Friday, January 27, 2012

Charlie Brown Medley - Played in a Elderly Care Facility

I now work as a home helper for the elderly and I just LOVE this video. First of all it is a wonderful song! (Love Charlie Brown!) But it is so fun! And watching the seniors in this short film is so heart-warming! We all love some good music, no matter how old or young we are. How wonderful to share our talents with others who don't get to enjoy such impromptu concerts as often as others.

Here's to sharing your talents and giving back!

And also to all the wonderful men and women of the previous generation who passed on love, values, traditions and a zest for life to the rest of us.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Billionaire's Curse

I found a wonderful recommendation today, on a favorite writer's blog. I just had to share. The full can be found at:

The middle grade book reviewed is called "The Billionaire's Curse". Just the title piques my interest!

This review is by Deb Marshall:

"Suppose you were a kid who inherited 20 billion dollars. And you inherited a murder mystery and hints of ancient magic and Arthurian Lore to go with it? And suppose you had to go live in England, on an estate in the countryside with two new best friends? Well, I can tell you now the inner twelve year old in me would be pumped! That’s why I loved this book so much, I’m sure. 

Gerald, the hero in Richard Newsome’s THE BILLIONAIRE’S CURSE isn’t what I would call excited about the news of going to England to attend the funeral of an aunt he’s never met, but as everything begins to unfold (the inheritance, the mystery, the friends, a wildly cool housekeeper) he finds himself caught up in the adventure of a lifetime. Sure, there’s some pretty serious danger in that someone wants Gerald and his friends dead, but that just adds to this rip roaring good read that I’d highly recommend you give to fans of The 39 Clues, Anthony Horowitz and Rick Riordin, to name a few. The author is a master of writing fast paced, page turning scenes that will keep you guessing and at times holding your breath. The descriptions of the estate, the British Museum and a myriad of other locations including the coolest bookstore on the planet, will leave you feeling you are right there with Gerald, Ruby and Sam, seeing what they are seeing. Definitely a favorite 2012 read for me. 

In other words go to your nearest bookstore or library and when you are there why not grab book two, THE EMERARLD CASKET. Book three is on it’s way this spring and I’ve got it on good authority that it is the author's best so far!

Don’t forget to check out Richard Newsombe’s Website"

Wow! Doesn't that sound like a great book for that older elementary kid or middle schooler? That's being added to my Goodreads list.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Finding Paradise: A Video and some Thoughts

This is a fabulous video (and so much better than the original Cold Play one - in my opinion) taking a lovely song and making it inspiring.

A week ago, our congregation was challenged to look at our own lives and see if we could not do a little better. I knew it was something I needed to do. However, just as I felt inspired this week, I had several moments of feeling overwhelmed. How can I do all that I have committed to do for my self, my family, my church family and work. There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day.

But a discussion with a good friend, Wally Goddard ( at one of his "Friday night Family Firesides, a good reading in my scriptures and the talks presented at church this morning have all given me this one thought:

God is in the business of saving souls. That is his work and his glory.

If, the best way for him to do that is to ask me to do more than I can possibly do alone, then I will turn to him and ask for his help. Then, he can bless me doubly. Firstly, I will draw closer to him and rely on him, making our relationship better. And secondly, my efforts to do good will be magnified, helping others more than I could if I had only relied upon my own natural strength.

When I first watched this video, my boys came into the room about halfway through. They thought the music was cool and the costumes as well, but what had them glued to the screen was the question, "How did they get the piano up there?" They were amazed and impressed.

As I replayed the video, they saw the opening few moments, showing the grand piano being lifted by a helicopter and deposited on the mesa where they filmed.

"Oh!" They understood the method behind the magic, but it was still pretty impressive.

I had a little lightbulb go off in my mind. There have been times when I have looked at others with great admiration and even a bit of envy. They are wonderful, spiritual people who are able to manage their home, their children, a church responsibility and then have time to other amazing things. "How do they do it?" I have wondered.

The answer is this: They haven't done it on their own. They had help. They were lifted and assisted and blessed beyond their natural ability.

In a portion of the Book of Mormon that I was reading recently, Nephi and his brothers heard their father tell of his great vision of the tree of life. Nephi wanted to understand it for himself. He went off to a solitary place, prayed to understand and sat pondering the things his father had taught. It was then that the vision was opened to his eyes, an angelic guide explained the various objects and their symbolism and further visions open to show the fate of his people and others who settle in the promised land. Quite a lot of information. More than he had even asked for.

After he recovered from the vision and rejoined his family, he finds his brothers disputing about the things his father had envisioned. Nephi admits that the things his father had told them were hard to understand, unless the Lord had enlightened them. He then asked them if they had inquired of the Lord. His brothers admit that they have not.

Nephi then gives them/us steps to receive inspiration from the Lord. (1 Nephi 15:11) First we must not harden our hearts. From other readings of the scriptures, I interpret this to mean being humble, open to ideas and instruction. In the case of the piano, I would say this would be having ourselves open to ideas other than carrying the piano up the mountain on our own backs.

Second, we are told we must ask in faith, believing that we shall receive. This would mean perhaps calling up the helicopter chartering service and making arrangements.

Third, we must be diligent in keeping the Lord's commandments. I see this as two parts in the case of this video. One must pay, probably a fat fee, for a helicopter to hoist a piano onto (and later, after filming, off of) a high mesa out in the middle of nowhere. This would be in our own personal cases, living morally, righteously, day in and day out. If we've not made that commitment before, as in baptism, perhaps that would be a change we would start making in our life.

The second part would be doing everything we can so that the operation can be successful. Did you notice in the film that the piano was wrapped securely in the harness and with (what looked like) plastic wrap? Whatever was used, I'm sure all the people involved wanted to be sure the piano was as safe as they could make it as it was lifted to the top of the table of rock. Nobody wants a beautiful, expensive piano falling from the sky and smashing to bits. So, in the case of asking for divine help, if we have been given instruction, in scripture or through inspiration on how to solve our difficulty, would we not follow the advice we are given.

Even if uncomfortable? Even if inconvenient? Even if we feel a little silly?

I can think of a lot of advice from prophets that could fall into those categories.

"Hold a Family Home Evening weekly."
"Thrust your staff into the Red Sea."
"Share the gospel with others."
"Walk seven times around the city Jericho."
"Serve a full-time mission for two years"
"Brush lamb's blood on the door frame of your house."
"Attend church for three hours every Sunday, and additional meetings as provided."
"Wash seven times in the River Jordan."
"Study the scriptures daily individually and as a family."

Yet, as we have faith and trust in the Lord and obey his instructions, we are lifted to heights we never could have achieved on our own. We could never have seen miracles in our own lives or the lives of those we love. We could not stand on a mountain top and glory in the paradise that God has promised to all who trust in him.

God is in the business of saving souls. You are his work and his glory. Let him do an extreme makeover on your soul and relish in the promise of paradise.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Trailer vs. Query

So I came across this three minute fan-made trailer on Youtube in a collection of several Avatar:The Last Airbender videos. It reminded me of a lot of other movie trailers I had seen. And even though it was a bit over-long (for a trailer) I thought it really got across the characters and the conflict in the three season Nickelodeon show. And I have to admit, it got me wanting to go pick up one of the Avatar DVDs at my local library. Today.

That's what good trailers do: they get you all hyped-up and excited for that new movie that you've never heard of.

Look at that action! Look, its that one actor! And he's running from the bomb/train/badguy/alien with that one girl that was in that one movie.

But after you've gone to IMDb and figured out who of your favorite actors/actresses are in the film, is there anything still pushing you to want to see this film?

Were you intrigued by the character(s), by their challenge, or by the stakes (what's worth fighting for)?

A good trailer and a good query letter should have all that in there (without the fantasy casting when the book is made into a film).

For those who haven't been immersing themselves in publishing-speak, a query letter is the one page letter an author submits to either literary agent, asking them to represent them, or an editor, asking them to publish their manuscript. It's most often unsolicited, like cold-contacting or door-knocking, only instead of asking for donations to the MADD or offering to share what the Mormons believe, one is hawking one's artistic effort of the last six months/two years/last decade. (Ha Ha.)

I felt this video (above) captured the same kind of punch that I want to get into my queries.

(I've been practicing them for nearly a year - really great practice if you feel that you are getting off track plotwise as you are writing. Try encapsulating your story in one paragraph and you can see where the tangents lie. Ask me how I know!)

Did you notice how the person who made this trailer gave you a description of each character and a bit of their personal challenge or stakes?

"A blind earthbender: master of her craft."

Doesn't that just raise a few questions in your mind as you see the young girl feeling with her feet and then standing triumphant?

Or- "A banished prince: craving only his redemption."

What did he do to earn banishment and how can he be redeemed?

I loved the words, "A general's daughter: freed from her sheltered life," as the image flashed of her wielding knives in her hand. Doesn't that make you wonder how, in her sheltered life, she learned how to use such deadly weapons?

Then, the trailer proceeds to tell us the bigger stakes. "And all they have is each other...To end the destruction of an endless war." That sounds like a tall order. The film maker then loaded more challenges (and a few cliches) to that, ending in, "Experience the journey...And believe in the impossible."

There, he/she has just issued the invitation. (This doesn't happen the same way in a query letter, by the way.) And the film ends with a series of words flashed so quickly that we can only glimpse them, adding to the feeling of urgency.


Hmmm. Nice effect. Again, can't do this exactly in a query, but having strong, evocative words are the building blocks of persuasion.

Here is an early sample of what I tried in my query practices:

At the end of the 14th century, seventeen year old Anna-Maria de Savonie is rather old for marriage. She has been hiding from society, running wild in her family’s remote castle since an unsavory incident three years ago. But wed she must. Soon. Before the end of the year. Her father, Duke of Savonie, has planned a grand tournament in which she is the matrimonial prize. It’s either marriage or the nunnery.

Cornelius didn’t give a tinker’s patch for the crown of Verdebois. He’d rather mingle with the common folk and play his fiddle, avoiding the vapid life of a courtier. But a series of suspicious deaths in his family has left him the crown, attempts on his life and the need to find a bride; none of which he desires.

Here is another bid:

Cornelius, King of Verdebois, knew he needed a strong marriage alliance, and Anna-Maria de Savonie was the most eligible, by far. Despite murky rumors about her past, he courts his neighbor’s daughter. But when she proves to be the icy princess he was warned about, the young king storms out of the castle and gallops away.

However, treachery soon strikes. Pursued by assassins, Cornelius returns to the Savonie’s castle wounded and beggared, and with an audacious proposal.

Hmmm! Are you hooked? Do you want to know what happens next? Let me know.

Did those few words give you a glimpse at an interesting character? Did you get a sense of their challenges and any future difficulties they may face? Does this pique interest or leave you yawning?

Until next time, good luck with whatever challenges you may face in your life and may you find the strength within to overcome them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

50th Anniversary of "A Wrinkle in Time"

I checked my email this morning and found another Amazon email, this time telling me of the best Middle Grade books that were on the market that I could buy NOW! I browsed through their offerings and discovered the 50th Anniversary edition of the Newbery Award winning novel, "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle.

Really, could it be?

I remember the first time I saw it on a shelf of free reading books in my third grade teacher's room. I picked it up and I tried to read it. I don't remember exactly how far I got, but far enough to be confused and I ended up switching it for another a few days later. When I picked it up, years later as an adult, I had to tax my brain on several points as Ms. L'Engle introduced math and quantum physics and magic and an evil, soul-inhabiting IT that would have scared the bejeebies out of my eight-year-old self.

But it was interesting. And it was compelling. The story entwined the human story of wanting to be loved and accepted and never abandoning those we love with higher math and space/time theories I've barely rarely studied and am only able to take on faith. But what an incredible readable book for middle grade, teen or adults. I was surprised to find that there were even more books that followed Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin O'Keefe and their families. I got my hands on them and read their stories and was still amazed at all that Ms. L'Engle was able to do with her grand thoughts and basic emotions.

So Bravo! Long live books. Long live books that challenge our minds, challenge our hearts and make us search a little more for the truth within our imaginations.

And if you don't want to hear me go on anymore, here are a few quotes from other authors praising "A Wrinkle in Time." (I love Meg Cabot and Scott Westerfield!)

A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve read it so often, I know it by heart. Meg Murry was my hero growing up. I wanted glasses and braces and my parents to stick me in an attic bedroom. And I so wanted to save Charles Wallace from IT.”—Meg Cabot

“A book that every young person should read, a book that provides a road map for seeking knowledge and compassion even at the worst of times, a book to make the world a better place.”—Cory Doctorow
“[L’Engle’s] work is one of the things that made me a writer, a science fiction and fantasy fan, an avid reader. Hers were the first books I read that mixed math and magic, the quest and the quantum.”—Scott Westerfeld
A Wrinkle in Time taught me that you can tackle even the deepest and most slippery concepts of physics and philosophy in fiction for young readers. It’s a great lesson for all writers, and a tough tesseract to follow.”—David Lubar

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kiersten Writes: A Night in the Life

I thought this was the funniest "Mommy-moment" I had read in a while. I had to share it....

Oh, but before I do...For those of you who are interested in Middle Grade Monday. I read a great review of a new(ish) middle grade novel entitled "The Apothecary" here: . It sounds like a treat! I'm adding it to my "to-read" shelf at GoodReads.

And without further ado: The Teeth Brushing Incident
(Only remotely funny if you have children who fight over turns or brush their teeth, or both.)
Kiersten Writes: A Night in the Life: Kiersten and Hot Stuff (her husband-I'm assuming), sitting downstairs, though more accurately collapsed on the couch and the floor, respectively. Nayna and Dojo, ups...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Extreme - "More than Words" cover ThePianoGuys & J Rice Collaboration

A combination that I would never have thought of: "More Than Words" and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". Going back and reading the lyrics of the rock love song in context of our relationship with Jesus Christ puts a whole new slant on them.

Imagine if you were praying or having your quiet time with the Lord and this was the response you received.

Saying I love you is not the words I want to hear from you.
It's not that I want you not to say, but if you only knew how easy it would be to show me how you feel. More than words is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn't have to show me
'Cause I'd already know.

Completely different meaning.

And so many times, I say the words "I love you" to my Heavenly Father and to Jesus; in my prayers, in my worship hymns, in my lessons for the kids during Sunday School. But am I showing him that I love him with my actions. Really? Truly?


Sometimes, a definite, 'Yes!'
Sometimes, a much more embarrassed, 'No.'

So mixed in there with those other New Years Resolutions, I'm going to write down:

Live it, don't just Say it.

Because when we do, it won't just be Him, the whole world will already know.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nearer My God to Thee (for 9 cellos) Steven Sharp Nelson

This is a beautiful instrumental version of a lovely arrangement. It is very similar to the Vocal Point version I posted a couple of months ago. But this has one man playing all nine parts. Simply beautiful visually and harmonically. I love being able to 'zone' to beautiful music. It helps me as I meditate, as I think about my writing, when I am trying to work out a problem with one of my kiddos or when I just want to relax.

Just wanted to share this amazing musician and his lovely music (and cinematography).


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Finding an Achor

I needed some music therapy this afternoon. I started working part-time a couple weeks ago. But today, I had to work a split shift with a crazy picking up/dropping off of Daniel a few times with a very understanding friend/babysitter (in the pouring rain). This included transferring the car seat each time and cell phone on the low-battery. I missed several calls and almost missed a vital text.

I was twenty minutes late picking up the elementary kiddos who were huddled in the picnic pavilion waiting patiently. But then two fought over the front seat, and because my judgement wasn't as wise as Solomon's one ended up screaming at me and his brother and refused to buckle his seatbelt (so we could all go home) then, when he did, told us all he hated us. Thanks, and all that. Once home, he refused to leave the car. I insisted. He got out, slammed the door so hard, I was surprised it didn't break a window, and I swatted him (not nearly so hard). Then he stormed upstairs (good...time out for the both of us) and I walked the dog in the pouring rain.

Then when I was dry, the other boys proffered their report cards and I looked them over. Well done, the two of you. I took out the one of the boy who was upstairs and nearly broke down in tears.

This boy can be so sweet and so kind and so thoughtful. He always has the highest praise for his angelic behavior at school. But he had nearly straight "1"s through all the criteria for literacy and math. This translates to mean he is achieving low levels of progress toward meeting standards.

Everything from: Reads with fluency and accuracy, through Uses addition and subtraction strategies to solve two-step problem solving.

In December when I sat down with teachers and staff and heard the results of the tests that he took, I was relieved because they backed up my gut feeling. This son is smart, but not in reading or even with some math skills. Yep, IQ is 120. But my 8 year old can't read much more than a beginning first-grader. But at least these tests meant that he qualified as a child with learning disabilities and could receive the help he needed.

But looking over the report card, it felt like I was standing back out in the rain, but this time without a jacket. What will the future hold for this child? How can I help him? How can I help all of them as I am feeling weary and so unskilled for their needs, emotionally and academically?

And what about my dreams? I took a break from writing during the holidays and now that the computer is "fixed", Microsoft Word sometimes thinks that it is 2010 and I cannot access my manuscripts when I want to work on them. There is an opportunity to attend a writing conference in two months that I was feeling all sparkly about a few days ago. But reality, budget and time restraints open my eyes to the truth. Not now. Not the season.

So on this cold, dreary January afternoon. I needed something to cheer me up. This song has pretty, it has color. And it reflects the cry of my heart to my Heavenly Father. In the midst of crazy and confusing and feeling unable. He anchors me to life, to truth, to hope.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Middle Grade Reads

One of the writing blogs I follow (Shannon Messenger, has had a Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday for a while now, where she previews/reviews middle grade fiction and gives recommendation. Thought this was cool and wanted to share. (She doesn't have one today because of a headcold that has her by the throat - literally.)

But I thought I would jump on board, since I have been reading a fun (and suspenseful) book with my 8 year old.

It is titled "Janitors" by Tyler Whitesides. It started slower than I hoped. Yet now, we are only halfway through, and I have high expectations. My son squirms at the end of each chapter and pleads for "Just one more..." every time. Yesterday we read a two in the afternoon and three chapters before bed. Then I had to read two more chapters after breakfast.

Lots O' Fun! Wanted to share! Happy Monday!