Thursday, April 30, 2009

JoAnn Arnold's Journey of the Promise

I bought two books by JoAnn Arnold at the American Night Writer's Conference in March. This is the first one I read. I generally like fairytales or books with lots of joy--or kissing (oops! did I confess that online???)--and always, always happy endings. This book, Journey of the Promise has a satisfying end, and although it didn't meet the other criteria, it was still well worth the read, and I recommend it.

Reading Journey of the Promise by JoAnn Arnold is a life-changing experience, and I almost don’t know how to write about it. It’s an LDS thriller with a positive message. If only all of the thousands of women married to abusive and controlling spouses could read this book and realize that they have a choice. Of course 99.9% of the women out there being abused don’t have the exceptional resources and life supports that Callie McAllister had, however, we all have our own journey, and this novel supports the idea that if you don’t like your circumstances, there is a way out.

Callie McAllister finds she is married to Anthony Bellani—a man with a family history of mental illness. Arnold portrays Anthony and his psychotic behavior with chilling accuracy as he methodically isolates Callie from all of her friends and most of her family before she even realizes there’s something wrong with her fairytale marriage.

If you have a queasy stomach toward physical violence, don’t worry, this isn't that type of book. The main theme of this novel is of Callie’s journey to fulfill a promise made to hundreds of friends in the pre-existence. As she prepares herself toward the day when she will leave her husband, never quite knowing what the plan is, but trusting in the Lord to provide a way—she also finds herself making new friends and uncovering the names of hundreds of slaves who are beyond the veil and wanting their work done for them. It’s amazing how the author intertwines Callie’s two journeys into one, giving little snippets of thought from the other characters along the way to enlighten us and add a little spice to the story.

There are plenty of tense moments with attempted kidnappings, Anthony’s high-tech manhunt for his wife, Callie—her escape into a slavery cave long forgotten by the Bellani family, and the desire for Callie to discover the identity of a little boy whose dried blood is on a pillow in a secret room, and whose bones lay hidden deep within the cave. However, the story has a happy ending for everyone except, of course, Anthony, and his poor parents, who, despite the blinders they wear in regards to their son’s behavior, are truly good people.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kudos to Robison Wells, Kerry Blair, and all of the LDStorymaker Authors

What a wonderful weekend! Two days of instruction from published and enthusiastic authors was a building and fulfilling experience. I entered, Fairy Dust, my current pre-novel in the LDStorymaker’s first chapter contest and won second place in the sci-fi /fantasy division. Having your work validated by published authors is also building and fulfilling.

I was able to get to know Aimee Morgan, the ANWA president, and Valerie Ipson better, as we drove to Provo and back together. I was proud of fellow ANWA members, Marsha Ward, Joyce DiPastena, and Sarah Eden—they did excellent jobs in presenting their knowledge to the masses of hopeful authors in attendance. And I felt especially honored to be present when Kerry Blair received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the writing world and the LDS fiction market. She is an inspiration to all who know her—and is a beautiful person who makes instant friends of everyone she meets.

So, needless to say, I’m anxious to put into action all of the things I learned, and to make full use of my prize. What prize, you ask? As a second place winner, I received a “Get out of the Slush Pile Free” card that is good at Deseret Book, Covenant, or Cedar Fort. I also received a pack of pens, a steno pad, The Believer by Stephanie Black, and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell—all very good prizes and I’m eager to make use of them all, but as you can imagine, it’s the “Get out of the Slush Pile Free” card that I’m especially excited to use.

A hearty congratulations goes to all of the category winners of the Whitney--my heartfelt appreciation to all of the authors who received nominations and even those of you who worked hard, got your novel published, but didn’t get nominated--for sticking it out, for braving the storm, and for listening to your heart and following your dream. You are all inspirations to those of us who are still wondering if our dreams will come true.

I was sad to hear that Robison Wells was stepping down as Whitney Awards President. Congratulations to him for his new college degree--MBA, and my good wishes to him. He was one of the first authors to inspire my writing style—I should have gone up and introduced myself, but I was just as happy to see him there and take his picture from across the room. After all, I’m too old to be a screaming, swooning fan.

This is Robison Wells.

I wasn't afraid to ask Kerry Blair for a picture. From the left, Aimee Morgan, Tina Scott, Kerry Blair, Valerie Ipson.

Me with my award.

Me, Marsha Ward, Valerie Ipson.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Memories of Denmark, parallels on life

As summer draws near, I’ve been thinking of Denmark. It’s funny about that. My dad was Danish and went to Denmark on his mission. He learned how to speak Danish and retained that knowledge for the rest of his life. I wish he would have taught me, although I never gave it much thought as a kid. He was probably waiting anxiously for me to express an interest, and I was too busy climbing trees.

My sister, Shirley and I had the privilege of going to Denmark twice (two summers in a row). We met some really nice people there and immersed ourselves in the culture of our ancestors. We went on the cheep, reserving bed and breakfast rooms, buying Eurail passes, and basically planning our own tours.

It was hectic and crazy and scary going to a country where we didn’t speak the language, but the Danes were friendly, and if they didn’t speak English, they’d ask around until they found someone who could help us. We got lost more than once, and sometimes our accommodations were less than we had hoped. Occasionally, we discovered that there was no easy way to get where we wanted to go--and more than once, it rained hard enough to change our plans.

We discovered on both trips that we weren’t as prepared as we thought for the rainy and cold weather. None of it mattered because we had agreed ahead of time that it wouldn’t. What ever happened was all part of the adventure.

I think life is like that. We get so many things that we aren’t prepared for. It rains on us; we get lost. Life gets hectic and crazy, and if we don’t decide ahead of time, we could let ourselves get pretty frustrated. But, if we remember that the good and the bad and the detours are all just a part of the adventure called life, it’s easier to relax and enjoy it.

This is our first b&b. We got there around 10pm sans luggage. It's a half hour bus ride from Odense, the woman didn't live there, and she left us a note to call. My phone didn't work in Denmark. We knocked frantically on the door, and luckily two young men were staying there and let us in.

This next picture is of a 500 year-old house next door to our second b&b. Older homes like this
one are cherished and go for top dollar.
This is Eskov Castle. It's an amazing place and very beautiful. There are 3 shrub mazes, meticulous gardens, a motorcycle museum, bicycle museum, car museum (with the strangest cars I've ever seen), and a horse and carriage museum. The grounds has it's own herd of deer.
This is Christ and the twelve apostles. If you recognize the statue of Christ - it is original of the one the LDS church uses in the Salt Lake City visitor's center, and in Mesa visitor's center. The room was so big, I didn't get all of the apostles in.
Ah, the memories! If I could get there in the twinkling of an eye, I'd go again. In fact, if money weren't an issue, I'd buy me a summer home there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back to the Good ol' Days

It's amazing how one little thing disrupts our whole day. Some things, like blinking and breathing we take for granted--and other little things like electricity. However, try to do without them and see where that puts us.

You guessed it. My power went out today. I was in the middle of making dinner. (I think it's a rule that when the power goes out, it always goes out while dinner is being prepared.) We were having company and I was making shredded beef tacos. The beef had simmered all day in the crock pot, but was still rubbery.

When the power went out, the cooking stopped--the tv went black--no computer--no microwave. We can't open the refrigerator to get the cheese and lettuce without letting all of the cold out. Luckily we have a gas stove. After lighting it with a match, I was able to make the rice - oh, but my timer is electric. Luckily we have a couple of battery-run clocks.

The kids had no idea what to do with themselves. They ended up playing a game together and then going outside and playing with our dogs. My husband chopped the meat into fine shreds so no one could tell it was tough. (they could hardly tell.)

Did I mention that neither of our bathrooms has a window? Even in the middle of the day, when there are no lights on, it's dark in the bathroom.

I felt like a pioneer--and then I had to laugh. The pioneers wished they had it so good!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Need a good book to read? Here's a review of one I recently read.

The Stranger She Married by Donna Hatch is an intriguing romance set in 1818 England, but it is also a compelling tale of murder and revenge.

Poor Alicia is still mourning the loss of both parents and her twin brother when her uncle insists she find a rich husband in order to save the family estate and keep them all from debtor’s prison. The best way to do that is by attending a ball with lots of wealthy bachelors. It is here that she meets the dashing, and very eligible Cole (Lord Amesbury).

He has several opportunities throughout the evening (and the book) to save Alicia and therefore cement him to her heart. However, she discovers that Cole is responsible for the death of her twin and realizes that she cannot trust her foolish heart to make wise choices. Cole is immediately smitten with the naïve and innocent Alicia and longs for her forgiveness and love.

I worried through the whole story how the two, who obviously loved each other, would end up with their happily ever after since Cole had arranged for Alicia to marry his cousin, and then I laughed with delight at the cleverness with which the author resolved their dilemma. As soon as I was finished reading it the first time, I turned to page one and read it again.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter is soon upon us. It's one of my favorite holidays, what with the colored eggs, and tons of candy--for a kid, it's only second to Halloween in candy consumption, I'm sure. Having grown up in Mesa only blocks from the LDS Temple, I have fond memories of waking on crisp, Easter mornings and walking, clad in a blanket, to the temple grounds for Easter Sunrise Services. Now, of course it's the Easter Pageant, and, although I've seen it almost every year since its conception, I never tire of our Savior's life story. My greatest pleasures was being in the pageant as part of the multitude in 2000 and 2001, and getting to pretend I was there during His life as one of his loving followers, and bearing my testimony through song to the crowd.

For Easter dinner, it's customary to serve ham and scalloped potatoes. My family's favorite type of scalloped potato is Funeral Potatoes (as we lovingly call them) or Potatoes Supreme. I thought I'd include my version of the recipe here in case there are others who might enjoy it. If you compare my recipe to another, you might notice that I've taken out all of the butter. A calorie saver for sure--and it's never been missed flavor-wise. Happy Easter!

Potatoes Supreme
1-2 bags of frozen hash brown potatoes (little square bits w/ no peppers)
1/3 C. dehydrated onions
2 C. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 C. sour cream
2 cans cream of chicken soup
Cook potatoes in water until soft. Drain off water. Mix in soup, sour cream, onions, and 1 C. of cheese. Stir. Pour into 9x13-inch pan. Sprinkle on remaining cheese. Bake approximately 20 minutes at 350.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm learning how to make quilt blocks. My last effort at quilt making was just after my first child was born. I thought all good mothers made quilts. Mine turned out horribly. I threw it away and never attempted it again. Tonight, 32 years later, as I was cutting brand new fabric into narrow strips--to sew together--and then cut into small squares, only to then sew them all back together again--I just had to laugh at the silliness of it all.

I am not a quilt maker and I never will be. But the fabric is pretty, and I love pretty fabric. I also love pretty quilts--I just don't like making them. I do it because it's a good excuse to get out of the house for a couple hours for the lesson. Plus, I get to visit with a few women and have some good conversation.

Hey, I was bragging about how pretty the road from Roosevelt Lake to Apache Junction was. I took some pictures to show off. This one is a picture of the lake and part of Four Peaks--and yes, that is snow.

Now, this next one is a view from the dam and looking through the bridge. I think it's rather clever. As you can see, it's a beautiful day in February.

This crow (above) didn't want his picture taken. He started to fly away while I was adjusting my zoom. I like this picture better than the one I was taking.

This is a breathtaking view of the canyon. I have dozens of other pictures, but with this one, you can see that Arizona has views to rival those in Zion's National Park in Utah.