Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Souls are Better Than One by Karen E. Hoover, a Review

This is a review of Karen E. Hoover's book Two Souls are Better than One, Book one in the Adventures of a Teenage Wizard series. Reading this book was a new experience for me because, for one, I don't read YA Fantasy. Ever. Secondly, this was my first experience reading on a Kindle. I haven't even wanted one. I like the heft of a book in my hand, the tactile feel of paper, even the smell of a book. However, I needed a copy right away, so I borrowed my husband's Kindle and took the plunge.

I found this a positive experience with both the Kindle and the fantasy. It took me a while to get drawn into caring about what was happening to a teenage boy, but when I was hooked, reading became a pleasure rather than a chore.

I won't try to outline the plot, as it's convoluted, twisted, intricate and full of cliffhangers. At the core, it's about the battle between good and evil and about a boy, Jeremy (also known as JJ), rescuing his father who has been taken prisoner in a parallel universe.

What worked for me:

I'll say this for Karen Hoover, she has an inventive mind. JJ no more than saves himself from one tight spot than he is thrust into another.

The title, Two Souls are Better than One (I'll call it TSABTO for convenience) was enegmatic to me at first, but fit the premise of JJ sharing his body with a Mage (singular of Magi). The souls of both are imprisoned in the teenager's body. This premise makes for lots of physical and verbal humor.

TSABTO is written in first person, and Hoover's voice is spot on for a teenager.

What didn't work for me--very nit-picky. Almost insignificant. I hate to even mention them.

First, the flying car incident wasn't explained as to how it was possible. Every other bit of magic or unexpected ability or happening was explained very well, except for how the car happened to take on almost personality and superpowers. I kept waiting for it, because Hoover had done such a good job of making everything else believable--as much as a fantasy can be believable, anyway. But, it's a short passage and the flying car isn't pivotal. Like I said, nit-picky.

The other thing that pulled me out several times was the improper use of the verb "to lie," meaning to recline and the verb "to lay," meaning to place or situate. I'm the lie/lay lady in my critique group, and I'm sensitive when the wrong verb is used. However, it's such a common error that I fear the day may soon come when the words will be used interchangeably, and probably few readers would be pulled out as I, the nit-picky one, was.

This would be a great book to read aloud to kids. I can just picture stopping at the end of a chapter and having everyone moan and beg for just one more chapter so they can find out what happens next. I can visualize that because I was doing the same thing.

Two Souls are Better Than One is available in several e-formats at

You can find it in Nook format at Barnes and Noble, as well and for Kindle at Amazon. Wherever you buy the E-book, you'll find it a bargain at less than $3.

For those traditional souls like me who love the tactile feel of a real book, Two Souls are Better than One is available in paper-and-ink format at Amazon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

In God Is Our Trust, Volume 5 of the Free Men and Dreamers Series, a Review

Wow. Laurie Lewis, writing as L. C. Lewis, completed her five-volume Free Men and Dreamers series. Volume Five, In God is Our Trust was published this fall by Walnut Springs Press.

This series chronicles the lives of the Jed Pearson family and friends who live at the Willows Plantation along the Patuxent River in Maryland before and after the War of 1812. As Les Edgerton says, “When the trouble is gone, the story is over.” Given the setting­­—the beginning of the industrial revolution when long distance communication consisted of letters that took weeks to arrive, when medical knowledge was still very basic, and great social inequalities were commonplace—there’s lots of potential for trouble. Factor into that a war with England and the political aftermath, and there’s plenty of action and adventure to move the plot along.

I’ve noticed several things as I read through In God Is Our Trust:

1. L. C. Lewis knows her American and British history and is skillful at weaving it into her narrative. Very seldom does the reader get the feeling that they’ve just been the recipient of a data dump.

2. Ms. Lewis also knows how to put familiar historical facts we’ve always known into a wider context, like showing how the climate reaction to the eruption of Mt. Tambora affected the crops of northeast United States in 1816 and, by extension, how it affected the people we care about.

3. L. C. Lewis manages a full cast of characters handily. The way she does it reminds me of my mother knitting argyle socks, with lots of little bobbins hanging down. If mother neglected to knit in the yarn from a particular bobbin at the proper time, the line would be crooked. L. C. Lewis never misses a bobbin. All her characters’ lines are straight.

4. L. C. Lewis lets us see undercurrents forming that we know will bear fruit later in American History. Of particular interest to me was to see the beginning of the abolitionist movement decades before the Civil War. Also, L. C. Lewis shows us the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). This was an American phenomenon that had its roots in the time and place that Lewis chronicles with the Pearson family, and it goes on to have a profound influence on American Westward expansion. I remember that unit from when I taught fifth grade.

5. L. C. Lewis does a masterful job of letting us see how events in American history affect the lives of American people of different social strata. Though Jed Pearson, as a landowner and senator, moves in exalted circles when he’s at the capitol, at home in his farmer clothes he works with common people who are his lifelong friends. We get to know and care about both exalted and common.

6. L. C. Lewis’s villains have some redeeming qualities. We see them as the products of the world they live in, and they are believable and true in their villainy from book to book.

I enjoyed the Free Men and Dreamer series and highly recommend it. I particularly enjoyed getting to see how the historical figures were viewed by people of their own time: Dolley Madison, Andrew Jackson, Francis Scott Key, and Joseph Smith, Jr. L. C. Lewis gave me a glimpse of each of these people from a different perspective than my 5th Grade Teacher’s Guide. In God is Our Trust was a nice ending to the series. We saw both Jed and Hannah Pearson as mature, responsible individuals and, though we knew the trouble wasn’t gone yet, we felt confident that they could handle anything that came along.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blog Tour for Cold River Starts December 1

Tristi Pinkston, blogger extraodinaire, set up a blog tour for me during the month of December. Rather than give the whole months' worth of stops, I think I'll do it by weeks. That should complicate an already complicated month, but that's just the kind of gal I am.

This is an impressive lineup of bloggers. I've been to each of them and I'm blown away with how articulate and well written all the posts are. These are serious bloggers.

As you check out each of these blogs, I hope you'll sign up to be a follower. And, if you're not already a follower of Liz Sez, I hope you'll click on the 'Join This Site' button on the sidebar.

Heidi Thomas, novelist and Willa Award winner already highlighted Cold River on her blog. You can find it at

Mary Trimble, another award winning novelist (she was a Spur finalist, and I have Spur envy, as Counting the Cost was entered in that competition), reviewed Cold River on her blog around Thanksgiving:

Julie Coulter Bellon, author of six romantic suspense novels, was another Thanksgiving reviewer. You can find hers at

Cami Checketts, another romantic suspense author, is doing a book giveaway on her blog today. Hop over there and sign up! Cami solved a problem for me. Cold River has been nominated for a Whitney Award, and the process is that the chairman asks the author to declare what genre the book should be judged in as it goes to the committee who will winnow all the nominees down to five finalists. In this case the question was, is Cold River a suspense or romance? I wrote it as a romance, but the description on Amazon makes it sound more like a suspense. Thanks, Cami, for validating my intentions.

Jenny Moore also has a review of Cold River posted on her blog at

On December 2, Lynn Parsons will review Cold River. I'll be interested to see what she has to say, as there's educational stuff--Dyslexia and an inventive way of teaching math--in Cold River. Lynn, in addition to being the co-author of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: A Guide for Families and Teachers, is an educational diagnostician. Lynn's blog is at

Laurie Lewis, author (as L. C. Lewis) of the five-volume American History series Free Men and Dreamers will be reviewing Cold River on December 3. Laurie's blog is

Also on December 3, Danica Page will review Cold River at

On December 5, Autumn Weber takes over the review reins at her blog Queen of Chaos.

Alice Gold gives reviews at her upbeat blog on December 6.

There are two reviewers on December 7: Power blogger Rebecca Rodriquez reviews Cold River at
and Lynnea Mortensen posts her review at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Planning my Book Launch!

So, who likes carrot cake? Who likes apple pie? I'm having both at my book launch--at both my book launches, actually.

We are celebrating the publication of my new romantic suspense, Cold River at two different venues.

Thursday, December 1, at 7 PM, I'll be at Village Books in Bellingham, WA. Village Books is an awesome independent bookstore located in the Fairhaven District. Besides greeting old friends and making new ones, I'll talk a bit about the setting of Cold River, which is in a town reminiscent of Concrete, Washington. I'll serve carrot cake, read a few passages from the book, and then we'll have the drawing for door prizes--home made apple pies and books.

Then, on the next Thursday, December 8, again at 7 PM, I'll be at the Sedro Woolley Public Library at 802 Ball Street. Same agenda as at Village books: carrot cake, reading, door prizes. I'll have books at the library for anyone who wants to buy one, but I've also donated a copy to the library, so, if you're so inclined, you can read it there.

Mostly, both nights are a celebration. I hope you'll come celebrate with me.


Follow this blog. I remembered I haven't posted my method of cooking a healthy fried egg, and I didn't do the promised custard pie--soooo easy and so good. For anyone who wants to learn how to make an applie pie, google "Liz Adair's World Famous Apple Pie" and my blog posting on it will come up.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Meet Jo Ramsey, YA Author

Jo Ramsey is my hero. She's a writing machine, beginning from the time she was twelve when she finished her first book-length manuscript. Through high school and college, she continued writing (in longhand, mind you), turning out nineteen more finished manuscripts. By the time she got around to looking for a publisher, she had cranked out forty-four more. She likes to write urban fantasy, like the two books below. Both are the first in a series.

Reality Shift 1: Connection- Can Shanna Bailey trust herself enough to help her new friend Jonah Leighton banish a demon before it possesses Shanna's worst enemy?

The Dark Lines 1: The Black Bridge- Something dark has taken over the bridge beside Topher James's home. Can he stop it from destroying his friends--and him?

Below is an interview I had with Jo.

LIZ: I love your blog. Did you design it yourself?
JO: Thank you. No, I’m not that technologically advanced, unfortunately. It’s a free template that I found. A friend of mine, Lex Valentine, who has done most of my book covers as Winterheart Design, did the text in the header for me.

LIZ: I’m amazed at your output of books. Tell me about that first book you wrote when you were 12.
JO: The book I wrote when I was 12 was about a girl who was picked on at school, although the boy she had a crush on was crushing right back. She becomes friends with a new girl who turns out to be from another planet. The friend invites the main character to visit her home planet, where the two of them foil a plot to assassinate the planetary president.

LIZ: You say on your blog you weren’t writing to try to get published. What made you keep writing?
JO: I loved writing. It helped me keep my sanity during some very rough times in my life. It was both an escape and a coping mechanism.

LIZ: What are the challenges to writing fantasy that happens in the ‘real’ world?
JO: When I use real settings (which I do in all my books, even though I usually don’t name them), I have to be accurate. I might not think that my readers will know about the public library in Poland, Maine, but it’s a pretty safe bet at least one will, and will tell me if I get it wrong.

LIZ: How do you get your ideas for turning your main character’s world on its ear?
JO: I wish I knew…Ideas are fickle beasts and tend to show up whenever they choose instead of when I need them. The plots of the books in my Reality Shift series came from a series of conversations with a couple of friends; those are really the only ones I can pinpoint a source for.

LIZ: Why did you choose to write for Young Adults?
JO: I’m kind of stuck in my teen years, I guess. They weren’t very enjoyable, so I’m constantly trying to make better teen years for my characters, as I can’t go back and redo my own. Plus it’s just plain fun to write about that age group in my opinion.

LIZ: You have written several series. Is it easier to write the second in a series than the first?
JO: I think it’s harder to write the subsequent books in a series. Not only do you have to pay attention to the plot of the given book, but you also have to make sure you’re staying consistent with the book or books that came before. I keep pretty good notes from each book that I refer to for the consecutive books, but I invariably forget something that I hadn’t written down. Also, if the first book met with good reviews, as an author I’m trying to keep the subsequent books at the same level of awesome, and if the first book got poor reviews I have to improve with each subsequent book.

LIZ: Do you have a goal as a writer?
JO: My goal is to inspire teens to read—and maybe to write.

Thanks, Jo, for being my interviewee today. Readers, you can get to know Jo better by visiting her web site/blog at

Friday, October 7, 2011

Liz Adair's Tilapia Recipe

I love tilapia. I loved it even before I could pronounce it. I tried to say ta-la-PI-a instead of ta-LA-pi-a. The first time I ever heard of it was a few years ago, and now I find it everywhere. The truth is, it's been around for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians had a hieroglyph for tilapia. There were tilapia in the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked along its shores.

Why did I only just now find out about it? I guess until a few years ago there wasn't anyone telling us we needed to be eating it. It's an easily-farmed fish. In fact they have been farming it on a small scale in several countries since ancient times. Now it's being farmed on a large scale, and they need to find a market for all that fish.

I used to buy tilapia at Costco in the fresh fish cabinet, but with just Derrill and I eating it, I'd always have to freeze three quarters of what I bought. Then I found vacuum-packed, flash-frozen fillets at Wal-Mart for a great price. They are wonderful. I can't tell the any difference from the fresh, except that the Costco tilapia are larger. I don't find that a problem.

Here's one way I fix tilapia:

First, put the top rack down to the middle of your oven. Preheat to 450 degrees.

Spray the bottom of a cookie sheet with Pam. (I line it with foil first and spray the foil. It makes for easy cleanup.)

Take the fillets out of the vacuum pack and put them on a paper towel to dry.

Mix breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a 5 to 1 ration, breadcrumbs to cheese.

Put about 1/4" oil in a shallow bowl.

Dip each fillet first in the oil and then in the breadcrumb mixture and place in the pan. I put the flat side down.

When all fillets are in the pan, place it on the rack in the preheated oven. Turn the oven to BROIL.

By the time you put the fish in the oven, you should have the rest of your meal pretty much ready, because it doesn't take long for the fish to cook.

Keep an eye on it, and when the fish is brown, turn off the oven. If your fillets are large and thick, let them sit in the oven until the flesh flakes when you lift it with a fork.

Take the fish out of the oven and serve with lemon and/or tartar sauce.
~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I've got a new book coming out!

My new romantic suspense, Cold River, will be in stores next month! It's my valentine to the little hamlet of Concrete, Washington, where I taught school more years ago than I care to think. One of my former students is soon to be a grandmother.

The year I was there, the townsfolk took a dislike to the school superintendent and made life so uncomfortable for him that he didn't return the next year.

The area around Concrete is heavily forested, and many of the people, when I taught there, decended from settlers who had come from neighboring counties in North Carolina in the early part of the twentieth century. When I was there, the town was quite isolated, and many of the customs the people had brought with them as they moved west still survived: bluegrass music, hounds, and even whiskey stills. I remember one of my students asked me with a definite twang to her diction, "Miz Adair, do I sound like a Tarheel?"

Though logging isn't the industry that it used to be nowadays, there are still lots of people who claim a Tarheel heritage.

Cold River is set in contemporary times, but I've used my memories of how it was in Concrete to fashion a story about twenty-nine-year-old Mandy Steenburg, who thinks her doctorate in education has prepared her to run any school district—until she tangles with the moonshine-making, coon-dog-owning denizens of Limestone, Washington.

When the petite dynamo leaves her fast-track position in Albuquerque and takes over a tiny school district in remote Pacific Northwest timber country, she's armed with the latest educational ideas and determined to make a difference. She finds the local populace—descendants of loggers who moved west from North Carolina during the Depression—have kept many of the old customs, including a mistrust of strangers. What's more, they still look to the former superintendent for leadership.

When Mandy lands in the middle of an old feud and someone keeps trying to kill her, instinct tells her to run back to the southwest. Though she has to literally swim through perilous waters, she finds a reason to stay and chance the odds.

I'll be announcing my publication party soon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Remembering Alaska

Lucius Stebbins, in the third book of his Remembering My Life series of poetry (see my previous post introducing these poems), writes of Alaska and Alaskans:

Alaskans seemed to live on dreams
A land it was
Where dreams must never end
For if they did, they'd know
That dreams were all they had to sew
The fabric of their life
Which often was
A strife against the wild.

At left is my mother, standing on the highway that went from Palmer to Anchorage, probably in the vicinity of The Butte. We lived on the flank of the mountain behind her.

We lived in Alaska from 1951 to 1956, and it was a magical place to live, but we were cushioned a bit against what Luke Stebbins calls 'the wild,' as we had been brought up by the government to work on a hydroelectric project. There were lots of people there, Lucius's aunt and uncle included, who were homesteading, dealing on a daily basis with the Alaskan wilderness.

Our house was provided by the government, but there were many people who lived there, at that time, who lived in basements--subterranean houses with nothing on top--because it was quick, inexpensive and easy to heat. Later, when they had proved up on the homestead and could afford it, they could build a regular house on top of the basement.

I used to beg my dad to return to Alaska, but he would always remind me that I wasn't the one out trying to start equipment at forty below. Ah, yes. Lucius mentions the road from Anchorage to Fairbanks in the winter:

Five hundred miles the span
Attached by one thin road
In winter narrowed down to snowy tracks
Between two icy banks
That sometimes rose
Ten feet above the cars
How perilous the drive, the wind,
The snow and icy fog
Easy to be lost at fifty five below

Luke writes of other things that I remember, of moose and bear wandering freely. I never met a bear, but we had moose aplenty around. One slept under my bedroom window.

He writes of riding the train to fish or hunt and having the train let him and his party off in the middle of nowhere and pick them up days later--only they were stranded because of a flood that kept the train from running for several days. My dad used to fish and hunt in that manner, but he was never delayed in his return.

Luke Stebbins' poems are treasures to me because they unlock memories, things I haven't thought of for years. I'm reminded of a beautiful land and tough, resilient people that I count myself lucky to have lived among over half a century ago.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Remembering My Life by Lucius Stebbins

Luke Stebbins moved to Alaska in1956, a couple years before Alaska became a state. Luke came from New England to stay with relatives in the Matanuska Valley. One of his Alaskan cousins was a good friend of mine, and he married another.

Luke’s entry to Alaska coincided with my family’s exit, and I met him for the first time last year. It was great to reunite with his wife, Joan, who had been my classmate in grades five through nine, but it was interesting to talk to Luke, too, and to discover that he is a poet.

This is especially interesting when you understand that Luke, Dr. Lucius Stebbins, one of the founding faculty members of the University of Lethbridge, is a scientist and has published some serious scientific papers. Google his name and you’ll find pdf versions of “Seasonal Variations in Circadian Rhythms of Deer Mice, in Northwestern Canada” and “Some Aspects of Overwintering in the Chipmunk, Eutamias amoenus.” Not much poetry there. I know about his poetry because he very kindly sent me the seven slim volumes entitled Remembering My Life, for he has chosen this literary form to write his personal history.

Because of the Alaska connection, and because he’s telling his life’s story, I expected something Robert Service-ish, something like “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” with a rolling rhythm and standard rhyme scheme. But the poetry of Lucius Stebbins is nothing like that. I find it masculine, visual, evocative, and full of un-preachy nuggets of wisdom. In spare strokes and little vignettes, he shares memories with his reader.

I particularly liked, in Book 1, the story of how his father (whose weakness for drink seemed to hamstring the family financially) helped an adolescent Lucius save loose change to buy the horse he longed for. In his poem “A Kindness For a Horse,” about halfway through, we hear him approach his father and say he’s saved sixty-four dollars, and his father replies:

"I’ve saved a little more,” he said
He showed me where
He’d also hidden all his change
Forty dollars coin within a metal chest
Every day his pocket change
Sequestered when he did not roam
When of a sober mind
How loving he could be.
“A little here, a little there,” he said
“Makes just a little more.”
A twinkle in his eye, I thought
He happier than me.
We drove, just he and I
Miles across the mountain gap
Then down a country road
A place I didn’t know
A valley I had seen
From high upon a mountain top
When forests I would roam
While on a hunt.
The young man in the woods
Eighteen, drafted into war,
So sad to leave
Would sell his spotted horse to me
We counted out our coin
And I could ride him home
I knew the forest trails
To find my way
Instant buddies, he and I
Two creatures of the day.
The kindness of my Father then
Can never be repaid
Though I have tried until his death
When even as his final breath he drew
I tried to pay
Once more to pay
That wondrous debt I owed.
I like to think he knew
How then I learned
Through reckless drunken ways to sift
To find the worth of man
Which always ‘neath the surface lays
If one can understand
Ignore what on the surface may reside
One must look within
Beneath the alcoholic ways
For nature’s plan inside.
Another way he touched me
With his saving act
From then to now
I never spend my coin
I hide it in a tin
Hundreds in a sack becomes
One way I honour him.

Next time I blog I’ll post part of a poem about Luke’s introduction to Alaska that resonated with me.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Five Favorite Lines

I've been asked to participate in a blog fest where we put down five favorite lines from a work in progress. Here are five lines from Cold River, my new book that's coming out this fall.

Sherry closed her eyes and let the music flow through her fingers, not from the memory of a printed page, but from somewhere deep inside. She played night sounds and loneliness, leaden skies and dark-haired strangers; she played far-away, starry, desert nights and someone whispering Cheri in her ear.

As she played, just after the bridge, something under the muted rhythm began to swell, and she was swept along in a cascade of tones that became an elegant, soaring counterpoint. She glanced for the first time at Rael. He sat in the dim corner with Jake's guitar in his lap, and as the melody sprang from his fingers, all moody passion and smoldering intensity, it ripped the scab off her heart. Tears beaded up on Sherry's lashes as they played through another chorus, and she felt inexplicably tied to this surprising man because she could hear through his music that love was a raggedly painful subject for him, too.

If you want to read other 5-line selections, go to Jolene's blog at

And, I'd love to have you follow my blog. I'm still promising to let you in on my slick and easy way to cook a healthy fried(ish) egg. And I'll soon be posting my new book cover, so click on that little 'follow' button!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pieces of Paris by G.G. Vandagriff

I promised Whitney Award winner G.G. Vandagriff way last fall that I'd read and review her book, Pieces of Paris. That promise, along with others, got chewed up in the non-blogging reasons I bored you with a couple of posts ago.

I'm now ready to redeem myself, even though G.G. has a new book out. My feeling is it doesn't hurt to have stuff about previous books bouncing around in the blogosphere. At least it sounds good to say that since I'm six months late.

But, on to GG's book.

The cover of Pieces of Paris hints at thing that are not first evident as the reader begins the book. What's Paris got to do with a backwater southern town or with a young lawyer and his wife scraping along, trying to build up a practice and a little farm and bumping up against powerful local forces as they try to do good in the community?

The answer to that question is an interesting one, and G.G. Vandagriff lets us in on it through points of view of both Dennis Childs and his wife, Annalisse. Annalisse carries the secret of Paris within her, but the shadow it casts is so long that it darkens both their lives.

There's a parallel secret in the town of Blue Creek, one that is as toxic for the residents as Annalisse's is for her family. Both secrets are finally brought to light but not without pain and loss.

G.G. writes from personal knowledge of how past tragedies can blight the future. Pieces of Paris seems to be her testament that healing is possible and that love is the key.

G.G.'s new book is Foggy with a Chance of Murder. I haven't read it yet, but I love the title.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wowee! We've got a Landscape Agate.

If you read my posting in September of 2011, you know that Derrill and I have become rockhounds. Well, that's not exactly right. He's become a rock hound, and I'm his sidekick. We've done a couple of field trips, but mostly we go to rock shows and buy from people more able to climb around on hot, dusty rock piles.

As with all our new passions, we accumulated stack of books about different kinds of rocks. I particularly love our agate book. It has lots of spectacular pictures, including a couple of fabulous landscape agates.

Landscape agates are just what they sound like--agates that are colored like a picture. There's no way of knowing before you cut into it what an agate's going to be like on the inside.

So, we got this Brazilian Agate at a rock show silent auction. We probably paid $2.50 for it. About the size of a small grapefruit, the outside was scabby and brown. When we got home, Derrill stared at it for several days before he started cutting.

He brought the first cut into the house as soon as it came off the saw. We marveled at it and thought we were lucky to have such wonderful banding, and we loved the little circle that looked like a sun, hovering in a blue sky.

This was the second cut. I called it 'Crystal Mountain' and thought it was spectacular.

When he brought the third cut in, I couldn't believe it. It looked to me like a seascape, perhaps with the cliffs of Dover in the distance.

The sun in the blue sky was back and stayed for the rest of the cuts.

The fourth cut looked to me like Grand Canyon in the evening, when the colors go all blue and purple, and the clouds are tinged with the pink of a dying sunset.


The Fifth cut, mostly white, reminded me of a snow avalanche I saw roaring down the mountain at Juneau, Alaska. It plunged across the road and into the sea.

The sixth cut reminded me of a cubist's painting of a seascape with a steamship steaming along.

< There was one more that was like an abstract painting, but I managed to delete it, so can't hang it here.

But, you get the idea. I smile every time I see it and wonder at the beauties of the earth hidden beneath an ugly, scabby exterior. I never thought I'd see a landscape agate, much less have one sitting in my living room. I feel truly blessed.

~~~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Preaching the Gospel of Neo

Gospel means 'Good News,' and the Neo is good news for busy writers.

The Neo is put out by Alphasmart. It's a word processor that has a regular-sized keyboard and a monochromatic screen that will hold four lines of text. It weighs less than 2 pounds and is extremely rugged. As soon as I got mine, I bought a purse it will fit in so I can carry it with me. I've used it on car trips, in doctor's offices, at jazz festivals, sitting in the car outside of Hardware Sales (a marvelous hardware store in Bellingham, WA that my husband loves to frequent), at the beach, and while babysitting.

To me, the Alphasmart has 4 strong points.

First is battery life. Alphasmart says you can get 700 (that's 2 zeroes) hours on 3 double A batteries. I've had my Neo for about 3 years, and I'm still running on the original batteries I put in. A battery indicator comes up when I turn it on, and it shows I've used about 1/20 of the battery life.

Second is carefree-ness. I don't have to worry about cords or a case or dropping it or anything I might worry about if I had my laptop. I don't even have to worry about whether I use it or not. It's light enough that if I take it and don't use it, I haven't wasted a lot of effort for nothing. However, if I have a thought hit and I've got my Neo with me, I can easily grab it and get the thought down. The older I get, the more valuable that becomes, because thoughts don't stay too long any more.

Third is that my Neo interfaces with my computer. If I write a blog post on my Neo, I simply open a new document on my blog, connect the cable, hit 'send,' and what I've written scrolls out on my computer. Same with a word document or an email.

Fourth is that it doesn't hook up to the internet. Some may see that as a minus, but for me, it's great not to have the temptation to check my email.

I don't do much editing on the Neo. That's better done on my computer. But for composing, it's great.

The Neo has 8 files, each with its own button. Hit the button for File 1 and File 1 comes up. Hit File 2 and File 1 closes and File 2 appears. You can't get much simpler than that. Clearing the file is just as simple. Hit 'clear file' and then answer yes when it asks you if you really want to do this. The text disappears.

Each of the files holds 25 pages of text, so you have the capability of writing 200 pages of text before you have to transfer to your computer.

The Neo won't replace a computer, but it's a great, modest-priced add-on, allowing a writer greater flexibility about where and when she can write.

If you want to find out more about the Neo, go to . Renaissance Learning donated a Neo as a door prize for the Storymakers Conference (see previous post). Looking around the room, I could tell the Neo owners among the writers present. They were excited for the prospect of someone winning this marvelous tool.

The winner was Peggy Grimes. Lucky gal.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Excuse #2 For Being Such a Blogging Slug

The second reason I neglected my blog for so long was because of the writers conference hosted by LDStorymakers in Salt Lake City on May 5-7 at the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was up to my ears in conference prep, as I not only was on the planning/production committee, but I helped with the First Chapter contest, guided a table at the 6-hour-long Boot Camp on Thursday, and was in charge of sponsors and door prizes. Oh, and I taught two workshop sessions.

Storymakers were very generous with donations of books for doorprizes. They were so generous that I had to limit them to one copy per title and three titles per author. I had a tight time budget to get the books out, but I wanted to make sure that each author received good exposure. To do that, I made a PowerPoint slide for each book so that, as the emcee read the blurb, conference attendees could see the name of the author and the cover image.

One attendee suggested that we have a list of the books in the order they'd be given out in the syllabus so people could circle ones that they would be interested in buying. If they trust me to do door prizes again next year, I'm going to do that.

I called on nine minions to help me in the presentation process. What a great bunch of ladies! They not only wore the hats that designated which presentation team they were on with good grace, but they streamlined the process and problem solved as we went along.

Above are Laurie Lewis, Joan Sowards and Ronda Hinrichsen. Other team members were JoAnn Arnold, Rebecca Talley, Tanya Mills, Wendy Swore, Janette Rallison and Debbie Davis.

Kim Grant won a copy of Janette Rallison's My Double Life. Here's a picture of Kim with Janette after the presentation.

JoAnn Arnold, author of Prince Etcheon, stands with Christine Bryant, winner of a copy of JoAnn's book.

Dennis Gaunt, winner of The Stone Traveler, is pictured here with the book's author, Kathi Oram Peterson.

Bethany Kitchen (on the right) won Tanya Mills' book The Reckoning. Here she is with the author.

My book, Counting the Cost, was won by Marta Smith.

There were about 500 people in attendance at this conference. Countless hours were volunteered as members of the writers' guild, LDStorymakers, put this conference together. There were 9 breakout sessions, each with 8 or 9 workshops covering craft basics, advanced craft, genre, and marketing/career development.

There were also national market agents and editors there, and if you want to find out about the classes or the agents and editors that were there, go to , click on Conference and then click on 2011 highlights.

But this blog isn't about that. It's about the hours I--and lots of others like me--put in to make this conference a success.

I think we did all right.

But, on my to-do list next year is to have some blog posts written and ready to go before I get up to my eyeballs in conference prep.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Excuse #1 For Being Such a Blogging Slug

I hate to even look at the date of my last posting. I have neglected my blog for so long, but for two good causes.

The first good cause was my regular work. Newly published writers are given the advice, "Don't quit your day job." I've been published for several years, but I still haven't quit my day job.

I work as a forensic scheduler. It's not a regular-hours, all-the-time job. When I have a project, I will often work six days a week, ten to twelve hours a day. Then I'll have a stretch when I don't have anything day-jobbish to do.

I work for a consultant who does CPM scheduling for large construction projects. He also does schedule delay analyses. A construction project of any size will be required to have a schedule, and that schedule is usually required to be updated througout the duration of the project, often monthly. If a contractor is using the schedule to the greatest advantage, he will be able to identify delays as they happen and will also be able to document where the delay occured, whether it was caused by a subcontractor, by a procured element not arriving on time, by weather, by the owner, or by the contractor's own inability to perform.

Often, schedules are provided only to meet the owner's specification--they aren't used by the contractor except as a basic guide or a wall decoration. If a project like that is seriously delayed and a claim results, a schedule delay analysis is a mighty tool to have. But it is much harder to come by than it would be if a schedule was properly used.

That's where I come in.

My first job is to take the baseline schedule, the one that was submitted to and accepted by the owner at the beginning of the project, and put in actual dates for each of the activities on that schedule. If the schedule has been properly kept, the dates will be there. If not, I've got my work cut out for me.

Next, I go through the project's documents--correspondence, submittals, requests for information, meeting minutes, change order proposals, superintendent's daily reports, and, if necessary, workers' time cards and truck tickets. From these documents and any others provided me, I determine a list of possible delaying factors and construct a timeline for each one.

Then I create a mini schedule for each of these timelines in the Primavera software we use. This mini schedule is called a fragnet, and each point on this timeline is tied to both a predecessor and a successor in a continuous chain.

As I create each fragnet, I also write a narrative for each one. I joke that this is where my fiction writing ability is valuable, but there's an element of truth to that, for each issue has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In my narrative, I have to make it so someone who knows nothing at all about the project can understand what happened in this instance. I also have to write from an objective point of view, revealing what I have discovered without trying to skew the information.

When I have finished with the fragnets and narratives, the consultant I work with begins his analysis, inserting the earliest fragnet into the baseline schedule, testing to see what that does to the schedule, comparing it to actual dates and the contractor's original strategy for building in the order that he built. Schedules are intricate networks of connectedness, and there's no way of knowing all the things that will be affected when a fragnet is inserted and connected to a logical successor in the original schedule.

As the consultant tests a group of fragnets falling around the same time frame, he uses my narratives and adds his findings to it. Each fragnet's effect is documented. If there is a delay, the responsibility for the delay is assigned. The schedule is updated, and the next cluster of fragnets will be inserted into this updated schedule.

When that is finished, the final report is written and is accompanied by backup documentation--the documents that I used in composing my fragnets. The report from one of my last reports filled five 3" binders.

So, that's the process. I'ts probably more than you wanted to know about schedule delay analysis, but I'm still explaining why I didn't blog for ao long. I had two projects, back to back, that took me from November to March to complete. Each overran the planned schedule by about two years, so there was quite a bit of research to do.

I love my day job. As I sit there, clicking away, inserting data to tell the story, I consider that lots of gray-haired ladies my age are crocheting or quilting. I, on the other hand, am creating fragnets.

Or, considered another way, it's like writing a mystery, laying out all the clues so the reader can find out whodunit.

Tomorrow--or next week, probably--I'll write about the second reason I haven't posted in so long.