Writers Conference for Teens

Some of my author friends just emailed me to say they are hosting a Teens Only writer's conference this summer. The line-up of authors looks incredible! Click here to check out the website. If you are a teen - or you're the parent of a teen interested in writing - this is an AWESOME opportunity! I know most of these authors from the LDS Storymakers conference and they host the best writing classes ever!

Here's some additional information:

2009 Teen Writers Conference

"Living the Writer's Legacy"

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ages 13-19

  • $32.00 Registration fee
  • plus optional $7 box lunch
  • Check-in: 9 a.m.
  • Workshops: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Weber State University:
Shepherd Union Building Rm 404
3848 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden, UT 84408

Presenters include award-winning authors and editors:

James Dashner

J. Scott Savage

Jessica Day George

Michele Ashman Bell

H.B. Moore

Julie Wright

Annette Lyon

Ronda Hinrichsen

Matthew Buckley

Jewel Adams

C.S. Bezas

Tamra Norton

Preston Norton

Josi S. Kilpack

Contests for Jewelry and Music

Hi everyone!

Over on my wedding blog, I just posted a contest for free jewelry. That's right - free bling! Come on over and check it out!

Also, my friend Anne Bradshaw hosts weekly contests over on her blog. This week, it's an awesome Celtic music CD.

Book Review: Tower of Strength by Annette Lyon

Book Description from Deseret Book:

It was 1877 when Tabitha Hall Chadwick left Manti as a young bride. Now, nearly seven years later, she returns as a widow with her young son to make a new beginning. Tabitha’s strained relationship with her mother-in-law adds more difficulty to her life as a single working mother. Yet with a stroke of courage, Tabitha makes two purchases that become her passions: the local newspaper business and a traumatized horse.

As she struggles to meet the challenges of her new roles, Tabitha welcomes the friendship of Samuel, a recently widowed British immigrant. Working together to train the abused horse, the two discover a second chance at love. But when Samuel is critically injured during the construction of the Manti Temple, Tabitha faces the pain of old wounds and the risk of new ones.

Weaving themes of loss and renewal, this poignant tale explores a vital choice each of us must make: to seek safety in isolation or to embrace the painful yet beautiful complexities of life and love.

I have to be honest here. I'm about 3/4 of the way through this book. I thought I'd have plenty of time to read it during spring break, but somehow vacation time went by much more quickly than I had anticipated. While I don't know how it ends, I do know it's a fantastic story. I started reading it yesterday and couldn't walk away from my computer! This is definitely my favorite of Annette Lyon's temple series so far!

I love Tabitha! One of my favorite characteristics about her is that when she returns to Manti after a six year absence, all of her old acquaintances keep calling her Tabby . . . and she hates it! Each time she hears someone call her by her old nickname, she thinks "I'm not a cat!" It just makes me smile. :)

Tabitha is no wimpy character. She's a strong woman who lost her husband as a young bride and set out to find a way to care for her son. She attends college in Logan and, after graduating, become a teacher as well as a writer for a local newspaper. Then she receives an amazing opportunity to purchase and run her own newspaper back in her home town of Manti. The only problem is, well - it's her home town filled with painful memories.

Tabitha decides to take on the challenge. She has such strength as she searches for the right path to take. While she faces many trials, she also makes me laugh at her responses. For instance, her mother-in-law doesn't approve of Tabitha's friendship with Samuel and sets out to do everything she can to prove her point. I loved that after one instance, during a poetry recital, the mother-in-law chooses a poem that is hurtful for Tabitha. But Tabitha approaches her afterward to compliment her on her poetry choice, then pointedly walks out of the room on Samuel's arm! It made me want to stand up and shout, "You go girl!" It was one of those moments when I found myself rather envious of a fictional character.

Samuel has his own set of challenges. He too is a widow, but only of a few months, and he dearly misses his wife. I love his memories of their life together and finding the gospel. It reminds me so much of learning the gospel in my own life. I really connected with Samuel. Right now, I'm at a point in the book where Samuel and Tabitha have shared their feelings for each other. But then Samuel leaves for this tithing work on the temple - only to be involved in an explosion that leaves him seriously injured. While Tabitha is worried about Samuel, she's also freaked out because her first husband died in a mining explosion and this incident has hit her too close to home.

I'm itching to get back to the book to find out if Tabitha can overcome her fears of death and loss to take a chance on loving Samuel. So, if you'll excuse me - I'm going to close this review and get back to reading!

QOTC Rating (even though I don't know the end - I'm trusting Annette to pull through!) - Five Stars!

You can purchase Tower of Strength here or visit Annette Lyon's blog here.

Tornado Season Is Here!

Daffodils and tulips are popping up to bring us the first bright colors of spring. Kids are excited to leave winter coats in the closet and run outside to play. Parents are pumping up bike tires and counting down to the last day of school. Yes, it's true. Spring is finally here!

Along with this new season comes some not so fun stuff, too. I'm not talking about mowing the lawn. April marks the beginning of tornado season. When I first moved to Kansas, I was terrified of tornadoes. Every time the sirens went off—even for the monthly test drills—I grabbed my kids and off to the basement we went. Over the past two years, I've learned more about tornado preparedness and now, even though I still cringe every time a siren goes off, I'm not as terrified as I used to be. Here are four steps to get prepared for tornado season.

#1 – Buy a Severe Weather Radio

Severe Weather Radios alert you any time there's a NOAA National Weather Service Announcement. These are the announcements that as kids we hated because our favorite TV programs were interrupted by that long annoying beep and deep staticy voice. At our house, we watch lots of Disney and other cable channels that don't provide the NOAA announcements for our area. We actually have two radios; one upstairs in our living area and another down in our storm basement. I love that you can program the radios to alert you just for the counties you want monitored. Then whenever those counties have a severe weather announcement, that very same long annoying beep goes off and that same staticy voice tells you what's happening. But you know what? I can handle annoying and staticy if it means my family is safe.

#2 – Memorize the Tornado Lingo

Every time a watch or warning came across the radio, I'd freak out. I couldn't remember the difference between the two and what they meant. Here's some lingo for you to memorize:

Tornado Watch
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

QOTC Tip: I discovered that when a watch is announced, I can get on the NOAA website and go to their maps to see exactly what the path of the coming storm is. Then I can figure out if I need to start preparing for a possible tornado warning.

Tornado Warning
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

QOTC Tip: This means you get the kids and high-tail it to the basement. This is no practice!!! It doesn't necessarily mean the tornado is headed directly for your house or even your neighborhood, but it does mean there's a tornado in the area that could come in your direction. I know several people who actually go outside to see if they can see a tornado. DO NOT be stupid, people! Be SAFE!!! If you want to see a tornado, watch Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel.

#3 – Know Tornado Facts and Warning Signs

  • There are approximately 800-1000 tornadoes each year in the U.S.

  • Every state is risk for tornadoes.

  • Tornadoes can strike quickly with little or no warning.

  • They can appear nearly transparent until they touch down to the ground. At this point, dust and debris are picked up and make the tornado easy to see.

  • Tornadoes are sometimes hidden by rain or low-hanging clouds.

  • They can move in any direction.

  • Their average speed is 30 MPH, but they can also stay in one location without moving or be as fast as 70 MPH. Their wind speed can reach 300 MPH.

  • Tornadoes usually form during thunderstorms and can be accompanied by large hail. Tornadoes also develop during tropical storms and hurricanes.

  • In the Great Plains area, tornadoes often occur when it's not raining.

  • Tornado danger signs: Dark, greenish sky; Large hail; Large, dark, low-lying cloud (may or may not be rotating), Loud roar like a train

  • Peak tornado seasons: Southern U.S. - March through May; Northern U.S. - late spring through early summer (approximately May through July).

#4 – Have a Plan and Practice It

  • Choose a safe location in your home for your tornado shelter. The best place is a basement with no windows. If you do not have a basement, choose an area on the lowest level of your home on an interior wall. Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can. Stay away from windows. A closet or space under the stairs is a good location.

  • Put together a tornado emergency kit. In the corner of our basement, we have water bottles, fruit snacks and other munchies, a first aide kit, pillows, blankets, children's books, and our weather radio. We also grab our home phone and cell phone, if we have time. While we are in the basement, waiting to see if there will be a tornado nearby, we sit on the pillows, read books, and munch if we get hungry. Next on my purchase list: a 5 gallon bucket porta-potty. It never fails that when we're in the basement for a warning, one or more of my kids needs to go to the bathroom!

  • If you have children of various ages, talk with the older children about helping younger children to the basement. Have a roll-call as soon as you are together.

  • Practice your plan every month during spring and summer. In our city, the first Wednesday of each month at 11 am, the tornado sirens are tested. This reminds me that it's time for our family to practice our tornado drill that evening as well. Choose a day to consistently practice with your family. The more often you practice, the less scary it is when there actually is a tornado warning.

  • Talk with your kids about what to do if the tornado sirens go off and they aren't at home. What if you're outside with no where to go? Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge! And never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas with a vehicle. Other drivers are in a panic and there's a great potential for bad accidents. It's safer to leave your car and head for safe shelter. No matter where you are, watch for flying debris. It causes the most fatalities and injuries during a tornado.

To learn more about tornadoes and tornado preparedness, visit the following websites:



The Disaster Center

Network for Good

The Weather Radio Store

Tornado Guide

Anne Bradshaw Give-Away

Anne Bradshaw is giving away a free copy of Annette Lyon's newest release, Tower of Strength. Come over here to check it out. Next week, I'll be reviewing Tower of Strength here on QOTC.

Book Give-Away!

Come check out my wedding blog and leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Your Temple Wedding by Jeri-Lynn Johnson & Amy Jones.

A Little Something to Brighten Your Day

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamp-post how it feels about dogs.

-Christopher Hampton

A Bit of Randomness

This week I am focusing on editing and putting the finishing touches on some chapters for the LDS Storymakers First Chapter contest. While I'm busy working away at my computer, I may not get to post anything really in-depth and thought provoking for a while. I know, I know. You'll be dreading the rest of the week without me . . . LOL! :)

Just a couple of quick updates . . .

This week begins the third week that I've been exercising 5-6 times per week. Some of my girlfriends and I have been meeting 3-4 times a week to use our various Walk Away the Pounds and other exercise videos. The other two days, I either walk outside if it's nice enough (which hasn't been very often yet) or I pop in one of my own Walk Away the Pounds DVD's. My favorites so far are the beginners 1 & 2 mile Walk at Home & the 5 Day Slim Down. I've also been reading Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds book. It has excellent health and walking info. I just love Leslie's positive, upbeat attitude - and her curvy body. She's not some stick-like chick. She's fit and curvy. I love it! I've been feeling really good - and not so sore that I never want to see another exercising video in my life. I just feel good!!!

Isaac is back at school and doing fabulous! He's caught up with his other friends very quickly and from what I understand, his behaviors have been great! He's been able to recognize when he's getting frustrated and calm himself down before getting upset. Very cool. I'm glad the surgery made such a huge difference for him.

Yesterday, John asked me to make Baked Potato Soup for him. He and the girls love it. So I thought I'd share the recipe with you. It was given to me by my girlfriend, Amy Fields.

Baked Potato Soup

4-6 Large baking potatoes (I use 6, because I like it to be thicker and full of potatoes…helps it go further. I also use the skins of half of them, and peel the other half)

2/3 Cups butter

2/3 Cups flour

6 Cups milk

¾ tsp. salt (I don’t follow this measurement…I add tons to taste, since potatoes don’t have much flavor on their own, and need a little added flavor)

½ tsp. pepper (I add to taste as well)

4 green onions, chopped and divided

12 slices bacon cooked, crumbled and divided ( I take the easy route, and buy it off the salad bar, already prepared. I also use more than the recipe calls for, again to my liking)

1 ¼ Cups shredded cheddar, divided ( I use more than the recipe calls for)

1- 8oz. carton sour cream

Wash potatoes and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 1 hour until done. Don’t overcook and make them too mushy. Let cool before cutting. Scoop out insides of potatoes and set aside.

Melt butter in a heavy kettle over low heat. Add flour-stirring until smooth. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Gradually add milk, stirring constantly over medium heat until mixture is thick and bubbly.

Add potatoes, salt, pepper, ½ of green onions, ½ of bacon, and 1 cup of cheese. Cook until thoroughly heated. Stir in sour cream.

Add extra if necessary for desired thickness.

Serve with remaining onions, bacon and cheese.

I hope everyone is doing well! I'll post again . . . soon!

Totally Awesome Giveaways from Annette Lyon!

Everyone - stop what you're doing and hop over to Annette Lyon's blog. She's giving away awesome stuff every day this week. Yes, I said EVERY DAY!!! Leave a comment and check back to see if you win.

Her contests are themed around her newest book release, Tower of Strength (which I have the honor of reviewing!) While you wait for my review, check out this little video clip/trailer for Tower of Strength:

I love the background music. And the cover of Annette's new book is absolutely beautiful! So, hurry over to Annette's blog and check out her fun contests!

Create by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

This was my very favorite talk from Conference. This video presentation of the main part of Elder Uchtdorf's message is absolutely beautiful. No matter what church demonimation you belong to, you will connect with this message. Much love to you all!

Book Review: The Forgotten Warrior by Kathi Oram Peterson

Forgiveness has never been an attribute of sixteen-year-old Sydney Morgan's. Loyal and loving to her mother and sister, a crisis forces her to find her absent father, which in turn begins a chain of events leading her to the last place and time she would have ever expected.

The Forgotton Warrior follows Syd as she is transported back to Book of Mormon times by touching a mysterious clear stone. She meets Chief Captain Helaman; nursemaid, Mariah; and the stripling warriors. They believe Syd to be a boy, and worse yet, Helaman's second-in-command, Tarik, thinks Syd is a Lamanite spy and threatens to kill her.

Come follow Sydney as she desperately tries to find her way back home, fights to gain Helaman's respect, and despite herself, falls in love with Tarik.

QOTC Review:

Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows I'm a total romance buff. I also enjoy suspense, action, and mystery . . . and in the past year or so have finally become a budding fan of fantasy. If you like any or all of these elements, then you will truly enjoy The Forgotten Warrior by Kathi Oram Peterson.

I took this book with me during my son's recent hospital stay. While he played video games or was building Lego creations, I was devouring this book. I had the hardest time putting it down when my son was ready for some Mama attention.

Right from the start, I fell in love with Sydney. The book begins with Sydney totally ticked off and ready to boil over when she hears a trusted friend saying something not-so-nice about her sister who has special needs. I absolutely admired her devotion to her younger sister who has special needs and totally wanted to cheer when Sydney let her friend have it. As a mom raising a son with autism, I have often wondered how I will react when someday someone does something like this to him. Will I keep my cool? Or will I totally lose it and tell them off? Knowing my hot temper, it will probably be the latter . . . although I'm preparing myself now to try to more cool than boiling hot. Imagine, if you will, me reading the first chapter and wanting to shout, "You go, girl!"

This book grabbed me right from the beginning, then pulled me a long with Sydney's discovery of her mother's illness, tracking down her absentee father . . . only to find out the reasons behind his abandonment weren't quite what she had grown up believing. Sydney's world turns upside-down . . . literally, as she's suddenly transported back to The Book of Mormon's Strippling Warriors time period.

This was the very best part of me. I felt like I was living and breathing the life of a strippling warrior. This is when we meet Tarik. Off topic, I want to say I think Tarik is one fine man (and I'm not just talking about his integrity!). I love - absolutely love! - the tension between Sydney and Tarik. And I just laughed out loud every time that girl flipped him over and pinned him to the ground. How totally awesome to have such a big buff guy bewildered by this little chick's slick black belt moves. The lovey-dovey girly side of me really enjoyed the romantic tension between the two of them.

The only bad part about this book was getting to the end and realizing it was a series! Hello! I wanted more!!! So, Ms. Peterson, I seriously hope you have the next book done and that it will find its way into my hands very, very, very soon. :)

Seriously though, this book is an excellent example of an entertaining novel that leaves the reader with a much better understanding and appreciation of an historical moment - in this case, the strippling warriors and their faith in Heavenly Father as they defended their families, loved ones, and land. I highly recommend this book.

QOTC Rating: Five Stars!

For more about this book, check out Kathi's website and her blog.

To purchase The Forgotten Warrior, click here.