Sunday, December 1, 2013

Keeping the Wheels of Creativity Greased

I'm between major writing projects. My last book was published in March of 2013, Poaching Daisies. It was such a fun book to write and to research, but I don't have anything new started, at least not a novel. I've launched a new blog to increase understanding about the LGBT community, especially among the Mormons, the religion I was born into. I haven't given up on writing a novel, I've just been immersed in this for a while. Creating my pottery keeps those creative juices flowing too.

Meanwhile here's a review about Poaching Daisies that's pretty fun: By 
Jennifer Moore (Kaysville, Utah United States) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Poaching Daisies (Kindle Edition)
In the small town of Cooke, environmentalists live alongside hunters, and everybody endures tourists. When Penny, a Yellowstone Park ranger finds a bear that's been lured and shot, in the park, someone tries to kill her. But the park service doesn't believe her. She and her aunt, Iris, a crusader against invasive plants have nowhere to turn but to Russ, a professional hunter. But things get tricky when the guy Penny is dating is a suspect in the bear poaching, and Russ isn't who he seems. Everyone is a suspect, and the action and tension built to an exciting end.
I found myself torn between racing through the book, trying to figure out who to trust, and not wanting it to end because I loved the characters so much. The banter between Iris and Russ was so funny that there were times I laughed out loud.
A fun, exciting and satisfying read. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Feeling Grateful for Grouse Creek

It's been kind of fun reading other people's gratitude posts on facebook everyday this month. I've enjoyed coming up with my own too. The great thing about gratitude is that the more you count your blessings, "and name them one by one," the more you seem to have. It has been so easy to think of something to post. I've thought back to my childhood friends, wanting to name them one by one, then on to college, and my early married life, then on to Grouse Creek where I started to really find myself. Then on to Paradise where our children really grew up, had fantastic friends, teachers, and neighbors. Now, here we are in Avon where we look out and see the beauties of the earth and feel the bounties of the earth. 

I am grateful for my years in Grouse Creek. Here's a few of the reasons why. Not everyone can live seventy miles from a town with a grocery store and most of that over dirt roads. We only had one station on the television and that one was fuzzy. My husband and I taught school together, twenty-four kids total from ages 5 to 16. We could throw a frisbee from out porch and it could hit the back of the school--that's how close we were to work. Our children played outside a lot. They read books, hiked, rode bikes, played in the gullies and hills, and did a lot with us--their parents. Kids in Grouse Creek learn how to communicate with adults because there were almost as many adults in the school as students. Instead of playing a ball game in the gym with only fifth graders, they learned to play with first graders too. Cooperation was the norm, not the exception. At the church, just a little further from the school, everyone who showed up had a job to do. It didn't matter if they were very active, it took everyone in town to run the ward. Life was simple. And it was good. It was in Grouse Creek that I really began writing stories.  A few were published. Once we moved into "town," it would take years before I would start writing again. I wish every kid could have a Grouse Creek experience. I wish every family could have a Grouse Creek experience. For me, it made such a huge difference in my life.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

If I'm Somebody, it's Because of Somebody

Once a month my family gets together for potluck Sunday dinner at Mom’s. We’ve been doing this for over a year now. The first Sunday in October toward the end of our afternoon,  Mom whipped this poem out of her pocket and said she’d written it the other night.

I used to be somebody
With lots of get up and go
But that get up and go
Already got up and went
Now I’m a nobody with years near spent,
So I go to Curves three times a week.
So that when the time comes—
(And the Lord’s so inclined)
At least I’ll go with my behind refined.

The ditty is funny and yet says a lot. It must be hard to see the years pass, the memory fade, the energy gone, and begin to feel as if at anytime the lights will go out. It must be hard to feel like the somebody you once were is gone.

My mother is somebody. One of my first memories is sitting on my mom’s lap at church. She would puff out her cheeks and I would pop them with my little hands.  I’m the end of the line—the last of five and the only girl. Mom said the whole neighborhood rejoiced with her when I was born.

My mother is somebody. She sewed my clothes, Halloween costumes, dolls, and more. My brothers always said I was spoiled, and if I was, I think it was because my mother knew it was hard for me--the only girl. My brothers weren’t always nice, in fact, were hardly ever nice to their little sister, so Mom made up for it.

My mother is somebody. She never told me to stop being afraid when the monsters under the bed sent me scrambling out of bed and into my mom and dad’s bed in the next room. Out of all the moms in the neighborhood, our house was the place to be. We could play loudly. We could make messes as long as we cleaned up. We could sleep outside in the summers or make tents out of tables and chairs. We could toss all the cushions on the floor and play the ground is poison. We could climb trees and jump on the beds. We were allowed to be children and not grow up too fast. 

My mother is somebody. Neighbors came and cast their votes in the patriotic striped booths set up temporarily in our living room. At other times that same room would have a quilt stretched the length and width of it while women gathered around, stitched and talked while I played beneath. Those quilts were made for newlyweds in the ward. At harvest time, the sticky syrupy smell of grape jelly and canned peaches filled the kitchen. Numerous cakes, breads, and whole meals were prepared in for new mothers in our church community and for the sick, or sad.

My mother is somebody. Once she visited an immigrant family and found them in bed in the middle of a cold winter day to keep warm because their heat had been shut off. It didn’t take long for her to fix that situation. My mother is somebody because she and our father managed to raise five children and give each of a sense of worth, values, and work ethic. But somehow Mom did it with ultimate patience and without ever (at least me) spanking. I was never grounded either, and didn’t even know what that was until some of my playmates got grounded. I never felt judged or berated or criticized.

My mother is somebody. She worked for years at the Orem Geneva Times. She wrote nearly every article they had in the days when everything had to be typed on a typewriter and then handset in the printing press. Sometimes when I was in the fifth grade and attending Spencer Elementary, I could walk home from school and see her behind the desk. She let me search through the coins in her desk drawer to add coins to my coin collection, replacing the coins with money from her purse. She served on boards, PTA, and councils, and in numerous callings in church, reliable to the core. 

My mother is somebody. She quit the job she loved when Dad was diagnosed with cancer. And on the bad days when that cancer ravaged dad’s body, she took care of him. And on his good days, months and years, she was his best and closest companion. And in the end she took care of him until his eyes shut and never opened again. She was only fifty.

My mother is somebody. She left behind her grown children and first grandchildren to serve a mission for the Lord. She gained her own strength and learned that she too could learn and understand, and boldly teach the gospel she loved.
Mom right after her mission. We met her in California where she met her grandson Trevor. 

My mother is somebody. After her mission, and on her own, she moved to a new home. Her door has always been a revolving one. One by one, she let those who needed a place to land, for however long, land with her. Her own aging mother spent a decade and again Mom took care of someone--this time her mother, who lived a long a lovely life and died in my mother's home at age 96. Mom's own grown children because of divorce or hardship sometimes needed a place too, and their children. Then those grandkids grew, and when life got hard or when grandkids were headed for school, or between jobs or dreams—again Mom’s and now Grandma’s place is the place to be.
Grandma--Mom's mom (Somebody too)

My mother is somebody. With so many somebodys she's helped along the way. I could go on and on about all she is. In October, I watched my two-year-old grandson cuddle next to his great-grandmother while she read him a story. To that little one, she is still somebody and always will be. If you are a somebody, or were a somebody, you can’t be a nobody, because no one ever is.  I’m definitely a somebody because of my mother who is also a somebody and her mother was a somebody, too. 

Mom holding the son of her grandson (our son). 

And here she is with all five of us. 

Thanks Mom!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Confession Time

Confession: I don’t share the same enthusiasm as many of my Facebook friends for a current music video that’s circulating called “Virtue is so Beautiful.” Or something like that. It’s very cute. Handsome and talented boys dancing around and telling girls that virtue makes them beautiful. What could be wrong with that? I suspect that had these same boys been singing this when I was in high school, I would have not have believed they were singing to me. They would have been singing to my beautiful and popular friends. And I would have felt a twinge of shame for not being in the included group. Oh, I dressed just the way these boys are telling the girls to dress. My skirts came to my knees. My necklines weren't plunging, of course not, what would the point have been? But I knew that boys still were only attracted to a certain look. And that look wasn't me. 

Not all that long ago, in a galaxy, I mean a ward far, far away, ok in a ward two miles from where I am now, I was Young Women’s president for a while. I loved it in so many ways. I worked with fantastic women, and got to interact often with a fabulous group of girls. Our bishop was very respectful of me as a leader. Once he pulled me aside in the church hallway and asked me what I thought of the idea of having a special fireside focused on modesty. I said that I didn’t like it. He wanted to know why and all I said was something to the fact that they hear it enough. He respected that and we thought of another topic.

Well, now I’ve thought about it. Most of the discussions on modesty and virtue aimed at  young women are focused on shame or pleasing men or in helping boys and men keep themselves moral. I don’t believe these should be the motivators to respecting yourself. Respecting yourself and committing to your religious faith are far better reasons for virtue and modesty. Let the men be in charge of themselves. 

Confession: I hated my body in my teenage years and way up into my 30’s.  Why? I had allowed the judgment of society tell me how a woman’s body should look. Truth be told, I had little else to tell me otherwise. My church told me to cover up. My brothers made fun of me. My classmates made fun of me. I was teased even by school teachers. I was teased even by my best friends. Why? I was skinny. Carby Stick was a nickname I embraced. I learned to laugh and mock myself. People liked me for that. A boy in high school made me feel shame every time I saw him in the halls because he yelled, SNAKE whenever he saw me. Even though I never talked to him, I allowed him to have power over me. I don’t blame myself for that. I had few weapons in my arsenal. But even as I type this, I remember the racing in my heart when I saw him coming. And even though I remember few other boys by name that I didn’t know personally, this boy’s name was Joel White. I write it now because he doesn’t deserve to have power over me any longer. I have never told anyone of that secret shame.
Confession: Every time I sat in a Mutual Standard’s Night and learned about how precious and beautiful I was as a daughter of God because I was virtuous, I felt ashamed. Why? Because I felt anything but beautiful. I felt awkward and skinny. I used to look in the mirror and wonder if the reason no boy ever asked me on a date (ever) in high school was because I was too skinny. Now if you didn’t know me in high school, by now you may be feeling sorry for me, but I was not a pathetic wall flower, well ok, maybe I was a wall flower, but certainly not a pathetic one. I loved school. I had lots of friends and loved life, then as now. But growing up is really hard. Growing up as a strong female is even harder when we measure our self-worth by messages from boys and men.

Confession: I was jealous of my pretty friends. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love them any less, but I was jealous. I remember in fourth grade telling my mother I didn’t understand why one of my friends liked this other friend more than she liked me, because I was nicer. My mother said, “Well, she is pretty.” Now I know my mother didn’t mean by that,  and you are not, but that is the message I heard. And that message I carried with me. If you know my mother, you will be surprised that she said this because she truly is a saint. How sad that a little girl carried this careless thought around and didn’t forget it. How sad, that any of us define our worth by our looks, or even by our virtue.

Confession: I knew that the questions the bishop asked me about my moral worthiness didn’t really apply to me because boys didn’t like me enough to even hold hands with me, let alone want to go too far.  Lessons on chastity embarrassed me, but not because they were about private matters, but because I knew I had never been tested on these things. And I suspected that if I were tested I would probably fail. I mean with all the secrecy and yet overblown “worth waiting for talks”sex had to be something so magnificent and I knew I liked doing magnificent things so…

Confession: I have no idea why I managed a high self-esteem with so much shaming that is consistent with our society. I look back and see that tall skinny girl and realize had she known how to dress, talk, and act around the opposite gender she may have attracted attention from them. I’m not sure that my life would have been better because of it.

Confession: I’m not sure the continual focus on the highs and lows of hemlines, how much skin, cleavage, body defining and so on voices girls hear from their church leaders and well-dressed and handsome righteous boys are all that much different than the societal and trendy voices they are hearing from school and media. I know, they are hearing the opposite message. On one end of the spectrum our youth are hearing that virtue is so beautiful and on the other end we have Miley Cyrus (need I say more)? But when it comes down to it, the message is the same. Females are told by the extremes on both ends that it’s bodies that are important, not WHO they are.

Confession:  In spite of all these confessions, I really liked myself. I was fun. I was smart. I was creative. I was a deep thinker. I was talented. All of these things are still true about me. Once in a high school class that was quite unusual because it seemed to be focused on character and family life, the teacher asked the mostly (if not all—I can’t remember) female class to raise your hand if you liked yourself. Guess what? My hand shot up. I looked around the room and only one other hand in a class of twenty-five or so seniors and juniors was up. I was shocked. And so was the teacher’s. We had a discussion on self-esteem. 

Confession: In spite of all the negatives, I managed to hear and instill and nourish a positive one. Somehow that tiny message is the one I chose to listen to. I was very lucky. I had great teachers in church and in school. I had great friends. I had good parents. I was very blessed. Maybe that's why the message of my own worth managed to plant itself in my very skinny body. I still like me. When there is no one else around, I’m still having a good time because I’m with my best friend—Me. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

An Unusual Mother's Day Gift

On last Mother's Day, we had a nice day visiting my son's church and watching the Mother's Day program, the grandkids sing with the primary and  hearing our daughter-in-law speak. They did a great job. My friend and my home-teacher both got me flowers from my ward. Instead of flowers my son's ward gave out passed Fernwood chocolates. Plus I scored an extra box from another ward by loitering in the hall.  So all in all I quadrupled my church tokens for the day. My husband gave me some pansies to plant. All in all it was a pretty good Mother's Day. I'm not like a lot of my friends. I don't have a very active conscience, which means I can attend church and hear all the flowery, and overdone sentiments about women and mothers and not feel a bit of guilt. In fact, I feel pretty good about myself overall. So to me Mother's Day is fun. My son made a fantastic dinner and I didn't offer to help. I don't mind being waited on other days, but especially don't mind on Mother's Day.

So toward the evening, I got a much anticipated call from our daughter. She lives in New York. Besides wishing me a happy Mother's Day, she informed me that I would be receiving a present a few days late. She hinted that it was something I've wanted for a long time. And that I would be excited, but not as excited as the amount of money it cost her. She also told me that it had to be shipped from Japan which was why it would come late. So I spent the next few days wondering what this present was. My daughter knows me well and picks out great gifts. Finally, when I was at a Saturday Farmer's market, my husband called me and told me that a package from Japan had arrived. I sent a text to my daughter to tell her the news.
Daughter: "Hurray. Finally."
I got home and noticed how small and light the package was. It was indeed from Japan as stamps were all over it and writing that I couldn't understand was all over it. Basically, I couldn't imagine what I would have wanted for a long time that weighed almost nothing and cost quite a bit. I don't care about jewelry and my daughter knows that. What else could possibly be in the package.

Without wasting any more time. I opened the gift and was even more confused. The small almost weightless gift looked like a package of condoms.
Text to daughter: "It looks like a package of condoms."
I opened the purple cellophane covered package thinking quite possibly something ELSE was hidden inside, but alas it was only a package of exactly what they looked like.
Text to daughter: "It is condoms."
Daughter: "What? What? What???? Are you sure?"
Me: "Very sure"
Now my daughter interrupted her work to call me. "I don't know if I've been scammed or what? Ok send me a photo of everything I'll send it to Amazon."

With the package, there was a typewritten letter about the company being honest and that they want me to "feel Japan." I would much rather feel Japan by taking a trip there and walking along the streets that to use the little package they sent me, but that's another story.

So I photographed everything including the invoice which stated that my daughter had spent $97.00. Expensive condoms. Then I noticed the word kettle. Ahh, so that was it. I have wanted a good tea kettle for a long, long time. Ever since my daughter was in high school, we would drink a variety of teas together--mostly peppermint. Indeed it was a thoughtful gift in theory and hopefully I would get it eventually.

Later she told me about her conversation with Amazon:

Daughter: "I ordered a tea kettle for my mother for Mother's Day and she got a package of condoms.
Amazon: "Uh, what was that you said  your mother received?"
Daughter: "Condoms."
Amazon "Condoms?"
Daughter "Condoms."

Apologies were issued and within another ten days I received the real gift. I imagined the company who filled the order in Japan and that they mixed up the order. I imagined the man who ordered something he might have been too embarrassed to buy from the store. I imagined him opening my tea kettle and wondering... what the heck? I imagined him realizing that he got a good deal, but one that didn't quite fill his immediate needs.

My tea kettle is wonderful. I use it often. It heats water in record time and it is a lovely design. My favorite thing is to share tea with a friend who often comes over on Sunday evenings to chat. Whenever my daughter comes we share a cup as well. Some friends prefer hot chocolate and we have that too.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mormon Writers Rally to support Gay Author

It is interesting that on the very night I attended a meeting with the Mormons Building Bridges group to discuss bullying of LGBT youths, I came home hear in the local news  that a publisher was canceling the contract because one of the authors refused to have "lives with his partner" struck from his biography. Bullying can happen off the school grounds too. And even among professionals.

But I've never been more proud that many Mormon authors have created a document to show support for Michael Jensen. Many of the authors that signed this document are my friends and I know they vary on moral implications, but what we are in agreement is that CFI is out of line I have no personal risk in this because CFI is not my publisher, but they do publish many of these friends. So I'm especially proud of those author friends who risked signing something that may put them in an awkward position. Sometimes though awkward is better than apathy. Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted. Please take a moment to read this document.

In response to recent events and attention in local and national media, we authors, who are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, feel the need to express our disagreement and disappointment with Cedar Fort in their dealings with David Powers King and Michael Jensen in regards to the manuscript, Woven. We appreciate that Cedar Fort has returned the rights to the work in question and want to note that there are many wonderful people working at Cedar Fort–staff members and authors–who strive to carry out their duties with professionalism and courtesy. Nevertheless we wish to offer our support to our fellow authors and feel compelled to speak out.
As writers, many of whom have published with Cedar Fort, we believe everyone should be treated fairly and with respect, regardless of political or religious affiliation, age, gender, or sexual orientation. We believe that degrading attacks are inappropriate in any business or personal relationship. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we understand our church to teach respect and encourage civility–even when we have differences of opinion.
While publishers have the right to choose what they will and will not publish, we believe books should be accepted or rejected upon the merits of their content, quality, and commercial viability, not on any other factor. If a publisher isn’t comfortable with an author’s personal choices, those concerns should be discussed clearly and respectfully upon signing a contract–not hours before the book goes to press.
We believe that all publishers should be clear and professional in their submission requirements, treat others with dignity and respect, and give all authors the right to be judged on the quality of their work, not the content of their biography.
I encourage those who are in agreement to go to the website where the statement has been originally posted and make a comment.
This was taken from Tanya Mills, but I too would like to encourage those who also happen to be LDS writers in agreement with this statement to email writer(at)abelkeogh(dot)com and ask to have their names added (and linked to their websites, if so desired).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Things we Value

This isn't a philosophical post. It's not about religion, or family, or human life. It's literally about things. How much are things worth to you? Everyone knows the old adage, "one man's junk is another man's treasure." I'm in the habit of making and selling things. The things I make are very beautiful and yet functional in my opinion. Others think so too, because I can sell the things that I make. I make pottery.

Years ago, I made a pot I was very proud of. I'd discovered a new technique of decorating inspired by a relief society homemaking meeting I attended. The meeting was on a Saturday. Now if you know me at all, you might be surprised that I would go to a homemaking meeting on a Saturday. It's something I can't remember ever doing before, nor have I been since. Normally on a Saturday I would choose to be elsewhere, almost anywhere--else. Anyway a lovely woman taught us how to make Ukrainian Easter eggs. The technique totally fascinated me. While creating a unique design for my egg, my mind dreamed of doing a similar technique on pottery. I modified it to make it work more easily and came up with something I already knew how to do, wax resists and slips. I added another layer to the mix and came up with a technique that I love doing and still do on lots of my work. Some people are drawn to the designs and others like my more traditional brushwork, while others prefer someone else's work entirely and then of course, there are some who don't care for pottery all that much.

I absolutely love pottery because it's affordable art. I love that someone will purchase something from me and then take it home and use it. I love that a delicious salad or fruit might be served in one of my bowls. Or that someone will carry flowers to give to someone they love in one of my vases. I'm so glad that my pottery is literally all over the United States. It might be grandiose, but I like to believe that my pottery is gracing people's lives.

Now back to that bowl I was very proud of. So one of the first bowls I did using this Ukrainian inspired design. It seemed no one liked it nearly as much as I did. I took it to sale after sale and packed it back up again at the end of the day. You can see the bowl in this display behind the little blue and white vase. Yeah, it's hard to see--but there it is.

Anyway once after carrying it around to a half-dozen or more sales, a young couple picked it up and I presumed admired it. I said, "I'm so glad to see that you like that bowl. It's one of my favorites." "Yes," the wife said. "We're trying to decide if it would work for a dog dish."

"Your dog?" I tried not to hide the disdain in my voice. "I'm surprised that you'd spend $40.00 for a dog dish." "Well," they said. "We've been looking all over and haven't found one yet  that will work. Our dog keeps tipping his dish over. We're wondering if this one would work since it's heavier and the shape works, but could you make one that is even wider at the bottom?"

They didn't buy the bowl. I remember when I finally sold it, it was to a young woman who really did appreciate the design and the bowl. Since then I've made perhaps a hundred more bowls that I've liked just as much as that one. 

Another time a member of my church congregation came up to me in church, excited to tell me that she found some of my pottery at a garage sale and that she bought a piece for 25 cents. She must have noticed my face fall. "Oh, maybe that hurt your feelings. I just wanted you to know because they obviously didn't know what they had?" I said, "well it's not a compliment." I understand why she was excited, she found something that she thought was quite valuable and got it for very almost nothing. I would have been excited too, but just so you know if this ever happens to you, you probably shouldn't tell the artisan who made it. 

While discussing the value of handmade things with a friend of mine, she commented that she once bought a large hand-stitched tricot quilt at a garage sale for $5.00!! The young woman who sold it, said it didn't match her decor, but she felt kind of bad selling it because her grandma made it for her. This sent a pit into my stomach. Imagine. 

I know things go out of style sometimes. Or we need to get rid of stuff because we're moving. There are lots of reasons to discard things. I don't mind so much that some of my pottery ended up going to someone who valued it even though they bought it really cheap. I can see how sometimes we don't know people well enough to understand what they value so we end up spending hours and hours on a gift that is ultimately sold at a garage sale, taken to D.I., or dropped in the garbage. My same friend told me about making a quilt for a friend's wedding and seeing that same quilt outside with her pet dog lying on it. Oh dear!

I remember crumpling a picture that a not quite three-year-old drew for me. I was lying on the couch in the living room. I was five-years-old and was very sick since I'd just gotten my tonsils out. A toddler handed me a drawing and I crumpled it up and told her it was scribble. I still feel guilty about that.  The memory is seared because of my ingratitude for the gift given. The toddler did her best work and it wasn't appreciated by the receiver. True, I was five and didn't know better. I can forgive myself for that, but it's a good reminder to me still. I hope to value people's time, their talents, and their thoughtful gestures. 

There's a woman who admires my pottery a lot. She's only bought one or two pieces and yet, she always makes me feel like my art gives her such pleasure. This woman has battled cancer. Once she came into my booth at Summerfest and picked up one of my lotion pots. She said that even holding it and looking at it gives her joy. She mentioned one other artist in the show whose work she admired also. She said, she came to the sale just to see my work and his paintings and then she would go home. I can still visualize her face when she talked about my work. Her compliment made me want to go be the kind of person who could sincerely give such a compliment. 

I saw the woman again, years later. We talked for an hour about art and life and how much art makes life just so much better. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Braden Bell's Penumbras Blog Tour

One of my many wonderful author friends has come out with another book for middle grade readers. I've know Braden to be a skilled writer who knows how to captivate young people on the page and keep them reading. Take a minute and find out more about Braden and his writing through this interview and promotional tour of his latest book.

Q: Tell us about Penumbras.

A: Penumbras is the second volume in The Middle School Magic series. The first installment, The Kindling  came out last summer. I am currently working on the third volume, which will hopefully come out next summer.

Q: “Penumbras” is a somewhat unusual title. Can you explain it?

A: A penumbra is a vague, shadowy, area, neither fully light nor dark. The Kindling, the first book in the series was about the sparking of new and exciting powers. This particular book follows the characters as they confront the complex consequences of those initial events and confront the shadowy places in their own hearts.

Q: How did you get the idea for this series?

A: One night during a sky-splitting spring thunderstorm, my kids came home from a church activity and told me about a man they had seen driving home. He had a black cape and was walking across people’s yards in the storm. Wondering about who he was and what he was doing triggered the idea for the book. I love that triggers can come from one single event. This is what happens to me too. 

Q: What is your background?

A: I am a middle school choir and theatre director at a small private school. I’m the father of five children and the husband of one wonderful wife.

Q: Speaking of that background, is it a coincidence that a middle school theatre and choir teacher has such a prominent part in the book? How about the students and other teachers in the book? Are they based on anyone specific?

A: Well, writers write what they know! Dr. Timberi is admittedly similar to me in some ways. However, that’s not because he’s modeled on me. Rather, it’s because he is someone I would like to be. As far as the other characters, in the very beginning, I did sort of model their voices on some specific people—but that changed within a few pages of the first draft and they quickly become their own unique characters.

Q: Beyond the characters, are there any other events based on real life experiences?

A: There is a sad scene towards the end between Dr. Timberi and one of his students. While it is not an exact replication, being a theatre director means I have dealt with disappointed and/or angry students (and parents!) for many years. I tend to have a pretty thick skin. However, there are occasional times when this gets to me. This scene was actually inspired by a particularly difficult confrontation with a student of whom I was quite fond. I wrote the scene as a way of working through the incident—and ended up keeping it. The only other thing that might be based in reality is the degree to which teachers truly do care about their students. I don’t think the students often realize just how much teachers and other adult figures care about them and what they would do to protect and help them. I was a public school teacher for five years and my husband has been for over 25 years. I can relate to this very well. 

Q: What is your favorite thing to do, besides reading or writing?

A: My wife and I love to watch old movies, or adaptations of literary classics. Nearly anything by the BBC! I also love working in my yard. This is something I have in common with Braden. I love old movies and BBC, but I don't love working in my yard so much. I have a feeling from facebook posts Braden writes that we also both love Mexican food. 

Conner Dell didn't meant to blow up the school bus.
Or the bathrooms.
In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.
But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.
Conner Dell wants to be good--he really does. But he is terrified that he might be turning into a Darkhand, especially when new powers start to surface. What's worse, the Stalker is following Conner, but no one else seems to be able to see him. The Magi think he might be hallucinating, the guilt of what happened in the Shadowbox keeps weighing on him, and his relationship with Melanie Stephens is complicating things. Even for a Magi, Conner knows his life is anything but normal. 

Author Bio:

Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah and graduated from Davis High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in educational theatre from New York University. He and his wife, Meredith live  with their five children on a quiet, wooded lot outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches theatre and music at a private school. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys singing, acting, reading, gardening, and long walks with the dog. 

Conner Dell didn’t mean to blow up the school bus.
Or the bathrooms.
In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.
But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.
It all started on the annual seventh grade science trip to the Sea Lab at Dauphin Island, Alabama. Fifty-four thirteen-year-olds on a five-day field trip. What could go wrong?
Especially when three of them happened to be Magi.
For a fraction of a second, Conner thought he saw shadows slithering along the base of the cinderblock walls. Tensing, he blinked and looked again.
Nothing. He was alone in the darkness of his dorm room.
Well, except for his friend and fieldtrip roommate, Pilaf.
            Across the room, Pilaf disturbed the darkness by turning his flashlight on and digging through a giant floral print suitcase. Fishing a book out, Pilaf hunched over, tucked the flashlight under his chin, and read.
            “What are you reading?” Conner asked.
             “Sorry. Did I wake you up?” Pilaf squeaked. “I couldn’t sleep. I guess I slept too much on the bus.”
            “No worries.” Conner burrowed into his sleeping bag. He didn’t like messing with sheets on these trips. The springs of the ancient bed creaked beneath him. “I’m not sleepy either.” Lexa? Can you hear me? Conner reached out in his thoughts, wondering if his twin sister was awake in her room on the girls’s floor. Head-talking was a cool benefit of being one of the Magi—a secret group of warriors who used the power of Light to battle evil.
No answer from Lexa. Her allergy medicine must have knocked her out.
Melanie? He tried Lexa’s best friend, Melanie Stephens—also one of the Magi-in-training. Conner listened for her response, trying to ignore the backflip in his chest that came when he thought of her. No answer. Melanie had taken something for motion sickness on the bus. She must be knocked out too.
            Conner jerked up as something skittered across the ceiling right above him. No doubt this time. He grabbed his own flashlight, raking the beam across the ceiling tiles as someone whispered his name.
            “What?” Conner pointed his flashlight at Pilaf, who looked up from his book, blinking behind his thick glasses. Pilaf’s blinks always reminded Conner of the way a light on a computer blinked when it processed data.
            “What?” Pilaf squinted back at him.
            “Why did you call me?” Conner asked.
            “I didn’t.” Pilaf looked down at his book.
            On edge now, Conner lay back down, scanning the room for more shadowy movement, his fingers ready to snap his flashlight back on at any second.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l.
            A whispered, hissing sort of growl sounded in his head as a flicker of movement caught his eye. He whipped his head around in time to see a shadowy tail vanish under Pilaf’s bed. Flipping his flashlight on, he investigated the space under the metal frame.
Nothing there.
            “What are you doing, Conner?” Pilaf managed to blink and stare at the same time.
Trying to protect you from slithery shadow monsters that could slurp your soul like a slushie, Conner thought. How could he keep the flashlight on without alarming Pilaf? Out loud, he said, “Uh, it’s a game. Flashlight tag. You’re it.” He shined the flashlight at Pilaf.
            “How do you play?”
            “Well . . . one person’s it and he shines a flashlight all over the room.”
            “That’s all?” Pilaf blinked until Conner wondered if he was broadcasting the telephone book in Morse code. “It seems kind of pointless.”
            “Uh, yeah.” Conner said. “You’re right. Lame. How about shadow puppets?” He slipped his hand in front of the flashlight, wiggling his fingers until the shadow resembled a horse.
            “Cool!” Pilaf shouted.
            A knock at the door interrupted them and a tired-looking science teacher poked his head in, glaring beneath tousled red hair. “What’s going on in here?”
            “Sorry, Mr. Keller,” Pilaf said. “We slept on the bus ride, so we’re not tired. Conner’s making shadows with his hands. Look, a horse!”
“Neeeiiiiggghhh.” Conner threw in sound effects as a special feature.
            Apparently unimpressed with great art, Mr. Keller frowned. “Get some sleep. We have a full day tomorrow.”
            “Yes, sir.” Conner swallowed his depression at the thought of a five-day science class. Five days of plankton, ocean salinity, salt marshes, and beach ecology. Five days of science, 24/7. At least they were close to the beach. That might be fun.
            “Do another one,” Pilaf whispered as the sound of Mr. Keller’s footsteps retreated down the hall.
            “Okay, but be quiet this time.” Conner opened his fingers, making a snake’s mouth, complete with a flickering tongue.
It seemed so real that Conner thought he heard a hiss. Unsettled, he dropped his hands, but the hissing noise continued, twisting into words.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—
Trying to squash the sound, Conner raised his voice. “Here’s another one.” He cupped his hands on top of each other, stuck his thumb up, and opened his fingers slightly.
“Wow!” Pilaf yelled. “A wolf!” He giggled as Conner opened the mouth and growled. “Little pig, little pig let me come in.” Conner prayed that none of the other seventh-grade boys heard he’d been doing Three Little Pigs shadow plays. That would not be cool.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—
The weird voice came louder. Conner dropped his hands away from the flashlight.
The wolf head stayed there.
Fighting panic, Conner switched the flashlight off, but the wolf head remained, darker than the darkest shadows on the wall.
It stretched and grew bigger, becoming life-sized within seconds. It turned and stared at Conner, a three-dimensional head sticking out of the wall like some kind of freaky hunting souvenir.
The wolf growled, then jumped off the wall, and sailed across the room toward Conner.

Are you intrigued by this book yet? Or have thought of a favorite young person who would enjoy it. Here's some links to find out more. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Living Life One Mistake at a Time

We all make mistakes. It's part of learning, living, and growing. A couple of weeks ago I decided to glue a handle on a delicate teacup that belongs to my daughter. Since I do pottery, people are often asking me what a good glue is for doing these kinds of projects. And truth be told, I don't glue much of my own stuff. If it's broken, I just make another. And over the years I haven't found a glue that I've loved for repairing ceramics. Well, I decided to use the Krazy glue since I'd heard it works well. There's something about me you may not know about. I don't read instructions unless I try first and fail. I'd rather use the method of "just go for it." So using my well-developed method, I glued the pieces together and while I tried to adjust the cup handle, set my fingers down on our beautiful granite countertop. One instant later my fingers would not budge from the counter. I was glued to it. However the handle was not glued to the tea cup. Now I had one hand free and one hand glued to the counter. I could not reach my phone, so I read the instructions on the tube.

The instructions warned, "instantly bonds skin." Okay so that information might have helped me earlier. Then there was a list of things to do in case you did bond skin. Although I had all the necessary things to free myself. I could not move to get the nail polish remover or warm soapy water. Immediately my mind went to Aron Ralston. You might recall that he's the young man who cut off his own arm after being trapped by a large boulder in a slot canyon in Southern Utah. Before Aron cut off his own arm, I have no doubt that he thought of all the tools he might have brought had he known ahead that he might find himself in such a predicament: surgical tools, tourniquet, huge bandages, and high doses of pain killer. Even though I knew the consequences between Aron and I were proportionally different, we did face a similar dilemma. He had to cut off his arm to save his life. I would have to cut off my fingers to save mine. Okay that's not true, but I might have to rip my hand away and leave behind a layer of skin. Not a pleasant thought. Fortunately, my favorite man drove up the drive before I reacted in such a desperate way. It still took us about thirty minutes to free my fingers. I'd like to say that from here on out, I'll read the instructions first--but I kind of doubt it. Living life, one mistake at a time, is just the way of things.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Author Interview with Mikey Brooks

I've become virtually acquainted with a very interesting and talented young author. I think you'll find him and his writing interesting too. Please check him out.

Mikey Brooks

1. Tell us a little bit about your upcoming book.
Mikey: I am excited to share! THE DREAM KEEPER
is a middle-grade adventure with a toe in both the real world and the fantastic. It’s inspired by the classic tales that I loved when I was a kid, The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. It’s filled with suspense, action, and of course nightmares.
“When an evil shifter takes over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it falls to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him. Their only hope lies with Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but can they trust a Nightmare to save their world?”
It comes out June 1st and is available at any bookstore. You can also find it online on and as well in ebook. Here are the links:
Paperback Create Space:
2. You are a multi-talented young man. If you had to pick a turning point in your life that spurred your creativity, what would it be? 
Mikey: Thank you! Since I was little I used to dabble in art and writing but I never thought of doing it as a profession until I had kids. So I’d say they were my turning point. My daughter was the inspiration behind one of my first picture books, BEAN’S DRAGONS. One day she was telling me to tell the dragons in the living room it was time to go home. I promptly opened the front door and sent them on their way. Dragons never leave for long and I’m glad they came back. Children have a way of bringing magic into every home. I think it’s something that should be encouraged. The imagination children have is more than enough fuel to spur any artist’s imagination.
3. You write and illustrate children's books, but from what I read you have won some awards for more literary writing, which do you love to do more and why? 
Mikey: I wrote a lot of my literary work while I was getting my degree in Creative Writing. I’ve personal essays published in literary magazines and even some poetry, but they have never been my passion. Not that I don’t enjoy that side of writing, but my heart lies with the kids. I think there is something unique about storytelling to children that surpasses any type of award or recognition that comes from literary works.  

4. Tell us how you got into sewing and how it relates to your writing (if it does). 
Mikey: My mother taught me how to sew when I was young. By the time I was in high school I was designing all the costumes for the shows. I had a lot of fun doing it. Costumes can tell the audience more than one story about a character. I think it helps me to keep that in mind. Clothes are important in a story. After high school I worked for the Utah Shakespearian Festival and then Ballet West. I even designed several wedding dresses. Now I just make costumes for fun. Halloween is my favorite holiday. What writer wouldn’t want a day dedicated to pretending to be someone else?

5. What authors living and dead have influenced your life and your writing?
Mikey: The most influential have been C.S. Lewis and Frank L. Baum. I grew up in a very rural part of Missouri and had little to no friends. I loved how these authors wrote of escaping the mundane of this world and finding the fantastic somewhere else. I can’t even count the number of times I tried climbing through a wardrobe or clicking my heels together. I never went to magical lands but I did have fun making up stories about them. 

6. What do you wish you had known about writing before you began your career?
Mikey: I think that every writer comes into their craft in their own way. I don’t know if I had changed anything if it would have spurred my career forward or not. I think the only thing I can offer to other writers wanting to turn this into a career is to obtain a support system right off. Without the love and compassion of my wife, family, and friends I would be nowhere. Too often writers get discouraged and we need these wonderful people to help boost our spirits. I am certainly grateful for the angels in my life.

7. What do you like to do besides writing, illustrating and sewing?
Mikey: My favorite thing to do is spend time with my girls. In one afternoon I can be an explorer in Africa, a spaceman on Mars, the king of my own country, even a wizard able to conjure whatever I wish. Most of all they make me feel invisible. Being an author/illustrator is pretty cool but my greatest title in life has been a father. 


Thanks Mikey for taking the time to be interviewed for my blog. You seem like a very imaginative person. I also really loved Frank L. Baum books. I read every book of his that I could find. They made my childhood even more interesting. 

Take time to find out more about Mikey and his book. I'm sharing a bio, a synopsis and an excerpt from his book. 

Dreams: Dorothy called it Oz, Alice called it Wonderland, but Nightmares call it HOME.

When an evil shifter takes over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it falls to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him. Their only hope lies with Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but can they trust a Nightmare to save their world?

Loser—the most frightening word to ever be uttered in junior high school. Even the coolest kids are afraid of being associated with it. 14-year-old Parker Bennett is no exception. He can’t even be himself around his friends for fear they might not accept who he really is. When circumstances force him to team up with Kaelyn Clarke, the biggest loser in the ninth grade, Parker has to decide what is more important; protecting his social status or saving the world. Nightmare named Fyren has taken over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, with the intention of controlling mortals, and it falls on Parker, Kaelyn, and Gladamyr – the Dream Keeper – to stop him. They learn being called a loser is no longer a fear, when compared to the terror of real nightmares.

“This really is a cracking novel. Action-packed and spellbinding!”—Cas Peace, author of The Artisans of Albia series.

Parker was about to assassinate the general of the goblin army. It wasn’t murder, it was an assignment. He tried to justify what he was about to do as he jumped from the rooftop and landed just above the battlement wall. It was the perfect spot to scout the camp. The goblins filling the keep were everywhere, sharpening blades and axes or gathering weapons for the impending battle. Parker noticed a large troll in the right hand corner of the space below, hammering solidly on a sword large enough to split three men into six. He spotted his target. 
The general of the goblin army was a large brute with golden braids hanging down his chest. He was the one who had ordered the burning of Parker’s home village. The one who had ordered the death of Parker’s family and friends. This monster, this villain, was the reason Parker had set out on his journey to seek vengeance upon the unjust. This was the creature responsible for Parker swearing allegiance to the Mightercore army, who quickly gave him the role of assassin-scout.
Parker maneuvered his way down the wall, careful not to move too fast or his invisibility cloak would lose its power. He placed his foot in one crevice, then his hand in another. After a few moments of skilled climbing, Parker found himself precariously positioned just behind the golden haired brute, leaving only a small distance between him and his foe. In a quick session tactic, Parker could ignite his blade with the magic of the Mightercore and his target would be no more. He positioned himself to strike, raising his sword and whispering the incantation that would release the blade’s power—.
He ignored whoever was calling his name; they did not matter. All he saw was the villain before him. The completed spell ignited Parker’s sword with a blazing haze of blue fire, and he had to act fast.
The loud call startled him and he swung too late. The goblin general had already turned and he struck, forcing Parker back against the rocky battlements. Parker parried the attack and thrust forward with a low slash. The general sidestepped and lunged forward again. Parker parried and rolled away from the wall. A lightning spell was the only magic he had left. If he could find enough time to call out the incantation, he could have the general radiating electrons from every appendage. 
He rolled until he was a good ten feet from his opponent, then quickly stood. Lifting his hand into the air, he called down the lightning. The sky filled with a brilliant white light, and the crack of thunder reverberated off the walls. Parker briefly closed his eyes then opened them, praying he had hit his target. As the white dust began to clear, he made out an image before him. He peered at it, his heart thumping.
The screen went black.
“Parker, I’ve called you three times. Now get off that machine and go do your homework.”

Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as adult. On occasion you’ll find him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several books including BEAN’S DRAGONS, the ABC ADVENTURES series, and author of the middle-grade fantasy-adventure novel, THE DREAM KEEPER. He spends most of his time playing with his daughters and working as a freelance illustrator. Mikey has a BS degree in Creative Writing from Utah State University. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast.


Twitter as: @writtenbymikey 

Paperback Create Space:


Hardback: 978-1-939993-01-4, Paperback: 978-1-939993-03-8, EBook: 978-1-939993-02-1 

Hardback: $19.95, Paperback: $12.99, EBook: $4.99.