Friday, March 30, 2012

Taking It One Page at a Time - Review & Interview

Friday's tour stop: Taking It One Page at a Time

Check out the  review, then for answers to the following questions and more, check out our  interview:

What would you say to somebody who thinks it’s wrong to write novels about issues like teen pregnancy?

What made you originally interested in pursuing a career in architecture?

How do you find ways to balance being a mom, a writer, and fulfilling your other obligations?

Thank you Danica for being a part of the  Hope's Journey Spring Tour! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Author's Not-So-Imaginary Friends

As a child I never had imaginary friends nor do I remember ever wanting them. I had enough crazy (*grin*) people in my life - there was no need to make up more of them! But, it's come to my recent attention that times may have changed. I've realized just how REAL the characters I write about have become.

According to Wikipedia (which I'm sure is accurate) "imaginary friends and imaginary companions are a psychological and social phenomenon where a friendship or other interpersonal relationship takes place in the imagination rather than external physical reality. Imaginary friends are fictional characters created for improvisational role-playing. They often have elaborate personalities and behaviors. They may seem real to their creators, though they are ultimately unreal."

Sydney and Alex aren't just characters in Hope's Journey, they are my friends. The same is true for Megan, Carter, Matt (okay,  he's not so much a friend as a liability), Lucas, Marc, and Isaac. And we can't forget my delightful twins Justice and Mercee. I've formed relationships to one degree or another with each of them. I think about them often. I wonder what they are going to do, how they are going to do it, and even how they will feel. I "watch" their movements, "feel" their pains, and "see" the same things they see... I talk about them. I laugh at them. And, I even get angry with them!

I'm beginning to hope there's not something wrong with me! But, if there is, then I take comfort that the same something is wrong with my sweetheart, because he shares the conversations with me. He talks with me about them. He helps fine-tune their voices. And, he knows them each by name.

I'm not so sure how imaginary my characters - um, friends - really are. Which I suppose brings us full circle back to that Wiki defination: "They may seem real to their creators, though they are ultimately unreal."  And, I further suppose that's just one of the qualities that makes us authors such "special" people.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Stop # 7!

There are a lot of things that testify of spring (tulips, sunshine, singing birds...), but nothing says warm weather around the Worlton house like the piles of dirty laundry and my dirty fingernails. I find therapy in working the newly thawed soil of my flower beds. And the laundry? Well, you can read about that in my interview today with A.L. Sowards.

Thanks Amanda for being part of Hope's Journey Spring Tour. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Tour stop #6 -

One of the best parts of being an author is getting to meet lots of fun new people. Today's tour stop is with Author, Cindy C. Bennett, and I've got to admit, I'm honored to consider her one of my newest friends. Stop by her blog to read our interview and her review... and, while you're there, check out her fabulous titles: Geek Girl, Immortal Mine, and Heart on a Chain. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hope's Journey review - The Write Path

We are being featured today on The Write Path

Thank you to Dorine White  for taking the time to read and review Hope's Journey. 

To visit the other stops on the Hope's Journey Spring tour, click here.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Interview on MMW

Today's tour stop is an interview on Mormon Mommy Writers. Learn more about what inspired Hope's Journey, why I think self-worth is so important, and, a heads-up about my current works-in-progress!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Blog Tour - Installments 2 & 3

Yesterday was a busy day and I didn't get the chance to link to our tour stop, so today is a two-fer!

After you've entered to win your copy of Hope's Journey (and the $25 Amazon Card) swing on by Cami's Books and  I'm So Funny  to read their reviews.

Thanks to both Cami and Alice for being a part of our tour!

Hope's Journey Changed My Life

It's weird to think that a year ago I took my first step out of the literary closet. Sure, I've always loved to write, but it was never something I wore on my sleeve. Even a lot of my family and most of my friends were in the dark. But as "Hope's Journey" neared its release date, it became clear that my secret passion was no longer a secret.

I know there are authors who spend their lives dreaming of getting published, but up until a few years ago I never even imagined the possibility of writing a novel. Getting published, therefore, wasn't something on my bucket list. After all, I'm a designer, an organizer, a creator. It seems pretty obvious to me now that those are all qualities of a writer too, but at the time I formulated the idea of Alex and Sydney, I wasn't so sure I was the right person to pull off their story... So, I wrote in secret. Only a handful of people outside of my home knew of my little project. And, even after I'd signed my contract, I was pretty tight lipped about the whole thing.

Why? I don't know exactly. I suppose the whole thing was so surreal I almost didn't believe it myself. Perhaps I was waiting to wake up and find that it was just a crazy dream. Maybe I was afraid I'd fall flat on my face. And, maybe even, I was afraid that my life would change....

And, honestly it has.

No, I'm not uber-famous (haha, the very idea is laughable!) And, yes, I still go to the grocery store in my slippers. But, I think it's safe to say that "Hope's Journey" has been the catalyst for a new and exciting journey of my own. I have met the most amazing people... readers and authors alike. The new friendships have enhanced my life on so many levels. I never imagined rubbing shoulders with "famous" authors and forming a new circle of supportive, encouraging, dare I say GENIUS, author friends.

And my readers... in a word: AMAZING! I frequently get emails from young women who've read Alex and Sydney's story and felt inclined to share their own with me. It touches my heart to read of their personal struggles and to discover the insight, the hope, and the desire to change that Hope's Journey has given them. I am so humbled by the opportunity to help spark positive change in people's lives.

The past year - and especially the nine months since "Hope's Journey" debuted - have been so rewarding. I'm glad (most of the time anyway) to be "out" as a writer, and am so excited for this secret love of mine to come to full fruition.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Blog Tour - From the Other Side of the Mirror

There might be snow on the ground, but spring is definitely in the air! Aside from the tulips and daffodils sprouting in my yard, this also means that Hope's Journey is officially on tour!

Our first stop is: From the Other Side of the Mirror.

Thank you Cheri Chesley for your kind review and especially for sharing your personal connection.

Jump on over to Cheri's blog and check it out!


"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul." - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Today I'm deferring my post to President Uchtdorf, because.... well, because he captures my sentiments more beautifully than I ever could:  

"Everyone can create. You don't need money, position, or influence, in order to create something of substance or beauty." 

Improve - Beautify - Extend - Smile - Cultivate - Develop - Create

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


How and when did life become a circus? Seriously? You know what I'm talking about. Some of us are ring-masters, some lion-tamers, and some tight-rope walkers. I, like most modern day women, in addition to being all of the aforementioned, have also become a juggler.

I used to have everything under control (or at least I thought I did), but the older my kids get the more balls seem to get tossed into the air. Okay, in fairness to my children, its not all their fault. In fact, most of the circus act is probably my own doing.

I think its safe to say that many women suffer from the same problem. We like to stay busy. We like to be involved. We like to get things done... But sometimes everything we put on ourselves becomes crippling. To say our plates are full would be an understatement. But, honestly, which ball would you choose to drop? I don't know about you, but I'm kind of emotionally attached to each one of mine. I'm afraid that if I let one go, it'll throw off my rhythm and others would fall too.

What to do? How can we maintain balance?

Here's a couple of things I've learned...okay, some of them I'm still learning:

1. Learn to say "No."  - Admittedly, I am working on this one. I'm passionate about so many things that when opportunities come my way, I try to squeeze them in. Mind you, there are many worthwhile opportunities for service, but if they come at the cost of your sanity or your family, it's okay to say "No."

2. Organize. - Whether its online or on paper, organize! Calendar your life and simplify. Don't over schedule yourself; this also means don't underestimate how much time things will take. Give yourself time to breath between tasks.

3. Prioritize. - Some things are simply more important than others. Family always comes first on my list. No matter what my personal agenda is, my children and husband come first. I try not to schedule personal things during my family time, which essentially means taking care of all my stuff while they are at school so that the evenings can be "mom-time."

4. Delegate. - Again, as a person with OCD I struggle with this one. I like things done my way, but at what cost? Look at all the balls you've got in the air and ask yourself which ones you are willing to let someone help you with. For me, its housework. Granted, it doesn't always get done the way I want it done, but... it gets done!

5. Learn to let some things go. - Okay, again with the OCD... this is difficult! Ask yourself: "Is this really important? Will it improve the quality of our lives? Will it help me or someone else? Will it matter tomorrow, next week, or next year?" Get rid of stuff that's unhealthy, unproductive, or unnecessary.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Utah HB363 - A sure way to raise teen pregnancy rates

I try to avoid talking politics here, but this one just rubs me sooooo wrong. The Utah Legislature recently passed House Bill 363, which in a nutshell prevents the instruction of anything other than abstinence in our schools. It states that schools are only to "teach and stress: the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage." It also "imposes certain restrictions for human sexuality instructional programs." 
As a mother, this frustrates me. As a teen-mother, it infuriates me!

Don't get me wrong, I am in no way opposed to the teaching of abstinence, but to suggest that it is an end all to our teen pregnancy and STD problems is completely ignorant. Whether we want to admit it or not, TEENS ARE HAVING SEX! (Recent reports put this number as high as 33% in Utah). And, while it is a parent's responsibility to teach their children about sex - in whatever form their personal values indicate - it is, unfortunately, unrealistic to expect that they actually will. Let's face it, the majority of parents DON'T talk to their kids about it. And, when they do, they teach abstinence only... the key word here is: ONLY! Frankly, a teen who's having sex is a teen who's not talking to his/her parent about it. A kid who's having sex isn't likely to ask their parent about contraceptives or protection.  So, how do they get information to protect themselves?

We need to jump off the "parent responsibility" band wagon because, to be bold and honest, parent's simply aren't taking the responsibility. Honestly, if you are a parent, when was the last time you talked frankly, honestly, and boldly to your children about sex? Likely you've said something like, "Hey, don't do it," but have you really given them details? Have you opened a door of communication? Do your children know not just the dangers of having premarital (or extramarital) sex, but also ways to protect themselves if by chance they find themselves in the situation? (I attest to you that even "good kids" fall into this temptation!)

By all means, no parent wants their child having sex before they are married. None of us even want to think about it. Many parents even blush and get all embarrassed about the subject. Why? Why don't we teach our kids? Why do we - unintentionally or not - sweep it under the rug? Sex isn't bad. Sex is a beautiful, natural, God-given right to express love and create families... and it should only happen within the bounds of marriage. Unfortunately, the number of teen-pregnancies (and teen STDs) in Utah suggests that many kids are choosing against abstinence.

What can we do?

We teach them abstinence. We teach them that it is the only 100% fool-proof method to avoiding pregnancy, STDs, and even the emotional (and spiritual) damage that comes with premarital sex. But, we also inform them! Ignorance is not a substitution for protection. And, education isn't the same as promotion. If our children aren't being provided CORRECT information at school, where will they get it?

A campaign has started to encourage Governor Herbert to veto this bill. If you want to help protect our children, Sign the Petition here.

(Click here To Read the bill )

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Never Give Up!

I think its safe to say that all of us have trials in our lives... or at minimum obstacles that we must overcome. Sometimes those obstacles are ones we've set in place ourselves and other times they exist despite our best wishes that they didn't. Life can get down-right hard sometimes and at points it can even seem unfair. But, as I learned  from my nine year old the other day, there is nothing gained by simply giving up.

I know as parents we sometimes tend to see ourselves as the teachers and our children as the students, but more often than not, I find the opposite to be true. Maybe I've just been blessed with amazing kids (okay, I'm going to gloat, there's no "maybe" about it: my children are incredible... and the best part is, they just came that way!). But, my kids aren't alone. Children, without knowing they are doing it, have the ability to teach us if we will but humble ourselves enough to let them.  

Poised to move quick and take the other down, two boys squared off on the wrestling mat. With intense eyes and serious dispositions, they stared at each other, neither showing a glimmer of fear or an ounce of conceit. And then, the whistle blew and the dance started. Though equally matched in height and age, one held an obvious advantage over the other. With an extra 20 pounds of girth,one boy was size-ably larger than his scrawny little counterpart. From the sidelines there was already a clear winner. But, to the boys, that advantage was less clear. 

It didn't take long for the larger boy to take the skinny one down. It was a pure matter of physics as Goliath's take-down technique was nothing short of a belly-flop. As a parent, I sat on the sidelines cheering for my scrawny son, praying he didn't get hurt, and hoping for a positive outcome. 

Certainly I could have called the match and saved my tall, skinny beanpole from three rounds of Goliath's smashing, but as I watched, I sensed that something greater was happening than a simple little-league wresting match

I watched my 70lb giant take on his Goliath-sized opponent with determination and skill. He could have rolled over and let himself get pinned and nobody would have faulted him for doing so. But he fought... and he fought hard!  He knew how to maneuver his way around, and despite the other kid's sizable weight advantage, used all of the strength, wisdom, and determination that he could muster to try to gain the advantage. Every time my little giant would manage his way out from under the weight of his opponent, he'd regain his footing just in time to be belly-flopped to the mat again. His nose was red from the impact; his ribs sore from the pounding... and yet, he continued to fight. For three heart-wrenching rounds I knelt on the side of the pad holding my breath with each smashing.

At the final whistle blow, I let out a sigh of relief that the pounding was finally over. The referee raised Goliath's hand in victory and all I could do was contain myself from throwing my arms around my son (which for the record is a serious "no, no" for mom's at little league events.) I learned more than I ever wanted to know about enduring to the end and his lesson on persevering against the odds spoke volumes, but that's not where the lesson ended.

As soon as the referee dropped Goliath's victorious hand, my son reached for it and with a smile on his face, thanked his tormentor for the match. If I wasn't already near tears by that point, his final act of humanity about pushed me over the edge.

He may not have won the match, but that didn't mean he was defeated! A lesser boy could have simply walked away with his smashed pride, but my tender nine-year old showed what it was like to be a gracious looser... And he took what he learned in that match to improve himself. Rather than wallowing in broken pride (and smashed ribs), he evaluated his weaknesses as well as his strengths and determined to prepare himself for future Goliath's.

And my point... because, yes, I did have a point to sharing this, is:
Never give up! Life is hard and sometimes we are unfairly matched against our own Goliath's, but that doesn't mean that we have to let them defeat us. Our challenges might be tough, but when we get to the end of the "match" hopefully we haven't just rolled over and let ourselves get pinned. Hopefully, we fight with all the wisdom, skill, perseverance and faith that we can muster! And when the challenge is over, hopefully we can find the value in it and grow from the experience.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Does CLEAN really make us feel better?

"Mom, I need some hangers," my doughy-eyed eleven year old sighed. "My laundry is sitting on my couch getting all wrinkled." 

My response came out in the form of a chuckle. "But, two days ago the entire contents of your closet was on the floor.  Not only have the clean and the dirty been closely mingling with each other, you've been wearing wrinkly clothes for months, why does it matter now?"

"Because I've changed. Clean feels good.

It's no secret that I'm an organizer. I like things neatly arranged in their proper place... and if they don't have a "proper place" then I like to create one. Sure, things get out of order from time to time as life gets hectic, but at the core, I like ORDER. Order brings me peace. That's why being a mother is sometimes my biggest challenge.

When my children were little, I remember the anticipation of them getting old enough to take care of their own messes. I remember thinking life would be heaven if I could just make it from one end of the house to the other without tripping on little plastic toys or an assortment of baby doll paraphernalia... Well, that day has come and I'm here to tell you, MY HOUSE IS MORE CHAOTIC THAN EVER!

To an OCD mom, organization is the key to sanity! And yet, the older my children get, the more they seem to mess with my organization. Perhaps they enjoy my depleting sanity. Maybe that's why they mess with me so much. They may not scatter toys anymore, but what they do do is get into my stuff! My tool box is strewn throughout the house and so is all of my sewing stuff. Finding things in the kitchen is a daily scavenger hunt, and their bedrooms often look like a bomb went off.

So, if it bothers me so much, why do I let them get into things? Why do they take their turn emptying the dishwasher? Why do I let them use my sewing stuff? Why do they have access to my tools? And... why don't I clean their rooms?

Simply because my time to teach them is short. If they don't have access to tools, how will they know how to use them? If they aren't expected to help in the kitchen, how will they take care of their own? If they don't learn to sew, how will they know how to mend stuff?
If you don't experience some chaos how can you appreciate the calm?

As much as it kills me to ignore messy rooms, I don't see any value in cleaning them for them. I've tried that method, and believe me, it didn't work. All that was accomplished is a worn out, frustrated mother with ungrateful, expectant children. I think there is a lot more value in giving them ownership and responsibility for their own stuff. If they can't find a pair of pants... not my problem. If their favorite shirt smells like dirty socks because it got chucked on the floor instead of put away... again, not my problem.

It's been a long time coming, but to quote my newly converted eleven year old, "Clean feels good!"

I don't know how long it will last, but the fact that she asked me to help her clean out her room over the weekend is a good start. We are heading in the right direction. I don't doubt that she will turn her room into a war zone again, but I hope that she will remember the peace that came to her when it was clean.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oh Hannah!

~ A hero can only be as bright as a villain is dark ~ 

It seems that one of the most frequent conversation topics in Hope's Journey centers around the character of Hannah. "Oh, Hannah!" people often sigh with disdain. Stomachs churn at her implications. Jaws clench at her arrogance. But, who is this Hannah and why does she drive people so mad? 

First of all: Is Hannah real? 

Yes... and no! She is real in the sense that people like her exist in our society. I have seen her smug self-righteousness, felt her judgments, experienced her condemnation, and I'm sure I'm not alone. She walks among us, carrying pride on her shoulder as she preaches perfection, though the sermon is lost on herself. Hopefully she is not reflected in our own eyes, though the ones who carry her reflection are probably the least likely to notice it.  

So, where does the 'no' part of my answer come in? The beauty of writing fiction is that I can cast my characters however I see best fit for the telling of the story. Sometimes, however, readers want to believe that elements of the story are truer to life than they really are. And, while there are some characters who are pretty close representations of actual people in my life (ie: Gramms), the same doesn't hold true for most of them. Hannah is not my "Alex's" real mom. His real mom is a loving, caring, kind mother and grandmother... and we have a great relationship. She has not only been accepting of me, she has taught me much and served as a great example in my life. 

So, who is Hannah Hastings and what does she represent? 

In the simplest summation I can give, Hannah is an embodiment of the strangers, friends, neighbors, youth leaders, and even parents who are so quick to set themselves on a pedestal. She doesn't represent a single person, but a conglomeration of many. Unfortunately, Hannah's character exists around us more than we may recognize. There are those who  choose to exert their own holiness by condemning those who have stumbled. She encapsulates those who so easily preach sermons about "casting the first stone" but - whether intentional or not - toss hurtful rocks of their own. 

How did I decide where to "cast" her in the story?

When I first conceived the character of Hannah, she didn't have a name or a definitive roll in the story, except to represent the hurt that is so easily slung towards those who make mistakes. To fulfill her purpose, she had to be in position where she could hold influence over both Sydney and Alex. She couldn't merely be a friend, she had to have a more direct link than that. When I finally decided to cast her as Alex's mom, it just felt right. Where else could she have cast such doubt? Where else could she have done so much damage? 

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