Thursday, July 31, 2008

SURPRISE PACKAGES - who waves a swim wrap at Clark Gable?

by Shirley Bahlmann
“Surprise Packages,” by authors Carroll Morris, Lael Littke, and Nancy Anderson is an epic volume covering years, like “Gone With the Wind.” It follows the lives of three women (hm… three protagonists… three authors… yeah, that works) who’ve been friends for, I don’t know, ever? Or maybe just from the time they met at Education Week in 1980.
These ladies are tight, I mean old-fashioned rubber girdle tight, turning to each other for help in dealing with children, spouses, neighbors, in-laws and outlaws. The problems range from prescription drug abuse to divorce, remarriage, interfaith engagements, and kicking the dog.
This book is several layers deep, including emails, narration, and dialog, with each of the women taking turns sharing their news from celebrations to dilemmas. If you can get to a place where you care about the characters, it’s like reading the big, fat, juicy family newsletter you always wish you had. Even the odd swear word is bleeped out by curlicues and exclamation marks.
And names – oh, if you like unusual names, just wait until you feast your eyes on the likes of Shoshana, Rhiannan, Juneau, Evvy, Willadene (or Deenie, she answers to both), Sahrita, Beto, Flower Telford, and Ira. It’s like a big Hollywood production, with a cast of thousands.
This book is not the type I usually read. It was a bit too fast paced and multi-layered to sit on my favorites shelf, but maybe that’s because I didn’t read the earlier books in the series. It’s possible that one other reason it didn’t resonate deeply with me is that I don’t have any girlfriends as involved in my life as Deenie, Juneau, and Erin are in each others’. But then, I grew up in the middle of six sisters. As I turned page after page, I found that the cast of thousands didn’t always have faces I recognized. Yet I found myself pulled forward to see if I could catch the next thread in the life of Beto and Nicole, the star crossed lovers. And I was rather interested in the outcome of Dex (who I privately nicknamed “Dex, Tyrannosaurus Rex.”) Not everything wraps up with a perfect, pretty bow, which is life, and I like that about this book. I also like the hopeful ending.
If you let yourself read along and sink into the lives of this amusing, insightful trio, they’ll wrap their loving arms around you and draw you into the story.
Plus you have to like reading other people’s emails.
Be sure to clear your calendar for nearly 400 pages full of drama and joy.

Shirley: Ah, Tahiti! I’ve wanted to visit this place ever since I read, “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
Nancy: Thanks, Shirley, for taking us on this all-expense-paid trip to Tahiti.
Lael: When I first saw “Mutiny,” it starred Clark Gable. I’d appreciate if you’d nudge me if he passes by -- unless, of course, he has Scarlett O’Hara with him.

Shirley: Oh, you’d give her a run for her money. You all look so nice in your tropical wraps. I’m wrapping mine around my shoulders. Warding off sunburn, you know.
Lael: I’m wrapping mine around my whole bod because I’m too old to sit around in a bikini. Oh, you say this isn’t a bikini? Well, I guess I’ve put on more weight than I thought.
Shirley: Ahem. That’s why my wrap reaches my ankles. Let’s go sit at the table under this umbrella and stare at the ocean. I just watched a documentary on sharks, so this is close as I get. There. All settled? Anyone want something to drink, perhaps liquid refreshment served in a coconut shell or crab claw?
Nancy: I think I’ll go for something softer with a little less bite.
Shirley: All right. Umbrella drinks all around. How long have the three of you been friends? Are you as close as your characters in “Surprise Packages?”
Carroll: I’ve known Nancy since she was a little dark-haired bundle—she and I are real sisters. I met Lael, our almost sister, at a mutual friend’s home in Minnesota in the 80s, but the three of us didn’t get together until we attended Women’s Conference at BYU and ended up on the same shuttle bus. We offered to share the food in our cooler with Lael. The rest is history.
Lael: I’ll always take a free lunch. Hint, hint.

Shirley: How many books have you written together, including this one?
Nancy: This series of three is our first joint effort, and we thought our last. Until Lael started being haunted by a whole new set of characters that came in a set of three.
Shirley: Well, writers can’t really stop those ideas from taking over their minds. Oh, here come our drinks. Look at the cute little umbrellas! They won’t keep us dry in a tropical storm, but at least they kept the bugs out of the drinks. Here goes… ouch! Oh. Take out the little umbrella first or it might get up your nose.
I’m really curious how you decided on your character names. Did you toss a dictionary in a blender and draw out scraps of paper to see what they spelled? Some of those monikers are jim-dandies.
Carroll: Nancy and Lael are the wizards in that regard. Go for it, girls.
Lael: Apparently you’ve never lived in a small Idaho Mormon town, Shirley. If you had, you wouldn’t think they were so strange.
Nancy: Or in the South. I have a daughter in Georgia. When we visit there, I’ve kept a list of the unusual names I’ve heard. That got me interested in researching historic names from the history of the southern states. What a fun read aloud those lists were. That’s where most of the names for Florida characters came from. To be fair, some of our less inspired names must seem weird to the folks down South.

Shirley: Okay, I’ll admit it, Shirley’s a weird name, too.
Lael: We had a Stake President named Shirley Palmer in Idaho when I was in high school. And no, we weren’t giving women the priesthood. Shirley was a guy.
Shirley: There are so many interwoven threads in your book. How do you keep them from tangling?
Lael: I’m not sure we did keep them from tangling.
Carroll: I’m not sure we even wanted to! With the characters being so close for over twenty-five years, it was inevitable that the threads of lives would intertwine. The important thing was to knot off those threads in a way that held the whole together.
Nancy: I thought they wove themselves together in the most unexpected way. Sometimes we wrote parallel story lines without realizing it. They often went together like puzzle pieces when we started combining them.

Shirley: Well, I admire your ability to write together. It’s really quite a good idea. You each write a third of the book, and when it comes out, you’re pleasantly surprised at how thick it is!
Carroll: Actually, we were surprised at how thin the book is. Each of us had written enough material for a book—and DB gave us a word limit of 114,000! So, many full scenes shrank down to vignettes and other scenes and minor characters disappeared completely.
Shirley: I’m intrigued by your COB anagram. Crusty Old Broads? Where did that come from? What does it take to “join the club?”
Lael: It came from a character named Gabby Farnsworth in the first book. Her grandson is angry at her and calls her a crazy old broad. She later tells the three women who are staying with her that “I don’t object to the ‘old broad’ part. There’s something of longevity and strength in those words. It’s the choice of adjectives that I don’t like.” Juneau suggests crusty as a replacement for crazy, and the anagram COB was born. And to join the club, you have to deal with whatever life brings you, then pull up your socks and move forward.
Shirley: Hm. I’ll have to change out of my flip flops. Well, well. Look over there, ladies, there’s a tall and tan and young and handsome guy walking along the beach. Do you think it’s…? No, it can’t be. But it is! No, Lael, sit down and quit waving your swim wrap like a flag. It’s not Clark Gable. It’s the guy from Ipanema! I’ve always wanted to meet him, but he just doesn’t see. Maybe it would make a difference if he’d take off those dark sunglasses. I’m going to see if he wants to samba. You ladies go right ahead and work on your tans and your next fun writing project. Do you have any more triple author delights in the blender?
Nancy: You never can tell what will come when characters start showing up in triplets like those nibbling at Lael’s thoughts. For now the working answer is yes, but no more series. Right ladies?
Carroll: Right!
Lael: No more series.

Shirley: Well, it will be fun to see what you come up with next. Thanks for meeting me here today. Have a great vacation. Oh, I heard they’re providing return trip rowboats to offset high gas prices. But look at it this way: each of you will only be rowing one third of the time.
Lael: I knew there was a catch to this all-expense-paid deal. And watch out for that Ipanema dude. He looks like a slicker to me.

· Paperback: 400 pages
· Publisher: Deseret Book (May 14, 2008)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 1590389085
· ISBN-13: 978-1590389089

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Enjoying the Journey," with flip flops in a 5-star restarant!

by Shirley Bahlmann
Everyone loves a super hero. That’s what authors Theler and Talmadge say in their book “Enjoying The Journey,” where one of my favorite phrases is, “Don’t read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.”
With humor and gentle insight, the authors take on the meaty subject of life, season it with anecdotes, and garnish it with scripture, making it easy for the reader to digest. They cover timely topics for today’s world, from overcoming depression and despair to the importance of family.
My heart lifted to read the reassuring words that we will recognize God when we see him. It’s just that for now, we’ve simply forgotten his face. I learned that I don’t want to be a whiny child in God’s eyes.
Okay, I’ll admit it; I’ve been depressed in my life. But Theler’s and Talmadge’s words made me truly believe that we are Father’s BELOVED sons and daughters. Riding on the waves of the friendly, conversational writing style, I could read the phrase, “Knowledge of our eternal identity is a potent antidepressant” with a chuckle instead of a gag reflex.
I also renewed friendship with the Holy Ghost when the authors reminded me that He can replace anger, anxiety, and despair with love, faith, and joy. Now that, I can live with.
While some people would count this the best part, in my Primary-geared mind, there’s a spot or two where a pack of scripture quotes got a little lengthy for me, like a little too much garlic in the sauce. Yet every scripture pertained to the subject, and it only matters if you’re not terribly fond of garlic, because overall the book had an amazing blend of personal stories, quotes, scripture and text that made it delicious to my soul. And for those of us who do best with paint-by-numbers, there are helpful lists of simple steps to take toward your goal at the end of each chapter. Bless you for a summary I can wrap my brain around.
After reading this pivotal book, I feel like saying better prayers. I’m encouraged to exercise greater faith, and I’m not ashamed to admit that Chapter 10 had me in tears.
This book offers encouragement without the guilt and insights without the confusion. So pull up a chair, tuck in your napkin, and get ready to read to your soul’s content.

Shirley: Ooo, it smells so good in here. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a 5-star restaurant. The neon star on the local “Brite Spot” eatery is missing one of its points. Where’s your favorite place to eat?
Jaime - The last year or so I’ve been leaning toward Mexican food, but I go in phases. Next year will probably be Italian or Chinese. Last summer we found a Mexican restaurant on a family vacation to southern California that I still dream about. It was so good that we contemplated making an hour detour on our 10 hour drive home from Disneyland last fall, until we decided that no chimichanga was worth two more hours in the car. Around here, I’m really fond of Café Rio. (Looking around self-consciously) I haven’t been to many 5-star restaurants. Perhaps I should have worn something nicer than flip flops.
Deborah – I’m a Wendy’s kind of gal. Huge hamburgers are the best. My parents owned a drive-in, so I grew up on the stuff; shakes, fries, hotdogs, hamburgers, onion rings, ice cream. My very favorite though, are a couple of places in Italy, one in Urbino and one in Stressa. Real Italian lasagna is so much better than anything you can get in the United States. No meat and dripping with lots of yummy cheese.
Shirley: (looking over the shiny menu) I wonder how they decide what dishes to serve. Speaking of deciding, what made you decide to write, “Enjoying the Journey?”
Jaime – I think they just have a wheel with fancy sounding dishes and the chef spins it and throw expensive knives like darts to choose the specials of the week. Hey, I feel a character idea coming on. Do you have a piece of paper? I would write it all down on the napkin, but these are cloth. Writing by napkin worked for J.K. Rowling…
Deborah: You know, the first time I ever heard about writers using napkins to jot their notes on was in the book Turn Not Pale Beloved Snail, by Jacqueline Jackson. And that was in 1976. So you might say Rowling stole the idea. Sort of. Albert Speer wrote on toilet paper while in Spandau. You know whatever works… This chef’s salad looks good.

Jaime – Sorry, back to your question. The idea for “Enjoying the Journey” had actually been bouncing around in my head for years. It began at a time when I was feeling awkward, lonely, and struggling to figure out life with three demanding children. I listened to a talk by Sheri Dew where she said, “No woman is more persuasive, no woman has greater influence for good, no woman is a more vibrant instrument in the hands of the Lord than a woman of God who is thrilled to be who she is.” Those words really hit me, and I thought, “I want to be thrilled to be who I am!” I wanted to shine with joy like others I have known. The tricky part was how to do that. So “Enjoying the Journey” was something I had to write for myself, to find my own answers. I just hoped there were others out there in the same boat. My mom assured me that there were, and she became my sounding board.
Deborah - I often sit on the stand in sacrament meeting because I’ve been the Ward Chorister and other times have substituted. I watched the expressions on everyone’s faces and very few ever looked like they were glad to be there. Most of them had this clenched, “I’m here because I’m supposed to be, and I’m going to stick it out if it’s the last thing I ever do” look. I wondered if they had permission to leave if they would. And gladly. Then one time a new Bishopric counselor thought it would be a good idea to cancel classes because it was Easter. The building was empty in only fifteen minutes. A few stayed because they weren’t sure it was all right to cancel.
When Jaime told me about her idea, I thought it was a great one. I know I have struggled with being happy about all the things we are supposed to do. I have felt more pressure than joy in being a member of the Church for a good part of my life.

Shirley: How many books have you written so far?
Jaime - We have written two books together, our first book, “Parenting the Ephraim’s Child” and “Enjoying the Journey.” “Parenting the Ephraim’s Child” was another book I needed for myself, that just happens to help others too.
Deborah: And before that I had two fantasy books published as well, “The Apprentice” and “The Heldan.”

Shirley: Hey, look at this, pate de foie gras. That sounds good.
Jaime: Uh, Shirley, that’s goose liver.
Shirley: (Pulling pressed linen napkin folded like a swan to her face to hide the look of horror.) Maybe I’ll have the escargot instead.
Deborah: Do you like snails?
Shirley: I’ve never become personally acquainted with one.
Deborah: No, to eat. Escargot are cooked snails.
Shirley: What? Can’t they afford to serve anything in this place besides goose guts and garden pests?
Deborah: I took a survival course once, and had to eat snails. We were required to eat everything given to us or we would be kicked out. It was like eating an eraser. I don’t know if American snails qualifies for Escargot though.
Shirley: (Mops forehead with napkin.) Maybe I’ll just order a hamburger. How do you say that in French? Haum-bair-gair? Hey, have either of you ever been depressed?
Jaime - I am generally optimistic, but just before writing “Enjoying the Journey” I had a period of time where I felt really down. I don’t know if I’d classify it as a depression, but definitely an extended low point in my life.
Deborah: I have battled with depression off and on for a long time.

Shirley: It feels like you have the knack of reaching through the pages with a warm, helping hand. Do either of you have a degree in counseling?
Jaime – Not really. (laughs) I actually graduated from college in Physical Therapy. I guess you are sort of a counselor in that field. I just try to see things from another’s point of view, and treat others like we’re in the same boat. We’re all brothers and sisters, after all, and we should help and lift each other.
Deborah - I don’t have any counseling experience either. I double majored in Piano Performance and Geology. Rock music. Have you ever read “Crystal Singer?” One of my favorites. The hills are alive with the sound, and all that.

Shirley: Let’s move on to dessert. (Narrowing suspicious eyes at the menu.) What’s Glace?
Jaime and Deborah: That’s ice cream.
Shirley: That’s perfect! But how did you say that at the same time? You sounded like echoes of each other!
Deborah: Death by Chocolate looks good.
Jaime: Yuck.
Deborah: Hot Fudge Sundae? (Teasing)
Jamie: Yuck.

Shirley: How do the two of you work to write a book together?
Jaime – We love email! Unlimited long distance helps a whole lot too. We talk over ideas, and then send chapters back and forth to each other until we get it right. It works a lot better than you might think, and it’s fun to have someone else to discuss all the little things with. Sometimes as authors you are so wrapped up in your project that you forget others don’t want to hammer out all the details. My husband gets this glazed look in his eyes sometimes.
Deborah: But Jason is really a great editor. He’s grueling. If he didn’t understand what we tried to say then we knew it had to be reworked. Driving around to book signings was fun too. We really could get into discussions.
Shirley: What’s your next writing project?
Jaime – We’re actually going separate ways for our next projects. (reaches out to hug Mom) Not because we don’t want to write together, but we both have stories in our heads that need to get out. I wanted to take a little break from non-fiction, but there are more of those ideas that I will probably write as well.
Deborah - She’s actually pretty good at fiction.

Shirley: (wiping mouth with napkin.) Ahhh. That was good. Thank you for meeting me here. (pause)
Jaime: What?
Shirley: You’ve got something green stuck in your teeth. (Politely looks away.)
Jaime: At least I didn’t spill it all down the front of me this time. I should probably pack a bib.
Shirley: The publisher is footing the bill, right? I suppose we ought to leave a tip, even though you can’t read the menu in plain English. (Reaches in bag, pulls out “Enjoying the Journey,” and lays it on the table.) There they go. Food for their souls. (Stands up.) Okay, Jaime, leave the enamel on, the green stuff’s gone. (Starts for door, then turns to Jaime and Deborah) Hey, I know! Next time let’s eat at the “Cow Palace Lanes.” Yes, we should. They deodorize the bowling shoes before they stick them under the counter beside the dining area, and believe it or not, they serve killer-good fried onions. Just be sure to wipe your fingers before you roll a bowling ball.
Jaime: Sounds like a place with the menu in English. It might have bibs, too. Although, I don’t know about the bowling. I went a few weeks ago and my score was really bad. Like, under 65 bad.
Deborah: My best bowling score was 83. And I got the trophy for best improvement. That was thirty years ago.

Jaime: Maybe we just better stick to writing, huh? Thanks so much for meeting with us Shirley!

# Paperback: 170 pages
# Publisher: Cedar Fort Inc. (March 10, 2008)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0882908391
# ISBN-13: 978-0882908397
# Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Preparedness Principles... (no, it's not boring!)

By Shirley Bahlmann
It’s been several years (my oldest was six, now he’s 29) and many household moves since I’ve written a serious list for storage items. Back then I remember feeling, I don’t know, like Noah, as I built up stores against a possibly disastrous future. But another couple of moves depleted my storage and lost my list.
Now it’s a new era. My oldest grandson is six. I’m selling my cute red PT Cruiser with leather interior because I can’t stand the rising price of gasoline. I’d rather eat than sit in the driver’s seat of a fun car with an empty gas tank. I truly look forward to stocking my shelves with necessaries, and Salsbury’s book has captured my imagination as surely as the best mystery novel Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote.
Salsbury knows her stuff, especially since she’s experienced her own disasters. She comes to the subject with a dose of practicality (don’t go in debt to get your survival supplies!) as well as humor (“Nature’s best 100 percent natural polyester blanket. Made from hand-fed, organically grown polyesters…”)
There is no generic storage list here. Salsbury offers bare-bones basics suggestions, but she emphasizes the final list should be yours. I also like that she includes attitude as a bare-bones basic.
(Alright, readers, here’s a spontaneous bit of review for you: I just walked out onto the porch to find every single gallon of factory-sealed spring water I’d hauled from the car in preparation to carry down to the basement with the LIDS OFF. “Who took the lids off the water?” I yelled.
My nine-year-old covered his face with his hands before confessing.
“Why would you do that?” I asked, admittedly a little louder than necessary.
“Because it’s just water,” he said, peeking at me through his fingers. “I didn’t know.”
It’s true. He didn’t know. I often buy water for our fish tank. So I shut my mouth and went for a bike ride. Now I’m back, feeling much better after a cool, refreshing drink of bottled spring water.)
Regretfully, I have yet to make the time to get all the way through Salsbury’s book. I’m reading a little each day, like a hummingbird returning to bright flowers to suck up the delicious nectar. The layout is very reader friendly, with boxes of helpful hints, charts, planning sheets, and diagrams of how to build several types of shelves and mini-gardens in the appendix section. I was so excited by Salsbury’s encouraging words that I showed the book to my husband, Bob. He flipped to the Index, then riffled through the pages. “I don’t see anything in here on guns and ammo,” he said. So, if you’re planning to survive with the use of firearms, you’ll need to supplement your reading. Just so you know.
I’ve got my pencil sharpened and my notebook out as I scan Salsbury’s hefty 364 page 8” x 11” book. (Hm. If all else fails, I can eat the pages for roughage.) I’ve already hauled half the stuff out of our small 1900’s furnace-filled basement to make room for more important storage than toy plastic pompoms and an orange crate full of funny hats.
It’s great to have a plan. I really hope the floods don’t reach me until next year, because by then, I plan to be able to float.

Shirley: Hoo-boy, Barbara, I hope I wore enough anti-perspirant! In your opinion, what are the three most important things to bring when you meet a crazy lady who wants to interview you in the desert?
Barbara: Desert? Dang I thought this was a video set for freeze-dried ice cream. Now if you had planned ahead and gone to the sale in February you would have plenty of deodorant.
Shirley: Does preparedness run in your family? Did your grandmother have crocks of molasses stored under her bed?
Barbara: I know that preparedness is in my DNA. I had one of those new tests done to trace your roots, but the peanut butter kept clogging the machine. No, the family pets, the dust bunnies lived under the bed.
Shirley: (fanning face) Hey, do you mind if we sit in the shade? Oh. You’re already in the shade. Good thinking. I didn’t see anything about hats in your book, but admittedly, I haven’t read the whole thing yet. Do you have any advice about hats?
Barbara: Of course! Do I have any advice!? You plant some of that wheat you have stored under you bed. Let it grow nice and very tall. Then you pluck it carefully at the roots and weave it into your new hat. Then if a disaster really should come your way, you eat your hat. And that's where that old fashioned saying comes from. :]
Shirley: Okay, this is just too funny. I was going to ask you a silly question about dehydrated water, but as I was fanning myself with your book, here, I actually saw a reference to dehydrated water on page 258. What survival items have improved the most since you started preparing for emergencies?
Barbara: I invented dehydrated water. In fact I sell bottles of the little blue tablets. You simple get a gallon jar or a bucket for a larger amount. Drop the tablet into the container and add sufficient water to fill the container. Don't overfill or you will waste the power of the tablet. New items? Hmmmm. Probably all of the dehydrated items you are supposed to cram into a tiny back pack for evacuation survival.
Shirley: I’m just going to sit down in the shade of this cact… ow! Ow! I think I sat on a cactus!
Barbara: Stand for a while, it may be less painful ... or not.
Shirley: You’re remarkably cool in the face of cacti spines and lack of civilization. What is the worst disaster you’ve been through?
Barbara: Reality and truthfulness here would indicate that I should tell you all about the terrible earthquake, or losing our business and not having money so many times ... but probably the very worst was the day that I discovered that my son had discovered the ten pound block of Ghirardelli chocolate that I had carefully disguised in my pantry. Now that was enough to make me cry.
Shirley: Your biography says you were the personal preparedness consultant for San Francisco, California, and are currently one for Sandy, Utah. Who do you consult with? In a nutshell, what does a preparedness consultant do?
Barbara:I try to convince all of the citizens that I am not a nutcake and they really do need to assume some responsibility for themselves. I have just written A Personal Preparedness disaster Planner for the city of Sandy. It will be sent to every household. I teach workshops for community groups in the city as well.
Shirley: Your book makes a great seat, by the way. Keeps out cactus spines and heat from the sand. How does this book differ from your previous best-sellers?
Barbara: It hasn't sold as many copies yet :] (Sorry I couldn't resist) It is the most comprehensive book that I have written. The others were written to a smaller area, such as grocery shopping buying power, or how to use dehydrated foods. This one covers the entire gauntlet of personal preparedness, so much more than just "food storage."
Shirley: Hey. I think I hear something. It sounds like… bells. Hm. Maybe I need a drink of water. Oh… thank you. You’re so prepared. I admire your organizational skills. Your book is so reader-friendly. How do you organize your information so well?
Barbara: It only took fifteen year of research and three years of constant writing. The organization just happens when I eat my chocolate. Actually it has become a habit, I start with file folders, constantly (I mean constantly) carry a pen and a pad of paper or notebook with me to jot thoughts and ideas on and then they are dropped into the category where they will fit ...or not.
Shirley: (looking side to side) I know I hear bells! They’re playing a tune! It’s getting louder… can you hear it? It’s very annoying, but familiar somehow… da-de-datity-da-dede…Look! Coming over that sand dune! (I stand up and shade my eyes to see better. Barbara is prepared with a wide brimmed shade hat, so she’s good.) It is! An ice cream truck! We’re saved! We can buy a Casco! (I stick my hands in my pockets and turn out empty liners.) Oh, no. I don’t have any money. I should have paid attention to Section One, Chapter Three, “Money Matters.” Who would have guessed I’d need money in a barren desert? What’s that shiny thing you’re holding? Money? You have enough for two? Aw, that’s great! I’m so glad you believe in sharing.
Barbara: I know I’m delusional now. I just heard the funniest word…sharing. (snicker, snicker.)
Shirley: Hey, I’ll tell you what… I’ll spring for hot chocolate when we meet in the tundra, okay?
Barbara: THANKS! I LOVE IT. Of course this may change people’s views of how serious a writer I am.
Shirley: It’s a deal, then.

Preparedness Principles
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort Inc. (August 1, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0882908065
ISBN-13: 978-0882908069 Sales Rank: #328,423 in Books

Friday, July 18, 2008

Caught In The Headlights - review

by Shirley Bahlmann
First of all, whoever thought up the great title gets a gold star.
This book has the great premise of examining things you think you want and putting them in such a light that you can finally see them in a different way, like the unglazed bottom of a beautiful, shiny pottery bowl. That dried clay is what it’s really made of. The subjects are as varied, and familiar, as success, happiness, and creating the perfect body, which are three of the ten values presented for in-depth discussion.
Phillips’ format is an unusual mix of instruction and light-hearted aside comments that put me in mind of a motivational speaker. At times the styles didn’t seem to mesh, but it was entertaining. He includes original cartoons, which actually touched my funny bone or gave me pause for introspection, and original poems, which did not. (No offense, Barry. Do like I did and get some lessons in meter from author Rick Walton, okay?)
This book, though small, (106 pages) is packed with information, more than my brain would hold in one reading. I recommend it be read slowly, perhaps even a chapter a week, in order to soak it all in. Also, since I was particularly drawn to certain chapters, such as Forgiveness and the serendipity analogy (well done, Barry!) I believe that this book would offer other favorite chapters if re-read at a future time. Basically, you’ll come away with what you need.
I also like the way the chapters are presented as “Pursuits,” followed by the “Lesson” and finally, “So, what do I do about it?” This is a very helpful format for readers like me who have a tendency to lose information on a previous page with a simple turn of a leaf.
To borrow a phrase from Barry, get your hands on this book, let the ideas work in your heart and mind, and “get peace quick.”

Shirley: Hey, Barry, thanks for zooming over to visit with me on this overpass. Um… don't you think your car is parked a little too close to the traffic lane? I'm pretty sure your side mirror just had a near death experience with a semi. Do you want to move it?
Barry: It'll be just fine. I keep spare mirrors in the trunk, just in case. Not to look at myself mind you, but I do have three teenage daughters… enough said.
Shirley: Your book covers a wide range of life changing topics. When did you get the idea to write this book?
Barry: A couple of years ago. The ideas just kept percolating until I just had to write it.
Shirley: You tell a lot of anecdotes from your own life. Did anyone take exception to having their name on the printed page?
Barry: Family members were a little nervous, I suppose. After all they know my personality – who could blame them. I didn't tell many people that I was actually writing the book. Forgiveness is always easier than permission! They were all okay in the end, so I've dodged that bullet, at least until the next book!
Shirley: Whoa. I think traffic is picking up. Watch your toes! It appears that you've done a lot of public speaking. Can you tell us a little about your background in communication?
Barry: Did you see that guy pointing at us from that convertible as it drove by? You'd think he had never seen two people standing on a freeway overpass before. Anyway, Communication… I've owned a training company and taught major corporations professional skills such as leadership, problem solving, and even public speaking. I've owned a computer magazine, and written for Glenn Beck's Fusion Magazine. I guess those all fit that bill.
Shirley: Hey, look, there's someone who just turned on their headlights. So where did you get your title?
Barry: Uhhhh… uhhhh… must… look… away… must… stop… staring… Whew! What was that? Oh, the title. It just came to me somehow.
Shirley: Whose idea was it to meet at the side of the highway, anyway? Oh… never mind… I just thought it was a fitting place for your book title. So, last of all, before total darkness falls, what do you hope to accomplish by putting this book out there?
Barry: First, I hope people are entertained. Next, I hope they can learn from what I've experienced and hopefully navigate through those issues a lot easier than they would have otherwise.
Shirley: Thank you so much for your time… oh, my goodness, isn't that your car merging into traffic? Who's at the wheel? Could that… no… those aren't… antlers, are they? I thought that buck was road kill.
Barry: They're here again? I thought they wouldn't follow me onto a freeway. That's why I met you here. Ever since this book got published, they just keep showing up. I thought they wanted a copy of the book, but it looks like they want my car!
Shirley: Come on, there's plenty of room to take you home in my armored tank. It merges like a dream. (Patting Barry's shoulder.) It's all right, Barry, put it in perspective, man. Cars aren't everything. And just think what it will mean to that deer's future. No longer to be caught in the headlights, now he'll be the one behind those twin eye-beams. It's a whole new life.

Caught in the Headlights
Trade Paperback: 116 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort (June 2008)
ISBN-10: 1599551675
ISBN-13: 978-1599551678

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Room For Two" - a very unusual love story

“Room for Two” by Abel Keogh is an unusual love story. Keogh has put his heart on the page in detailing his experience in dealing with his first wife’s suicide when she was pregnant with their first child.
In sharing his honest emotions of hurt, loss, anger, and love, he speaks to the soul of anyone touched by tragic loss. Walking readers through the deep grieving process and an uncertain search for someone new to love who will fit in his heart, Keogh gives readers hope for recovery.
Through his story, Keogh weaves in advice that applies toward almost every heartfelt relationship. His insights to eternal forgiveness and love will leave a deep impression on any seeking soul’s heart.

Shirley: Abel, thank you for meeting me at this quiet café in Paris. I think sometimes that removing yourself from the setting where a difficult event took place can make it easier to talk about.
Abel: Thanks for taking the time to interview me, Shirley. It’s great to be back in Europe.
Shirley: If you lean just so, you can even see the Eiffel Tower pointing toward Heaven. Do you mind sharing with us which of your beliefs has had the most power to carry you through the difficult time you went through during the time portrayed in your book?
Abel: Knowing that I still could see my late wife and infant daughter again was of great comfort during that time and still is to some extent. So many people lose a loved one and think they’ll never see that person again and spend the rest of their lives mourning. It’s great to know that if we live right, we can be together again in the next life.
Shirley: One thing you mentioned in your book is the feeling that if you’d followed certain promptings, you may have headed off the suicide. Has this affected your response to promptings you receive now?
Abel: I try to live my life in such a way that I’ll be more open and receptive to the promptings. I’m still not perfect and occasionally fail to heed one but I do much better now than I did seven years ago.
Shirley: I know it’s not the same relationship as yours, but when my uncle killed himself, I was heartbroken because he didn’t know how much I loved him. If he had, he would never have done it. What advice do you have for people who feel guilty over the death of a loved one?
Abel: Learn from the experience, move on, and don’t make the same mistake again. In your example, Shirley, if you have people that don’t know how much you love them, find a way to let them know how much they mean to you. Do it today if at all possible.
Shirley: That’s a very good idea. Oh, here comes the garcon with fresh, warm croissants. Merci. Mmmm, so warm, so simple, yet satisfying. Like good relationships. Pass the butter, please. Do you have any words of advice for those who live with a depressed person?
Abel: Give them the love and support they need. Help them see the problem and make positive changes in their life. If necessary, encourage and help them seek professional help.
Shirley: What would you say to someone who is currently contemplating suicide?
Abel: Reach out to someone and get help. Suicide doesn’t solve anything.
Shirley: What made you decide to write this book? Here, let me pour you some grape juice. It’s fresh squeezed… or stomped, whatever the case may be.
Abel: There were two motivations to write the book. The first was a lack of any compelling memoir about losing a spouse. I read, or tried to read, a lot of books about people who went through similar experiences and found them to be completely worthless. The second was that a lot of people who were reading my old blog – most of whom had not lost a spouse -- told me I had a story that could help and inspire a lot of people.
Shirley: Thank you, Abel. Your story certainly inspired me. This world is such a beautiful place when you can see beyond the hurt. Your book reached a part of me still sore from my uncle’s death, and helped me feel better.
Pardonnez moi, it’s time to catch my plane. Thanks to you and your wife for your willingness to share your story.
Abel: Au revoir.

Room for Two
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort (August 2007)
ISBN-10: 1599550628
ISBN-13: 978-1599550626 Sales Rank: #208,955

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Miss Utah Danced With My Boy

Kayla Barclay, Miss Utah 2009, (see pix) danced with my son in Show Choir last year. The song was "Accidentally in Love," from the movie "Shrek." When the choir director told Zack he didn't look like he was in love, Kayla spoke up. "I can teach him!"
That's just what Utah needs, a representative who's not only talented, but helpful, too!
She really is a sweet girl. She said "Hi!" to me in the store the other day, just because she saw me. She knew I didn't get a vote in the Miss Utah thing, but that didn't matter. That's just the kind of girl she is.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Your Friendly Neighborhood Straightjacket

by Shirley Bahlmann
Okay, so story ideas come from everywhere, right? Even a bunched up jacket.
I was not expecting the gray bundle of polar fleece on my back patio to be anything more than a forgotten jacket. But when I picked it up, I saw that it was circled around a couple of times with a jump rope and had a nubbin of fabric in front wrapped with duct tape.
"What's this?" I asked my 14-year-old.
He gave me a sideways glance and a mischievous grin. "A jacket."
I knew the ploy. "Yes, but why is it wrapped with rope and duct tape?"
"Because why?" (It really helps when you know all the right questions to ask. It wears down their defenses.)
"Because Jonathan (the 9-year-old kid next door) helped me tie up Michael (my 8-year-old son) and then we laid him on the neighbor's porch and rang the doorbell and ran."
"How did Michael like being tied up?"
"He was laughing, and he was saying 'you guys,' but he thought it was funny.'"
"What's the duct tape for?"
"We wrapped it around his hands."
"And who answered the door?"
"Melissa (a 12-year-old neighbor and Jonathan's big sister). She came running outside and the door closed behind her, so then I had to get a ladder and climb up to a window and open it, and it was scary because the ladder didn't quite reach and then I had to climb inside and walk through the house and let her back in."
Turns out this event happened last month. (Shows you how often I clear off the back patio. No pictures, please.)
The neighbors have since moved.
Can you blame them?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

No apartment? Thank goodness!

It would seem to be a bad thing when you drive a thousand miles to move into an apartment in your new town and are told, "You can't move in yet." Say, what?
It happened to my son, his wife, and their three children. At the time, it was next to tragic.
After a week of staying with his brother, my son's family moved into a smaller apartment... rent free. While living on free rent, my son found a job.
Now they are moving into the original sized apartment, 1 1/2 months rent free, complete with a paying job.
Thank goodness for the surprises in life.
That's the kind of thing that makes for good writing, too.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

For goodness' sakes, buy the lemonade already!

by Shirley Bahlmann
I was walking to the credit union when I saw a boy with a little card table, a pitcher of blue juice, and some styrofoam cups. I immediately pulled out a quarter and bought myself a cup of sugary drink that the boy had valiantly tried to keep cool under a black umbrella.
It's not that I wanted the drink. I prefer real fruit juice, especially cranberry or fresh squeezed lemonade. (Let me assure you, this was NOT cranberry OR real lemonade.) But that didn't matter. Every time I see a child trying to earn a living selling roadside drinks, I stop and buy one. I feel it's part of my mission on earth to make sure no child goes through the trauma of my childhood summer drink stand business. Oh, the horror. NO ONE STOPPED.
It probably didn't help that I set up in our front yard on a quiet street where we could play kickball for a whole afternoon and move aside for maybe one car and a bicycle. But I was in business, and I expected there to be business.
Then my big brother had a brilliant idea. We would offer free popcorn to everyone. Then, when they stopped to eat their free popcorn, they'd get thirsty and buy lemonade. How could it fail? My brother's best friend, Ronnie, even agreed to eat the popcorn to show passersby how good it was, and he was willing to do it for free.
So Ronnie started in on the popcorn, taking huge handfuls and opening his mouth wide whenever the occasional car rolled down our street, the driver peering distractedly at house numbers. Ronnie ate popcorn when there were no cars, too. He needed the practice. He did such a good job that he ate the whole bowl down to unpopped old maids.
That was when a big, black car stopped at the curb. My heart nearly stopped, too. I had a customer! A man in a suit got out of the car and walked across the sidewalk. "Would you like some free popcorn?" I asked, holding out the bowl.
The man looked at the wreckage Ronnie had left behind and said, "No, thanks. But I'd like a drink, please."
I grabbed the pitcher and a paper cup and poured him as much as I could fit without spilling over the sides. He handed me a dime, and I handed him his cup. He had to bend his head forward and drink some before he could turn and walk back to his car without spilling. As he left, I stared at him with adoring eyes. I have a very good memory, and I'm sure he was glowing as he got into his car and drove away.
That was my only paying customer in the lemonade stand business, and as such, he deserves a special place in heaven.
On my way back from the credit union, I bought another cup of blue drink from the boy with the umbrella. I had to. It was a very hot day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Me: J. Scott, thanks for meeting me here at the bottom of the lake in the Water Keep.
J. Scott: No problem. Hey, what are those things in your nose?
Me: Reeds.
J. Scott: What for?
Me: Breathing.
J. Scott: Ahem. We can breathe underwater here, you know.
Me: This is your fantasy, so you go ahead and breathe underwater all you want to. (I shuffle my waterproof notepad.) As for me, I'm sticking with my back up plan. You got a problem with that?
J. Scott: Well, you look like you have really long boogers…
Me: I've got claustrophobia, okay? Now do you want to be interviewed or not?
J. Scott: Of course.
Me: Okay. Let's get down to business. First of all, I use a variety of bookmarks, from official ones to toilet paper squares. It was the strangest thing, but the longest lasting bookmark while reading your book was a receipt for 10 gallons of water for my son's aquarium. Do you think that's a sign?
J. Scott: No silly. It’s a bookmark. A sign is big and often metal or wood. Unless it was a really small sign it would never fit into a book. Weird coincidence though.
Me: So where did you get the idea for Farworld? Did you wet the bed as a child or something?
J. Scott: As a child? I mean, no. Of course not. And even if I did, I don’t now. At least not recently. Although I just finished going to Disneyland and I may have had a small accident on the Tower of Terror. Here’s a thought though. Would you know if you had wet the bed in a city of water? Actually, the idea for Farworld came from a short story beginning I wrote several years ago in which a wizard and a warrior go in search of a young boy who is about to be attacked by undead creatures. Or maybe it was about a girl who falls madly in love with a vampire. Something like that. Shirley, please tell me those bubbles coming from behind you were from a fish.
Me: That's beside the point, and besides, there are fish all around us. OF course it was a fish. Your hero is not a fish, but it's intriguing that your hero is crippled. I've been trying to imagine how he gets around. Can you explain it, or is that left to the fertile imagination of the reader?
J. Scott: I assume you mean when he is not in his wheelchair. I actually got a lot of great advice on this from our good friend Kerry Blair. I assumed he would crawl on his knees, but Kerry pointed out that people in wheelchairs usually scoot on their rears because it is less painful.
Me: There's a fish on your head. No, don't slap it! There. It's gone. (snort)
J. Scott: What did you say?
Me. Nothing. Just clearing my throat for the next question.
J. Scott: No. You were laughing. What's so funny?
Me: You really want to know?
J. Scott: Yes.
Me: It's just that when you scream underwater, you sound like a girl.
J. Scott: Some fish have big, sharp teeth, you know.
Me. Okay, okay. Now tell me about the name of your group of villains. Thrathkin S'Bae. What does that mean? What is "S'Bae" a contraction for?
J. Scott: There they go again. Those bubbles. You know this is a family event. Try to contain yourself. That fish is gone right? Cause I thought I felt something on the back of my neck. Thrathkin S’Bae are evil wizards who are part of The Dark Circle. We’ll learn more about them in future books. Bonesplinter is a Thrathkin S’Bae. One of the coolest parts of writing a fantasy (as you well know) id coming up with great creatures. Some of mine had self-explanatory names like the mimicker and the unmakers. Others needed something different like the Nazgul in LOTR. It took my a while to come up with Thrathkin S’Bae, But I liked the way it rolled off the tongue once I got it. They even have their own language.
Me: Your story has an amazing variety of settings, from desert to water and places in between. Did you plan that? Or did it happen as Marcus pulled you along on his adventures?
J. Scott: It totally took on a mind of it’s own. The book honestly ended up being nearly 40,000 words more than I expected. But I had so much fun discovering it along with Marcus and Kyja. I’m hard at work on book 2, and there are even cooler places coming. Like trees that make you an emotional wreck and creatures that fly through the ground.
Me: You say that the two worlds must be balanced – that if one person moves to the other world, someone from the other world must be exchanged. Is it required that the people be the same age, or could, say, a child be exchanged for an old geezer like you?
J. Scott: Okay who invited you to this party anyway? First you insinuate I have urinary issues, then you tell me I scream like a girl, and now you make fun of my age. I’d boot you out of here if I didn’t need the publicity. Well that and you’re kind of cute. There are a lot of things for readers yet to discover about the balance between Farworld and Earth. Much more than you’d expect. Some of those things are hinted at in book one, but a lot of what readers will learn may surprise them. Let’s just say this wasn’t a random switch.
Me: (absently pushing away a bit of seaweed floating by my face while I scribble on my waterproof paper.) The Unmaker creatures in the mountain cave are pretty creepy. Do you think it would be safe to say that those monsters could make the jump into homes that have TV's running all day long? I mean, isn't that pretty much like staring into nothingness? Do you think those people would be safer if they spent their leisure time with, say, a good book?
J. Scott: Oh, most definitely. Tell me you can’t feel your will to live getting sucked in by that big flashing screen.
Me: Ew. There's seaweed brushing my leg.
J. Scott: Maybe that's your leg hair.
Me: Ha, ha. Very funny. Just pay attention to the questions, okay?
J. Scott: Sorry.
Me: Since this book is "Water Keep," may your readers assume that your next books are going to be about earth, air, and fire?
J. Scott: Great guess. In fact, this will blow you away, but the titles of books two, three, and four are Land Keep, Air Keep, and Fire Keep. I’m still working on the title for book five. What do you think about Shirley Bahlmann and the Goblet of Seawater?
Me: Yeah! I really like that. It has bestseller potential. Kind of like your little creature, the endearing skyte, Riff Raff. He adds a great element of levity, then he comes in pretty handy at the end. Was he perhaps patterned after some charming blue pet you once owned?
J. Scott: No. But he is absolutely the pet I would have wanted if given the choice. I would so totally have had him blow fireballs at some of the bullies in my school!
Me: Augh, what is with all this seaweed? Can someone get me a seaweed whacker? (Shoving it away, I fix Scott with a hypnotic eye) Would you be opposed to a mind probe?
(J. Scott stiffens and his eyes go glassy, staring into mine as he shakes his head slowly from side to side.)
Me: It's just a painless little procedure so I can get a sneak peek into what's coming up for your next book. I'll give your readers the greatest scoop on the planet. Bwa-ha-ha… ah! Pesky seaweed! Get away from me! Where is all this coming from? It's on both sides now – ahhh! Get away! Wait a minute… that's not seaweed… it's tentacles! J. Scott, help me! Don't just sit there staring at me with a goofy grin on your face! Get this octopus off my head! It's not a good look for me. Besides, it's taking my paper mmfmpfmpf.
-End interview-
As gallant as our J. Scott is, he had just enough presence of mind to hit himself on the head with a medium sized clam, breaking his trance, then laughed himself silly at the sight of his pet octopus sitting like a hat on my head. I think he had tears in his eyes, but it was hard to tell underwater.
Since he eventually helped me back to the surface where I could get to my laptop, I'll go ahead and give you a review of his fantasy book, "Farworld: Water Keep." But because he laughed at me, I'm going to tell you… when J. Scott laughs underwater, he laughs like a girl.

Farworld: Water Keep
By J. Scott Savage

It's hard enough to be a hero, but when you're a hero in a wheelchair, the bad guys aren't the least bit intimidated. But if you can turn yourself into a shadow and get past them without being noticed, then they're like, "Whoa! Cool!" But they try to kill you anyway.
In J. Scott Savage's "Farworld: Water Keep," an orphan boy named Marcus (good name, by the way. I personally know a pretty spectacular Marcus Bahlmann) is busy evading bullies at a boys' home when a really bad grownup bully, bad enough to turn into a snake when he's angry, shows up to claim Marcus.
Marcus has such a bad feeling about the whole road trip thing that this creepy guy has in mind that Marcus uses the excuse of needing to potty (a hard one to argue with) and manages to escape through a bathroom window, of all things. His heroic effort comes to naught because he's captured anyway, and just when he's getting an up close and personal view of the snake man's tonsils, a girl named Kyja yanks Marcus away to another world.
It turns out that Kyja is his same age, but they share a more striking connection. During a terrible, world-changing battle, wizardry had to exchange two children in order to save one's life. Once the crisis was over, the wizard couldn't figure out how to trade them back, so he is amazed at Kyja's ability to bring Marcus back to Farworld. (But, hey, she's a girl. The rest of us females fully understand her awesome power.)
So, in order to defeat evil, Marcus and Kyja must help band the elements of water, earth, fire, and air together. In this wide-ranging adventure that ultimately brings us to the Water Keep, we experience differences as varied as the hot, dry Arizona desert to the Keep's wet and misty walls, so thick with water that you can't see a person standing right next to you. It turns out that the water folk don't see any reason to help the humans until one of them is kidnapped.
I know you don't want me to spoil the end of this captivating fantasy, which leaves you breathless with a satisfying conclusion, as well as a skilled opening for Book #2. (Will that be earth, air or fire? I wonder.)
Savage has spun a tale of high adventure with unique characters that are easy to care about or despise (depending on whether they can turn into snakes or not.) He takes you to lots of imaginative places before you even get to the Water Keep, so it's like you're on five different fantasy vacations, one right after the other. And by the time you close the back cover and return to your ordinary, every day home, you're going to want to book your next vacation in Savage's upcoming sequel.
Write on, J. Scott.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Okay, I just can't believe it. Not a single person guessed that my new office is in the refrigerator! It's not so far-fetched. Some fridge's are nearly as big as my new office digs.
It was interesting to discover that a lot of guesses were places I have either used or thought of using. The tree house was a good idea (mosquitoes kept me away), the dining room, kitchen, closet (lovely mental picture there; quiet, smells good, and not a high traffic area), and the laundry room, where I could write in a thumpa-thumpa rhythm to the washing machine. But most of the guesses were for...can you believe it? The bathroom! Where in the bathroom could I sit myself down to write? Did you ever consider that? Uh, never mind. The bathroom, of all places. You guys know me too well. You're right.
How did this happen? It's my fault, really. When we discovered that our upstairs shower was leaking, Bob tried some fixes that didn't work. So I got antsy one day and hammered out the tiles in the floor. Turns out the installer, bless his pointed little ears, had put linoleum down as an anti-leak lining. Take my word for it... it doesn't work. I had terrible anxiety over getting the thing fixed, until I gradually realized that no one cared about it except me.
I'd still like to fix the shower, but overall remodeling needs to be planned first, and since Michael recently made a haul on our neighbor's after-yard sale freebies, I needed to move out of his room. the shower provides a nice, cozy corner, and sitting in there with my laptop removes some of my anxiety to get it fixed RIGHT NOW!
I decided to draw for the bathroom-guesser-winner (if anyone would have been more specific and guessed, "shower," they would have won, hands-down.) The name drawn out by my impartial Michael-Man (if he were partial, he would have drawn his big brother's or sister-in-law's name) is... Gloria VanHorn! (Applause all around. Hey, stop booing, you sore losers!)
The rest of you can run right out and buy a copy of "Water Keep" as soon as it comes out this fall.
Keep your pen clean.


How did you come up with the title for your book? It’s so fitting.

Elizabeth Cheever, my co-author, initially came up with Refiner’s Fire part. I liked it but it seemed to be incomplete. One morning I puttering around the house taking of things and the whole came into my mind. It really does fit the process we go through. The forging process burns away all the imperfections and dross leaving beautiful, shiny, valuable gold. That is what mortality is all about, burning away our weaknesses and imperfections and rejoicing in the perfection which remains.

What inspired you to collect stories of hardship people have had in their lives?

Both Elizabeth and I have undergone a number of trials in our lives, as has everyone. There were times when I literally felt as if I would drown in the fear. But always, if I could find a quiet hospital corner and prayer, the tremendous comfort and peace which would envelop me was amazing. I am a firm believer that we are given our obstacles, trials and tragedies so that we not only learn from them, but also share those experiences with others that they might be uplifted and strengthened in their own journeys.

Was it difficult to get people to share stories so up close and personal to them?

Not really. Elizabeth and I sent emails out to everyone we knew, and asked them to forward them across the world, asking for stories that fit a particular criteria. In other words, the people who had worked their way through the darkness to come to the light on the other side. The purpose of the book was to help others to understand they are not alone.

How do you think that people who shared their stories benefited from telling them?

You know, that’s an interesting question and one I hadn’t thought of. For myself, I know there is a general catharsis when my trial becomes the written word. Somehow, some way, it is my hope that my trial and the lessons learned have given others the strength and courage to go on. That alone gives me a measure of peace and strength. So I guess it my hope that this very same phenomena for each of the other people who shared their stories.

How has compiling these stories effected you?

In all honesty, I was blown away. For instance, although Hazel would disagree, Hazel’s story of the horse rearing up and falling backwards on her, crushing her pelvis, made me stop and say: “Okay, my life just isn’t that hard. Holy cow!” Oddly enough, Hazel, upon reading the other stories said the exact same thing. So for me, they have given me strength, courage and knowledge. Each of these people shared how they overcame their trials and within the pages of this book are suggestions, woven in and out of the stories, to overcoming your own trials. The first thing, and most important, is to lift that load off your shoulders and turn it over to the Savior. Not an easy thing to do. When that advice was given to me in a priesthood blessing I puzzled for several days trying to figure out how to do that. Then it came into my mind to picture my troubles and woes as a huge, heavy overcoat literally drowning me. I then allowed the Savior, as any good gentleman would do, to lift that coat from my shoulders, along with all my troubles and worries, at place it on His own. Rather simplistic, but it worked.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from people who’ve read your book? Has it changed anyone’s view of the Savior?

I’ve received a number of emails, and certain a number of reviews have mentioned this as well, how the people who shared their stories in this book has literally changed their lives. For some it helped me to see what was holding them back and they shook that burden off and started moving forward. For others in the midst of great trials it gave them hope to know they were not alone in their suffering. And for yet others, it inspired them to greater heights. All of these emails and comments have lightened my heart tremendously. For the greatest mission I have is to testify of the Savior’s love, strength, courage and loyalty to each of the children of God. It is my hope that this book portrayed that adequately.

Do you plan a sequel?

Yes, it is called “No Pressure, No Diamonds.” Anyone who is interested in contributing a story should read “Forged in the Refiner’s Fire” and then email me their story at Elizabeth and I will go over all the stories and choose the ones that best fit the message of “No Pressure, No Diamonds.”

“Forged in the Refiner’s Fire”, along with my others, can be purchased at

Have you ever had days...weeks...years... when you think nothing is going right? Do you ever look up at the Heavens, clench your fists, and cry, "Why me?"
"Forged in the Refiner's Fire" is a collection of essays by people who've been, there, done that, and later found the gem hidden in the midst of their trial. You have to dig a ditch to get water to the crops, you have to suffer growing pains to become an adult, you have to sweat to strengthen your muscles.
So when those trials come, pick up this book and find friends who know what you're going through. Take the lessons already learned, and thank God for your trials.