Thursday, April 30, 2009

Let's Go For a Ride

My husband and I are terrible consumers. 

We are gullible and trusting--hence, I think we often get taken for a ride.

Today we had a duct cleaning company come on out to our house to clean our vents and air ducts. I chose them because we had a coupon from them that they would clean any number of vents, any sized house for a flat rate. Granted, it was an excellent rate, but still . . . I believed it to be true.

The guy came out, looked at all our vents, and then announced that it would cost four times as much as the coupon. Of course, when pointed out, my husband saw that in microscopic print where it said that the price would depend on the number of vents etc.

Okay so David tells the guy, umm, no thanks. And then the guy says, well, you owe us for the service call, or they could do the vents on the main floor and we'd get "something" for our money. 

So just now I looked up what air duct cleaning entails, because I wanted to see if the guy had actually done anything.

Turns out that the EPA says there is no definitive answer whether duct cleaning is necessary. It is their opinion that duct cleaning should only be done if you visible mold growing on your vents, you have a vermin problem, or your vents are spewing particles of dust and debris (visibly) into the air.

Umm, we didn't have any of those problems. And yet, we totally believed our regular furnace service man when he said it would improve the air quality in our home. We were so proud of ourselves when we found this company in the ValuMailer and their cost was substantially less than our heating and cooling company.

But apparently, for our money we got nothing. According the EPA web site, the service guy didn't do any of the things he was supposed to do.

So, yep. We were taken for a ride. And it was not a pleasant one.

When will we learn to do business cautiously? Well, we're half way through our life and we still haven't learned, apparently--so perhaps, never? *sigh* 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Review ~ The Hand of Isis

Hand of Isis Hand of Isis by Jo Graham

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
At first when I started reading Hand of Isis I was thrilled that it read so much like Jo Graham's first book Black of Ships, which I loved. However, soon the similarity in voice began to distract me.

Who's head was I in? Sybil's from Black Ships? Or Charmian's from Hand of Isis? There was very little, outside of lifestyle and circumstance, to distinguish between these two characters.

I'm at a loss for what to say exactly about the voice because I love it, but I thought Charmian should stand out more from Sybil and be more herself. That being said, I love Graham's voice and am feeling conflicted, lol.

Hand of Isis tells the story of Charmian, handmaiden and half-sister to the great Cleopatra. Cleopatra has forever been an icon of the past and I found the subject matter and the crystalline way Graham wrote about her to be fascinating.

Graham wrote Hand of Isis in that beautiful lyrical way that won my heart in Black Ships and told about a time long past as though she really had been there.

Next to the voice of the main character, the only other thing that disturbed me about this book were the rather graphic sex scenes. There were only a couple throughout the entire book, but they were powerful enough to leave me feeling disappointed that I had read them. I hadn't expected them and kept thinking that they would soon be over or that something important would come of it. In the end, I just wish I'd turned the page.

I think what was most troubling about the sex scenes was the nature of them--they were not romance in the traditional sense, but dealt with the abuse of power and the alternate lifestyle choices that were the norm in early Greece, Rome and Egypt. Homosexuality and Bisexuality were acceptable practices at that time and so they were a part of Charmian's life. I just wish I hadn't read about them. I wish there had been a warning sign "avert your eyes!" before I came to those parts. I think the story would have been just fine without them--less is more, I think in this case.

So, overall, I'd say I'm a wee bit disappointed with this, Jo Graham's second book. While it was rich in beauty and imagination, it lacked in originality from her first book and in decorum.

View all my reviews.

WiP Wednesday

For those of you who don't know, a WiP is my Work in Progress, which means the book or story I am currently working on. I thought I knew what that was, but I'm a bit befuddled after returning from the conference this past weekend.

I had been working on Land Magic--a story set in a make-believe world that acts and feels a lot like a medieval world. Except there aren't really any knights or kings or anything like that. Kind of hard to have kingdoms when your land keeps breaking apart and drifting away. You see, in Insulunda, my make-believe world, the land masses move like clouds in the sky. Sometimes coming together, always eventually moving apart. It makes it very hard to form relationships or build community for all the obvious reasons.

There was a time when the land was controlled by land wizards, but they fell out of favor with Gaia, the goddess of the earth. Now Gaia hoards the land magic and the people of Insulunda are left to drift aimlessly in the endless seas.

That is, until a teenage boy earns the respect of Gaia and the love of her daugther, Tera. Aren and Terra (not 100% committed to the names, so if you think they don't go together, give me a shout out--this is the first time I've written their names together and now I'm kind of going "hmm") together work to bring land magic back to Insulunda, but there is one remaining land wizard who is determined to be the only one who can control the islands. 

Kale is an ancient land wizard who went a little crazy whe she felt the magic being withdrawn back into the earth. She couldn't face a world that she could not control. When Cernun, the god of the astral plane comes to her and offers to breathe life into her mechanical creations in exchange for Gaia's destruction, Kale is eager to agree. 

How will Aren protect Insulunda of Kale's deadly plans and save Gaia from Cernun's evil intent? 

I don't know! I will have to write it to find out. :D Oh, I have some ideas, but I'm not ready to share them yet ;)

So, Land Magic was what I felt prompted to work on before the conference, but now I have another priority. I promised that I would send out ten submissions to agents or editors within the next two weeks. But before I can even do that, I have to write the query and synopsis.

Oh yeah, and did I mention? I seriously suck at writing those things.

Plus, while at the conference, I had some ideas on how I can improve the voice in the manuscripts I have previously written and that I'm currently working on. I can't let myself get too distracted though. 

Regardless, my WiP right now is a query and a synopsis. The synopsis is coming along and I'm feeling more hopeful about it now that I ever have before. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesday ~ The Devil's Daughter, part two

I tried to tune out the sound of Dad’s voice. He was heavy into a conversation trying to convince some con guy not to give up on his current gig. He disgusted me. So what if he was swindling little old ladies out of their life savings? If they were dumb enough to let them be taken, they deserved to lose it all. That was my dad's idea of mercy; relieve them of the heavy burden of their wealth.

I stuck the earbuds into my ears, selected my favorite 'happy music'—The Beatles, particularly the early stuff—and turned the volume loud enough to drown out the discussion of the fine art of the con.

I was just getting into the music when my dad yanked the left bud out of my ear.

"Got your happy music on, eh?" His teeth shone whitely at me. "You must be really worked up if you're listening to that junk."

His voice, his words, slithered around my head like a snake. Did you know Adam and Eve only named snakes after they had met my dad in the Garden of Eden? He was so smooth and deceptive, like a snake slipping into your bed at night. Cold and menacing. As soon as Eve saw her first snake, peering at her from between the rows of seeds she was sowing, she thought of Lucifer. Poor snake, to have such a retched namesake.

I glowered.
"Ooh. Desi's all mad—” he taunted. "Tell me all about it, baby. Is it that boy? Is that what's got you all worked up?”

"What boy?" I asked too quickly, my defenses obvious.

"Oh, you know which one, Desolation. Don't play coy with me." He reached over and snapped open his palm, holding it flat and face up in front of my face. On it appeared a shimmering 3-D image of Michael, leaning in to shake Dad's hand, exactly as my dad remembered it. My breath caught in my throat before I could stop myself.

"See, I was right. It is a boy you're all hot for. Can't fool me, you know." He settled back into his seat, his right hand caressing the gear shift languorously. "Tell me about him."

"He's just a guy, Dad." I tried to put the earbud back, but he quick-as-lightning reached out to grab my wrist mid-air.

"Don't give me that. You know he's no ordinary boy."

I'll do a few more of Desi, but then . . . you're on your own till the book comes out. ;)

I worked Monday on my synopsis. I met with Stacy Whitman at the Storymaker conference this past week and she gave me some excellent suggestions on what I could do to improve my synopsis. 

I put her tips to work today and found them to be quite helpful. Hopefully they'll be helpful enough to get my foot in the door for the next ten agents/editors I promised my friends I would submit to within the next TEN days. No easy task my friends! Wish me luck! I fear submitting like the plague. Where's my hasmat suit?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Music Monday ~ Pop Muzik

My very first album--a rockin' 45--was Pop Muzik by M. I have strong memories of that song for no good reason. I remember being so mad at my mom that when she stood outside in our front yard talking to neighbors I turned the music up SCREAMIN' loud, threw open the window and sang in my loudest and most annoying voice. Needless to say, I got the attention I was seeking, but perhaps not in the way I had hoped. I think I was about ten years old. And I was a brat.

But Pop Muzik remained a favorite of mine and still does to this day. It still makes me smile. So here's a little tribute to all the other forty-somethings out there who remember bouncing and bobbing to M back in the day.

Most of you won't be wondering where I've been for the past week, because most of you will have been hanging out with me at the LDStorymakers conference. But if you weren't there, I'm so, so sorry. It was (in the immortal words of Rhino the Hamster) fully awesome! Best time I've had a writers' conference yet.

Nope, no awards for me this year, but that's okay. I didn't have any right to expect to win one as I did not submit my best work. I tossed it off and well, you get what you get and you don't throw a fit as my son's kindergarten teacher used to say.

Nevertheless, I came away feeling like a winner. I have some new insight into who I am as a writer and how I can improve my writing. I made lots of new friends and strengthened the friendships I already had.

In particular, I'd like to give a personal shout out to Jenn, Laura, Melinda, Kristi, James, Rob, Tristi, Deborah and Julie. . Jenn was my roommate and is now my BFF. And I'm not even joking--if she'll have me, I'll be her friend for life. She ROCKS. Everyone else went out of their way to say hi to me, to make me feel loved and I did--I felt so loved. It was an amazing experience of acceptance and validation (haha if any of you were in Julie's class and saw that video :D.) Thank you, all of you, so much.

Hey, if you feel like checking out my blog at LDS Writers Blogck, you'll get to read more of my wacky weirdness in today's post.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teaser Tuesday ~ The Devil's Daughter

So, Elana, the Bandwagon Queen, got this thread from somewhere and I’m hopping on too. I mean, why not, right? I want you to fall madly in love with my stories so that you can add my prayers to the Powers That Be that one day my books will be on your local bookstore shelves. Can’t hurt, right?

So here goes, a little tease from The Devil’s Daughter . . . 


Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but I was born with a pitchfork in my hand. I stood on the sidewalk and looked up at the castle-like building that was to be my new school and watched as all the rich kids dressed in matching uniforms made their way up the front steps. Not that I had a problem with rich kids—it was why I was here that I had the problem. The bright California sunshine tried to warm me, but I still felt cold. It was hard enough to be the new kid at school; even worse when you were sent to wreak havoc.

That pitchfork thing? I wasn't joking. Except, my family has never really used the pitchfork, that's a myth. My father never would have been the one shoveling coal into the furnace of hell. He had minions do that sort of thing. And I don't think he ever used a pitchfork as a weapon. Nowadays his weapon of choice would be the cell phone. He can ruin a life with one call. That's all it takes.

That’s why I didn’t want to go to St. Mary’s Academy. When I’d turned sixteen this past summer, Dad said it was time to join the family business. In case you didn't catch it, my dad is Satan and the family business is destroying lives and stealing souls. I was supposed to go to St. Mary’s to befriend a girl named Miriam Carr, a truly good girl, and turn her to the dark side. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Music Monday ~ The Climb

Elana said she was the Queen of the bandwagon, but I beg to differ. That, my friends, would be me.

Shawntele has her Music Monday, Elana has her Teaser Tuesday and WIP Wednesday, and many have their Thoughtful Thursdays. You know me and promises (I make them just in time to break them, at least where my blogs are concerned) but I kind of like these thingies. I could also add Friendship Friday, Silly Saturday and Sacred Sunday. But don't hold me to it.

However, Shawntele did get me thinking about her Music Mondays and so I thought I'd jump in. You're supposed to post songs that have had meaning or that you've just enjoyed, through different periods of your life.

Right now, Miley Cyrus' The Climb is hitting the spot for me.

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa

This song has meaning for me right now because I have dreams that feel just beyond my fingertips. I want to believe that I can make it, and yet . . . there is that fear.

This song reminds me that it's not about the destination, but the journey. I do what I do, write, homeschool my boys, strive for a better me, because these things have meaning for me. Whether I am ever defined as a success or not, has little consequence to me today. Finding joy in the journey, keepin' on keepin' on, moving, climbing, keeping the faith. That IS what it's all about. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Know I Shouldn't Laugh But . . .

I think Craig Ferguson is so funny. To. Die. For. Funny. Seriously.

Yes, he's naughty. Yes, his brand of humor should probably put me to shame. And yet . . .

He had a bit on the other night about his dog and his naughty night-time habits. Darn but I couldn't find a clip of it. This video is not the most funny Craig I've seen, but it was the best I could do under pressure of blogging. 

Anyone else have a guilty pleasure?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

That Moment

Everyone has a dream. If we're lucky, we get to live on the edges of our dream--close enough that we have the satisfaction of doing what we love, but ever falling short of the heart of it. For a rare few, they get that moment. 

That moment when it all comes together, when the singer and the song are one, the writer and the story are one.

Recently, Susan Boyle, an unemployed woman from Glasgow, Scotland, had her moment. 

It is not that her singing is technically perfect, because it isn't. The song choice is perfect. Her voice--the raw beauty of it--is perfect. Her moment, is perfect.

The video is long, feel free to skip ahead to the singing. Listen, appreciate her moment, and think to yourself--have you had that moment? Do you hope to?

Monday, April 13, 2009

There's a New Kid on the Blogck

For the past month I've been a guest blogger on LDS Writers Blogck. Today, is my first official post as a regular contributor to the blog.

How in the world, am I going to handle yet another blog? Oh yeah baby, you don't know the half of it--but that's a blog for another day.

LDS Writer's Blogck is the offical voice of Authors Incognito. The theme is, naturally, writing--and every day there is a new post by a different writer. My day is Mondays.

So high tail it on over there and check it out. Today I wrote about the importance of a writer having thick skin--crocodile skin, to be exact. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reflecting on Christ

Today is Good Friday. The day our Lord and Savior fulfilled His divine purpose. The day He died for us.

I love Him. I will always remember Him.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Cross Blogination

About a year ago Tristi decided she needed to simplify her life and one of the ways that she did that was to cut back on her blogs. I considered doing the same thing, but I have a few followers on each of my blogs and I didn't want to let them down.

But life is what it is and simplicity is a gem worth searching for, polishing up, and keeping front and center in your view at all times.

So, I think I've figured out a way to build simplicity into my life and to not give up my blogs altogether.

I have three blogs--The Cross Family which talks about my experiences with home schooling my boys. I'll leave that one the way it is.

However, my writing blog and this one are compatible, hence the cross blogination I intend.

When I post on my writing blog, I will also post it here. Likewise, when I post here, I will also blog there.

What will that mean to you? Hopefully it'll mean that you see more entries here, and that you'll read more about my writing.

We'll try it out and see how it goes. Let me know if it bugs you.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Bit of Craziness In An Otherwise Ordinary Day

I am totally stealing this vid from Nichole, but I don't care--I might have one or two readers who haven't seen this yet. This is most-awesome. Truly. Would I kid you? Worth a few minutes of your time.

What a fun adventure for both those who participated in this performance and all those who were unwitting bystanders in Antwerp Central Station on that unusual day. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

"Fear not, the future is as bright as your faith."
~ President Thomas S. Monson

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wizards R Us

So yes, my family and I are still playing Wizard 101. Like a few of you said--it is rather addicting. It's added a whole new element to our family life. However, the good news is, that we still do it together. 

Since it looms so large in our life now, two of my men have started blogs on the thing. I know, crazy, right? But I promised that I would promote them here, lol.

Xander is blogging again--about Wizard 101. He's got tips for players on where to find the best 'drops' or prizes you can win from bosses. Click here to visit his blog.

And David has a blog too--his is more a 'how-to' blog, I think. Check it out here.

Go here to get started playing Wizard--if you dare!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Judge Roy Moore on America The Beautiful

This found it's way into my email inbox earlier this week, and though many of you will likely have also seen it, I thought I would share it here.

You may remember the Alabama judge, Ray Moore who was removed from the bench because he refused to take down a copy of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall. 

Judge Moore wrote a poem in an effort to capture his feelings about the state of our nation. I think it's well done and that it reflects my own feelings on this subject as well.

America the beautiful,
or so you used to be.
Land of the Pilgrims' pride;
I'm glad they'll never see.

Babies piled in dumpsters,
Abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty;
your house is on the sand.

Our children wander aimlessly
poisoned by cocaine
choosing to indulge their lusts,
when God has said abstain

From sea to shining sea,
our Nation turns away
From the teaching of God's love
and a need to always pray

We've kept God in our
temples, how callous we have grown.
When earth is but His footstool,
and Heaven is His throne.

We've voted in a government
that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges;
who throw reason out the door,

Too soft to place a killer
in a well deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby
before he leaves the womb.

You think that God's not
angry,that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait
before His judgment comes?

How are we to face our God,
from Whom we cannot hide?
What then is left for us to do,
but stem this evil tide?

If we who are His children,
will humbly turn and pray;
Seek His holy face
and mend our evil way:

Then God will hear from Heaven;
and forgive us of our sins,
He'll heal our sickly land
and those who live within.

But, America the Beautiful,
If you don't - then you will see,
A sad but Holy God
withdraw His hand from Thee.

~Judge Roy Moore~

The Value of Friendship

Friendships mark our days from our earliest beginnings. But do we ever recognize their value in our lives?

My first friend was a girl named Nicole St. Pierre. Her family lived next door to mine in Bramalea, Ontario, Canada. In 1968, her mom was pregnant at the same time as mine--Nicole was born one day short of a month later than me. 

We grew up together, like sisters more than friends. Our mothers often dressed us the same--Nicole a dark haired princess and me, a fair little fairy. 

Nicole and I shared toys and dreams. We were the shining lights in each others' eyes and cherished our friendship like none other.

Until she moved away.

We tried to maintain our friendship, but we were still little kids--I think we might have been eight when her parents moved. A few years later Nicole moved back, and we rebuilt our friendship as best we could. We knew enough, then, that a friendship like ours was a rare and special thing.

But children are swept to and fro along with the whims of their parents, and so it was with Nicole and I. We managed to stay in touch for the most part, but never had the opportunity again to reconnect with the friendship of our childhood.

I've had a few friends since Nicole. It's interesting though that I see a pattern in my selection of friends--I seem to have but one real friend for each time of my life.

From birth to grade eight, it was Nicole. Then Laurie from grade eight to thirteen. In university, there was Peggy. In my grown-up life there is Sheri.

I have many more friends as an adult than I ever did as a child/young adult. I'm more capable, now, of having 'lighter' friends--not every friend has to know all my deep, dark secrets. But it's nice knowing that someone out there does. 

I haven't always valued the friendships in my life. I've been far too quick to lose touch, to not give the friendship the time and effort it deserves.

I'm writing this because I've recently realized that I am doing that again with Sheri. She is an true friend and so far she has always forgiven me of my lapses in being a good friend. She is the most amazing of friends and deserves better from me.

The value of friendship is something I want to truly appreciate. I don't want to grow old and discover I don't have any real friends left because I didn't treat the few friends I had with the love and respect they deserved. 

Each one of my closest friends, and all those who I am now blessed to call friend, are wonderful and amazing in their own way. They are all unique from one another and I am a better person and my life more rich for knowing them.