Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, LMM

135 years ago today, a little girl was born in a small town called Clifton. She would one day become a world-famous author.

Her mother died when she was only 22 months old. The little girl's only memory of her mother is at the funeral, of her mother lying in her casket, looking asleep, and the girl wondering why everyone was crying and giving her sympathetic looks. That memory would one day show up in a book called Emily of New Moon, about a young girl who aspires to be a writer. The Emily trilogy is the most autobiographical of anything she ever published.

Her father remarried and moved out west, and she stayed behind to be raised by her rather strict grandparents. She did spend a year or so with her father during her adolescence, but it was a miserable time, and she longed to be home with her cousins and friends, so she went back to live with her grandparents.

Later on, she went to college and at one point became a school teacher, sleeping in a room so cold in the winter that her wash water and ink bottle would freeze overnight.

Even so, she had aspirations to be a writer, so she got up early before school, lit a fire, got the ink workable, and hand-wrote short stories and poetry. Some of that work she published in magazines, which helped to keep her finances afloat.

Later, she worked at a newspaper proofing copy as articles flew down a chute at her. She no longer had the luxury of quiet time to write, but she found a way to write with the loud noises of the printer banging around her and in the snippets between the times articles shot down the chute. She had more acceptances during this period. (Good luck making excuses like, "Oh, I can't write if it's not totally silent.")

Eventually, however, she had to return home to care for her ailing grandmother, who had raised her. At this point, she managed to sell dozens of short stories, and she kept sending them off, something easy to do since the family ran the local post office. (In fact, that's how she sent off her first submission and many others without anyone ever knowing about it.)

During a particularly harsh winter, she had a deep depression and nervous breakdown, and the local minister, named Ewan, a bachelor, became a dear friend who helped her through that time. He proposed, and she accepted, on the condition that she couldn't marry until her grandmother had passed away. He agreed, but his ministry called him away a year or so later, and they had a long-distance engagement for several years. (Note: Many documents spell his name Ewen, but she uses Ewan in her journals.)

She admitted in her journal that she was never in love with him, but she did love him dearly as a friend and couldn't imagine her life without him, but at her age, that was the best she could hope for.

During this time, she decided to try her hand at a novel instead of short stories. She flipped through her idea notebook, where she always jotted down random ideas that came to her, and she came across one that seemed like a fun one to explore: a couple who wants to adopt a boy and accidentally gets sent a girl.

That book was rejected a few times, but eventually it found a home. Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908 and became a break-out success.

In the last 101 years, it has since been translated into dozens of languages, made into several movies and a musical, and continues to be a beloved classic. Her readers demanded many sequels. Her life as a famous novelist began.

When her grandmother died, Ewan returned, and they married. She was 36.

Right away, they left what was her home and moved far away, to the Toronto area. She would never live there again, only visit it, but she most of her future writing would be focused on her old stomping grounds of Prince Edward Island, and the world would love her for it.

She had three children, all boys. The second was stillborn due to a knot in the umbilical chord. She named him after her father, Hugh. She never quite got over losing him, even giving a similar loss to Anne in one of her later books.

In spite of the happy, almost magical, tone of her books, she led a sad life filled with depression, largely due to her husband's mental illness and tendency toward being a hypochondriac. Her eldest son, Chester, gave her much grief, failing in college, having an extra-marital affair, becoming a liar and a cheat, and so forththings that made her completely heartsick.

She and her husband both had chronic depression and were dependent on prescription medications. She was generous, almost to a fault, with readers and fans, and frequently loaned money to family (which she often never got back). When her husband became too ill to work as a minister (and keep a congregation happy), she became the primary breadwinner of the family.

This was particularly difficult during the Depression, when buying books became a luxury for most people, and her income suffered dramatically as a result.

She kept a journal from the time she was a young girl almost until the end of her life. She nearly stopped writing in it during her final years. Quite often she wrote entries on other pieces of paper or in notebooks and later transcribed them into her journal.

The last one in the published version of her journals is supposedly such a note, written about a month before her death, but it was found on a table next to her body, and some people believe it to be a suicide note. We'll never know conclusively whether she died of natural causes or if she had a hand in it, as an autopsy was never performed.

She wrote:
Since then my life has been hell, hell, hell. My mind is goneeverything in the world I lived for has gonethe world has gone mad. I shall be driven to end my life. Oh God, forgive me. Nobody dreams what my awful position is.

Whatever happened at the end of her life, I hope she's a happier woman now on the other side and has found some semblance of peace, particularly since she brought so much joyand continues to bring joyto the millions who read her books every year.

I can honestly say that of all writers out there, L. M. Montgomery has had the most profound impact on me as a writer. That could be because of the age I was when I discovered her work or the friends I had who also loved her stories. As I've said before, I'm not just an Anne fan.

In fact, while I love Anne, she's not in my top three of LMM characters: 

Rather, I am fascinated by L. M. Montgomery the mother, the wife, the writer, the woman. 

I can point to elements in my own work that have been directly impacted by hers. Today I'm remembering her and honoring her. 

Happy birthday, Maud.*
May you truly rest in peace.

*Not Lucy. She hated her first name. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Word Nerdiversary!

Image courtesy Daily Clip Art

It's been a YEAR since I started doing Word Nerd Wednesday!

So far I have personally had a ball talking about some of my personal favorite topics, whether it's been pet peeves on holiday gift cards, Grimm's Law, or when to use parentheses versus brackets and italics versus quote marks. (Those last two posts are ones Googlers regularly land on. Never expected that.)

Technically, Word Nerd Wednesday's anniversary is November 26th, so tomorrow is the anniversary, but tomorrow isn't a Wednesday, so we're cheating by celebrating today. (Sue me.) Let's just say the party is a day early, a bit of pre-Thanksgiving joy.

The celebration will have TWO PARTS:

FIRST: I'm going to share three fun words that have some history for me dating back to my teens.

SECOND: we have a giveaway. This one requires nothing but a comment to enter. No Tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, or anything else. Just leave a comment so I know you want it. This time it's my way of saying thanks for hanging out with the nerd side of me each Wednesday!

First, the three words:

xanthic: Of or pertaining to yellow.
I have no idea why my bestest teen bud (and future bride's maid) J.J.-Panda and I latched onto this one, but in high school, it became our catch-all word for anything we loved. If we liked something, it was xanthic. If it passed muster, it was xanthic. It was such a random word, but it was lots of fun, especially since no one else knew what the heck it meant. (I'm pretty sure she's the one who taught it to me. I wasn't nearly that creative.)

The technical definition is more along the lines of "certain compounds that produce substances of a yellow color," but we liked our simple definition better.

plethora: Over-fullness in any respect; a superabundance, an excess.
We loved using this one. We used to drop notes in one another's locker on a regular basis, and I'd guess that 90% of them included plethora in some context. (I'm sure a good 75% included xanthic.)

melancholy: Depressed, sad, gloomy.
This one has more of a story behind it. I was a huge L. M. Montgomery fan (okay, I still am), so I knew full well what melancholy meant, since LMM used the word a lot. But I'd never heard it spoken.

It wasn't until my 9th grade honors English teacher, Miss Jarmon, had the class taking turns reading a short story aloud that I heard it for the first time . . . about two students in front of me. The girl who said it correctly ended up as our valedictorian.

The word is pronounced roughly (since I don't really have the right symbols here): meh-lun-KAH-lee

I was mentally saying it as: meh-LAN-kuh-lee

Sooooo glad it wasn't me reading it aloud. Katie H. saved my bacon.

I thought it appropriate to give away a copy of There, Their, They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd on Word Nerd Wednesday's Nerdiversary.

To win, simply drop a comment below so I know you'd like it. (Or, if you win and already own a copy, you can have it shipped to a friend. Consider it a Christmas gift!)

I'll pick a winner NEXT Word Nerd Wednesday.

This isn't a requirement, but I might be fun if, in your comment, you mention a word that impacted you in some way like xanthic, plethora, and melancholy impacted me.

It'll count toward your giveaway entry, and we'll all get an extra treat to boot!

Good luck!

(Have a xanthic Thanksgiving. May you enjoy a plethora of food and never for a moment feel melancholy.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Acceptable Stereotypes? Since When?

I can remember one time I have admitted my high school and not gotten a reaction along the lines of how I must be a rich, snotty brat. It was about ten years ago when a woman in the city we lived in at the time was researching Utah schools because she knew that the secondary education in our area wasn't stellar. She wanted to move where her kids would have a good high school.

We went walking on a track one morning, and she asked where I'd gone to high school. I hesitantly admitted it. Her reaction almost had me stumbling in shock off the pavement.

"No way! You are so lucky. Wow. You must have had an amazing education."

You know what? I did have an amazing high school education. But no one else in the general Utah area knows that. All they see is the reputation my school has for wealth . . . a reputation that is not even founded, as only a small percentage of the student body had money, and even fewer were snotty. (I knew plenty of poor, snotty students, and one of my best friends was rich but one of the sweetest people ever. It can go both ways.)

So here is my "confession," if you will:

I attended and graduated with honors from Timpview High School in Provo, Utah.

When it comes to education, Timpview really is one of the best schools in the state. In some surveys, it's ranked as one of the top two high schools in Utah. I got one stinkin' good education. From a parents' point of view, I'd love my kids to go there. (I'd just hate for them to get the same backlash I've endured for over twenty years.)

The reputation is based on the rich kids who live on a hill next to the school. That hill includes Osmond Lane. (Yes, those Osmonds, although none of them live there anymore.) In my time, the hill also had families whose fathers were plastic surgeons and so forth. So yes, THS had some (I stress some) very rich students.

First off, they were not all snotty (although granted, some were). And second, I'd guess that a good 85% or so of the student body were not on the hill, not rich, nor anything like unto it.

The school boundaries cut Provo in half vertically, so there were plenty of students nowhere near the hill. We ran the gamut of the economic spectrum, from mansions to tiny apartments.

Even though my family lived in northern Provo, our house was off the hill, not on the rich, east side. I am the child of a linguist. (Not exactly a wealthy profession.) When I was in grade school, we had a truck that was so rusted and ugly that my mother was humiliated to have it parked in front of the house.

Other families in our neighborhood got really good at fixing things with duct tape. Most relied on canning fruit from their own trees to get by. My mom sewed all our Sunday dresses (back then, before WalMart, sewing clothes was cheaper than buying them). Not exactly Beverly Hills.

Why was THS so great? A good percentage of families living in our school boundaries had BYU connections, including parents who were professors, so education was important to them. The culture of the area had parents who were active in their children's education. They made sure their kids did their homework. They stressed getting into college and taking advanced courses.

As a result, Timpview was (and is!) an excellent high school. I got a fantastic education that put me miles ahead of my fellow freshmen at BYU. I still credit virtually all I know about grammar and punctuation to Miss Drummond, my love and understanding of history to Miss McKay, and any music skill I have to Mr. Larsen.

But . . .

Even now, whenever someone finds out where I went to school, their first reaction is, "Oh, so you were one of those rich, snobby kids." Or some variation on that theme.

A few years ago, those exact words came from a woman I worked with in the Young Women program, of all places. I knew she'd attended Spanish Fork High, which had a reputation for being filled with nothing but illiterate, tobacco-chewing cowboys.

After she'd lambasted me with the Timpview stereotype, I had half a mind to reply with, "So you were one of those tabacca chawin' hicks?" I refrained, trying to be the mature one and knowing full well that just as I didn't fit my stereotype, she didn't fit hers, and I wasn't about to throw hers in her face.

Tears pricked my eyes anyway.

How old were we, for crying out loud? We were the adult leaders, sitting at the church, planning an activity for our youth (one that was to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, no less), and she had to bring up old rivalries and assume I'm a stuck-up, rich snob? Really? What had I done to deserve that?

Last Friday, Timpview won Utah's 4A state championship for football, and I was darn proud of my Thunderbirds, especially since my nephew was on the field as one of the players. (Go, #24!)

During and after the game, there was a minor rivalry in my neighborhood via Facebook between a couple of Timpview graduates and some graduates of the team Timpview beat.

It was all in good fun, but it still hurt when I got the same old stereotype thrown at me. This time it was couched as, "Well, we can't all attend Osmond High."

Ouch. I know the person saying it was joking, but it still stung. I could have thrown their high school's stereotype back at them (I won't mention it here, but it's an exceedingly ugly stereotype). I didn't do that. I'm going to assume it's inaccurate and that saying it would be both mean and demeaning.

I've purposely never thrown such a stereotype at someone else, because I know from experience that 1) most likely, it's wrong and 2) it wounds.

I don't know why these kinds of minor jabs are acceptable in our society. It's like Lord of the Flies in miniature. I believe that while this particular issue may seem small, larger issues grow from it like mushrooms.

If it's okay to look down on someone because they attended this school or that one, what other silly reason do we need to look down on another human being? I thought we could joke around and tease about a simple football game, but it quickly turned into name-calling.

In today's society, race, gender, and religion are big issues. If we can't handle something as tiny as an alma mater, how can we handle the meaty issues, let alone properly teach the next generation to face them?

That's a dismal thought for the country and the planet.

At this point, I know there's nothing I can do to change anyone's perception of Timpview. The only thing I can hope to do is instill into my own children the understanding that it's never okay to lump a group of people together like that, to assume you know who they are and what they're like, especially when the stereotype is negative.

If I ever hear one of them say, "I can't stand X school; they're all snobs," they're going to get a serious earful from Mama. If they ever say anything similar about any group of people, no matter who they are, they'll get a similar lecture.

There are no acceptable stereotypes.

So here I am today, standing up for the first time probably ever with no hiding, no shame, no mumbling, and no apologies:

I am a graduate of Timpview High School, class of 1992.

The truth is, I'll always be a T-bird at heart.

I'll even don orange, white, and blue to prove it.


Fight on, you Thunderbirds, wherever you may be.
Fight on, you Thunderbirds! Fight on to victory!
Battle to win with glory, honor your name.
Courage will tell the story, bringing you fame!
Fight on, you Thunderbirds
Who wear the orange and white.
Higher and higher you'll fly.
Now and forever let us fight with all our might.
Fight on, Timpview High!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Writing Journey: Audio Double Hockey Sticks

I entered the publishing world at a rather odd period: right as cassette tapes were making their exit and CDs were making their debut.

As a result, my first novel's audio was put on cassette. My second was available on both cassette and CD, and my third was only on CD. I was right at the transition period.

This was also a period where nearly every Covenant novel was available in both print and on audio. Slight problem, however: audio sells less, but has new costs like paying an actor to perform the thing, so they always insisted that the author abridge the book down to a particular length to help on production costs.

When the full transition to CD was complete, it brought me a slight measure of joy. This may sound like a small thing, but for a writer, it was huge: the CDs they used could hold 5,000 more words of air time than the cassettes could.

That meant less abridging. Instead of cutting my book down to 48,000 words, we had to cut books down to only 53,000.

Let's put those numbers into perspective.

Abridging my first two books wasn't too hard. Oh, at the time, I thought it was a hideous brand of torture, but I had no idea how good I had it. Those books were in the neighborhood of about 70,000 words. Cutting them to 48,000 was taking out roughly 1/4 of the book.

I could take out descriptions, condense paragraphs, summarize sections, and so on, but keep the entire story intact. It wasn't fun by any means, but it was quite doable.

With At the Water's Edge, I was particularly concerned about the Finnish words and names being pronounced correctly. I could do it, in theory, but I knew I'd probably talk way too fast and get ridiculously nervous and end up sounding like a fool. So I had them audition my sister for the reader, and they used her. Mel and I sound remarkably similar (to the point that her husband has mistaken me for her on the phone), so if you ever listen to the audio of that one, you can pretend it's me!

My next book, House on the Hill, clocked in at about 102,000 words. It was book #3, which, as you recall, was still on both cassette and CD. I had to cut it down to 48,000 words. That means more than half of the book had to be at the mercy of the delete key.

Entire characters and subplots from the original don't exist in the audio version of that one. I listened to my first two audios, but nearly 5 years after that one, I still haven't listened to it. I don't have the heart.

Next book: At the Journey's End.

In theory, I should have been dancing with glee, because this was when the transition to CD was complete, so I had an additional 5,000 words to work with, right? After all, I had to cut the book to 53,000 instead of 48,000.

Yeah, well, slight problem: the novel was 114,000 words. Ahem. So even with those extra 5,000 words, I still had to cut a higher percentage, because the book was so dang long. ARGH! I think I managed to cut it well enough, but again, I haven't listened to it. I hope it makes sense.

When you cut a book that much, it becomes almost a summary; you have to suck out any personality and flavor of the original. You lose the essence of the real thing. That's why I almost cringe when I hear that people have listened to my books; I know they have no idea what my writing and my stories are really like.

I just hope the audios aren't butcher jobs. (On one hand, I do count my blessings in that I get to do the abridging and not someone else!)

Next up: Spires of Stone.

The book and its rewrites and edits gave me fits for months on end. By the time I had to cut it for the audio, I was ready to torch it anyway. I think I managed to cut it all right. The audio part of the process was such a blur that I don't really remember. I just did it and handed it in.

Haven't listened to that one, either.

Now here comes the interesting part: Covenant has changed their tune. I don't know what was behind the decision, but I'm guessing they've realized that most people don't want abridged books. If they're going to listen to a book, they want the whole thing.

So here's the latest: Covenant's putting out fewer audio books (because they can't afford to put out everything unabridged) but whatever they are putting out is unabridged.

Can I hear a hallelujah?!

The result of this is that Tower of Strength had no audio at all. That was bittersweet. For once, I didn't have the misery of having to hack away at my own book and leave a bloody mess on the floor. (Especially since authors pretty much never, ever saw any royalties on audio books anyway. Long story there, but the whole audio thing was an exercise in futility. Something we had to do, but it really did no good.)

On the other hand, a contract clause was changed that meant I would now be far more likely to get royalties from an audio book, not to mention that with a book unabridged, people would be more likely to buy it. Plus I didn't have to abridge anything.

Regardless, I didn't get the audio on Tower. Like I said, bittersweet.

This time around, with Band of Sisters, I haven't heard either way whether I'll get the audio. That'll be a decision up to the marketing department, what other titles are being released during the same period, and which they figure will be most likely to sell audio copies.

For now, I am simply grateful that never again will I have to sit at the computer wondering, How in the world can I tell this story in so few words and have it make any sense whatsoever?! ARGH!!!!

Those days are gone! YES!!!

PS #1: Today is the 4A State Football Championship. My nephew is playing in it (He's #24 for Timpview). It's also my alma mater. Today's their shot for a 4th consecutive state title. Cross your fingers for the Thunderbirds!

PS #2: The Utah Chocolate Show runs today and tomorrow at the South Towne Expo Center, 11 am to 9 pm. Tickets are $7 at the door. If you see my sister Mel (the director) say hi for me! My other sister, Michelle, will likely be hanging around the demo stage and running stuff there. Say hi to her, too! Mel may need to jet at some point this morning to see part of the game. I don't know how she'll manage to even open the show while her son's in a championship game. Yowza!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WNW: 2009 Word of the Year

Each year, The New Oxford American Dictionary picks a new word that has become a part of the lexicon and declares it the word of the year.

Past popular words of the year you might recognize include:

2005: truthiness (a word invented and popularized by Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report)

2003: metrosexual (my husband's not, thank goodness)

2000: chad (memories of that election are enough to make us all have horrid flashbacks, right?)

1999: Y2K (if you're too young to remember this one, be glad)

1996: soccer mom (I wasn't then. I am now.)

And so on.

The word of the year selected for 2009:


I love it.

Generally speaking, "un" is added to adjectives to make them negative (unacceptable, unhappy, uncertain) and to some verbs to reverse them (unwind, undo, unpack).

Which means that unfriend implies that friend is a verb. The fun thing is that in today's world of social networking, friend has become a verb. We friend people on Facebook and other platforms, and therefore when we decide to drop them from our list of friends, we unfriend them.

But here's the part the word nerd part of me find completely fascinating.

In the OED, there's an entry for friend that's already a verb. It's obscure, and it's rare, but it's there. And as late as the 1800s, there are a few quotes that use friend as a verb, not in the computer sense that we do, of course, but in this sense in an unidentified quote from 1867:

"That germ of kindness . . . outlives my doom, and friends me in the pit of fire."

Final note:
If you live in southern Utah County, listen up!
A new urgent care clinic is opening its doors TODAY in Spanish Fork called Express Med. And today it's giving out FREE PIZZA. It's run by my amazing sister-in-law, who has won more awards that you can count and is a doctor of nursing. (They have those, did you know?!) She's flipping amazing. You'll want to check it out, I promise.

Express Med is at 415 North Main, Spanish Fork.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Winner, Winner!

Quick announcement for the footrest winner, and then I have to get back to judging a contest for my local library. (Something I've been doing annually for six years now. Quite fun, I must say.)

I kept a clear list of every single entry on an Excel spreadsheet to make sure every single entry was accounted for (every comment, tweet, FB mention, blog post).

I used to pick the winner.

It picked: Entry #19: Mandy!

Yea, Mandy!

(I'm half tempted to go, "Oh, Mandy . . ." and start crooning like Barry Manilow, but that would date me, so I won't. Whoops.)

I've actually known Mandy for years, and because of our connections, it feels like we're related, even though we're not.

(No favoritism, I swear. It was all's doing. Not that I'm complaining. Yea, Mandy!)

Mandy, e-mail me your mailing address (I don't think I have it!) and your phone number (the company needs that for their accounts--I think I have your old one), and I'll get your footrest ordered.


Thanks to everyone who played!

I'll be sure to have something fun up for Word Nerd Wednesday this week, since I flaked last week.

Putting my judging hat back on . . .

Friday, November 13, 2009

Writing Journey & Randomness

I began chronicling my writing journey something like a year ago (wowzers), and we're basically up to present day. I've talked about submitting the chocolate cookbook. About a week ago (not on the Journey series) I announced it had been officially accepted but that we don't haven an official release date.

So that's just about as current as you get.

I'll continue to give updates and talk about what I'm working on and how things are going.

As I've written the series, I've collected a list of questions that readers have dropped into the comments about writing and publication issues, and I decided to use them for future parts of this series. Plus, there are lots of things I never did talk about, and I may discuss random things that come to me. (One topic: audio books. Oh, heaven help me. I never did describe the hideous torture of abridgment. I will soon.)

As a reader or an aspiring writer, if you have any questions for me, please drop a note, whether in the comments or via e-mail (see my profile), and I'll put them in my queue. I've known some things about the publishing industry so long that I forget that ten years ago I didn't know this, that, or the other and that someone else might find it interesting. So ask away!

Here's what I'm up to right now and in the near future with writing:
  • Waiting to get my edits for Band of Sisters. I should have them in hand any day now.
  • Doing lots of freelance editing work.
  • Entering writing contests.
  • Writing some freelance articles.
  • I recently resubmitted a manuscript somewhere because of something a little bird told me. That's all I'll say about that right now. If I get good news, I'll be sure to announce it.
  • After I get my edits done, I'll be focusing on finishing up revisions on my murder mystery. If all goes well, since it's already written, I'll turn it in by the end of the year.
  • After the new year, I plan to revisit the Finnish folktale manuscript. I need to do some additional polishing on it, but with that whole Summer of Chocolate thing, the folktale sort of got sent to the back burner.
  • Come March, Band of Sisters will be released! (So come December/January, I'll be doing proofing and all that fun stuff.) I'm sure there will be much celebration (and promotion) in the land. Actually, I hope to use the book to bring attention to families with a deployed parent and help support them. I've got a neat charity I've been watching with that in mind. Stay tuned for that.

On Saturday, December 19, I'll be doing ONE book signing for All Is Bright, the collection of true Christmas short stories I'm part of. I believe Heather (H.B.) Moore and possibly Julie Wright (also with stories in the collection) will be there as well. We'll be at the Spanish Fork Seagull from noon to 2:00.

Whitney Awards
Last year I got to be on the Whitney committee. It was a great experience, and one I'm so glad I had. This year, since I have a book published (and hence am eligible for an award), I'm not on the committee, but I do get to be a category judge, which is fun. So I've been doing lots and lots of reading of nominees in my two assigned categories.

Reminder for all readers: This is a reader-driven award program. No book gets nominated unless a reader does it, and a book needs FIVE nominations to move on to the judges. It's that time of year; we have just a month and a half left. If you love a particular book by any LDS writer (that includes nationally published writers as well LDS market writers), be sure to jump over to the Whitney site and nominate it by December 31.

This isn't a personal plug. Thanks to a few insider connections, I happen to know that Tower has enough nominations to move on to the judging stage, so there's no need to race over to nominate it. Just remember to nominate your favorite books. Don't assume they're nominated. Every year there are some books people just assume have been nominated that haven't been.

It's official; I'm old. Years ago, my husband and I taught a sweet little class of kids in Primary who were 9 going on 10. At the time, our oldest was learning to crawl. (Our son is now in 9th grade and is taller than I am, so yeah, it was awhile ago.)

One of those class members is one of my Facebook friends, and it's been fun to watch him posting things about his life as a returned missionary, a college student, and so on. Today he posted a song he and a friend recorded.

The song is about a boy named Taylor and a girl named Amber . . . making out. First I laughed. It was definitely a song university students would make up. And then I wondered . . . where did my innocent little Primary boy go?

Apparently, he grew up. Which means I'm a fossil.

Brady, I hope you don't mind me posting this for the world to hear. It was just too funny not to.

Listen to the song HERE. Laugh and enjoy. Brady's the one doing the harmony.

Don't forget to enter the GIVEAWAY for the footrest! Contest closes Sunday night, and I'll announce the winner Monday.

One more benefit I've discovered:
As I use the footrest, it keeps my body more balanced and squared. As a result, I've discovered that I have a tendency to lean left while typing. I never knew that. With my feet planted on the footrest, I've been more aware of that, so I correct it and sit straighter more often. I have to think the footrest will help with my posture and headaches the longer I use it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Giveaway! Giveaway!

Almost exactly a month ago, I promised a fun giveaway, and I'm not about to disappoint.

Accent Furniture approached me with the chance to review one of their products and give one away to one of my readers.

Knowing that the vast majority of my blog readers spend a lot of time at their computers (being avid bloggers, writers, and readers themselves), I decided immediately that I'd pick something in the home office section of their website.

As I browsed, I landed on something that made me grin. I wanted one, and I had a sneaking suspicion that just about all my readers would like a shot at getting one too.

I told the company what it was. They shipped mine to me, and I've been trying it out for the last week.

Behold, The Balt Rolax Ergonimic Footrest:

Here's how it went down: my kids were almost more excited than I was to see the box. One opened it with scissors while another ran to get a Phillip's head screwdriver (the one tool we needed to assemble the footrest).

The main footrest part (the gray portion in the center) comes fully assembled. What you put together is the frame the footrest, well, rests on. It comes in four parts, metal rods, that are easily put together with a screw and a washer, each of which is conveniently already attached to one of the rods so the screws aren't flying around the box or in some little plastic baggie. I appreciated that. I just had to unscrew them a bit, fit the pieces together, and screw them back together.

The instructions actually made assembly look harder than it really was. Once I figured out how the pieces went together, I just tossed the paper aside and got the Phillip's head going. Four screws and washers later, we were done. We placed the foot rest on top of the frame just like the picture showed, and we were in business.

The really cool part is that the footrest is not stuck in one position. As you adjust how you're sitting, it rolls and rocks with you, moving forward or back on the frame.

The middle section, of course, is my favorite part; I can give myself a foot rub any time of the day.

For someone with chronic headaches, it's awesome. There are times I'll purposely find a pressure point on my foot and just let one of the balls dig into it. I find having the foot rest there, even when I'm not using the massage section, really relaxing, especially after hours at the computer.

We have a new rule in the house now: the kids can use it (while sitting, hello . . . one daughter tried standing on it. It's strong enough that it didn't break, but sheesh, girl!), but only while wearing socks. I don't need their smelly foot germs on my new footrest, thanks! The kids regularly take it away from my desk and use it while reading on the couch.

Final verdict: Thumbs up from not just from me, but from the whole Lyon clan!


Let's get the word out! (Okay, and yes, shameless promotion here. I admit it.)

For EACH additional way of getting entries, LEAVE A COMMENT so I know you did it and can give you credit for it.

1) FIRST entry: Simply leave a comment. That's it. Preferably saying I rock or something flattering. But whatever. Even "I was here" is enough. Be sure I can contact you. If your e-mail is not enabled in your profile, I suggest you include your e-mail address in your comment in case you win.

2) TWO MORE entries: Facebook it by mentioning the giveaway in your status. (Come back and comment to say so.)

3) TWO MORE entries Tweet it. In your comment, leave your tweet's URL
(HOW: After you tweet it, click right under your avatar where it says how long ago you put up the new status, "5 seconds ago" or whatever. It'll take you to the URL page. Copy that URL and paste it into your comment.)

4) THREE MORE entries: mention the giveaway on your blog.
(In your comment, leave the post's permalink where you mentioned it. That's the POST'S actual link, not your blog's general link.)

Total possible entries: EIGHT!

Contest closes SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15th. (That gives you 7 days.)

The winner will be announced a week from today, Monday, November 16th. If the winner doesn't claim the prize in 24 hours, a new winner will be selected randomly.

Have fun and good luck!

(Ooooh, my foot rest feels good . . .)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Writing Journey: Sliding into Chocolate Homebase

It was the second week of August, and I knew without any doubt that I simply could not get a full manuscript of the chocolate cookbook to Covenant by the end of the month like I'd promised.

The thought was devastating. I'd never, ever missed a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise. I knew they'd be understanding, but I hated to disappoint them. I was disappointed in myself, even though I'd done everything short of moving mountains to get the book done in four months.

I sent an e-mail to Kathy, the managing editor, and to Kirk, my personal editor, explaining the situation and apologizing profusely. I said I could almost certainly have the book done in another six weeks, the first part of October.

Once again, Kirk proved to me that he's the best editor a writer could hope to have. His reply was something along the lines of, "We'd much rather have a quality product than a rushed one. Take the time you need."

(Have I mentioned that Kirk rocks?)

They hadn't decided on a firm release date, but they'd been toying with a possible Valentines Day release. The delay pretty much nixed that. So they penciled in a tentative fall 2010 release.

As soon as school started for the kids, I buckled down harder than ever, baking and cooking and otherwise chocolating (yes, it became a verb) all day long, every day. I'd plan out a strategy each day: which recipes I'd make and in which order, depending on what temperature the oven needed to be at and how long they took to bake, or if I needed to swing by the store for a certain ingredient.

While one recipe baked or cooled, I'd be at the computer typing up the results of a success.

Most of the time, the house looked like a flour, sugar, and cocoa factory had exploded inside. The counters and floor were scary. I did more hand washing and ran the dishwasher more times every day than ever before and still never caught up.

I don't have much memory of what we ate for dinner. My husband would walk in the door from work, see me bustling around in an apron, and asked if I was working on a recipe or actually making dinner. Usually, it wasn't dinner.

Life was utter madness. But I was going to get the thing done if it killed me. (I think it almost did.)

When I finished the actual recipes, I spent a week or so finishing up the other content I'd been working on periodically throughout the process: an introduction, explanations of ingredients, specific information on chocolate, a glossary, fun chocolate anecdotes and trivia, and so on.

That part, I must admit, was some of the most fun I had. (Possibly because it was, oh, writing.)

As the days went on, I gave Kirk a firmer date. I promised him that he'd have the manuscript by Monday, October 5th.

I thought that on that date, I'd be simply giving it a couple of final touches in the morning before e-mailing it off.

Instead, I was up late finishing the manuscript, working until I was happy with it.

But I made that deadline. I'm sure Kirk was long gone from the office by the time I submitted the manuscript around ten o'clock that night, but what I am tentatively calling The Chocoholic's Easy Guide to Bliss landed in his inbox on October 5th, as promised.

I celebrated not with chocolate, but with wonderfully salty chips and salsa.


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