Saturday, September 12, 2009

"The Route" to finding one's self is paved with good intentions

Many years ago, I learned a valuable lesson. I needed to be addicted to something.

And since I don't believe in alcohol, drugs, tobacco or any other vices (okay so a few chocolate items may make me waiver...), I turned to ser-'vice'. Serving others became my "vice". And something magical happened. I became happier, more fulfilled and began to understand myself and my role in this really big world better by simply focusing on others.

But I never quite seem to accomplish enough...

So when my good friend Gale Sears (who is the embodiment of Mother Theresa herself when it comes to service and sharing her talents) asked me to review her new book, The Route, I couldn't have been more thrilled at the opportunity!

Gale and I talked about service and she related how the things she learned through her experiences provided the message of this book. When Gale began her "route" delivering meals to the elderly for Meals on Wheels, she'd been at a time in her life where she needed to find fulfillment after the joys and hardships of raising a family. A call for volunteers on a local message board jumped out at her and thus began her adventures into the homes of some eclectic characters who found their way into her heart while Gale in turn found the best parts of herself.

Based on her own thoughts and feelings towards the people she came to love and serve, The Route, is a fictionalized story of a woman who is unsure of herself and her position in life yet has the desire to find purpose in her mid-fifties. She finds a posting that calls for volunteers to deliver meals to the elderly. Figuring that she couldn't screw it up too bad, Carol decides to try it out.

A run in the first day with a little trailer park tyrant who sends daggers through Carol's heart almost weakens her resolve. Carol, however, is determined not to shy away from the challenge. As time marches on, she not only comes to understand these people's histories, lives and imprint on the world but she comes to understand her own ability to love unconditionally and process her life and relationships as she puts things in perspective and gains peace and purpose.

As I spoke with Gale about the story after reading it, I had to admit that when I initially picked it up, I did not think it would be a story that would make me think too deeply. I judged it to be a feel good light read - something akin to a stroll through a daisy filled field on a pleasantly warm summer day. But for someone who has always thought that the only way to do things was on a grandiose scale (I relate to the guy whose idea of a nice presidential portrait was to create Mount Rushmore), it did make me think about the small things n life.

I have always had the desire to serve - and I do so on a regular basis - but I have always thought that my simple acts of service could never amount to a pile that could even hope to fit into Abe Lincoln's rocky left nostril. So I get down on myself because I don't have the ability to change the world - or a mountainous visage for that matter.

But the thing that Gale's book taught me is that I am changing the world - the world of those whose lives I have touched through the small and simple things. And by touching one life and their world with what I have always considered to be minutia , a ripple effect is created and a little bit more of the world is changed, person, one small and simple act of kindness at a time.

So until I can learn how to make monuments by carving people's lives in stone, it's enough to simply and quietly help others along the rocky paths we call life.

And one day, in the grand scheme of things - I hope for a few people out there at least - I will be able to say that when it came to their lives, I made mountains out of molehills

You can order Gale's book The Route through Amazon here or through Deseret Book here. And you can jump on over to read Gale's blog on service here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I think I can, I think I can....

My good friend Wendy Elliot asked me to review a project she's been working on. It's called "The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook".

I admittedly thought that there is not much reviewing I could do on something like this. I mean I'm used to reviewing stuff on the basis of literary achievement; plot and character development, interwoven story lines and grammar and syntax. But how does one go about reviewing something that is designed to help one do these things without caustically throwing it back into your face if you miserably fail???

I changed tack. I decided to 'play' with my new little workbook and attack a project that I never, ever thought I could do - a fantastical adventure novel. I mean since I am the furthest thing from a fantasy writer that there is, I figured if Wendy's little workbook could open that realm of my functional no nonsense brain, she'd have a winner.

A month later, I am practically running around my house in spandex somewhere in the future fighting evil and time traveling through my dreams. Using my little workbook, I have garnered an excitement for fantasy and other realms that I never thought possible. My characters have become a part of me (much to the angst of my two middle teenage sons who think mom has finally fallen off her rocker) and the plot twists hit me at the most unexpected times (usually when I'm jousting or playing with light sabers with my youngest who thinks mom is now pretty cool!

Good and evil have taken on personas that have made them into characters themselves. I have thoroughly enjoyed living through them and living the story I've created in my head using Wendy's little workbook which now has a permanent place in my purse in case a thought comes to me while I am living a more respectable life...

Now if I can only put my weaponry down long enough to format it and get back to writing, I might see the benefits of my daydreaming and middle aged identity crisis.

And for those who wonder, my sanity is not the important issue here. The issue is that I once again learned that with the right tools, anything is possible including creating alternative worlds where good does conquer evil after hard fought battles and happy endings do exist - even when paired with laser-eyed monsters and giant sized horny toads.

Check out Wendy's little workbook and have some fun yourself. You can get one HERE or you can get one through her Blogsite HERE

Happy writing everyone and may I see you in a book real soon!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Taking a break from work long enough....

Shannon Tanner thinks she has it all until she finds out that all is not as it seems. Her trusted fiancĂ©e is a criminal who has stolen from her family and is out to kill her now that she’s found out his secrets.

Enter the FBI and Agent Rick Holden who goes undercover as Shannon’s aging aunt in order to protect her without sacrificing either of their personal beliefs or integrity.

Fear and desperation push Shannon to the limit. The question now is can life, with Agent Holden’s help, return to a semblance of normalcy as her heart begins to hope and heal?

As part of the virtual tour for Tristi Pinkston’s new mystery novel, Agent in Old Lace, I have arranged to meet local operative, Agent Fink, here at Dunkin Donuts so we can get an inside look at undercover missions and what they truly entail.

Now if I only knew what agent Fink looked like. Wait, was that a plant moving??? I get up only to discover that there is a rambunctious two-year-old pulling at the palm fronds from the other side while his mother holds his wrist carrying on a conversation with her acquaintance from her perch at the outdoor bistro set. I sigh and head back to the waiting bench.

“Hey you,… you go by the name Anderson?” asks a deep masculine voice which belies the show of femininity that sparked the shocking pink lipstick and electric blue mascara.

“Uh,…..yeah. May I help you?”

“I’m Agent Fink, Ima Fink – that’s my operative name. I thought I’d come undercover so you can get an inside view of the real job. This line of work ain’t for sissies you know…”

“I can appreciate that. I can’t imagine any sissies dressing like that. You’d have to be IMENSLEY secure with yourself and your abilities.” Agent Fink tries to cross his legs and accidentally kicks me in the shin. He mumbles and apology and quickly tries to cover up by pulling his flamingo print skirt down over his ample knee.

“My, what big feet you have….”

“The better to run after scoundrels and stomp all over ‘em with…” he smiles.

“And what hairy knuckles you have….”

“I was going to get a manicure but the business of catching bad guys doesn’t wait for good lookin’ cuticles.” He/she looks at his hands from an arm length and frowns. “They are a mess though aren’t they? Oh well I’ll try to squeeze one in at 10. So what questions do you have about undercover FBI business – non-specific of course - and my fellow ‘gal pal’ Ricky Holden. This is his story you know….”

“Yeah I know.” I look at Agent Fink’s 6’4” 290 pound frame appraisingly growing ever mindful of the curious glances and ask, “Is it commonplace for you guys to uh, ….dress up?”

“Only when the situation warrants it.”

“And does today warrant it?”

“Naw, but it’s fun to dress up every once in a while and I thought it’d be a gas to show you the finer nuances of the job as we talk about Shan and Ricky’s story.” He shifts and belches. The stench of stale glazed donuts wafts past me.

“Speaking of gas….” I say waving my hand and weakly smile. Agent Fink slaps my knee and laughs.

“You’d do well in this job. You’ve got some pretty quick wits about you…”

“So back to the story. In doing my research, I found out this is Mrs. Pinkston’s first foray into mystery/suspense. I think she did a marvelous job of telling the story and it captured me from the very first page! Is detective work always that exciting and full of bouts of adrenaline?”

“Sorry, I was just enjoying today’s law enforcement donut special,…I think they call it Glazed Over – anyways, I think they got a hit here!” He wipes the residual glaze from his mouth without ruining his lipstick. “But in answer to your question – I dunno. I’m more in the PR side of things – you know meeting with you people and splainin’ the finer points of the job. I let the experienced guys like Rick take on the more serious stuff.”

“I see, so how come you have an undercover name and a full blown wardrobe?”

“Cutbacks. This economy is killing everyone! I got myself a side job as a singer at a nightclub down the block. I didn’t want anyone to recognize me and besides, I figure if things keep going downhill, I can help fill in as an operative when needed. It’ll save the agency money since I already have the training AND the er,…ah,….’supplies’.”

“Well, Agent Fink, glad to see you have things well under control and that our safety is in the hands of such fine people as yourself…” I say as I rummage through my purse looking for my antibacterial hand sanitizer. I look up but he has disappeared into thin air. The rambunctious two-year-old points towards a dilapidated phone booth with the remnants of a pink flamingo print skirt being jerked inside by a rather large and homely guy who should be wearing pants.

If you want a story of suspense, intrigue and romance that helps you believe in happy endings even when life hands you its darkest moments, get a copy of Agent in Old Lace. By Tristi Pinkston Order it here:

It will not disappoint!!!

Author’s note: Although I had a good time with this ‘interview’ I want it noted that I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for those who unselfishly give of themselves through law enforcement as they strive to keep us safe and better our communities.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's time to get to work, dang it!!!

All last month I wrote to my heart’s content (and then some) and surrounded myself with other wonderful writers who inspired me and gave me the bug to get back to work.

I’ve been putting off finishing up my next manuscript because it means change and this last year has already meant a lot of change for me. Sometimes as writers, we come to live with our characters so long, they become a part of us - or at least a part of our ‘virtual’ family. And when major change is on the horizon for them, you take the ride also and live what they live, and feel what they feel.

That can be good and it can be bad.

It’s good because in order to tell a good story filled with emotion, you have to get into the character’s head. You have to see the world through their eyes and live the scenes like they would. It’s bad because of all the before mentioned reasons which means that as a writer, you cry, you hurt and ultimately, you are forced to grow with them – and growth can be very painful.

Most writers understand this and I’m not sure if that makes us an eclectic bunch or a group that simply lives on the verge of insanity. Either way, it’s our reality and our characters and our stories come to define much of who we are.

But now that I’m caught up on the housework, the extra jobs I’ve had to do, writing pursuits and other diversions, I have no more excuses to avoid the inevitable and I need to get crackin’.

So, although I will continue to look for “Life Savers” and share them with you, I’ll only be posting them every four or five days since I seriously need to chain myself to the computer and head into the winds of change because the sooner I get these voices out of my head and onto paper, the sooner I can sleep at night without feeling like the ghosts of stories past and present will haunt me forever!

And that brings me to this week’s “Life Saver”;

“Even a mosquito doesn’t get a slap on the back until he starts to work.”

So wish me luck and offer a toast with creative juices – I’m going to need it since I now have to get to work,…even though a good stiff slap on the back sounds a LOT more appealing at the moment….;-)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The road to others 'hell' is often paved with my good intentions...

As I looked at today’s ‘Life Saver”, there was only one story that I knew could possibly go with it. Let me give you today’s gem of thought and then I will expound….

“I have faith in fools – my friends call it self confidence!”

Years ago I was the president of a small software company called Careware that wrote and distributed software programs for care giving agencies like childcare facilities, nursing homes and home health care groups so they could fully automate their process and keep track of all government reporting.

In the middle of the venture, I started noticing some major changes going on in my business partner who also happened to be our software programmer. Longer hair, track marks in the crux of his arm and glazed over, doe-in-the-headlight stares naturally lead me to think he was quickly getting caught in the web of narcotics.

Imagine my surprise when he sat the board down and announced that he was going through some rather significant changes – namely he was becoming a she through gender reassignment surgery.

I was aghast! He was barely passable as a nice looking 6’6” male but I knew he’d make an absolutely horrific looking female! I, however, kept my mouth shut and managed to get through the sideways glances when we’d go shopping for office supplies, when people would snicker as she/he/it would use a falsetto voice to communicate and kept from gagging when my opinions (as the only other female in the office) were solicited on necessities from the Victoria’s Secrets catalogue.

My parents always taught me to be gracious under any circumstance and so – even though I did not agree with his choices – I remained a friend and a sounding board.

When the day of his/her final surgery actually arrived,….yes the one that lops off and inverts certain uuhhh,….’parts’, I had compassion and figured that in some sort of way, my friend would need comfort through the transition. I mean it was after all a pretty permanent and drastic surgery which would irrevocably change his life forever. I was sure that there would be some sort of mourning process although I had not the foggiest what that would entail –nor did I really want to know. But nonetheless, I wanted to be compassionate and lend some sort of support.

But what to send????

There are not many cards that do justice for such a surgery. “Get well soon” didn’t seem to fit the bill. “I’m sorry for your loss” wasn’t quite appropriate. Since I didn’t agree with his choices, I had a hard time with “Welcome to your new addition”.

Flowers seemed to ‘girly’, balloons too juvenile - nothing seemed gender neutral enough to make me comfortable without sending mixed messages to him/her.

That’s when I got a flyer in an ad circular for lovely gift baskets done by Mrs. Fields. Perfect! I called the number and had a nice basket sent to my friend’s room in the specialized Seattle hospital.

Two days later I got a call from my new “female” friend.
“Hiya, Stace. Thanks for the basket. It was lovely,” he said in his best falsetto, although slurred from the pain meds, voice.

“I’m glad you liked it. I was trying to find something that was appropriate for the occasion since you will always be my friend but you also know how I feel about the choice.”

“You made that quite clear,” he snickered an octave lower. “Were you aware that the tag on the front of the basket says, and I quote, ‘Mrs. Field’s assorted cookies with chopped nuts??’ It became the talk of the gender reassignment ward the moment it was delivered.”

“Uuuuhhh, gee,…I’m soooo sorry, I’m not sure what too say…..”

“Normally I would take offense, but knowing you, Stace, means that I can know with an absolute certainty that you didn’t have a clue what the tag said and didn’t mean anything but sincere wishes….”

So much for good intentions. All I can say is that is good my friends know the meaning of my heart even if the translation loses a bit at times.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Staying grounded keeps you from having the wind harshly knocked outta ya

Recently, I was invited to a black tie event at La Caille. This was a problem.

I mean I clean up pretty well but I’m more of a wash and wear sort of gal and settings that have anything more than one fork tend to make me break out in hives. I admittedly use my high heels as an alternative hammer when I can’t find the real one in the garage clutter and I use the Channel #5 I inherited from my mother as gym bag spray for my sons. It’s the only scent strong enough to kill the offensive odors that merrily waft as they take over the rest of the house making it smell like dirty sweat socks and moldy underwear.

My point being, black tie affairs and I go together about as comfortably as thumbtacks on a hemophiliac’s mattress.

But since I was there to support a friend who thinks I am superbly cool since I’ve accomplished her dream of publication (silly girl, didn’t she read my last post???), I felt the obligation to go because I really do admire her and wanted to share in her night.

I sat next to Ron Boone (Jazz commentator) and another guy, Johnny ”The Jet” Rogers, that is apparently extremely well known in the football realm since he was a Heisman Trophy winner and played many years in the NFL. It was a classic moment when I asked him if they all had to have tight ends to fit into uniform and wondered aloud as to the exact purpose of a linebreaker?

After kindly informing me that the term was “linebacker” and explaining the purpose of said large guy, he then smiled and casually told me that “Tight ends are an occupational hazard – especially for the tight ends who work it during game play and practices.

I was ready to sink into the ground when my friend with the most blessed timing walked up and asked if they all had been properly introduced to her friend, the famous humorist and author.

Realization sunk in and their eyes lost that “what a dumb bunny” glaze and were replaced by a look of respect normally reserved for those worthy enough o fall within the realms of their own inner circles.

I was in heaven as I, for the moment, got to field questions about my adventures on TV and radio and was even given kudos as I wowed them with recollections of my interview on the nationally syndicated Lars Larsen show. I mean only the coolest get to be on his show – and on the day of Thanksgiving to boot!!!

It was then that I noticed the pinched, fake smile on my friend’s face as she subtly tried to pull me away from my new admirers with a few inconspicuous nods of her head. I excused myself and followed her to and area hidden by massive ferns and fuchsia bougainvillea.

Before I rounded the corner in a panic, I quickly checked my nose to make sure nothing inappropriate was falling out of it. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I was safe.

“Stace, I love you my friend, which is why you need to remove that horrible piece of parsley the size of a fly that’s stuck between your incisor and front tooth before you end up blowing it into one of their faces.” She then kind of squeamishly pointed towards my mouth and half grimaced and sympathetically smiled.

It was then that I remembered why black tie and I do not mix and even more importantly why it’s good to keep myself continually grounded. And that brings me to today’s “Life Saver” which is;

“It’s important to be cool – just don’t get your nose nipped off by Jack Frost when your coolness factor enters the sub-zero region.”

And if you forget what it means to stay truly grounded, I’m here to tell you that whether it be boogers or other little green things that appear where they shouldn’t be, something will drag you back to reality in less time than it takes a massive linebacker to knock the wind out of an unprotected quarterback. And to the proud who are yanked harshly back to that truth, the feeling is quite similar too….;-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Success is fleeting,... unless.....

This past weekend, I had the honor of attending the LDS Storymakers Writing Conference. It was a wonderful experience being surrounded by so many talented people who made me realize the importance of working hard and never being complacent.

There are a few times in life when I amaze myself. Today is one of those days.

Not because I am so wonderful and creative, but because I simply have the most incredible dumb luck at times! Once again I digress as I get off on one of my ADD tangents. I’ll begin at the beginning….

After getting home and mulling over all that I learned and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the gratitude of being able to help, meet and learn from so many wonderful people, I finally remembered that I needed to do my blog posting .Since I had arranged the tour over a month ago, there was no way that I could have foreshadowed my thoughts and feeling on this particular day. I looked at today’s Life Saver and smiled. It read;

“Unless you’re the lead dog, the view is always the same.”

Publishing is an interesting business. As authors we are always trying to step up one more rung on the ladder. If you are unpublished, you want to get a contract. If you are published, you want an agent, a bigger contract and a national audience. If you have a national audience and an agent, you want to be on the best seller lists. And once, you’re there, you want to stay there and do it better and better and better…..

I’ve been lucky and had an amazing amount of success – success that others merely dream of. I’ve hit the national market, done TV, radio and hit the charts high on Amazon. I’ve seen my name in print in prestigious publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Financial Content and big papers across the nation. I’ve seen my name go as far as England, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. But I look at J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyers and Richard Paul Evans and even some of my closer acquaintances like James Dashner, Josi Kilpack and Janette Rallison and think, “Man, I have a LONG way to go!” I watch other closer friends like Candace Salima, Annette Lyon, Michele Bell and Tristi Pinkston who have more knowledge in their little pinkies than I have in my entire noggin and think, "There is no way I can ever catch up!"

Discouragement sets in and before I know it, success is out the window and I’m a failure. Thankfully, God knows me well and slaps me up the side of the head every once in a while and places opportunities in front of me that get me outside of myself and focused on others in a positive way. It’s when I have the ability to serve and follow in the footsteps of the only lead dog who matters – the Savior.

And when I do that, the level of success suddenly does not matter but the route in which we get there – flowing in His footsteps following His lead – does.

I came out of Storymakers so incredibly grateful that I have been placed in positions where I could help fulfill the dreams of others, learn from others, teach others and spur the hope of others. But mainly, I am grateful for the opportunity to be used as an instrument in His hands for blessing the lives of others.

It’s true; success is fleeting -- unless you look at it as an eternal proposition. And if you do, not only your success, but that of others, becomes an eternal gift that is satisfying where ever you may be on the success spectrum.