Thursday, February 25, 2010

Life and Death--Heaven or Hell

I recently read The Prologue: Two Brothers, by Chris Stewart. It was a well written book about a pre-mortal family and their struggle to get everyone on the Lord’s side so they could all come to earth and gain a body. In it, we get glimpses of Satan and his rise to power as the fallen one.

Although the characters were well written, I must say that reading about Satan isn’t one of my favorites—kind of gives me an uneasy/creepy kind of feeling. I know he won’t waft through the pages and haunt me, but just to make sure I’d rather not give him any more thought or attention than absolutely necessary.

It’s funny and even ironic then that the next book I picked up to read was, I Hated Heaven, by Kenny Kemp. I’ve had this book for a long time and didn’t remember reading it until I began reading it again.

Tom gets sick and dies unexpectedly of pancreatic cancer, but, on his deathbed he promises his wife, April, that he’ll come back and tell her if there is a God and an afterlife. Tom is a devout Christian and his wife only believes in science and things that can be proven.

So, Tom’s spirit-self ascends the stairs to heaven and finds himself in Paradise—a place where the righteous go while awaiting their final judgment. Jonathan, his spirit-guide or mystagogue is there to greet him. He’s a strictly-business guy who only gives Tom the shortest of answers to his questions, and is only interested in efficiency.

All Tom is interested in is keeping his promise to April. He knows that her spiritual salvation depends on it, and he has no interest in an eternity that doesn’t involve his beloved wife.

Jonathan does his best to distract Tom from his seemingly errant quest and sets him up in classes to learn all about the hereafter. He also sends him to be analyzed to know what kind of post-mortal job he’ll be good at. When Jonathan tells him that his memories of earth life and April will soon fade, Tom is determined to return to earth and keep his promise before it’s too late.

After coming across a crazy spirit named Stan, the pathway back to earth is finally made clear to him. He breaks all the rules to do it and after Tom finally gets through to April, Jonathan is there to return him to Paradise where he must face the Council and accept his punishment.

Mr. Kemp portrays an interesting view of Paradise—a place with buildings so tall they put the Tower of Babel to shame, and with lots of smudge-free stainless steel. The place is beautiful, however, and Jonathan has everything we all dream of in an afterlife—which is to reap the rewards of good behavior. However, he’s miserable there until he has the hope of sharing it with April one day.

Family is everything. The Prologue and I Hated Heaven are both good reminders of the importance of family and keeping our promises.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Author Interview with LC Lewis

Writer and prospective author that I am, I associate with lots of published authors and I like to learn more about them and their path to publication.

This week I'm interviewing Laurie Lewis.
Laurie was born and raised in rural Maryland, surrounded by the history-rich cities of Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore which provide the settings for her books. She is also a popular historical speaker and workshop presenter.
Laruie is a member of the LDStorymakers authors’ group as well as ANWA, a writing group for LDS women. She currently serves in her stake as the LDS Seminary Supervisor, working with the youth and Seminary teachers. She now combines all her loves—Church and American history, people, family and interesting locations—to produce family and historical dramas.

This is a photo of Laurie in Yorktown. She's always doing research to make her novels more accurate.
Laurie, how many kids do you have?
I had four kids in six years. Life was crazy wonderful. They're all grown now. Three are married, and they've collectively blessed me with four grandchildren with a fifth on the way. I always loved to write, but I waited until I was 46 to submit my first manuscript, "Unspoken." By then the oldest was married with a baby, and my youngest was a freshman at college.
Where do you currently live?
Tom and I still live in a little town called Mount Airy in Carroll County, Maryland, where we raised our family. We've lived here for 26 years.

Who are your books published through?
It's a little crazy around here because I currently have books under three publishers right now. I'm under contract with Covenant who published my first novel, "Unspoken" and the first two volumes of my "Free Men and Dreamers" series, "Dark Sky at Dawn" and "Twilight's Last Gleaming." They pulled out of the series, but readers wrote, asking me to finish the story, so I published volume three, "Dawn's Early Light" through an Amazon affiliate. I also submitted a romance to Covenant, but they don't handle literary romances, so I submitted it to Leatherwood Press who is about to launch it this spring.
This link, ( will take you to preview chapters, reviews, etc.

After writing your first book, how long did it take you to get published?
I got really lucky on "Unspoken." Covenant was the first place I submitted it, and they sent it back, asking me to rework some things. I resubmitted it a few months later and it was accepted. The process from first submission to it's debut on the shelves was probably about eighteen months.

How did you celebrate your first published novel?
I remember this so clearly. My daughter was a student at Utah State in Logan. I was visiting her at Easter time when the call came through. I was so nervous I walked outside so no one would see me melt down if the call was a rejection. When the senior editor said those words, "We've decided to accept your manuscript for publication," I screamed! My daughter Amanda, and all her room mates, cheered for me, then I called my husband and the other kids. It was awesome. Equally splendid was the day the box arrived with the first copies of the book inside. It was magical and surreal. I felt like a new mommy again!

Are your upcoming novels also about the Civil War era?
This will be a very busy year. My romance, (we are nailing down the title tonight) debuts in April. It's a story of a recently widowed LDS woman named Avery, from Baltimore, and an anti-religion widower from Anna Maria Island named Gabriel. Both of them see trouble brewing in their respective families, and they each seek a change of scenery in which to heal themselves and their children. But Avery's new neighbors are an ex-rodeo couple from Texas who run a real estate company. When Rider and Teddie arrange for the pair to "swap" homes for the summer, Avery's and Gabriel's tidy, private lives are invaded by a host of quirky characters who teach them to laugh and love again, and most importantly, they discover what things truly last. 
Also, book four of "Free Men and Dreamers" my War of 1812 saga, is set to debut in July of this year. I'm trying to get the completed series out and on the shelves in time for the Bicentennial celebrations of the Star Spangled Banner.

It sounds like you're a very busy woman--how do you juggle all of your responsibilities and still make time to write?
First, I try to keep a good balance between the temporal and the spiritual. When I neglect my spiritual side, including family time, nothing else goes well for me. I write best when I have order in my life, so I can only neglect home and hearth for so long before my mind becomes distracted. It's as if I can hear the laundry calling out, "Wash me! Fold me!" That's when I need to set my writing aside for a time. Still, I tend to be most productive under stress. I like having definite deadlines and goals. And I need to turn off the Internet sometimes. I'm too easily distracted.
Thank you Laurie for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview!
No problem, Tina. Thanks so much.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lemon Chicken Pasta similar to Wildflower Bread Co.

I found this recipe on the Internet a while back and tried it because I like lemons. It’s an easy recipe that tastes great—and it's a perfect way to use some of those lemons still hanging on the tree. If you have a tree.

Easy Lemon Chicken with Pasta

1 lb Penne pasta (I sometimes substitute with Farfalle)
2 chicken cutlets (I use chicken breast)
Salt and pepper
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
½ tsp red pepper flakes
3 TBSP oil—olive oil is the most flavorful, but canola oil is good, too.
3 TBSP roughly chopped parsley for garnish
2 lemons, juiced
½ C grated parmesan cheese.

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water. Season chicken with salt and pepper and grill, then remove and slice.
Sauté garlic and red pepper with oil—the garlic doesn’t need to be brown or even golden.
Add the chicken and stir until blended. Drain the pasta and return to the pot, then add the garlic and chicken mixture. Add the parsley and lemon juice and stir. Before serving, add the parmesan cheese.
NOTE: if you want an elegant-looking dish for company, after sautéing the garlic and red pepper, add the pasta and stir. Then add the parsley and lemon juice. Stir. Before serving, add the parmesan cheese, stir, then remove to a nice serving bowl, and arrange the sliced chicken on the top of the pasta. Serve.
This meal is great accompanied by a green salad and mixed vegetables.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kindergarten and the Cold

When I started working as a kindergarten aide, I placed bets to see how long it would take me to get sick. Gotta love those little tykes, they come up to ask a question and then sneeze or cough right in my face. Ugh!

I think the average days missed for sickness is 4 among our five-year-olds this year. The teacher, herself, missed an accumulative week before the Christmas holidays. I sailed right through with nary a sniffle.

I feel pretty proud that it’s taken so long—I waited until mid January before coming down with a cold. Problem is that I can’t seem to shake it. My head is a liquid bucket of congestion, I can’t breathe, my ears are plugged and my voice sounds like I’ve been a smoker since the age of five (and I’ve never smoked at all).

Between the Tylenol Cold (am and pm), Amoxicillin, prescription nasal spray, Mucinex D, Cold Calm, Immune Defense, cough drops, throat lozenges, Listerine and vitamins—as well as the Lysol spray and Oust, I’ve ingested and used enough drugs and products to stock a small pharmacy this past month. Sheesh! I’ve also helped eat a bushel of fresh oranges and lay out in the sun.

Embarrassing moment—I went to church Sunday and realized I hadn’t brought any throat lozenges for that annoying little tickle that sometimes appears in my throat. I started using Mentos and got so choked up it almost took a half hour for me to stop coughing. Someone finally gave me two cough drops and it took both of them to finally calm the cough.

With only one day of work missed and two visits to the doctor, I think I’m finally on the mend—again. I thought the same thing two weeks ago. This time I think I have the weather on my side. The sun is out and it’s warmed up a bit. We even bought a couple of tomato plants at Costco in anticipation of spring and I can already taste those home-grown tomatoes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Granola Revisited

It used to be the in thing to make your own granola. I haven’t heard as much about it lately. However, I still like to make my own cereal during the winter months when it doesn’t matter that the oven is on. The old recipes could be quite expensive, and depending on how much oil is used, definitely not low-cal.

If truth be told, I was never a real fan of the “old” style granola with sesame seeds and sunflower seeds—just too much gritty stuff that didn’t add anything flavor-wise in my opinion, but did add to the expense and calories.

I’ve got a couple of really good recipes—ones without all the extra stuff. The first one, I call Peanut Butter Delight, and anyone who loves peanut butter should really like this.


4 C quick oats
2/3 C flour
1 C pecans, chopped
2/3 C maple syrup
2/3 C peanut butter
1 TBSP vanilla or maple flavoring
1 ½ C dried fruit—I suggest chopped dates, and some chopped raisins, or shredded coconut.

Preheat oven to 325. Warm the maple syrup, peanut butter, and vanilla over low heat. Combine remaining ingredients except fruit into a very large bowl. Add warmed ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until golden. Remove to a bowl, stir in fruit and cool completely.
This is a picture of the Orange Apricot Medley before it's cooked. Doesn't it look tempting???

The next one I call Orange Apricot Medley. I like the taste of the fruit and fresh ginger in this one. Be careful not to overdo it on the ginger though.


4 C. quick oats
2/3 C flour
1 C. sliced almonds or chopped pecans
2/3 C oil
1/3 C maple syrup
1 tsp orange rind
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 ½ C chopped cran-raisins and chopped, dried apricots mixed (and/or shredded coconut)
2 tsp orange drink powder (like crystal delight)

Preheat oven to 325. In a very large bowl add oats, flour, nuts, orange rind, grated ginger, and orange drink powder, and stir to mix. Add oil and maple syrup. Stir to mix. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until golden. Remove to a bowl, stir in fruit and cool.

Both of these cereals can be stored in an air-tight container or zip-storage bag at room temp with your other cereals.
NOTE: A little bit of granola goes a long way. If you fill your bowl like you're used to with store-bought cereal, chances are you won't be able to eat it all.
This is it after it's cooked. Notice there are no large clumps to break your teeth on.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Aging Doesn't Necessarily Mean Alzheimer's

Ever have one of those days when you go into a room and forget why? Have you ever started writing a sentence and forgotten the second half? OR, have you ever forgotten to post your blog? I can say yes to all of these questions. ***This is me blushing and hanging my head.***

It scares me.

Why? Because I come from a family with a history of dementia in all its forms. So each time I forget something, I wonder if perhaps this is the start of IT. Will I turn into the quirky lady from next door who forgets to put on her pants before going outside? Ohhhh, I hope not!

My hope came in the form of an article by Dr. Doraiswamy in the AARP magazine (Hey, we get it for the great articles). She says that in some ways the healthy brain gets stronger with age, and that accumulated knowledge and expert skills increase as you get older. WHEW!!!

The good doctor says that if we have healthy habits we can all maximize our brain health. It’s a good idea, don’t you think???

So, here are her suggestions for brain strengthening activities:

Live an active life. Do puzzles. Don’t smoke. Work or volunteer. Exercise at least once a week. (Those don’t sound too horrible, now do they?)

Here are some more of her suggestions:

1. Walk and talk—find a walking partner, study a topic, and discuss it on your walks. Mental stimulation, physical exercise, and social connection are key brain strengtheners.

2. Vary your routine—try a different grocer, join a new club.

3. Be a lifelong learner and don’t dabble. Sign up for as many classes as you can.

4. Play—pick games with several levels or difficulty.

5. De-stress with meditation, yoga, a walk: focus your mind and relax.

6. Sleep—your brain consolidates memories from your day during sleep.

7. Imagine—paint, write, visit new websites. ***this is me grinning***

8. Socialize and make new friends. Don’t be a loner—it lulls your brain.

9. Eat right—eat those fruits and veggies, whole grains and fish.

10. Keep blood pressure, weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol in check.

Now, the best part is this: The article tells the story of a man in his early 70’s who was struggling with calculations and his wife noticed he was cranky. They put him through a bunch of tests. He scored 30 out of 30 on a memory test and got 140 on an IQ test. They were stunned when the brain scan showed he had full-blown Alzheimer’s.

So, socialize—exercise—get mental stimulation, Alzheimer’s doesn’t always mean drooling in your lap. It’s good news for a change!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Author Interview with Donna Hatch

Today, on Author Interview Monday, I'm interviewing Donna Hatch, author and fellow Arizonan.
Tell us about your book, Donna.
Okay, here's my "elevator pitch"
“The Stranger She Married” is Book of the Rogue Hearts Series. Torn between a disfigured war hero with the heart of a poet, and a handsome libertine who may not be all he seems, impoverished Alicia must marry by the end of the month. Despite a murder threat looming over her, learning to love the stranger she married may pose the greatest danger of all … to her heart.

The cover is gorgeous! Can you tell us a little about how covers come into being? Do you have input into the process?
Most publishers don't let the authors have any input, but I was lucky -- but mine does. I filled out a questionnaire with character descriptions and a concept of what I'd pictured. The finished result was nothing like I'd imagined, and the hero looks nothing like the cover, but they got the heroine spot-on right down to the eye color. And I do like it, too.

What are you working on now?
I'm finalizing the edits on book 3 of the Rogue Heart's Series which isn't titled yet. (Gulp.) Book 2, "The Guise of a Gentleman" will be out in April. Each book is a stand-alone book, about a different brother of the Amesbury family, and the family members wander in and out of each other's books.

You have a bunch of young kids, how do you find time to write? How do you balance family with writing?
Yes, with 6 children, making time to write is very challenging. I do much of my writing at night after they are in bed, or during nap time, but when I'm on a roll, I write instead of unimportant things like fix dinner. I haven't dusted since last Christmas and I gave up scrap booking. This year, my youngest child just started kindergarten, so now I can write after they all leave for school. I also work in an office part time every afternoon, so that really cuts into my writing but I'm very focused, (or obsessed) so I keep at it at odd times of the day. And night.

What is the coolest thing about being an author?
A huge rush came when I got my contract and I was giddy about it for months. But I have to say that was nothing compared to the day my book came out and I saw it on the home page of my publisher. The euphoria was almost a surreal experience. The giddiness is still with me and I've noticed people inching away from me when my grin gets a bit too happy. I guess I scare people. And now I do it without even opening my mouth.

What has surprised you about being a published author?
How excited my friends and family were for me. I knew they'd be supportive, but I had no idea how they'd rally around me and help me promote it like they have. My niece even set up a fan of The Stranger She Married fan page!

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
I love to read more than almost anything else. And I love music; I sing, play the harp, and am the choir director for church. I also like to swim, water ski, snow ski, and dance. I’m totally uncoordinated, so I don’t play any team sports and sports worldwide thank me for it. And, sappy as it sounds, I love to spend time with my husband, talking, walking, playing racquetball, or just cuddling.

Order on line at

Here's the link to the ebook and the print book.

Donna, Thank you for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to do an interview.
No problem
Warm wishes,