Dec 22, 2009

An Open Window

I heard a story at work today that gave me the chills and wanted to share it with you. 

A young mother had just moved into a third floor apartment in San Francisco.  The apartment had just been sprayed for bugs, so the windows were open to ventilate it.  The mother went into her bedroom and her 16 month old son, Matthew, followed closely behind.  She retrieved something from the room, glancing out the open window at the concrete below.  She then walked out, urging the toddler to follow her.  After taking a couple steps outside the bedroom, she heard a sound and turned around.  Seeing the little boy had not followed, she went back inside to find him.  When he was nowhere in sight, she rushed to the window and looking out, saw his tiny form lying on the windshield of a truck below.  She screamed to her husband who hurried to find her.  Looking through the window, they saw him moving and rushed down to help him.  The baby only had two small cuts on his face, but other than that was perfectly fine.

That in itself is a touching story, but later that day, the young mother was talking to her grandmother about the incident.  The grandmother's eyes filled with tears as she said, "I didn't know why, but when I was in the temple this morning, I put Matthew's name on the prayer roll."

Is it a coincidence that a truck that was not there moments before appeared at just the right time? 

Or that a loving grandmother was inspired to leave Matthew's name on the prayer role in the temple?

I don't think so.

This week we had a young friend die from the Swine Flu.  Dennis was a healthy young man in his early 20's.  I cannot say that I understand why Matthew's life was spared, yet Dennis's was not.  What I do know is that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father.  He is ever present in our lives and is aware of our struggles and heartache as well as our triumphs and joys.  The holiday season is the perfect time to turn our lives over to Him, knowing that if we live as He wants us to, whether our lives are spared or taken, we will ultimately be happy.

Take a moment today to hug those you love, and remember that among the hustle and bustle of last minute holiday preparations, the people and relationships in your life are the most important thing.

Dec 15, 2009

Bah Humbug!

This picture shows how I feel about the holidays this year. Although it is cute, and made me smile. I definitely have a shortage of the Christmas spirit. It's probably because my kids aren't going to be with me for Christmas. They are spending their vacation in Florida with their dad.

My husband and I are going to be in Idaho with his family for Christmas. I'm really looking forward to going, and hope the change of scenery will keep my mind off the fact that it's my first Christmas ever without my kids. Anyway, because nobody will be here, and honestly, because I'm just plain too tired, we haven't decorated for Christmas.

I've been wondering why, when I have so much to be grateful for, I'm feeling sorry for myself. Sunday I just didn't want to go to church. Do any of you ever feel like that? I know I need to go, and always feel better when I do, but I came home after Sacrament anyway.

Well, this is rambling without a point, so I'll just finish by including this song by Josh Groban. I found it yesterday on Laurie Lewis' blog and it gave me a small lift in spirits. I hope it does the same for you.

Dec 14, 2009

Blog Tour: Dawn's Early Light by L.C. Lewis

I was excited when I learned that I'd get to read and review Dawn's Early Light, Volume Three in the Free Men and Dreamers series by L.C. Lewis. I was a bit concerned about starting on volume three, but after I started reading it, I realized I was familiar with these characters. I previously read volume one Dark Sky at Dawn and loved it.

Lewis is an amazing writer! She crafts words in a way that draw you into the setting of the story. Characterization is definitely one of her strong points. The feelings of her characters are so well described that you feel as though you are there with them, watching them experience the various things that happen to them throughout the story. Dawn's Early Light, although a continuation of Lewis' previous stories, is also a stand alone novel. But I promise, once you read it, you'll want to read the others as well.

From the back cover:

In the spring of 1814, a temporary calm settles along the Patuxent. While the British Navy skulks in the Chesapeake Bay, the Willows families and their neighbors enjoy a brief season of peace.

That is until Napoleon is subdued. Britain's navy re-enters the Patuxent and now prepares to loose her triumphant European conquerors on America, even as peace negotiations commence in Belgium. But weeks of relentless British attacks along the waterfront soften the will of the American militia and citizenry, leaving the voracious British military confident that victory is within their grasp. And their primary target? Washington.

While attentions turn to the defense of the Capital, Sebastian Dupree and his band of mercenaries strike the Willows. Not everyone survives, despite former enemies becoming allies, fighting side-by-side with the Willows' freed slaves to defend their homes and families.

Mere miles away, the Capital lies in peril, its defense now resting primarily upon citizen soldiers like Jed Pearson, and a most unlikely naval force--Commodore Joshua Barney's rag-tag fleet of barges called the Chesepeak flotilla--and the courage of Markus O'Malley and the other men who built it.

But Britain's house is also divided over the war, and as the cost mounts in blood and money, rifts widen in her families and government, wearying the mind of the Earl of Whittington and threatening to destroy Arthur Ramsey.

Experience the pain and passion of five families--American, slave and British--as they endure three of the darkest days in American history--the week Washington burned.

I also got a chance to inteview Laurie. She's a delightful person and I hope you enjoy reading her responses as well. I'm also giving away a copy of Laurie's book, so leave a comment for a chance to win.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I always loved to write. My first published work was a poem titled “Time” which appeared in the local paper. But I think the moment I “felt” like a writer came during my junior year in high school when a creative writing teacher praised my work. Her interest in me was personal and caring. She actually seemed invested in me. After that I dared enter an essay contest which I won. Though I didn’t pursue a writing career at that time, I tucked those little benchmark moments away and nurtured that ambition for years.

Is your book based on a personal experience?
My first book, “Unspoken” (2004), encompassed many personal experiences and themes that are very tender to me. My current release, “Dawn’s Early Light,” is from my Free Men and Dreamers historical series set during the War of 1812. My ancestors lived in Maryland during that period. The men were in the militia and their families lived through many of the events I’m illustrating. In that way, the story is very personal to me. On a larger scale, stories of Founding Fathers and patriotism are themes that move me deeply.

How long did it take you to write the book?

It’s difficult to separate the research and writing time for one book since the research thread flows through the whole series. I began the groundwork for the project in 2003. Work specifically for “Dawn’s Early Light” began in March of 2008, and the last of the edits occurred in October of 2009, so about eighteen months. Whew! I’m glad I didn’t stop to realize that before!

What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

I love the way Nicholas Sparks can develop storylines that tug at the heart, but Jane Austin’s language style and depictions of nineteenth century morays greatly influenced my books.

What can we look for next? What current projects are you working on?

If “Dawn’s Early Light” is well-received, then book four will be titled either “The Morning Breaks” and will tell the story of the Battle of Baltimore, the real Star Spangled Banner story, and it will take us through America’s recovery and up to the First Vision.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The hardest thing for me is maintaining a balance between the history and the fiction. Some people want more of one, less of the other. It’s impossible to please everyone, but I can get completely lost while researching old obscure records and books. I have a wonderful editor who pulls me out of the dust and tells me, “No one else will care about that but you.” Most of the time, she’s right.

Do you have any advice for other authors?
I still feel too new at this to feel worthy of giving other people advice, but I try to tell budding authors just to get started and make a beginning. Load up on all the technical classes you can to hone your language and grammar skills. Read a broad variety of books so you can be exposed to many styles and lots of beautiful vocabulary. Find a skilled critique partner who will give you hard, educated feedback, and then be brave about listening to it. But mostly I’d say, go with your gut. If you love to read, then you probably know what works, so write well and critique often.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Most of my free time is invested in people. I try to have a weekly date with my mom, and I spend as much time as I can with dear friends and my sweet family. My husband travels to military bases for his work, and I enjoy going with him as much as possible so I can snoop amongst the old forts.

Any last words you want the reader to know?
These were great questions, Kimberly. Thanks! I’d just love for your readers to pick up a copy and let me know what they think. I LOVE reader feedback and I read and answer every letter and email. I good letter really helps the work move along. So thank you to everyone for allowing me to prattle on.

Where can your books be purchased?

Seagull Books, Deseret Books, and most other LDS stores have it in stock now. And it’s also available online. I won’t be holding many signings before Christmas, but personalized copies are available through bookstores near my hometown. They’ll ship them anywhere. Merry Christmas!
You can learn more about Laurie and her books at her blog and website.
Product Details
Paperback: 338 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (November 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439254753
ISBN-13: 978-1439254752
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches

Dec 7, 2009

Becoming Aware

I don't talk much about my job because I need to protect the privacy of my clients, however, I think I've talked about what I do. I'm a transcriptionist at Brigham Young University. I provide real-time transcripts for deaf students. It's a super fun job. I get to attend class and be a pseudo-student. I get all of the knowledge, but none of the homework.

Today I attended a biology class. Because it's the end of the semester, the professor was trying to sum up the course. We watched several videos put out by the LDS church humanitarian department. They detailed ways that the Church has given humanitarian aid throughout the world.

The video that touched me the most was the Hunger Project in Ethiopia. I heard some startling statistics:

-The world population is 6.4 billion people and over 842 million suffer from hunger.
-1.2 billion people live on less than $1 per day.
-One child dies from hunger and malnutrition every five seconds.

The LDS Church sent 34 containers of Atmit--a porridge, made of oat flour, sugar, powdered milk, and a vitamin/mineral mix to feed thousands of starving children. The video showed people lining up to get a small cupful of the porridge. Mothers tried to give their starving children to Americans, begging them to care for them.

It's not that I didn't know people were starving. It just hadn't touched me in quite that way before. I've had times in my life where my family has struggled financially, but even during the leanest of times, we are very blessed.

In the words of the professor, "You're being educated at an institution that is not just about Provo, Utah. I want you to see how meaningful biology is to the world. Sitting in front of me are people that are going to solve the world crises. You will be part of the solution."

It's my hope that I can be part of that solution. There's no better time than the Christmas season to reach out to those in need. Even if you don't know someone who is starving, I'm sure you know someone who is grieving, hurting, or lonely. Take some time during the holidays to look around you and become aware of what you can give--if nothing else, give a listening ear, a spontaneous hug, or a friendly smile. There is much good to be done.

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40

Dec 1, 2009

Blog Tour: The Ball's in her court by Heather Justesen

I was invited to participate in a critique group after I attended my first LDStorymaker's conference. It has immeasurably blessed my life by helping me develop my writing talent and giving me some much needed friends at a difficult time. Heather Justesen is a member of that group, and a very dear friend.

I was very excited to read and review Heather's new book, The Ball's in Her Court, because she wrote it before joining the critique group. I've actually read the sequel, currently titled, Rebound, and promise that Heather's fans are in for a treat. It comes out this summer and is every bit as romantic as its predecessor.

About the book:

She's got a great job, a loving group of family and friends and basketball skills like you wouldn't believe, but Denise DeWalt's life is far from perfect, and she's about to come face-to-face with a past she hoped to leave behind forever.

Twenty-six-year-old Denise thinks she's come to terms with her childhood in the foster care system, but when her old nightmares return, Denise realizes that she must deal with her past once and for all if she ever wants to move on to a brighter future with Rich, the only man who can see past her former life. As Denise's search leads her closer and closer to the one person she hoped she'd never have to face again, she begins to realize that her future depends on just one person--herself.

This emotional and inspirational love story proves that life is full of unexpected twists and turns--especially when it comes to facing your demons, fighting for love, and finding happiness for the future.

My Review:

My opinion may be a bit biased because Heather is one of my good friends, but she is honestly one of the most talented writers I know. She has a command of the english language that allows her to describe in detail the scenes in her book. I was drawn into Heather's story from the very beginning. She does a great job giving just enough information to make you want to know what happens next so you can't put her book down.

This is also a great book for teen readers. It has "just enough" romance and although the storyline includes sensitive topics, they are handled very appropriately. In fact, when I brought the book home, it disappeared off my desk. I found my daughter up late one night reading it. Her comment was, "Your friend is an awesome writer!"

Heather's personal experience as a foster parent adds depth and true emotion to this story. But it's not all sadness and despair. Also included is plenty of tension, humor, and tender, sweet romance. The ending is satisfying and inspiring. It reminded me that there is nothing in life that can't be overcome.

The Ball's in Her Court is definitely going on our shelf of books to keep. I'm happy to be associated with Heather and look forward to many books from her in the years to come.

Heather is holding an awesome week of giveaways on her blog. Check it out! There are tons of great prizes.

Also, to learn more about Heather you can visit her website.

Here's the book trailer for The Ball's in Her Court.

Product Details
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.; 1st edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599552345
ISBN-13: 978-1599552347
Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches

Coming Soon . . .

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