Monday, October 31, 2011

'Twas the Night Before NaNo by Mary Ann

'Twas the night before NaNo and all was prepared. I'm no longer frightened, nor a little bit scared.

All my blog posts were pre-posted with care, in hopes that my followers still will be there.

I'm nestled way deep down in my bed while visions of outlines and plots run amuck in my head.

When out from my keyboard did suddenly arise
Something red and hairy with two little white eyes.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work pulling out cables and power cords with a sharp little jerk.

And I heard him exclaim as he flashed out of sight, Happy NaNo to all, and to all a good write!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bonus Book Review--Hope's Journey by Stephanie Connelley Worlton

Hope's Journey by Stephanie Connelley Worlton

blurb--"The seemingly perfect worlds of Sydney and Alex, high school sweethearts on the brink of graduation come crashing down around them when they learn that Sydney is pregnant. They face separate journeys of self-discovery and loneliness as they try to rebuild their individual lives and shattered dreams."

It's not just another YA romance. Sydney is a straight A student and very active in the LDS faith. Alex plans to serve an LDS mission.

At the beginning, I thought this would be a difficult read, but the author's words flow seamlessly, almost effortlessly.  That is the sign of a great author--one who makes writing appear effortless.

It's not just that this is well written. This book has great potential for vast amounts of good. I think it helps us see people and situations more the way the Savior sees them.

The characters are very well developed. I related to them on two different levels.
First, it took me back to age 17, dating my first boyfriend. Although thankful we didn't cross that line--this story could've been ours just as easily.

Second, I related as a Young Women's leader. How do I help the self esteem of a Young Woman convinced that she is worthless. One particular Young Woman came to mind--a friend of my daughter. I prayed over her, talked with her, and treated her as one of my own, but she was in denial. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, her mother provided birth control. I will never know if she was able to pull out of that tailspin.

This I do know, if she'd had the chance to read Hope's Journey, I think it would've made a big difference in her life. In fact, I think every young woman of dating age, and every young man who has a girlfriend should read this book.

The author does a wonderful job dispelling the stereotype. Many good LDS kids find themselves in this situation. They're not necessarily bad kids, but normal mistake makers like the rest of us.

The author also does a great job portraying the honest emotions of both sides. Although I often found myself thinking Alex was a selfish jerk, I couldn't help but admire the courage it took to be so open and honest. Yes, Alex is fictional, but his reactions are very common in the real world.

SPOILER ALERT: My only concern is the ending. While the author acknowledges that Syd's answer is not going to be everyone else's answer, I fear that kids who read this will rationalize that things should work out this way for them without putting their own effort into finding their own answers. From my experience as a labor and deliviery nurse, Syd's answer is not typical--it's more the exception. Kids get the impression of the "happily-ever-after" ending rather than the "beginning-of-work-and-compromise-for-the-rest-of-your-life" sort of ending. The author does provide sound advice and discussion questions at the end. For me I woould've liked to read one more chapter about the work and struggle of the next several years.

Read this with your kids so they don't miss the whole point of this book. No matter how the story ends for each individual, the message of hope is the same. If you take the steps of repentance in faith, Heavenly Father and the Savior's atonement provide that hope and all of the little details will work out, regardless of those details.

Overall, this book is a definite must read for teenagers in general, but especially for those who find themselves in this position, and their parents, because it truly does bring Hope.

To read more reviews, find purchase information, and details about the book giveaway check out Stephanie's blog, Kreating Krazy,

Read a sample of the book at

Hope's Journey book trailer -

Hope's Journey Giveaway:

As part of Hope's Journey's blog tour, we will be giving away an autographed copy of Hope's Journey to one lucky winner. To enter, simply visit the author’s blog ( and leave a comment on the BLOG TOUR page. Plus, for a few bonus entries, “like” Hope's Journey on Facebook or become a follower of Stephanie’s blog. It's that easy!

Contest is limited to those within the continental US. Each person is eligible for up to three (3) entries. Contest closes at 11:59pm November 14,2011. Winner will be selected by then notified via email and listed at on November 15, 2011.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Book Review--The Key of Kilenya by Andrea Pearson

The Key of Kilenya by Andrea Pearson      YA Fantasy

First off, I love the book cover. I've always had a fascination for keys, especially antique keys. I have a collection, so that all by itself grabbed my attention.

Second, I enjoyed the journal entries--a very unique way of providing the back story. I found myself caring as much about the characters in the journal entires as I did for the main characters.

Third, the action begins from about page two and never lets up. In fact, I had a hard time keeping up. I felt a lot like the main character, learning on the run.

When two of the largest, and darkest of wolves chase fourteen-year-old Jacob Clark into the forest behind his home, he leaves this world and enters the forest of another world.

With vivid descriptions, the author paints a new world of sights, sounds, smells and lots of new terrors. Jacob learns of new races of beings, and creatures, and the properties of this world while being hunted, or is he being driven?

He has to learn quickly of his own abilities--abilities he never knew he had. He has to reach deep within himself and push himself harder than he ever has before. He learns to care for others and he has to make hard choices.

The end of the book leaves some unanswered questions as the adventure continues in the next book of the series. I was a little surprised by the reaction of Jacob's parents. If he were my son, I wouldn't have taken that information so lightly.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

It's FREE! Want to know where to get it?

To learn more about Andrea, click here:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lucious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake

Lucious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake
1 pkg yellow cake mix
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 (8 oz) pkg cream chees, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (8 oz) tub cool whip, thawed
1/4 cup caramel topping
1/3 cup pecans

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Beat cake mix, 1 cup of the pumpkin, milk, oil, eggs, and 1 tsp of the pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake 20-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add powdered sugar, remaining pumpkin, and remaining 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice and mix well. Stir in whipped topping.

Remove cake layer from first pan carefully. Cut the layer horizontally in half with a serrated knife. Stack the first layer on a serving plate spreading the cream cheese mixture on top. Add the next layer of cake. Spread another layer of cream cheese mixture. Remove the second cake layer from its pan and cut horizontally repeating the process. Do Not frost the top layer. Drizzle with caramel topping and pecans. Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Cast of Characters by James N. Frey

Constructing the Cast of Characters
by James N. Frey

This is by no means a conclusive list and your novel doesn't need to contain all of these characters, and some of these may be combined.

After your villain and hero have been developed, work on the cast of characters. Do their 3D profile, and have them write their own history in their own voice. Find out what they want and how they're going to get it.

See if you recognize some of these character types:

The Villain
The Hero--he is on a hero's journey.
The Hero's sidekick--he compliments the hero, has abilities the hero lacks.
The Hero's lover--can also be co-hero, he/she also compliments the hero.
The Wise One--the hero's mentor or teacher.
The Trickster or Shape Shifter--acts one way, then the opposite, often changes loyalties.
The Threshold Guardian--warns the hero not to go on the journey, is sometimes the mentor, or mother.
The Armorer--gives the hero weapons.
The Magical Helper--gives the hero magical powers, be it amulets and potions or technogadgets.
The Female as a goddess--she is kind, forgiving, and beautiful.
The Female as a whore.
The Female as an earth mother--plain, solid, and dependable.
The Female as a temptress.
The Female of business--nasty, ambitious.
The Loved One--not the lover, but a minor character, usually a relative of the hero.
The Femme Fatale--a seductress who offers love and delivers evil.
The God with Clay feet--the hero looks up to and admires this person, but he/she proves to be unworthy (I've seen this one combined with the mentor and the villain).

Think of some of your favorite books. Do you recognize character types in them?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Motivation--Positive Affirmations

Positive Affirmations is a presentation given by my friend, Sara Fitzgerald, author of Darkness Within, 2006 League of Utah Writers Writer of the Year.
Check out her website at

Positive Affirmations

I pursue my dream with enthusiasm and confidence.
The scope, power and results of my life are mine alone to choose.
I live my life with vitality and passion.
I am true to myself in all things.
Every experience and every emotion prospers me creatively.
The wellspring of my creativity flows with rich abundance.
I recognize, honor, and magnify my strengths.
I share my heart through my thoughts, my emotions, and my actions.
I now discover how wonderful I am.
I choose to love and enjoy myself and my writing.
I love and approve of myself.
I am loving and lovable.
I am at peace with my own feelings.
I create my own security.
I acknowledge and accept that I'm the creative power in my world.
I now choose to enjoy my life.
I declare peace and harmony around me.
I lovingly protect myself with thoughts of joy and peace.

This may seem self-absorbed, but unless you believe you have something to offer the world, you will be unable to give to the world. In my opinion, it is the only way to live amongst the noise and chaos.                  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Movie Reviews--Favorite Series

National Treasure   rated PG-13I

I love history. Even more, I love history and intrigue. I love that the main characters have to know things to figure out the clues.

This series has it all--mystery and suspense, spies and secret codes, romance, chase scenes, treasure, and lots of history. I love movies that teach me about history.

This is a fun romp of a history lesson. It makes me wonder how much of it is true, and that's exactly what historical fiction is supposed to do.

Pirates of the Carribean   rated PG-13

Who doesn't love a good pirate movie? High adventure, treasure, romance, scalliwags, old english/piratese, sword fights, and one of the best soundtracks out there.

Just hearing the music makes me want to swashbuckle.

I'm not as crazy about 2 and 3 as I am about the first movie of the series, but movie 4 restores the general theme of the Pirates.

Lord of the Rings   rated PG-13

Talk about epics. Rarely has a movie been made of this caliber. The imagination of the author and the movie makers completely overwhelmed me. How did they accomplish such a feeling of the ethereal? The music and the art that flowed through the entire series made me feel as if I belonged in that world.

I learned the value of persistence and loyalty by watching the characters struggle through one adventure after another. And persistence, loyalty, and sacrifice will win out over evil, not brute force, but quiet, simple, perseverance.

The battle between good and evil effects us all.

Harry Potter   rated PG-13

The only people I know who don't like Harry Potter are those who haven't read the books or seen the movies. There aren't many but they do exist. They're also the only ones who don't know what muggles are.

This series of YA books single handedly brought a revolution to the book industry. All of a sudden kids loved to read. It became cool to read. People of all ages became engrossed in a YA genre. J.K. Rowling set the reading world on its ear.

The perennial fight of good versus evil is set in a contemporary world much like our own. Both worlds overlap upon occasion.

It is a coming of age story with adventure and obstacles, frights, loyalty, heros, self-sacrifce, friendship, wit and wisdom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Are you ready for this? There are only three ingredients!

1 (18 oz) pkg spice cake mix
1 (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
1 (12 oz) pkg of semi-sweet chocolate chips or milk chocolate chips.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix spice cake and pumpkin until well blended. Add chocolate chips. Drop cookies onto greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Tips--The Hero

Last July I posted about the construction of Villains. Today I'm posting about Heroes. This information comes from James N. Frey's
How to Write a Damn Good Mystery.

The Hero is the most important character, not because he's the main character, but because he is the character your reader will identify with most.

Keep your Villain close at hand while creating your Hero. Go through the same steps of creation. Create his biography = physiological, sociological, and psychological profile. Let him write his own life's story in his own voice.

A hero is not average or middle of the road. He should have courage, a special talent, and be good at what he does. He should be as wounded as the Villain but not damaged. He should be as clever and resourceful as the Villain. He should be willing to break the rules if necessary, and above all he is self-sacrificing, rather than self-serving as the Villain is.

I find it interesting that heroes and villains have similarities in background, but it is their choices that determine their differences, just as Professor Dumbledore said.

Think of the hero and villain combos you know. Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, and Dudley Do Right and Snidley Whiplash.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday Movie Review--More Halloween Favorites

To Catch a Thief  starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly

Cary Grant plays retired jewel thief, John Robie, nicknamed "The Cat." He leads a quiet life now, tending his vineyards in the French Riviera. A series of robberies that take place copy cats his m.o. and makes the French Police believe he is out of retirement.

Robie is able to give the police the slip with the help of some old friends. His plan is to prove his innocence by catching the new cat burglar in the act. He enlists the aid of an insurance adjustor who reluctantly gives Robie a list of the most expensive jewels currently on the Riviera. Jessie Stevens and her daughter, Francie (played by Grace Kelly), are the first on the list. Robie strikes up an acquaintance with the two.

Robie and Francie fall for each other. After a night of passion, Jessie's jewels are stolen and Francie thinks Robie took advantage. Robie has to go back on the lam. He stakes out a rooftop to catch the new burglar, a burglar who rivals him in cleverness and agility.

This is a clever suspense that kept me guessing until the end. I enjoy gathering clues and trying to figure it out. Of course, if I figure it out, I say it was predictable. This movie did a good job leading me down one path only to find out the truth at the end.

Arsenic and Old Lace  starring Cary Grant

Mortimer Brewster, played by Cary Grant, has written several books describing marriage as an old-fashioned superstition. He falls in love with Elaine, the girl next door. They marry on Halloween. Immediately after the wedding Mortimer returns to his old family home to visit the elderly, eccentric relatives who raised him, two lovable aunts, Abby and Martha, and their brother, Teddy (who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt).

Mortimer finds a corpse hidden in a window seat and assumes Teddy committed murder while delusional, but the aunts explain they are responsible--"It's one of our charities." They explain, most innocently, that they have developed the very bad habit of ending the suffering of lonely old bachelors by serving them elderberry wine spiked with arsenic, strychnine, and "just a pinch of cyanide." The bodies are buried in the basement by Teddy, who believes he is burying yellow fever victims in the locks of the Panama Canal. Complications set in when another Brewster brother returns home with a corpse of his own to hide.

 Macabre humor and suspense play against each other overlapping action and clever dialogue. Pay close attention or you may miss a quick joke. I couldn't help but laugh and yell, "watch out", at the same time. By the end of the movie I was out of breath.

Charade  starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn

Regina Lambert (Hepburn) meets a charming stranger, Peter Joshua (Grant) on a skiing holiday. She returns to Paris to ask her husband, Charles for a divorce. When she arrives home all of her possessions are gone. Her luxurious home is completely stripped and her husband is missing. The police notify her that Charles had been thrown from a moving train--murdered. They give her his travel bag.

At Charles's funeral, Regina notices three odd visitors who do things to Charles to verify he is dead.

Later, Regina is summoned to the U.S. Embassy where she meets CIA administrator, Hamilton Bartholmew (Walter Matthau). He informs Regina that Charles was involved in a theft during WWII--$250,000.00 in gold. Charles and a group of OSS were to deliver the gold the French Resistance. They buried it and then ambushed by a German patrol. One of the OSS men was left to die. Charles double crossed the rest of the group and went back for the gold. The U.s. government wants the money back. Bartholomew insists Regina has the money, even if she doesn't know it.

Peter offers to help Regina. While he admits to being after the money as well, he is actually in league with the OSS group under a pseudonym of Alexander Dyle, brother of the man left to die. None of the men trust each other and they begin turning up dead.

Who can Regina trust? With so many plot twists and turns, I felt like I was on a crazy roller coaster ride. This movie kept me guessing to the very end.

North by Northwest  starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint

Cary Grant plays an advertising executive by the name of Roger Thornhill, who, by chance, suffers a case of mistake identity. He gets kidnapped and taken to the home of a United Nations delegate by the name of Lester Townsend. Thornhill is interrogated by a man he assumes is Townsend (actually a foreign spy named Vandamm), where he repeatedly denies he is George Kaplan.

Vandamm orders Thornhill's disposal. The thugs attempt to stage a fatal car accident, only Thornhill gets away to be arrested later for drunk driving. Unable to get anyone to believe him he decides to do some of his own investigating.

He goes to Kaplan's hotel room where he answers the phone. Of course, the bad guys are convinced he is Kaplan. Narrowly avoiding recapture Thornhill takes a taxi to the General Assembly building of the United Nations where Townsend is due to deliver a speech. He meets Townsend face to face and surprised to find that he is not the man who interrogated him. Before Thornhill can get any more answers, one of the thugs throws a knife, sticking Townsend in the back and he dies in Thornhill's arms. Without thinking, Thornhill removes the knife, making it appear as if he is the killer. He goes on the run again.

This movies chases all over the eastern half of the United States with one of the most unique chase scenes ever filmed--across the faces of Mount Rushmore. Alfred Hitchcock was a master of nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat suspense. Every time I watch this movie I wonder how is Cary Grant going to make it out this mess?

Wait Until Dark  starring Audrey Hepburn

Montreal--a woman named Lisa watches an old man sew bags of heroin in the cloth body of an old-fashioned doll. A man watches her as she leaves the apartment. Lisa takes the doll with her on a flight to New York.

When she disembarks she gives the doll to a man she met on the plane for safe keeping. He is a professional photographer named Sam Hendrix. Sam lives in a basement apartment with his wife, Susy, who was recently blinded in a car accident. Lisa calls Sam asking for the doll back, but he's unable to find it.

Later, a couple of con men watch Sam's apartment until Sam and Susy leave. The con men are supposed to meet Lisa at the apartment, instead they are met by the man who was watching Lisa, Harry Roat. None of them find the doll but the two con men discover Lisa's body hanging in a garment bag. Since the only fingerprints in the apartment belong to the con men, Roat blackmails them into getting rid of Lisa'a body and helping him find the doll.

So the bad guys leave to dispose of the body. In the meantime Susy returns home none-the-wiser. Her neighbors leave for the weekend, and Sam leaves the next morning for a business trip--the first time Susy has been left alone since her accident. She's still learning to navigate her new world of darkness.

Once she is alone the three bad guys start working on her in order to gain entry into the apartment. They pose as different people. They tell her a story that makes her think Sam is involved with Lisa's murder and persuade her to help them find the doll. Susy becomes suspicious.

Gloria, a neighbor girl who the Hendrix's pay to run errands for Susy has a bad habit of going in and out of Susy's apartment without Susy knowing she's there. Gloria sneaks into the apartment with the doll she stole some time earlier. Susy discovers the doll.

The suspense builds gradually as Susy becomes aware that these men are not who they say. I am always amazed at her resourcefulness for being someone still learning how to cope with her disability. She thinks through problems quickly instead of feeling sorry for herself.

The movie is full of awesome fright moments that catch you off guard. One of my favorite things to do is to watch this in the dark, and wait for the right moment to grab one of my kids and scream.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday Movie Review--My Top 4 Favorite Halloween Movies

 There are a million and one Halloween movies out there from Disney to slashers. These are my favorite four movies. I get them out every year at this time and watch them again.

 #4   The Man Who Knew Too Little      rated PG  1997  94 min.
Bill Murray plays Wallace Ritchie, a naive American visiting his brother in London.

He thinks that everything happening around him is part of an audience-participation dinner theatre. Not knowing the danger he is really in, he plays the cool, collected, super spy who holds the fate of the cold war in his hands.

It is rated PG for language, adult themes, and a little bit of scary. This is the type of movie where the ridiculous happens but you laugh yourself silly anyway. 

#3  Hocus Pocus     rated PG   1993   96 min.

Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker star as three 17th century Salem witches brought back from the dead by an ancient spell unwittingly conjured by a boy named Max, who is trying to impress a girl.

Max and his friends have to find a way to reverse the curse and send the witches back before the three lovelies curse the town and steal the youth of all of Salem's children.

This is a fun Halloween movie with great music but may be too scary for small children.

#2   The Burbs   rated PG   1989   102 min.

Tom Hanks plays average, suburbanite Ray Peterson who starts a week of vacation at home. 

But when Ray and two of his buddies notice the strange goings-on of the creepy, next-door neighbors, his vacation is anything but restful. When one of their other neighbors goes missing, the three buddies make plans to investigate. 

Each of the characters in this cul-de-sac have their own humorous quirks and provide slapstick comedy against a backdrop of creepy suspense.

This is a fun, fun movie--a must see for Halloween!

My all-time favorite scary movie to watch at Halloween is . . .
What Lies Beneath   rated PG-13   2000   130 min.

Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer play a happily married couple who renovate their dream home at the lake. Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) begins seeing ghostly images and mysterious voices. She is certain that all is not well with the new neighbors next door.

After some surprising twists and turns, Claire and her husband eventually get to the bottom of it all.

The suspense in this movie is so well done. It is the most intense thriller/mystery since Alfred Hitchcock. It comes with several good fright moments that knocked my socks off. If you're prone to nightmares, do not watch this movie in the dark. My neighbor across the street watched this movie in the middle of the afternoon, with all of her curtains open and lights on, and still could not get through it. But if you like a good scare, this is a classic. There is blood but not the gore of a slasher movie.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Sandwich Cookies

1 pkg pumpkin spice bread mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup shortening

Mix well. Drop by melon-scoop balls 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

Frost with vanilla or cream cheese ready to spread frosting.