Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heaven Scent: Chapter One

I'm quite sure the UPS guy thinks I'm looney. I saw the big brown truck make its way down my driveway and immediately broke into a smile. Mr. UPS Man parked the truck and with every step he took toward my door, my smile widened until I was practically giddy as I opened the door and accepted my box. I rushed into the office and ripped open the box. I'm not sure, but I think a choir of angels broke into song while a heavenly light shone down on the box, illuminating . . . my books. Yes, I received my copies of Heaven Scent yesterday. What a rush.

Now, let me say that nothing is better than snuggling with a newborn baby, but this came close. To hold my book in my hands was not only surreal, but also satisfying to finally see the fruits of my labors. I'd like to share an excerpt of the first chapter with you.

Without further ado:

Chapter One

Liza tucked the basketball under her left arm and then formed a T with her hands.

“Time out, Aldrich Heights,” the tall, thin referee shouted as he pointed to Liza’s team.

Liza and her teammates ran off the court to meet their coach by the bench. Liza caught a glimpse of her mom and brother in the bleachers. Where was her dad? She’d begged him to come to her game and he’d said he would. Why wasn’t he there?

Coach Anderson tapped her on the shoulder. “Liza, pay attention. This is it. We have possession. We need to run the clock down. Leave only enough time to take one last shot. We can win this game.”

The girls nodded.

Liza glanced at the doorway and then back to the bleachers, but she couldn’t see her dad. Her stomach tightened.

Coach Anderson turned to Tamika. “I want you to throw the ball in to Liza.”

“Okay,” Tamika said.

Liza clenched her jaw. How could her dad miss this game?
“Liza, you take the last shot.”


“Focus, Liza. We’re all depending on you. Can you handle it?”

Liza blinked her eyes. “Yeah.”

“Are you sure?” Coach Anderson asked.

Liza turned to her coach. “Yes.” She wiped the sweat from her face.

The buzzer sounded the end of time out. Liza’s team returned to the court.

“With ten seconds left on the clock, Aldrich Heights High has the chance to score and win this championship game,” the announcer boomed.

The referee handed the ball to Tamika and the sound of his whistle bounced off the walls of the immense gymnasium. Tamika threw a sharp pass to Liza. Liza glanced at the court clock. Ten. Nine. Eight. It was now or never. Driving toward the basket was her only choice. Her team trailed Roosevelt High by only one point and she couldn’t afford to waver, not even for a second. It was up to her. She had to win this game.

She dribbled past center court.

“Time is ticking,” came the announcer’s voice.

Seven. Six. Liza narrowed her eyes. Several girls stood between her and the basket, but no one would stand in the way of her goal. Five. Four. She inhaled deeply, darted toward the key, and took her best jump shot.

Whack. She felt a stinging sensation as rough hands slapped her hand and arm. The shrill sound of the referee’s whistle ripped through the air as she watched the ball bounce out of bounds.

“Foul on number two-one. Number fourteen, you’re at the free throw line,” the ref shouted above the jeering crowd. He handed the ball to Liza.

The announcer’s voice cracked as he said, “Liza Compton’s been fouled. Time has run out. This free throw will determine whether or not Aldrich High is still in the race for the California State Girls’ Basketball Championship.”

His words echoed in her ears. The beads of sweat pooled and trickled down her forehead. She licked her lips. This was the moment. Missing was not an option. She blew through her mouth, ran her fingers through her wet bangs, and cleared her mind.

The crowd for the opposing team whistled and hollered. Someone screamed, “You’ll never make this shot.”

Somebody else yelled, “You’ll miss!”

Her heart pounded. Carefully, methodically, she took aim. She locked her sight on the goal. She bent her knees, jumped up, and followed through with a flawless arc of her right hand.

A hushed silence fell over the crowd as the ball neared the basket, hit the rim, and bounced straight up. Liza bit her lower lip, her gaze fixed. In slow motion, the ball descended and finally swooshed through the net. She exhaled and let her head fall forward.

The home crowd exploded in applause and cheers. The score was tied.

The announcer cleared his throat and said, “If she makes this next basket, Aldrich Heights High School will have its first ever championship in girls’ basketball.”

The fans cheered. The referee again handed the ball to Liza. She bounced the ball three times and listened to its echo as it mimicked her own heartbeat. Basketball was the one thing in her life that she controlled, the one thing she understood, her constant. While everything and everyone else changed, basketball remained the same.

Liza’s head felt as if it were going to explode. This one free throw meant the difference between euphoric victory and endless regret.

In a low voice the announcer said, “This is the most important shot of Liza Compton’s basketball career.”

Liza held the smooth, round ball in her hands. For a brief moment, her concentration slipped while she searched the stands, hoping her dad would finally be there. Row after row she scoured the spectators. She glanced over at the double doors. Her gaze met her mother’s. Her mom gave a faint smile and shook her head. Liza knew exactly what that meant. How could he? Again.

She gritted her teeth and forced herself to focus only on the task ahead of her. She stared at the goal. This was the basket everyone would remember. She’d scored twenty-nine points for her team, a personal best, but none of that mattered. It didn’t even matter that she’d just made the free throw to tie the score. She had to make this basket. Her future depended on it.

She took her stance and let the ball go.

You can read the rest of the first chapter HERE.

My book is now available at CEDAR FORT and Amazon and should be in bookstores in March. Woo hoo!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

To My Valentine

My mother's parents, both in their sixties, were planning to retire. Instead, they took on the task of raising two little girls when my sister and I were orphaned. They hadn't planned to become parents again, but they rose to the occasion and did the best they could.

While living with my grandparents, my grandfather was always willing to share his opinion of the Church. He hated the Church. He forbid me to pay tithing and refused to drive me to seminary. He never missed an opportunity to degrade leaders and was very vocal about it.

When I met my husband, it didn't take long for me to realize that his family was very dedicated to living the gospel. His father served as a Stake President and a Regional Representative. His mother served in stake and ward callings. He'd grown up in a very Christ-centered home. I had not.

I was nervous for Del to meet my grandfather. True to form, the first thing my grandfather said to Del was, "Do you know why you're marrying my granddaughter?"

"Because I love her and want to make a life with her," Del replied with a sincere smile.

My grandfather then said, "No. Hormones. That's why you're marrying her."

I expected Del to bolt as fast as he could. But, he didn't. In fact, he never once judged my grandfather or any of the outrageous things Grandpa said and did. My grandfather loved Del. I often say that Grandpa loved Del more than he loved me. Grandpa was pretty rough around the edges, but Del loved him anyway. When we would visit my grandparents, Del would spend time fixing things around their house and talking to Grandpa.

After Grandpa had a stroke, Grandma couldn't care for him so we moved them both out to Colorado so my sister and I could care for them. Grandpa only lived a few months in Colorado, but Grandma lived here for about 2 years.

One day, I took Grandma to Walmart to shop. She didn't want to shop with me and my 7 kids (I don't even like to shop with me and that many kids) so we parted and shopped separately. She was supposed to meet me at a designated place and when she didn't show up, I panicked. I finally went to Customer Service and discovered an ambulance had taken an older woman to the hospital. I rushed to the hospital and discovered that Grandma had suffered a major stroke. After several days in the hospital, we brought her home to live out her remaining days in her own place with her cat and her family around her. I was pregnant at the time, as was my sister, and we were both emotionally distraught. My brother-in-law had just had neck surgery. Grandma needed 24 hour care. While my sister and I traded off during the day, Del stayed with Grandma each night. He gave her water in an eye dropper because she couldn't swallow and seemed so thirsty. He completely cared for her each night and then went to work every morning. He never complained. Not once. I know Grandma appreciated him, but not as much as I did. He cared for my grandmother like she was his own grandma.

He has so much compassion and such a capacity to love. He doesn't judge people and is always willing to help anyone who needs help. He willingly gives service even when it is least convenient.

He is such an incredible father. He has always changed diapers. With our first child, I didn't even change a diaper for the first two weeks. He regularly stays up late helping kids with homework, washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen so that when I get up in the morning I don't have to wake up to a dirty kitchen. He'll spend hours talking to one of our teenagers. He's always there for our kids. He loves them and they know it.

Most of all, he loves me and I know it. This morning I came down to the kitchen in my usual early morning haze and found a dozen red roses, a heartshaped box of chocolates, and the sweetest card. That's my honey. He is so thoughtful. For these reasons, and so many more, he is my very special Valentine and I feel so very blessed that he is my eternal companion.

Here's hoping all of you get to spend Valentine's with your honeys!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Make My Day Award

LDSPublisher gave me this "You Make My Day" award. Thanks LDSPublisher. I read LDSPublisher every day and appreciate all of the advice and guidance.

I will now award it to the following people because I enjoy their blogs so much and they make my day.

Marcia Mickelson

Candace Salima


Annette Lyon

Josi Kilpack

Julie Wright

Latterday Authors

LDS Writers Blogck

Janette Rallison

Stephanie Humphreys

Hope you all enjoy your award!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Goals Revisited

It seems like I think a lot about goals in January. I even write them down in my journal. Soon January gives way to February and my thoughts turn from my well-intentioned goals. I decided that I wanted to revisit my goals frequently this year so that I can assess how well I am accomplishing what I set out to do in January.

As far as my writing goals:

1. Write every day M-F. I have been doing this.

2. Submit a new novel. Not yet, but hopefully before summer I can submit another novel--I am working on one.

3. Write 6 nonfiction articles for children's magazines and submit them. (I'd love
to break into Highlights this year). I am outlining and researching ideas for several articles.

4. Attend a conference (I plan to attend the Storymakers conference in March). I'm registered and ready to go to the Storymakers conference--can't wait!

5. Continue to improve my skills by completing my ICL course and participating
in an English refresher. I've turned in an assignment, but my instructor didn't like it very well so I'm rethinking the direction of that assignment. I have researched several English improvement sites on the internet and hope to participate in some of those soon.

6. Promote my novel, Heaven Scent, as much as I can. So far, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about how to promote Heaven Scent. I have some ideas and have even purchased some promotional items that I hope will ignite interest in Heaven Scent. I've contacted some reviewers and hope to have some reviews posted soon. The books will be in the warehouse next Thursday or Friday. I will also post the first chapter on my website in the next few weeks as well as sponsor a contest. I don't know how much influence any of these promotions will have on buying decisions. I didn't realize that promotion would be so intensive. I'm learning a lot!

7. Read one novel/month in the LDS market. I didn't finish a novel in January, but I'm close!

On my more personal goals:

1. I have exercised M-F, 45 minutes a day (except for when I was sick).
2. I am eating better and cutting out most junk food, though I do enjoy popcorn and ice cream on the weekends with my family.
3. I am reading my scriptures every day. Our Bishop issued us a challenge to read The Book of Mormon by July so I've been reading it as well as reading the Old Testament.
4. I have been trying to look for more opportunities to serve and help others.

That's about it. I'm hoping to recheck my goals every month or so to make sure I am moving in the right direction.

How about you?