Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Well, I feel the need to post one more blog update in 2010 so here you go.

2010 has been an amazing year for my family and me; full of excitement, new projects and lots of work. I am very blessed. Here are a couple of the major things that happened in my family this year.

1- In April I was called to serve as Bishop of the new Far West Ward. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I am very blessed to be associated with such great people. Yes, it is busy. I usually feel like I need to call in sick to rest from the Sabbath, but it is wonderful.

2- In August, Cedar Fort released my first book, Defensive Tactics. It has been a thrill every step of the way and it is always rewarding to hear that someone has read and liked the book. It’s also fun to hear about all the places it is being sold, like the BYU bookstore. I love that.

3- We moved. For the past couple of years we have been trying to sell our little house on 40 acres and this year we succeeded. We were able to buy a larger house on a smaller acreage and get out of debt at the same time. The house is wonderful and the kids like being closer to friends.

4- Mica got a new job with the school district as the Parents as Teachers Facilitator. She has always stayed home with our kids but with the youngest going into Kindergarten, she sought a job that would still allow her to be home when they were off school. It keeps her very busy but works great for the family.

One of the truly great blessings of everything that happened this year is that I have been exposed to new and wonderful people. Whether it is new Ward members I never knew or reacquainting with old friends, or getting involved with a community of talented authors or new neighbors, 2010 has been GREAT!

2011 will not likely hold the same kind of Big events or opportunities but it can be just as good. By setting meaningful goals, we can still accomplish GREAT things, even if they aren’t necessarily BIG.

A BIG “thank you” to all my new friends and associates. I hope 2011 is a great success for each of you. Happy New Year.

Steve

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Moroni 10:18 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.

Five years before the birth of our Savior, Samuel the Lamanite preached to the Nephites in America. He prophesied of the signs that would usher in the birth of Christ and he urged the people to repent, that they might have faith in Christ and be prepared at the time of His coming.

The people attempted to kill Samuel so he fled from the city. The wicked people also mocked the believers and set aside a day that the believers would be executed if the signs did not appear.

3 Nephi 1:9 Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the signs should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.

Fearful of the destruction of the righteous believers, Nephi plead with the Lord that they might be saved. Nephi “cried mightily to the Lord all that day” and this is the answer he received.

3 Nephi 1:13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

That night the signs were given. A new star appeared and when the sun went down the night remained light. The Savior’s birth saved the faithful Nephites from destruction.

Just as the birth of the Savior saved the lives of the faithful Nephites, through the atonement of Jesus Christ we are all lifted and saved from utter and unavoidable destruction. We will all be resurrected and like the Nephites we can also hope for great blessings in eternity if we exercise our hope unto faith in Christ.

We have faith in the Savior and our Father in Heaven because there is evidence that they can and will do the things They have promised. Our love of Christ and the hope that we will receive the promises He has made are the foundation of our faith in Him, and as President Uchtdorf has said, this hope is an “anchor to our souls”. Hope is a spiritual gift, which together with faith and charity, stabilize our lives.

Moroni 10:20 Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.

Moroni 10:33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

Christmas is a beautiful time of year. It’s a time when we look forward with renewed hope and faith in Christ because of his miraculous gifts. It is a time when our hope and faith propel us to show greater love and charity for our brothers and sisters. I am humbled by and grateful for the many acts of loving service I have witnessed during this Christmas season. These acts of charity bond us together as members of our Father’s family.

May your Christmas be filled with joy and love as we remember the Great Gift to the world. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Author Interview- Dan Harrington: Who's at the Door?


I have the opportunity to Interview Dan Harrington, author of a new book entitled, Who's At The Door: A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries. For members of the LDS church, this is a fascinating peek into the "Investigator" experience. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Me: Thank you for sharing some of the experiences you had with the missionaries. I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect when I opened the book but I was hooked immediately and I finished in one sitting. For me, that is a real accomplishment. A number of questions came to mind as I was reading and I love that I have the opportunity to ask the author about them. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Dan: Thank you for the interview. I've never read more than 50 or so pages in one sitting, so I'm honored you enjoyed my work that much.

Me: Who’s at the Door? is a personal account about your investigation into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and your relationship with the full-time Mormon missionaries. Was it a challenge to share so much about your personal journey of faith with your friends and family, and even strangers who will read the book?

It was hard at times, but I only worried about it in retrospect, after I got the publishing deal. You hear so much about how hard it is to get a book published that I wasn't sure the manuscript would ever see print.

I didn't want to get my family's hopes up, so I didn't tell them about the book until I finished writing it. The missionaries were the only people who knew about the book from the beginning.
I remember sitting in a restaurant talking with Elders Luke and Allred and telling them I wanted to write a book about my experience. They were positive about it right away.

As a freelance writer, I know how challenging it can be to gain an editor's ear if you've never worked with them before. My biggest concern was that I'd spend endless hours on a story only for it to be banished to my sock drawer. ( A lot of things get lost in there. )

The experience itself was never secret. As my family and friends will attest, I talked about it often. Sometimes the reaction at the dinner table was, “Oh no, not another Mormon story. How many times do we have to talk about them? Let's watch the paint dry instead.” I was the only person I knew who found the LDS Church so fascinating.

It wasn't until a month or so before the book would be published that I worried about how strangers might react.

The challenge of writing a memoir is that you're recording intimate details and then saying, “Hey everyone, come read my private stuff!” I didn't think much about that when I was writing the book. I just wrote it because it was in my heart to do so.

Me: What kind of reaction has the book received from the missionaries and church members in your area?

Dan: So far, I haven't had one bad review. (Knock on wood) All my elders have been very pleased with it. I received a very nice e-mail from one of their mothers who thanked me for being a friend to her son, and that meant a lot to me.

One of the most surprising things about the experience was how much the missionaries trusted me to write a fair and balanced story. Sometimes I would read them parts of the book, and they always loved the humor in it, and they liked seeing themselves from my perspective. Elder P once told me, “This book will be awesome. It has everything Mormons like—the missionaries, the humor. It's great!” I'm hoping that's a prophecy of sorts.

I tried to make my home a haven for them. I just wanted to be the kind of person I'd hope to meet if I were the one on the mission.

Sometimes I joked that I was like their older brother, but I could never be their big brother because they were all bigger than me.

I've only heard from a handful of ward members, and they enjoyed the book also. I'm hoping they see the love and respect in it too.

I do know that at least one ward member researched who my publisher was because they were concerned about what I might say. Having an LDS publisher like Cedar Fort and Becky Thomas, a columnist from Mormon Times, put their stamps of approval on the book has been tremendous.

Me: What do you hope members of the church will gain by reading this book? What value does your book hold for “investigators”?

Dan: I want investigators to know that I've been where they are now, and I know how they feel. In fact, a lot of people do. Thousands of people meet with missionaries every day, but we rarely hear about it, and books about being an investigator don't usually invite the reader to make up their own mind.

I've read too many books and artcles that not only lead a horse to water, but hose it down, splash, and drench it. Readers are smart and can make up their own minds. They will anyway.
I think the book will also show investigators that they need to look into certain details for themselves because they're huge and important and can be skimmed over far too easily.
As for Church members, I want them to know what it's like to be an investigator and that it's possible to care about the LDS Church even if you're not a member.

Me: Have you continued to attend the local Ward and meet with the Missionaries since finishing the book?

Dan: No, but I met with several other missionaries who came after Elder P and Elder Bailey, the final companionship mentioned in the book. I even threw a surprise 21st birthday party for one of them, Elder Walker. His companion and I had it planned out where we would spray him with silly string as soon as he came through the door. It was fun, and I was glad to be part of their lives.

I ended the book where I did because it felt, from a storytelling standpoint, that it was time for a conclusion. In real life, however, I spent an additional 4 or 5 months with the Church.
Eventually, I made a prayerful decision not to attend the ward anymore. I spent more than a year going to the Church, and the elders even joked that I attended more often than some members.

Once I stopped attending the ward, some of the later missionaries not mentioned in the book chose not to visit me, and I think it was partially a personality thing. Not every elder enjoyed my company or saw my manuscript as a fascinating project. Imagine that.

Me: Would you identify yourself as a “seeker” for truth or a curious student?

Dan: A little of both, but calling myself a “seeker for truth” sounds a little pretentious. Religion has always fascinated me as a subject. However, I usually learned about other faiths from books. It's much more powerful to learn about it from the people who live it.

I've always been a curious person; it often goes hand-in-hand with the type of writing I do.

Me: As a church member, I found your account fascinating but at times painful. One of the painful moments came as you realized the missionaries had not told you “everything”. You felt that they were withholding vital information from you that could impact your decision to join the church. In this case, it was information about the temple. Do you consider this moment to be the pivotal point at which you cooled to the prospect of joining the church or was it merely another “red flag”?

At times, the experience was painful for me too. As a writer, I'm excited that the story helped you feel the same way I did and at the same moment. That's every author's dream, isn't it?
Learning more about the temple was a huge cooling point in the journey. As a student, it's intriguing, but to actually participate in temple work is obviously another ball park altogether.

Me: You later came to a realization that the missionaries couldn’t share everything at one time. It would be like trying to give you a sip of water from a fire hose. What bothered you most? Not being taught “every detail” or the perceived lack of trust by the missionaries? Did your relationship with the Elders fully recover from this broken trust?

Dan: What bothered me most was how things were being kept from me and that certain details were omitted, presumably for my own good. Not only that, but I learned that even if I got baptized, this would continue for some time.

Whenever I read something unsettling about the LDS Church, I would normally bring it to the elders and ask their opinion of it. Sometimes they had good answers, and sometimes they didn't. I'm just glad they were honest. That's all I wanted from them really: honesty.

We had many lengthy discussions that I couldn't put in the book. One thing I learned was how much the elders appreciated the sincerity behind my questions. They know when people are asking questions only to start an argument, and they knew I wasn't that type of person. They appreciated my willingness to listen to their side of the story.

I can't always make a wide-sweeping statement about my relationship with the elders because they're individuals. I have individual friendships with each of them. Naturally, some of these friendships are stronger than others. Generally speaking, I wouldn't say our relationship recovered. I would say it changed tremendously. It felt like a peek behind “the veil” of the missionary program, so to speak. While I care about each of them, I couldn't base a conversion on that.

Me: Beyond trite slogans of “Sacred, not secret”, can you understand why some information, such as specifics about temple worship, is reserved for church members who are prepared to receive it?

I understand the philosphy of it. I think I understand the concept as much as a nonmember could. However, just because someone is a church member, does that mean they are prepared to receive it, whatever “it” is? Who's to say what a believer is prepared to receive from the Lord? Only the Lord.

Me: Is it possible to make a leap of faith, knowing that there is information you don’t have?

Of course. I think even meeting with the elders was a leap of faith for me. Discussing a potentially explosive topic with guys who were twice my size required some faith, don't you think?

Me: You compliment the friendliness of the missionaries and members and you discuss that the people of the church, not the doctrine, most often convert “investigators”. Do you feel people should choose a place worship based on social considerations of friendliness, social comfort etc, or should it be based on the doctrines of the church?

Ideally, it needs to be a mix of both. I never went to church for fellowship in the past so seeing it in action in the LDS community was an incredible experience. You really get a sense that the people care about each other.

However, we also have to make sure that Church does not become a social club. I've always attended Church for what it teaches about God, and I believe that should be the primary consideration. To quote Joseph Smith “everything else is an appendage.”

Me: Do you believe it is possible for a “true church” to exist with the “fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ”?

Yes.

Me: How would one identify the “true church”?

First of all, I want to be clear that when I talk about the book, I don't advise people about what church they should attend. Choosing a home church is a personal decision that should be left up to the individual. I'm a writer, not an apologist, counselor, or missionary.

With that said, I personally believe the most important thing is to recognize how significant Jesus is and what He's done for us. Too often, the world tries to depict him as a philosopher, teacher or simply a “good man.” He's is so much more than that. His place in your heart is far more important than which pew you sit in.

Me: I enjoyed your reflections on catechism from your youth and the lessons learned there. You also learned lessons from the missionaries and from other churches you visited. Are bits and pieces of the truth scattered across religion and denomination, or is there a one-stop-shop for absolute religious truth?

I think a lot of churches have some truth, but I really try to avoid making broad judgments. I don't presume to know the entire truth. I don't think it's humanly possible. I'm still learning like everyone else.

Me: The spiritual journey of growth is important and your book shares examples of some of this growth. What was the most significant change you experienced on your journey with the LDS missionaries?

Gee whiz..this is a hard question! The most signifcant change was how I went from knowing nothing about the LDS Church to being fairly knowledgable about it. I went from seeing the missionaries as “crazy religious people at the door” to hard-working young men with a firm dedication to faith.

I've become a magnet for people looking to share stories about a time they met missionaries, saw a Mormon commercial or want to know why Mormons can't sip a good cup of Folgers. For the record, I never liked coffee myself.

Me: Do you have any regrets?

I regret not living closer to Elder Dowling so he could teach me how to be more like Clint Eastwood.

Me: A journey is only positive if it takes us where we need to be. What do you expect to find at the end of your journey?

I think our walk with Christ doesn't end until the day we meet Him.

Me: Do you have plans for another book?

I do, but my ideas are all playing king of the mountain in my head right now. I'm freelance writer for several publications, so I have a lot to keep me busy until one idea battles to the top of the heap.

I think this book, in particular, grabs people because it is a true story.

Me: Thank you for being so kind and watching out for our missionaries.

Dan: It was my pleasure.

I really want to thank Dan for agreeing to do this interview. I was facinated with his book and I'm grateful for the opportunity to follow up with some questions I had while reading. I recognize my questions were very personal but I appreciate Dan's forthright answers.

I will be following up with my review of Dan's book, Who's at the Door? in early January. Stay tuned.

I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! See you next year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Gift Will You Give the Savior This Christmas?


One of my favorite fictional Christmas stories is that of the Fourth Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke. It’s the story of a wealthy Persian Doctor who studied the prophesies of the Saviors birth and planned, with his three colleagues to journey to find the Savior. He acquired three valuable jewels that he would give to the Savior—a ruby, a sapphire and a pearl.

With his provisions, camels and gifts, Artaban began his trek to the meeting place where he and his colleagues had designated. But on the way, he found an injured man who needed assistance. Even though he knew it would throw him off schedule for meeting the others, he tended to the man and then paid with his provisions to have the man looked after. Knowing that he would need additional supplies, Artaban returned to the city, sold one of the jewels he planned to give to the Savior. It pained him to do it, but he knew he would need the provisions to trek across the desert.

When he arrived at the meeting place Artaban found that his friends had already continued on their journey so he followed, hoping to catch up. When he arrived in Bethlehem, Artaban inquired about a newborn baby and three strangers. He learned that three wealthy men from the east had been there and worshipped a baby in a manger, but they had departed. Artaban asked where he could find the baby but he was told the parents had taken the baby and fled to Egypt.

With his two remaining jewels in hand, Artaban prepared to follow the Savior to Egypt. His only desire was to greet the Savior and offer his gifts as a token of his love, but before he could leave, Soldiers came into the village with orders to kill all newborn babies. As the soldiers approached a doorway, Artaban heard a crying baby inside and stopped the soldier from entering. He offered the soldier one of his remaining jewels if he would just move on and leave the family alone.

Though happy he was able to save the life of the baby, Artaban was sad that he had given up a gift that was meant for his Savior. He prayed for forgiveness.

Artaban spent the rest of his life searching for the Savior, determined to present him with the last remaining jewel as a gift and token of his love. Artaban grew old. As he returned to Jerusalem one last time, searching, he was told that a man who worked many mighty miracles would be executed on a hill outside the city. Artaban knew this was the Christ and was hopeful he would soon see the Savior. Artaban felt the last remaining jewel in his hand and thought how he could use it as a ransom to save the life of his Redeemer.

As Artaban made his way along the streets of Jerusalem on his way to Golgotha, a young girl grabbed on to him and begged for mercy. Her father had died and she was to be sold into slavery to pay his debts. Artaban looked at his last remaining jewel. He wanted to save the girl, but how could he sacrifice the gift that was meant for Christ? With sadness, Artaban gave the girl his last jewel so that she would be free.

Artaban wept at his failure. The sky blackened. The earth began to moan and buildings shook. A piece of tile from a roof fell to the street and struck Artaban. He lay in the street dying. Looking toward heaven he heard the voice of the Lord.

Artaban shook his head in confusion. “Not so Lord. When did I see thee naked and clothe thee? When did I visit you in prison?”

Then he heard the response. “When you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Hopefully in our lives we are seeking after the Savior with the same intensity and determination as Artaban. Sometimes things will not go the way we planned and obstacles will be placed in our path. But every step of the way, we have the opportunity to bless the lives of others. Through service, friendship, or a simple act of kindness to someone in need, we express our love to the Savior as we express our love to our brothers and sisters. We especially need to do these things when it feels most difficult.

The kindness and compassion we show to others is our gift to the Savior. I hope we can all remember this and try to be a little kinder, a little more forgiving and a little more loving.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Author Interview- Michael Knudsen: The Rogue Shop

Today I have the opportunity to have Michael Knudsen as my guest. Michael's debut novel, The Rogue Shop is being released December 8th and is available now to purchase at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+rogue+shop&x=13&y=18

Check out my interview with this up and coming author.

Michael, tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
In eighth grade I was standing by my open locker one day when two boys who were fighting fell against the locker door, slamming it completely closed with my thumb still inside. Despite being compressed into a space less than an eighth of an inch wide for almost five minutes, no bones were broken. To this day my right thumb is measurably wider than my left, and I am very careful around open doors.

I understand the Rogue Shop was 20 years in the making. Can you explain the genesis of the story and also what prompted you to work seriously to get it published?
The seed of the story goes back to the first time I walked into a storage room in the cellar of King’s Row formalwear in downtown Salt Lake City. The room was full of old mannequins, outdated and cobwebbed formalwear and fabrics, and old sewing machines and supplies. It was almost as if I could hear voices whispering, and I knew in that moment that I needed to tell a story set in and around such a place.

Over the years since then, I made several attempts to draft it, then quit to work on other things. Finally about two years ago, I decided that the only way I could get the story to leave me alone was to finish it. The more I worked on it, the more the plot and characters fell into place, and the more confident I became that it was publishable. I got some great feedback from alpha readers who helped me to solve some of the thorny plot problems I ran into.

You previously worked in a Tuxedo Shop and your main character Chris Kerry also finds work in a Tuxedo Shop. What other similarities do you and your character share?
It’s hard to write in first person without sharing your sense of humor with a character. That’s about where the similarities end. Chris’s history as an orphan, a Baptist, and an alcoholic are all outside my experience. For those aspects of his character, I relied on stories from other people and my imagination. Early readers have told me that Chris is portrayed with adequate realism and empathy.

As a first time author, has the process of writing and getting your book published met your expectations so far? What has been the biggest surprise?
Writing to me is like riding a unicycle on a tightrope with my eyes closed, while juggling plates in a windstorm. The amount of balance required to find just the right word, emotion, setting, character, or verb is enormous. A single word can completely drop your reader out of the world of your story. I’m convinced that no one single person can produce a book worth reading. It takes teamwork, and the ability and humility to listen to others, accept what works and politely discard what you know in your heart won’t.

As far as the submission process, I put 7 copies of my manuscript in the mail on January 1, 2010. I had 6 rejections and one acceptance by May 14th, and my book was in my hands on November 23rd. That makes it sound like it was smooth and easy, and I’m sure I was lucky. Considering I first wrote the first chapter in 1990, it seemed like an awful long process to me.

The biggest surprise to me was how easy the editing process was, though I shouldn’t be surprised, since I spent countless hours in 2009 combing over every word to get it just right. My editor made very few changes, and the proofing process was done in a couple of days.

What do you have planned for your Dec. 13th launch party?
We’re making a BIG DEAL out of it. It’s already about 300% over budget and growing. We’ve rented out the indoor pavilion at Bicentennial Park in Sandy, Utah (500 E. 8680 S.) from 6-9pm on Monday, December 13th. We chose a Monday to make it a family-friendly activity that wouldn’t clash with other holiday gatherings. There will be light food, nice door prizes, music and holiday d├ęcor. I will have 100 copies of The Rogue Shop on hand, signing and personalizing. I will be wearing a tuxedo, because that’s my theme, but everyone else can come as they are. Everyone who reads this is invited.

The story is about a young man trying to escape his Texas Baptist upbringing. He promises family members that even though he is going to Salt Lake City, he will NOT become a Mormon. In fact he plans to keep his distance from the Mormons but this proves to be difficult in Utah.
Do you have any concerns about how a Baptist reading this book might feel?
Religion will always be a touchy subject, and The Rogue Shop does more than touch it lightly. However, it doesn’t take issue with any denomination per se, but only the behavior of certain fictional characters. Chris’s pastor as he was growing up, Jacob Ahlers, just happens to be a man concerned about cults that he considers to be a danger to his congregation. He defines Mormonism as one of these, and is quite vocal in his criticism. I’m well aware that not ALL Baptist pastors share this attitude and that many people in most denominations have no problem accepting LDS people as Christians who share their values and belief in Jesus Christ as savior.

The relationship between Mormons and Baptists has often been tenuous.
Do you feel your book helps to bridge the gap of mistrust?

I hope so. My story focuses on the journey of one young man, and is not meant to convert anyone else. I have friends of other faiths, and I don’t believe they would find anything offensive in The Rogue Shop. If anything, they might find parts of it educational.

In the book, Chris meets two cute college girls who happen to be LDS. What role does social conversion play in a person’s spiritual conversion?
For most people, it’s essential. Sure, there are stories about people who were converted just by reading The Book of Mormon or hearing a prophet or apostle speak. For most of us, we need to see the light of Christ shining forth in the faces of people we see every day. Seeing our friends standing out from the rest of the world gets our attention and makes us want to know more. That’s what happens with Chris.

Conditioned by his former drinking buddies to look at girls as little more than objects, he finds something completely new to his experience in Angie and Kelly, his neighbors at Ivy Place. These girls are everything LDS young women are raised to be, and they intrigue and amuse him so much that they quickly become his best friends, without his feeling the need to be “attracted” to either of them. The girls in turn find Chris going through some hard times (he lost all his money on his first day in Salt Lake), but they see him as more than just a service project and a missionary opportunity. As they learn about his past and his prejudices, they don’t shove the gospel down his throat, but continue to strengthen the friendship. Eventually, of course, Chris does fall for one of the girls and this aggravates the central dilemma of the plot.

Is there a message or theme you would like readers to take away from your book?Without spoiling, I can say that the central themes include explorations of the ways in which truth can be recognized, the impact that one person can have as a catalyst in changing many lives, and the importance of heritage, be it genetic or spiritual, to every human being.

Do you have any other novels in the pipeline? If so, what are they?I am currently working on an epic fantasy trilogy, still in first draft stage of the first book. I’ve been working on it even longer than The Rogue Shop. Eventually I also want to fictionalize the experiences I had as a pineapple harvester in Hawaii when I was a teenager.

I'd like to thank Michael for his interview and wish him the best of luck on his book release. And its just in time for Christmas! Perfect!

Learn more about Michael and The Rogue Shop by checking out his website.

http://michaelknudsenauthor.com/

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tristi Pinkston- Dearly Departed Contest

Tristi Pinkston is hosting an absolutely huge contest over on her blog to celebrate the release of her new book, "Dearly Departed." A new prize will be offered every twenty-four hours, and with multiple chances to win, you can't go wrong! Prizes include books, jewelry, perfume, movies - and the grand prize is a free night's stay at the Lion Gate Manor in Lava Hot Springs. Visit Tristi's blog for rules and more details. http://www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Extra Pie= Pie in the Face





One of the great things about Thanksgiving is all the wonderful pie. This year we had so much, that days afterward we still had whole pies, untouched and unwanted. Sad I know...but what should we do with extra pie? Feed it to the dog or the chickens? I don't think so.

Sunday night after I came home late from meetings, my family was still chatting around the table after Sunday Dinner. We noticed that we still had an unspoiled Banana Cream Pie covered in the refrigerator so we naturally asked the question...Who wants it? No one responded.

My brother Andy commented about how fun it would be to throw pie at someone and my 11 year old son quickly volunteered to be the target.

Giddy with anticipation, Josh prepared for a pie in the face, but his joy was postponed as my wife kindly suggested that we move the pie smashing activities outdoors. Good idea honey.

My son ripped off his shirt and we all headed out to the front yard for some family fun. I tried to record the event for posterity, unfortunately it was pretty dark and the pictures are fuzzy. That's what I get for using a cheap camera on my phone.
In any case, a life long dream was fulfilled for my son and my brother. My son received a tasty pie in the face and Andy put it there. All in all, a fantastic way to put extra pie to good use.


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Canticle: "Defensive Tactics" by Steve Westover - Author Interview

The Canticle: "Defensive Tactics" by Steve Westover - Author Interview

The Canticle Kingdom by Michael Young


"It seemed like ages since Kate's father went off to war, and she is eager to thank him for the beautiful German music box he sent for her birthday. Butwhen it starts playing a strange, new melody and Kate vanishes into thin air,Captain Edison is willing to do anything to rescue his little girl.

When the Canticle Kingdom is attacked and the queen falls deathly ill, Joann, a young blacksmith's apprentice, learns a terrible secret - the kingdom is containedentirely within a music box in another world.

With the help pf his friends, Johannraces to bring aid from that other world in an effort to stop the dark power thatthreatens to destroy them all.

Enter a beautiful world full of magic, danger, loyalty, and bravery in The Canticle Kingdom, and discover that even the most ordinary objectsand people might be hiding something truly wonderful inside."

Review:
What a fun story. I applaud Michael on his first published novel and I look forward to his next. The Canticle Kingdom is a complex book. Multiple characters are introduced rapidly in various locations and times, which can be confusing if you’re not paying attention, but I think Michael did a good job tying everything together.

It is a real challenge to accomplish everything that has to happen in a novel. As readers we are pretty demanding. We want immediate action to pull us in. We want cliffhangers at the end of every chapter to keep us turning the pages and we want interesting characters we can relate to. We want to understand their motivation and history. We want to understand the back-story but we want the pace to race along. We want to be emotionally involved and we want to delve ourselves directly into the scenes. We want to be surprised and intrigued but we want hints about what will happen so we can connect the dots to gain understanding about the direction the story his heading--but not too many hints. We want the author to give us all of this while providing a bit of humor emotion. It’s not a lot to ask is it? Actually yes, it is. When all of these things can be accomplished in a fun, clean read, you know you’ve got a winner.

The Canticle Kingdom begins with a fascinating premise of an entire kingdom locked inside a music box and ends with the two worlds colliding as characters in both worlds race to save the day. Wonderful!

Author Interview:

Michael, tell us something about yourself that most readers don’t know.
I grew up as a child of a military father and so have lived all over the world and the United States. Moving every two or three years was tough, but I did get the chance to experience many exciting places and meet many wonderful people.

What inspired you to write The Canticle Kingdom?
The idea came to me in a weird place: stocking shelves at Target. I’ve always loved the Fantasy genre, and grew up telling such stories to my siblings, so I figure my mind goes to that area quite often.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?
I hope they will be inspired that all fantasy does not have to follow the mold that Tolkien gave us. It’s a standard and produced great works, but sometimes people think they have to use it to write successful fantasy.

Do you outline your book from start to finish, or do you figure it out as you go?
This one, I outlined very loosely and then went on the journey. I have since gone to outlining my works more extensively before plunging into the fray.

What is the most rewarding aspect of writing and getting your book published?
I love the aspect of the influence for good you can have as a writer. I have always had that desire, but now that I’m actually published, schools, bookstores, etc take me more seriously, which opens doors for helping people: inspiring them to write, instilling a love of reading in them, and helping them become better writers together.

What is the most frustrating?
Marketing. It’s not something I had any prior experience with. There are so many things to learn and so many ways to go that it is quite daunting.

What is the most common criticism you hear about your book?
Some people find it a bit confusing at parts. Other people breeze through it. It’s a good comment, which I will listen to and try to incorporate into my future books.

How can you learn from the negative critiques?
First, I take it with a grain of salt. Often it is a matter of taste. I know it’s hard for me to be positive about gushy romance books, and so I don’t fault people who say things because they don’t like fantasy. For example, I had one person complain because the book was not “realistic.” It’s a fantasy book. It’s not supposed to be.

Then, I have to remember that most people are not saying things to be spiteful. It is important to learning that you don’t take it personally. Wait a little while after seeing it and then go back to it with an objective eye to see what you can glean from it to help you improve.
Lastly, you are still the author. You don’t have to agree with everyone who naysays your book.

Do you have any other published works, or are you working on anything now?
“The Canticle Kingdom” is my first published novel, but I have also published a number of short stories and magazine articles. I’m currently looking for publishers for two completed works and I have another few manuscripts in the work. I’m committed to keep writing and trying improve until I drop.

If you had to choose 1 paramount lesson you’ve learned as a writer, what would it be?
Persistence pays. More than talent, I think it is the persistent who refuse to quit and who refuse to stop learning who will be successful writers.

As an actor in the theater and a singer in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and as a fiction writer, is there a difference in the relationship between talent and hard work, or do all of these areas require a similar balance?
I find that this relationship holds true over all of my artistic outlets. I've been turned down and rejected a lot in writing and in performance, but that is to be expected. I think the success I've had in my life has come from a combination of not getting discouraged and taking little steps every day to improve my craft.

Of your multiple artistic outlets, which is the most challenging?
Out of all my pursuits, I feel like writing is perhaps the most challenging. With music and theater, I feel like I was born with more innate talent than writing, and so writing has been something I've had to put a lot more effort into the "how to" phase of it. Also, it was a lot easier to do music and theater growing up in school, while creative writing was something I only used occasionally.

Most rewarding?
I can't say I find one more rewarding than the other. They all entail the aspect of creation, making something that never has been seen before, and that is uniquely yours."

Thank you Michael

The Canticle Kingdom is an excellent stocking stuffer for Christmas. Buy it now.


http://www.amazon.com/Canticle-Kingdom-Michael-D-Young/dp/1599553627/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Facebook


A pastor in Florida is extending a challenge to the married leadership of his congregation: Cancel your personal Facebook account.

Why? That seems a little extreme doesn’t it? The Pastor cites an increase in marital problems related to Facebook use. It is easy to see how this could happen: old flames rekindled after years or long lost friendships that reconnect based on past experiences and nostalgia. One thing leads to another, friendships are re-forged and then, whammo…infidelity, if not physical, often emotional. Maybe a marriage partner is feeling disconnected from their spouse so they seek comfort and understanding from a friend. Or maybe, over time the friendship grows stronger than expected and a real emotional bond is formed that is difficult to break.

Obviously, not every FB friendship will threaten a marriage, just as every person we connect with via phone calls, email, or texting will not result in infidelity. But there does seem to be a risk, if not physical infidelity, at least the appearance of an improper relationship that can hurt feelings or destroy trust.

With that in mind, is the Pastor overreacting, or is there wisdom in cautioning his parishioners of the dangers of Facebook? He recommends that individuals cancel personal FB accounts and open Family accounts instead, where every family member has access to all friends and postings thus allowing for transparency in marital relationships. Couples could also share passwords with their spouse so they have access to FB accounts. My wife and I share passwords and can view each other FB accounts but I don’t know that we ever actually go in and look. Is password sharing a viable option or merely a way to feel the illusion of transparency and trust?

Facebook is an interesting thing. I enjoy it. I check friend updates regularly and post status updates myself from time to time. I use it to connect with family, old friends from college and high school. I use it to connect with members of my church family and I even use it to promote my new book. Are those things bad? I don’t think so. But there are inherent dangers, not just for our young sons and daughters, but also for us if we are not cautious.

Because the social networking sites like FB are “virtual” interactions, that is, we are not speaking to someone face to face or voice to voice, there is risk in feeling disconnected from our actions. We may think, “Sure I’m flirting a little, but it’s only on the inter-net. What could possible happen?” Or we may “de-friend” someone knowing we’ll see them at church each Sunday anyway, and not realize, or at least not appreciate that feelings can be hurt and true friendships damaged because of our “virtual” friendship online.

Maybe we think there is distance between our keyboard and the feelings of our “friends”, but there really isn’t. We wouldn’t stand up in church and make a snarky remark about something important to a friend, or meet at the local town gathering to publicly repudiate someone. Would you de-friend an associate at work and expect that nothing would change in the working relationship? There may be good reason for breaking off a friendship, but we must realize there are always consequences. When we go to work the next day, things will be different.

If we are not careful we could encourage relationships that are inappropriate, or just as easily damage meaningful relationships with family, friends, church family and colleagues. We need to be aware that our actions have consequences, and that all interactions with friends and acquaintances either work towards building or destroying our relationships. That means “virtual” interactions have real consequences, just as our face-to-face friendships do.

In my opinion there is nothing inherently evil about Facebook that would merit a “Thou Shalt Not” kind of commandment. It is merely another way for us to interact and just as email, letters, phone, skype, clubs, or thousands of other ways that we choose to interact, are tools for us to use, Facebook is a tool, that when used properly, can help to build and strengthen relationships. Like the other mediums, if misused or abused, there can be negative consequences with the misuse or abuse of Facebook. It all comes down to each of us as individuals. I can’t blame Facebook if I misuse it, I can only blame myself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Thorn: The Chronicles of Gan- Interview with Author Daron Fraley



First Electronic / Ebook Edition – Golden Wings (available now)
Price: $2.99Genre: Speculative FictionBinding: nonePages: 300Language: EnglishSmashwords Ebook Version ISBN-13: 9780979434037 (Available in many formats)Kindle Ebook Version ISBN-13: 9780979434044 ASIN: B00466HJ8UNook Ebook Version ISBN-13: 294001110089

Author Interview with Daron Fraley- Author of The Thorn: Book One- The Chronicles of Gan

Tell us something about yourself that most readers don’t know.
I died once. It was easy. I could do it again. True story . . . I had heart surgery right before my 5th birthday and had to be revived. I don’t remember anything about it, so I must not have been completely dead, just mostly dead. That reminds me of a fun quote: “It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.” –Miracle Max, The Princess Bride

What inspired you to write The Thorn: The Chronicles of Gan?
"How many planets are there in the universe with people on them? We don’t know, but we are not alone in the universe! God is not the God of only one planet!” –Neal A. Maxwell

What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?
I simply hope they come away from it feeling like it was a great story. Some readers might pick up on some of the symbolism threaded through the book. Although the book is not preachy, it does have a few religious themes in it: prayers which are answered, people who are protected, and miracles which occur. I think the characters show that faith, love, and loyalty are important virtues to cultivate. Perhaps the reader will feel the same way.

Do you outline your book from start to finish, or do you figure it out as you go?
For this novel I did have an ending in mind, but wrote it as I figured it out. For the other things I have written, I have used a mixture of outlining and pantsing (a funny term I recently learned).

What is the most rewarding aspect of writing and getting your book published?
The very best part is having readers enjoy the stories I write. Comments like: “Incredible.”, “I was touched.”, “I loved it!”, “It gave me chills.” . . . make it all worth it.

What is the most frustrating?
Getting published has been hard, and at times, very frustrating. There is a lot to learn, and sometimes you learn after the fact that you could have done things better had you taken a different path. Would I have held back my book and not published had I known what was going to be required of me in time and effort? NEVER!

What is the most common criticism you hear about your book?
I honestly have to say the most common criticism about the book has been in relation to the cover. I have had a lot of people say the cover for the first print edition of THE THORN with Jonathan in the field, sword in hand, is too “cartoony”. I personally like the cover, but I have heard at least twenty times from other people who do not.

However, I would venture a guess that you meant for me to talk about the writing. So . . . the second most common criticism I have heard about the book is that the main characters, who are ages 23 to 30, are too much like young men, that in some scenes they are not acting old enough. I really have no complaint about that criticism. Those readers might be right. All three of the main characters are bachelors. J

Do you have any other published works, or are you working on anything now?
I am working on the second book in the series, Heaven’s Garden. The main characters continue their quest to restore justice to the universe (not really, but it sounded good).

I also have a short story anthology out there (available on Smashwords, B&N, and Amazon) called WATER. That one is free on Smashwords and B&N. Amazon doesn’t allow free yet, so it is 99 cents there.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a writer?
Patience. It is very rare for a writer to hit it big on their first attempt. I think I’ll be learning that virtue for a good long time. I just wish I could learn it a bit faster.

What advice would you give to aspiring fiction writers?
Read every single AGENT and PUBLISHER and AUTHOR blog you can get your hands on. Trust me, if you want to be published, this is almost a requirement.

Steve, thank you very much for having me over!

Review:

I absolutely love the concept of Daron's book. I have never seen another fictional work address the subject of other worlds populated with sons and daughters of God, and their similar struggles of faith and redemption. It is fun to speculate and wonder about how people on other planets may struggle and grow into the men and women God wants them to become, just as we do.

The story is fun with some very creative elements, yet feels familiar. Aside from glowing crystals and multiple moons, I read the book with images of the Book of Mormon in my mind. The characters strengths and weaknesses are similiar to things we see every day because in reality children of God are children of God, regardless of what continent, country, or planet they live on. We are more the same than we are different. Though it is not a "religious" book per se, there are lessons to be learned.

Since Daron mentioned the criticism some made about his first cover, I included a copy of both for you to look at and make your own decision. In many ways it is sad that we do judge a book by its cover, but the truth is, we do. Personally, I like his new, brown cover better.

Daron's writing is rich in detail and symbolism weaves in and out of the story. It is fun reading about and visualizing the differences of Gan from Earth. Though this is a fun, interesting read, there are moments where description slows the narative of the story. I found his characters believable, and while they did act young on occassion, I think we probably all have those moments where we don't quite act our age. At least I hope so.

Daron, bring on book 2 and good luck with your continued sales on book 1.

Check out Daron's website at- http://www.daronfraley.com/

Order now: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1935546112?camp=0&adid=0B2Q34TNF0WZ73ERRBZM

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Guilty Take the Truth to Be Hard


When Samuel the Lamanite was commanded to preach to the Nephites he was not particularly thrilled but he obeyed even though he knew it was a challenging assignment. He preached for a while; prophesied and called the people to repent of their wicked ways but the Nephites became angry and cast Samuel out of their city. As Samuel left the city he was prompted to return and continue to prophesy and preach repentance. Again, he was obedient. He returned. He prophesied of signs and wonders that would be seen in the heavens prior to the birth of Jesus. He taught the people that they needed to repent and exercise faith in Jesus, but the people were angry and sought to destroy him.

Samuel climbed upon a high wall and prophesied. The wicked people, offended by his calls to repentance, attempted to take hold of him. They shot arrows and flung rocks but they were unable to harm the servant of the Lord. After he completed his teaching, he climbed down from the wall and fled. He was never heard from among the Nephites again.

I have always been drawn to this story and I love the picture. As a kid the picture of Samuel on the wall captured my imagination and brought to life the heroism of Samuel. But what’s the point? There has to be more than just a good story and a cool picture. Is the message, “don’t stone the prophets?” Maybe, but aren’t most people who read the Book of Mormon already disinclined to stone a prophet? I always assumed so. This is probably obvious to everyone, but it occurs to me that while we wouldn’t physically shoot arrows or sling stones at the prophet attempting to cause him physical harm, we do sometimes shoot verbal arrows and try to damage the reputation or stature of the prophets, or other called priesthood leaders who may call us to repentance?

I think of the arrows of criticism that Pres. Packer faced after his October 2010 General Conference address. Much of this criticism came from members within the church. Pres. Packer simply called for moral cleanliness and repentance, yet many took great offence to his talk. They attempted to damage his reputation and discredit his truthful words. The guilty took the truth to be hard. They cast arrows and stones at Pres. Packer. To this example, we may say, “I would never do that,” and I hope we wouldn’t, but do we sometimes participate in similar behavior?

Often times we will listen to the prophets, a Stake President or a Bishop give counsel and we think to ourselves, “What a great idea. Gee, I really hope (insert name here) is listening.” We deflect the call to repentance as merely a good idea, or as being for someone else. But when the call comes directly to us through a bold talk or a personal interview, we are offended. We become defensive and cold. We seek to justify ourselves and discredit the priesthood leader. We may say to ourselves “He has no right to ask that question,” or “he is handling this all wrong.” “He doesn’t understand,” or “he is only a Bishop or Stake President,” just as the Nephites probably referred to Samuel as “only a Lamanite.” We may justify ourselves because of the weaknesses of our leaders, but do we realize that when we do this, we are the same as the Nephites casting stones and arrows at Samuel?

No matter how many arrows we shoot or stones we sling, we will not damage the truth that is spoken by those called of God. If we take the truth to be hard, the real question we should be asking ourselves is “Why?” The only one we hurt, by failing to heed the truth spoken by prophets and priesthood leaders, is ourselves.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Gilmore and the Three P's of Writing


Happy Gilmore? Who’s that? Shame on you! It is only the greatest comedy movie of all times. Rent it immediately and ENJOY (I recommend the edited version). And what are the three P’s of writing, you ask? Since I just made them up, let me tell you…Practice, Persistence and Patience. (Persistence and Patience may seem like the same thing, but its not…because I said so)

Happy Gilmore Summary:

As a (fictional) freak of nature, Happy Gilmore was blessed with the talent to hit a golf ball REALLY far, and he exploited that talent all the way to earning a spot on the PGA tour, winning hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy his grandmother a house, and even to doing television commercials for Subway. Whacking the golf ball really hard was a natural gift. Happy simply stepped up to the tee, whacked the ball, and amazing things happened.

Despite the strength of Happy’s long drives, his putting game was abysmal. This failure held him back from finding the success he dreamed of. Even though he had a tremendous gift, it was not enough. He was required to turn his putting weakness into a strength. At first his putting was so bad that it took him 7 putts to get his ball into the hole even though he was able to get on the green in one drive. On the next hole, he teed up and hit a hole-in-one on a par 4. His comment after hitting the hole-in-one… “Wow, that was so much easier than putting. I should just try to do that every time.”

Writing requires Practice-

Wouldn’t it be nice if every time we sat down to write, the words flowed through our fingertips into the keyboard inspiring the awe of our posterity, like Happy’s hole-in-one. Like Happy and golf, we may have some natural talents for writing. Maybe our talent is so huge in areas of character development and plotting that it compensates for serious weaknesses in areas of writing dialogue, pacing, or weak vocabulary. Unfortunately, for most of us this kind of tremendous talent that allows us to do things better than everyone else, simply by virtue of our existence, is a farcical dream. Writing requires effort and practice.

Just as Happy learned that he must practice putting to win, so must we look past our strengths to practice on our weaknesses to make us a well-rounded player…I mean author.

Writing requires Persistence-

When Happy joined the PGA tour, he set a personal goal to win enough money to buy back his grandmother’s house at auction. For the first few tournaments, he cashed in the paltry checks he earned with his last place tournament finishes, but he quickly realized he would not be able to earn the money he needed for his grandmother’s house. Happy was determined to accomplish his goal so he adjusted his approach.

Sometimes as writers we set grand goals we are not able to achieve. Would we all like to sell thousands of books and become a New York Times Best Sellers? Of course. Is it going to happen with our first manuscript? It’s possible, but not likely. Sometimes we set goals and don’t realize that they are unrealistic. As first time authors do we really have any idea what to expect from the publishing, marketing and sales processes? Not really. Just like Happy, we may need to reevaluate our goals. We should set reasonable, attainable goals and then persist until we accomplish them. Then we set new, higher, grander goals and persist until we achieve those.

Writing requires Patience-

The process of writing, editing, editing, editing, editing, shopping a manuscript around to publishers and agents, waiting for a response, waiting a little longer, re-editing and finally production, seems to take FOREVER. Seriously, can the process be any slower? I doubt it. Having been through this process one and a half times so far (yes, I’m still a greeny), I have learned that the writing and publishing process requires extreme patience. (My wife tells me that this is my way of practicing to turn my weakness into a strength- We’ll see) Everything about the writing process requires patience. From the 20th rewrite of a chapter to letting the manuscript sit for a couple of months so we can look at it again with fresh eyes, to waiting for responses from the publisher, to getting rejected and starting the process over. Patience friends…patience.

Poor Happy Gilmore is a bit like me. He lacks patience. When his putt won’t go in the hole, he loses his cool and chucks his golf club into the lake. When he is heckled because of his horrible putting, he approaches the hecklers and beats the snot out of them. At one point, he even loses his patience with Bob Barker—“Who won that fight anyway?” The point is Happy was required to exercise patience and self-control to avoid being thrown off the PGA tour so that he could accomplish his goal. Likewise, I must practice patience and self-control to avoid contacting my publisher while I wait for a response to my query.

Come on! Hurry Up! Where’s the contract! Give it to me now! That approach didn’t work well for Happy, and it won’t work well for writers either. We simply have to accept that some things are out of our control and may take a while…a while…a while…a while. Sorry, I was in a dazed stupor and didn’t recognize that the record was skipping.

Since we must be patient, we may as well practice while we wait so that we can persevere to meet our ultimate writing goals. For most of us, it will take time to earn the success we dream of, if we ever succeed in such a grand manner at all. The great thing is, whether we become the next Stephanie Myers or Brandon Mull, or not, if we practice, persevere and are patient in our efforts, we will become winners—men and women of strong moral character.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Trampoline Emergency


The kids love jumping on the trampoline at our house. We've only had it for a few months but it gets a lot of use. A couple of weeks ago my wife and I decided to make it a little safer by putting up the protective mesh net. We figured this would help our children play more safely. What we didn't realize, is that those nets act like a sail.
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My wife texted me the other morning to tell me that our trampoline had been blown from its normal spot to the middle of our field 25 yards away. The wind caught the net and scooted it across the ground. I grunted in disapproval as I read the text but then went back to work figuring I'd deal with it later.
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In the early afternoon of that same day, my wife called me, frantic and scared. Our trampoline had blown another 75 yards and was sitting at the edge of the pond. She was holding the trampoline down as the wind continued to blow. The wind was blowing so hard, it continued to move the trampoline closer to the pond, even with her standing on the legs with her arms wrapped around the pole. She did not want the trampoline to be destroyed in the pond.
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I jumped into action to rescue my wife (I'm so brave). I told my boss I had a family emergency (didn't mention it was my wife holding on the the trampoline) and then raced to the store to buy an anchor for the trampoline. We had been told to anchor the trampoline but had never gotten around to doing it. Now it was an emergency so I rushed into the store, bought the anchors and raced home to find my wife still clinging to the trampoline.
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I pulled out the first anchor, which looks like an auger, and scewed it into the ground. I then repeated the process three more times until all four anchors were secured deep in the ground. We let go of the trampoline and it stayed in place. Even with the fierce winds still blowing, the trampoline was secure. YAY!!
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This experience reminded me of this passage from the Book of Mormon.
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Helaman 5:12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
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If we are not anchored to the Rock of our Salvation, or if our anchor is shallow, we risk being tossed about by the mighty winds that the devil will send forth to destroy us.
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If I had taken the time and made the effort to anchor the trampoline, prior to the "mighty winds" I would not have had a problem. If I had heeded my wifes first warning of trouble when the trampoline was only 25 yards away in the field, I could have avoided a great deal of pain and effort. But I only responded when the situation was critical and was fortunate to stop the trampoline from blowing into the pond and being destroyed. I sank my anchors deep...better late than never, but it would have been even better if I had done it early, instead of late.
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Hopefully I will learn this lesson, that it is better to make small corrections as they arise, instead of waiting for the devastation and emergency that occurs when I, or a child, teeters on the edge of destruction.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spoiler Alert: Santa Claus is Dead...I Think


When I was 5 years old, my neighbor friend Tommy and I often discussed weighty childhood subjects around the flagpole in my yard. On one occasion the discussion turned to Santa Claus and I, in a very matter of fact tone, told him Santa Clause was dead. He promptly ran home, crying to his mother.

I felt bad, but it was true. My parents told me about how St. Nicholas had lived centuries ago and was the inspiration for the modern Santa. My parents accepted Santa as a fun story, but wanted their children to understand the difference between the story and reality. Like my parents, I did not intend to shatter my friend’s childhood belief in Santa, but merely expressed the truth that the story of Santa Claus and flying reindeer was just that…a fictional story.

I know this can be a controversial subject. Even in my house my wife and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on this, so I am going to drop it here. But this subject ties in to another question I’ve been wondering about lately.

What is the relationship between truth and fiction? Or put another way, does fiction have some responsibility to be honest?

With Santa Claus, we repeat the story over and over and expect that everyone now, or someday will know that it is just a story. But what about when fiction ties closely to real events or history? Should we assume that readers would be able to draw the line between the truth of history and the fictional premise or relationships posed in the writing?

For example, I love the Kingdom and the Crown series, which fictionalizes events and relationships surrounding the life of the Savior. These books paint the picture of the time and circumstances in which the Savior lived during his mortal ministry. In these books, the things that really matter regarding faith and the life events and mission of the Savior are presented as historical truth and the fiction merely surrounds the true events but does not attempt to alter or stretch the truth.

I also love the Left Behind series, which fictionalizes the events leading up to the end of the world as interpreted loosely from the Book of Revelations. How many readers know the difference between the doctrine regarding the end of the world and the fictionalized account of what might happen? I suspect that there are many who believe the fiction of the Left Behind series to be truth.

I pose these questions, not because I have answers, but because I’m curious and hope to learn. Is there a line we should not cross in mingling fact and fiction for the sake of honesty and truthful representation? Whether its fiction based loosely on church history or the Civil War, or the life of Christ or end of the world scenarios, should we worry about honesty, or simply call it fiction and hope readers can tell the difference?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Blog Tour- Kimberly Bennett



Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from Kim's review. I appreciate Kim's time in reviewing my book and posting a review to her blog.

"I'm amazed that this is Steve Westover's first novel! I really enjoyed the humor, the suspense, the love triangle and overall, the way he writes."

I also like..."This book is action-packed! With unexpected twists and turns, it keeps you turning pages.

I like that Kim noticed the personal growth of each of the three main characters. "The development of each main character was done very well. Jimmy learns about honesty, commitment, and second chances at life. Emily learns the value of not compromising her beliefs and becoming the main force in bringing justice to those who deserve it. Paul becomes "the man" in protecting and helping those he cares about

And finally..."And not very often can you find a story like this with corrupt business owners, judges and FBI agents, that is told in a clean way and with light LDS influence. It was fantastic!"

Thank you Kim. To read her full review, check out her blog at...

http://rkbennettfamily.blogspot.com/2010/10/defensive-tactics-by-steve-westover.html

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Blog Tour- Jen Kindrick



Today's stop on the tour takes us to Jen's blog at www.jenheadjen.blogspot.com. To read her full review, please check out her blog.

Here are a couple of my favorite lines.

#1- The first line... "Wow! What a book I have to share today!" Wow! Thank you Jen for the intro.

#2- "Paul, Emily, and soon Jimmy, end up being involved in one of the most twisted and exciting action stories I've ever read." Very Cool! Thanks.

#3- "This book is full of surprises, great humor, and suspense."

#4- "It is a great read for men and women alike."

#5- "Great work on this one Steve! I'll be looking forward to future releases! 5 stars!"

I really appreciate the kind words Jen shared with her bloggers. I do have to admit I was surprised by one line however. "I should warn the sensitive reader. If this were a movie, it would likely get a "PG13" rating, if not an "R" for some violent scenes."

Normally, I would never disagree with a reviewer, and I understand that ratings can be highly subjective. I personally believe Defensive Tactics is a PG book, not PG-13 or R. Yes, there is a little violence, but mostly implied. There is no language, sex or innuendo. I think it is a clean read, and I would feel comfortable with my young teenager reading it.

I truly appreciate Jen and her review. Check out her blog.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Blog Tour- Cheryl's Book Nook & Cranberrie Fries



Our blog tour takes us to two stops again today. The first is Cheryl's Book nook. Cheryl reviews MANY books and I thank her for reviewing mine. Here are a couple of quotes from her review.

"Defensive Tactics is Mr. Westover’s first novel. It reads like it is Mr. Westover’s third or fourth novel. Right from the beginning this book grabbed me and I was hooked all the way until the last page."

"This book was packed full of intensity and high octane adrenaline!"

"The suspense just kept building and building as the story line moved along. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Westover has up his sleeve next."

Thanks Cheryl!

The next stop is at Cranberryfries by Debbie Lambson. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes.

"This was a fun book about a corrupt judge and FBI stake outs."

"Westover does a great job at leaving you wondering who you can trust."

Thanks Debbie.

Check out their full reviews at their blogs.

http://cherylsbooknook.blogspot.com/2010/10/defensive-tactics.html

http://cranberryfries.blogspot.com/2010/10/defensive-tactics-giveaway.html

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Blog Tour- Sheila Staley



I appreciate Sheila's kind words in reviewing Defensive Tactics on our Blog Tour today. Thank you. And for the record, I love the name of her blog.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

"My initial impression, as I was reading the first chapters of the book was, there is no way this is Steve's first book! It truly felt like a seasoned writer had created this story."

"All of you mystery/suspense/action lovers, do not despair. There is plenty of all three things, including a heavy dose of " holding your breath until the very end" moments."

And finally..."This book has something for everyone, male and female of all ages. This is a juggernaut of excitement, full of high- speed suspense and an ending resolution that touches the heart."

To read the full review, visit Sheila's blog at

http://whynotbecauseisaidso.blogspot.com/2010/10/my-review-of-defensive-tactics-by-steve.html

Monday, October 4, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Reviews by Donny Anderson and Rebecca Talley



Today we are going to make 2 stops on the blog tour. The first comes from Donny Anderson who posted his review on Saturday the 2nd. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes.

"Defensive tactics is a book my wife and I both found easy to read, fast paced, and enjoyable."

He also wrote..."I like Westover’s depiction of honest relationships devoid of the immature games people commonly play that hinder trust."

The second stop is with Rebecca Talley.

"I enjoyed reading this book...I think he created some great characters."

I also like..."Westover did a good job of creating an interesting and suspenseful story."

She also noted..."Westover did a great job characterizing the bad guys, too. The judge is slimy, slimy, slimy--I'd like to slap him."

I have to admit, that bad guys were definitely begging for a beat down.

Rebecca mentioned that she's not a fan of the omnicient point of view. I think many people feel this way and POV was a real struggle for me writing this book. As my first novel, I had NO experience writing point of view and very little understanding about it, so went with the only thing that made sense to me. I suspect with time and study, I will get better at this, and avoid shifting POV.

I appreciate both Donny and Rebecca reviewing my book. Thanks.

To see their full reviews, and to learn more about their writing, visit their blogs

http://www.donaldbanderson.blogspot.com/

http://rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com/2010/10/defensive-tactics-by-steve-westover.html

Friday, October 1, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Blog Tour- Debbie Davis



It is very flattering to read a review like Debbie's. I appreciate the kind words and the way she shared her personal experience while reading. While it was certainly my hope in writing, that the book might contain more value than simply a fast, exciting escape story, Debbie's experience with the themes of the book are beyond my expectations. Thank you for sharing.

Many of my friends know that Defensive Tactics was originally titled "Escape from the Dark". I originally titled it this way because of the emotional, physical and spiritual escape the characters needed. We all have moments of darkness in our lives and the escape comes only when we recognize the true source of our light and salvation. The publisher re-titled it Defensive Tactics, I'm sure because it sounded more exciting and action packed, but I am always pleased when the reader recognizes the themes of redemption and personal growth, or escape from our basest, most natural selves.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Debbie's review.

"Defensive Tactics is a fast-paced story that grabs you and doesn't let go until the last pages. I loved how integrity and understanding, love and second chances are all so neatly woven into the story - especially with Jimmy."

"The author has the ability to teach and nurture as he keeps the excitement going, and I read things that the bishop talked about in the book with Jimmy to my husband because they rang so deeply with in me."

"It made me sit up and go WOW, I just had an epiphany when gospel truths rang clearly."

"I felt that this story had it all. I really enjoyed it from start to finish and found that I grew along with the characters in unexpected ways."

"I felt that this was an amazing first book by Steve Westover and would never have believed that it was his first novel- if I hadn't been told. It has the air of a seasoned writer to it, with complicated plot twists and character growth throughout the story!"

To read the full review, visit Debbie's blog at http://debbiesinkspectations.blogspot.com/2010/09/book-review-defensive-tactics-by-steve.html

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Blog Tour- Jennifer Debenham

Today's stop on the blog tour takes us to Jennifer's blog at Write by Candlelight.

Jennifer had some nice things to say about the book but also gave some technical criticisms of the book, like shifting character point of view. She also noted that she would like some of the characters to be fleshed out a little more.

I have heard both of these critisms before and will be things I work on with my next books. As for the characters being more developed, I am a little bit torn on this. My original manuscript for this book was 100 pages longer than the final product. I cut a lot of detail about the characters, trying to avoid too much backstory in an effort to keep the pace moving. I think I was able to keep the pace speeding along, but at the sacrifice of character development. The nice thing about character development, is I can always add it through additional novels.

I've heard a number of people mention that they wish they knew more about why Emily joined the FBI, or had a clearer picture of what makes Paul tick. I think this is great. Perhaps they will get the change to learn more...later.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Jennifer's review.

"Westover gave the reader bigger picture ideas to think about in his book. As mentioned before, this book isn't simply a quick, action-packed read--though the pace does move along nicely. Westover seeks to show how everyday life can sometimes bring out the best and worst in each of us. And like any good book should, his ends with his main characters achieving real growth."

I also like..."Westover leaves the story with unanswered questions that could work nicely into a second novel with the same characters. I, for one, would want to read it if he does.

Overall, this is a great first novel, and Steve Westover shows promise in this genre. I look forward to his future work."

Thank you Jennifer. To read her complete review, please visit her blog.
http://writebycandlelight.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Caldwell County Newspaper Article- by Anne Tezon


Book signing by local author Friday at Far West Store
By Anne Tezon

The premier novel of Kidder resident Steve Westover will be unveiled with a book signing this Friday evening, from 6:00 to 7:30 at Far West Country Store. “Defensive Tactics” is a fast-moving read set in Kansas City that pits two FBI agents against a corrupt federal judge, a crime syndicate and a “mole” inside the agency who threatens to get all of them killed.

The only thing this book lacks is sex and foul language. But that’s exactly what this Latter-day Saint bishop intended. Westover is an assistant manager at Bank Midwest in Cameron by day but on evenings and weekends, much of his time is devoted to answering the needs of the congregation of the newly formed Far West {Ward} for the LDS Church. When he began writing this first novel, he wanted to appeal to a niche audience hungry for an exciting read but without any compromising of high moral standards.

Westover admits he never thought about writing a book and doesn’t even read [many] books. He always watched movies and television. But one morning he woke up from a dream that featured three characters, and he jotted down some notes and let them sit for a while. His wife, Mica, finally urged him to do something with the characters. When he sat down to write, the instinctive novelists “what-if” exercise began. AS he wrote, with Mica reading behind him, she’d get excited and ask, “What’s going to happen next?” He had to admit he didn’t know. But it’s a wild ride that the three main characters take readers on.

Years after a family tragedy leaves him emotionally scarred, Jimmy finds himself homeless and jobless. He looks up an old friend who is an FBI agent in Kansas City. Paul is in a new relationship with Emily, a female FBI agent, and Jimmy comes between the two in his struggle to regain his identity. Emily draws them both into her undercover assignment and the three new friends fight to protect each other and evaluate who God wants them to be.

Defensive Tactics is fashioned around the intricacies of relationships and the choices all of us make in our daily lives. Westover questioned whether people [would] have to compromise their moral standards in order to function in stressful job and relationship situations.

In looking for a publisher, he wanted one that promoted the kinds of standards he’s trying to keep. The second largest publisher out of Utah, Bonneville Books, is known for its “clean fiction” and caters to families wanting good but clean reads. A reader not familiar with LDS culture would not make the connection, as Westover keeps the church background of the characters just under the radar. He didn’t want to be in a position of representing the church and ends up producing a great read without being preachy or doctrinal, posing universal situations that all of us confront, no matter our church background.

Westover already has a second book at the publisher’s, this one a kid’s fantasy book based in Crater Lake Oregon, where he grew up. A second adult novel is also in the hopper. Of his first work, friends and family members have read it and one family member expressed surprise, “Wow, that was like a real book!”

For Steve, the novel publishing process has taught him, “You can do things you never thought you could. It’s fun. It’s a nice hobby.”

This “hobby” has resulted in a read you won’t be able to put down until its exciting conclusion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Blog Tour- Cami Checketts

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from Cami's review.

"Defensive Tactics was an engaging, fast-paced story. I really enjoyed Jimmy's character and seeing him overcome his struggles and give life a try. Emily was a tough but sweet heroine. Paul also grew throughout the story and learned to serve for something other than selfish reasons.The plot was interesting and kept me reading.

All in all Defensive Tactics is an interesting read."

Thank you Cami.

To read her full review please visit Cami's blog at http://camicheckettsbooks.blogspot.com/2010/09/review-defensive-tactics-by-steve.html

Monday, September 27, 2010

Defensive Tactics- Blog Tour- Alice Gold



When I decided to write my first novel, my desire was to write a story about friendship and personal growth. I had the characters firmly in my mind before I wrote the first word. The story of the FBI investigation was merely a way to convey the personal stories of my three main characters, and give them a vehicle in which they could be tested.

Each of us, whether we are floundering hopelessly like Jimmy, a little prideful like Paul, or lacking in confidence like Emily, has room for growth, and it is equally important for each of us to work towards self-improvement with the aid of the Savior.

I appreciate the review by Alice because her review focused on the core of WHY I wanted to tell the story. It is very rewarding to learn that someone experienced the book in a rewarding way.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from her review.

"Who knew I could read a work of fiction to help me figure out this concept of boundaries? I guess I've always know that fiction crosses over, but it's always completely awe- inspiring when a work of fiction can help me with decisions I must make in my own life."

She continues..."I thought that this book was just going to be another action thriller about a couple of FBI agents, but it was so much more than that. It was a perfect example of what good boundaries can do for a person who desperately needs them. It was also a great lesson that boundaries alone are not enough; an adult, just like a child, has to have unconditional love to flourish."

And..."These three characters made a dynamic tale of love and friendship."

I really like this one. "This book was so much more than a private investigator story of mystery and action, it was a perfect love story. A love triangle that left everyone happy. Including this reader."

And finally..."My hat goes off to the author, Steve Westover, for his wonderful character development."

Thank you Alice. Those are very kind words indeed.

To read Alice's full review, please visit her blog...

http://imsofunny.blogspot.com/2010/09/book-review-defensive-tactics.html