Sunday, August 31, 2014

Celebrating in August with Watermelon

We have come to the end of another great summer vacation. Like most moms, I feel like I need my own little vacation right now. But it has been fun.

This week was my birthday. Because I have two boys on gluten-free diets, I usually end up making my own "cake." I use the term cake loosely because most times I don't feel like baking a real cake for my birthday. This year, I made a cake from a watermelon. I've seen the idea floating around on Pinterest and Facebook, so I adapted it for my own.


My recipe calls for a large watermelon, raspberries, pineapple, and strawberries.  I didn't frost it like I've seen others do. I just cut a big cylinder out of watermelon and decorated with fruit, sometimes using toothpicks. You can find other watermelon cake designs here on Pinterest.

This month, I joined a new critique group. I now have three author friends who meet with me every week on oovoo, which is sort of like skype. It's great to have a little deadline every week to keep me going. It's also great to have people telling me how I can improve during the early stages of my work.

Speaking of my work, I am well into my next project. People often ask me if I write an outline or just write by the seat of my pants. I do a little of both. I outline, but I change my outline as I write.  This is what my current posterboard outline looks like:


This time around, I'm using Blake Snyder's outlining method that's in his book Save the Cat. We'll see how it works out. Coincidentally, my outline is in watermelon colors. Did I mention that I love watermelon?

As you can see, I still have a few plot points to fill in on the outline, but I am well on my way.

It takes me a good 100 pages of writing until I start to get into a new book. I'm only about 65 pages in right now, so I still miss Elly and Maren from the last book. No wonder so many authors write series.

If you'd like to know more about the crazy events in my life, you can visit me on Facebook. I'd love to hear what's going on in your life too.





Monday, August 11, 2014

Based on a True Story

Sometimes people ask me how much of what I've written in a novel has really happened to me. That's a hard question to answer. A lot of the things in my novels have happened to me. They just didn't happen in the same way. For example, in Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale, one character works as a programmer at a library software company. I also worked at a library software company, but I worked as a technical writer. There are a lot of other examples like that in the book.

Like my characters, I have an autistic sister. I know what it's like to handle an outburst in a public place. On the other hand, my sister's disabilities are much greater than Grace's. My emotions are the same as my characters' emotions regarding their sister; the details are different.

The Prigel Family Creamery (photo by Baltimore Sun)

For the most part, the places in the novel are all real places. Cunningham Falls, Muir Woods, the Kennedy Center, and The Shamrock exist outside my novel. You can visit them yourself. The dairy store is based on the Prigel Family Creamery, a little ice cream shop I visited once in Maryland. The Cuban restaurant is based on one I used to frequent in Provo, Utah. I don't think it exists anymore. I invented the Silver Linings shop in my head, but I have been to shops like that around Sonoma County, California.

The Lake near Cunningham Falls

Cunningham Falls

I also share a lot of hobbies with my characters. Like Elly, I love to tap dance and take things apart. Like Grace, I enjoy musicals. And like Maren, I have studied art history.

Chapter 42 of Sense is probably one of the most autobiographical things I've ever put in my novels. It didn't happen to me for the same reasons it did for Maren, but we both ended up in the same place, so I wrote much of the chapter from my personal memories.

I have never had poison ivy, but conveniently my son has had two very severe cases--one of them during edits for this book. Such a helpful boy!

Then there were things I made up. You'll have to guess what those were.


Click to view the Blog Tour schedule







Sunday, August 3, 2014

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream

I have a tradition of sharing a recipe from my books when each one comes out, and today, I am sharing a recipe from Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale, where some of the characters work at an ice cream shop.



We make homemade ice cream every summer on July 24th. This is my favorite recipe that we invented one day when my husband bought the wrong ingredients. We make it in a 4 quart electric ice cream freezer.

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream

Mix together:

4 cups milk
1 quart half and half
2 3 1/2 oz. packages vanilla instant pudding mix
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar (optional)
1 package peppermint patties, chopped or torn into small pieces

Freeze according to ice cream freezer directions.

Click to view the Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, July 31, 2014

$175 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

To celebrate my 200th post and 100,000+ page views, I'm participating in a giveaway with eleven other  clean authors! Here are the details:


What would you do with a 
$175 Amazon Gift Card?


11 authors have come together
to give you some SUMMER FUN READING
and a $175 AMAZON GIFT CARD!

Click on the image to read a summary of each book :)


GIVEAWAY ends 8/31/14 

No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older and legally able to receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code. This giveaway is not associated with Rafflecopter, Facebook, Twitter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway was organized by I Love to Read and Review Books :) 
and sponsored by the participating authors.
A.L. Sowards
Christy Monson
Ashley Lavering
In This Together Media
J. C. Whyte
Debbie Peterson
Rebecca Belliston
Rebecca H Jamison
Rachelle J. Christensen
Alivia Anderson
Julie Coulter Bellon

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Never Too Old


"It's never too late to be who you might have been."-- George Eliot

My husband's grandma passed away last week. She was 100 years old. Today, I wanted to share a few of the many things I learned from Grandma Ruth Jamison.

Teaching Herself to Read
About eight years ago, Grandma had a severe case of pneumonia and almost died. Because of the trauma, she suffered some brain damage and lost her ability to read. The weird thing was, though, that she still remembered how to teach people to read because, in her younger years, she'd been a teacher. Being the persistent woman she was, she got some phonics materials from her daughter and taught herself to read again (even though she was about ninety-two at the time.) By the time my first book came out, she was reading at an adult level and could read my book. She also read my second book and planned to read my third. She always read the paper, church materials, and other good books.

Optimism
Her husband died forty-six years before she did. That meant she spent most of her adult life as a widow. She always told me that bad things were going to happen anyway, she might as well be as happy as she could about the good things.

Self-Reliance
Grandma taught herself to do just about everything. She cut hair, sewed , wielded power tools, and gardened. If she wanted to do something, she just jumped in and learned how. When she wanted a bathroom off her master bedroom, she built one. When she needed a better way to crack walnuts, she built herself this tool:


She wasn't afraid of failure. She tried things and if they didn't work, she tried again. She had this saying about a bad haircut: "I do not mind it for I am behind it. It's the folks in front that get the jar."

Testimony
She had a strong testimony of our church and of God's love for everyone. She stayed close to the spirit and often gave us the exact advice we needed to hear. A few years ago, I was having a hard time with my role as the bishop's wife because my husband is a secret-keeper extraordinaire--as in he doesn't even tell me things he should. I kept talking to other bishops' wives I knew, trying to get advice. No one understood. Then I drove down to Provo for a field trip for one of my kids and stopped in to visit Grandma Jamison. Within minutes of my arrival, she told me some stories that made me feel so much better. I hadn't even asked for her help. She answered my prayers without knowing what was bothering me.

I know this makes it sound like Grandma Jamison was perfect. We all knew she wasn't. She accepted her imperfections, even laughed at them sometimes, but she never let them defeat her.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cub Scout Leader Awards


I work with some great cub scout leaders, who have served for many years. I volunteered to put together some awards to recognize them for many years of service, but I couldn't find any award ideas online that really suited the occasion. (I didn't want to do candy, and I am not a really crafty person. Seriously, I even mess up the crafts meant for 8-year-old cub scouts.) After thinking, thinking, thinking, I came up with two ideas--one for women and one for men. I'm sharing in case some other cub leaders need ideas.


For the woman's award, I found a bunch of fleur de lis charms at my local Michaels craft store. They had quite a few to choose from, even though they were hard to find at first. I attached the charm to a piece of cardstock that says, "Thank you for charming us with your skills for ___ years."

Michaels also had notebooks in the dollar section with fleur de lis designs and also some fleur de lis pendants in the jewelry section. Another idea would be to do some sort of blue and gold jewelry item.


For the man's award, I found some Krazy Glue and made certificates that recognize the men for "being crazy enough to stick with cub scouts for __ years." Not quite as cute as the woman's award, but what man doesn't love Krazy Glue?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Are Church-Goers Judgmental?

Lately, I've read a lot of posts on Facebook accusing Christians of being judgmental. These posts seem to imply that people who go to church every week are more judgmental than, say, a tattooed biker or an auditor from the IRS. First of all, accusing an entire group of being judgmental is, well, judgmental. Setting that aside, being a person who goes to church every Sunday, I've worried about this. Am I more judgmental because I go to church?

I've known judgmental church-goers. Heck, I've been judgmental myself sometimes.  I suppose the reason Christians get more blame for being judgmental is because Jesus Christ has taught us not to judge. A judgmental Christian is also a hypocritical Christian. Frankly, since no one is perfect, every Christian is bound to be hypocritical every once in a while, even if they are striving to show Christlike love to everyone. 

So why bother to go to church every week? 

I've thought about this a lot, and I've decided that for me, it comes down to the way I feel.

In the last few months, I have spent several hours at my local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Though I have, at times, witnessed courtesy there, I haven’t lately—customers tend to be in a hurry and employees don’t smile. If you make a mistake—like forgetting a social security card—you might be rewarded with an eye roll. It saps my energy to go there and reminds me of how it feels to be in middle school.

On one occasion, a DMV employee instructed my son and me to go stand at the head of a different line--not the end of the line, the head of the line--so my son could get his picture taken before his scheduled appointment. This caused a big controversy among the people who were already standing in line. Though they heard the employee's instructions, they refused to let us stand in front of them. I figured it was better to disobey instructions and go to the end of the line than to get in a fight. It was no big deal, but it made us feel terrible.

A week later, I took my twelve-year-old son to our temple. As we waited in the chapel for our turn to come, someone noticed that one young man hadn’t moved up in line with the others. A temple worker then escorted the young man, who had special needs, to sit on the front row in the correct space. No one complained. I couldn’t help comparing my temple experience to my DMV experience. I would much rather spend time with the people I met in the temple that day than with the people I'd met at the DMV.

The feelings I get from going to the temple and going to church are different from the feeling I get from going shopping or to a movie. I feel uplifted and inspired by the messages I hear. I have friends there who encourage me. Certainly, I have had my feelings hurt occasionally, but on the whole, I feel that I am better off for attending church regularly. I know this isn't the case with everyone, and I'm sorry if you have had a bad experience. 

My church friends are an extension of my family, and I love them. So, even though we are not perfect, we keep going. I'm not exaggerating when I say that some of the least judgmental people I know are people who attend church with me. Coincidentally, a few of them also have tattooes, a few are bikers, and a couple work for the IRS.