Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to meet that special "someone"

A common question you ask a married couple when you are getting to know them is “How did you meet?” I remember asking my grandparents that when I was younger. Their answer was “at a church dance.”

I’ve been married just over twenty years now. My wife and I met at BYU. On Monday nights, we’d have family home evening activities. However, when you are a single student, you don’t have a “family”, per se. So . . .the students are divided into groups to act as “families”. There is a male and a female chosen to be in charge of the group and planning the activities. They are affectionately called “Mom” and “Dad.”

In our case, my wife was the “Mom”. Most people then assume I was the “Dad”—but they’d be wrong. I was one of the “kids”. So, yes, I married my “Mom”. I’m sure Oedipus would have something to say about that.

With the advent of new technology, people are finding different ways to meet. A popular way is on the internet—and why not? There are numerous ways of meeting and communicating with new people that share your similar interests. I know of a woman who moved from the USA to a European country to marry a man she met while playing an online video game. I know of another couple where the man moved from Australia to the USA to marry a woman he met while playing “World of Warcraft”. And frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with that.

However, (and if you know me, there is always a “however”) there are those in the world that would use the internet to help people “get together” for the sake of making money for themselves. They are like modern day matchmakers (I can hear the tune from Fiddler on the Roof in my head right now) though at times their methods are somewhat questionable.

Here are some real ads that have popped up on various websites, from Facebook, to MSN.com, and even TVGuide.com—none of which are designed to look for a woman.

Because having to pay would make it creepy.

Nothing inspires confidence in finding that special person like a company with the word "Zoo" in the name.

It adds a lot of credibility to your website when you are endorsed by the Almighty.

Is the word "cheated" something you want associated to a dating site?

Nothing invokes pure, spiritual feelings like a woman in a cowboy hat and a low cut, tight shirt.

These women must be stocking me. On our trip to Utah last summer, this same ad said they were in Orem.

I guess some habits are hard to break.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book review of “The Ember Gods” by Andrea Pearson

The Ember Gods is the second of the Kilenya series that started with The Key of Kilenya. To see my review of that book, click here.

In the first book, we are introduced to Jacob Clark, a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy with dreams of being a star basketball player. His life takes on a whole new dimension when he becomes involved in the peoples of another world. I’d say more on how that all happens, but that would ruin the surprises and fun found in the first book.

The Ember Gods picks up where The Key of Kilenya leaves off. There are many elements of Jacob’s newly discovered powers and his true relationship with the people in the other world that are explored in the second book of the series.

While I enjoyed the first book of the series, I found the writing in the second book to be sharper and more polished. Pearson has a fantastic imagination and as she continues to write, I feel her skill with the written word has improved.

A fun addition to the second book is the role that Jacob’s older brother, Matt, plays. While Jacob continues to discover things about himself and the other world, it is Matt’s reactions and observations that helps the reader relate to the odd things that happen to them.

One of the fine lines that Pearson walks in these books is that both Jacob and Matt still are living their lives on Earth, but they have the ability to travel to the other world as needed. I found this to be an interesting dynamic. On one hand, you have Jacob who is dealing with the pressures of homework, making the basketball team, and flirty girls. It is easy to relate to these situations. While on the other world, it has a high element of fantasy to it. The people are odd. The world is strange. Magic, in one form or another, is prevalent everywhere.

As I stated in my first review, it helps to read these books through Jacob’s fourteen-year-old eyes. At that age, we aren’t as jaded and skeptical as when we are older. There is wonder to be found in the adventures Jacob encounters—don’t let your adult mind persuade you otherwise.

I’m not sure how many books Pearson has planned for the series, but she most certainly has left the door wide open for more.

The Ember Gods is a fun and exciting read that evokes wonder and awe in the teenager in all of us.

Who would enjoy this book? It’s a clean read with no bad language or sex. There is some minor violence and some scary situations, so I’d recommend middle school young adults and up.

For more information on the series, click here.

To purchase the book, click here for Smashwords. Click here for Amazon.

Author Andrea Pearson

For more on Andrea Pearson, click here.

(I've met her in "real life" and she's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.)

***Disclaimer: This review is an accurate reflection of my feelings about the book and in no way was influenced by other factors.***

Friday, January 27, 2012

My private NaNoWriMo

If you aren’t sure what NaNoWriMo is, don’t fret. I hadn’t heard about it until after my first book was published. It is short for National Novel Writing Month. It “officially” takes place in November. The goal is fairly straight forward: during that month, writers write as much of a novel as they can. What’s a standard word count people are shooting for? The number I’ve heard is 50,000.

But how many pages is 50,000 words? Honestly, it depends on a lot of things: the size of the font (letter size) the size of the paper, how big the margins are and such.

For example, The Hidden Sun is just shy of 100,000 words. That equates to roughly 350 pages in a standard format.

Personally, I applaud the idea behind NaNoWriMo, if not necessarily the execution.

Let me explain.

When I talk to aspiring authors, often they ask me for advice. The best advice I was given and therefore I pass on is to write the book whole—don’t keep rewriting the first chapter—with the understanding you will be going back to fix and change things when you are done. Too many people get started, and then quit after a chapter or two because they keep tweaking what they’ve written. To this end, NaNoWriMo is a great reason for people to write the book they’ve always wanted to.

So again, that is the idea behind NaNoWriMo, at least in my opinion. However, I don’t believe people should wait for November. Yes, there are those who need a kick in the pants and the support of other writers to make the goal. For others, it’s completely different.

For me, my writing comes in spurts. At this point of my writing career, I’m usually writing one book while editing another. I know of authors who write several books at the same time. I’m not that talented. I have to give my full attention to writing one book at a time.

The Hidden Sun took me five years to write. Why? Mainly because it was my first book and I was working full time, had four little daughters and spent a lot of time donating time for my church.

While editing The Hidden Sun, I got an idea for a second book. It took me three years to write The Waxing Moon, (it ended up just a bit more that 100,000 words) but I was writing it while editing The Hidden Sun.

While editing The Waxing Moon, I started working on the third book, The Zealous Star. However, after only a few chapters, I got an idea of writing a book based on a song called The Mirror of the Soul by Chris de Burgh. Though I wanted to finish The Zealous Star, I couldn’t stop thinking about The Mirror of the Soul. So, once I got permission from Chris de Burgh and his management to write the book, I put The Zealous Star on the back burner. Nine months later, I finished the book, the whole time still editing The Waxing Moon. The Mirror of the Soul is only 60,000 words, but that’s how long it took me to tell the story.

By this time The Waxing Moon was completed and while editing The Mirror of the Soul, I went back to writing The Zealous Star. After roughly 30,000 words into the book, I got inspired to write another book—something completely different from what I’d written before. Once again, the urge to write the new book was too strong, so The Zealous Star went back on the shelf while I started writing.

In one month’s time, I’ve written over 57,000 words for this new book. I’ve pondered on why it’s come so quickly and I’ve decided on a few things.

First, because I’ve written three full books before this one. I’ve gotten better and quicker.

Second, this book is told in first person, unlike the rest of my books. The other three books I’ve written are told from different points of view with separate plots intersecting and coming together at the end. It’s a fairly complex process. Writing a book from a single point of view has helped things move right along.

Third, while this yet-to-be-titled book is a novel, it is based on events in my personal life of when I lived in Mexico and some pretty darn traumatic things happened to me. Because of that, I already know the events and characters pretty well.

How does all this relate to NaNoWriMo? Well, I write when story in me demands to be told. It doesn’t wait for November.

However, I may just have to use NaNoWriMo this year to get me to finish The Zealous Star. That poor book keeps getting set aside.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What dreams may come

French dip sandwiches from Arby’s every Thursday night. It was my “thing”. When I left work on Thursdays, I would go to my church building to catch up on any clerk work. On the way, I’d stop by a local mall and eat at the food court.

Time and again, I would walk around the mall for a moment to wind down between aspects of my day. I was writing The Hidden Sun during this time, along with everything else I was responsible for. When I’d walk past the largest bookstore in the mall, I’d stop and look at all the books on display. I’d dream about having my book be published one day and seeing it available for sale.

Heck, I’d even take it a step further and imagine what people might say about it. I felt I had a good story to tell, and I hoped others would enjoy it. Yet, part of me doubted that would ever happen. After all, I’d never written a book and didn’t have a clue how I’d go about getting it published.

Fast forward to now. The Hidden Sun has been published. It’s available not only in print form, but also as an ebook. In addition, it’s been getting amazing reviews. Up until yesterday, the reviews posted on Goodreads and Amazon were people I knew, were part of the blog tours or other promotions I’d set up.

What happened yesterday? The following review was posted on Goodreads from someone I don’t know. In addition, it was posted five months after the book was released. All those are good signs.

Here is the review:

With a touch of romance, this action/adventure novel is amazing. A great book for both kids and adults. I had it read within twenty-four hours. I couldn’t put it down. And now my daughter is half-way through and loving it! The author weaves an intricate tale spanning two generations. You are cheering for the characters throughout as they battle the effects of one wicked king in their fight to restore liberty and justice to the people of Bariwon. This book visited my thoughts long after I closed the cover, and I am anxiously awaiting the sequel to this one!

If someone would have told me when I was standing in the mall, looking into the bookstore, that not only would I have a book published, but I would get reviews like that, I don’t think I would have believed them.

Was it a dream of mine that it would happen?


Did it come to pass?


And that is why I continue to dream.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Save us from ourselves, part 2

Ah, a new year. With it comes hope for better days, peace on earth and perhaps even a little excitement—however, not too much excitement. We all know the old saying of “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, in which case, it’s just fun”. Granted the last part of that saying isn’t as well known. . .

Yet, there are those who believe they must do all in their power to save people from themselves. While I applaud the effort to keep people from harm’s way, sometimes things go too far. After all, do you really need to tell someone not to eat shards of glass? Aren’t some things common sense? And, I would argue, if someone is going to eat shards of glass, I doubt they would heed a warning sign.

Here is yet another list of warning signs that have missed the mark (at least in my opinion).

Not even if you are REALLY thirsty.

How come I don't see more of these signs everywhere?

What do rocks and cows have in common?

And also that the pool is filled with water, not lemonade.

From the makers of the gingerbread house in "Hansel and Gretel".

For those who like to live life on the edge.

I'm bettin' he had it comin'.

It's the red, underlined word "NO" that shows they really mean it. 

I don't see anything wrong with this sign. Then again, I'm dyslexic.

Always nice to have options.

Reason #4,629 why I don't drink.

This needs to be part of every "Birds and the Bees" talk.

He was warned.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book review of "Time Gangsters" by Berin L. Stephens

It’s been a while since I had this much fun reading a book. Really—it’s true! Time Gangsters by Berin L. Stephens was one of those books that I made time to read. While there is a lot of action and suspense in the book, it’s still fun and I found myself grinning each time I read.

What makes the book so fun to read? For me, it was the characters. I honestly believe that if you don’t care about the characters, you won’t care what happens to them. Stephens fills this book with unique and believable characters. I loved how the story was told from alternating points of view—one per chapter—from the main characters. It let me connect with each of them and gave me a broader view. Include the fact that the two main characters are different genders, and cousins to boot, and you have an interesting dynamic to the storytelling.

The overall concept of Time Gangsters is original in a world where authors are writing variations of the same story. Yes, it uses familiar elements, but in a way that was wholly ingenious. Do you have to suspend your disbelief to be entertained at times? Yes. However, Stephens sets up the parameters of what can happen in the story and sticks with it. While new things were discovered along the way, I never felt like they came out of left field—they fit in with the story.

Am I being vague on the specifics? Yes, yes I am. That’s because I want you to discover and enjoy this book as I did—letting it unfold before you.

The book is a clean read and I’d recommend it for anyone 12 or older, boy or girl, man or woman.

I’m off now to find the blueprints of my house. Maybe I’ll find a stash of golden coins hidden in one of the walls. . .

Do you want to read what others have to say about the book? Click here for a calendar.

For more information about the author, click here.

For more information about the book, click here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Let’s kill all the lawyers?

All it takes is to watch one advertisement during daytime TV from some sleazy law firm to make you question ever seeking out a lawyer. At least that’s how I feel. In Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 2 there is a line, meant to be part of comedic relief, where one of the characters states, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

I’ve heard people banter this line around when they are complaining about the legal system and such. Thankfully, my experience with lawyers has been small; I’ve used one to prepare a will and for when we have purchased our homes over the years.

I was once called to jury duty where one guy was accused of punching another guy as they were leaving a completely different court case. Lucky me, I was chosen to be the foreman for the case. The lawyer representing the person that was hit had several witnesses that testified that the punch most certainly happened. The defense lawyer would then drill the witnesses about the smallest details. “What time of day was it?” “What was the weather like?” “What exactly did the two people say to each other?” “Which part of the face was he allegedly hit?” and so on. I couldn’t understand why she was digging so deep until the end.

Apparently there is the concept of “reasonable doubt”—meaning if we, as the jury, weren’t convinced about the validity of the claim, we had to find in favor of the defendant. And while the witness’ stories varied a little bit, we, as the jury, chalked that up to human nature—people remember things a bit differently. The one constant was that the guy got hit. After we presented our decision, we were allowed to leave—which I did as fast as I could. I felt like I needed to take a shower after the event.

And then there is now. Without going into too many details, I’ve been treated for a medical condition for the last several months. All was going along well until my claim got denied by the insurance company a month and a half ago. They stated they needed more information from the doctor. So, in working with the doctor, we reached out to the insurance agency to find out what they needed. I kept hitting dead end after dead end. “You need to talk to so and so.” “My department doesn’t handle that.” “I’ll leave a note for the case worker to call you.” (Which wouldn’t happen) and so on.

I appealed the denial and have spent many hours on the phone trying to get people to help. It became obvious that the insurance agency was being difficult—and why not? I’m sure they didn’t want to pay.

After discussing my situation with various colleagues, government agencies and close friends, I kept getting the same advice: get a lawyer.

So, I did some research and contacted a reputable lawyer. Within a few moments after speaking with him, I experienced something I hadn’t during this entire nightmare: someone who actually listened to me and expressed an interest in helping. Yes, I’m sure it is because he will make money off of taking my case, but I’ve dealt with enough people in my life to tell when someone is being sincere or not—and everything my experience was telling me was he honestly wanted to help.

While I step into this cautiously, I’ll have to say it feels good to have someone on my side.