Tuesday, July 18, 2017

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writing life: power in observation

Recently, I have been inspired by other home educating Mamas who have sough to improve their ability to do something simply by growing their ability to observe.

One Mama went from drawing a basic line drawing with some rudimentary shading to drawing a very lifelike image of the same thing a few months later. She simply grew her power of observation between the first and last efforts.

Isn't that amazing?! And what a lesson!

More than likely, any of us could grow in any number of abilities and do a great many more things by simply growing our ability to observe. There is power in observation!

There are some folks, like me, that require some explanation of things to really grasp them. For instance, I might see the same thing over and over, yet without a verbal explanation of it (if it's one of the skills that I have difficulty with, especially), I may not comprehend how to replicate what I have clearly seen! I can usually even describe what I've seen, but it's like there is a disconnect between that and comprehending HOW to do it myself.

My eldest daughter is not like me. She can watch something done a few times and then almost perfectly do it herself thereafter. What a gift!

Which are you? Or somewhere in between? Have you ever learned to do something simply through observation?

Monday, July 17, 2017

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Monument 14 Savage Drift by Emmy Laybourne, a book review

Monument 14 Savage Drift by Emmy Laybourne is the final book in the Monument 14 trilogy. It is a good conclusion to the story of Dean and the others of the 14.

This story continues to follow Dean, Alex, Astrid, Niko, Josie, and the rest until we know the majority of what happens to them during this time of cataclysmic changes and their aftermath.

I recommend this book only for older teens and adults. The subjects handled within are definitely for mature audiences. There is a horrific scene and a few upsetting ones that could be disturbing to tender-hearted youth and may not be appropriate at all for younger than sixteen-year-olds. I will help my girls avoid this series until they are sixteen or older.

Laybourne does a good job of describing what could happen after a series of seriously destructive natural disasters followed by the release of really bad chemical compounds. I think, in many ways, some of the things she describes would be worse than what she portrays, really. I did like most of this book and the series in general. I did not like the description of really horrific stuff, but I know many enjoy that kind of thing.

Have you read Monument 14 Savage Drift? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

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my thoughts: on winning

What is it about winning that is so very… enticing? I mean, war is, at least in part, seeking to win… to the extreme. Winning an argument. Winning a prize. Winning is exciting, right?

Are we pre-wired to seek to win? I think we are, honestly. The thing that is misunderstood in this plane… because we are in a fallen state… is that one person doesn't need to lose for another to win.

Stephen Covey is the main one I know in our modern day who coined the term #win win#. Even though we are in this fallen world, we are not required to be of the world in the way it thinks and does things. It is easy to fall into thinking that there can only be one winner (like the Highlander)… but God's way is so much better and, by far, preferable.

There are some instances when one winner is really necessary. Like in a race. Or in a game. And similar. Yet even in those instances, we are able to choose to celebrate together rather than the winner lauding it over the other(s).

I think it takes greater strength, courage, and character to help others feel like winner even though they may not have officially won the game, or prize, or race, or whatever.

What do you think?

Monday, July 10, 2017

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Monument 14 Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne, a book review

Monument 14 Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne is fast paced and easy to read. I started it in the evening and finished it before I fell asleep. The action and my care for the characters kept me hooked til the end. I look forward to reading the next in the series.

In this second book of the series, we learn more about what happens to Dean, Alex, and the rest of the 14 children we came to know in the first book. One group out on the road, their progress is tracked through Alex and in the bottom of the page marks the miles. Dean and the four with him remain at the big box store and the day count continues to mark their lives on the bottom of the page when the story is about them. I like that denotation at the bottom of the page. It makes it really easy to differentiate and give a sense of place and time while reading.

As with the first, I will not have my girls reading this installment until they are significantly older. There is one intimate scene. Not as detailed as the one in the first book, but definitely older teen to adult entanglement issue. The gore was less detailed than the first, which was a relief to me.

Have you read Monument 14 Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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writing life: it takes time

I love to write. Usually it comes pretty easily… especially when I sit down to write some of the stories of my life for my family. My novels take a little more effort for me to sort of submerge myself into the given world of whichever story before I can write what I feel like it something good for that story.


I have been using most of my time lately focusing on building my Lilla Rose business again. And I've had a few good paychecks as a result. Those are definitely encouraging. Still, all the time I've spent on my business efforts (and efforts to help my children with their business, too!) takes away from time I could spend writing.

Still, I work on my business stuff because I hope to earn enough through these efforts to accomplish things around our property, provide some things for our children, AND self-publish some (or all?) of the stories bumping around in my head.

Also, my business is good practice, really. I've done enough reading to know that Indie Authors (self-published) must market themselves to achieve any sort of success in selling their works.

So, all this time spent on Lilla Rose is valuable for more than just earning dollars! Though, we will definitely put those dollars to good use. I am also learning valuable skills for marketing my novels! In these ways I can see part of why Heavenly Father was nudging me to get back to my Lilla Rose business! He is so awesome!

Monday, July 3, 2017

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The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb, a book review

The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb is described as a 'supernatural romance' on the cover. Through the first third to half of the book this description was not realized at all. By the end it is. It is a very tasteful romance with little physicality.

Calder chooses something no other fetch has chosen and then must make amends to return to where he belongs. I'd never heard of a fetch, so learning about that role is part of the story and was very interesting to me.

I do like this novel and recommend it, though it moved really slowly for me in the beginning. Reading the whole thing was worth my time, though I did wonder a few times if it would be. My twelve and ten year old will be allowed to read it if they want to.

Have you read The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb? What did you think of it?

Friday, June 30, 2017

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Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins, a book review

Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins, illustrated by the same, is a simple picture book for children. A little fish invites the reader to follow him as he swims around seeing other fish. The text describes the fish it sees.

The illustrations for this story make it enjoyable for little children. The words are few, so without the art, it wouldn't be much. The art is very colorful, big, and bold.

My children really enjoy looking at this book and ask for it repeatedly. So, it is worth having for the children because they find it so enjoyable.

I would not have bought it, but am happy to have it for my kiddos.

Have you read Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins? What did you think of it?

Monday, June 26, 2017

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Supernaturally by Kiersten White, a book review

Supernaturally by Kierten White is a good continuation of Evelyn's story which began in Paranormalcy. Again, my girls will have to wait until they are older to read this series. But it could be appropriate for those older than fourteen.

I like that Evelyn begins to realize some changes she needs to make in her approach to thinking about things in this book. She is less vapid throughout, but especially by the end. Her fighting skills are seriously lacking, especially compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Thankfully Evie doesn't have as much need for them in this book as the last.

Have you read Supernaturally by Kiersten White? What did you think of it?

Friday, June 23, 2017

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Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett, a book review

Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett, illustrated by the same, is a fun story about a Texan armadillo. It is also a little less about cowboy boots, the armadillo's mom, and brothers.

The artwork for this story is really fun with lots for little ones to look at as a parent or older sibling reads to them. The pictures are primarily bright reds, blues, greens with plenty of browns mixed in. One of the things I enjoy so much about these illustrations is that it gives a feel for Texas, probably mostly western Texas, and the cowboy culture. Another thing I enjoy and appreciate is that the secondary story of the armadillo's mom and brothers looking for him is illustrated in smaller artwork at the outside of each page once the main armadillo has wandered off. Those parts of the artwork definitely add a great deal more than what the text describes.

My children really love looking at this book and ask for it repeatedly. They will readily sit and look at it quietly many times over. That, in truth, is the best recommendation for this book's artwork!

The story is good, too. The voice is very easily Texan, which is fun… even more now that we live in Texas. However, we enjoyed this story very well while we were still in Florida. Florida also has many armadillos and cowboys, in case you didn't know.

Have you read Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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writing life: when it gets hot, part 2

Have you ever chosen to live without central air and continued to work in the heat? I sure would enjoy hearing from you if you have! Whether your experience is similar or totally different! Make sure to let me know if you are someone who prefers hotter or cooler weather. That definitely does make a difference.

You see, I used to believe I loved winter. Most of the homes I lived in while I was growing up had central air and heat. So, I thought I loved the cold weather because you could always put on extra clothes and blankets. While this is still true, I have learned that I do not prefer either the extreme of cold or heat. I love the temperate days of spring and fall!

The heat of summer, though, still has the most difficult-for-me to endure temperatures. I have felt as though I would melt a few times, in all honesty. When the heat is combined with more than mugginess… with wetness hanging in the air, I have experienced oppression. Just to be clear, I refer to the last definition of oppression, which is: mental pressure or distress. Seriously! I believe it was sort of a perfect-storm-for-Tori (PSFT) situation that came as a result of the actual weight and pressure that abounds when the temps skyrocket and the weight of water in the air combine in #just# the right (or wrong!) way.

There have been a few days when I accomplish very little as a result of the “PSFT”. I freely admit those days are more frequent when I've been preggie than at other times! Though I am not proud of it, I have a tendency to be a bit weaker when preggie than when I'm not.

Have you experienced any personal difficulties with actually working because of the weather? Please share!

Monday, June 19, 2017

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Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, a book review

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White is the beginning of a series about Evelyn, a teen who bags and tags supernatural beings. In my imagination she looks a bit like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Evelyn lacks the series fighting skills of Buffy. In fact Evelyn in Paranormalcy, compared to Buffy, is rather vapid. Thankfully she does begin to change before the end of this novel.

I did enjoy this novel, though I won't have my girls read it until they are fourteen or older. Some of the paranormal creatures would likely be a bit nightmare inducing to my girls. Also, the way that Evie is so very self-centered might be more of an example to them than how she's changed by the end of this novel.

Have you read Paranormalcy by Kiersten White? What did you think of it?

Friday, June 16, 2017

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One Enchanted Evening by Mark Kimball Moulton, a book review

One Enchanted Evening by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Karen Hillard Crouch, is an unlikely, but sweet story. And since, by now, maybe you know my predilection for rhyming children's stories, if you are familiar with this one, you might guess that I really enjoyed it.

My children and I really enjoy the artwork that both attends to and expounds upon the text of the story perfectly. If I could have Karen Hillard Crouch illustrate for me, I would. Something about Hillard's watercolor art is very compelling. I enjoy her use of muted colors, even though that is not usually my preference for children's book illustrations. And the varied layout is well done and appealing.

The rhyme and rhythm are really well done in One Enchanted Evening. So, it is easy to read out loud again, and again.

All about bugs getting together for a ball, this story focuses mostly on the queen spider. And a field mouse knight. The unlikely pair attend the ball together, just for fun. Apparently, the mouse is sought after throughout the kingdom. Spider queen says yes and they attend and dance the night away. At the end of the story, the two get married and the last two pages end with sweet rhymes about love. The second to last, has a few overarching and true couplets about love while the last page directs us:

“So if you're wishing for true love
what's important, it seem,

is to accept

all the difference…

and to share

the same dreams.”

While that finale is truly wonderful and, of course, true, you really are missing out if you don't know the rest of the story. I highly recommend this book. It has a sweet tale of a mouse and a spider. Even more wonderfully, it puts poignant truth into the story in a fitting and easily way to which most anyone can relate.

Have you read One Enchanted Evening by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Karen Hillard Crouch? What did you think about it?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

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my thoughts: on owning a business and writing

Writing can be a full-time job. Running one's own business can be a full-time job. Combine the two and you have… chaos! Or, at least, the potential for it. What it means is you have to get more organized and prioritize activities daily and sometimes throughout the day.

Those who are already published, may find that is all they need to earn what they want to earn. Most writers, even those who are published, make around $10,000 per year. If it is a supplemental income, read: spouse has a job that pays most of the bills, that may well be enough.

As for me, writing has not moved into the “paying” phase yet. Therefore, and because I have goals that outstrip my husband's income, I work at home as an Independent Lilla Rose Stylist for myself and help my children with their business. I have a great deal to manage without writing and business running, so I'm becoming significantly better at organizing and prioritizing.

Planning and scheduling (especially social media and blog posts) have become exceedingly important to me. For some things, posts are scheduled out as much as a year in advance. Doing so relieves me of a great deal of “daily” work, which results in a much calmer homeschool mama.

Basically, though, it really just gets more challenging. Add more to one's plate and the plate gets heavier… sometimes that's good, but not always. I suppose that is as it should be… as one matures, life gets heavier and at least a little more difficult. However, if either the writing or the business running are necessary for any given reason or set of reasons or important enough to the person doing them, then the owner/writer will make it work!

Do you write and run your own business? I'd like to know what you do! What's your genre? What's your business?

Monday, June 12, 2017

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The Unlikely Lavender Queen by Jeannie Ralston, a book review

The Unlikely Lavender Queen by Jeannie Ralston is a good book. I did not absolutely fawningly love it. I do not highly recommend it to other conservative Christian Mamas. However, if you, like me, consider yourself a city girl striving to go country, there is much that you will recognize and commiserate with in the pages of Ralston's story about her own move from the city to the country. She is unabashedly (as we all should be about our own beliefs) liberal and proclaims her opinions frequently within the story. If such would bother you, do not read this book.

I particularly appreciate how she describes the process of becoming the lavender queen. It's interesting and enjoyable. Even more interesting is the end and how her work with lavender turns out. So, while there are many things I didn't enjoy or appreciate, I do think it's an interesting story and worth a read.

Have you read The Unlikely Lavender Queen by Jeannie Ralston? What did you think of it?

Friday, June 9, 2017

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Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, a book review

Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Garth Williams, is a good book for emerging readers. There is a good deal of repetition, which, of course, will help with word recognition.

As for the artwork… the bunny looks like a bunny and the others animals look like you'd expect. I don't see much of a style peculiar to Williams, unfortunately. The art does fit the story. It also explains some of the text well. So, it accomplishes its purpose, for sure.

The story follows a bunny who is looking for a new home. He stops to ask a robin where it lives and knows it cannot live in a tree. It asks a frog and a groundhog as well as knows it cannot live where they do. After leaving the groundhog, the bunny comes across another bunny. The two end up living together in a hole in the ground.

It is a simple story and relatively easy to read. It would not be the kind of story a mama would necessarily love reading over and over again, though. So, if that's the kind of story you're looking for, make sure to pass this one. However, if you'd like your children to learn that bunnies live in holes in the ground (which is true), then this will be a great addition to your children's book library.

Have you read Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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writing life: when it gets hot

If you didn't already know, my family and I live off-grid. I'll have a series about our experiences starting sooner or later. Suffice it to say, for the purposes of this post, that we have a small solar energy generation system, so we choose to live without certain amenities that most folks consider necessities. Admittedly, many of those amenities are almost necessities once you live with them long enough, but most are not actually necessary to sustain life. Thankfully we do have running water. And hot water. Those two amenities are “necessities” to and for me.

We choose to do without central air. Really, the only air moving we have is when we choose to use it are the fans we have. Most of the time, if it's hot, instead of using fans, we go outside. Amazingly, perhaps, it's almost always cooler outside… in the shade, of course.

One of the unexpected difficulties of being a writer and business owner in my situation (off-grid, choosing no central air) is the intolerance electronics have to the heat! Did you know? Have you experienced an overheating laptop, tablet, or phone? I've literally worked with these devices on cold pads I've jimmy-rigged together so that I could continue to work. Some days I do interpret electronics overheating as my break time. But if I did that all summer long, I wouldn't get any “platform” maintenance done, much less writing anything in any of the works in progress I have going. There would be no social media updating or checking on my down-line via the internet without the electronics that so disdain the heat!

Thankfully, I do have enough scheduled ahead in much of my platform and other business social media that I don't have to worry about taking a break for a day (or few) here and there. It is definitely important to schedule ahead to be prepared!

Have you experienced any unexpected difficulties as a writer or business owner because of the heat?

Monday, June 5, 2017

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Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale, a book review

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale is an enjoyable mystery romance. I started it in the afternoon and finished it before I fell asleep for the night.

Charlotte might just remind many a Mama of themselves. She, however, is far more financially successful than I have yet to be. Still, her vacation taking is perhaps a fulfillment of many ladies fantasy: to submerge into the idealized world of Jane Eyer.

Neither the mystery aspect nor the actual story are surprising. Yet even though I figured out the mystery before it was revealed on the page, I thoroughly enjoyed the author's story telling! I highly recommend this book for adults. Especially adult women. I will not allow my girls, 12 and younger, to read it until they are significantly older.

Have you read Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale? What did you think of it?

Friday, June 2, 2017

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Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos, a book review

Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos is a wonderful children's picture book about making a soup. It is especially wonderful because of the way the story easily teaches the reader some Spanish words and what they mean. It is a story with a good deal of repetition like 'The Farmer in the Dell'. So, the story is told and one or a few words originally in English become Spanish in the repetition. In the back of the story there is a pronunciation guide and definitions of each of the Spanish words, just in case you didn't know what they meant via context clues in the story.

This is a wonderful book for the library of those who want their children to learn Spanish bit by bit. I hope to add it to our library.

Have you read Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos? What did you think?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

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my thoughts: on work

I believe we are here in this life for many reasons. This life is one of purpose. To think or believe otherwise is downright depressing. A grampa of mine thought there was nothing beyond this life… and probably nothing before it. He died a while back. I wonder if he's found out otherwise? It is entirely possible that he doesn't realize he's dead, if he's wrong. I figure if I'm wrong, I'm none the worse off. However, it seems to me, if he's wrong, he is a bit worse for the lack of faith.

Again… my love of tangents has again surfaced.

Could it be, that one purpose of our life here on earth is to cultivate love of various perhaps unnatural loves? I think it is! Since God is Love, I believe He wants us to love all that is good – even though we might, in our carnal nature not love it easily.

One love I believe we are meant to cultivate and nurture, is the love of work. Now, I'm not talking about obsessive workaholic type work. I'm really talking more about choosing to love that which sustains us and enables us to live independently, productively, and helpful to others.

To work only for the sake of earning money is a sorry state of affairs, in my opinion. Doing so is, in truth, a manifestation of loving money. While money is not the root of all evil, the LOVE of money is! So, working to make more money when it isn't beneficial (or has become the focus above independent living, productivity, and service to others) ends up being a form of sin.

On the other side, we find ourselves lazy, dependent on others for all that sustains life, unmotivated, and also in our carnal nature: sinful.

The happy medium in this situation is to love work and do it with a cheerful heart. However, the work we should cultivate love for is not just the work one does to make money. Dishes. Sweeping. Laundry. Washing the floor. Repair work of any and every kind. And so much more!

Do you think we are meant to cultivate and nurture a love of work?

Monday, May 29, 2017

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Every Day by David Levithan, a book review

Every Day by David Levithan is an interesting story with an interesting premise. I started it one day and read it here and there and then finished it in the early morning by reading through the night. So, it definitely kept my attention. I'm pretty sure it's more the attention one feels compelled to pay to a horrific car accident than because it is inherently a good novel.

A being moves from body to body, life to life, never two days in one body and life. Eventually, around sixteen years into this existence, the being falls in love. This novel is how the being falls in love and the aftermath. Like I said, interesting.

This book is potentially a very bad idea for many and even perhaps most youth… if youth is for others what it was for me. And since I'm pretty sure I'm relatively normal, I think this book should be more appropriately in the adult section. However, I'm equally pretty certain that the author, on some level or another, intends that the youth who read this book be made less sure of their own existence especially as pertaining to gender and sexuality.

Additionally, most strict (those who actually believe the Bible to be the word of God) and fundamental Christians would find this story seriously upsetting because of the author's treatment of homosexuality and even more: gender identity.

I will not allow my children to read this book as long as they are willing to respect my wishes. I hope they will avoid it until well into their twenties or later. This is definitely not a book someone who is gender confused should read! I do not recommend this book to any teen or young adult.

So, even with all that, there are some positives. For instance, the character A has very good character quality traits. I appreciate how this being desires to do right and well and help those whose lives s/he visits for a day. I also appreciate the choice s/he makes in the end.

I can't help but wonder if this being (and those like him/her) are of alien origin. Will there be a continuation of the story to reveal this? Will we know more about where A ends up and what s/he does? The end was not very satisfying to me primarily because the question of what these beings are is left unanswered.

Have you read Every Day by David Levithan? What did you think about it?

Friday, May 26, 2017

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Where's My Cow? by Terry Pratchett, a book review

Where's My Cow? by Terry Pratchett is my first experience with a children's picture book to which I could easily assign the term 'plot twist'. Nothing about the cover or title prepared me for the way the story would turn and the change in the art within.

Melvyn Grant is a really talented artist. He created art for this book that looks so real as to look almost like a photograph at times, yet he also pulls off great more typical children's picture book illustrations. I dislike the garish reality of some of the picture-like illustrations later in the book. In fact, I dislike them so much that I'm beginning to think maybe I should prescreen children's picture books to make sure they are acceptable because at least three of the illustrations in this book were such that I didn't want my two youngest to see.

Together, author and illustrator won the Children's Winner of The Ankh-Morpork Librarian's Award.

The story is good. It's very much like something my husband would do with a story… changing it to entertain our children. I can well imagine the fun the baby in the story had at his father's antics!

The art is amazing. Even though I didn't like the presence of a few of the portraits, they are still masterfully executed.

Have you read Where's My Cow by Terry Pratchett?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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writing life: why I write what I write…

Have you ever felt compelled to do something? Like… it was just part of what you were here on earth to do? Like… if you didn't do it, there would be some humungous part of your experience lacking and you would fall short of heavenly expectations if you didn't do your best to do… whatever it was you felt compelled to do?

That's why I write.

I could end there, but I have so many more words to share on this… probably won't say anything more illuminating than the above. It wouldn't be like me to be so very short!

Growing up, I heard often about journal writing. I think my first journal hales back to when I was five or six years old. What a treasure to have… only to me, but still!

My Mom was early and often impressed with my writing prowess. She has and likely ever will be my number one fan… though, when my two oldest girls found out I considered her so, they decided they were in some sort of race, vying to be my number one fans. They are pretty funny. Unfortunately for them, my Mom has… like… 30 years on them! So, it'll take some pretty fantastic feats for them to overtake her.

As my number one fan, my Mom has been sure that I would and should be published for a great many years now. She has been sure FAR longer than I have! In fact, she has known and believe it longer than I even really thought much of my writing. See, how can anyone beat that? I mean… sheesh! Anyone else is jumping on the wagon that I've decided I should actually drive! Can you imagine… I mean, she's held on during all the time I wasn't driving… and now, when I'm still learning to drive and she's still stoically encouraging… I think, probably, sometimes wondering if I'll ever get this thing managed. I sure wonder, myself.

My genre isn't hers, yet she encourages me and roots for me and applauds my expressed plans and hopes. She loves historical fictions. I'm pretty sure she probably likes mystery as well. I know she reads plenty of 'self-help' type self-education books. She has only started to get into fantasy because my girls adore it and she wants to understand what they are reading and interested in. So, maybe by the time I have anything actually good written, she'll love part of my genre. Since I'm pretty solidly writing in the genre “speculative fiction,” the fact that she's beginning to enjoy fantasy is definitely a good thing.

I guess the above only illustrates that I wasn't really directed or led to my genre by my Mom's reading choices and interests. I started reading fantasy (and romance) because it was the easiest way to escape the doldrums I considered my life. Imagining other worlds… and aliens… and what it would take to make it there… and what ifs… that was exciting to me!

Now, I still feel a good bit of excitement about those things. Yet, I feel more desire to share what I see (in my imagination and otherwise) by way of a story that maybe could be… sometimes. Other times, I just want to share truths by way of a fantastical story that as far as I know really couldn't happen. Maybe those truths will be easier to understand in the context of the fantastic. Maybe not. Maybe in my stories, they will simply be one of the eight times our silly human brains need to actually GET something!

Either way, I'm doing something I truly believe Heavenly Father has directed. And what greater joy can there be but to live out His plan for our lives?

Monday, May 22, 2017

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Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne, a book review

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne is well written and very easy to read. This story follows a group of children who are stranded as a series of natural disasters begin. Thankfully, they are safe in a large Walmart-like store. Their experiences are interesting and I was hooked quickly and read it through in less time than many other books.

I recommend this book only for older teens (maybe eighteen and older) and adults. There is one scene with nudity and various characters use profanity throughout. Additionally, there are a few pretty gruesome experiences and descriptions. My children will not read it any time soon. I, however, am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Have you read Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne? What did you think of it?

Friday, May 19, 2017

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What Can You Do With a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla, a book review

What Can You Do With a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla is a wonderful story about the uses of a rebozo. I thought rebozos were predominantly used in natural birth settings and with babies, so this children's picture book was wonderfully educational for me.

Amy Cordova created illustrations that perfectly support and clarify the story, which is what every children's picture book author hopes for in their illustrations, I think. The colors are bright and bold and convey a strong Hispanic flare. They keep young children's attention relatively well in my household.

Have you read What Can You Do With a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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my thoughts: on the Mandelbrot Set

Pretty recently, I made a comment about a possibility pertaining to the universe in a group for members of my church. The only person to respond to me directly was exceedingly unkind and taunted my comments. Basically, he acted like a bully and made fun of my thoughts. The most surprising thing about him, to me, is that he did this unabashedly AND he's old enough to be my Dad. Seriously.

I responded that he was acting in a manner that was beneath him. He responded that his reaction was completely appropriate because of the ridiculousness of what he understood in my comments.

The thing is, I didn't deserve to be taunted, laughed at, and made fun of. That was all about him and how intolerant and unkind he is. In the moment of reading his unkindnesses, though, I didn't feel the truth of what I know! How true it is, this thing I've taught my children: the devil loves to manipulate our feelings and drag us down to misery by them!

So, anyway… as a result of that most disagreeable interaction with a stranger who should've known better, I feel the desire to share about the Mandelbrot Set here.

This most amazing mathematical set is not just a fractal. It is one of many ways of understanding the world around us.

This set is believed to represent the skin where order and chaos meet. If we consider this for a moment in human terms, what would that “skin” be? The mind, heart, and spirit of human beings, of course. Our minds, hearts, and spirits are the place where chaos (the devil) and order (God) meet. We are where they win or lose.

In a regular fractal, we see the fruition of sacred geometry, as it is considered. And it is beautiful, as is the Mandelbrot Set. However, in the MS one can move into it (zoom in, as it were) and the picture changes. While this is also true of other fractals, I'm not sure the end of the zooming is also. You see, in the Mandelbrot Set, when you zoom in far enough, so long as nothing has changed in the original, you'll eventually return to the exact same image as where you began.

Which lends a relatively good segue to the next point: The Mandelbrot Set is a picture of a pretty organic looking amoeba or paisley-type thing. On the outer edge of it are various size repetitions of the same shape. On the same outside line of each paisley on the outside of the main paisley are more of them… and on to infinity, it is supposed. If one changes one small (even the smallest thing we could change) on any of those paisley shapes, the whole picture changes.

This mathematical picture is awesome to me because it is a representation of us! First, as I already shared, I believe it shows our mind/heart/spirit as the place where chaos and order meet. Second, we see that no matter our path and life's experiences, we will continue to come round to the same exactly thing… unless the third thing happens… a change. If we change one small thing in ourselves, our perception of the whole world changes. If we change (as one small part of the world), the whole world also changes in actuality.

Ghandi taught it by saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Jesus Christ taught it in many ways, with particular focus on forgiving others.
Awesome, right?

Can you see what I see? If you want to know that I'm not the only one who sees it this way, please watch.

Monday, May 15, 2017

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Dangerous by Shannon Hale, a book review

Dangerous by Shannon Hale is an awesome sci-fi tale about a one-armed girl who saves the world. Because we homeschool, I particularly like that Masie and Luther are homeschooled, at least in the beginning. The story is engaging and interesting. I started it in the morning and finished it before I slept for the night.

This book is free of curse words, even to the extent of the main character (who is the narrator) bleeping out curse words of other characters. I like that very much.

There are a couple kissy scenes and one that goes farther than just kisses, but Masie stops things and basically explains why both to the reader and the boy she stops. I like this very much. Especially because she is presented as a very smart even intellectual character, so her reasons are real and factual.

My eldest daughter read this book a while back and since my second daughter is older now, I'll probably let her read it, too. I definitely like it and I'm sure she will since my first did.

Shannon Hale has a number of other published books. I've read a few (and will re-read to review) and have enjoyed every one of them. I do highly recommend Dangerous.

Have you read Dangerous by Shannon Hale? What did you think of it?

Friday, May 12, 2017

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There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer, a book review

There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer should be familiar to me, it seems, since it's been in print for more than 25 years. I do not remember reading it to any of my siblings. Nor do I remember seeing it at all before now.

A little boy is certain there is an alligator under his bed. His parents don't find it when they look, so he takes matters in to his own hands and rids his room of the alligator. Find out how and where the alligator is relegated to by reading this fun children's book.

I think this is another case of author is also illustrator, which I love. The pictures in this children's picture book are fitting and helpful to the story. They are also very child-friendly, which I'd honestly not really even considered before I read one particular book. I like the way the illustrations move readily with the story.

Have you read There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer? What did you think?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

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writing life: how and where do I sit down to write?

Sometimes I do have to make myself write. Okay… when I write, I've made myself sit down to it. Mostly, it's difficult for me to open the computer to write my story because I know there will be many stops and starts and that is exhausting.

When I have had the luxury of writing continuously and only stopping because of bodily functions and to feed my face, I had a much easier time sitting down to actually write. Life doesn't provide such luxury much any more. And that's okay. I just have to make myself sit down… and that's good for me, right? Working on that little thing called self-mastery. I obviously struggle with it (or I wouldn't carry more than 100 pounds on this fabulous rolly polly bod of mine!). I digress.

So, when I write, I have procrastinated a good bit before-hand. Usually doing necessary (but overmuch of the necessary) platform work that I do. My favorite distraction when I have enough signal is Pinterest. My second fave: working on things for my children's business. Of course, there are all the other parts of my “platform” including, but not necessarily limited to: Facebook, GoodReads, LinkedIn, Twitter… sheesh. It's a full-time job just to keep those succers up to par. I guess that's why they aren't. Up to par, I mean. Sorry about that, by the way. I have been working on being Mama more than ToriForReal, I guess.

Today, I'd hoped to work on my current main creative writing project. I have, at least, 20 stories I want to write and at least half of those have starts on my laptop (and backed up online somewhere). Instead, I've been working on book reviews. I like doing them, though admittedly mine have been pretty lame for the last while. That will improve eventually… I hope.

Incredibly, since I have been so focused on this necessary distraction, I completed six or seven youth fiction reviews and around four children's picture book reviews. So, yeay for lots accomplished! Boo for distracting and procrastinating. grrrr #sigh# Well, I did get a lot done! Oh… and this post. And maybe another one or two. So, that's a pretty good use of a few hours spread out over the course of the day.

I think I write best when I sit at the table. It feels more formal and I tend to be more focused. However, I might be able to write more (with fewer children coming to talk to me) when I sit on a bed in one particular part of our house. It is not nearly as comfy as it sounds, I promise. Right now, I'm writing at the table. Maybe that's why I've gotten so much done today!?

Monday, May 8, 2017

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Ungifted by Gordon Korman, a book review

Ungifted by Gordon Korman is an enjoyable story about a boy who is mistakenly transferred to the gifted and talented academy instead of suffering the consequences of an accident resulting from a bad choice. I enjoyed this book quite well at least partially because it was completely free of any intimate scenes and curse words. Even though I found this book in the teens' area of my library, I will let my two eldest daughters read it if they so desire.

One thing I particularly enjoy about this novel is the change the main character goes through as a result of his transfer. I also appreciate very much how one of the teachers considers all the things he could say to his students about the main character, which, in effect, teach the young reader about the character traits lacking in the main character. This is definitely a bonus and a huge plus in my mind because I think many youth are not being taught character quality traits like integrity, honesty, and so forth.

The story telling shifts between characters, which I thought was interesting, though confusing when I wasn't paying close attention. Each and every chapter title begins with a word that starts with 'un'. I found that slightly distracting because of it's negative connotation, especially when the overall message of the book (to my way of thinking) is a very positive one. Still, I really liked it and do recommend it highly for all ages.

Have you read Ungifted by Gordon Korman? What did you think of it?

Friday, May 5, 2017

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The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer, a book review

I was really looking forward to reading The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer simply because of the title. What a great title to and for any author/writer. While this is a beautifully illustrated children's picture book, my first reaction was that this must have been done by an illustrator to showcase her art.

My main reason for thinking this book may be an artist's way of getting her work in to the world is the difficulty of reading the story in the beginning of the book. If the artist was hoping the pictures would take center-stage by the weird placement and difficulty of deciphering them, this was not accomplished with me. I had to go back and look at the pictures in the beginning of the story to remember anything about them because I had to focus so intensely to discern the words and correct ordering of them. This problem does, for the most part, remedy itself a little way in to the story, thankfully.

I actually really like the story itself. It has a very good moral and is presented in a way so as not to be preachy. And the illustrations are beautiful. However, the way the story was presented in those first pages made it difficult to decipher and enjoy either. I have seen a few children's books like this and I sincerely hope it is not the way picture books are going, generally.

Have you read The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer? What did you think of it?
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twas the day after Mother's day A POEM

Twas the day after Mother's Day when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The children were all nestled in their spots with great care.
Not a bit of the mess did they touch, to my great despair.

The stuff they'd told me not a finger to lift
Was still where it was, left there for me through it to sift.

When I, only moments ago, felt well-rested and ready to go.
Now I once again faced a too well-known old foe.

Away from Peace my mind swiftly jumped
As my Mama-heart raced and angrily pumped.

My heart scrabbled and scraped as I yearned for the Peace
of yesterday's Mother's Day figurative feast.

Heart lost this battle as my voice sounded off
A banshee soon sounded, don't you dare sit and scoff.

My voice bellowed loudly as that anger ignited.
My children moved quickly, with that I was delighted.

No words could be formed, no words were needed,
The noises I made communicated and were heeded.

Tears streaked my face as I blubbered and blew
And my children quickly cleaned for they already knew.

That the gift they'd yesterday so graciously given and told me to rest
When it was only delayed work for me, was far from the best.

When I had calmed down, and staunched the flow of tears from my eyes,
My children approached me with sweet treats, hamburgers, and fries.

Peace slid right back into place in my heart
And slowly made its way to my mind, at least in a part.

This time the ending has smiles, it's true.
Hopefully next year there will not be a repeat to rue!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

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my thoughts: on politics

A friend told me she looked at my blog to see if I'd posted anything about the political situation just prior to the election in 2016. She was also sorta checking to make sure I was okay since we hadn't chatted in a little while. So sweet, right?

Perhaps I neglected my civic duty when I chose not to share any thoughts about the election. I think not, but I certainly could have. Nonetheless, I digress. (I'm good at it, eh?)

That season has passed and I am glad. I did not vote for our president. I did not vote for Hilary. Make your guess as you may.

What, then, is the purpose for which I write now? To share my thoughts on politics, of course!

We live in an age of broken systems. I could fly on a tangent about any number of them. I will focus, for now, on politics.

Our country was never meant to be split in two. We were not meant to have mere two parties from which to choose. The powers that be, and not of the light, have orchestrated things such that this is what we seem to have. This is what we have if we focus only on what is easiest to know, learn, and see. There are still other options, but because we don't have enough “regular folk” who learn about those options, we are defacto stuck choosing from the primary two options.

Politicians were never meant to run this country. One reason I have had a relatively easy time accepting Trump is that he is not a politician and has proceeded to attempt to keep his campaign promises. Add to that, his acceptance of only $1 salary for the job… I might think he's attempting to be a statesman… yes. Yes, I might think so.

Statesmen/women are meant to lead this country. I hope (used to believe, but not sure I do now) that there are some statespersons in the system or trying to get there. But those who have been working in their current office for longer than, say, eight years… yeah… almost for sure they are not statespersons.

My definition of a statesperson is one who is ready and willing to put aside their own preferences to ensure God is the true leader of the nation and execute the will of the people (so long as it is in line with the former). This might seem like it doesn't jive with politics as they are. If you think so, you're right. Our political system doesn't involve God in things. That is, surely, a huge part of why things are falling apart as much as they are.

Our forefathers included God. They started their discussions with prayer. If I remember correctly, they concluded them with prayer as well. I believe God's involvement is the only reason so many men of such varying dispositions and beliefs could come up with and agree on The Constitution.

Of course, I could be wrong….

Anyway, the system that comprises our poolitical parties and so forth is absolutely broken. The first thing that should be done is salary cuts for members in both houses. Then, term limits for all (not just the President). The final of the first changes I wish I could make is two parts. The first would be to reduce the laws on the books and verbiage of them and ensure that future legislation would have to be equally direct and simply worded.

I would love to see lots more folks who care about their cities, states, and this country run for office. The learning curve would be steep, but I think our country would move in a better direction.

Monday, May 1, 2017

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Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov, a book review

Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov is interesting. Unfortunately, one silly difficulty of not having internet connectivity at the time of reading from this series strikes again: I read what I've read of the Foundation series out of order by a good bit. I've missed a few of the books as well.

Within the pages of this book, we continue to follow Hari Seldon as he strives to bring psychohistory to fruition. A few sad spots arise along the way. He begins to lose people near and dear. One of those losses was rather surprising to me. By the end, and this is a potentially unsurprising spoiler to any who have also read this series, Hari dies a very old man who has basically succeeded in his life's endeavor. Would that we could all be so accomplished!

I like that Wanda, his granddaughter, is among the founders of the second foundation. I also like the way she meets the guy who is like her. It seems like coincidence… which is often, at least in my life, what small miracles look like in my life.

However, small miracles would probably be an affront of a description to Isaac Asimov, if I were to hazard a guess. I'm pretty sure, if his views on cosmology and theology are at all illustrated within the series, that he was a staunch atheist. I wonder if he's changed his mind since dying.

My children will not read this series until they are older at least in part because of the adult handling of the subject of God. The series is relatively philosophical and my girls philosophize plenty on their own. I'm relatively certain the bent of their thoughts would not be improved by reading from this series, at least not in their youth.

Any intimate scenes are handled very smoothly. Not giving details, yet providing a basic understanding of what's transpired.

I like this book and the series. One interesting side effect is that I've been dreaming about the story and characters since finishing Forward the Foundation. It's been rather interesting. I wonder if it's something many experience?

Have you read Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov? What did you think of it? Did you have dreams about it and the series when you finished it?

Friday, April 28, 2017

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The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, a book review

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson is a children's picture book that is very quick to read with big bold pictures. The text is modeled after nursery rhymes like “This is the house that Jack built” and especially inspired by the author's favorite: “This is the key of the kingdom”.

The story goes from small to large and back again. It has a good tempo and very easy to enjoy illustrations by Beth Krommes. The only color is yellow watercolor and black and white resulting from scratchboard work. The illustrations are bold and lovely. My children, especially the youngest, are able to pay attention to the whole story and enjoy the pictures.

This book is a Caldecott Medal winner.

We like The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson. Have you read it? What do you think of it?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

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writing life: other social networking outlets

The last couple of posts have been trying to explain how I use three different social media hubs.  Honestly, I don't know if I'm doing any of this right, but it's what I'm doing... it's my work... and I want to share with yall what I'm doing.  What takes my time in this writing effort.

The three I've already mentioned were my primary focus in the very beginning.  I've branched out a little here and there since.  Again, I don't know if I'm using these outlets to their fullest or best purpose, but I'm using them!  Working hard to get followers, subscribers, likes, and etc... because that's what the publishing houses want and what I need should I go Indie.  We'll see!

In addition to those others, I also use Pinterest, LinkedIn, GoodReads.  Instagram and Snapchat are on my To Do list.  That list happens to be super long at the moment, so I'm not sure how fleshed out those two will be for some time.

Pinterest is particularly enjoyable.  I have been lost in there before.  Not so much in the past couple years... but for a while.

GoodReads is still relatively new to me.  Silly since I've been a fan of reading for ages.  I guess I didn't feel like I could handle another thing for a while.  I'm pretty sure I'm missing some vital facts to understand how to enjoy this particular hub, but I'm sure I'll figure it out before too long!

LinkedIn is another one that baffles me.  I keep trying to stay on top of it, but I'm not sure I'm doing the right things there at all.

If you have any suggestions for me, I'm definitely willing to hear them!

Do you use any social media outlets for anything other than connecting with friends?

Monday, April 24, 2017

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Voices by Ursula K. LeGuin, a book review

Voices by Ursula K. LeGuin is a continuation of Orrec and Gry's story, but with the focus on a new character, Memer who is a result of rape and the daughter of a member of the strongest house in a war torn and sacked city.

This story covers a great many years quickly. It is interesting and packed full of history of this fictional people such that they seem to surely have exited somewhere that we could meet and talk with them. Orrec and Gry have been traveling seventeen years when they meet Memer. Orrec is now a story teller of great renown. Gry is still Gry. They still have the horses they left with and now also have a lion as their protector.

What happens in this story kept me reading through the night. I started this book one afternoon and finished it during the night. I will probably let my eldest daughter read it, but my second daughter will probably have to wait. Mostly because of the rape issue, but also because of the war situation in general.

I do recommend this book for middle age teens (level of maturation relatively high) and older. My second daughter is only ten, thus she will wait.

Have you read Voice by Ursula K. LeGuin? What did you think of it?

Friday, April 21, 2017

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Piggins and the Royal Wedding by Jane Yolen, a book review

Between his first appearance and Piggins and the Royal Wedding by Jane Yolen, it looks like he may have lost some weight. He just doesn't look quite as rotund in this, a sequel to his first book.

Once again, the piggy butler solves a mystery and saves the day. This time, he saves one of his employer's kits from accusations of thievery and enables the royal wedding to proceed. His powers of deduction are simply spectacular.

The illustrations in this book are just as good as the first. The first two and the last two are quite similar, so if you have both books, your children may enjoy comparing the similarities and differences between them. Many of the characters reappear here and we also see new ones.

We like this book and enjoy the illustrations.

Have you read Piggins and the Royal Wedding by Jane Yolen? What did you think of it?