Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review: Home Matters

I just finished reading Julie N. Ford's new novella. It was a fun break after a stressful week. This is my first experience reading a novella. I liked it because I'm a person who can't start a book without finishing it almost immediately. And Julie's book only took me a few short hours in the evenings. It was a fun break. And Julie's writing style is fresh. I always come away from her books, feeling like I've been on a little visit to the South.

The book is about an actress, Olivia Pembroke, who's spent the last few years trying to get her big break in Hollywood. She finally gets it when she's cast as the co-host of a popular home improvement show. Only, she isn't as happy in her role as she'd expected. She has to make some big decisions about what's really important to her. She must decide whether her acting dreams are really worth all the sacrifice--and whether the man she's always wanted to date is really the man for her.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It had some surprising twists and some interesting character development. I would've liked it to be longer, but I'll admit there are definite advantages to reading a short book too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rewriting My Own Stories

It always seems like the worst things happen when my husband is out of town. Last summer, when my husband and three oldest children were on a church camp out, I got three pieces of bad news. First, I got the dreaded call from the hospital that my tests had not come back normal. Second, one of my son's friends told me his mom wouldn't allow him to play at my house any more. (I felt terrible.) Third, I got my first reader reviews for my book, and they were horrible.

For the next three weeks, things didn't get much better. My husband broke our camera on the church camp out. The neighbor kids decided to play tricks on my kids. The reviews got worse. And I had to wait a month to find out for sure that I was cancer free. When I finally got that wonderful phone call from the hospital that said I don't have cancer, I was so relieved. I am still relieved. But a few days later, I got a $1000 bill for my biopsy (that was after insurance.) And more bills for my other hospital tests. 

With all the trauma in my life last summer, I didn't enjoy the publication process. It was just too stressful to revise, rewrite, market, and do signings when I had all these other things going on. I thought about quitting. Then I decided that I liked writing--just not the other parts of publishing.

So I kept writing because it made me happy, but I promised myself that I could write simply for my own pleasure. And I did. I have loved every minute of writing Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale.

I wrote for myself--what I wanted to read and what I wanted to write. When my acquisitions editor contacted me last fall and asked if I had a new book for 2014, I had to think a while before answering, "yes." It was seriously a leap of faith to agree to another summer publication date.

In the last few months, as I've finished my book, I've thought about last summer. And I've thought of the stories I've told myself about last summer. I'm trying to rewrite my experiences of last year in a way that emphasizes the positives: 
  • First, I had bad test results, but I don't have cancer, and my doctor says I'm in great shape. I am even more grateful for my health now.
  • Second, my son's friend wasn't that great of an influence anyway. He was older than my son, and they fought a lot. My son has better friends now, which is another reason to celebrate. Yay!
  • Third, I got some awesome reviews last year too, including one from Publisher's Weekly. And, overall, the reviews got much better after those first few weeks. My book just needed to find its audience.
Plus, I had a lot of other things to be grateful for last summer. My kids all had wonderfully fun summers. I cultivated the habit of writing in a gratitude journal, a practice that has blessed me ever since. I discovered some new hiking trails. And I learned to have more faith that my Heavenly Father knows how I'm feeling.

So, as I continue learning to write, I also continue to learn to live. And so much of living is about the stories we tell ourselves.

How are you trying to rewrite your life?

Note: Sorry I had to disable comments on this post. I was getting too much spam from advertisers who are trying to sell essays to students--a big NO in my book. That's plagiarism, and I don't approve.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Book for St. Patrick's Day

I've finished the manuscript for my next book and sent it off to my publisher. After spending the last year working on it, I feel a little lost today. But there's also a huge relief that comes from finishing a project. I've spent way too much time revising lately. I'm glad to have more time to spend with my children. And I'm also glad to have time to clean my house.

I've said before that I love audiobooks. It makes housecleaning feel so much more like an adventure when I read a book while I work. And lately, I've found an excellent audiobook. It's my favorite book of the year so far--Sarah M. Eden's Longing for Home. It is the story of a young Irish woman, who travels to Wyoming in the mid-1800s, to accept a job as a housekeeper. This description doesn't do it justice, though. If you like historical romance, I guarantee that you will like this book. And the audiobook's narrator is excellent.

What's even better is that the book's sequel came out this month. It's called Hope Springs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blog Tour: A Death in the Family

My friend, Marlene Bateman has another new book. It's a murder mystery. I love a good mystery. One of these days, I may just write one myself. Until then, I'll be reading Marlene's.

Here's the synopsis:

Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.

In A Death in the Family, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.

Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.

Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case.

Author Biography

Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.

Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith. Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven; Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints.

Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.

Here are the links to buy:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

My Sister Doesn't Talk to Me

My sister, Caroline, hasn't talked to me in over thirty years. In fact, she's never talked to me. She was born with Down Syndrome, and at her birth, experts assured my parents that we could teach her to speak, read, and write. It would just take longer to teach her than it would to teach a normal child. Let me tell you, we tried our hardest, but my sister never learned to talk. Boy, were we ever judged! My sister couldn't even qualify for the Special Olympics.

As time went on, we discovered that Caroline had many traits in common with autistic children. At that time--the eighties--autism wasn't as common. Teachers and doctors were only just beginning to talk about it. When you look at my sister, you don't see autism; you see Down Syndrome. Thus, she was never diagnosed as autistic.

However, those of us who know Caroline best know that autism defines her life. She is obsessive in her interests, showing a definite preference for musicals and classical music. She frequently rocks back and forth. She prefers certain textures over others. And she doesn't usually enjoy close contact with other people--though she does have her own sense of humor.

Growing up with Caroline was always an adventure. Every time we went out in public, people watched.  They watched as she swam in our neighborhood pool, diving in and out of the water like a dolphin. They watched while my parents reminded Caroline to sit in her chair, not the floor, at restaurants. And while she threw her eyeglasses off of boats and bridges. And while she screamed on airplanes.

Now my sister lives in a group home with four other mentally disabled women. The caregivers there provide twenty-four-hour care for her. Her home is close enough to my parents that they can visit her as often as they like. Every Sunday, my parents bring her home to spend time with the family. When I visit, it's the same old story. Caroline sits rocking back and forth on the family room floor, listening to Mozart or watching a musical. Most of the time, when I try to hug her, she pushes me away.

Every autistic individual I know is different from every other. In some ways, autism defies categorization. When I started writing Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale (coming August 2014), I wanted to include a character like Caroline, so I created a little sister named Grace. She's a lot like my sister, only she talks. She loves musicals and swimming in rivers. And when she doesn't get her way, she sits down, refusing to move.

Grace is a minor character. My book isn't about autism. It's about a family. And, for me, being a part of a family involves loving each other despite our weaknesses. It's also a romance, and I have to tell you that for me, there's nothing more attractive than a man who's kind to disabled people. That's one of the important things my sister has taught me without saying a word.