30 June 2008

For the Love of Reading

Based on the recent hours I’ve spent putting books on Shelfari, I was ready to claim I’d read way more than the average Blair. That’s probably true, but I must also admit that the incredible person who put together Provo Library’s summer reading list has me beat all hollow. I do believe she’s read everything I have and then some. The nicest thing about her list – and the reason I mention it here – is that she included Digging Up the Past, a book I co-wrote with my sister-in-law Christine Wolfe.

You can read the librarian’s brief description and kind recommendation HERE, along with a long list of other great books to check out. (Literally.) But be sure you come back when you’re done, because I have a surprise for you. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Back already? Great! Since Digging Up the Past is out-of-print, you’ll have to search for it in libraries, at DI, or buy it used from an online bookseller. OR you can read it on your very own computer by visiting my new website! Go to my dot-net address and click on the “Fun Stuff” page. Next click on the cover of the book and it will link you to yet another site where you will right-click for a free download. (It sounds complicated, but it’s really easy.) The book’s all there with Chris’s and my compliments. If you like it, we’d love to hear from you!

25 June 2008

I've Got Mail!

I get a couple dozen notes each week from wonderful people who have read one of my books or stumbled across a story I have out on the Web somewhere. It never ceases to amaze and humble me that there are so many folks who are kind, inspired, and all-around good enough to take the time to send words of encouragement to a total stranger. Turns out, as one woman pointed out this week, there aren’t many people around stranger than me.

She was referring, not to my ramblings about the Day of the Dead, nor the photo shoot at the cemetery, but to the fact that I hug pit bulls. (In my defense, I don't throw my arms around any old pit bull; I wait to be properly introduced first.) She added that she hoped I kept the “beast” well-chained and outdoors. Well . . . Bandi owns six or eight lovely collars, but I have yet to buy her a gold or silver chain. Something to consider for sure. Outdoors won't work for us, though. To keep Bandi outside, I'd have to move out her bed, toy basket, and "dining room" suite -- not to mention the couch, loveseat, and my bed. Too much redecorating, for sure.

Anyway, welcome to my new Wednesday feature! Since almost half of everybody who writes point out that I practically never update my website or post new entries on my blog, I am hereby repenting. My new goal is this: Mondays I will post a new blog. (Please note that I already started this week!) On Wednesdays I’ll continue “I’ve Got Mail!” in which I’ll share my most interesting note of the week and/or answer a question I’m asked by a reader. On Fridays you can find me, as always, over on Six LDS Writers and a Frog, but maybe I will move those posts here as well.

As for the website . . . ta da! (Or however you spell the Americanization of the French voila.) I have a new-and-not-necessarily-improved website up this very minute. You can find it HERE. I am still in the process of transferring things from the old site, so you can still find that one HERE. I sent it out to a small target audience who said it “made her kinda dizzy.” Just what I was going for! Colors . . . pictures . . . confusion . . . welcome to my world! The website is a little dizzy-making, for sure, but I think that’s what makes it so me. Still, if you hate it, write and let me know. Not only do I need new material for next week, but I cheerfully solicit advice on everything. Well, everything except dog ownership!

23 June 2008

Fire, Love & Magick

Tonight is Midsummer’s Eve. I have just enough Celtic blood in me to not only know this, but to have anticipated the date for weeks.

Midsummer observances pre-date Christianity in celebrating life, love, and light. It is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. (Yes, I know that June 24th is no longer the first day of summer, nor the longest day according to our calendars, but that’s because the astronomical solstice changes approximately three days every four centuries. So, while our calendars have been updated, thanks largely to Pope Gregory, the date of the celebration has remained the same.) It has been observed in many ways over the years – pagan and Christian – by many different cultures. My ancestors likely marked the date in the Middle Ages by tending bonfires on the hilltops. During the Renaissance I hope they traveled to (or performed in!) Midsummer Carnivals of music, dance, storytelling, and fireworks.

A 13th Century text explains the three-fold focus of Midsummer: Fire, love, and magick wreathe ‘round this time of year. How true that is, even in 2008.

Perhaps as a writer my imagination is especially vivid, but I lay on the grass at dusk this evening, watching the soft glow of porch lights coming on in the distance, and imagining my grandsires in Ireland and Brittany lighting bonfires that could be seen for miles. When the fires were well-lit, they took brands from the flames and walked with them through their fields to ensure fertility. Likely most of them believed their crops would fail if their Midsummer bonfires did.

Since my garden is doing more poorly than I would like, don’t think I didn’t consider the ancient custom more carefully than I probably ought to. Unfortunately, in the time and place in which I reside, a permit is required for a bonfire. (Not only that, but the heat would have given me pause even if the local ordinance didn’t.) Instead, I bought new a string of patio lights in fiery oranges, reds, and yellows and hung them well within view of my struggling cucumbers and tomatoes. In the gentle breeze, the bulbs seem to sway like the flames of a fire, so I hope it will suffice. If nothing else, the warmth it gives the hearth I hold dear is at least metaphorical if not actual.

As Shakespeare observed, Midsummer has long been very much a time of romance. Perhaps one of my many-great grandsires pledged his troth at a summer bonfire by leaping the flames to claim the hand of the woman he loved. Perhaps a grandmother whose name is lost to me until the millennium placed flowers under her pillow on Midsummer Eve to ensure dreams of her one true love – the man with whom she would continue the posterity that eventually led to dreamy, romantic little me.

It is said that divining rods cut on this night are infallible, that dew gathered on Midsummer morn bestows second sight, and that dreams that come between midnight and the dawn are most likely to come true. My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother almost certainly believed that a plant plucked at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve, or noon on Midsummer’s Day, had twice the aroma, taste, and medicinal power. I suspect there is little scientific data to back this up, but I have been dutifully tending my parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, and lavender nonetheless. No blade has touched their tender stalks. I’ve been waiting patiently to pluck a bit of each tomorrow at mid-day. (True, harvesting by moonlight does seem ever so much more romantic but, alas, I struggle to keep my eyes open after ten.) On Midsummer I will do as I fancy many of my foremothers did before me: gather my homegrown herbs with a prayer of thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth and the loving care of He who created and sanctified it. Truly, there is no greater, or older, magic in the world than this. Then I will preserve the plants carefully with the heartwarming knowledge that they will bless my family in coming months, if only in their tempting taste and soothing scents.

Like many of you, I love any excuse to deviate from modern madness; any reason to read of the past, imagine my progenitors in it, and devise ways to honor them through remembrance. Thus, Midsummer’s Eve is one of my all-time favorite days. (I consider it an added bonus that Hallmark doesn’t yet sell cards to commemorate the occasion!) There is too little love, magic, and fire of Elijah extant in the world, if you ask me. Here’s to rekindling what we can from this Midsummer’s Day forward!

10 June 2008


LDS Fiction, a sister-site of LDS Publisher, started a Summer Book Trek. I'm not sure where we're going, but judging by the umbrella and the book, it's going to be a (beach) ball getting there! Here's my initial list, but don't hold me to it. I'll probably add a dozen more before August. (At least.)

Farworld: Water Keep ~ J. Scott Savage (ARC)
A Modest Proposal ~ Michele Ashman Bell
Shadow of the Crown ~ Jeri Gilchrist
Journey of the Heart ~ W. Dave Free
All's Fair ~ Julie Coulter Bellon

09 June 2008

I Won!

Finding myself with 3 1/2 minutes of spare computer time this weekend, I spent it over on Karlene Browning's INKSPLASHER blog. (Love that place!) She was taking votes for the fabulous UB fragrance to wear on a cross-country trip that started today. You know me -- I have an opinion on everything, so I simply had to urge her to wear my personal favorite. These were the choices:

1. Sunshine and Pomegranate—
Grapefruit 2, Mandarin 1, Pomegranate 1. This smells like sunshine. It's sweet and fun and very fruity. I nicknamed it "I Died and Went to Heaven." I've burned it in my oil warmer a LOT.

2. Summerhaven—Pomegranate 4, Grapefruit 8, Cinnamon 1. This one is similar to the first fragrance but the cinnamon gives it a little depth and mystery. It also has more grapefruit (which makes people think you look 10 years younger). I wear this fragrance a lot and it never fails to make me smile.

3. Maui Pear—
Pina Colada 2, Pear 1, Coconut 3. McKenna was wearing this one day and I wanted to lick her arm. It smells so good and reminds me of the beach. When I burn this in my warmer it makes me want to dance.

I almost chose Summerhaven because of the ten-years-younger thing, but my heart has been yearning for the beach so I picked Maui Pear. Honestly, I didn't realize it was a contest, but it
was, and I WON it! (Insert applause.)

No, I don't know
what I won, but I won something and I'm thrilled. Being the type that fills out every entry slip at the County Fair, rushes home with bottle tops in hand to log on for cash and/or merchandise, and carefully considers every offer from Mr. Abdul Shimerwhymererken of the little-known country of Abduristan, you'd think I'd be buried alive in cash and merchandise by now. But, no. I do believe this is the first contest I've ever won. Wow.

You can win, too! Karlene has lots more going on over there. Check it out.