Rejection Stinks but I’ve learned Character is Key

I recently sent my first manuscript ever to three different publishing houses. They each rejected the manuscript, but one was very helpful in their feedback. They said, “although your characters are based on real people, the characters are not as well as developed as they could be.”

I am so grateful for their feedback. My characters were not strong enough and this is where I need to improve on. I want my characters to seem as real as possible. Real means with weaknesses and strengths. As a perfectionist, I have a tendency to make my characters “too perfect.” But because they are “perfect” they are boring and not interesting.

I am so glad I have the opportunity now to go through a book I have already read again to help me understand where my characters fail.  It is called “Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint” by Nancy Kress. I am excited to learn where I went wrong and to make my characters stronger in the rejected manuscript and to create amazing characters on my current work in progress.

Kress says, “. . . without believable and interesting characters, you don’t really have fiction at all.  You may have names walking through a plot, but without the essential animation of the character, a historical novel becomes mostly a history text, a mystery becomes a police report, and science fiction becomes a speculative monograph. Character is key.”

I love those words: character is key. I realize that my characters are two dimensional. They are not Anne of Green Gables, Katniss Everdeen, Eowyn of the Riders of Rohan, or Elizabeth Bennett. It is hard to swallow after a year of work, but it also wonderful to know that I can improve my characters. When I make dynamic characters, then my next manuscript will be so much better.

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Despite my disappointment of publishers not accepting my manuscript, I am excited to learn how to create better characters and I can’t wait to get started.

Adding Family History to Our Vacation

Our family recently went on a trip to Southern California. There were three things on our list: Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, and my favorite The Mormon Battalion Historic Site in San Diego’s Old Town.

Yes, it was fun to go on the new Guardian of the Galaxy ride at California Adventure, to have everyone laugh at me and my terrified face as we went over Splash Mountain, and to see the koalas and pandas at San Diego Zoo, but the part of the trip that meant the most to me was when my children go to learn about their fourth great-grandfather, Zemira Palmer.

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Mormon Battalion Historic Site

The Mormon Battalion Historic Site is located at 2510 Juan St., San Diego, CA 92110. It is free to the public and open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The last tour is at 8:00 p.m. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to go because we had spent the majority of the day at the San Diego Zoo and the children were exhausted from walking, but I really wanted them to go. I knew they shared information about their ancestors and I wanted them to see it.

When we walked in, two beautiful young women (missionaries) asked us if we wanted a tour. We went into the front waiting area.

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Front waiting area at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site

It was a lot of fun because the pictures on the wall talked to us almost as if we were in some kind of Harry Potter movie.  The young man on the bottom right-hand corner represented Zemira Palmer. He was the narrator and took us through the journey.

First, we started in the room that represented Mount Pisgah, Iowa, then we moved on to Fort Kearny, Kansas.

At Fort Kearny, my ten-year-old son got to dress up like a member of the Mormon Battalion and carry a gun that they would have carried.

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After Fort Kearny, we followed the Battalion on their journey of over 2000 miles to San Diego. One thing I learned is that the Battalion stayed in San Diego for over a year later and helped the people learn to make bricks, irrigate, and so many other things.

Outside, my boys got to pan for gold, make bricks, and wash clothes like the members of the Battalion did. It was a great, interactive way for my children to learn about their great fourth grandfather Zemira Palmer. As the missionaries told the story, I also supplemented with additional information that I knew about him. It was the highlight of my trip.

 

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Zemira Palmer was born 9 August 1831 at West Borough, Frontier County, Canada to George Palmer, Jr. and Phebe Draper. Zemira was the six child in a family of 7 children. His father passed away when he was two, and his mother Phebe met Brigham Young and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Many years later, Phebe remarried a man named Ebenezer Brown. Ebenezer enlisted and Phebe followed to become a laundress. She mended and washed the clothes for the Battalion. She also cooked for the officers.

Zemira was fifteen years old when he volunteered and was assigned as a personal aide to Col. Allen, which included caring for his horse and shining his boots. The Mormon Battalion march was very difficult. They dealt with cold, heat, lack of water, sickness, and even problems with wild bulls. There were also soldiers from Missouri; some who had helped drive the Saints from their state.They made it to the Pacific Ocean at the new settlement of San Diego in January 1847. The war ended and they never had to fire a shot. Zemira, his mother, and his step-father all re-enlisted and stayed one more year in San Diego. Phebe taught school to the children of the area and Zemira and Ebenezer made adobe bricks and helped build new buildings.

The Mormon Battalion made a good impression on all the people with whom they had associated. After their enlistment was up, they traveled north to find work before coming to the Salt Lake Valley, They were employed at Sutter’s Mill during this tune and were there when gold was discovered. It is said that they paid the first tithing in gold. They rode mules all the way to the Valley. When they finally arrived there was a great family reunion. It had been three years and they were glad to be with the family and the Saints again. Zemira was now 18 years old.

Later Zemira married Sally Knight and they had 12 children together. He was a strong man who did amazing things because he exercised his faith in his Heavenly Father.

Running My First 5K

Two months ago I decided I wanted to run my first 5k. I ran one twenty-four years ago in junior high and didn’ t really like it. Ever since then, I have shied away from running. However, I’ve been reading The Ultimate Weight Solution by good old Doctor Phil McGraw and I’ve been working on the “keys to weight loss freedom.” He is very blunt, but it is part of the book’s appeal for me who needs to be hit over the head with something.

He says, “Nothing will stop you from being anything other than healthy, vibrant, in shape, this will happen because YOU make it happen.”

I have always known that I am the one who is in control of my lifestyle and my weight, but it really “clicked” this time.

He says, “The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You’ve got to be your own best friend first, accepting and loving yourself from the inside out, before you can be truly happy and before you can live with purpose and passion.”

I have decided I want to live a life of ‘purpose and passion.’ Dr. Phil encourages his readers to set ‘realistic’ goals. I set a long-term goal and a short-term goal.

My long-term goal is to lose forty pounds by December 31, 2017.  On April 22, 2017, I set the goal to train three days a week to run a 5k on June 3, 2017.

In order to achieve this first goal, I downloaded a couch to 5k app on my phone and used it three– sometimes four– days a week to train. I hoped by doing this I would lose one pound a week.

At first, it was hard to train because the weather in April was crazy here in Utah. It was warm one week, snowed another, and rained a lot. However, I got up at 6:00 in the morning, checked the weather and decided I would run rain or shine.  I had my faithful chocolate lab, Koda, as my running partner and we would go.

This last week before my race, I started getting shin splints in both my legs and they really ached. However, today I ran anyway. I was not able to run the entire 5k, but I ran until my body said, “Hey you! I hurt! Stop! Stop!”  I would walk for a minute then pick up the pace.

I was inspired by Wonder Woman. I know it sounds corny, but as I looked for races to run I found that Smith’s grocery store was sponsoring a “Super Hero” run to raise money for Primary Children’s Hospital. My husband and I and our boys love superhero movies. I find them fun and inspiring at the same time. I knew “Wonder Woman” starring Gil Gadot was coming out the day before I would run the race. I found this photo.

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I told myself I could have courage. I could be confident in myself to finish the race. I dressed up today with my Wonder Woman t-shirt and my awesome Wonder Woman socks and I ran. I ran with courage. I did it! I really did it!

Here are some fun pics:

 

The app even printed out a certificate of achievement for me.

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Now, my teenage son plans to join me and we are going to run a 5k on Independence Day. I also plan to run a fun night run with glow sticks and a Harry Potter themed 5k in July. The same company that made the app has another app to encourage me to run faster.

Guess what? After all of my training, I am down seven pounds and I am on my way to my end goal in December. So, the next steps for me to continue on to my forty pound journey are:

  1. Run three more 5ks this summer, maybe more!
  2. Learn all I can about nutrition and plan my meals and snacks.
  3. Reduce my sugar intake for 75 days until our 17th anniversary in August. Then I will indulge in a delicious piece of chocolate cake. I am hoping it will be “too rich” and I won’t be able to finish it all!

Here we go! I will have courage because I love myself and I am in charge of creating my life. I want to live with ‘purpose and passion’! We are off for my reward of seeing the movie. I am glad my husband agreed so easily. He says, “Wonder Woman is the most important movie of our time.” I can’t imagine why. 🙂

Lawnmowers Declare War Against Karen

I love spring. The bright colors of the yellow daffodils, the red and purple of tulips, and the sweet blossoms on the tree bring joy to my soul. At first, I love the warmer, longer days and how the grass all around is turning lush and green, but then it grows. The grass reaches up toward the sun each blade stretching taller and taller until I am struck with horror that now I must mow it. (Cue horror music, dum, dum, dum).

Ever since we became homeowners, mowing the lawn has become my task as my husband is extremely allergic to cut grass. He tried to put on a gas mask and mow a few times, but it is embarrassing being the only alien yard worker on the block. I do not mind the task of mowing the grass, but I swear they met in a secret meeting to declare war on me even before the first time I mowed.

Our father-in-law gave us his old lawnmower when we moved in our first home as he now had a riding lawn mower. We were very grateful as it was a part of homeownership we had not considered until that point.  As we tried to prepare the new lawnmower to cut, we discovered it had a huge wasp nest in it. So we ended up borrowing our neighbor’s lawnmower for a few times until we could get it working.

Well, eventually my husband fixed the carburetor on the lawnmower and we were in business until I somehow broke the handle on the starter cord. We tied a wrench on the end of the cord and luckily there was a cease fire for a few years.

Eventually, the old tame lawnmower gave up the ghost and we got a young recruit from Saratoga Springs. We had moved over the winter and were excited to welcome him to our new home. He was fresh and young and worked hard. I was happy. I thought all my problems with lawnmowers was in the past until the day he fulfilled his secret suicide mission and ran into the railroad ties in our garden bending his sharp sword.

My husband purchased a shining new lawnmower. He was fancy and had an automatic start. I could not have been happier. He worked wonderfully until the day he needed new oil.  While I had never added oil, I figured I could do it and everything would be fi. Poor lawnmower! He was never the same after that. He smoked and puffed and refused to work again when I stopped to empty the cut grass from his stomach.  I found that if I bagged the grass while he was running that I could finish mowing the lawn, but he got back at me when he lunged at me with his blade.

Luckily, the lawnmower missed but the impact broke the bone in my middle finger. He laughed as I went around all summer giving people “the bird” as my finger was in a splint. I sighed with relief when the growing season ended.

Now here it is spring again, the birds are chirping and last week the dreaded day came when it was time to mow the long grass again. I filled the engine with gasoline and clicked the starter and the lawnmower burst into flames. The outside water had not been turned on yet and so I had to run into the house with a bucket and fill it will water. Then I ran back to the garage and put the fire out. I guess a bit of gasoline had leaked onto the top of the lawnmower and the spark made it start on fire.

I swear the lawnmowers have declared war and will continue until I no longer choose to mow the lawn. I have a teenage son who could mow, but now the blasted mower won’t work. I guess this is the year we hire a lawn mowing service.

 

 

Week Three: Writing Your Baby’s Story

We’ve been busy the last few weeks with family in town and celebrating birthdays. I had fun adding more information to each of my “baby’s” stories. They certainly aren’t babies anymore! Our youngest just turned six years old. If you are starting when your baby is only a few weeks old, congratulations! My details are getting foggier the older I get. Here are the questions to add to your child’s story this week.

  1. Who drove the mother and the baby home?When did the mother and baby arrive home
  2. Where did the mother and baby live? Who did they live with?
  3. Describe the baby’s home and room.
  4. Did the baby sleep in their own room or share a room with the mother or someone else?
  5. What were the siblings’ and/or other family members’ reactions the baby’s arrival home?
  6. What visitors did the baby and mother have in the first few days home?
  7. Did anyone come or help the mother and the new baby? Who? How long did that person stay? What other help did the family receive?
  8. Did the mother and/or baby receive any special gifts?
  9. Describe the feelings the mother and father had during the first few days home.  Did they have any special impressions or thoughts?

A few of the highlights from my answers to these questions comes from that the last one. Describe the feelings the mother and father had during the first few days home. When we had our first beautiful baby boy, I was twenty-four.  We were students in college and working hard to make ends meet.  I remember when we first brought our baby home to our little apartment, I was so excited, but also very nervous. We had a lot of support. My mother came every day to help us out a little and my mother in law came for a few days as well. Our church family helped us with dinners and always checked on me.

It was hard the first time I was left alone with our son. I had taken care of children, even little babies, but not for hours at a time. I was trying to nurse him because all my birthing classes had stressed that “breast is best.” However, our sweet little guy would not latch on in a comfortable way and it hurt terribly every time I tried to feed him. I was frustrated and exhausted. However, I would not, could not supplement with formula. I was certain in my foggy postpartum mind that if I fed him from a bottle, he would die and I would forever hold the title of “worst mother in the world.”

I remember praying,”Please Heavenly Father, please help me, please bless him to be able to eat.” Well, I tried to do everything the lactation specialist had shown me and it wasn’t working. The baby was hungry and tired. My delivery was rough and I was still recovering. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I cried and cried, the baby cried. It was so overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do anymore when exactly at the moment by my sweet husband walked in the door. He had come home from work earlier than I expected. He looked at me and the baby and he took the sweet infant in his arms and snuggled him and sent me to bed. I remember saying the baby was upset because he was hungry, but I couldn’t get him to eat. My level-headed husband said, “We still have samples of formula from the hospital, right?”

He said, ‘formula’ but I am sure I heard  ‘arsenic.’  I glared at him. “We are not feeding our baby formula!”

He looked at me kindly and put his arm on my shoulder. “Karen, scientists created infant formula for this reason: so that their dads could help feed their babies. Our baby won’t die if he drinks formula. I promise you. He is going to be fine.”

I tried to protest, but I was so exhausted and somehow he got me to go lay down. I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke an hour or two later and came out to my husband watching television in the living room. Our baby’s belly was full and he was happily dosing in the crook of his father’s arms.

I realize then my prayer was answered. It wasn’t in the way I thought it would be, but it was an answer. My husband coming home when he did was a tender mercy.  I never thought I would go to feeding our baby formula, but after seeing how my husband could help me. Later I realized how much easier it was for me and the baby and we never went back.

If you are wondering if feeding our baby formula hurt him,  well he is in the eighth grade, 6’1″, sings, plays piano, and has great grades.

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Week Two: Writing Your Baby’s Story

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Here are some questions to help you write about your baby’s birth and delivery.

  1. When was the baby born? Include the date and time of day.
  2. Where was the baby born?
  3. How far did the mother travel to get there? Who drove the mother there?
  4. How long was the labor?
  5. Once the mother arrived, how long until the baby was born?
  6. Who was the mother with during labor and delivery?
  7. Who were the doctor and nurses attending the labor and delivery? Share anything memorable about them.
  8. How did the mother ad father prepare for the baby’s delivery?
  9. What were some of the special circumstances surrounding the delivery?
  10. Who visited the baby at the hospital?
  11. How long did the mother and baby stay in the hospital?
  12. Who took them home?

As I wrote about having each of my three boys it was fun to remember the different circumstances around each of their births. Some of the highlights from my own writing.

We learned our children have large noggins. Bless their souls. They have such healthy large brains that they needed a big skull to put them in. My first son was two weeks late and ripped his way into this world and so with our second child, we asked our doctor if we could schedule me for an induction to deliver him early. It was a good thing because his head was a lot larger than our first baby’s head was. Finally, our third baby was born with a large noggin two, but the dear little guy’s bones fused in the back, so he had to have a special surgery at three months old. (I will talk about that later in another post.)

We wanted to name our first son Ethan but decided on Michael. I thought he would have several kids in his class with the same name but it suited him better. It was funny because later he had three kids with the name of Ethan in his class in third grade. So the common name was uncommon.

Our second son was born around Christmas. I remember feeling closer to what Mary would have felt like to hold the Christ child. He was and always will be my favorite Christmas present. I remember my oldest son’s Primary teacher asking him why Mary was so uncomfortable on the donkey and he said, “Because she was all full of Jesus.”:)

Our third son was born when our favorite NCAA basketball team was in the Sweet Sixteen after years of having bad luck at the “big dance.”  I remember watching the game when I was in labor and screaming more at the players then at my pain.  I also remember being surprised when some of the other parents in the hospital named their newborn babies after the star basketball player at the time, Jimmer Fredette. We teased my mother-in-law that our baby’s name was also Jimmer. She didn’t like that so much.