Tag Archives: More than a book

My Grandma in a Book Review

I should be visiting my grandparents today, but instead I am home, with my kids with a cold.  Instead, I am finishing a story about my grandma, well a grandma at least but she sure seems a lot like mine.  This story made me reminisce about the wonderful lady that she is.  It made me think of the life lessons that she has taught me.  It made me laugh, it made me cry, and mostly it made me wish that my grandmother was not starting to get tired.

Without further ado I introduce my grandma and the book: A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck.

I spent near as many dinners around her kitchen table as my own.  She was quite the cook. I asked her one day how she became such a good cook and she said, “I just wanted to really bad, so I worked at it.”  That’s how she lived life.  If she wanted something she worked for it herself.  She put in the time. Nothing was free and nothing was owed to her.  She cooked to feed her family (and the neighborhood kids, and the people from out-of-town) not for show.  I would put her pies, candy, bread or cakes up against anyone in town.  One of the only things I see differently than the grandma in this book from my own.  She would never cheat another.  It didn’t matter if he was a “no good rascal”.


Grandma made us work.  Sometimes we didn’t like it, but looking back now I am grateful for the time I spent with her.  I spent many afternoons helping her bag and deliver “Peggy’s Ice”.  I helped in the garden and in the yard.  I learned some basic cooking skills and learned that dishes get cleaned right after dinner, “they are harder to clean if you let them sit and people will hang around anyway so you can still talk after your done.”

Grandma said what she thought.  It took me a long time to learn that she didn’t mean to hurt others, she just didn’t like what they were doing.  The thing is, she was so respected and well liked that they valued her opinion.  Gossip didn’t often happen around her kitchen table, yet she knew everything about everything.  I guess those were just conversations in honesty.

I remember one time when I ran away from home. I have no idea why, but I headed up to Grandma’s house.  My mom quickly followed and I remember when my grandma opened the door she said, “She’s here, but I think she just needs a minute. I’ll bring her down the road in a few minutes.”  She didn’t say anything to me, just gave me a few minutes, then she patted my back and said it was time to go home, and I went. I knew I could always trust her, that I mattered, and she would do anything for me.

We spent many nights at Grandma’s too.  Sometimes it was planned but sometimes it was unexpected.  On those nights, Grandma would pick out each of us one of her silky shirts and put them on us to sleep in.  She called them “twirling shirts” and would have each of us a give her a good spin before she tucked us into bed.

I can talk to my grandma about anything.  One time after I was telling her about a particularly selfish person, she said, “You don’t need to make room in your life for people like that.  Really all that matters is family and love.”


She knows a lot about love my grandma.  She tells you she loves you, but she also shows you. Most often this comes in the form of food at her table, but she also would sew things, or ask you to help her grab something from the storage so she could just talk to you and tell you she loves you.  She always had ice cream and I can’t count the number of times she held my sprite while I took a sip through a straw when I was sick.  If you were leaving town, she expected a call to know you got home, if she didn’t get one, she’d call you and remind you that “I was in a dither because I didn’t know how you got on.  You make sure to call me okay.”

She also taught me about love in the way she loved my grandpa.  She was always there.  Always.  She supported him, in the best way she could and that was in taking care of him.  Grandpa said she didn’t like the tractor much, but that she liked to be with him, standing next to the fence watching him work the field.  She helped drive the truck to get the cows on or off the mountain and she always made sure his belly was full.  The ultimate care-taker.


Grandpa would do much of the fishing and hunting but I would not have put it past her to put on her overalls and take us illegal catfishing if it meant that we (or another) would have food on the table.  She would just chalk it up to taking care of her people.

She taught us the broom trick in her kitchen when we were young.  She did it then and showed us, not just told us.  A few months ago when showing our own kids the broom trick in that same kitchen, she said, “well I think I can still do it, maybe I ought to give it a try.”  We convinced her otherwise, but I wonder if probably she still could.


She loves animals, she hates them, she loves them.  She always complained, but she is the lady that feeds the neighborhood cats.  She still talks about Benji the weiner dog she had when we were young.  She always let her kids rescue animals even though she said she wouldn’t this included dogies, goats, chickens, cows etc. etc. etc.  She has a cow in her field that she can see out her back window that doesn’t have a hoof on one leg.  He is a resilient cow who is still doing just fine.  She tells me how sad it is to see that even in the world of cows, those that are different are left out.  This black cow waits to eat last, often lays alone and just goes through life trying to get by.  The cows in the field will one day be meat on the table, but grandma says, that one has to go to someone else because there is no way she can eat him.

I learned to play poker with buttons at her kitchen table.  Spoons too.  and hopscotch. She also showed me how to climb trees and what real sun tea tasted like. I learned to make candy in her kitchen.  She fired me once, but last time I made taffy with her she said, “I am done firing people,” but she reached her hand over and took the spoon from mine and said, “but maybe I better take this right here.”


She’s a tough old bird.  If I ever needed backup in a fight, Grandma would be the one to call.  She loves me fiercely and wouldn’t hesitate to “box their ears” if she thought they deserved it.  She’d pull out a paddle cutting board and pound it on her hand and say, “that’ll end that.” Sometimes I thought she was going to box my ears too.  I had a hard time seeing disappointment from my grandma.  I thought sometimes she was too hard on me.  I think she just really saw that I could do so much more and that I should.  She expected that of me, because I was hers, her genes made me after all. She didn’t want me hanging out with “rascals” and often asked “well why didn’t you do something else?”  The older I get the more I understand.  The more I love and respect her willingness to say the hard things.  I admire her strength, her courage and her toughness.  Too often I think I worry about how things will make people feel without realizing that the true honesty in life is just another form of love.


I love when she says, “Oh Hell.” Or when she says, “I love you.”  She has been known, with her hands aside my face, to say “You are special, a very special girl, a very good mom.”  She will say, “I am so proud of you, proud you are mine,” and most recently I even caught a “She can eat my shit” when someone made her feel sad.  Like I said, she always says what she feels.

So to my grandma-World’s Best-thank you for your wisdom, your wit, your all around funny, loving, kindhearted self.  I am so proud you are mine.


If you want to laugh at a grandma like mine, you really need to read this short, very quick read A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck available here.


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Interview with Faun Jackson and Cover Reveal for Secrets and Doors

I had the privilege of speaking to Faun Jackson with Faund Images Photography about the cover design for the new Secrets and Doors Anthology, available at Crimson Edge Publishing.  Jackson has a lot of passion about art and books so cover design is a perfect fit for her.  Check out this cover and make sure to spend time looking at all of the special details that she added.


So beautiful!  She is so talented and we were all so lucky to be able to work with her on this project.  Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Faun Jackson.


Can you tell us your journey to becoming an artist? What were your original inspirations? 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a pencil, crayons or paintbrush in my hand.  Even though I loved school, you could look at my notebooks in any given subject and find the doodles of the day.  Being from a small area, the high school that I attended didn’t even have an art teacher.  They actually had the PE teacher trying to teach art.  Needless to say, she had ME teach the class!  I was the Art Sterling Scholar and everything in my portfolio was completely done on my own with no instructor’s help.

I attended Utah State University, where I finally was able to take art classes from professors that were amazing!  The world opened up to me and I was excited about the possibilities!  I continued to work on my craft at Utah Valley University, working in the media department.  Using the first Macintosh computers I found a new passion in generating department flyers, illustrating their books and even designing a book cover.  I was asked to teach a class on computer graphics and later taught a continuing education class as well.   I worked for Stephen R. Covey designing instructional material. I also illustrated brochures for a craft company, a hot tub company and put together instructional books sold in craft stores.

As my family grew, some of those aspirations were put on hold for a time.  However, the entrepreneur in me, decided to paint on clothing and see if anyone would be interested in buying them.  I contracted with a store in Park City, Utah where they sold my shirts, as well as a store in Gardner Village.  One day, the owner of the Park City store made the comment “People love your shirts!  I have been asked several times why you spend your time painting on a shirt when you should be painting on walls!”  Up until then, I hadn’t even thought of that!  I immediately went to town on my own home walls… word spread and I was painting on other people’s walls before I knew what happened.  For years, I painted everything you can imagine on walls from Torrey to SLC.   Photography had always been a passion for me but when photo shop came into my life, it opened up a whole new creative outlet.  I have continued taking classes and experimenting with my ideas.  A few years ago, I heard the term “Fine Art Photography”.  I checked it out and was immediately hooked.

My inspiration comes from the place I call home and my family.  I have everything from high mountains, lakes, wooded areas to the red rock in the desert to inspire me.  My mind never shuts off and I create my most unique ideas at night when I SHOULD be sleeping!

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How did you become interested in illustrating or cover design for books?

I have worked in our local library for seventeen years and during that time, I have come to appreciate a great book cover design.  I also understand the importance of the book cover.  We all would like to think people don’t judge a book by its cover but in fact, many people do.  If the cover is intriguing to them or the title, they pick it up more quickly.  With my love of books and art, designing book covers seems to be a natural fit!


The cover is beautiful.  Can you tell us more about how you came up with the idea and the process you used to design the cover?

Given the genre of the book, I knew I wanted my design to have a mysterious yet magical feel.   I knew I wanted a girl wearing a dress made of a specific type of fabric.  Luckily, I had recently photographed someone who met that criteria.  I approached the young woman and she was more than delighted at the prospect of being on a book cover!  It was important for me that the girl have long hair, so we waited for her to get hair extensions.  Then the search was on for the perfect door.  It all came together but there was a lot of editing to be done to get the image where I wanted it to be.  After the initial edit, I wanted the image to be more monochromatic so I turned her green dress purple and created a purple-ish hue over the entire photograph to give it the mysterious feel I was looking for.  I made her a bit ghostly, raised her eyebrows for more expression, pulled her dress out at the bottom and to finish it off, put the creepy hand in the window.  When I looked at the finished product, I knew if it were a book in my library, I WOULD indeed pick it up!


Before and After

In addition to designing covers for books, I am sure you are very busy.  What are some other things that you do so we can get to know you better? 

Besides working at the library, I keep myself extremely busy doing photography of every kind.  I have worked on some fun editorial shoots with, Myriah Chestnut Deckard, a creative, fun woman from LA.  You can find some from that shoot here.

I continue being asked to paint on walls but have very little time for that any more.  My most recent mural was in a dentist office… a painting of a tooth fairy flying with a toothbrush in hand!

I  am a mother of four and a grandmother of four.  This is where true happiness lies!

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What are you reading right now and what are your favorite books? 

I am hoping that the current book I will be reading will be “Secrets & Doors”!

There are too many favorite books to mention but I’ll try and pick a few.  You could say that my family is full of Harry Potter nerds.  Everyone knows which house they belong to… that kind of nerdy!  I do love a good fantasy!  I enjoy many genres.  “The Help” and “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” are two of my favorite books.  As far as mysteries, I have been enjoying the Flavia De Luce series by Alan Bradley.  My favorite non-fiction book would have to be “Unbroken”.


Is there a book that you wish you could have designed the cover for?

This is a more difficult question to answer! The novels of the Others (Written in Red, Murder of Crows, etc.) by Anne Bishop would be series that I would have loved to design the covers for.  They are pretty imaginative books and they would have been fun to be really creative with.

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Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

The world of photography has changed so drastically over the past few years, opening up all kinds of creative possibilities.  Even though I do enjoy photographing people in a traditional fashion, my true love lies in creating images that look more like a piece of art, rather than merely a photograph.   I continue to re-invent myself so to speak, constantly taking courses that inspire me to reach the next level.  My goals for the future most definitely involve creating more book cover ideas as well as anything else that allows creativity…

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How do we find your art?



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The Secrets and Doors Anthology is now available for purchase at Crimson Edge Publishing: http://crimsonedgepublishing.com/bookstore/


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Writing (Pitch) Contests From a New Twit

I recently discovered this medium called “Twitter”.  I know, I am way behind the times, but I always told myself a) I am not a Twit, and b) I don’t have that much to say. However, remember that writing conference that I recently attended?  In my moments of being brave and all that I could be I met one very kind person named Rae Chang.  She taught me a little something about Twitter in just one sitting.  See Twitter, isn’t always about what I have to say, but it’s about listening to what others have to say.  Listening-that’s my forte-I got this.


So I started Tweeting.  Where an author is concerned-it is a very, very useful tool.  Through Miss Rae I found a contest called “Pitch Madness.”  If writing contests were a dance, Ms. Brenda Drake, she would be the Belle of the Ball (along with her team-I am sure she would say.)

This contest included my submission of a 35 word pitch and the first 250 words of my manuscript.  I sent in my work and waited. Checking twitter every few hours, following new people in my same position, making connections and friends.  All was said and done, and I didn’t make the cut.  I had already learned so much though that it was okay.  It was worth it.  I received some feedback on my pitch and found that those involved remembered my story, and better yet-they liked it!  I even received a surprise email request from one of the agents in the contest.  I was elated.  This didn’t mean that I was going to get a deal, but it did mean that someone, outside of my family think my story just might be interesting.

Pitch contests may not be for everyone.  I like feedback. I know that failure is really just a setback on a long journey. A no-just makes me push harder.  These types of contests work for me, but I can see how they may not for others.

Pitch Madness was followed up with a Twitter Pitch Party where I constructed a number of 140 character pitches. I had, said pitches, scheduled to go twice per hour, only to learn that for three full hours, not a single pitch was sent (My lack of Twitter knowledge).  Ah shucks.  I had to revisit and send them manually-learning along the way.  The result-three requests and a slew of  new acquaintances. I may not get an agent from either of these contests, but for me HOPE is worth a lot.  I learned that my story does have a place and more than that-that I can be picky.  I can select only the right person or the right publisher for my book-someone that most likely participates on Twitter.  The reach is amazing.

In closing, Lessons Learned By This New Twit:


  1. Writing (Pitch) Contests can be fun, even when you fail.
  2. Getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new/nice people is really worth it.
  3. Being a Twit, isn’t quite so bad.
  4. Business and Marketing exist in Authorship and I got this.
  5. One day, my name will be on a published book! (How can it not with all that I am learning)
  6. Just because my story isn’t right for one person, doesn’t mean it won’t be for another.  (Keep that feedback coming)


Thank you so much Brenda Drake and the entire team at Pitch Madness.  What a wonderful learning experience for a new author like me.  A special thanks to Rae Chang for her kindness during a very scary experience-it may not have been much for you, but it changed my whole outlook on what being an author really means.  Your kind words led me to Twitter and Pitch Madness. Pitch Madness gave me hope.  You gave me hope! Thank you!

Oh, and Twitter, that’s my new medium. I am now an expert-I invented that place!  (okay not really-but one day)


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I haven’t read a Zombie book in a long time, since I finished the Forest of Hands and Teeth Series, which I loved. But Nerf recently released a group of weapons specifically for the hunting of Zombies, so I decided it was due time to read another one, so I selected Medora by Wick Welker.


There is an art to writing a book about Zombies.  A high level of intensity must be kept throughout the entire account. I think this is what leads to a very specific personality of the  Zombie book lover.  If you love this type of book, like I do,  Medora will not disappoint!

In Medora, you are introduced to a group of individuals that will stick with you. Keith and his family and friends are the typical American family which all of us can relate to, but the circumstances in this book make me want to stock my vehicle with food and supplies so I can run at the drop of a hat.  It also made me very wishful for more antennas on top of buildings and grateful for all those silly neighbors that leave their Christmas decorations up all year round.  Medora is creative and inventive bringing new thoughts and ideas to some very old, and often hated concepts of life.   I promise not to spoil.

If you love Zombies-you will love Medora, but be prepared to double check your neighbors eyes (and smell), when they tell you they are feeling a little under the weather.

You can find Medora here: http://www.amazon.com/Medora-Zombie-Novel-Wick-Welker-ebook/dp/B00HGMQKZE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1390410654&sr=8-2&keywords=Medora#

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Remembering Who We Are

One of my very cute cousins inspired me today. She is darling, with an infectious laugh and tons of personality.  She also loves dragons-so what’s not to love about this lady.  Ms. Dragoness herself recently completed this beautiful work of Art.


Isn’t it Lovely!

So is she, and whats so great about this painting is that she just decided to start doing it again.  I for one am so very glad that she did.  Like me, she remembered something that she once loved doing.  She got so busy working and being a totally amazing mom, that she forgot to make time to keep her art alive.

It was so hard for me to get out there.  Hard for me to say, I wrote this, and I hope to get it published one day.  What if I don’t.  What if I told all of these people about something I wanted to do, and I fail?  I worry about this all the time,  but thanks to Ms. Dragoness, I am reminded that I am writing because I love it.  It was something that mattered to me once, and still does.  It has become an outlet for me in so many ways.  I have also been able to meet great people and even make attempts to open some doors for others in the process.  Maybe, even if I don’t get where I want to go with my writing, there is something more in store for me.

Ms. Dragoness, you are an example to me.  Reminding me that we always need to find time to do the things we love, to share our inner creativity.  I challenge each one of you to remember something that you …once loved to do, that you haven’t done in a while: sports, writing, reading, painting, or music…anything… just see how it makes you feel.  Let me know how it goes!  I hope you find that it is just as much fun as you remember it being.

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First Guest Post

I contributed to my first blog, other than my own the other day.  The post is located at:


Go check out this blog and all of the great writers!

More Than A Book

                When an author says, “Hey, buy my book!” What they are really saying is, “Hey, please support me so I can keep doing what I love!”  After all, what you are buying is more than just a book.  Yes, you will take it home and read it, and it may be only that to you, but to the author you support through your purchase, it is so much more.

Authors are artists in their own way.  Just as paint is carefully placed onto a piece of stretched canvas, each word that an author places into their story, represents something to them.  Words placed in such a way, to make everything make sense, to make magic.  Countless hours are consumed in crafting of the perfect story, representing something beautiful they see in their own mind.

So when you purchase their book, their art, you are not just purchasing a group of pages to be placed on a shelf, you are purchasing their time.  You are buying their energy, their joy and all of the sacrifice that went into creating that story.  You are buying an opportunity for them to continue to do something that they love.

Next time an author says, “Hey, buy my book!”  Show them you support them, and believe in them and that most of all, you want to see their joy.


                For those of you who don’t read, buy the book anyway, it would be unfortunate if all of the trees surrendered for the writing of a novel had sacrificed their lives for nothing.  If you don’t do it for the art of it, buy books for the Trees!

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