Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year’s Eve Tale

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

New Year’s Eve—a time for setting goals and reviewing past events. Or for sitting in the dark because the power disappeared in a blinding flash. Well, maybe not exactly a flash—more like a few winks and a blink.

**********

“It’s hard to believe it’s New Year’s Eve,” I said to my husband, Russ. “How shall we celebrate?”

He twisted from side to side, reminiscent of something from “The Exorcist” and said with a groan, “I’m celebrating by lying on a heating pad. My back’s killing me.”

“Old fogy,” I muttered, stretching out on the TV room couch for a pre-bedtime nap. It’s hard to snooze, though, when someone in the room keeps muttering and groaning. Not to mention the noise Russ was making. I sat up and peeked through the curtains. The falling rain had turned to icy snow in the dark.

“What year are we moving into?” I asked.

“I’m not sure—maybe 2005,” Russ said.

That’s what happens when you get older. Your memory goes south and each year seems the same as the next. On the upside, however, you can hide your own Easter eggs.

Russ popped in a video. Just as it got interesting, the lights flickered and … the room went dark. I looked out the window again. The whole town was as black as a bucket of pitch.

Grabbing a flashlight, I turned it on. Nothing. I pondered the mysteries of life. Who am I? Where did I come from? Why do flashlight batteries never work when you need them?

Snatching another one, I clicked the button. A dim light the size of a pea shone forth. I ran and grabbed the emergency lantern, then hurried back to the TV room. Struggling to understand the Chinese symbols that explained how to operate it, I leaned close and turned the knob.

Click! The lantern’s 10,000 watts blasted straight into my eyeballs. I fell back onto the couch, and for a few seconds saw nothing but a white light at the end of a tunnel. At first, I thought I’d gone to the next life, but I could hear Russ laughing and feel Corky, our dog, hopping on and off me, so I knew I was still alive.

Eventually, my pupils dilated beyond the size of a dust speck, and normal vision returned. In the meantime, Russ turned on the battery-operated radio in hopes of catching the local news. Instead, we listened to a song that expressed the singer’s grief at his pickup truck rusting and his horse catching a cold.

Just then, the emergency lantern—the one that was so good at blinding people—flickered and died. Russ wandered off in search of matches to light his way to the bathroom, while I contemplated stomping the lantern to smithereens.

It’s a good thing the radio announcer came on at that minute and that he had such a soothing voice. It calmed my stomping impulses. Instead, I pondered the mysteries of life. Who am I? Where did I come from? Why didn’t we charge the lantern months ago?

My thoughts broke as Russ walked in and said, “Just think of all those people in the valley who are standing around at dances, in the dark. Aren’t you glad we were old fogies tonight?”

“At least they could huddle together in a big group for warmth,” I muttered through chattering teeth. Then a thought hit me. “I’m going to the bedroom to turn on the electric blanket.”

Russ watched with a grin as I headed upstairs. After two steps, I turned back sheepishly. “Oops, no electric blanket, either,” I said. “It’s funny what we do out of habit.”

The power failure only lasted about an hour and a half. Bless their hearts, the power company employees gave up their parties, went out in the weather and restored service.

Our celebration wasn’t the way we’d planned it that year, but it was certainly worth recording for posterity. And much more exciting than watching a video.

Which reminds me—New Year’s Eve 2007 is approaching fast and I’ve got to skedaddle. Russ needs my help hooking our electric blanket up to a generator.


What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Friday, December 28, 2007

You Guessed it, The Man of the Year

By Keith Fisher

The best part of the fiction in many novels is the notice that the characters are purely imaginary. Franklin P. AdamsUS journalist (1881 - 1960)

Last week I published a list of woman of the year candidates that were characters from some of the books I read in 2007. This week I want to share a list of man of the year candidates using the same criteria.

As the beginning quote insinuates, sometimes the characters in fiction are larger than life, but other times they are people who waste the space in a manuscript. If those characters were real, I would be tempted to pull them aside, slap them silly and tell them to wise up. I am often disappointed in the male characters in the books I read.

If the author is a woman, the male protagonist is sometimes portrayed as selfish, whining, juveniles, who the female protagonist can control, dominate, and be better than. In the same vein, women who are written by men, are often brainless helpmeets who wouldn’t think of having a thought of their own. Of course there are many authors who create characters that live. Those characters possess all the good and bad qualities that real people have, and if they are created well, they have something that can be admired, respected, and emulated. Those are the characters we will remember forever.

In my reading this year, I found many men who have taught me something. First on the list is Macon Fallon from the book Fallon by Louis L’Amour the author of this book created many strong male characters over the years, some were revisits under a different name, but I chose Fallon because he came to the realization that having love and respect was better than walking away with everything else. The character was very much a man, even admitting his total lack of understanding of women.

Next we need to talk about Sam Carson. Here is a man who tries hard to fix problems but he knows that he can do little, if anything, that would make a difference. He’s the kind of man who could use a good dose of feminine wisdom but we like him all the same. Sam is on the pages of False Pretenses by Carole Thayne.

Next is Robert Harlan in A Perfect Day by Richard Paul Evans. This man is a great example of what could happen to a writer who finds more success than he can deal with. Almost too late, he realizes what’s most important in life. It is a good lesson for writers but more than that, I can relate to the character. He is real and he is written well. One might suspect there are elements of true story but the author refutes that rumor in the dedication.

Last but not least is a man who reinvents himself several times. He passes through trials most men never deal with in their lifetime. His behavior, at times, is so frustrating I want to shake him, at other times I want to be like him. A man could learn a lot from this character. His name is Gene Thomas from the Hearts of the Children series by Dean Hughes.

After complaining that there was a lack of male characters these days, I set out to find some, and I found a pile. I must not end before I mention two more,

Ken Sugihara is the protagonist in Nothing to Regret by Tristi Pinkston
Owen Richards from Race Against Time and the sequel, Pursuit of Justice by Willard Boyd Gardner.

This list is too short but space is limited. If you think back on all the characters you’ve known over the years, then think of why you remember them, what must be done will become clear. Think about the character of Wil Anderson. He was the character John Wayne played in the movie The Cowboys. It’s true the actor developed that character and made him what he is, but Wayne had great building blocks to start with, and they were provided by a writer.

Good luck with your writing in the New Year. Woo Hoo! 2008, and you thought you’d never get through 2007.

Believing in 'Christ'mas

by G.Parker

(This is part two.)

While I’d be the first to admit that I love the Christmas season because of the decorations, music and color – I have come to feel many times like the little girl in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas...where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you? Several years ago when this movie first came out, that song would bring me to tears.

It’s hard to hang onto the spirit of Christ during the holiday season when commercialism is blasted at you from every side. I had gotten to the point where I didn’t even want to put a Christmas tree up. What was the point? We didn’t have money to provide the big gifts that the media said our children wanted. We didn’t have the resources to do anything other than a simple celebration. It took some changes in our hearts and a desire to teach our children true values that enabled me to greet the season with joy again.

We have found in our family that service is a big part of it. If we can do a service project together, it brings the season closer to our hearts. If we do simple gifts and not long lists of what we want from each other, it puts no financial strain on things and keeps the spirit going.

You’ll notice that in most all of the popular Christmas movies, none of them mention Christ. It has nothing to do with Christ. It’s all about greed and what we get. Not much about what we give, and if it is, it’s all the mystical joy of the season – not because the spirit of giving comes from Christ our Lord.

Along with the decorations and frivolity of the season, I do love the family get togethers. That is my favorite time of all. We have two parties that we can count on every year. Anything that conflicts with them is a deep frustration and usually gets shoved aside.

There is so much of Christmas that is in our hearts and relates to how we’ve grown up – what the season really means to us. Christmas is in the beautiful trees and the wonderful smells of food and candles. It’s in the singing and ringing of bells.

It’s in the wonder and joy that the Savior came to earth for us. That he was willing to become one of us to save us all. Regardless of if we now believe in Him or not – He loves us. He will always love us.

My hope and prayer this and every holiday season, is that we remember him in all that we do. That every decoration we put up is in HIS honor, that every gift we give is in remembrance of Him, and that every service we perform, we pay Him homage. Let the season be simple, beautiful and bring joy to your heart. Then we will become much like Scrooge in the Christmas Carol – we will have Christmas in our hearts all year round. Not the commercial kind – but the real kind. Where Christ the Lord reigns. Then there really will be Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Goals

By Nichole Giles

At the beginning of last year I made some goals with my family. Several of those goals had to do with writing. I am happy to say that I succeeded in achieving most of those goals.

I finished rough drafts to two books, and submitted several shorter submissions monthly. I didn’t get my short submissions sent for the month of December this year, and so I have fallen short of the two submissions a month goal I started out with. However, I did make my submission goal for every other month of the year, which was pretty good.

I attended three writing conferences and finished a by-mail class through Long Ridge Writer’s group in Connecticut. So, I guess you can say I’ve continued my writing education.

I was able to do all of these things partly because I shared my goals with my family and my writer friends. With their support, I’ve been able to move forward toward achieving the even bigger goal of publication.

The time has come for me to think about what I want to accomplish in 2008. I’ve decided to up the stakes and plan to finish and submit at least two book length manuscripts along with my shorter monthly submissions. I’m going to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and attend at least three writer’s conferences—hopefully more. As for the rest of my goals…well…I still have a few days to work them out.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Year, New Name

by Connie S. Hall

This is the last blog I will write this year. I think this is a good time to reflect back on the old year, and ponder what will happen in 2008.

First, I will keep writing my blog every Wednesday through the coming year. (Unless someone kicks me out of this spot) One thing that will change is I’m using a different name. A while back, I mentioned that I need to do this, but I’ve never done anything to achieve that goal.

For me the best time to set goals is the beginning of a new year. The time has come for me to make this giant leap. I’m not sure how hard it will be – my new pen name will be C. LaRene Hall. I’m still using my name, just a different part of it. Surprisingly, my mother is okay with this. I thought she might be my biggest obstacle because she likes my name.

For those of you who didn’t read the blog several months ago, the reason for the change is when I Google my name there are other authors by the name of Connie Hall. I want my name to be different, not like some other person. All of the recent manuscripts I’ve sent have my new name. I’m still the same person, and my writing is the same. Not published yet, but I’m hoping it is just around the corner.

Also during this coming year, my husband and I are taking a Hawaiian Cruise. We’ve been to Hawaii before, and had a wonderful time, but this time will be with other senior citizens from our area.

Now for the past year – it has been rewarding. I’ve continued to write my weekly blog. In addition, there have been many rejections, as well as winning a few writing contests. I’ve had a wonderful year writing, working, planning stake activities, traveling and taking some of the grandchildren to sleep under a dinosaur, to the play “Little Women”, the last “Harry Potter” movie, the Dinosaur Park, an aquarium, and to breakfast or lunch. I couldn’t ask for a better year.

I hope each of my readers will have a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ribbon Red with Golden Lace

By C.L. Beck

I’d like to wish each of you a merry Christmas. My gift to you is a poem that I felt inspired to write several years ago—and Christmas Eve seemed like the right time to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it, and that you and your loved ones will have a wonderful Christmas.


Ribbon Red with Golden Lace
By C.L. Beck
© 2007

It was just a length of ribbon that was tucked into a space,
In the boughs—among the branches—ribbon red with golden lace.
No gifts beneath the fragrant tree for fate had struck a blow,
But Mama loved her cherub, so she'd made a pretty bow.

The little toddler spied it, and it brought her heart such glee,
That she clapped her hands for joy, "Mama, made a bow for me!"
And the cherub wore the ribbon amid flaxen, golden curls,
Her laughter far more precious then, than silver, gold, or pearls.

The years flew by; the curls grew much darker in their hue,
When angels came to Mama's side, a glimpse of heaven viewed.
Yet life went on and then one day, the curls were streaked with gray,
And still she thought of Mama and that early Christmas Day.

And in honor of the warmest love her Mama gave, so free,
Each year she ties a ribbon on to her own Christmas tree.
It's just a length of ribbon that is tucked into a space,
In the boughs, among the branches, ribbon red with golden lace.

Ribbon red to tie on boxes, ribbon red with golden lace,
Ribbon red—around her heartstrings— hugs a memory in its place.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Woman of the Year

By Keith Fisher

Every year, magazines and other publications announce their pick of woman or man of the year. Even though we may not agree with the choices, the candidate has usually done something noteworthy and deserving of praise.

Since it’s the end of the year, I decided to mimic that tradition and announce my choices of woman and man of the year. I won’t be choosing from a list of people in the news, nor will I choose a real person—I’m choosing characters from the books I’ve read this year. I’m sorry if I didn’t mention your character, or I didn’t get to your book. I hope you agree with my choices.

First, is a woman who really shines in False Pretenses written by Carol Thayne. Here is a woman who is true to her heart and her principles. Never compromising, always caring. She is personified so well in her 1960’s ways that it is hard to believe she isn’t real. Her name is Sunny Day, and she is one of my picks for this list.

Next, is a woman who is so convincing as one of the boys that I was stunned to see her as a beautiful woman. She made her choices long ago, and she’s fiercely loyal to them. She’s the best friend a young man ever had, and the best wife that young man could ever choose. She is Tiffany Gibson and she lives in a novel by Alma Yates called Race to Eden.

Next is a woman who’s one section of internal dialog earned her high marks in the believability scale when she begins her prayer convinced she is right but suddenly realizes she really doesn’t know and humbles herself to ask and listen. It’s the way most of us approach the Lord and it’s written well. Her name is Ruby Soderberg Alder and she lives on the pages of Seven Days for Ruby by Blaine and Brenton Yorgason.

One could not make a list like this without including the practically imperfect woman who admits to her obsession for food, and follows her heart instead of her mind. Of course I am talking about Shaundra Covington in the series by the same name, written by Jeffrey R Savage.

Perhaps most deserving of all to be on this list is the creation of an author who, like all of us, makes mistakes in our writing but I’ve never seen a better character creator. The character she created lives in the hearts of many, and is so convincing with her flaws and ethical standards that the reader is surprised when she shows a slight change of character. She is fiercely loyal to her friends and fights for them, and with them. Always prepared to the point of being obsessive, my best choice is Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.

That’s my list, such as it is. I don’t have the space to list all the noteworthy women I have found on the pages I’ve read this year and some are best forgotten, but almost all should be mentioned, the authors as well. Next week, I’m going to do my list of men and boys, but keep in mind it won’t be easy. There aren’t as many male protagonists in books these days, especially LDS fiction.

Good luck with your writing, and reading, see you next week.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Believing in ‘Christ’mas

(This is a two part series on believing in Christmas)
by G. Parker

It occurred to me the other day that there is a reason for believing in Santa Claus. It started long ago, it is ageless in fact. It began with Cain and Able.

Many of you would scoff at such an idea, but it’s true. It comes down to Satan and his angels, and our choices.

You see, Christmas is not even celebrated on Christ’s birthday. And, while I don’t think that’s a big deal, the way things have come about is.

Saint Nick was a good man who tried to spread good to those around him. Satan took that seed and planted it deep in the carnal mind of man. While December 25th (or thereabouts) was once a pagan holiday to celebrate the winter solstice, the (Catholic?) church decided it would be best to remind men of who was ultimately important, and said it was the time to honor the birth of Christ.

Well, when Satan was faced with that, he immediately set about working to change that aspect. When you think about all the attributes that are given to Santa Claus, you realize that Jesus is very close to the mark. Jesus was the example; Santa Claus is what the modern, carnal man has made him.

Think about it: Jesus is loving, kind and giving. Santa Claus is jolly, kind and gives to all children. Jesus lived long ago, and many have not seen him, while they still believe he existed. Santa doesn’t really exist, yet many believe in him while they haven’t ever seen him. They are thrilled with the idea of someone they can’t see knowing all about them. Santa Claus knows everything we do, whether we are naughty or nice, etc. Jesus knows all that. Really knows it – he know’s all, all the year round. But what makes them very different and distinct is the fact that Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice for us – his life. Santa doesn’t give anything but presents and the thrill of mystery and magic.

It’s the way Satan has replaced Jesus in our lives. Christ has nothing to do with Christmas trees, trimmings and turkey. His birthday has no meaning in singing songs like Frosty the Snowman or the Twelve Days of Christmas (even if it was derived from teaching gospel principles).

What brought this whole thought process to mind is the movie Polar Express and the song Believe, sung by Josh Groban. Polar Express expresses how the young gradually grow away from believing in Santa. When I thought about the words of the song, it hit me.

People need something to believe in. We have an innate desire to believe in God. Since we aren’t all taught about God, and believe there is a greater force than ourselves, we believe in the next best thing.

Children already believe in magic – they recognize that life is magic. Every day living with joy and happiness in a happy home is magic. While many are taught of Jesus Christ, before they can even attribute the glorious miracles of our lives to him, Santa Claus is thrust into the lime light by Satan and commercialism.

Poor children, like the one in the movie, struggle to believe in such magic when they are faced with everyday struggle and lack. While they would like to believe there are such things as Santa Claus and a magic train to the North Pole, they know from the harsh realities of life that such a thing doesn’t exist. What they can discover is Jesus Christ and his eternal love and power to save, regardless of the season or the condition.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Leftover Angels

By Nichole Giles

Dee and Sam were doing a little Christmas shopping in an outlet mall. A light, steady snow fell as they walked from store to store, in search of a small pair of snow pants for a grandson coming to visit. It was two weeks until Christmas, and the couple’s daughter and her family would be flying in from Texas to complete the family circle in the holiday celebrations. They wanted nothing more than to be prepared to enjoy every minute of family time.

Sam held the door for Dee as they bustled into a familiar children’s clothing store. Dee scoured the store for the snow pants, and having no luck turned to leave and head to the next store. As she walked past the cash register, she noticed a small tree filled with paper cutouts all over it. A sign next to it read, “Angel Tree.”

Dee paused, noticing how full the tree was and how many needy children remained “un-picked” from the tree. She asked a clerk, “Why is your angel tree still so full?”

“The economy is slow this year,” replied the young woman, sadly. “A lot of people who might usually help others are feeling the strain themselves.”

Something heavy turned over in Dee’s heart. Taking Sam’s hand, Dee removed three little ornaments from the tree and together they filled the simple requests for jackets, shoes, and a pair of warm pajamas.

When Dee put the items on the counter, she set the ornaments on top of each one as she pulled out her wallet to pay. When she looked up to see the total, she noticed a tear running down the clerk’s cheek. “Why are you crying?” Dee asked.

The girl picked up the ornament Dee had placed on a pair of size three, blue, fleece pajamas and said, “I know this little boy. He’s two-years-old, and his mother is young and single. She tries her best to provide for him, but it’s tough. He is so little, and the only thing he wants for Christmas is a warm pair of pajamas because he doesn’t have any.”

Dee’s hand shook as she slid her wallet back in her purse and stepped out of line. “I’ll be right back,” she whispered through tears she hadn’t even realized were falling. Once more, Dee wandered through the store, picking out another pair of pajamas—size three—a warm outfit, and a small toy. When she returned to the clerk she paid the total and asked that the items be delivered to the little boy and his mother.

As they left the store, Dee glanced back at the tree and the paper ornaments left on it.

“You can’t save the whole world, you know,” Sam said, chuckling.

“I know,” Dee said sadly. “But I can do my best to help a few people.”
“Yes,” Sam replied. “Thanks to you a little boy will have what he needs this Christmas.”

“But is it enough?” Dee wondered aloud. “There were so many angels left on that tree.”

“It has to be,” Sam replied. “We’d go broke if you tried to buy gifts for every child on every tree.”

“You’re right, Sam. All we can do is hope that other people step up and give what they can to those who need it the most.”


It is six days to Christmas. Everywhere I go Angel Trees stand full, waiting for someone to fill the small, simple requests of little angels who will otherwise do without. If you happen upon one of these trees, and if you are able to spare a little time and love, please take an ornament and fill the need of a child. Sam was right, no one person can save the world, but if all of us take a minute to help just one person, maybe there won’t be any leftover angels in our corner. What better gift could we give to our Savior?

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happiest People

By Connie S. Hall

I once heard, “The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.” Usually I consider myself a happy person. Simple things make me happy.

Through the years, I’ve worked for people who had money. Sometimes I thought their happy moments came when they had been on a large shopping spree. They had the best that money could buy. The trouble was, the more they had, the more they wanted. Watching their children as they have grown into adults has been disturbing. I doubt they ever had to make do with whatever came their way. They don’t know what it’s like to have to struggle.

For every person on earth the meaning of happiness varies. I think everyone will agree that in order to achieve a happier life there are certain things you need to do. Once again I’m sure this list will be different for each individual.

Many people would say that happiness comes from work or else participating in some other sort of enjoyable activity. Having positive family relationships and friends you can count on also contributes a great deal to a person’s happiness.

As I write, some of my most rewarding moments are when I’m alone typing up a storm.

Most writers spend time daydreaming. It’s easy for me to close my eyes and put myself in a different location. I find myself recalling times when I have experienced pleasure, and other positive emotions. When negative feelings come my way the therapy I use is to write about them, and my characters in my stories solve the problem, even if I don’t in my own life.

I am aware of the world around me. When walking, or shopping I watch the sights, hear the sounds, and smell the things around me. This hobby keeps my brain active, and makes me look ahead to my goals.

When I think about happiness it make me think of one of my favorite songs from “South Pacific” called, “Happy Talk”. This song reminds me that I should talk about the things I like to do, and I can have a dream, and it can come true.

As the Christmas holiday approaches, I hope you will each take a moment to think about what makes you happy, and maybe bring some joy to those around you. Merry Christmas

Monday, December 17, 2007

Did Santa Give Pencils?

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Have you ever wondered what writers were like as kids? Did they want normal things for Christmas, like hula hoops and toy guns? Or did Santa give them pencils and dictionaries?

As a child, I didn’t know someday I would write. It never crossed my mind to wish to beome an author. Instead, I wanted to be the first nun to dig out of Alcatraz … with a spoon … on a dark, moonless night. It also never crossed my mind that a nun was supposed to be holy and therefore, an unlikely candidate for Alcatraz.

In keeping with my cluelessness about my eventual avocation, I never asked for writers’ accoutrements. No requests for pens or paper from me. Not even a tiny, secret wish for a thesaurus.

One Christmas morning, I zipped down the hall and when I caught sight of my stocking hanging by the fireplace, I stopped short. It stretched much longer than normal and I swear, from the shape, it looked like it had a leg in it. Always one for caution, I looked around to see if an axe murderer lurked in the room and had stuffed a leg in my Christmas sock!

After a few minutes, satisfied no one else was in the room, I crept forward. Was it really a sinewy limb? Uggg, it probably rested on a chocolate-marshmallow Santa and cuddled next to an orange. With trepidation—tinged with morbid excitement—I reached in and pulled out … a baseball bat!

Santa, that jolly ol’ elf, had delivered just what I wanted. Softball was one of my favorite sports.

Years later I sit here writing, laughing at the thought of myself as a nun, digging out of Alcatraz. And giggling at the memory of a young girl who thought there was a leg in her stocking.

No, Santa didn’t give me erasers and pads of paper in preparation for my life as a writer. Instead, he gave me an imagination.

What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Finding the Magic of Christmas

By Keith Fisher

Christmas has always been a magical time. In this day of so much stifling affluence and abject poverty, it sometimes helps to remember Christmases from the past. Did you ever notice that Christmas was always happier and more magical in our childhood than it is today? Or was it?

One of my favorite Christmases was the year a group of us slept in sleeping bags around the Christmas tree on Christmas night. It was during a time before the ease of freeways, and rather than drive home on icy, two lane, roads, my family made a pilgrimage visit. We stayed over at one house or another and Christmas was at my house that year.

I received a cool penlight in my stocking that morning so I spent most of the night turning it off and on, driving everyone crazy. There were board games, great food, and family togetherness. There was also, the snore of my uncle and aunt the next morning as I sneaked past them to retrieve my clothes from my bedroom. "You just don’t go into the bedroom where a married couple are sleeping," mother said. "Especially if they are newlyweds." Now that I am older, I know she was right.

All in all, that Christmas went down as one of the best two-day events of my life.

Years later, when I was in high school, I tried to rekindle that magic by inviting my recently divorced aunt and her family to stay with us for Christmas. This was after Freeways and they only lived thirty miles away.

My mother was surprised they accepted my invitation, and she was nervous to have the houseguests she wasn’t expecting. I was somewhat disappointed—it wasn’t the same—the magic was different.

In my memory, the earlier Christmas was wonderful, magical, and memorable. I ask myself, why can’t Christmas be like that these days? When I talked to my parents about the holidays of my childhood, I discovered they remember things differently. I got a penlight in my stocking because it was cheap and my parents were struggling, and my mother was frazzled over the logistics of taking care of so many guests. My parents don’t talk about the magic I remember.

We often say Christmas is for the kids, and the magic is in the eyes of your children, and that is true, but what if you don’t have kids? As adults, are we doomed to a life of checkout counter battles, shoveling snow, and cursing our fellowman?

Then there was the year my daughter was born. She was two months old at Christmas time. We placed her in an oversized Christmas stocking and took pictures. We joked that Santa had brought her and she was our Christmas present that year.

The year, my wife had emergency surgery to save her life was a magical Christmas too. I spent money we didn’t have on a Christmas tree. She didn’t like it, but I did my best to make Christmas magical for us. I was just grateful she was still around.

You see it’s a matter of perspective. Children don’t obsess with worries like parents do. To a kid, there is magic in almost everything, especially Christmas. Like the year my daughter was born, we can draw magic from special events and circumstances, but I see adults who thoroughly enjoy Christmas. Between the giving, the singing, the good will to men, and worshipping HE, who gave us Christmas, they are convinced it’s the happiest time of the year.

So, I challenge all of us to find the magic. Have the time of your lives—cut loose, and succumb to the joy. It’s tapping you on the shoulder. Just turn around and take a look. If for no other reason, be glad you made it through another year. As for me, I’m trying to look at it through the eyes of the child I once was.

Good luck in your writing, and Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Cookies

by G.Parker




One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the food. The soups, rolls, dinners, deserts, candy making, cookies... Ah yes, the cookies. Gingerbread, chocolate chip, macaroons, meringues, refrigerator cookies, drop cookies and my most favorite, the sugar cookie.

I have been in search of the perfect sugar cookie recipe. You see, all the recipes I’ve got call for cream of tartar, and I’ve decided it gives them this after taste that I really don’t like. Also, I hate the rolling out, cutting, re-rolling and cutting some more part of sugar cookies...so I usually don’t make them. (I’m lazy that way.) This year I couldn’t stand it, and when I found two different recipes for them that didn’t have that aforementioned ingredient, I proceeded to experiment. One recipe I made, the other I forced my daughter to make. (Okay, I didn’t have to force her, she doesn’t mind cooking when she has a recipe to look at – not my brain that she has to pick for ingredients)

The batch I made turned out okay. It was strange because the recipe tells you to make sure they barely brown and I was used to everyone getting them pretty crisp on the edges. (I like mine soft and chewy.) Frosting turned out to be another trick that I haven’t quite mastered yet. First, one is supposed to glaze them and then add other decorations. While these are gorgeous to look at, it’s a little difficult when those little ingredients are not to be found in the house. I just frosted them like normal. Actually, after the first pan came out, I frosted them and they were gone in seconds flat, so I let my youngest take over the frosting job. He was thrilled, needless to say, and his frosting job didn’t look any worse than mine.

As always, this brought to mind a comparison to writing. The magic of the season is much like the joy and anticipation of picking up a really good book you’ve been wanting to read. Or, perhaps more like a book you’ve read often, and can’t wait to treasure the moment again. It’s the sit-down-and-delve-into-the-pages-with-a-hot-cup-of-cocoa-in-front-of-the-fire feeling. It’s wonderful, relaxing and thrilling all at the same time.

So, since my fellow bloggers have already started the recipe list, I’m adding to it. Here is the recipe my daughter is making and the frosting to go with it. Mix up a batch and hand it out, because the best part about making them (next to eating them) is sharing with those around you!

Frosted Ornament Cookies
(from the newspaper)

1 3/4 C Sifted flour
½ tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a piece of waxed paper. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then add the flour mixture in thirds, stirring each time until the dough is smooth.

On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut into the desired cookie shapes and transfer to an untreated baking sheet. For ornaments, make a 1/4" hole in each cookie with the blunt end of a wooden skewer. Bake just until lightly browned on the bottom and pale golden on top – 6 to 8 minutes. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks.

Simple Glaze
2 1/4 C confectioners sugar
2 TB light corn syrup
1 ½ Tb plus 1 tsp milk
food coloring

In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, corn syrup and 1 ½ Tb milk. Add the food coloring, if desired. Spread one cookie with the glaze. If the glaze doesn’t smooth out after 1 minute, dribble in additional milk, ½ tsp at a time until glaze reached desired consistency. Use an offset spatula or table knife to spread the glaze on the cookies. This glaze dries hard and shiny, perfect for coating the top surface of your cookies in preparation for decorating.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Believe

By Nichole Giles

Most adults don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. Nor do they believe in the tooth fairy. And way, way too few grown-ups believe in Santa Claus.

By all accounts, Santa Claus should be hundreds of years old and long past dead from old age. Yet we tell our children all about him, not only allowing them to believe, but encouraging it. When a tooth falls out, we remind our young children to put it under their pillow, just as during the holidays we ask them what Santa will bring and then we take them to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap so they can tell him these things.

Why would smart thinking, full grown adults—who detest lying of any kind—encourage their children to believe in a fictional being? I’ll tell you why. Because secretly, somewhere deep down, we all remember what it’s like to believe in magic. To hope for the impossible and the illogical. We remember what it is to dream.

We want these dreams, this magic, for our kids.

I believe in magic. I believe in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus…and what’s more, I believe in fairies who bring to fruition every day magic. A lot of people absorb all the magic they can during the holidays because for some reason, they believe the wonder has to end on December 25th. Does it sound a little crazy that I’m a full grown adult (I will not mention my age) who never forgets to thank the parking fairy when I get the perfect spot?

The point is, growing up and becoming adults doesn’t have to mean we stop believing in the wonderful and magical things we knew as children. On the contrary. Once we grow up we get to see the other side of the magic, which makes it all the sweeter.

We write because we dream, and we dream because we can, because we were taught by our parents that it’s okay to feel like that. Magic has a place, and a reason. And dreams encourage hope.

Hope. Dreams. Magic. Three of my favorite words. No wonder I’m a writer!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Count The Memories

By Connie S. Hall

As each year comes to an end, I think about all that has happened to my family throughout the last twelve months. These thought make me think of something I heard a long time ago, “Don't count the years-count the memories...........”

Since this year isn’t over yet, I asked myself, “What have I done this year to give my family good memories?” My answer was, “I took the grandchildren out to do something special on their birthday.” Somehow, I’m not sure that is enough.

At this point, I’m thinking a better question is, “What can I do this Christmas to give my loved ones something to remember?”

We always have the traditional get together for all the children and grandchildren. Those in Colorado never come because of weather conditions, but the rest of us look forward to our time together. Because I like things different, each time we meet my mind has to ponder something new and unusual for us to do.

There is the food – we always have food. This year for something out of the ordinary, we will have hot soup and chili with scones. After exchanging gifts there will be hot chocolate, with plenty of marshmallows and cream.

The gifts I’m giving are not uncommon – I always give books, along with one other carefully chosen gift. Besides the presents for everyone to open I also go to the dollar store and purchase something for each person. Then we play a game. We have played many left to right games, but this year we are doing a number game where each person gets to choose what they want. That doesn’t mean they get to keep it because others get to snatch it away when there number comes up. I’m not sure being number one is the best spot. I’m hoping to get number twenty.

None of the above things seem as though I’m doing anything significant that will stick in anyone’s memory bank. I know I’ll think of something, but will it be in time for the big event?

Two things that have come to my mind is –
1. I’ve written several stories about my grandchildren, maybe I should give them a copy of the story. That means I had better get some stories written for the other grandchildren so everyone has one.
2. I have several special keepsakes from my grandparents that maybe I should bring out of storage and share with my children.

The big event is on Saturday, so if anyone thinks of something I can do for my loved ones that they will remember forever, please comment.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Deadlines

By Darvell Hunt

Talent, courage, and inspiration create writers. Perseverance, experience, and deadlines create authors.

I’m somewhere between these two right now. I’m definitely a writer; I know that. I have numerous finished novels to prove it. What I’m working on now is becoming an author—and what I mean by that is becoming published.

Deadlines can help with getting published. One of the best things I learned while writing for a local hometown newspaper was writing on demand. Submissios had to be made by the deadline or they would not appear in the next issue of the paper. It was that simple. You write your story on time or it doesn’t get published.

Deadlines also work with novels and other forms of writing, even if they are self-imposed.

I’m planning to have two novels ready to submit by the end of this week. They need some final edits and then need to be printed out. By Saturday, this will be done.

That’s a deadline. I hope it helps me progress toward my goal of becoming a published novelist.

Monday, December 10, 2007

December Writer’s Block

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Christmas is coming! There are presents to buy and wrap, parties to attend, visiting teaching assignments and gifts to take. Then there are the lights to hang—ooo, watch out! Don’t slip off that roof or there’ll be a hospital visit to make. And if that’s not enough, there are still cookies to bake.

A to-do list like that is enough to wear you out, run you down and give you writer’s block to boot. What can you do about it? Fix a batch of “Writer’s Block Cookies”. Once they’re baked and cooling, sit down at your computer and write. For every five minutes you write, you’ve earned one cookie to eat. If you work for half an hour, you not only get to eat six cookies, but you deserve a cup of hot chocolate as a bonus.

A motivation like cookies and hot chocolate will break any writer’s block. And after you've got your thoughts down, go sit in front of the tree with your well-deserved reward, turn on the Christmas music, eat your cookies and enjoy a peaceful moment in the holiday season.

Writer’s Block Cookies

1 box spice cake mix (dry)
15 oz. can of pumpkin
1- 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips
Nuts (I use pecans)
Raisins (Optional. I don’t like them, but lots of people do.)

Mix cake mix and pumpkin in a large bowl. Add chocolate chips, nuts and raisins. Dough will be slightly sticky. Drop by tablespoon full onto greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Let stand for one minute, and then place on rack to cool. Serves: One person with writer’s block and a couple of neighbors. (About 3 dozen cookies.)

What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fighting the Urge

By Keith Fisher

I made procrastination into an art form this week. I’ve been writing the family newsletter and I got bogged down playing with PhotoShop. When I worked as a typesetter I could knock out a two-page newsletter in a few minutes, but trouble with Word, and Page-maker, added time to the project, all the while, I could see my edits slipping further and further from my grasp.

You may wonder why I’m telling you this . . . well, it’s Friday night, I don’t have my blog written, and that is my excuse.

Although I have been working on a blog this week and I hoped to be finished last Monday, but well, you know what happened. I’ll get back to it this week I promise. Then again, I noticed that Danyelle Ferguson tagged me for another game. Maybe I’d better do that instead.

I saw a sketch on The Carol Burnett Show once, where a writer was trying to plot a story. He kept typing and striking out what he wrote. In the mean time, the characters were behind him acting out what was on the page. It was hilarious—the characters had to stop what they were doing and switch. I don’t remember all the particulars, but the writer killed one of them, then changed his mind in favor of killing someone else. The actor fell dead only to stand up and push the other actor down.

The sketch ended when the writer finally got tired of it, took two aspirins, and walked away. The characters were left to deal with two large, white, tablets crashing down on top of them.

Sometimes things go that way, and there’s no harm in taking a chocolate break, but we need to remember to get back in the chair as soon as possible. It can be hard to continue a story after distractions take us away from it. We can’t give up and drop large, white, tablets on our characters.

Now that I’ve said it, I need to practice what I preach, instead of taking aspirins, I think I’ll toss the other stuff, and get back to my characters. They’ve been beckoning to me since I drifted off into regions far removed. Good luck in your writing, and let me know what it is, that steals time away from your work.

Friday, December 07, 2007

God Bless Us, Every One

by G.Parker

Well, it’s that time of year again. Yep – Christmas. And while everyone is hustling around trying to find the perfect gift and going crazy like the Who’s in Whoville, I have just one suggestion for you: Watch a movie.

That’s right. I think often the cures of this season are found in three things: Family, service and movies. Family is always best, and service with family makes things even sweeter. But after that wonderful service is done, and you’re all home sitting and drinking hot chocolate, it’s the perfect time to watch a movie together.

There is ample selection to choose from. Our family favorites include: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (both versions), Miracle on 34th Street, (I prefer the older version) It’s a Wonderful Life, Muppet Christmas Carol (the old VHS finally died, and we are actually getting it on dvd! And we still skip the long singing part in the middle), Home Alone and Home Alone 2, While You Were Sleeping, The Christmas Story, The Nutcracker (almost any version, but the one with Baryshnikov is best), Joy to the World (the LDS church dvd), Mr. Kruegers Christmas, Scrooged (we love the ghost of Christmas present!), and my all time favorite, A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. That is by far my favorite one. The other versions just don’t have the same feeling.

There are several reasons why this movie is my favorite, but mainly it just brings back the true feeling of Christmas and the knowledge that we haven’t run out of time, we can still change. I hope for it every year. So, along with Tiny Tim, who valiantly stood against the gruffy, stern old Scrooge, I wish you all a very happy holiday season, and say, “God bless us, every one!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dear Santa

By Nichole Giles

Dear Santa,

I know you must be really busy this month, so I thought I’d just drop you a little note to let you know that I’ve been really, really good this year. I’ve done my best to keep my house clean, my errands run, my bills paid. I’ve tried to take my children to get regular checkups at the doctor and dentist, and all of them are vaccinated. I know I’m not the best cook, but at least no one at my house goes hungry—unless I burn the food and then we go out. I try to love my neighbors, even when their dog does his business on my front lawn. I also try to be nice to the dog. And I’ve made sure to thank every editor that has rejected my work.

I’ve really tried hard, Santa. I just want you to know that. Now that you know, I wondered if you could do me a little favor. I’m only asking for one thing this Christmas, and I was hoping I could have it a little bit early. You see, there are so many things to accomplish in a day, and the hours slip by so quickly. I know you have a relationship with Father Time—how else could you visit every person in the entire world in one night? I was wondering if you could arrange for me to have a little more time this month?

There are so many things I’d like to do. I want to finish my book by the end of the year, and still have time to finish my holiday shopping and decorating. I was hoping to take my family to see the play “A Christmas Carol,” and also the lights at Temple Square. I wouldn’t mind going on a date with my husband, to lunch with my mother, and for a night out with my girlfriends. I plan to go to every holiday party we’re invited to, and then throw one myself. I need to make my niece’s wedding cake in time to throw my son a birthday party next Saturday, attend the wedding, and still have time to use the bathroom if the urge arises. Please Santa, I’d love to set aside a day or two for gift wrapping. And I promised my children we’d make candy this year.

Perhaps, if he can spare it, Father Time would be willing to throw in a couple of extra days (if you feel like I deserve it of course) so I can go visit my sister in Texas? I miss her so much during the holidays.

I know I’m asking for a lot, as it’s something the elves can’t make in the shop. And it probably sounds selfish—I try so hard not to be selfish—but I was hoping maybe, just this one month, that you could give me 30 hours in every day. Maybe then I could be super mom and do it all.

Thanks for trying, if you can. I hope you and Mrs. C are planning a wonderful vacation on the 26th, and that you will have a safe trip around the world.

Your faithful believing friend,

Nichole

PS I forgot to tell you that I never stopped believing in you. Really, honestly I didn’t.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

December

By Connie S. Hall

I’m sure for you and for me December is the busiest month of the year. It is the twelfth and last month. Without Christmas to keep us busy, I still think everyone would scurry around trying to finish his or her yearlong goals before the New Year. At least we have the full thirty-one days to try to fit everything in.

I looked up December in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia. There is plenty of information. I looked over the events for the month and my eyes couldn’t believe that there is a day set aside for a fictional holiday, Festivus, on December 23. I wonder where I have been. Every writer should be aware of this holiday. I guess if I were a Seinfeld fan, I would have known about this sooner.

It is a holiday invented by none other than Reader’s Digest. First, as I understand it, there is a dinner served. Immediately following begins the “Airing of Grievances”. It consists of every one telling all the ways everyone has disappointed them over the past year. Then I guess as entertainment, they perform feats of strength.

The dinner part sounds wonderful. I never pass up a good dinner. I certainly don’t want to tell everyone all the little things they have done to disappoint me throughout the year. Such an act would definitely start a few brawls. My achievements with strength are limited so everyone would laugh at me.

As a writer, the only people I would like to express my complaints to are the editors, every single one of them. A writer friend and I were discussing what an impossible task it is to please an editor. They want you to write the same thing, but in a new way. They expect you to know what they want. My objections could go on and on. I certainly have a difficult time knowing how to please them. If I keep writing, maybe someday I’ll figure the entire thing out and write something someone wants. Meanwhile I will continue writing, but I’m not going to celebrate Festivus.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Being different, Yet Remaining the Same

By Darvell Hunt

Publishers say they are looking for the next great idea for a book, yet they are leery about doing something drastically different. What a strange contradiction.

Many of the recent “break out” books have been stories that publishers have gone out on a limb to publish, yet publishers still tend to remain rather conservative in what they will print.

That makes decisions rather difficult for us writers. Do we try to write material like what we see currently out there that is selling well, assuming that there is a market for it, or do we try to create something new and exciting and different, and hope a publisher will take the chance on us?

Today I’m full of questions, but short on answers. What do you think?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Child of the Corn

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

I was lost and running blindly, wanting to scream for help. Instead, I turned to my husband, Russ, and said, “This corn maze we’re in—is it supposed to be fun?”

“Yup,” he said with a grin while jumping a mud puddle wide enough to be Utah Lake.

“Which way should we turn?” I don’t know why I asked him. This is the man who gets lost on his way to the post office. But to be fair, he is good at finding the potato chip aisle in the grocery store. And since both potatoes and corn are vegetables, I hoped he’d know how to get out of the maze.

“I’m not sure,” Russ replied. He looked at the young man next to him and asked, “What do you think?” That young man was the world’s cutest, smartest, fastest soccer player. Coincidentally, he’s also our five-year-old grandson.

“This way,” Cameron said, pointing to the left.

I looked at the turn and wondered if he’d inherited Russ’s sense of direction. “Isn’t this the same circle we’ve been traveling since we stepped into this place?” The path held another puddle with footprints around it—no doubt made by lost souls who were doomed to wander the corn maze until next spring, when the farmer finally tilled the fields.

I looked at Russ and Cameron’s shoes. Mud coated them. We were the doomed wanderers.
Then I heard voices. People! Maybe they knew something. “Is this the way out?” I asked the two women as I pointed in the opposite direction.

“No, that goes in a loop.” They giggled. I’m sure they were just pretending to have fun. As they trotted off one of them called over her shoulder, “Does the path you were on go anywhere?”

Russ said, “Sure. Maybe. Eventually. Or it might go in a circle.”

By now dark clouds were forming. A breeze rustled the leaves. My mind filled with visions from Stephen King’s book, “Children of the Corn”. And I’d never even read that novel.

Pollen drifted through the air, along with the scent of something yucky—mildew. I could feel my lungs tightening. No doubt the sadistic farmer who created this labyrinth would find me here next spring, lying at the base of the moldy, tattered stalks, gasping my last breath.

Suddenly, I heard voices again. For a moment, I wondered if angels were coming to take me to my rest.

Two teenagers in dark shirts and jeans walked past. A sadistic laugh escaped from my lips and I called out, “You’re lost too, aren’t you?”

Their voices floated back on the wind as they disappeared around the turn. “No, we work here.”

I turned to Russ. “They work here?”

“Yes, didn’t you see that their shirts said, ‘Corn Cops’?”

I grabbed Russ by the collar—not an easy task since he’s taller than I. “They know how to get out of this forsaken place. And they’ve just vanished through the corn! Quick, run after them and get directions.”

I should have known better. No man will ever ask for directions. Not even one who’s lost in a muddy cornfield with a category five hurricane ready to break overhead.

Fortunately, another couple wandered toward us. I managed to croak through my mildew-tightened voice, “Do you know how to get out?”

“Take the next two turns to the left,” they said, hurrying past. I’m sure my glazed eyes and panic-stricken expression had nothing to do with their haste.

Thunderclouds blocked the sun and the wind blew harder. Running the final distance, I leapt out of the maze. Russ and Cameron followed close behind, exultant at finishing without personally asking for directions.

“How long were we in there?” I said, gasping for breath.

Russ looked at his watch. “Ooo, a long time! All of 15 minutes.” Then he grinned, “If you’d thought to ask those two Corn Cops for directions, we’d have been out a lot sooner.”

If there’d been a corncob in my hand, I’d have chucked it at him. But I didn’t have one—and there was no way I was going back into that maize-of-doom to get one.

What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Reeling In the Years

By Keith Fisher

I know, I know, I'm late posting this. It's Sunday and in my haste to get it written I probably messed it up. please let me know where my errors are.

I have a birthday coming up and it is one of the big milestones. You could change the spelling and say it’s a millstone . . . hanging around my neck . . . as someone drops me into the water . . . from off the pier.

All joking aside, we all have moments when we pause to assess our lives and discover, with horror, that we aren’t even close to realizing our goals. We look back on all the mistakes we’ve made, the wrong turns we took, and the missed opportunities. So we ask ourselves if we have done everything we could do in order to make our dreams come true.

However, don’t feel sorry for me, or for your self. When I begin to feel like there isn’t enough life left to fulfill my dreams, I remember what it took to get where I am and all the wonderful blessings along the way. There's a great line in a John Lennon Song, he wrote, Life is what happens, when were making other plans.

So when you stumble and fall, when you get a rejection letter and you feel you cannot type another word, think of the successes you’ve had in your life. The first time your children cleaned their room, the day they came home with a good report card, and the way God has taken care of you, especially during those lean years.

Keep writing! Never give up your keyboard until the day someone pries your cold dead fingers from off the keys. Then, when our books get published and we see someone reading it in an airport or crowded checkout line, we can remember the journey. I just hope it happens before my next birthday. Like white lines on the freeway at seventy miles per hour, they’re passing by. To quote another seventies song, Are you reeling in the years? Stowing away the time?

Good luck in your writing and watch out for over-the-hill writers. It's hard to keep from racing after you reach the summit. Try and help them slow down a bit and remember, I won't be one of them . . . I refuse . . . I'm going turn around and go back . . .

Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm A Winner!

by G.Parker



Well, it's official. I even have a bright yellow certificate to prove it -- I'm a winner! Of course anyone can be the winner in this particular contest, and being a winner doesn't necessarily mean much to anyone else, but I still love the feeling. My son came and looked over my shoulder as I was downloading my certificate and asked what I won. I pointed to the screen and told him I'd gotten the certificate. He said "No money?"

NaNoWriMo is not about money, fame, or even competition. It's all about getting the words out of your brain and onto the paper. We don't get much for our final product in a real world sort of way, but we do get self esteem, a sense of accomplishment and a big sigh of relief from our family members. (My husband has been looking forward to this day since November 1.)

My official count for the records is 50,565 words. I hit that at 2:30 this afternoon. Last year I was typing way into the night and downloading my final count at 11:30 pm. Talk about getting it in under the wire... I'm just excited that I got it done ahead of the deadline. Thrilled that I have words left to type, story left to get out and the excitement still going. This was a banner year for me, in that I only hit a slow spot once in the whole month. Last year I was bored with it because I knew the story ahead of time, and there wasn't much excitement to it. This year involved guns, the FBI and upchucking...lol. (It helps to have children when you write, they give you so much inspiration!)

If you want to read part of the unfinished story, check out my website where I'll post a chapter of it. I had lots of fun this year, and I am already looking forward to next year -- although I'm glad to have the month of December to relax. My nerves are fried!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Simple Thing

By Nichole Giles

Retailers call it Black Friday. Walmart employees call it Blitz. Husbands have been known to refer to it as doomsday, knowing that by three AM their quiet, usually docile wives will turn into efficient shopping machines who will fight with elbows and fists—and sometimes merchandise—for the ten dollar Cabbage Patch Dolls and the five dollar DVD’s. The rest of the human world knows it as the day after Thanksgiving.

It’s crazy. We spend Thanksgiving Day feasting, visiting family members, and remembering all the many things for which we should be thankful. But as soon as the pie is cut, a lot of people scour the newspaper ads for bargains, map out the most efficient route from store to store, and count their pennies to know exactly how important it is for them to acquire that specific item for that specific blowout price.

The problem is, everyone willing to brave the crowds on this the blackest of days, has a good reason for being where they are. I seriously doubt the people camping out at Walmart at 2:30 AM are guarding their spot by the specialty skateboards because they have an abundance of money. On the contrary, these are the people for whom the special deals matter so much that they are willing to forego sleep in order to fight to afford a special gift to put under the tree for their child.

Fight they will, and fight they do.

Sadly, there are many retailers who look forward to such fights. They dare to advertise a product at a specific price but only supply the crowd they’ve drawn with a handful of that item. When this happens (and it happens frequently) shoppers are often encouraged to “find a way in” and grab an item out of the arms of someone else. Ethics are thrown out the window as people who are usually polite resort to stealing things out of the shopping carts of others and throwing merchandise over the bobbing heads of a crowd.

Can you tell I’ve been there and done that? In the process I’ve seen a lot of things. Young people trampled, children being crushed as a crowd rushes a finally open door, men fighting with fists over $5 Barbie cars…. The chaos is almost enough to ruin Christmas entirely. What are the words to the song?

“And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on Earth, good will to men.”

Last Friday, I waited my turn, shaking my head in sadness and thinking, “Look what the world has done to this holiday. We’ve ruined Christmas.” But then I noticed something else, something I hadn’t noticed before.


As they stood waiting, people were chatting with each other, discussing the children who would receive the gifts. Some were actually even friendly. And when the time for grabbing came, some people (not all, that would be too much to hope for) were polite enough to ‘grab’ an item for the strangers with whom they’d spent the last few hours waiting.

It’s just a simple thing, and yet those small acts of kindness were enough to redeem mankind and help me find a little bit of the Christmas spirit I thought I’d lost. That spirit put a smile in my mood and left me hoping that sometime this season I might be able to do something nice for someone else.


After all, it is in the small and simple things that we find our greatest joy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Take One Step At A Time

By Connie S. Hall

I recently attended the Association for Mormon Letters Writer’s Conference. Dave Wolverton (Farland) was the keynote speaker and his topic was, “A Leap into the Void”.

Dave reminded us that we all have something important to write, and it becomes easier when we write about something dear to us.

He spoke about writing with courage. His talk made me realize that sometimes I do fear having someone read what I have written. It’s easy to enter a contest because they don’t know who I am. I was encouraged as he reminded us that we develop our courage as a writer a little bit at a time.

His best advice was that we should not worry about what people think of our writing. If we are afraid of what we are doing, we are going to find it difficult to write. Nothing will destroy our writing as much as fear.

I guess I’m supposed to say that I will write with courage and not be afraid. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy? However, I can take it one-step at a time, and I’m sure you can too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stuffing the Turkey

By C.L. Beck
© 2007


I ate and ate until I thought
My buttons all would pop.
I gobbled up the turkey
Not considering when to stop.

I scarfed down mashed potatoes,
With gravy, yams and rolls,
And wondered why, when I looked down,
I couldn’t see my toes.

I polished off the stuffing
And a cranberry or two,
Then noticed that my stomach felt
Like it had caught the flu.

It seemed like maybe time to quit
Before I up and died—
But that was just before someone
Brought out the pumpkin pies.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Wit & Wisdom of a Wonderful Character

By Keith Fisher

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you remembered to give thanks to God for all his tender mercies. Myself, I got some writing and editing done. For which, I am truly grateful.

Have you noticed, when writing a book, an opinionated author must try to keep his/her opinions to themselves? If not, the author could be guilty of the cardinal sin of losing point of view and we all know what can happen if we do that.

But have you also noticed, if we put those opinions in the mouth of a sympathetic character, it can be said, and sometimes accepted? This can, however, be a two-edge sword that could hurt us on the back swing. But, you say, it was the character that said it not the author right?

I realized the implications when I read something that Dumbledore said in book two of Harry Potter and I wanted to write it down. Do I give Albus Dumbledore credit or do I give credit to JK Rowling? The character isn’t real, right? Or is he?

Without getting into the whole Stranger than Fiction mania, Keep in mind that in the end, it was JK Rowling who said it. Therefore, if what was said was something embarrasing . . . ah, there’s the rub as Hamlet said in his/Shakespeare’s soliloquy.

What was the quote? Dumbledore/Rowling said, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Also, I discovered a section of self-dialog that I wanted to show you. In the book, Seven Days for Ruby by the Yorgason Brothers Ruby is worried about her friend. She prays for him and makes a discovery,
"Dear God in heaven," she prayed in desperation, "I’ve got troubles, real troubles, and I don’t know where to turn. Johnny is innocent, I feel he is, I know he . . .
"Lord, is Johnny innocent?"

I absolutely love this passage. Not only does it show the way we sometimes go about our lives but it’s well written. Now there are flaws in the story, of course there are. None of us are perfect and neither is what we write, but we can try, submitting our best work and maybe someday one of our characters will be quoted, but be careful. Keep a muzzle on your character’s opinions. Like children, they could have a tendency to embarrass.

Good luck with your writing, keep trying—believe you can be published—you can touch lives.

Week Three

by G.Parker

Well, here we sit at week three in the NaNoWriMo. While I'm not finished or that far from finishing, I am pretty much still on schedule. I'm at 36,500 words, so I still need to type about 2,000 or more a day to keep to the total.

The story is developing, the characters are evolving (sort of) and I just have to keep writing.

It's come to the perserverance stage. We all get to this stage, where you have to just keep writing on, even when you don't feel like what you're writing has any meat to it.

So, next week is the last day of November, and the last day of NaNo, so we'll see if I make it. Good luck to everyone.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful for Hope

By Nichole Giles

Have you ever noticed how people get so excited for Christmas that they inadvertently forget to celebrate Thanksgiving? How could anyone forget that most wonderful of meals? How could anyone gloss over a giant turkey, mountains of mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, homemade rolls, and pies that cover more counter space than any one kitchen would allow?

Well, we don’t. We eat. Of course we eat. We watch football, plan for black Friday shopping, and gorge ourselves until we can’t keep our eyes open. Then we fall asleep on a handy surface somewhere until we wake up and stuff ourselves some more.

For most families, this is the holiday tradition. At least, it's a good description of how my Thanksgiving Day usually works. And to tell the truth, it’s a good tradition. It’s familiar and fun. But there is one tradition that started when I was 12 years old. Unfortunately, this is a tradition I never shared with my family. I chose to share this particular tradition with a very special close friend.

We sat alone at a card table in the garage at my Grandparents house during one warm Arizona Thanksgiving Day. Our plates were loaded with all the traditional fixin’s—I’m sure of that, since my grandma would never have it any other way—even though I don’t remember a thing about the food that day.

Although it wasn’t something we’d done with either of our families, we took a moment of time to ponder the year that had passed. We picked out the things we were grateful for, the life lessons we’d learned, and then we made goals for how we could make use of these lessons in order to be better people during the upcoming year.

I know, it sounds more like a New Year’s tradition than Thanksgiving. But when you really think about it, they go hand in hand. Being thankful for something should give you a reason to make more goals.

Anyway, since today is Thanksgiving you can bet I’m hard at work making a feast for 30 + people. But I’m not complaining. Actually, since we’re all friends, I thought maybe I’d share with my readers a few of the things I am thankful for. Because it’s a holiday, I’ll do my best to keep it short. (But since I’m a writer that is difficult to guarantee.)

I am thankful for my friends. Without them, my life would be boring and incomplete. This year, I’d like to try to remember to thank them for their friendship and let them know how much better my life is because they are in it.

I am thankful for my talents. Eveyone has talents, but each of us is different. Individual. This year, I will continue to hone my skills, to study, and to perservere.

I am thankful for my family. You know, that should be a given, but I realize that some people don’t have a family with whom to celebrate. They are my breathing air, my life blood, and I could not survive this life without them.

I could write pages and pages of the things I’m thankful for, but I won’t bore you with all of them. Just one more, then you can go back to eating turkey and pie.

I am thankful for hope. In so many aspects of life, hope is the thing that gives us meaning. Hope is the reason writers keep submitting, even when they’ve been rejected over and over and over again. When life gets tough, it is the thing that keeps us moving forward minute after minute, hour after hour, and day after day until that thing we continually pray for becomes ours. Hope is the heart of every soldier who fights to make a difference, the breath of every child lying in a hospital and waiting for a cure, the wings on which angels deliver a baby to a couple that has struggled to conceive.

Hope is the Christmas wish of a destitute child, the prayers of a single mother struggling to pay her grocery bill, and the loving arms of a long lost friend, showing up at the moment when they are needed most. Hope is the thing that keeps us going when we think we have nothing else to lose.

I hope that this year I can finish and submit a publishable novel. I hope that the people who are suffering through difficult trials will keep moving forward until they find themselves in the light of happiness. I hope our soldiers can make a difference, that sick children might be given a second chance at life, and that everyone in the world can find some reason to have hope.

Hope for a chance to make a better future.


Happy Thanksgiving from the LDS Writers Blogck!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Holiday

By Connie S. Hall

After I had written my blog, one of the speakers in sacrament meeting on Sunday spoke about GRATITUDE. The scripture quoted was D&C 59:7 – Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.

She told us that on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah suggested we should all keep a gratitude journal, and we should list five things we are thankful for each day. That sounds like something I need to start doing. However, for now I’m going to continue with the blog I originally wrote and save this gratitude journal for another day.

I thought since it was Thanksgiving tomorrow I would write about gratitude. I never imagined it to be such a long subject. The list of things I am grateful for would fill several pages. Since no one wants to read anything that lengthy, I will condense it into one page.

There are the usual religious items – a loving Father in Heaven, a brother who died for my sins, church, prophets, scriptures, and many more.

Next is the family – husband, parents, children, grandchildren, and siblings. At this time of year, I reflect upon my ancestors who came to this continent on the Mayflower. I also go back to the religious aspect and recall those pioneer relatives who crossed the desolate wilderness to come to Utah so they could worship, as they desired. Again, if I named all of them this blog would be lengthy.

When I think of family, my friends are close behind. Some are as dear to me as a sister is. Others I haven’t seen for years. The multitude of people I know and call friends would take quite some time to list.

There is the world – sky, sun, moon, stars, mountains, rivers, animals, birds, plants, and trees. I knew this list would be extensive.

I’m thankful for my good health, that I have eyes, ears, mouth, arms, and legs. I appreciate my home, the food I eat, and all the earthly things I enjoy. I like the job I go to five days a week and church callings.

One thing precious to me is the talents I have. My Father in Heaven must love me since he gave me gifts to develop that make me feel good about myself.

I’m pleased to have people read our groups blog. If you didn’t read what we write, we wouldn’t have this great opportunity to express ourselves.

I’m glad I didn’t just list five things I’m thankful for, like Oprah suggested, because there are many things to thank our kind Father in Heaven for on this Thanksgiving Day. Have a happy holiday as you also count your blessings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Wife Canceled My Vote

By Darvell Hunt

In our recent election, my wife’s vote cancelled my vote, but I’m still glad we both were able to express our opposing views.

If you’re in Utah, you probably know about our school voucher program. If you’re not, well, the legislature passed a law this year to allow state voucher checks to be paid to parents who enroll their kids in private schools. Many residents didn’t like the idea and forced the issue onto the ballot.

I won’t say how my wife and I voted, but we didn’t come to the same conclusion, so basically our votes cancelled each other out. And that’s fine. We each did what we thought was right, but it brought up an interesting thought.

Not everybody is going to like everything we write. No matter what we write about, nor how we deal with any given topic, somebody is going to think differently—and that’s okay. If you want to sell your writing, though, you have to make sure enough people like what you are writing to make it marketable. You certainly don’t have to sell your material to everybody, but if you do plan to sell it, you should be thinking about who may want to read (a.k.a. buy) your material before you write it.

If you’re writing for yourself, do it, enjoy it, and don’t care about what other people think. If, however, you are writing to sell, you need to think about the marketplace for which you are planning to write.

After all, writing is an art, but publishing is a business.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Who Do I Want at My Thanksgiving Table?

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

On October 24, 2007, one of our bloggers, Connie Hall, posted a blog titled, “Who Do I Want at My Dinner Table?” If you didn’t get a chance to read it before, you can find her thoughts in the archives at http://ldswritersblogck.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html .

My interest was piqued by what she said, and I tucked the topic into the back of my mind as a subject for a blog of my own. Normally not the serious type, I try to snatch—no, I did not say “steal”—good ideas as presented by deep thinkers. And this seemed like a topic to save for a holiday—a time when even the most jovial blogger is expected to say something profound.

If those aren’t reasons enough for abandoning jocularity—at least for the moment—there’s one more. I’ve broken my elbow in a weird bicycle accident. No doubt I’ll write about it at some point in the future. For the present, though, it seems my funny bone must have been bruised as well because most of the words coming out of my mouth for the past two weeks have been, “Ooo, ouch.”

But I digress—on to the five men I’d be like to seat at my Thanksgiving table.

George Washington: I’d take the opportunity to thank him for being a man of courage, one who stood by his beliefs and founded a fledgling country that, in my opinion, is the best on the face of the earth.

Abraham Lincoln: I’d express gratitude to him for his honesty, loyalty to the Union, and kindness and compassion. I’d like to have the chance to tell him how much I appreciated him keeping our nation intact.

Joseph Smith: Few people have endured the abuse, torment and torture that he did and maintained their integrity. I’d like the chance to—in typical LDS fashion—shake his hand and thank him for being an instrument in the Lord’s hands and in restoring the fullness of the gospel to the earth.

C.S. Lewis: I’d like to chat with the man whose books inspired me long before they became popular movies. I’d like to thank him for a land called Narnia, a lion named Aslan and for the way in which they touched my heart.

Jimmy Stewart: There are few actors that I admire, but he’s one. I should have sent him a note while he was alive to express my appreciation for his talent and the wonderful ways in which he used it. But, I didn’t and I would love one last opportunity to thank him for making me laugh in, Harvey, making me cheer in, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and making me cry in, Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you. May you have a multitude of things for which you’re grateful!


What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Deck the Halls, Not the Shoppers

By Keith Fisher

I think it gets worse every year. This year, I noticed two radio stations started playing Christmas music on November first. Not that I hate Christmas music, but it gets a little old by December Twenty-fifth, especially if the radio station plays the same twelve songs day-in and day-out.

I know the holidays haven’t really started yet, but I got irritated at the store the other day. The source of my displeasure, although mild, will only get worse by the time New Years rolls around.
It’s always a surprise when the season that should promote goodwill turns normally kind people into ruthless, ungrateful, and selfish children. The long faces and angry looks are enough to turn anyone’s heart away from the spirit of giving.

While shopping, I noticed no matter how hard I tried to be courteous, I was met by people who acted like they were somehow entitled, perhaps by theological decree, to be first in line and they somehow deserved the right-of-away more than I did.

I was taught to say pardon me when I cross someone’s path, and to recognize the kindness of others who let me pass first. On another occasion, I was in Deseret Book trying to see the bottom shelf without bending over and a man stepped in front of me to look at the racks I was searching. I didn’t count minutes, but he stood there for a long time. If you know me, you can imagine some of the things that crossed my mind.

Maybe I’m just oversensitive, but judging by last Christmas, I know it can only get worse.

Perhaps this year, we could all pray for strength to look past the rudeness and try to see what God sees in the man who steals our parking place, or the harried woman that butts in line at the grocery store. I know God loves them as much as me and I can use all the help I can get to remember that.

Now for a note about writing—awhile ago, C.L. beck challenged Darvell and me to provide a list of top ten kissable women characters. I’ve thought about it and I think I'll pass. Keep in mind that married men, if they know what’s good for them, will avoid thinking about other women.

Because I want to remain married, I decided to not take the challenge, but I want to point out how real some characters seem to be. An author who came to know them on an intimate basis has painstakingly developed those characters we remember best.

My advice to all of us would be to take the time to develop your characters. If you can put your character into a completely different type of story and the character is still real, you know you have succeeded.

Good luck with your writing, and good luck with your shopping. I hope to see you sane on January second.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why Does That Never Happen to Me?

by G.Parker

Ever see the movie National Treasure? Remember the scene where they're headed down under the church and Nicholas Cage kisses the girl while one of the bad guys (soon to die, poor man) looks on and asks "Why does that never happen to me?" That scene just popped in my mind while I contemplated today's blog. It comes in reference to how we see things being affected by ONE person. Yes -- this is going to turn a little political, so hopefully this doesn't offend anyone.

My blogs have been about NaNoWriMo this month. Today's was going to be simply another update, when a situation came up on my forum list. Now, it's not that I'm a big wig over there, anyone can create a list at the Nano site. I decided to do one because I did it last year and it was fun to see the responses. You can find my list, Clean Romance, here.

Now, in the first couple of weeks (I started the list in September, I think) there was nothing but positive comments. Writers who weren't sure if their works fit in that genre or not, those who thought it was a good idea, etc. Then I got one person who was offended by the idea that it meant what she wrote was 'dirty'. Good grief! Then, yesterday there was another comment that she didn't like 'clean romance' because it inferred that what she did was 'dirty.' (there's that word again...)

It just makes me shake my head. I wrote back to the effect: you know -- this list was only made for the purpose of exploring romance without sex. It was not meant to offend anyone. There are lots of other lists available on the forum for your use. Feel free to use them. (or something like that.)

It all comes back to how people feel everything should fit or not offend ANYONE. Regardless that it's personal choice, or if the facilities are there for that person to create whatever thing they choose that fits them. They have to take something someone else does and change it to fit them. They have to take something that's good and wholesome and alter it to fit their perception or their lifestyle. It's like people moving to Utah because they want the atmosphere, and then complaining because they can't buy alcohol at any time of day. It's all a matter of choice.

NaNoWriMo is about choice as well. It's the choice to look at your heart, your desires and see if you have what it takes to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Despite what life tosses at you, despite the fact that perhaps you haven't written a word in your whole life, or perhaps that you haven't finished anything -- this is that chance. For some it's a kick in the pants that they've needed to get that novel finished. For others, it's a way to get a habit set again, so that when Nano is over, they will continue writing every day.

It has been an eye opener to me this year as to how tight things have been, trying to get my word counts in and still getting everything else accomplished. Today I'm up to 29380. It's still just a tad behind, but I'm happy with it. I'm pleased with where my writing is going -- although I still haven't come up with a title.

But anyway the point of my opening paragraph, is that should this be the other way around; me complaining that someone said something offensive on someone else's list, I would be labeled 'bigoted' or 'conservative' or a 'religious fanatic,' just to name a few. What I thought wouldn't be as important because it was something good. It seems we that have good values and desire good things, cannot affect as quickly or as loudly as those who are out to take down that which is good. I don't think I'm wording it right, but hopefully you get the idea.

I'm hoping that those of you who read our blog are open minded, intelligent souls who understand the creative process and the desire we have to produce good for the world. I hope one of you are able to make a change for good. Somebody has to since my voice doesn't seem to get heard.

Unless it comes out in my writing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The More the Merrier

By Nichole Giles

“What a wonderful idea,” my mother exclaimed. She even dotted her sentence with a period, using her soup spoon and flicking a drop of broccoli cheese goo on my sleeve. “Thanksgiving at your house would be so nice.”

We sat across from each other at a bistro table in an out-of-the-way café. She with her blue-tooth in her ear and her phone constantly buzzing, and me trying to gently, but firmly convince her that five Thanksgiving dinners was too much for anyone to eat.

“Well,” I replied, rubbing my soiled sleeve with a napkin. “It gets tough dividing our time between two sets of parents, grandparents, and in-laws every holiday. I thought it would be nice if I had my brothers and sisters over, and both sets of parents as well.”

“And I agree,” she said. “I just want to do whatever is easier on my kids.”

“I’m glad you feel that way,” I said. I gulped down a mouthful of pop knowing that the worst part of this conversation was next. “Because with that same thing in mind, I hope Grandma and Grandpa will understand that we won’t be making it to their dinner this year.”

My mother blinked. “Well, of course not,” she said acting surprised. “Why would you go to the trouble of making a big dinner at your house and then go to theirs as well?”

I sighed in relief. “I wouldn’t,” I said, rushing on. “I love our extended family, but there are just so many of us, and our own immediate family is getting so large that we almost need to book the cultural hall for Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Yes,” she said, nodding. “There are a lot of us. I completely understand.”

We went on to discuss the menu, and what each family member should contribute. I would do the turkey, stuffing, and potatoes. There was discussion of yams, salads, hors d’oeuvres, and it isn’t Thanksgiving in our family without at least twenty pies.

The idea of creating so much food didn’t stress me out nearly as much as the idea of spending our day going from dinner to dinner all over two counties. I walked out of the charming café with a spring in my step knowing that I had just performed a small personal miracle by convincing my mother that our holiday traditions might be better with a little bit of change.

As we walked through the parking lot, my mother stopped in thought. “You know, Honey, I’d be happy to let Grandma and Grandpa know about the change of plan, but I think the invitation would be so much better received coming from you.”

Invitation?

“And,” she continued, “since your aunt and uncle from Las Vegas will be in town that week, we’ll need to invite them and their children as well. You’ll need to call them.”

What?

“I’m so glad you’re such a gracious hostess that you’d volunteer yourself to host Thanksgiving this year. Do you have everyone’s phone number? You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by leaving them out do you?”

“No, Mom,” I said slowly. “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” Am I missing something here?

“I know you don’t. And it won’t hurt us to invite three or four more people. Oh, I’m so excited this is going to be great fun. Love you!” Turning away from what could only have been stunned shock on my face, my mother slid into the driver’s side of her car and revved the engine. She answered her ringing phone and wiggled her fingers at me as she pulled around the parking lot, barely missing the curb as she went.

“How did that happen?” I wondered to myself. Not only had I just managed to get steamrolled into hosting an extended family party, which was sure to be much larger than four extra people, but also somehow, my mother had turned it into my idea. I leaned on the hood of my car trying to piece the conversation together in my head.

My mother had just caught me in a classic word trap, and I hadn’t even seen it coming. Then, with a shrug, I got in my car and turned down the stereo—which was currently on deafening loud volume—before fishing my cell phone out of my purse. “Hi honey,” I said to my husband. “Looks like we’re going to be needing to borrow some banquet tables for Thanksgiving. My mother just invited everybody.”

“You mean EVERYBODY?” he asked.

“EVERYBODY,” I said.

“Ah,” he said, “Okay.” And I could practically hear the ‘I told you so’ he was thinking as he laughingly suggested, “Do you think we’ll need to book the cultural hall?”

“Why not?” I replied. “The more the merrier, right?”