Thursday, December 24, 2009

The fourth A--Cheri Chesley

Cheri chimed in with another question--number 4;  

What's your absolute, all time favorite dessert? 

Oh man! If not for wanting to fit into my jeans, I would eat a version dessert with every meal. Here's a sample menu of a perfect day:


Pumpkin Pancakes with homemade cinnamon syrup.

Crepes filled with peaches, strawberries and mixed berries, topped with whipping cream.

Brownie sundae
Sausage patties

Cookies and milk.

So, asking my favorite dessert is a rough question for me to answer. Never mind that I'm also writing a book series with dessert titles, which means I've been fairly obsessing about desserts for, oh, a year. Add to that the fact that I've been low-carbing for about 8 months (and back in my jeans because of it, thank you very much) and therefore horribly deprived in the dessert department (except for the last week which I refuse to count against myself because there would be no peace on earth if I were denying myself for the holidays) and you've walked into a veritable landmine question by asking my favorite. But, here is my answer, now that I've set the stage.

My all time favorite dessert is Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake. Here's what it is:

Crust layer--graham if you have to, but if you can make an almond cookie crust, all the better. 
Chocolate layer--a 1/2 inch layer of chocolate; not chocolate chips which will harden as they cool, but something that will have enough ingrity to hold the cream cheese mixture above it, but remains gooey when you eat it. Hot fudge works great best, but freeze or refrigerate it before topping with the cream cheese to make sure it doesn't get all mixed in.

Pumpkin cheesecake layer--at least three inches thick with the perfect amount of cloves and ginger, just a hint of cinnamon (I think cinnamon easily overwhelms too many recipes, blocking the ginger which is the real zing to anything pumpkin, IMHO)

Bake and then chill at least four hours, until the cake is well set. Drizzle with hot fudge before serving. The beauty of this recipe is that it can be made low carb too.

So there you have it, my favorite dessert of all time--although I have yet to meet a dessert I don't like.

These questions have been fun, if anyone else has something they'd like me to answer, send it my way.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Third A--from Me Again

I don't mean, ME as in Josi, but Me Again as in that's her blogger name.  Here's her question:

 How do you feel about LDS fiction stories that not only stray from the probable, but take a summer vacation into the not even possible? 

I think that, regardless of the market (LDS, national, etc) believability is an essential characteristic of plot. That's the whole point of fiction--creating a world that feels 'real' enough that the reader can put aside their own life long enough to immerse themselves in this fictional realm. And yet, there is also a necessary element of the reader suspending their own beliefs enough to follow along. So there are two parties at play, the author and the reader.

Author: It's a tricky line; balancing the necessary elements of plot (characters, conflict and climax) against it 'feeling' real. In real life, people do things with very complex motives, they act out of character, they don't always make sense. In fiction, that doesn't work. Everything must have a reason; characters must have motives, the actions must be 'in' character, they must make sense on some level, and everything they do must lead somewhere. It's at times hard to do, and often takes another person to point out when something needs clarification. Too often, an author is seeing where they want to go and lose sight of the steps that are taking them there, often resulting in contrived or unbelievable scenes. They do the job of getting the character where they need to be, but their 'method of transportation' works against the integrity of the story. This is a shame since there was likely a better way to get from point A to point B; a mode the author would have discovered on their own if they would have questioned themselves about it. One of the best questions an author can ask themselves, and one I put into many manuscripts I edit is "Would he really?" meaning, would the character really do or say this; or are you the author taking advantage of your role as fiction-God and taking too many liberties?

Also, on the author side, it is sometimes impossible to be objective enough about your own work to see the breakdown of believability in our own stories which is why I am such a big proponent of having other 'writers' or editors read your book; someone who will tell you the truth so that your story makes sense. 

I'm a big believer that a writer can write about anything; new worlds, weird people, incredible circumstances--but it has to be written right and it has to feel real.

Reader: Different types of readers have different levels of ability when it comes to suspending belief. For instance, I have a difficult time with Science Fiction and Fantasy because I find so many elements of the genres hard to picture in my mind. My ability to suspend belief is rather low when it comes to new worlds. Whether that's because I lack imagination, or simply practice, I don't know, but it results in the fact that because it's difficult for me to 'believe' those types of stories, I don't enjoy them very much. Now, there are some I absolutely love, but overall I dislike more than I enjoy. Same with a lot of mystery novels, which is ironic since I write them, but many of them just annoy me because I can't clearly see the process of discovery--the detective too often just 'knows' something that leads to the conclusion (I'm guilty of this as well--as a few readers have pointed out but I'm really, really working on it). Some people have a difficult time with LDS fiction because there is a lot of inspiration, feeling the spirit, and intuition that often makes the plot work. Some people are very open to that--likely people that acknowledge those same workings in their lives, but others of us (myself included) struggle with the way this is portrayed at times and that makes it seem contrived in order to make the plot work or to make their character appear spiritual. A reader that struggles with certain genres ought to be very selective in the books they read within that genre which is why The Whitney Awards are so very cool--look for past winners to get a feel for the best out there; these are books that have literally been read by hundreds of people that cast votes that put these books in the positions they are in. A valuable tool, especially for those of us that are selective within genres.

On the reader's side there is also the factor of becoming a more discerning reader. I've gone back and read books I loved fifteen years ago, only to find myself rolling my eyes now. As I've matured and become more well read, I've learned what I like and what I don't like. I've developed a much more critical eye and my taste in reading has become more sophisticated. If a reader finds themselves displeased with several books within a shared reading level or genre, it might be that they have reached a 'reading' level beyond their comfort zone and need to move on to something with a bit more 'meat' to it.

It's always frustrating to me when a book makes it into print without having the unbelievable factors ironed out. I'm not sure why it happens. Are there other parts of the story that were so strong to the editors of the book that they didn't notice? Am I hyper sensitive? Regardless, it's a frustration. I find that in regard to believability and other elements of writing, I give books a 100 page rule (it used to be 50 but I've taken a gracious turn) if by page 100 I'm not dying to finish the book, I don't. There are excellent books out there which means I don't have to waste my time on ones that were almost excellent.

So, dear readers, where do you fall on the believability scale? Are there genres you find harder than others?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The next A--Kimberly

Kimberly asked:  Has blogging affected your writerly life at all, for good or bad?

I would have to say that it has affected my writerly life in both ways, good and bad.

Good: I have made wonderful connections through my blog and through reading other blogs; met people I might not have met other wise and realized I liked people that, again, I might not have liked otherwise. It's also served as a kind of journal for me and I love having my thoughts 'contained' somewhere. I recently had the first three years of my blog put into a book and it's been fun to read over it. In that sense of enjoyment, blogging has also been good because I really like it. I like the unisolation I get from being part of blogworld, and through the other blogs I've found I've received great advice and inspiration as well. 

Bad: I still have not figured out how to implement the 28 hour day. Time, like money, does not grow on trees no matter how much I wish for it. Time spent blogging takes away from other things--often from my actual novel writing. It's not unusual for me to sit down to blog and an hour later realize I'm out of writing time for the day and I never  opened my current work in progress. That can be insanly frustrating. Blogging also makes it very easy to avoid writing if I'm not in the mood. Beyond that there are times I don't want to blog, don't feel I have anything to say, and yet because my blog is partly here for promotion purposes I feel as though it's something I need to do. That sucks the fun out of it entirely.

What about you guys, how has blogging affected you?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The A of Q & A

Most of you that commented on my 'ask a question' post did not, in fact, ask a question which can only mean that I talk so much, specifically about myself, that I've answered anything you might have questioned otherwise.  That is something I must ponder on, no longer being a woman of mystery. Sigh.

But, a few of you did ask a question--so some mystery must remain? right?

The first question was posed by Don:  If you were a tree, what kind would you be, and why?

Its rather remarkable he asked this question since I've been waiting years to be asked something such as this. And yet, I find it nearly impossible to answer for a variety of reasons. Here is my thought process:

One of my favorite trees, aesthetically, is a Russian olive tree. I love the shape, the color of the leaves, the sound of wind through it's leaves. But it is excessively messy, shedding leaves constantly as well as the little 'olives' it produces. Would I want to be such a burden? Not really. Next, I love Juniper trees, but they aren't really a tree, rather they are a shrubbery, so that doesn't count. Next on the list would be a birch, the ones with the white bark, but that's only because I find them beautiful. If I only wanted to be a birch for beauty, does that make me vain? Putting appearance above all other measures of self? Which then brings me to the list of trees I would NOT want to be: Blue spruce=pretty and strong, but prickly, Locust=large and good for climbing but the female tree creates those horrid pods that are such a nusense, and the male tree produces thorns that fall from the tree as leaves to and therefore makes jumping into a pile of leaves a painful prospect. Chinese Elms are also pretty, with dainty little leaves, but they attract box elder bugs almost as well as Box Elder trees do. Willows, in nearly any variety, are a favorite, but their root systems are shallow and therefore they are not very strong.

And then all this rumination brings me to one simple truth--a tree does not get to choose what kind of tree it will be. It's 'breed' so to speak is determined by it's seed, and then it simply has to make due with it's strengths and weaknesses just as we as humans must do the same. So, in reply to Don's question I suppose I would be whatever kind of tree the Lord chose for me, and then, because I'm contrary, I'd probably whine about it forever. Except trees don't speak, or think, or blog. Hmmmmm.

What about the rest of you? What are you ruminations regarding trees you would like to be?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just . . . Stuff

So, the other night I pulled a 'best mom in the world' card and abandoned my children. Lee was out of town, but my friend, Sam (short for Samantha, thank you) and I wanted/needed to watch Tess of the D'urbervilles because we hadn't read the book and bookgroup was the next night (yes, I abandoned the kids that night as well.) I'd tried to read the book in high-school, gave up on page, oh, 7 or so, and then I read the Cleff notes. Passed the test.

The movie was quite good; ya know, for being based on a classic tragidy. Still, we enjoyed it. I got home around 11:30 and as I headed for my room there was half a bowl of salad on the floor in front of my door and a note next to it, written in purple sharpie.


Please wake me up at 5:30 or earlier.

Love you so so so so so so sooooooooo much.

Little Man

PS You can have the salad.

Is that not the cutest dang thing? Boy I love that kid. And I love those little notes the kids leave. I've realized lately that the days of such notes are coming to a close, so I'm saving them all. I giggled for five straight minutes after that one. Such a cutie.

Additional to my cute kid notes, I am brain dead. Melanie J just posted about having commenters leave questions in order to give her foder for future posts. She's freaking brilliant; I say that because I only copy brilliant people. Which is why I'm copying her.

So, if you have some deep burning question you'd like to ask, let me know. I'll blog about the answers and give you credit for having asked them.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Am I a Good Person?

I've now seen The Blindside twice. One of the best movies I have ever seen--so much that I've wondered if it's THAT bad to take a camcorder to the movie theater. I'm not going to sell it, just watch it over and over again.

There's a line in there that got me the first time, it struck me, but it made me cry the second time. In a scene where her motives are being questioned she asks "Am I a good person?" You've just watched a film that shows the amazing things she's done for someone else, and yet in her mind she's boiled it down to the question of motive. Why did she do those things? Were her reasons pure? If she did them for the wrong reasons are the things she did also wrong?

I ask myself this question a lot, and after so many years I still don't have the answers.

Am I a good person for having raised someone elses child, or was I simply looking to be a hero?

Now that the whole hero thing has backfired, would I have done it again knowing what I know now?

Is that only because it didn't go the way I hoped?

Do I only do good things because I want a good result?

Am I still a good parent when I resent the messes, the hours of cleaning, the unappreciation of my efforts?

Am I good person even though I find it so hard to forgive?

Is it fair that I divide my time between my family and the fictional characters in my head?

Yesterday was supposed to be my youngest daughter's baptism. She turned 8 in October, and I was planning to have her baptism in November, a couple of days before my book tour. Turned out that this year the stake baptisms are on the second Saturday of the month, not the first.  Right in the middle of my tour.  We had to put it off until December. I felt horrible and even though I realize it was simply a mistake, this is a BAPTISM, and it got bumped because I had a book tour--two weeks away from my family. It has not sat well with me, but I simply focused on the 12th of December and moved forward. Yesterday it snowed all day. Most of the family members canceled; and for good reason. I don't want them to take unnecessary risks, and the roads were really horrible. But as the day ticked on and the snow got deeper I realized that the chances were good that no one would make it; even those who lived just an hour a way. I saw two options: 1) Have the baptism anyway, but with only us. 2) Reschedule for January and hope more family members could make it.  My husband thought we should do it anyway, but you know what? As we thought and talked about it I kept going back to the part where if we'd done it in November, all those people would have been there. It was my fault it hadn't worked that way. Therefore, I felt responsible for the fact that after building up this event, KB's memories would be of only having her siblings and parents at her 'big' day. Lee and I finally decided to let KB decide.

I sat her down and explained the situation. Did I present it honestly? Without trying to prod her into making one choice over another? I don't know. I tried to focus on the important aspect being the ordinance, not all the extra stuff. Did I make it clear enough? I don't know that either.

She went into her room to think about it, and when she came out her eyes were red and her face was swollen. She's the only girl in her class who hasn't been baptized. She didn't like that she wouldn't be baptized until she's in a whole new primary class--9-10 year olds. She's been eight for two months already. She wanted to wear her new dress to church.

Did I appreciate those things enough? If I'd have just said "This is your day, Kylee, let's do this and forever have very special memories of the people closest to you being there?" would she have chosen another direction?

She chose to wait. I admit that I was relieved. Is that wrong too? Then I started calling people to tell them. Everyone was very nice, but I could hear an undercurrent "You're canceling an eternal ordinance because some people can't come?" I braved through all that using the "I'm doing what KB wants." but did she understand it enough to really know? Was it fair to leave the choice to her?

I don't know. I do know that I was unsettled about it all day, that I'm worried about what people think, and the message I've sent to KB and my other children. Today she should be welcomed to our ward as the newest member. But she won't be. Am I a good person even though ...

When I really think it through I do believe I'm a good person, for the most part. I try to do good things, and try to be fair minded and encouraging to others. And yet even making that declaration makes those things I've been wrong about glaringly apparent as they rise up as arguments against me.

And so I'm curious if we all do that to ourselves. I'd like comments to be left in the format of "Am I a good person even though...."

I'm not asking in hopes to make myself feel better--or am I? I don't know.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Cover for Devil's Food Cake!

Wohoo--see that pic on the side, yeah, well in case you didn't figure it out, that's the new cover. Not what I expected--I thought it would be a light brown, but it's catchy, eh? Release date: March 3, 2010.

The first two chapters are available on my website as well as info on how to pre-order autographed copies.

Register 4 the 2010 LDStorymakers Writers' Conference

In case you haven't heard, registration is OPEN for the 2010 conference. We're having more breakouts then ever, more agents and editors than ever, and more space than ever. It's at the Provo Marriot again and sure to be (that's not a real website) To register go to and follow the links. And, just a little fyi, the agents and editors go fast and they are good ones. Don't delay, sign up today!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Booktour Contest Winners!

As part of the booktour, Julie and I ran two contests--one for those that made online comments to blogs or facebook updates or twitter posts, and the other contest for those people we met during the tour. We got over 100 entries in both contests and drew out our winners:

Online contest for a $15 gift card to goes to:

Lisa Banks Bennett

In-store contest for a $40 gift card to her choice of location goes to:

Susan Farnsworth

I'll be contacting both these ladies individually to let them know but wanted to thank everyone for the great support we received on the tour. It was awesome to meet so many of you in person, and a huge benefit to have the online comments continually cheering us on. Thanks so much and I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Final Day on Tour

This morning Julie and I had lunch with Heather Horrocks, author of How To Stuff a Wild Zucchini. She and her sister had come down to St. George for a book signing and took us to breakfast, which was delicious. Sit down meals definitely beat Taco Bell. It was fun to chat with her and hear the incredible range of things she's written and plans to write. AND Josi forgot her camera. She's really awesome that way. It was very fun though and I'm excited to see where she'll go from here.

Then we picked up Julie's daughter and were ready to head toward Cedar City when I realized I didn't have my credit card. Not a good moment. The last place I'd used it was Outback Steakhouse the night before, so we held our breath and headed that direction, hoping some prep cook was already there. They were. I asked about my card, and they had it but asked for ID to verify I was really Josi. That was awesome and EXACTLY what they should have done. I'm so writing an e-mail to tell them how awesome their manager was.

Then we headed for Cedar City, got there early and hit Wal-mart to replace Julie's brush I'd taken out of her bag and left at Janette's. Hey, wait, did I end up buying it or did Julie pay for it? I better check with her. Then we hit Sally Beauty Supply--they have the best bobby pins ever and the last two times I've gone in they were sold out.

Then we went to Cedar City. It was a Hannah Montana day. Vicki C. and Ali C. had come down from Milford to see New Moon and stopped by the store. Awesome to see them for the first time in years--AND I didn't get a picture. I suck. Not long after they left, Deann, my sister-in-law Crystal's mom came in. She is so much fun; spunky, encouraging and just so dang positive. The only draw back is that she has cuter hair than me. Dangit! But I got over it :-) and was so glad to see her. Right behind Deann was my Aunt Pam who I haven't seen for quite some time. My sister Crystal showed up a little while later, and then my brother Sam and his wife Whitney. It was awesome! In between all the great family reunion I sold a bunch of a books and THEN Lee Modesitt showed up with gifts for Julie; five copies of his books in Swedish! Lee has been a great friend and mentor to Julie for quite some time and it was awesome that he took the time to come and see her.

When the signing was over, Julie, her daughter and my fam got to go to lunch--it was a perfect ending to a great day and a really awesome book tour. After we left Cedar City, we headed for Julie's house in Oak City and managed to cram in yet even more topics of discussion. We reached Oak City around 6:30, unloaded, lost the keys, found the keys, gave final goodbye hugs and I headed for Salt Lake. I met up with my family at the rental car return center, and thier eyes about bugged out of their heads when they saw the miles. I was hiding in my own car at this time, while my husband turned it in. for whatever reason I was certain I was going to get in trouble even though we had unlimited miles. But they were very nice to Lee and we left without being told about some fine print that was going to cost me $500.00.

It was GREAT to hug my kids, kiss my husband and just be home. I love it here!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vegas to Utah

I was able to leave the trunk to the car open for a couple hours while I was at work (mostly I blogged, I'm such a great boss.) It dried out really well and we were able to reload, then I picked up Julie and we serpentined all over Vegas before finally calling the store--Dora apparently does not like Vegas and she refused to help us. I think she was really mad we didn't get to cheesecake factory last night too.

We got to the store and were able to get a grand tour of the new digs. Deseret Book has launched a pilot program where they combine the DB bookstore with a distribution center, complete with garments and temple clothes. The Vegas store was the second of these remodels we'd seen--the Lake Oswego store had also recently rennovated. It's a nice gig for both stores and customers; giving them a one stop shop. The Vegas store is particularly nice because it has a whole level dedicated to the distribution items and has a lot of room.

We got to chat with some more fun people down there but discovered that the hot temperatures had ruined the chocolate we'd been giving out. We ate several of them and although they tasted great, they looked a little funny so we decided we would give the rest to our kids who wouldn't care that they looked funny. Bummer for the rest of the people coming to our signings though. Sorry.

After Vegas we hit the road, yet again and headed over the state line to our signing in St. George. We crossed yet another time zone but it was still warm, which was nice. We met up with a freind of mine, Nida Lloyd at the Hope Chest Thrift store where I found a few awesome shirts! $18 for six of em--yeah baby! Then Julie and I headed to Deseret Book. They had also just added a distribution center to their store--so we were in 3 of the 6 stores they are trying this in, which is kinda cool. Paul, the manager there, is awesome, and Alexis came up from Mesquite to see us--it's always fun to meet cyber people in person. We got to chat with people and sell some books and a cute little 7 year old came in that made me miss my KB more than ever.

After the signing we headed for Julie's parent's house, where we are staying tonight. We had a great dinner and Julie got to see her daughter who lives in St. George too. We are now blogging and uploading and getting ready for bed. I am SO excited to be home, but am also glad Cedar City is our final signing. I have some friends coming and so it's a great way to end the tour.

I'm not sure when I'll find time to blog the wrap up for the tour--I'm missing my family like crazy and suspect that this weekend will be a lot of catching up with them. So, in case it takes a few days for me to get to it I'd like to thank everyone who set up a signing, came to a store, told someone about a signing, read the blog, twitter, facebook updates and wished us well. Honestly, the tour exceeded our expectations. Even with the hiccups we encountered it was a really great trip. When we finish with Cedar City tomorrow we will have hit 23 stores, driven about 4,000 miles, met hundreds of people and signed hundreds of books. We've seen places we've never seen before, had conversations we'd never had, and made friends with people we'd have never met. Thanks for the great support, it really is priceless.

Topics discussed today & yesterday: Porn, jobs, Parumph, hitting deer, J. Golden Kimball, bracing cacti and chocolate cinnamon bears.


When we arrived at Janette's house on Monday night, this room was clean. This is what it looked like after a few hours. We certainly made ourselves right at home, didn't we?

We left for Thatcher, thinking we--again--had lots of time. Wrong! The GPS routed us through Tucson, which added another 30+ miles to our trip. We are FOR SURE going to talk to the locals next time rather than rely solely on Dora to get us back and forth. We were half an hour late. Argh. We just felt horrible. BUT, the perk is that we had people waiting for us! Had we been on time they would have trickled in, but since we were late we got to feel like rockstars coming into a crowd. The Thatcher store was awesome--I have been so impressed with the independant bookstores we have come across in small areas. Thatcher was no exception. We sold quite a few books, signed stacks of books people brought in and had an all together great time at their store. AND they gave me chocolate covered cinnemon bears!

The store owners let us get a photo with their daughter Megan, who was such a sweetheart and kept coming back for hugs. Another 'rock star' moment for us. I swear we took a photo with the employees but I don't have it on my camera--I must have a black hole on there. Maybe they can send me a copy of the one they took.

After the signing, we headed for Phil and Alice Prey's house, where we were staying. They are our good friend Alison Palmer's parents and not only offered their home for us to stay in, but also got a book group together at their house. We had a fun meeting and fabulous refreshments, it was an impressive turn out and the Prey's were wonderful hosts, you'd have thought they were our own parents for how sweetly they treated us. I now know at least two reasons Alison is such a sweetheart herself; she had good teachers. We got to see some pictures of Alison when she was younger--big hair and all :-)  She's a doll and it was a great night, even if thier dog was scared to death of us.

We hit the road at 7:15--taking the RIGHT route this time and made it to Mimi's Cafe in time to have lunch with friends Marjean, Marsha and Connie. We haven't seen Marsha or Connie for awhile and it was fun to visit with them and have a great meal. After lunch/brunch/breakfast we went to the Deseret Book where Amy the imposter (also known as Kim) and the Craigs (manager and assistant manager are both named Craig) greeted us with big smiles and lots of compliments. Very fun store. We got to visit with a particular woman who was buying Christmas Presents for her nieces and chatted with us for awhile. Should she read this I hope she knows  how touched we were by her story and we wish her the best. Lisa P. came to this store as well--she had bought a copy of English Trifle for me a few months ago and I sent it off without signing it. We'd gotten it resolved back then, but I felt like an idiot anyway. She came all the way in to meet me and assure me it was not a big deal. Very fun. Marjean was there with us again, orchestrating all the details, which was wonderful, and we had a great time visiting with the emloyees and customers. Very fun store.

After that signing we hit the road for Nevada. Long drive. We can definitely feel the 3,800 miles catching up with us and the drive from Arizona to Nevada is just plain boring--unless you're driving with Julie Wright. Then it is fun. She makes everything fun. We got to Vegas in time to hit the Disney Outlet. All my razing aside, I have no particular dislike of Disney and I got my last two 'kid gifts' there which will be much enjoyed. We then headed for our final presentation of the trip, a book group in seven hills. Stefanie was the hostess, and the book group was awesome. We had some rather intensive discussions on  merits of books and authors. I was impressed with the depth of their questions and we had a really good time with these women. It's been really fun to have the sit-down meetings with these groups. We realize they aren't easy to put together, but have enjoyed each one of them so much.

After the bookgroup we realized--to abject horror--that a water bottle had leaked in the trunk--and our boxes of books had done thier best to absorb the water. Julie took the worst of it and we're both sick over the dozens of books that were ruined. Once again she amazes me with her 'scope' of dealing with tough things. But we had to skip Cheesecake Factory in favor of trying to save the rest of our stuff. Who knew a water bottle could be so disastrous. It kinda took the wind out of our sails and we got to the hotel very tired and more than a little bit frustrated. I dreamed all night that Julie and I got into a horrible fight, where she left the hotel and I had to find her in Vegas. Not fun at all.

This morning I got up to find Julie safe and sound at the hotel, reading a magazine through a slit of light coming through the bathroom door--she didn't want to wake me up. I got ready in a dash and came into work where I have a few things to deal with but, more importantly, have internet. We haven't had any since we left Janette's, which is why we're so behind on blogging. And because I changed our hotel last night to one closer to my office, we didn't get free internet like we'd have had if we'd stayed with the hotel Julie's husband had set up for us.  I bungled that one completely and feel like a heel (it doesn't help that I'm the one that put the water bottle in the trunk in the first place, but it's Julie's  books that got ruined). Currently I have unloaded the car and am letting the desert sun dry up the water in the trunk--I'm sure my employees are very impressed with having the sidewalk full of my luggage and such.

Anyway, we're heading for the Vegas signing in about an hour and then we'll drive into St. George. We get to stay with Julie's parents tonight--great people--and we get to see Julie's daughter, which will be a lot of fun as well. Another full day, that's for sure, but hopefully a good one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Arizona Sunshine

It was so nice to have a kick back morning and get some laundry done on Tuesday. The weather is perfect in Mesa this time of year and Janette Rallison was a wonderful hostess. We left for the signing at the Glendale Deseret Book and quickly realized that Glendale-Chandler-Mesa are isn't like Sandy-Sugarhouse-Murray in Salt Lake. They are all their own cities rather than suburbs of each other and driving from one to the other is like driving to Provo from Salt Lake. And so we were late--again. Argh. I really hate being late and yet you wouldn't guess it by how good I'm getting at it.

Anyway--great store, fun signing. Marjean is a resident of the Mesa area who volunteered to help us with our signings here. She made up mailing list sign ups, directed people to our table, and was a kind of director for the signing. It was fun to meet her and the employees and we had a good time at Glendale. Then we went to lunch with Peggy and Cindy, the manager and assistant manager of the Seagull bookstore in Mesa. What fun women, and what a wonderful meal! They took us to the Landmark restaurant in Mesa which is in a building that was the first meetinghouse in Mesa. It was a beautiful building and the food was phenomenal.

After the meal they announced that Julie had received a delivery to their store that morning. Ooooooooo. It turned out to be this awesome cookie boquet sent by Julie's sister in law, Pearl. It was awesome! I've heard about those but never seen one. Wow. It was such a thoughtful (and delicious) gift. Julie shared with all of us at the signing, I beleive I was the first one to finish my cookie despite the big meal we'd just had. Go me.

The Mesa signing was great. Wendy and Mary--online friends--came out to see us, as well as Kim C.'s aunt who about cleaned Julie out of books. It was really, really fun to see these people in real life--thanks for the great support. Peggy at that store was just wonderful--what a bundle of fun energy. And I found christmas gifts for my visiting teaching sisters that are darling but I can't tell you what they are because they sometimes read this and I don't want to give it away. and because I bought the same thing for my sister Crystal (who will get hers in Cedar City on Saturday) and Melanie J (who will get hers as soon as I get to a post office to mail it). Now they are going to get all excited and think it's amazing, so I totally set myself up.

Anyway, once we finished that signing we hurried to a  book group in Mesa and got there just in time. Janette joined us for a presentation where we talked about our experiences in writing and how we got here. It went really well and the women there were just wonderful, warm, and very engaged. Sandra, the woman who put it all together, insisted we take some of the leftover refreshments. Twisted our arm terribly. We said we were taking them home to Janette's kids but instead we're eating cream-puffs and grapes for breakfast. It was delicious.

All in all it was a really great day, full of wonderful people who really went out of their way to take great care of us. Today we're bumming around Janette's house for a little while before we head for Thatcher where we have a signing and presentation.

Topics discussed: We didn't drive much, and when one was driving the other was talking to her husband on the cell phone where we talked about school, laundry, church talks, and when we will be home.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Welcome to Arizona

Sunday was awesome. We slept in, the hotel had yummy waffles as part of their continental breakfast and we were just a few miles away from Newport beach. The weather could not have been more beautiful AND we found a parking space.

While walking the beach we found a man blowing bubbles—huge bubbles like we’d never seen before. We stopped and watched, then moved on, and then passed him again. This time, however, he was telling someone how he sold the homemade wands for $5. We were all over it. While he went to the car to get the wands, Julie stepped up to take his place. She’s amazing and had it figured out within minutes.

After Newport we headed for Huntington Beach, where the beautiful and amazing Melanie J. had offered us a place to stay. First of all, the area of Huntington Beach is incredible. It seems impossible, but it felt like a small town. Everything is within walking distance; the beach is only a couple blocks from her house. It was instantly welcoming and comfortable. Anyone who knows Melanie online knows she is funny and smart and sassy all at once; she’s even better in person. She’s got darling kids, and a wonderful husband, Kenny, who actually made Julie and I christmas ornaments to commemorate our trip (photo to follow). That night we went to Kenny’s parent’s house for dinner. Wow. The food was the bomb, but his parents also have a boat dock behind their house. We got the ‘backyard’ tour of the houses along the harbor. I’d never seen anything like it. We got to meet several members of Kenny’s family as well as Melanie’s brother, his girlfriend and some neighbors. You would think meeting that many strangers would be overwhelming, but it honestly felt like we’d known them for years. They were so kind, so comfortable and did I mention the food was awesome?

On the way home Kenny dropped us three girls off at the beach so we could walk along it in the dark. It was so surreal to be in such a place with such women. We returned home and, of course, talked for hours before finally going to bed. It could not have been a more perfect Sunday for us. We really needed the break and couldn’t have choreographed a better one. Monday morning we (Julie, Melanie, Melanie’s son, and I) went to breakfast at a restaurant at the pier before Julie and I headed to our first signing at Fountain Valley’s store, The Bookport. We met Glen and Sue the owners and were able to see Melanie one last time (but I totally forgot to take pictures, we didn't get one with the three of us which makes me want to cry)

After Fountain Valley we spent 2 more hours in LA traffic to get to our final California stop, The Book Castle in Newhall. Wow. They had a HUGE poster on the front door talking about signing and had mailed out postcards to their customers. We sold a bunch of books and laughed for two full hours. The employees were awesome, the store owner, Heather, was awesome, the store itself was cute and the customers were so nice, so personable. It was a perfect way to end our time in California.

We had realized over the weekend that when we routed our trip, we had made a mistake. I don’t know why, but amid our original mapquesting, mapquest had sent us on the 40 into Arizona. This required us to up to the forty, then over, then back down to the 10 which was a straight shot into Phoenix. We’d mentioned this to a couple people and they were surprised, pointing out that going our way added four hours to the drive. The problem was we’d gotten our hotel rooms at a great price which did not allow cancellation and we were supposed to stay in Lake Havesu that night. We talked, debated, called for help, and eventually chose to ditch out on the hotel room in favor of saving four hours. It’s not an easy choice to make when everything is so budgeted and specific, but we’d have spent two tanks of gas and priceless time sticking to our schedule and felt it would be silly to do so. Instead, we left Newhall at 4:00 and drove straight through to Mesa—calling our friend Janette Rallison (who we were planning to stay with on Tuesday night) to see if we could stay Monday as well. We arrived around 1:00 in the morning, and went straight to bed. Slept like a couple rocks.

No we find ourselves at Tuesday of week two. We have a signing at the Glendale Deseret Book from 12:30 to 2:00, then a signing at the Mesa Seagull 4:30-6:00 and a book group tonight. Before all that, we’ve got laundry in desperate need of being done and could really use a shower.

Topics discussed over the last two days: Battlestar Galactica, childbirth, metabolism, pressure canning, terrorists, civil unions, engineers, narcotics, book contracts, barnacles, and eating low-carb.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And This is L.A.

Today was busy, busy, busy. After staying with the Gunther's in Redland, and enjoying a fabulous breakfast courtesy of Jay Gunther, we headed for our first store in Temecula. I'd never been to any of the Ensign stores and it was fun to see what a great job they have done. We arrived to find a gal waiting for me to sign a book for her mom, who was unable to make it. Very sweet. I hope she got lots of daughter points for that one.

After Temecula, we raced on yet more California feeways to the Riverside store. Helen and Judi were both wonderful and we were glad we were with Victoria Gunther since she has a lot of friends :-) Julie had a family of fans bring in every one of her titles--which was awesome.

We then went to the Upland store, where I ran into an old acquaintance from high-school--very strange, but in a good way--and Lael Littke showed up. She is just awesome, and it was fun to chat with her and catch up on things. I swore we took pictures with her but they aren't on my camera. Maybe I used someone elses?

By the time the signing was over, we were exhausted. We parted ways with Victoria and had our second sit down meal of the trip at Applebee's. It was super yummy and since we hadn't had time for lunch, very much appreciated. Then we gave Dora the address to our hotel and headed for 'home' at least tonight's version of home.

We ... 40 hours of driving is starting to catch up with us. We've driven over 2,500 miles in 6 days, which just seems completely unreal. The rental car is going to kick themselves on the whole 'unlimited miles' thing.

Tomorrow we are going to be heathens and skip church in favor of sleep--the Sabbath is the day of rest, right? Then we get to hang with Melanie J. who is graciously allowing us to stay with her tomorrow night. We are really looking forward to it.

Not sure if we will report on tomorrow, but I might. Who knows? Monday we'll be in Fountain Valley and Newhall before heading toward Arizona. We found out today that Mesa is only about 6 hours from L.A., however, mapquest had shown us going through Lake Havasu, which is longer. Nice. Since our hotel rooms are non-refundable, we have no choice but to take the longer route. sigh. Next time we will talk to locals before we plan everything out.

Anyway, it's been a great week, we're half way through the tour and still not making squinty eyes at one another, that's rather remarkable.

Topics discussed today: Bipolar, Hugh Grant, chick flicks, snorty laughs, kids, back surgery, and reorganizing stake boundaries.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Traffic Gods

I have come to realize that one of two things is an absolute fact:

A) The traffic gods hate us.
B) The traffic gods hate California.

Either way, we are not getting much help from them, which made today a little rough.

We left Sacramento around 8:45. I decided that since I was very tense yesturday, I would be chill today and not become a traffic nazi. We had 2 1/2 hours to make an hour and a half drive, and ended up half an hour late to our Oakland signing which was only an hour long. The final 10 miles took nearly an hour. Argh!! John and Marilyn were wonderful to us, and so understanding. They have a very cute store and we got to chat with some customers and get to know them and sign a bunch of books. Certainly not a wasted trip on our part, but we hate letting them down. AND because we had to get to Bakersfield by 4:00 we couldn't stay longer, which was equally aggravating.

I realized last week that the drive from Oakland to Bakersfield was going to be an issue. We had only given ourselves 4 hours to make the drive--which, according to our preliminary mapquest was plenty of time. When we did the detailed maps, however, we realized the drive was 4 1/2 hours. So we flew out of the Oakland signing, grabbed some almonds and cookies from our snack pack and headed south on the 5. We did pretty good until the low fuel light went on, which meant we had to stop for gas--and the pump didn't give us a receipt (we need all our reciepts in order to get reimbursed) so I had to stand in line behind 10 truckers only to find that not a single employee could figure out how to print a receipt. I asked for a hand written one and they said they couldn't do that because they couldn't verify the amount. It was now 3:45 and we had 20 miles to get to Bakersfield. I had no choice but to leave in a huff. It cost us a precious 10 minutes, which made us 20 minutes late. But...awaiting us at Beehive Books in Bakersfield was this:

I know! And just in case you missed the details, Vicki (the store owner) had made a lemon tart, English trifle, and a chocolate trifle. Not to mention 'rabbit food' and sandwiches. It was as good as it looked and Julie and I both snarfed--cookies and nuts are not a good substitute for a meal, but Vicki took good care of us. (I don't know why I look like I just swallowed a bug in this picture, I didn't) We got to meet a writer/reader and hear about her story, which is fabulous, we got to visit with Vicki and enjoy her cute store. She really is an amazing woman, with so much enthusiasm and energy. It's so satisfying how no matter where we go, we find ourselves among freinds. Both Seagull and Beehive Books were so gracious today, despite our tardiness.

After the Bakersfield signing, we headed for LA where we are staying tonight with fellow author Victoria Gunther. She has written a book called Girl in a Whirl and will be traveling with us to the Ensign Book stores tomorrow. She was wonderful to offer us a place to stay tonight, so after three more hours of driving we arrived at her house and are now settling in for the night.

We drove for ten hours today and we are very, very tired. We determined that it was a blessing we didn't have evening signings this week. I don't know how we would have done it. Next week we have a little more wiggle room and so I'm glad the presentations are then, not now.

Julie is already asleep, the Gunther house is getting quiet and I need to get to bed as well. Tommorrow we will be at three of the Ensign Book stores in the greater LA area. Go to my website for details

Topics discussed today: foster care, grain silos, pedicures, girl scout cookies, temple work and farting.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


We left around 7:30 this morning and headed to Reno, taking the route through the Lassen national forest. Wow. It was absolutely breathtaking, lots of big pinion pine trees, beautiful vistas and fun little highway towns. I got my first postcard sent off to my kids (I said I'd send one every day, oops) and Julie took several pictures that actually worked despite the fact that I refused to stop. Poor Julie--I am a scrooge to her free spiritedness.

Despite a little snow and ice on the roads, we made it to Reno with enough to time to make a quick stop to laminate a poster for Julie and hit the Easter Seals Thrift Store. Julie got a very cute jacket (black, surprise, surprise) and I got a red button up shirt (equally surprising). They were $3 each--we call that a deal.

The Reno store was fun and the employees were awesome. We had a great time with John, Gay, and Jill. There was pretty good traffic and it was just a great store with fun people. When we finished, we hit the road, yet again, and took I-80 over yet more beautiful mountain passes and back to Sacremento where we made our first mistake.

We thought that since the hotel was only life five miles from the store, we had time to quickly check in, take our bags to our rooms, maybe put on a little more deodorant and make it to the signing in time.

What we forgot was that we were in CALIFORNIA where five miles is kinda like fifteen thanks to traffic and lights that I swear are twice as long as they are in Utah. We ended up spending half an hour getting to the hotel, five minutes checking in and twenty minutes cursing the fact that we tried to go to the hotel at all. We were almost fifteen minutes late to the signings, which makes me feel horrible; and yet in the end it turned out just fine (like Julie said it would)

My sister was waiting there with her darling baby girl, and getting a hug from my sis, and a smile from my sweet little niece was priceless. My sister took the train from San Jose with a four month old baby to see me tonight--gosh it makes me misty to even think about. She also brought her sisters-in-law and mother in law to the signing who hung out the whole evening. I haven't seen Cindy in over a year, so it was really great to spend the evening with her.

I also got to reconnect with a friend I haven't seen for over a decade. Audrey was one of the members of the book group that read my very first book--Earning Eternity before it was published. She, along with the other women in the group, gave me feedback on that book and helped convince me to submit. It was wonderful to catch up on our lives and see that she is the same sweet, kind girl with the brilliant smile she was back then--full plate and all :-)

After the signing Julie and I went to dinner with Audrey, my sister Cindy and her in-laws. I can't even remember the name of the place, but it was very yummy--especially the Pina Coladas. It was the first real meal Julie and I have had and it was so great to share it with these women. I don't know all of Cindy's family well but it was amazing to look around the table, knowing some of the trials each of us have faced, and yet seeing how we've overcome, who we have become because of those things, and where we're all headed. I don't know why it was so deep and reflective to me, but it really was. Life is just ...  hard and we don't know how hard it is for most of the people around us and yet it is also so great. Tonight was a kind of realization, I guess, of that fact that while none of us get off 'scott free' we can go forward and find great joy.

Hmm. The waxing philosophical stuff is kinda weird. My apologies.

Anyway, it was a great day with a great ending and I am now very, very tired. Tomorrow we go to Oakland for a lunch signing and then to Bakersfield before heading to LA for the night. Phew. I'm still having to borrow Julie's mascara because we haven't had time to stop and get me some (but we did have time to buy shirts, hmmmm)

Topics discussed today: Family, mystery shoppers, thift-shoppin, California traffic, the abundance of cops on the road, late people, insanity and salvaged title vehicles.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

California Here we Come

We left Portland around 8:30 and finished out Oregon with lots of "Oh my word, is that not the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?" and "I love rain" and "I'm totally bringing my husband and kids here." We absolutely loved Oregon, what a georgeous place. My hair...didn't. I thought my curls would be so happy. Drunk is more like it, but I would totally wear ponytails everyday if I had to.

And thanks to Krista we now know what the barns of dirt are for--it's actually fine gravel stored in the barn-like buildings and used to dust the roads when they get icy. Makes lots of sense. We use sand in Utah, and they use gravel over here. Thank you Krista for clearing it up, we debated it far more than it deserved and will now sleep easy.

We drove, and drove, and drove today--almost 7 hours. We arrived at our signing ten minutes before it starts--Josi does not like to be late and might have an ulcer because it was cut so close. But it was a beautiful drive and well worth it. It just so happened that Classic Books in Cottonwood was having their annual 'Girls Night Out' and since we didn't end up with a presentation, we were invited to stay. We thought that sounded cool. We had no idea.

Sarah and Valaun and Kayla were wonderful, as was Terry (the owner)  and the other employees that put that night together. Dozens of women from the area came out, bought books, ate super yummy food (chocolate cupcakes with peppermint patties in the middle, uh, yeah) and chatted with us. We were there for three hours and yet it flew by. The store is darling and offers a great variety of books as well as crafts, artwork and boutique items. Super cute stuff (Josi spent $30 but it couldn't be helped) AND we left with goodie bags and hugs all around. Really, Classic knows how to throw a party and I am just thanking the lucky stars that we just happened to schedule on this particular day. If we ever have the chance to come back, we will be there in a heartbeat.

We got to our hotel around 8:30--12 hours after we left Oregon and spent some time re figuring our rental car. It seems we've both managed to ooze all over the car. We were able to repack and thus reduce our items by two boxes--much better fit. Did we mention we rented a car for this trip? Neither of us had a car that was reliable and good enough on gas to make the trip, so we rented a little Kia Sephia. Great car!

So, now we are finishing up the day and preparing for our trip to Reno first thing in the morning, and I do mean first thing. We'll be heading out at 7:00, arriving in Reno for our 11:30 signing and then heading 3 hours to Sacramento. BUT, in addition to those two signings I get to see my sister Cindy and her new baby who I have not yet met. I'm so excited!

Ought to be a great day.

Topics discussed today: Premarital sex, Sweden, trolls, national agents, good husbands, tweezers, and moss.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Along the Oregon Trail

We left Boise before the sun came up, but not before the traffic began. But it was okay because we were going OUT of Boise, not into it. We have come to realize that Eastern Oregon and Southeastern Washington look a lot like Idaho which looks a lot like Utah. There was a pretty pass in Oregon for a few miles (which had one rest stop which was closed) but then it turned to sagebrush again. I had always thought Oregon was pure trees. Not so.

For those of you that read my twitter post about the barns full of dirt, I don't think it was potatoes. It was in Oregon that we saw them, and they were seriously full of dirt. We saw about half a dozen of them, just piled up with dirt; some were in a tree area, and others a no tree area. We seriously can't figure it out. Hmmm.

And the speed limit was 65 the WHOLE way through Oregon. I kept waiting for it to go up, but instead it went DOWN to 60 when we got to Washington. Weird. Lucky for us, Dora, our GPS unit warns us when we get over 9 miles past the speed limit. We owe  her cookies for helping us avoid a ticket.

The Kennewick signing at Far West Books was awesome, thank you to those ladies that came out for that--we sold some books, chatted with the excellent staff and tried on some dresses. Anyone looking for dresses for the Whitney Award Banquet (April 24th 2010) really ought to check out the Dress Shop they have put together--they've combed catalogs for modest dresses and they were so darn cute. These are the two I'm trying to decide between. Anyone have a vote?

Then we headed toward Lake Oswego, which is apparently in the Portland area. Anyone that remembers my 'fantasy World' post from a couple months ago knows I have a dream-like-affection for Portland. It's the place I go in my head when my real life seems complex. However, I'd never actually been there.

Holy Cow.

All that 'hoping for trees' from the first trip of the day was totally rewarded. Closer we got to Portland the more trees there were, and then there is a huge city springing up on the edges of a gorgeous river. Wow. I could so live here. My fantasy world just blossomed before my eyes and I'm feeling even more regret for never having visted Mike and Alisha when they lived here. It is gorgeous.

Julie had never been to Trader Joe's, so we had to go in and get some Vanilla Meringues and Triple Ginger Cookies. If you've never been to Trader Joe's, well, I'm very sorry. You should go! They have amazing stuff you can't find anywhere else.

Cookies and merengues in hand we went to the Deseret Book store. They didn't know we were coming TODAY, but if being unprepared always ends in as great a signing as we had, we shouldn't have made any plans at all. Ryan, the manager, threw together a table and chairs, Julie whipped out her table cloth and we settled in for what should have been an hour and a half and easily stretched to 2 hours. They have recently remodeled this store to have a distribution center in it--like last week. But it's a rather brilliant idea as many people come by the distribtion center on their way to the temple which is right up the road. We had good traffic, good conversation and they gave us Utah Truffle bars on our way out the door.

We went up to see the temple, but missed our turn. As we weaved around, catching glimpses of the temple through the trees, we eventually found a little cement path that led to the temple ground. It was covered with fall leaves, wet with rain, and I could have pulled out my sleeping bag and camped there. The temple was beautiful, even if the pictures I got were so lousy I daren't include them here and included one instead from about the vantage point we had, although our view was in the dark. Very pretty.

We are now at the hotel with full tummies, tired eyes, and 7 hours of driving in the morning. We'll be at Classic Books in Cottonwood California from 4:00-5:30 tomorrow, November 11th.
Now, off to my 68 e-mails...

Topics of conversation: In-laws, free agency, Jay's Journal, eBay, barns of dirt, thrift shop finds, Lancome mascara and dead people.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Day One--Ho Idaho!

So we got to Idaho Falls around 10:30--just in time to have Breakfast/lunch with the wonderful Erin Klingler--a good freind and fellow author (look for her next book Spring 2010). Not only did we have a great meal, but she PAID for us. We are now beholden to her for life. Thanks Erin.

We had a signing at the Deseret Book in Ammon, sold some books, hung with some peeps--specifically this is my brother and sister-in-law--i.e. the other Kilpacks. They brought us a half gallon of Reeds chocolate milk, thickened with pototaoe flakes instead of sugar. So yummy. Everyone that came in afterward would look at the jug and say "Oh, Reeds? That is so good!" They also gave us a potato peeler to commemorate our trip--very fun.

So far we're making out like Bandits in Idaho!

Just as we were finishing we got a call from the Idaho Falls Seagull, apparently they had been told we were coming there. Yikes. We were able to run over and sign a few books left by a girl who's mother had taken her out of school to come. Yes, we felt horrible--especially since she'd had to go back to school before we arrived. She'd left her books, which we signed. Sorry Emily. The store employees were very nice about it.

We then started the 4 hour drive to Boise, made good time, and arrived at the Meridian Seagull half an hour early. Monday nights are not so great for book signings, but the employees were fabo and we did get to chat with a few people--one gal in particular may very well be THE reason we went to that store. Even when the sales aren't great, there is usually a purpose.

Now we are at the Super 8 where Julie's husband found us a great deal. Were in a mild panic because we have a 4 1/2 hour drive in the morning and we THINK we also cross a time zone, meaning we have to start an hour earlier than we planned--which means we might be leaving at 5:00 AM. Hmmmmm. Who planned this anyway? Oh yeah, we did.

We're looking forward to tomorrow--Kennewick at 11:00 and Lake Oswego at 5:00. Nine hours of driving.

Today's topics of discussion as we drove: Anacondas, Joseph Smith, almonds, good husbands, and Marion Jensen. Not necessarily in that order. (does that worry you, Marion? :-) It shouldn't).