Ha!

So, I put the family computer in a room with a door that could close and locked myself in there several nights a week after my husband came home from work and could take over watching the children. I wrote my first book in a couple of months. It was a wonderfully cleansing process for me to finally say. “See. I wasn’t kidding I really can be a writer if I want to!”

That first book has always been a favorite of mine, but it has been sadly neglected. I polished it to the best of my new found writerly skills and sent it off a couple of times. Nobody wanted it. In the mean time I began selling to magazines and sold my next books (now nonfiction) fairly quickly. Since the first book wasn’t as easily sold as the nonfiction I stuck with what worked until about 2 years ago when my husband dared me to try my hand at fiction again.

My first book got put away in the memory box. Every once in a while I think about it. Now 8 years, 8 books, and more articles and pieces of copy than I can count, later I’ve been thinking about it again.

Do You Believe in Ghosts? is a story I put together after wondering what it might be like to actually learn history from the people who lived it. So, I created a boarding school whose teachers were all dead.

I’ve decided it’s time to dust off that manuscript. I know I’ve grown and changed a lot in those 8 years, but hey I really liked that first book and I’d like to see it actually find a home some day. I don’t think it’s completely beyond repair and I think it’s time to see what I can do with it.

But. I’d like to do it in a weird way. I’m looking for kids who have an interest in reading fantasy to read my book before I ever open it again and start digging for ways to make it fabulous. See, that’s probably backwards from the way I should do it. Most writers would have cracked it open and made sure they weren’t about to completely embarrass themselves before they ever let anyone look at it. Then there’s me. I’m afraid if I went back through that book without truly knowing what I wanted it to become I’d over analyze it and ruin everything I loved about it. Make sense?

So, just below this post you will see the first chapter of a middle-grade reader I honestly haven’t looked at in years. I did not edit it before posting it. I haven’t read through the entire manuscript, even to find my hideous spelling and grammar errors. Here’s what I’d like to happen:

Have your child read through that first chapter. If it strikes their interest, let me know and I’ll send you an electronic copy of the entire book. They are then free to be brutally honest with me about what they liked and didn’t like about the book- anything at all that they would like to share with me.

If the first chapter doesn’t catch their attention, let me know that, too.

Okay, okay. If you’re an adult and have an opinion you can share that with me as well, but I’m most interested in hearing from the audience I want this book to reach. When they tell me what they want I’ll take on the gauntlet and see where that crazy book can lead us. Deal?

As always, Happy Reading!

Do You Belive in Ghosts?

Chapter 1: The Power of Words

When Uncle Patent died and left the manor to Jennings, no one was really surprised. No one but Jennings wanted anything to do with the whole business.


Jennings was the black sheep of the family. It all started with his name. This particular family had a strange affinity to the letter “P”. Over the generations last names had changed for marriages and such, but last names were only useful in signing for credit. Now, a first name and one’s profession, that really mattered; and since it mattered, all first names and careers began with “P”.


Jennings came from a very proud strand of this “P” family. His mother’s name was Patience, she was a painter in her spare time. His father, Paddle, was a plumber. He had two sisters, Petunia and Prudence, and one brother named Pending. They lived happily in a little pink house on Parkview Drive.


When five year old Pewter came to his mother and requested he be called “Jennings”, his brother and sisters laughed, his mother swooned and fainted dead away, and his father escorted him to the woodshed.


Afterwards, his mother cried a lot, nagging him with things like “Pewter is a perfectly proud name and you should be grateful!” Secretly he was very grateful: had he been a girl his name would have been Putrid.


His father yelled a lot, “You’re a pitiful product to come from such proud parentage!”


His siblings continued to laugh.


This went on for several weeks. His parents tried everything they could think of to convince their son that Jennings was a pitiful name and a disgrace to the whole family. Nothing worked.


Eventually it was decided that it would serve him right and he became Jennings. Though, for years afterwards most of the family couldn’t resist sneering every time they said it.


Jennings historically had a large bump of curiosity concerning Uncle Patent’s residence. Most of this curiosity stemmed from rumors. Jennings once heard that Patent had hung a “no-vacancy” sign on the iron gates of Practical Manor. The whispered belief was that the manor was already at full capacity; and that Uncle was the only one in residence still among the living.


Uncle Patent had inherited the residence from his former employer.


Patent was a Procurer of Antiquities. His employer had been older millionaire, with no family and a fascination with things morbid and magical.


This little tidbit, about the tastes of Uncle’s employer, had been an unknown to the rest of the family. They were all quite shocked when they came flocking to the old manor after Patent inherited. It was just a bit too uncomfortable for most of them to hang their hat on an iron maiden and their coat in an Egyptian sarcophagus.


Jennings’ only memory of this whole event, which took place when he was six, was a pleasant afternoon spent in a library. He passed the time looking at very sinful pictures illustrating death and burial rituals from around the world.


Jennings and a girl cousin made up stories of how each of the dearly departed in the book had become thus departed. They spun tails of treachery and treason. They role-played funeral processions and wondered what it would be like to have a mummified relative in their living room. It was a wonderful time for both of them.


After the visit, Jennings had inquired where his cousin, Poltergiest, lived so that he might visit her again. He had been informed smartly that there was no such person and to never speak of it again. After the whole name incident he thought it best to follow their advice. With some regret (she had such a wonderful imagination, after all) he tried to put the whole event to rest in the back of his mind.


It never really worked of course.


Jennings nursed that bump of curiosity about his Uncle’s home at every turn. While other children played Cowboys and Indians, Detectives, and Spacemen, Jennings dreamt of ghosts and acted out Salem witch trials. He pretended to go to the manor on holiday and meet fascinating historical figures. He drew sketches of what he thought the manor must look like and wrote his Uncle with questions like:

“Is it always cold there?”

“Is there a moat?”

“Do any of the walls bleed?”

“Do you have any dragon’s teeth I can use for show-and-tell next Tuesday?”


Uncle always wrote back that the world was full of mysteries and most of the answers would have to wait till he was older. It was a very disappointing response, to say the least. Still, Jennings was undaunted in his devotion to magic and mystery.


After attending college, Jennings even shocked his family further by becoming a children’s librarian. He ran the pre-teen’s “magic and mystery” story hour and sold the occasional ghost story to newspapers and magazines.


After all of this, it really was somewhat logical that Uncle would leave the manor to Jennings. So, where the news that Jennings was the new owner of “Practical Manor” came as no surprise; his plans for the place certainly did.


When Jennings announced that he intended to move in and renovate, some shook their heads in dismay. Most exclaimed loudly, “Have you lost your mind?!”


To this he simply replied: “No, only lent it to my dreams.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ariana Trilogy by Rachel Ann Nunes

Rachel Ann Nunes recently re-released her extremely popular Ariana series, including the titles:

Ariana: The Making of a Queen

Ariana: A Gift Most Precious

and

Ariana: A New Beginning

Under the single title- Ariana: The Trilogy. Hurray!


Rachel Nunes is one of the LDS publishing world’s biggest names and I marvel at how prolific she is. The Ariana books were first published in 1996, they are among her most popular and some titles have been unavailable of late. That’s why it’s so exciting to see them in a new format (it doesn’t hurt that getting three books in one is cheaper than getting three separate books either).


The Trilogy follows the life of Ariana de Cotte over a many years, beginning with her wedding night at the age of nineteen. This is not an “everything’s happy and fine” story. Ariana is not LDS and does not want to listen to the hope of the gospel because her life is so far from wonderful. Of course, she does eventually listen, but it doesn’t come until after the loss of her infant daughter at the hands of her drug-addicted husband. You get to watch Ariana rise from a life that is far beyond the challenges many of us will face and find hope in the gospel. That hope is what permeates all three of the Ariana stories.


Ariana’s life does not suddenly become easy after finding the gospel. In fact, she faces a new challenge in book two that brings back the question of what it really means to be forgiven and the struggles that can still come from a past you thought was far behind you. This story deals with AIDS, loss, and grieving all over again.


The third installment deals continues the theme of a haunting past that will not let go, while dealing with the difficulties of financial strain and the challenges of raising safe, happy children. Again, love and a firm testimony will make all the difference in how the story turns out.


As you can see, Rachel Ann Nunes is not one to tip-toe around hard subjects, but she is also firmly planted in the gospel. No matter what trials her characters face, she always brings them back around to using the tools we all have- those standard answers your Sunday school teacher is always looking for- to bring about the miracles and changes of heart both the heroine and the reader need to make it through the story.


Another very fun part of the Ariana stories is that they do not take place in Utah, nor even in the United States. Ariana lives in Paris. How fun is that! I’m an armchair traveler, since my budget and family will not let it be otherwise, and I loved the little descriptions of life in Paris. Very refreshing in a genre that is permeated with BYU love stories (not that there is anything wrong with those if they’re done well, it’s just fun to have authors recognize we really are a world wide church).


If you have the original Ariana books and have wondered if you should up grade, here is something to consider. I asked Rachel what the differences were between the two sets and this was her reply.


“The Ariana [books] would be pretty much the same, minus any typos or grammar errors! The only major change is the Jean-Marc meets Ariana at the END of his mission instead of the beginning and then he serves time in the French army while she serves her mission. In the old version, he served in the army first and met Ariana at the first of his mission so they basically finish their missions near the same time (she did saw him one last time after her mission while he was still a missionary). Mission rules now say that missionaries shouldn't write to each other, [my publisher] didn't want my characters breaking that rule. Thus the change. I think it worked out better in the end. Everything is exactly the same.”


There is also one more Ariana book, not included in the trilogy, Ariana: A Glimpse of Eternity. If you haven’t had a chance to explore the world of Ariana, give it a shot. While I would recommend reading the titles in order if you are using the old versions, it’s not completely necessary. Ariana’s story continues through each book but you can pick it up anywhere. If you are facing a particular challenge, perhaps try picking up that title first then work your way around as you grow to love and relate to Ariana. They’re all quick reads with solid gospel messages. You can’t go wrong with those two qualities.


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Monday, November 10, 2008

Abinadi by H.B. Moore

I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a hard time relating to the story of Abinadi. It is very powerful and it holds some beautiful messages; but, I’m just no Abinadi, ya know?


While I love the power of the scriptures, I fully admit I wouldn’t make a very good ancient prophet, or prophet’s wife for that matter. I’d be far more likely to run and hide under my bed than become a martyr for the gospel. I think that’s part of the problem with Abinadi. The scriptural account, accompanied by the few popular artist depictions make him out to be someone that is miles beyond me in far too many ways. He feels like an old man making his last stand as he preaches before King Noah. You know, like the older gentlemen in your ward whose held every calling, and knows the gospel inside and out, and has more to say on any subject than you have ever even thought of—that type of guy.


The fact of the matter is that like so many things in the scriptures we miss a lot of the “back story”. When you look at the account of Abinadi, no where does it hint at that “wise old high priest” status. This is something that author H.B. Moore takes advantage of to tell a very different version of the story than the one I’d been seeing in my mind’s eye for so many years. I for one am extremely grateful that she did. In her latest novel, Abinadi, Ms. Moore takes a lot of “what ifs” and creates a life for the prophet that suddenly made him feel more real and complete for me.


While being fastidious with detail and spirit, H.B. Moore places an Abinadi before her readers who is young and happy. Abinadi is living a life full of hope and blessings. What if Abinadi was taking more chances than I naively assumed? What if, in order to preach the messages God put into his heart Abinadi had to kiss his wife and young child goodbye with a fairly certain understanding that his chances of seeing them again were slim? Nope, not me—see that reference to hiding under the bed.


Abinadi as told by H.B. Moore is an artfully crafted story of hope, faith, love, loss, and the gospel that would rival almost any situation that you and I could face in this day and age. It was so easy to see myself in Ms. Moore’s portrayal of the high priest Alma, and in many other characters. I could see for the first time how so many pieces could have come together to work the miracles Heavenly Father needed for His people during that time period. It made me examine my own life a little more closely. No, I’ll never measure up to Abinadi but maybe, just maybe, I could learn to be a little better than I am by paying attention to more than just the fact that Abinadi gave his life for the gospel.


Because I know how thoroughly the author researches her material, I read her descriptions and details with interest. The marriage ceremony was particularly fascinating to me. Plus, for those of us who’d like to know more about where her thoughts and ideas came from, the author provides a special set of notations in the back of the book. Under headings for the chapters, you will find some of the author’s notes and references that she used to reach her conclusions about settings, traditions, and more to help bring the scriptures to life for her reader. It’s a fun added bonus to go through and pick out these things and learn more about them, but not feel pressured to know more while you are immersed in the actual story.


Well, done Ms. Moore, for providing me with an engaging story that made the scriptures come alive in a way that kindly prodded me to keep praying and to look for sources of peace no matter what the world may throw my way.


Abinadi will become part of a new series for H.B. Moore, the next book feature Alma will be out in 2009.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Make Me a Memory by Tamra Norton

Since Veteran’s day is November 11th, I thought I’d take a moment and talk about a couple of titles that I think do an amazing job of honoring our soldiers in Iraq. What’s so amazing about them to me is that they are written especially for the children of those serving in the Armed Forces.


Tamra Norton, of Molly Mormon fame, put her sweet talent to work a couple of years ago creating a book about a little girl named Allie whose entire world is flipped upside down when her dad is sent to serve in Iraq. Make Me a Memory is just about one of the sweetest books I’ve read and I know of very few other books at all that address this tough topic with such true-to-life, sincerety but with the fun escapism of fiction instead of a some times more impersonal nonfiction “my daddy had to go to war” title.


I loved everything about Make Me a Memory. I love Allie’s emotion and innocence. I loved great grandma who has Alzheimer’s. And, I especially loved Abraham Lincoln (the family goat).


Here are a couple of links highlighting the wonderful good Make Me a Memory has been able to do.

http://www.kdhnews.com/news/story.aspx?mode=id&id=12244

http://www.kcentv.com/news/c-article.php?cid=1&nid=10994


I was so proud of Tamra when Make Me a Memory came out and thought I’d just about bust my buttons when it’s sequel came out this year—Make Me a Home. Allie faces a new challenge in learning that her father will not be returning home when the family had expected him to. His unit has been told to stay longer and Allie deals with this on her own terms while navigating the world of best friends, boys, and popularity while becoming more and more aware of the dangers her father faces every day.


If you know a child whose parent is serving in the military I can’t recommend enough that you pick up Make Me a Memory and Make Me a Home for them for Christmas. It will give them something beautiful and hopeful to connect to. Whether or not you know someone serving, take a few days to read these titles and remember how hard it is for both those in the military and their families to express their patriotism with their whole lives.


Because I know I can’t do it justice, I’ll borrow Allie’s words from Make Me a Home:


Some dads like to grow things, so they become farmers. Some dads like to build things, so they become carpenters. Some dads like to be their own boss, so they buy a quarry. My dad is different. He does his job as a soldier in the United States Army because of his beliefs.


My dad believes that we live in a great nation with freedom to choose. He never wants us to lose that freedom. In some places in this world, bad people take away the freedom from others. My dad is willing to fight for this freedom because he doesn’t want me to grow up in a world without it.


My dad believes the United States was founded by men who had some help from God. Dad says sometimes ideas like this aren’t popular, but there are a whole lot more important things in life than being popular. What’s most important is being true to yourself. For Dad, this means being a soldier and serving our country.


Some dads are able to come home every night and tell their kids they love them. My dad can’t. He’s thousands of miles away in Iraq. But when I want to feel close to him and feel his love, all I have to do is look in the mirror. I am who I am because my dad taught me to be true to myself. I may not be the most beautiful, or most popular, but I’m me.


I think my dad would be proud of me, like I’m proud of him.



Whether you agree with the reasons our soldiers are in Iraq, let’s never forget that those soldiers, as with those who have served before them, are people just like the rest of us: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives, trying to make their families proud by doing something very, very hard.


Happy Veteran’s Day, everybody.


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Monday, November 3, 2008

Supporting LDS Fiction Writers

Last spring I was privileged to attend the first ever Whitney Awards Gala. It was one of the most inspiring nights of my life to find myself rubbing shoulders with so many great men and women who are great for the same types of righteous desires that I find burning within my own soul. I hate PPDEs (personal public displays of emotion) but there I was, crying on multiple occasions as I cheered for friends, new and old, and those I’d read and admired for years. The celebration was entirely focused on the much quoted words of Orson F. Whitney from his talk on home literacy.


“We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. God's ammunition is not exhausted. His brightest spirits are held in reserve for the latter times. In God's name and by his help we will build up a literature whose top shall touch heaven, though its foundations may now be low in earth.”


I was so proud to be part of a celebration honoring those who are truly striving to fill the world with good, uplifting literature, who also carry a great mantle of representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In fact, I would highly recommend you take a look at the 2007 finalist titles and winners for some of the best new books available for the LDS reader. You won’t be disappointed by any book there. I know, I read them in order to cast my own votes and it was a tough call in most cases.


At this time of year my thoughts are once again turning to the Whitney Awards. Why? Two reasons actually. As much as warm fuzzies are coveted by the LDS author the Whitney Awards committee wisely concluded that actual awards would be better than just a pat on the back to recognize excellence. Awards and award ceremonies cost (gasp) money.


YourLDSneighborhood.com is a proud and generous sponsor of the Whitney Awards and I bow in their honor for catching the vision of this worthy endeavor. I would also ask you to support it by visiting the Whitney Awards fund raiser now in progress. You’ll find a wide variety of items up for grabs that have all been donated to raise money for the 2008 Whitney Awards.


I myself wouldn’t mind having this item. Sadly, I lack the body to pull it off (Jacob wouldn’t have wanted me ;)


Don’t see anything you’d like but still want to offer your support? That can be arranged as well. Can’t afford to do anything monetarily? We all understand how that is, especially in these shaky times, but please just like all the fund raising people will tell you-- any little bit can help.


If nothing else, take the time to go to the Whitney Awards web site and nominate your favorite LDS author. No, they don’t have to write for the LDS market; no, they don’t have to be published by an LDS publisher. They just have to be LDS and have a book published in the year 2008 that you think is truly outstanding.


Believe me; these guys really appreciate hearing from you even for that. The authors do get warm fuzzies from finding out that someone took the time to nominate them for something good, and if they win, the awards are awesome as well.


Categories include:

Romance

Mystery/Suspense

Speculative Fiction

Youth Fiction

Historical

General Fiction

Novel of the Year

Best Novel by a New Author


Not sure who or what qualifies? There is a list of the rules on the site and you can find a fairly comprehensive list of titles eligible for Whitneys this year on the side bar of the LDSpublisher and LDSfiction blogs.


The last day to nominate a book is December 31st, so don’t forget when all the holidays start hitting. LDS fiction is improving every year, and there are those of us who would like to celebrate that and keep the standards high. We want books by LDS authors to ring loud with praise for Him who gave us this talent and let our words reach to heaven, but we need dedicated readers to help us form a firm foundation for our efforts. Take a little time this week to celebrate books by supporting the Whitney Awards any way you can.



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