Thank You-Giveaway time! Free swag!

THIS IS AN OLD GIVEAWAY, FROM 4 MONTHS AGO; There is no more free stuff. 

Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, is getting closer to being published! It’ll be out before the end of May. 

I’m having so much fun working on the cover and finalizing edits that I want to thank you for your support and patience by hosting another giveaway. For until they run out, I’ll mail you a book mark and a magnet, just for the asking.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

(These will be collector’s items some day, folks.)

I designed the magnet for my own selfish use–I tend to forget things, so my fridge now has reminders like this:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

(Although I don’t think my 8-year-old wants me to remember this.)

Isn’t that awesome? And cool? Don’t you want a magnet and bookmark?

Then just fill out the form below. I promise I will never use your name and address for anything else but sending you free swag. Your information is safe with me (primarily because I tend to lose addresses right after I write them down).

I also have a limited amount of the magnets I gave away last time (I really should clean off my desk more often, to see what else is hiding under the baskets I never use). If you want a set of these older magnet as well, let me know. I’ll be giving them away until they’re gone.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

(Yep. Got these on  my fridge as well.)

So fill out the form below (and let me know if you want last year’s magnet, too, if still available) with your full address, and I’ll get them in the mail to you. And yes, I will ship internationally.

THIS IS AN OLD GIVEAWAY–NO LONGER AVAILABLE!

Thank you again for your support and patience, and I’ll keep you posted as to when Book 5 is published!

Book 5 Teaser–We’re letting the bullies take charge

In America I feel like we’re facing an election of bullies. Having to choose a president from among the name-callers, threat-issuers, and truth-manglers is like being offered, for our last meal, something from the dumpster behind a toxic waste disposal company.

We’re increasingly becoming a nation of whining children, reluctant to take responsibility for our choices, and instead want someone else to call every shot, from cradle to grave. To surrender so easily our freedoms which, two-hundred-forty years ago, we raged a war over, is a manifestation of our willfully growing stupidity.

We want to follow our impulses, without any consequences.

We want to indulge ourselves, without any thought for others.

We’ve increasingly decided we don’t want God to govern us, and since we won’t control ourselves, we’re letting the bullies take over. 

High Polish Tatra mountains

Book 5 Teaser–Sneaky Creator

I realized long ago that God is the ultimate plot developer.

One of my favorite quotes is an old Jewish saying: “Tell G-d your plans, because He needs a good laugh.” I think this is why so many of us experience plot twists in our lives. And while I’d grumble about those twists, always–always–I’d thank my Heavenly Father later that He didn’t pay any attention to my plans. His are always better.

High Polish Tatra mountains

Book 5 teaser–The Creator, criticism, and thinking twice

I’ve had several readers ask about Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti and I’m pleased to report that yes–it’s coming along well. I can’t devote as many hours to it as I wished each day, because I have five kids at home–half of whom I homeschool (work out that math)–and a side business I run on Etsy, so I have to try to strike a balance. If I could just learn to not sleep, progress would be much faster.

But because I’m so excited about this book, I’ve decided to give you a teaser each week in the form of a line or two from the story. Here’s the first, which I’ve learned from personal experience:

High Polish Tatra mountains

(At least half my trials come to me this way. I’m slowly catching on to keep my mouth shut.)

Farewell to a beta reader: my life preserver and sinking anchor

Writers need beta readers because they are a mixture of life preservers and anchors; on the one hand they point out the little things we can do to fix the draft, and their enthusiasm keeps us buoyant. But on the other hand they drop anchors on us, comments that can sink us into editing despair, such as, “I really hated what you did to so-and-so. Are you sure that’s the direction you want to go?”

Well, seeing as how the next three books depend on that plot development . . . no?

Drat.

Writers value their beta readers because they do an enormous task for literally nothing: they read through our drafts which we think are near to perfection, point out how far from perfection they really are, then we thank them for their hours of work only by mentioning them in the back of the book and sending them a bookmark and a magnet or two.

But we couldn’t do it without them. I’ve burned through a few beta readers in the past years because it’s a demanding task “grading” someone’s 180,000-word essay. I understand when they say they can’t help this time around. But I’ve never lost one completely before, until last week.

Debbie Beier was an unusual beta reader because she could see things sideways, and I’d been looking for someone like that. I feel that’s how I’ve always seen the world—from odd angles. This was particularly frustrating in English classes where everyone would read a story/poem, begin to discuss it, and I’d be completely confused as to what they thought was “important.” While they were discussing the meaning of ‘walking in the wilderness,’ I’d wonder why the author kept referring to his yellow cat. In every class I’d search for that other sideways thinker who thought the reading was potentially absurd, while everyone else fixated on its deliberateness. (Seriously, I didn’t understand half the jargon I encountered in college. Still I graduated. That should give every college freshman hope.) 

But Debbie was the sideways thinker who also saw the proverbial yellow cat, and would notice that its whiskers were burnt off, and would then speculate as to what kind of mischief the animal got into. Maybe it was because she was a scientist—a geologist who loved rocks and observing nature. She liked to turn things on their sides, figuratively and literally, to see what was really going on.

I first met Debbie in Virginia about 14 years ago, where we were neighbors and I was her visiting teacher, assigned by our ward (church) to check up on her each month. That’s when she first developed breast cancer, and I brought her meals. But I don’t remember that. She did, however, and a few years ago when I put out the request for beta readers, she eagerly volunteered in order to pay me back for those meals I totally forgot about. Talk about a lopsided investment. I was returned far more than I put in.

Debbie was diligent and incredibly thorough. She commented, she corrected, she caught my proofing errors, and she gave feedback that both buoyed me up and dragged me down, in necessary ways.

Cancer came back to her with a vengeance two years ago, but still she carried on reading and editing for me. But by last autumn, it was getting to be too much. “Send me book 5,” she wrote me. “Even though its unpolished. I need a distraction from the pain and boredom of cancer. Plus, I want to know what happens.” So I did. Even in her exhaustion and pain, she took the time to royally roast me. In particular, she was upset with what the future of a minor character. “Don’t do it,” she begged. “It’s all wrong!”

In defense, I wrote up a synopsis of books 6, 7, and 8 so she could see how the series would end, and how that minor character played a significant role. But she wrote back that while she could see where I was going, and thanks for the entire series in a nutshell, still I was wrong. Fix it.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised at that. The poor woman was literally dying of cancer, and here I thought she’d write me back a “That was so wonderful, thank you for sharing” message. Something pleasant as an exit.

Nope, not Debbie. She was too pragmatic and honest for cloying niceties. I never knew her to be conventional in anything. Dying from cancer only meant that she had to be more diligent, and, if need be, even harsher.

In November she posted on Facebook that her end was coming, and in typical Debbie fashion she wrote, that “I’ll be dying sometime or other” and that she didn’t want to be hit with faith promoting rumors or wild ideas of going to foreign countries to be healed. She accepted her fate, and accepted our prayers.

I wrote to her the following:

Debbie, I hate to see you go, but you’re going on to a marvelous adventure. You’ve done great things here, and your graduation from this life to the next will be astonishing and wonderful, I have no doubt. I’ll pray that you’ll not feel pain, but that you and your family will feel peace.

And when you’re on the other side, I hope one of the first things you find out about is dinosaurs. Exactly when did they live? For how long? What, really, went on with them and the fossil records?!

Oh, the mysteries you’ll get to re-learn! The questions that will be answered! So many people you’ll get to re-meet and re-remember! I’m so sorry this is a physically painful experience, but when it’s over–ah, it will be amazing for you.

I’ll miss you–you’ve been a wonderful help and so supportive of my writing. Friends like you are rare. But I’m also just a bit jealous of what you’ll get to see next. If at all possible, come by some time and whisper just how amazing it is, and what I’m missing.

Thank you for your friendship. Until we meet again . . .

She passed away last Monday, in Oregon. Her funeral was here in Utah last Saturday, 100 miles away from my home. As I drove down to it, I thought, “Debbie, now that you’re not in pain anymore, about that ending for book 5. You’ve had some time to think about it . . . do I really need to redo everything with that character?”

I could picture her shrugging and saying, “I said what I said. It’s your book, but that’s what I think.”

Drat. Major rewrite coming.

1008151701

Debbie’s ever kind and perennial cheerful husband Mike drove her down from Oregon to Utah to visit some friends last fall, after she learned she wasn’t going to beat cancer this time. We met at a Wendy’s, shared Frostys, talked about Virginia, and family, and dying, and shared a few laughs and tears. I took this picture from my car as they slowly walked back to theirs. But first, Debbie inspected the gravel at the bottom of this photo, found a rock that looked like a heart, and picked it up for her granddaughter. I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a pile of rocks on her coffin. Maybe they were inside, with her books.

Thank you, Debbie, for never pulling your punches, and for being utterly true and honest to the end. I’ll not only miss you as a beta reader, but also as a friend.

And if at all possible, come by and whisper what you found out about the fossil record. But don’t use your geologist words—dumb it down for me a bit. You know how I think.

12 reasons why I want to be a better Grown-up

A young mother who was recently put into leadership of our church women’s group told me she was worried that she didn’t “adult” properly on her first Sunday in charge, but I assured her that she displayed a great deal of “adultery” at church. (She’s still hesitant to speak to me.)

I was proud of her worry, though. She understands that being an adult, or a “Grown-up,” is a good thing, and she wanted to do it right. Too many people, however, are content to remain “Children”: they don’t want responsibility, they expect to be handed everything as if they were still babies, and they’re easily offended if the world doesn’t go their way. 

But being a Grown-up is a great thing. Here are 12 ways that Grown-ups make the world a better place, and why I’m resolving to be a better one. First, some definitions:

“Grown-ups” can be any age, and they’ve discovered that life isn’t about satisfying themselves: it’s about serving others. And when you take care of others, most of your problems take care of themselves.

“Children” are adults of any age who still think life is about getting all they can for themselves, and whose single-minded selfishness causes frustration to just about everyone they come in contact with.

Here’s why being a Grown-up is better:

  1. Grown-ups are modest. While they’re proud of their spouses and family’s accomplishments, they aren’t Children who brag incessantly about perfect grades, or post college acceptance letters online, or post a hundred photos of their latest and expensive vacation. Grown-ups will discreetly mention a promotion or a child going to college to let friends know that a change is occurring, but they also know that many of their friends are struggling, and that boasting about successes frequently make others feel inadequate and discouraged about their own failures.
  2. Grown-ups are discreet. They’re careful with what they reveal, especially on social media. While Children air out all of their dirty laundry about family, work, or awkward personal problems, Grown-ups think before posting, pause before venting, and consider if they really want the entire world knowing their troubles. Grown-ups realize that most people don’t want to know, and that unloading your troubles to only a couple of people who can really help resolves their problems much faster.
  3. Grown-ups build up others. They are concerned about making everyone around them feel comfortable and loved, and when they ask how someone’s doing, they really want to know. Children, on the other hand, are concerned only that everyone notices they are in the room. And they want to be The Most Important Person, too, so they frequently insult or tear down others, then claim they are only “teasing” when they go too far. Grown-ups, however, go out of their way to lift those who are flailing, encourage those who are discouraged, and be genuinely kind to everyone, everywhere. It’s rare when someone notices that a Grown-up has a problem; they won’t advertise it or draw any attention to themselves.
  4. Grown-ups are secure. They don’t need expensive cars, fancy clothes, remodeled homes, or any other status symbol because they are confident in who they are. Children, however, are easy to spot because they make sure you see they have the latest, biggest, and most expensive of everything, because that’s how they feel important. They excessively post selfies of themselves desperately searching for praise and approval. Their possessions define them, whereas Grown-ups are defined by what they know, who they love, and what causes they worry about. Grown-ups never create drama, but Children always do. Children crave drama, and never realize that everyone else hates it. 
  5. Grown-ups are selfless. They care more about others than themselves. Among Grown-ups is the company president who stays after the holiday party to vacuum so the janitorial staff doesn’t have too much extra work; the grandmother who’s absent from the big family party because she’s in a back bedroom with an overwhelmed four-year-old, reading him a book; the popular teenager who decides each day at lunch to sit with the loner kid because he needs a friend. Children, on the other hand, steer every conversation to themselves, don’t listen to anyone else, and sulk when not enough attention is given them. A Child may be the grandfather who pouts because he thinks he’s been disrespected by a clueless grandchild, the employee who feels her accomplishments should have been publicly acknowledged at the boss’s luncheon, and the college student who complains no one is his friend when he does nothing but play games on his computer all day.
  6. Grown-ups make life easier. They step in when a problem arises. They clean up the messes, they offer the jobs, they pick up your kids, and they spend their Saturdays helping you move. Children cause problems, and when their family/coworkers/friends see them coming, people tense up and tell each other to brace themselves. But when the Grown-ups arrive, people relax, smile, and know that everything’s going to work out. 
  7. Grown-ups are responsible. They pay the bills, balance the checkbook, clean up the house, cook the meals, go to work on time, and check the air pressure in the tires, even when—especially when—they don’t want to. Grown-ups work first and play later. Children reverse that, and as a result their lives are more chaotic than they need be. Children have to be prodded and nagged to do nearly everything, and are resentful when someone doesn’t swoop in and rescue them from their consistently poor choices. When a financial windfall comes to Children, they blow it on vacations and toys. When Grown-ups come into money, they pay off debts, donate some to charity, save the rest, and blow maybe only a hundred bucks on dinner out for the family.
  8. Grown-ups are generally happy. That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. But because they are mature, they seek solutions to their problems and humbly change their behavior when they see their faults. They realize that everyone has struggles, and they don’t see that as something to resent, but to transcend. Problems become challenges, which become triumphs. Children, on the other hand, are generally miserable. Because they expect the world to conform to their desires, they are frequently disappointed and rarely see that they are the root of their problems. Children demand others make them happy, without realizing that happiness is cultivated from within. 
  9. Grown-ups are tolerant. They don’t feel threatened by others’ ideas, but allow all people to make their own choices and believe what they want to. Grown-ups don’t need everyone to approve of them, nor do they need constant reassurance that what they do or want is perfect. Grown-ups are content with themselves and with who they are, so they aren’t easily brought down by dissenting opinions or nasty barbs. Children, however, feel threatened by everyone and everything, if insults are intended or not, because they have no sense of self outside of public approval. They demand everyone to conform to their views and desires, and feel terrified of the world at large because it doesn’t acknowledge them as the center of it.
  10. Grown-ups take care of themselves. They get proper amounts of sleep and exercise, they pick up new skills, they learn how to use new technology, they read books and newspapers, and they pay attention to their health. Grown-ups realize that hot dogs and soda hasn’t been an acceptable lunch since they were eleven years old, and that their physical and emotional health is something they can—and should—take control of. But Children want to follow every impulse, and balk when someone suggests they eat better, or exercise more, or go to bed at a reasonable hour. They want to live like irresponsible teenagers as long as they can, but then are resentful when they need a handful of pills each day just to function. Children rationalize and whine they have no control over their situations, that genetics or family expectations hold them back, but Grown-ups accept that nothing, really, is out of one’s control.

    Image result for ron swanson eating a banana gif

    Ron Swanson eats the occasional banana, although he hates it, because he’s doing it for his wife and children. Ron’s a Grown-up.

  11. Grown-ups ‘fess up. They are honest—with themselves and with others. When they make a mistake, they own up to it, apologize, and try to make amends. But Children will rarely admit their errors, and will pretend, in the face of all evidence, that they didn’t do anything wrong. They’ll even try to shift the blame to someone else, even when everyone else can see they are at fault. Children think that admitting faults makes them smaller, but in reality confessing mistakes and rectifying them like a Grown-up is what earns people’s respect.
  12. 23 Times Ron Swanson Was Inarguably Right About The World

And finally,

  1. Grown-ups sacrifice, without telling you the cost. They will give you their time, their money, and their love without ever letting you know how much it may inconvenience them. They give whole-heartedly, because they’re more concerned about you than themselves. Children may give those same things, but they’ll remind you—even years later—about the cost of their sacrifice. Their concern is not with your well-being, but with getting acknowledgement for their service, which then is no service whatsoever.

People love and admire Grown-ups.
They barely tolerate Adult Children.
I want to be a better Grown-up.

   “Perrin, I don’t know of another family that would give up as much as you have. Shem told me that you and Mahrree had amassed a fortune in your cellar. You were by far the richest family in all of Edge.”
   “Wait,” Peto frowned, “we were even richer than Trum?!”
   Mahrree waved him off, but shrugged. “Well, I suppose . . .”
   “When you saw people in need,” Gleace continued, ignoring Peto’s slack-jaw and Jaytsy’s rapid blinking, “you gave every last slip of gold and silver, along with the jewelry you inherited, to pay off everyone’s losses in Edge. You also took that caravan of supplies from Idumea, despite the fact that you could have lost your position in the army, because you felt it the correct thing to do. You and Mahrree don’t care for possessions or status, but for people. Already you understand.”
   “How much did all of that cost?” Peto demanded, still shocked to realize his parents had given away a true fortune.
   “We never counted the cost,” Perrin said. “Never count the cost.”

~ Book 5 (releasing in 2016) Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti