Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Writing Journey: The College Years

The College Years – Rediscovering my love of the written word  

My first year at LDS Business College was an emotional time. It was the year I tried to find my footing in this world without my mother to guide me and act as my sounding board. I fumbled a lot that year.  I made choices which I look back and cringe, and I made some choices I’m very happy with.

One of the classes I was required to take was an English writing class. The class description said we would be working on business letters and other such business type topics. Little did I know the original teacher became ill and a new teacher was hired right before the semester began. She was an Enlish lit teacher, and not so much into the business side of writing. Yes, we started out learning how to format business letters of all types, but then our class changed. She started assigning up topics and asking us to write papers and articles – all of which were based on a much more personal level.

There were many afternoons I returned home, dreading to start the next assignment, knowing the struggle I would face trying to find the words to express my feelings on each topic. As I struggled through these assignments, the words gradually started to flow again – coming softly into my mind here and there, prompting some beautiful descriptions, vivid details, and allowing an emotional connection between me and the reader.

One particular assignment was extremely difficult. It was about our dreams. I would guess that most of the students in class talked about what they wanted to accomplish in life. But the dreams I had at that point where the images that ran through my mind at night while I slept. This was my final paper for this class and by far the most gut wrenching to write. Because there was only one dream I that occupied my mind--every night, over and over and over again.



The Sleeping Baby Doll
Tara Danyelle Bauman

Each night I relive it. Holding on to her hand and stroking her hair. Trying to take in every detail of her face and her eyes because I know that soon I won’t be able to see them everyday. Remembering all of the life and joy that once shined from those beautiful gray eyes that are now filled with pain and glazed over from the drugs that were meant to help her feel more comfortable.

As I held her hand, I remembered so many things. I kept thinking of my graduation. Visions of being dressed in a purple cap and gown. I remember walking to the podium to receive my diploma and seeing my mother on the front row of the bleachers smiling and waving to me. Her face was beaming and full of pride for her youngest daughter’s accomplishments. Then at the commencement of the ceremonies, I walked down the aisle to leave the gymnasium and entered the briskness of the spring night. The first person that I saw was my mother standing just outside of the doorway. We threw our arms around each other and cried and laughed and shared our excitement.

“I love you,” I said.. I kept saying that over and over again. I was never quite sure if she understood what I was saying, but I hoped that she did. In response, I could only hear her breathing through the machine positioned next to the bed.

The walls are just as white and bare as the first time. The room was filled with chaos that I just wanted to eliminate. And so I did. In my mind I was the only one there. Trying to help my best friend, my mother, to have peace and comfort in her last hours. Trying to show her that I was brave and that I would be a survivor, when I was really filled with pain and sadness that was tearing me apart.

Now I am helping her to hold her head up. The drugs are really taking effect and she just doesn’t seem to have any strength left. I continued to stroke her thick brown hair, trying to remember the texture and feel of it between my fingers. I kept talking to her as her eyelids grew heavier and heavier.

I watch her becoming weaker and weaker. Until finally, all of the chaos is really gone. The room is quiet, too quiet. Somewhere during all of that racket, she found eternal peace. I see her lying there like a sleeping baby doll. Wishing that I could just touch her to make her wake up.

I reach out to do so.... and I wake up.



My teacher sought me out at the end of the semester to talk to me about my article and my writing. She encouraged me to pursue a writing career. I told her I would consider it, but as I walked away from our meeting I knew I wasn’t ready to let the words all the way back in. I didn’t want to delve back into that emotional, tumultuous world. I wanted the stability of numbers and business law in my everyday life.

So I tried to push the words away, but this time they didn’t obey. They lingered and popped up here and there, only this time they weren’t just words – they were people, characters who made me laugh.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thankful for Poison Control & 9-1-1

Yes, today I'm thankful for both Poison Control and 9-1-1. This thankfulness comes from two separate incidents over the past few days.

Saturday - Calling 9-1-1

My daughter MJ & I were getting everything together to go deliver Girl Scout cookies, when my daughter looked out the window and said, "Mom, there's a little girl sitting in the middle of the road."

"What?" I replied, pulling my coat out of the closet.

"It looks like the Smith's *(changed last name for confidentiality) little girl."

Quite honestly, at this point my thought was, if it's the Smith's girl, then the family must all be outside and they're going to nab her. I wasn't worried. We live on a very quiet cul-de-sac. So I told MJ to grab her coat and get ready to go deliver cookies. Just a few minutes later, we exited our house and started down the drive way. At the end of our cul-de-sac, I could see one of our neighbor's with is car parked in front of the stop sign, holding a little girl about 18 months - 2 years of age. He yelled to me, "Is this your little girl?"

Just then I realized the little girl MJ told me about was not my friend's little girl. MJ and I rushed over. The little girl had on long cotton pants and a long sleeved cotton shirt. Nothing else to keep her from freezing. Our neighbor pulled out some towels from his car to warm her feet, which were soaked and bright red from the cold. I sent MJ back to our house to get warm blankets for the little girl.

At the same time, I realized another family I knew from Girl Scouts was also pulled over on the side of the road. She came over to us. Between her & my neighbor, I found out the little girl walked out of our cul-de-sac and was standing in the middle of the busy road our little circle branches off from. Neither my neighbor nor I had ever seen this little girl before. I asked my friend from Girl Scouts if she had a cell phone. She gave it to me and I called 9-1-1, then asked her to go get my friend, Mrs. Smith* to see if she might recognize the little girl.

By this time, MJ returned with the blankets for the little girl and I was on the phone with dispatch. Not even a minute later, from the end of our cul-de-sac, we see a white van pull out of one of our neighbor's house and speed up to where we are all huddled around this little girl. Her grandfather stepped from the van, white-faced and worried. Apparently, when the mom had left for work, leaving the little girl with grandma & grandpa, she had not closed the garage door. The little girl opened the adjoining door and wandered out without the grandparents noticing. The situation was resolved and the little girl went home with a very grateful grandpa.

So, why am I thankful for 9-1-1? Have you ever had scary dreams when you can't do something you know you really need to do to be safe? For me, that's usually calling 9-1-1 on my cell phone. I push the numbers over and over and over again - but it either doesn't connect or the call goes to Utah (I kept my cell # from before I moved to the midwest) and the dispatcher can't help me or figure out where I am. I have these dreams often enough, that there's this part of me that's been terrified that a true emergency would happen and I wouldn't be able to get help because the emergency service on my cell wouldn't work. I was grateful to call, not only get a local dispatcher, but also someone who knew exactly the location I was talking about. There was no lag in line, no, "please hold while I connect you with a local dispatcher", just fast service.




Monday - Calling Poison Control

Ever since becoming a mom, we've had our fair share of calling Poison Control. I still remember our first phone call. Isaac, who was somewhere between 2 & 3 years old, climbed into my garden tub, and discovered my bowl filled with those cute bath oil beads. You know, the ones that come in all sorts of cute shapes. Well, he thought they were pretty cute too - and he must have thought they'd taste pretty good too cause he ate a few. That was my first introduction to Poison Control. Thank goodness my hubby was home cause I freaked out and didn't know what to do.  =)

Well, Monday night we had our first Poison Control call for our youngest - Anna. After dinner, I instigated "Family Hair Cut" night. I got both the boys done & was just finishing Anna's haircut when the Schwan's man arrived. So, I sat my stuff aside, put in my order, then got distracted helping the kids finish their baths and getting ready for bed. Then I sat down to read a book while I waited for John to finish a phone call so I could cut his hair too. Next thing I know, Anna is standing at the top of the stairs, rubbing her eyes and saying, "Mommy, my eye hurts!"

I went upstairs thinking she got hand soap in her eye again. She's always washing her hands and not getting all the soap off, then rubbing her eyes. But it didn't smell like hand soap. It didn't really smell like anything, but her eye was all red and getting puffy. I took her in the bathroom and tried wiping it with a washcloth & called for my hubby. He came in and checked it out. Anna was still complaining, but not screaming or crying, and her eye was still turning red. I stripped her down, put her in the tub, and started dumping water over her head to irrigate her eye, while John went to investigate. He discovered the mini oil container for the clippers had been all squeezed flat.

We called our Sprint 24 hour nurses line. They gave us some feedback and thought she'd be okay, but also told us to call poison control just in case. Which was a good thing because when we called them, they told us that even though the oil can stop burning, if the eye isn't flushed until the red goes away, it can cause a chemical pink eye and cause vision damage. So we flushed and flushed and flushed. Anna was not happy with us at all, but her eye did return to a normal white and all the puffiness disappeared - and today she's still doing just fine.


So, today I'm sending a HUGE thank you to all those awesome emergency people who answer the phones & respond to our phone calls. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Writing Journey: The Early Years

I’ve had many people ask me what my writing/publishing journey has been like. I’m going to break the story up into several posts over the next few weeks. If you have questions along the way, please post them in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer them in some Q&A posts.

The Early Years – Discovering the Poet & Writer Within

I started writing when I was quite young. I was an avid reader – I can’t remember a time I didn’t have stacks of books in my bedroom overflowing from my bookcase. The titles changed as I grew up, but the state of my bookshelf always remained the same. There were several reasons why I loved reading. Although I believe the main reason was to escape a variety of circumstances that created upheaval and turmoil in my family’s house. The more my life twisted, the more I wanted to snuggle up in bed with a good book and just stay there all day long.

By the time life calmed down, I was hooked on books, characters, and the written word.  I wrote my first newspaper article when I was in 6th grade. I had been assigned to a reading group, then needed to do an individual project on the book we read. For my project, I called the police station and invited our Chief of Police to come talk to my class about crime and how to stay on the right track when we went to junior high. After his visit, my teacher suggested I write a newspaper article about his visit. She edited my first and second drafts, then helped me submit it to our local paper, which covered our entire county. I still remember the day it was printed, reading the article over and over again, each time a tingle went down my spine when I read the byline – by Tara Danyelle Bauman. Me.

That winter, I wrote my very first story, which I called “Electric Youth.” It was a very simple story about two teenagers and first love. I printed it out on my dot matrix printer, ripped off one side off the perforated edges, then weaved yarn through the left hand side’s edges to bind it. I placed it in a box, wrapped it up and gave it to my great aunt for Christmas. I had forgotten about that story, until just a few years ago when my great aunt sent it to me, still intact. Reading it was both humbling and embarrassing. Humbling to remember that little girl who dreamed of writing and yearning for praise. Embarrassing to realize just how pathetic that first story sounded. Although, I guess for a 12 year old, I probably did pretty well.

That spring, I started writing poetry. While I walked the very long path from the bus stop to home, words would flow through my head. I often stopped to pull out a note book and jot down words, thoughts, and impressions. I also enjoyed art and would go sit by the creek that ran behind our house to draw and write some more.

For the next few years, I entered my poetry into the writing competition at our county fair. Each year, I won various awards in different categories. It was exciting to take my cash winnings and the babysitting money I had saved over the summer to purchase clothes for school.

In high school, I wrote occasionally wrote columns for our high school newspaper. I also entered some poetry competitions there as well.  Just after graduating from high school, we learned my mother’s cancer had returned.  Three weeks later, she was gone. The very last poem I wrote was to her. It encompassed so many emotions and so much love. I remember tucking it at her feet with a picture of us together during our very last goodbye before the casket was closed.

And that was the end of the words that flowed through my mind, forming beautiful poems. The words stopped flowing for a very long time.  Eventually they came back, but in a very different form.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haunts Haven Winners!

Thank you everyone for participating in the Haunts Haven giveway. Two lucky winners each get a copy of Haunts Haven by Joan Sowards. They are . . .

Rebecca Talley


&


WindyCindy!

Ladies, please email me your snail mail addresses ASAP so I can get your books in the mail to you. Thank you to Joan & her publishing company for sending extra copies to give away!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Remembering Where I Left My Brain . . .

After three weeks of not really blogging (Okay, hardly blogging at all - but it was Christmas Break!), I find myself having a hard time getting back into the blogging groove. I mean really - how long has it been since I've posted something personal on my blog? Hang on a second while I research that . . .

Hmm . . . Well, I don't think putting out the word that my publisher is looking for people to participate in my book's blog tour counts. Before that there was my post on Dec. 8th about my son's new talent playing the cello. But really, the last time I wrote and actually mention moi was Thanksgiving, when I talked about my family's traditions while growing up and the traditions my hubby and I are trying to create with our own family.

So yeah, it's been a while.

I'm trying to think if I have anything interesting to say. Let's see.

I recently discovered flat irons, how they work, & how awesome they make my hair look! I love it. Now I just need to get a better flat iron so the ends of my hair don't get all fried and yucky looking. Suggestions, anyone?

I'm trying to figure out Twitter and Twibes (still). And ya know, I haven't warmed up to Twitter like I had hoped. So I'm enduring it. I definitely prefer Facebook and post there MUCH more often!

Christmas vacation was awesome. With all the nasty weather & school being canceled, I had the kids home for over three weeks. It was fabulous! My hubby was off work for most of that time. Our family had such a great time. We challenged each other on Wii sports. Hey, if it's almost zero or below outside, you may as well enjoy the benefits of video games. At one point it was warm enough we could actually go outside and break in our sleds. We brought them to Kansas with us when we moved here from Utah and they've been sitting in our garage ever since. After three years, we finally had enough snow on the ground to truly enjoy sledding! We also went to the movies to see The Princess and the Frog (just wait for it to come out on Redbox people. It wasn't worth the price of movie tickets), hit Monkey Bizness one day, then had lunch at McD's another day. I think we actually made it out of the house four days in a row!  =)  But for the majority of the time, we were hanging out at home - which is a vacation all in itself.

Have I told you my eyes are bothering me? I'm trying to decide if it's time to go see my eye doctor and get new glasses - since mine broke like six years ago - or if it's just the stress of being on the computer all the time. Between working on our school yearbook (online), reading for the Whitney Awards (on my netbook), working on another surprise project for my hubby's birthday (which is also online - not the birthday, the book), my eyes are getting quite tired and stressed.

Hmm . . . other fun stuff happening in my life . . . Well, it's almost time to start editing (dis)Abilities in the Gospel with my fabulous editor, Tristi Pinkston. Once we finish the edits, then we'll start to see the book cover, check out the final galley proofs, start finalizing promotional tours . . . Just thinking about it all inspires twisted feelings inside of me. I can't decide if it's butterflies fluttering away, or if I'm going to throw up from nerves. Hopefully not the latter or my book signings won't go over very well.  (Disclaimer: I have never thrown up in a public setting before, no matter how much pressure I was under. So please don't feel the need to come prepared with splatter guards if you brave one of my book signings.)

Oh - and it's birthday mania at our house! I can't believe I didn't say this first. This is the 6 weeks period I eat so much cake, I seriously hate sugar for months afterwards. MJ turned 9 on the 5th. John's birthday is the 19th (just next week!), and Anna turns 3 (yep, preschool age!) on Feb. 15th. It's cake, cake, and more cake at our house. If anyone has any sugar cravings, please stop by.

I've discovered one other thing . . . 2 o'clock in the afternoon is not the best time to work on my computer. The sun shines right through our bay windows and I feel like my office is roasting me alive! So, I guess this is the end of my ramblings. I hope I didn't bore you too much & that you at least got a few laughs while you read.

Have a fabulous day everyone!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Book Review: No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

The last time I read a book published by Zarahemla Books, I was so turned off I decided not to ready any more books they published in the future. But this time I had no choice. As a judge for an awards committee, I have to read all the books that received enough nominations to be considered for the award in a specific genre. No Going Back by Jonathan Langford is on my list of books to read.

More about No Going Back from Zarahemla's website:

A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In No Going Back, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties.


Just from this description, I had so many conflicted feelings. After the legislation and publicity from CA's Proposition 8, this whole debate of Mormon vs. Same-Sex Marriage left a bad taste in my mouth. I was also worried about what scenes I might encounter in the book, such as gay romantic scenes or fantasies that might overstep the bounds of what I prefer to read.

No Going Back opens up with two teenage boys, Paul & Chad, who are best friends playing video games. Paul is debating about whether he should tell Chad he's gay or not. When he does, Chad explodes and arguing pursues. I almost put this book down at page 14 because of the derogatory and demeaning language. I didn't count how many times the words fag and faggot appeared, but it seemed like I was constantly barraged with them.

But I kept reading and I'm glad I did. The nasty words tapered off and a compelling story began to unfold - a story about Paul, a Mormon boy who happens to be attracted to other boys, but who's greatest desire is to keep the covenants he's made with Heavenly Father. But Paul's just not sure if Heavenly Father even wants him with all these feelings he has bottled up inside. And he's confused about who he really is, sometimes what he really wants, and can't escape the constant thoughts about what these feelings for other boys means about him and his worthiness.

During Paul's talks with his bishop, I re-learned some very important truths I've known and how they apply to other's in Paul's situation - and even in my own life. One of those is that being gay and attracted to someone of the same-sex isn't a sin. It's a temptation. Sin doesn't come into play unless you ACT on those temptations. It's the actions - whether physical or fantasy - that are the sin.

Everyone has temptations. For example, I'm a very visual reader; meaning while I read, there's a movie playing in my head where the characters are real, alive, and living out the scenes I'm reading. Once I read something, it's stored in my head and pulled out that the oddest times, sometimes without me even trying to find it. Funny, sad, romantic, scary, joyful, sexy - it's all stored in my head. Certain scenes become a temptation I don't want to pull out again - and it's a battle to keep them stored away where they belong. It seems like the closer to "rated R" the scenes become, the harder they are to keep stored away in a box with a "Don't Open" sign on it. It would be so easy to give in and replay those scenes over and over again. Which is why I am so picky about what I read.

I liked that the bishop used the pamphlet, "For the Strength of Youth" as a guide for Paul. If there are any parents or church leadership out there wondering how to help their teens in similar situations, I recommend reading the interactions between the bishop & Paul. I thought the bishop's balance of understanding and direction to be inspired and uplifting - reading the scriptures daily, praying morning and night, as well as calling the bishop each day on his cell phone at a certain time for a daily update (even if the phone call was a mere 30 seconds to say "I'm fine. Just checking in.")  The support, understanding, and love Paul found from his bishop gave him a lot of strength to keep moving on during such a daunting journey.

Overall, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read No Going Back. It was thought provoking and had just the right balance to truly portray the conflicts and struggles of a young Mormon boy dealing with same-sex attraction. Very well done.

To purchase No Going Back by Jonathan Lanford, follow the link below:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Book Review & Give Away: Haunts Haven by Joan Sowards

Today, I have the opportunity to review Haunts Haven by Joan Sowards. From Joan's website:

"Any house that sits empty for sixty years is apt to gather a few ghost stories in its dust."

Callie Wilford doesn't believe in ghosts, but as soon as the former school teacher arrives in the tiny town of Cassady Springs--home of two feuding families and a cafe owner with a startling story--residents start telling her tales of a ghost who "guards" her century-old, deserted inn. Unfortunately, it is soon apparent that there is more truth than fiction to the stories. While Callie has the courage to unearth tragic secrets to claim her heritage, it takes a handsome cowboy--and a lonely rancher--to prove that her own long-guarded heart may be able to love again.


Haunts Haven is an LDS ghost story with a romantic twist. I really enjoyed this book. With any good ghost story, you expect mystery, suspense, and some spine tingling. Haunts Haven delivered all of that and more. I enjoyed Callie's twisted romantic feelings. She can't help falling in love with the mysterious cowboy who keeps popping up just when she needs to see him . . . or the attraction she feels for the sometimes annoying rancher who is her closest neighbor.

The only part of this book that disappointed me was that I figured out the mystery much earlier than Callie did. There was a redeeming value in that even though I had it all figured out, there was a twist at the end that surprised me. Believe me, you may think you know the ghost's story, but you really don't until the end. It's an excellent twist! Want to know more? Then read the book!

You can purchase Haunts Haven online at Amazon.com or DeseretBook.com. Or just follow the link below:



Haunts Haven Give Away!

I have two copies of Haunts Haven by Joan Sowards for this give away. There are several ways to enter - be sure to leave a comment for each entry! This contest ends on Jan. 14th at noon. The winners will be announced that evening and must contact me within 48 hours or a new winner will be drawn. Please note: I only ship within the United States.

1. Leave a comment on this post. Tell me why you'd like this book.

2.Facebook the contest and share the link back to this post.

3. Tweet about this contest with a link to this post.

4. Follow me on Twitter @TaDaFerguson

5. Become a Queen of the Clan follower on Facebook.

6. Sign up for my newsletter-- email: QueenOfTheClan@gmail.com

7. Follow my blog & leave me a comment.




Receive additional 5 entries! Blog about this contest. If you have a private blog, it will not be eligible for this part of the contest. In your blog post, please use the tags: Queen of the Clan and Joan Sowards. Also, be sure to provide a link back to my blog: www.QueenOfTheClan.com

Another Winner!

So, during the holidays my brain took a vacation and I just realized I was supposed to give away TWO copies of Missing by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen. So winner #2 is . . .

Stephanie Humphreys!

Stephanie, please email me with your snail mail address so I can ship your book out to you. Enjoy!
Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.