Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Pixie

We spent a wonderful Memorial Day visiting my side of the family. I hope my children remember the stories they heard about their great-grandparents coming to America and got a taste of some of their relatives that even I haven't seen for many years.

Here I am in pixie glory, courtesy my Aunt Judy, who entertained the kids with her face-painting skills. Two of my daughters were butterflies, another had a fairy mask, and my son became a tough guy. They insisted I get in the chair, too!

Remember those cheeks I mentioned? Check it out; they're almost gone! Maybe I should stay on this drug. I know, I know. Ridiculous idea. I told you I was going stupid!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Skinny & Stupid

My husband just stumbled upon the solution to a mystery by watching an episode of House.

Turns out that several things going around our house can be traced back to a certain prescription medication.

In some ways it all started the summer after kindergarten when I was trying to be a good little girl and read my scriptures every day. I remember having my New Testament out, but I couldn't read the tiny script. I had these little bright dots in my vision, sort of like you get after a flash picture, but they didn't go away. And then the pain hit. I cried my little girl eyes out it hurt so bad.

I didn't realize until years later what had happened: I had gotten my first migraine at the tender age of 6. I got them sporadically (2-3 a year, maybe less) until I turned the magical age of 30 when they became more frequent. My doctor tells me a lot of things like that happen at middle age.

I thought "Middle Age" was an era from history books, or at least something that wouldn't hit me for another fifteen years or so, but my body thought differently. In addition to regular migraines (like, several a month, graduating to several a week, and then, heck, why not throw one in daily?), I got the weight gain that also happens when that "middle age" metabolism shift happens.

Middle age is so much fun! Why didn't anybody tell me?!

Hah.

Long story seriously abbreviated, over the last many, many, many months, my doctor and I have spent lots of time together, not only picking out e-books and seeing one another at Friends of the Library meetings but at appointments trying to solve my goofy headache issues, like scheduling an MRI—something else that is LOADS of fun for someone who is not only middle-aged but claustrophobic.

We've tried a couple of different preventative medications. The current one I'm on isn't doing that great a job, but it's better than the previous one. On my last doctor appointment, I noticed that my weight on the doctor's scale was significantly down since the last time I came in. I knew I had lost a little weight at home and was fitting in some clothes I hadn't before, but still. On one hand, cool! I've been battling that weight for 8 years.

On the other hand, weird! How can you lose that much weight in 6 weeks without trying?

I asked how much I had lost, since the doctor scale tends to be off from the home one. The answer surprised me. It was twice as much as I had expected. I was losing weight fast, almost wasting away.

At home, I didn't feel like eating, ever. I had no appetite. I never even wanted to eat chocolate.

Which, if you know me, is a sad and frightening day indeed.

Not only that, but my writing has been difficult lately. I've had a tough time meeting deadlines and staying focused on my next book. I'm much farther behind on the next one, and I just can't seem to catch up. I'll spend hours at the computer and have little to nothing to show for it.

What is wrong with me?

That's where House comes in.

My honey discovered today that my preventative migraine medicine is often used off-label for WEIGHT LOSS (ding ding ding!) because it makes people sick to their stomachs, it curbs cravings, and for some people, it makes them not want to eat anything.

Worse, for some people, it makes it hard to concentrate. My husband started digging on line and found reports from patients, including (not good news) a writer who said it was hard to concentrate on writing, a student who couldn't read, and a pianist who couldn't remember their pieces.

Here's the kicker: Doctors nickname patients on this drug "Skinny and stupid."

I'm quickly getting to the skinny side. Heaven help me, I'm fast approaching the stupid part! It's making a lot of sense, looking back over the last couple of months I've been taking it.

Dealing with migraine pain just might be worth it if it means I can produce writing again, even if it means going back up a pants size.

And if it means enjoying life—and my favorite foods—again.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cinderella Night

It all began last March with an e-mail from my sister Mel. The subject line:

"SORTA URGENT: With all your FREE TIME . . ." She knew I was in the middle of some major deadlines.

I actually wrote up the story how it all began for my writer friend's Jeff Savage's shared blog. You can read all about it here.

Basically, Mel is the kind of cheerleader every person should have in their life. She secretly wanted to nominate me in the Best of State organization under Fiction. That organization is highly respected in Utah, and over the years, I've noticed lots of big-time businesses touting that they had won in their respective categories: manufacturing, hotels, dining, science, etc.

I didn't know they had a fiction category until Mel e-mailed me saying that she wanted to nominate me and needed my help because I had the information she needed to do it right.

Late April the results were posted. My jaw dropped when I went to the Best of State site, scrolled down to Literary Arts and read my name. I sort of stared at it to be sure. I scrolled up and down and stared again in case some other name might appear instead of my own. But sure enough, there it was: Annette L. Lyon.


The big black tie awards gala was last Saturday night, May 19. I got all gussied up with my husband and BOTH of my two awesome sisters to celebrate the award. I felt like Cinderella for the night as I got the medal placed around my neck under the cameras and lights. About the only thing missing was the fairy godmother and the mice.

I was brought backstage and had my picture taken by a professional photographer. I was given a goodie bag (sort of like you hear they give out at the Oscars, only I'm sure on a much smaller scale . . .), and got to enjoy terrific evening of music and food and even my husband in a tux, something that hasn't happened since our wedding day.

It was all a bit surreal, and I'm still trying to digest it all. What does all this award mean for me? I hope it means big things for the future of my writing career.

I know I'm honored to have gotten it. I know I had a blast at the gala. I know have a beautiful medal.

And I know that for certain I'm going to do my best to live up to what the medal has engraved along its edge:

"Excelling and surpassing all else."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Shopping Spree

I got my family doctor nearly thirteen years ago, well before I ever got published. As a result, he's sort of been watching my publication journey from the back seat. In addition to delivering all of my children, he knew when I got my first book contract and always asks about my latest projects any time I come in.

He's also the head of our local library's "Friends" organization. A few years ago, he needed a judge for a writing contest the Friends were sponsoring. I agreed to be one of the judges, and have done so each year since.

You can probably see where this is going. Pretty soon being a judge became being a part of the Friends of the Library. I now attend periodic meetings that the Friends of the Library hold every couple of months. We host events and do other neat things for the library. It's a pretty neat organization.

A week or so ago I was at another Friends meeting. The head librarian wasn't in attendance, being at another meeting doing Head Librarian things. The children's librarian was there, plus my doctor, and several other Friends board people who had been roped into membership by whatever means.

One of many decisions we made was way cool: to add a collection of digital audio books on these iPod-like devices, one book per device. You check out the little device, add a battery and your own earphones, and off you go. They're very cool, and much less likely to be destroyed than CDs so they'll last longer, yet they cost about the same per book.

The trick was deciding which titles to start with. The library needs about 50 to get the collection up and running. The children's librarian didn't want to pick the titles, being as she's swamped with other duties and just doesn't have the time.

Everyone else at the table seemed to have a deer in the headlights look, sort of a, "Don't look at ME!" expression.

But me? The idea sounded like the ultimate in book shopping, like walking through a bookstore with an unlimited credit card. Are you kidding me? I get to shop for FIFTY books? Any fifty on this list? COOL! Maybe it's the English Major in me. Maybe it's because I've read a lot and that I know a lot of books. I don't know. But I thought it'd be neat.

They practically threw the list at me. I trotted home with the list and showed my husband.

He glanced it and said, "As long as you don't pick Bleak House," and grinned.

He knows I love Dickens.

I couldn't wait to sit down with a bunch of chocolate and look over the pages. The only tricky part was not picking just my favorites (which was tough--I mean, there were THREE Jane Austen titles on the list. Must . . . be . . . strong . . .).

I had to be fair. This wasn't just for me, after all. This was for the library. I had to pick a selection that a lot of people would enjoy.

That meant both adult titles and YA titles, classics and new releases, fiction as well as non-fiction. So I did some searches on amazon.com to check some books I was unfamiliar with, made sure I got a several award-winners, some that were plain-old must-haves, and so forth.

The result, I think, is a well-rounded start.

And yes, I threw in Bleak House. I couldn't resist.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

I'm exceedingly fortunate to have been born to the mother I was. The woman I am today is very much because of her, down to the foods I like, the books I read, the kind of mother I am, the testimony I posses, and more.

It's thanks to Mom that I'm a book freak and a writer. (It's also thanks to her that I'm a chocoholic . . .) It's because of Mom that I'm a curious person always needing to seek knowledge and find answers to questions. I could go on. (And on, and on.)

I'm also lucky to have gotten the mother-in-law I did. When I hear horrible mother-in-law stories, I try to sympathize, but sorry, ladies, I can't relate. My mother-in-law just isn't like that. Not a smidge. She's one of the sweetest, most genuine people in the world, who is far more concerned with making others happy than anything else. If she has a fault, it's being too generous.

I'm grateful that she's such not only a terrific grandmother to my children and a sweet mother-in-law to me, but that she raised a wonderful son to be my husband.

So as a nod to all the mothers out there, here a link to an article I wrote recently in honor of Mother's Day. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Here's to Michael

This is going to be a completely self-indulgent blog, but since this is mine, I get to do that.

About nineteen years ago, my newborn nephew Michael was diagnosed with biliary atresia. In a giant nutshell, it meant that his liver was self-destructing and he was probably going to die. Doctors spent the next year doing all kinds of things trying to keep him alive long enough--and old enough--to get him a liver transplant.

Within days of his first birthday, he got one, in spite of the fact that the blood source to his liver was small enough that they feared it wouldn't take. When asked what his prognosis would be, doctors basically told his parents to let them know in a few years--infant liver transplants were relatively new at that point.

The next year was, to put it mildly, touch and go. The entire family spent more time on its knees than ever. Michael essentially lived in the hospital as one complication after another arose--often one treatment caused the next complication, which caused the next one, which nearly killed him. His parents were told mulitple times that he was dying and to come say good-bye. They planned his funeral. He hung on.

Somehow this miracle child pulled through, defying every odd. By every logic, he shouldn't be here. Many other children who received transplants at the same time and had better prognoses didn't make it. He did.

As the years have gone by, there's almost been this halo about him. He's this spritual giant. Meanwhile, my brother (Michael's father) is a bit of a kidder and has expressed wonder at how he got Michael as his son. He's been known to see his son's light on under the door past bedtime, throw the door open to surprise him and yell, "WHAT are you doing awake?!"

Michael looks over and says meekly, "Reading my scriptures?"

"Oh," Dad says. He coughs. "Uh, then, um, well, yeah. Turn your light off when you're done then." He closes the door and walks back to his room and decides to crack open his own Book of Mormon before turning in for the night.

When the Brethren in Salt Lake announced that they were raising the bar for missionaries, Michael expressed concern that he wouldn't make the cut. His mother almost laughed. "Look way down there, Michael. See that speck below you? THAT'S the bar. You'll be fine."

Michael's biggest aspiration in life? To be a seminary teacher. He's that kind of person.

Last night the phone rang. It was my brother inviting the family over for an exciting event: Michael had received his mission call. My parents are on a mission of their own right now, but all our siblings and all the cousins were there as Michael sat on a stool and opened the envelope.

Here he was, nineteen years after we thought he might not even be living, ready to be a missionary. He pulled out the letter and began to read. Before he even got to the location, he teared up at the first line that stated he's being called to serve the Lord.

And I cried, too.

I remembered babysitting him as a newborn when he cried out from pain and I couldn't give him Tylenol because it would damage his liver further. I cried with him, trying to comfort him and hoping so badly he would live, knowing he was a special spirit with a special mission.

And now he's going on a full-time mission. He's one amazing young man, all grown up.

It's a little selfish of me, but I was glad to hear that he's not going into the MTC too soon. He'll be here just long enough to help ordain my son a deacon this summer. My little guy really looks up to his oldest cousin, and for good reason. When my son was baptized a few years ago, his one request was that Michael give a talk.

There isn't a better hero I could pick out for Daniel to emulate than his cousin Michael.

California, Fresno Mission, watch out! You're getting one heck of a missionary!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Lose Weight: Frown!

I have chipmunk cheeks.

It's just the way my face is shaped. I envy women with cheekbones. No matter how much weight I ever lose, my cheeks will still be chubby, and people will still think I'm a teenager instead of a thirty-something. It's my lot in life.

When I smile, it's even worse. My face explodes, widening like some creature from the Black Lagoon.

So with my current author photo (on my profile up there), which I've had for two books now, I've had many people meet me in person and tell me I really should get a new one because I've OBVIOUSLY lost a lot of weight since it was taken. I'm so much thinner in person.

Uh, no. I haven't lost weight. Really. I mean, thanks for thinking I'm thin, but I'm the same person.

In many of those book signings, I might have even had a few more pounds on me than in that photo. But I wasn't grinning at them at the signing, and hence my cheeks weren't sticking out and making me look fat. After explaining this, I demonstrate, and they step back, saying "Wow," as if I'm a scientific freak because smiling makes my face go wide.

Right now I actually am an itty bitty bit thinner than in that photo, if you can count five pounds as a significant weight loss, which I doubt. But if I smile, my cheeks still jut out like the Jabba the Hut's.

I got the same reaction from a reader at yesterday's book signing, this time from a gal who hailed from New Mexico. (Hi, Elizabeth!) She flipped to the back of my book and said, "You know, you really should get a new author photo. You've lost so much weight since this was taken. At least twenty pounds."

I smiled (whoops--big mistake) and gritted my teeth.

On one hand, I have been planning on getting a new photo for several months, and if I don't get one taken soon, I'm out of luck for getting it in the new book. The current one was taken May of 2004, so yeah, it's time for a change.

My hair's different now. Maybe the new 'do helps. (It's a little straighter now; maybe it hides the cheeks a bit?)

So what do I do? Frown in pictures so my cheeks don't hit LA and New York? Just stare at the camera without smiling?

They say the camera adds ten pounds. For me, smiling adds twenty.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Losing a Grip on Reality

It's happened every time. You'd think I'd get used to it.

But somehow I get the same weak-knee, punched-in-the gut, light-headed feeling every time.

I stare. I almost cry. And then I have to stop myself from looking around just in case one of my characters happens to be lurking around in spirit form. Sometimes I'm tempted to grab someone near me, point, and say, "Did you know that right over there, so-and-so stood and did such-and such?"

And of course, if I really did that, I'd sound like a total crazy person, because "so-and-so" never did exist, and never did "such-and-such."

What happened?

Yesterday I was at the Garden Restaurant at the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. It has the most marvelous view of the top of the Salt Lake Temple.

I knew this. I've been there before. But the last time was a good decade or so ago.

BEFORE I wrote a book about the temple. With an epilogue that takes place on the day of the capstone celebration. The end of the epilogue is at the top of the spires, exactly what I was looking out at.

During that time, while the scaffolding was still in place, they sold tickets to the public to climb up and view the city from the top of the the temple. (Can you imagine what a sight that would have been?)

That night in 1892, after the capstone celebration, shortly after Angel Moroni was set into place, I have my characters at the top of the temple. (I'm not going to tell you who they are or what had transpired; you'll just have to read the story when it comes out this fall. Let's just say that I'm already getting a bit emotional telling you this much. Man, I love my characters . . .)

So there I was at the restaurant staring out at the spires. I nearly snagged a lady standing next to me. "Over there, see?" I wanted to say. "That's exactly where they were standing with their families, looking out over the valley."

Instead, I gazed out, felt a fluttery feeling in my stomach, blinked back tears, and tried to get a grip on reality.

They're not real, I reminded myself.

But the same thing happened the first time I drove into Logan after House on the Hill was released (I swear I nearly saw Abe and Lizzy running across Main Street toward the Tabernacle) and again when I visited the St. George temple after At the Journey's End came out (I almost pointed out to my daughter where Clara and Miriam were dropped off on the wagon and she first walked into the temple).

What is my problem?!

I guess what it boils down to is that I love the landmarks I write about. I feel immersed in the history. And I completely fall in love with my characters. They feel real to me.

And when all is said and done, I hope they become as vividly real to my readers, too.

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