Thursday, April 22, 2010

The, liberal agenda

I received this via e-mail this morning:

"This clip is about as blatant as a Liberal can get. What she said was The Truth, accidentally, and notice that when she realized what she revealed to the public and the news media, it stopped her dead in her own tracks for a long moment. BUT -- it was too late.

Just hope the country wakes up in the 2010 elections!!!... She leaked out: Obama's Scary Agenda."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Want to live longer?

I found this article on-line this morning and thought I'd share.

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's been known that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a longer life expectancy, but even researchers are surprised at how much longer Church members live than the general population.

Researchers at UCLA are constantly reviewing data from a 25-year-long survey that followed actively-practicing LDS Church members in California starting in late 1979.

Professors James Enstrom and Lester Breslow found that members who don't smoke, attend church weekly, have 12 years of education and are married had the lowest total death rates and the longest life expectancies ever documented.

"The life expectancy for the males was 84 years, and for the females it was 86 years," Enstrom said.

That's more than five years longer for women and nearly 10 years longer for man than the national average.

Enstrom says Church members have been hearing this for a long time, but the rest of the world hasn't as much.

"None of this had ever been done in a scientific journal until I started working on it in the ‘70s," he said.

Enstrom says he expected a lack of cigarette smoking to be the biggest reason for the longer life expectancy, but he says that would only add a few years to someone's life.

Both authors believe the findings suggest a model for substantial disease prevention in the general population.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Transform Your Loss

I was recently asked if I would read and then write a review of Ligia B. Houben's new book, Transform Your Loss - Your Guide to Strength and Hope.

As the title suggests the book deals with how to cope with loss in any of its many forms. She has degrees in Psychology and Religious Studies from the University of Miami. She did graduate studies in Gerontology and Loss and Healing. As a certified thanatologist and a certified grief counselor, she is very qualified to discuss the issues of loss and how to overcome.

The book starts off with Ligia explaining the various types of losses that people suffer: loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health, divorce, etc. A large portion of the book retells the stories of those that have suffered a loss and how they learned to cope and overcome.

Ligia includes practical exercises for the reader to complete.

There is much to like about Transform Your Loss. I enjoyed reading real experiences from real people. It gives the feeling of being in a large group therapy meeting and could encourage those struggling to actually go and find a group meeting for strength and support.

The book was originally written in Spanish. Additionally, it is self published. If I have any areas to cite that I didn't like, it was the utter lack of editing. typos, and misplaced words that can be found every few pages. If I was reading the book to help me I might overlook the frequent misuses of the English language. However, reading it as a critique the frequent errors were a challenge.

If you would like more information about the author or the book please go here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Write what you know

The subject of today’s missive is the old axiom, “Write what you know.” Every writer has probably heard this phrase hundreds of time. In fact, if you Google the phrase you will find hundreds of people that have written on the subject before me. So why discuss something that is so basic and so obvious to every writer? Because it really is THAT important.

You may ask, “But I write fantasy, or science fiction, or whatever. I’ve never lived on another world with dragons, elves, or possibly spaceships and extraterrestrials. I can’t be held to the same standard right?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes, you must write what you know, ALWAYS, regardless of genre.”

In Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings many of the themes he wrote about are unmistakable. J.R.R. Tolkien fought in WWI, and wrote much of the manuscript during WWII. Having elves, dwarves, and humans fighting alongside each other taught several lessons on tolerance, as these races typically didn’t like or trust each other. Obviously, there are significant religious undertones as well, with Gandalf being a Christ like figure, complete with a death and resurrection. Despite writing about different races that we’ve never met, elves, dwarves, orcs, dragons, etc., Tolkien wrote what he knew as there was deep symbolism behind his writing that he understood very well.

I recently wrote a book review where I have firsthand experience about the themes the author discussed. Though the trials and conflicts that she described did not happen the same way that mine did, I could feel the truth of her words. Small details, like a surgeon will want to wait a few days after a person has had a heart attack to perform open heart surgery were very realistic.

I wrote a story that included two young men sparring with wooden practice swords. One combatant strikes the other on the arm and breaks it. Later on in my life, I unfortunately shattered my elbow and completely sheared off the radial head.

About a month after this experience I went back and rewrote that scene so that the person’s elbow got shattered in the sparring match. I know a lot about that. I know what the rehab is like. I know that when you squeeze your hand into a fist and the bone next to your elbow juts out hard against your skin that you should be very worried. I know what it feels like to shatter an elbow. Long story short, I have never sparred with another person with wooden practice swords. However, back in my youth I got into a few fights and know what those are like and I also know what a broken elbow is like. I wrote about that.

I attended a writers’ conference a few years ago and listened to a presenter say, “Your experience is the lens that you see life through…learn to write from your inner core of strength…Write from your places of pain. Write about a difficult and emotionally painful experience. Write everything, and then write how you got through it. Put your fear and joy into your writing…You need to be willing to say, ‘I don’t care if others laugh at my pain.’ When you put honesty into your writing the reader will sense it. When you write with honesty your words have power.”

A while back I read a book that had a fair amount of conflict and suffering in it, most books do. However, at the end of the book, I was left with the distinct impression that the author had lived a relatively charmed life. I envied the author in that regard. However, it made the book difficult to read, and even more difficult to believe. There were clearly good guys and bad guys in the story. The good guys were always happy, in fact, sometimes downright giddy in the middle of conflict. The protagonist discovered his father had been murdered in a brutal way. He also knew that his life would be forfeit if he were caught, so he was running for his life. While running he had flashbacks to pleasant childhood memories with a friend. He subsequently hid in a rock for the night where by all accounts, he had about the best night’s sleep he ever had. I was left scratching my head.

Here’s the thing, and it’s important, so please keep reading. The author was actually very good in many aspects of writing. There were times when I marveled at the author’s ability to string words together. Unfortunately, the writer just didn’t understand suffering or grief.

Write what you know. If you have lived a pleasant life devoid of anguish, go find someone that has. Listen to his or her stories and understand their emotions, feel them. Alternatively, write non-fiction.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Heroes - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego

From a April 2004 General Conference talk by Elder Dennis E. Simmons

Centuries ago, Daniel and his young associates were suddenly thrust from security into the world—a world foreign and intimidating. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow down and worship a golden image set up by the king, a furious Nebuchadnezzar told them that if they would not worship as commanded, they would immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”

The three young men quickly and confidently responded, “If it be so [if you cast us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand.” That sounds like my eighth-grade kind of faith. But then they demonstrated that they fully understood what faith is. They continued, “But if not, … we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” That is a statement of true faith.

They knew that they could trust God—even if things didn’t turn out the way they hoped. They knew that faith is more than mental assent, more than an acknowledgment that God lives. Faith is total trust in Him.

Faith is believing that although we do not understand all things, He does. Faith is knowing that although our power is limited, His is not. Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego knew they could always rely on Him because they knew His plan, and they knew that He does not change. They knew, as we know, that mortality is not an accident of nature. It is a brief segment of the great plan of our loving Father in Heaven to make it possible for us, His sons and daughters, to achieve the same blessings He enjoys, if we are willing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Thorn

Today, I have the pleasure of being part of Daron Fraley’s virtual blog tour. His book, The Thorn has just been published by Valor Publishing Group.

Typically, when doing a blog tour I give you my two cents about the book. However, I’m going to depart from that and give you a chance to get to know the author a little better. There are several other writers that are a part of this blog tour that will tell you about the book and what they think of it. A complete list of those on the tour can be found here. To find reviews that have already been given describing the book please go here, here, or here.

Now that we’ve gotten the formalities out of the way let’s get to know Daron a little better shall we?

ME - When the reader finishes the last chapter, what do you hope is going through their mind?

DARON - My hope is that the reader will feel the emotions which I attempt to portray in the final scene. But so that I don't give away the ending of the book, I will leave it at that. After the reader has finished, perhaps a few days or so, I hope the reader will still be thinking about the characters and looking forward to seeing more of their story in the next volume of the series.

ME - Is there a part of the book that you like most?

DARON - That is a really tough question. I am not sure I could pick just one place in the book. But, I do have a few favorite chapters. Those are usually the ones with the strongest chapter endings which drive the story forward. And I do hope that the last chapter grabs the imagination of my readers.

ME - I read on your website that you spent some time in France and honed your cooking skills there. Your book has frequent scenes where the consumption of food is front and center. How good of a cook are you? What is your favorite meal?

DARON - Ha! You made me laugh with that question. Yes, I suppose food is a frequent theme in the book. I hadn't noticed that before, but since you point it out...

I will try to be modest here. OK, maybe I won't. I make a mean pumpkin pie, from scratch. I cook the pumpkin. I make the crust. My family is quite pleased with my Garlic Chicken Alfredo, Stuffed Pork Loin with Peppercorn Sauce, Pot Roast, Chicken Avocado Pitas, Apple Pie, Stir Fry, Chimichangas, Gravy (chicken or beef). At Thanksgiving, I do the turkey, the stuffing, the pies, and the gravy. My wife does everything else. She is a great cook, but her specialty is desserts. I can cook most things quite well, but I have had a few flops. Borscht was my most notorious disaster. The family still talks about it.

I am proud to be a Gourmand.

ME - With six children, when do you find time to write?

DARON - I don't deal well with the noise, so my best writing happens between 10 p.m. and midnight.

ME - Are you able to write in a noisy environment or how do you seclude yourself to get the creative juices flowing?

DARON - I refer you to the previous answer. Wow. Teenagers are terribly noisy, aren't they? We try to have family prayer, then I tell them it is quiet time, and I shut the door. It takes me a little bit of time to get going, and I get my jump-start by reading.

ME - What is the next project you are working on?

DARON - I am currently working on "Heaven's Garden" book two of "The Chronicles of Gan". There will be pain. Suffering. Suffering is instructive, is it not? I am an evil author. Muhahahaha.

ME - Any words of wisdom you have to share with other aspiring writers?

DARON - Yeah. WRITE. And never give up. Also, read all you can. There is nothing wrong with writing purely for pleasure. But if you have a desire to be published, prepare yourself to work hard at it. If you think writing a novel is hard, just wait until you have to edit the novel a dozen times. Don't let the promise of dedication and work dissuade you, however. It is worth it!

Dan, thank you for taking the time to have this chat!

Thank you Daron for giving us a chance to get to know you better, best of luck with the book.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Thorn you can get it here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Heroes; 3 Nephi 1

4 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.
5 But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
6 And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.
7 And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.
8 But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.
9 Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.

(3 Nephi 1: 4-9)

The scriptures are full of experiences where the believers were willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives if need be, in order to worship as they saw fit.

The passage of scripture above is just one instance of this, but it happens to be one of my favorites. From what I glean from the scriptures, Samuel the Lamanite, made a one-time visit to preach repentance to the Nephites. As he called the people to repentance, he discussed the sign that would be given of the Savior’s impending birth:
1 And now it came to pass that Samuel, the Lamanite, did prophesy a great many more things which cannot be written.
2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.
3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
4 Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
5 And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.

Five years later, the non-believers began to rejoice because they believed the time had come and gone, and there wasn’t any sign. They put a date on their calendar to kill the believers if the sign didn’t arrive. We know that the Mayans had a calendar that far outlasted their civilization. In fact, it’s still good for about another two years. I’ve frequently suspected that the day they were going to kill the believers was exactly five years to the date from when Samuel gave his prophecy.

What extraordinary faith the believers must’ve had. How easy it would’ve been for them to say, “You know, we really didn’t know this Samuel guy so well. Perhaps we can say we’re still believers but save our lives by denying his prophecy.”

Clearly, their faith wasn’t built on Samuel though. It was built on the Savior. They had been taught that salvation came through Him and no one else. It was that firm belief/knowledge that helped them face this ultimate test of their faith.

I’m looking forward to this weekend’s conference and the chance it will give me to listen to the words of prophets, general authorities, and other inspired church leaders. I too hope to have the faith necessary to see me through life’s challenges.