Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2013 LDS Authors Giveaway Hop (Results)

Thanks everyone for entering the giveaway! The two winners of an autographed copy of Unexpected are ANNA and BRITNEY! 

Want a chance to win a free book (or other cool stuff) from some of your favorite LDS authors? Come and hop along with me, then! Join the LDS Authors Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and American Night Writers Association.

From October 8th to 15th, you can hop to any (or all) of the blogs listed below and sign up for their giveaways. It's the easiest kind of hopping you can do—and not nearly as tiring, either! Last year I participated in the Giveaway Hop and it was a lot of fun! 

This year I'll be randomly selecting TWO winners of my latest novel, Unexpected!

My giveaway:
All you have to do, for a chance to win an autographed copy of my novel Unexpected, is:
1) sign up to follow this blog on Google Friend Connect or by email, and
2) fill out the form below so I can contact you if you win. 

(I will not share any email information with an outside source, but to be Internet safe (because I'm a mom) only enter if you are 13 years old or older, please. 

To find out what the story is all about, check out this blog post, titled Unexpected (difficult as this will be to believe).

For an additional chance to win, repeat the process at my other blog: Lyrics Without the Chord ChangesAnd you can follow me on Facebook, too!

Saturday, October 5, 2013


My latest novel, Unexpected, is now available! 

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

Eleven years ago, Ross McConnell was devastated by the betrayal of the woman of his dreams. Time does not heal all wounds, and after more than a decade, Ross is no closer to finding love. When his well-meaning family attempts to play match maker, he concedes by creating an unrealistic list detailing his perfect mate. Perhaps he'll give love another try, if such perfection exists. . . 

Natalie Forrester is no stranger to heartache. After two failed marriages, the single mother of three is determined to make it on her own. Without a college degree, she starts at the bottom: working as a housekeeper may not be glamorous, but it's her first big step toward independence. And Natalie's most recent cleaning job is ideal--the guy is always out of town, and the pay will go a long way toward supporting her missionary son. 

And then Ross and Natalie meet . . . and meet again. And following a series of awkward encounters, Ross is shocked by his growing attraction for this woman. Natalie couldn't be further from his ideal woman, and she is firm in her determination to keep her heart closed to love. But as their tenuous friendship develops and deepens, will the unlikely pair have the courage to set aside the disappointments of the past to catch hold of a bright new future?

Writing Unexpected was a lot of fun. I asked my cute, artistic sister-in-law if I could loosely base my main female character after her, and she replied, "Why not? My life is stranger than fiction!" (Too true, that.)

I'll be posting another blog soon to describe what elements I borrowed from her, and what she is doing to help me launch Unexpected! In the meantime, you can find Unexpected at Deseret Book and Seagull Book, and Amazon, for starters. 

Happy reading! In the meantime, have some cookies and hot chocolate!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Culinary Perfect Pitch

I have perfect pitch. (NOT Pitch Perfect, the movie.)

For the uninitiated, that means that when a musical note is played, I can tell you what the pitch of that note is (or notes, or key signature, etc.) without needing a reference note. Most people, even those with "good ears" for music, need a reference note to figure out what the next note played is.

For example: if you play Middle C and then play another note, a person can figure out the distance (interval) between those notes in order to come up with the name the second note.

But to hear a random note from out of nowhere and say, "That's an F sharp"—and be correct—is called perfect pitch. (Also referred to as absolute pitch.)

It isn't always perfect, though. Our Western ears are geared to our Western type of music, but many cultures use microtones in their music that fall in between the notes we've grown up with and are used to hearing. That range of microtones is also the reason instruments tune up before a concert, and why the judges on American Idol and The Voice criticize singers for sounding "pitchy."

Back to having perfect pitch.

As a teen, I always knew when I was going over the speed limit, because the tires on my Chevy Impala hummed an A flat at 55 miles per hour. If the pitch inched up to a B flat, I knew I was speeding and it was time to slow down.

(Oh, and my perfect pitch has always helped me with my music, too . . . )

But there are other types of "perfect pitch," many of which I do not have.

My husband gave me a sip of his soda the other day. It was Diet Coke, doctored with something, and he asked me to guess what it was.

"Hmm," I said, stumbling around my taste buds for an answer. "It's . . . um . . . oh! You added lime to it."

He rolled his eyes.

"I can't believe you can't tell that the flavor I added was ORANGE."

"Well," I said. "At least I could tell it was citrus something."

Yep. I'm that bad.

I can tell if something tastes good or not so good. I can tell if I like it. But I cannot figure out what herbs and seasonings are in a dish or which ones would go well with chicken or beef—or anything else.

I'm afflicted with culinary tone deafness. Well, okay, maybe tone deafness is a little harsh. I was competent enough to cook for my unassuming children until they grew up and discovered that they, along with their dad, have culinary perfect pitch.

I look into our refrigerator and see nothing with which to make a meal. My husband looks in the refrigerator and sees possibilities. And they all taste fabulous. My son has that gift. So does at least one of my daughters. They watch COOKING SHOWS! I just don't get it.

But, I tell you what, I'm a lot more sympathetic than I used to be with people who aren't musically inclined. Musical perfect pitch doesn't feed the hungry with much frequency. Oh, it may feed the soul on occasion . . . as a result, I often play the piano for my husband while he makes dinner—that's how I rationalize my abdication of kitchen duties, anyway.

To my way of thinking, it's the perfect compromise. And I'm not asking my hubby if he agrees. Besides, he's busy cooking while I'm writing this blog post.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Variations on the Cougar Eat for Twenty Thumbs . . . and One Red Blooded Ute

On an evening in late July, devoted Utes and Cougars combined to celebrate one of the greatest rivalries of all time, mourn its passing, and express their displeasure at Dr. Chris Hill, University of Utah Athletic Director. 

And enjoy—one last time—the Classical great: Variations on the Cougar Eat for Twenty Thumbs . . . and One Red Blooded Ute. 

Our little performance is officially on YouTube now. (Click here.) 

A little background: About a million years ago I was a student at Brigham Young University, sitting in a classroom in the Harris Fine Art Center, minding my own business, waiting for our music theory class to start, when I got invited (and by invited I mean dragged) up to the piano by my good friend Dave Zabriskie to wreak musical havoc on the Cougar Fight Song with him

Well, Dave went on to bigger and better things, like a PhD, and I transferred schools—and loyalties. GO UTES! 

Fast forward an eon or two, and suddenly there was a church talent show happening, and I was thinking hmmm wouldn't it be fun if . . .

But there were a few problems: 

1) Dave lived in Chicago. 

Enter Gaylene Anderson, musical ad libber extraordinaire. With some general guidelines and chord changes scratched out on staff paper, she filled the big hole left by my original partner in crime.


What the heck. We tossed in as much Utah Man as we could and called it good.

So, for all you Utes out there, I truly, truly apologize. I added as much Utah Red as I could to what was originally a Cougar Blue song. (Of course, back then it was actually Cougar Blue, not Cougar Blue.) 


With the changes to the college football schedules, in essence ending this longstanding rivalry after this season, we decided we needed to dust off this relic and perform it one last time. Below are a few screen shots from the event, which was held on July 31, 2012, at the Sandy City Library. 

Me reminding the crowd that they need to behave.

Some awesome Future Utah Men and Women.

Everyone is excited. (I guess they don't know what's about to hit them.)

I really like the color red, so I decided to show more of it.

See? Utes and Cougars coexisting peacefully together.

Our great announcer: Russell "Golden Tones" Anderson.

A solitary red cap amidst a sea of blue.

You wouldn't know it by this picture, but we really are great friends. Ahh, sports rivalries. They rank right up there with politics and religion.

To one of the great college rivalries of all time, may you rest in peace. And may you be successfully resurrected in a couple of years. Fingers crossed. 

Just not while we're at the piano.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Little Bit of Info About Me

Me and My Kids (Dad is the photographer)
I was asked to do a Q&A for our little Reality Check/ The Bachelorette Blog Tour that recently ended. Even though the tour has ended and the grand prize has been awarded, I thought I'd post the answers I shared with Kathy at I'm a Reader Not a Writer (thanks again for being part of the tour):

In high school I was called Squirk. A friend started adding Sk– or Squ– sounds to everyone’s names one day, and my last name Kirkham morphed into Squirkham and I ended up as Squirk. Diane Howell got called Scowl for three years so, really, I was lucky.

What was your favorite children's book? 
Myths and Enchantment Tales by Margaret Evans Price: http://www.amazon.com/Myths-enchantment-tales-Stories-illustrations/dp/B0007FUPYY. The stories are wonderful adaptations of the Greek myths and the illustrations are exquisite, with fiery heroes and diaphanous goddesses. (Do a Google Image search and you’ll see what I mean.) I think I believed I was a tree nymph until I was about seven.

Who or what inspired you to become an author? 
I’m one of those who didn’t necessarily dream all my life of becoming an author, although I was always on the lookout for the next cool creative project. (I once carved a bust of Socrates out of a bar of Ivory Soap for a grade school class project. Yeah, I was that kid.) A dozen years ago a friend, who was an editor, suggested I write a book. I was flattered but didn’t really take her seriously. A few years later I developed eye problems, and needed to find something that I could see to do that would fill my need for creative expression. Based on the seed of confidence my editor friend had planted, I decided to try writing, and have found, thankfully, that it’s a pretty good fit for me.

How do you react to a bad review? 
Hmm. Well, I grew up performing in piano competitions and being critiqued, and as a composition major in college I was required, along with everyone else, to have my original works performed and publicly critiqued by the professors and other students. So I’d actually had a lot of experience with critical commentary before getting published. But surprisingly, book reviews feel a lot more personal than piano performance critiques! So if I find I’m having an emotional reaction to a review, I allow myself time to breathe, try to get into an objective frame of mind, and then evaluate whether the comment was useful or a case of not being able to please everybody all the time. That being said, so far people have been extraordinarily kind. 

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
It actually happened right after my first manuscript was accepted. My brother-in-law asked me to write the official biography for his grandmother, Olympic gold medalist Elizabeth Becker Pinkston, to be read when she was posthumously inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. http://www.phillyhall.org/inductee_profile.asp?ind=340 It was a huge honor to be asked, and I was so inspired as I learned about this woman who, among her many accomplishments, won the U.S. national diving championship in 1926 when she was five months pregnant with twins!!

You have won one million dollars what is the first thing that you would buy? 
Oh, man! I’d pay off the loan sharks, tell the hubby to retire, and then set out on a long trip around the world with an extended stay in Europe. And then I’d spend at least a year in England and Scotland, writing and hunting for cool genealogy stuff.

What TV show/movie/book do you watch/read that you'd be embarrassed to admit? 
I confess that I love romance novels and The Bachelor/ette. I like the dynamics of relationships and the potential for happy outcomes. (Even though the TV show rarely ends in a permanent relationship, I still find the dynamics interesting.) But most people either gasp or roll their eyes when they find this out about me. Oh well! I know why the books and TV show appeal to me, and I know how to establish reading/watching boundaries when it comes to content. The rest of the world can go read about zombies and vampires and post-apocalyptic-televised-teen-battles-to-the-death. I’m sure they are wonderful and compelling. They just aren’t for me.

Night owl, or early bird? 
Night owl, bordering on dysfunctional.

Skittles or M&Ms? 
M&Ms. I’ll eat them both, but if I get to choose I’ll always go for the chocolate.

Print or Ebook? 
Print. Feels more intimate to me, at this point. I could change my mind.

Regular or Diet? 

Coke or Pepsi? 
Dr. Pepper

Spontaneity or Planning Ahead? 
Spontaneity. Planning is my version of hell.

PC or Mac? 

Cause or Effect? 
Cause. It’s why I’m drawn to shows like The Bachelor/ette and even Criminal Minds. What’s the motive? What makes people tick? I don’t necessarily want to know all the gruesome details about the murder—I want to know what drove an average Joe to commit it.

Truth or Dare? 
Truth. Truth can be dangerous but not necessarily life-threatening. It also ties in with why I chose Cause over Effect.

What is your favorite Quote? 
It’s one my husband shared with me when I was just starting out: “You want to be a writer/ But don’t know how or when/ Find a quiet place/ Use a humble pen.”  —Paul Simon “Hurricane Eye”

Monday, July 30, 2012

To Spoil or Not to Spoil—That is the Question!

Roughly a million years ago when I was five, my parents took us to see a movie, a musical. You know—singing, dancing, a love story.  
It began with flashy color and edgy music. There were boys dancing in alleyways and suave Puerto Ricans doing the mambo. Sassy girls swished their brightly colored skirts. And to top it off, there was this girl named Maria and this boy named Tony. And they fell in love—just like that! I was lost in a magical world of color and music and romance. 

Then suddenly on-screen two boys, Riff and Bernardo, were stabbed and died bloody deaths. I barely had time to get over my horror when Tony was shot. Not Maria’s Tony! Maria sang softly to him as he died in her arms. He couldn’t be dead! I didn’t want to believe it! 
The movie ended. I was devastated.
West Side Story won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, that year. Watching West Side Story at the age of five taught me that I really didn’t like bad surprises or sad endings. In fact, I think it got embedded into my DNA that day.
As a result, I read the last pages of a novel if I suspect I’m being set up for something bad. I like books with optimistic endings. And I read spoilers. :)
My family HATES that I read spoilers! My kids have been known to plug their ears and sing “lalalala” as loudly as they can if they think I’m talking about something that might give away an ending. 
What about you? Are you someone who likes spoilers, or do you like to be surprised? Is your enjoyment ruined if you learn the final score before watching the big game? Do you curse RealitySteve if you learn who gets the Final Rose on The Bachelorette before the season’s halfway over, or do you pour over his website spoilers before the first show even airs? 
All I know is, for me, the relief in knowing I can handle the outcome offsets any thrill I may have received in being surprised. Crazy? Maybe. Blame it on West Side Story.

(Guest post written for my Reality Check blog tour and posted on the Bookworm Lisa blog.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Blog Tour and Bachelorette Recap: Finale and ATFR

We're almost to the end of the Bachelorette Blog Tour for my debut novel Reality Check. For a chance to win an autographed copy of the novel and a silver starfish charm bracelet, leave a comment below (include your email address). And for more chances to win, check out The Book Bug. You'll find active links to the blogs that are participating in the tour. The more comments you leave, the better your chance of winning. And, if you already have your own copy of Reality Check, there's another great book you can have instead. Or I can substitute a prize "of equal value." You'll just have to trust me.

Let's get started!

The long-awaited day finally arrived, when all of America (or at least those of us who are interested) learned whether Emily chose Arie or Jef—unless you read the spoilers, in which case you were just watching to see if RealitySteve called it correctly.

I sat on my couch, paper and pen in hand, ready to take copious notes for this blog post. I think in the first half hour I wrote down two words: Jef's hair. It looked to me like he trimmed and tamed the hipster bouffant for his "meet the parents" gig. And it looked good.

When the three hours ended, I realized I could have squished all my notes onto a single Post-It note. Mostly I drew pictures on my teenage daughter's leg during the commercials. (I added a photo for fun. Obviously I am also not an artist.) The rest of the time I just sat back and enjoyed watching the show.

Before I share my observations let's briefly summarize the finale:

Emily's family met both guys and loved both guys, which was no help to Emily. Picking between Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong is easy. Picking between two Mr. Rights is a lot harder.

Emily's final date with Jef boiled down to Emily realizing that, if she wanted a guy ready to commit to the entire mama/daughter package, the guy had to have a chance to know the entire mama/daughter package. Jef met Ricki and quickly got on her good side by donning her pink swimming goggles and letting her push him into the pool.

That was the last piece of the puzzle for Emily. She told Chris Harrison she knew where her heart was, and knew she needed to send Arie home. Not surprisingly, Arie was stunned but generally kept his cool while dealing with total shock before leaving in the black SUV of doom.

Time for the Final Rose. The only questions remaining were: will Jef get down on one knee, and, if he does, will Emily actually accept? (Those pesky teasers again.)

At the Final Rose, Emily was free for the first time to share her feelings with Jef. She loves him and she thinks he may be her soulmate (A Reality Check word that's dear to my heart). And yes, he got down on one knee and yes, Emily accepted the proposal—and asked him, in turn, if he would accept that Final Rose.

My Should Have Been on a Post-It Note Observations:

Should Arie have realized something was amiss when Dinah the Potion Lady had him mixing his flowers and oils alone?

Did anyone else notice that Emily's dress totally matched the terra cotta pots on the Final Rose platform?

Total number of guys I managed to count in the live studio audience: five. Not counting Chris Harrison, Arie or Jef. Oh, I also didn't count JP or Stagliano. I made hash marks in the margin of my "page" of notes when I wasn't drawing an earthworm on my kid's thigh.

For those of you wondering, "Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera was a Billboard #1 in 1986. And has been stuck in my head every since the finale began. "I am a man who will fight for your honor . . ." 

The "shocking news" we were teased with was that Arie flew to Charlotte without telling anyone so he could talk things out with Emily, but after arriving there decided not to confront her in person.

Jef and Arie are friends and Jef helped Arie deal after he went home. That's cool. And Arie was, once again, a gentleman who handled his disappointment and heartache with grace.

To wrap things up: Jef is moving to Charlotte, they will live separately, and Emily likes the idea of a spring wedding. Everyone else is placing bets on how long the couple will last. Considering the franchise track record, that's not a surprise.

I would like to offer my own two cents. As part of my research for Reality Check, I spent a lot of time analyzing these shows, thinking through the process and the motives of those who produce the show, as well as those who sign up to be part of it. Here's my bottom line, for what it's worth:

The show isn't real but the people are. 

I know. Duh, right? But that's pretty much it.

The taping of the show and the experiences the participants have are their reality while they're going through it. I think sometimes we forget that as viewers. I hear comments that the show isn't what real life is like and that, under those intense situations, it's easy to think you're in love when you're not. That it's different when you're back in the real world.

That is all true.

But it is also true that people who go through intense experiences together bond over that experience. They shared something unique together that only they understand. Sometimes those bonds last. Sometimes they don't. But those experiences are still real to the people who went through them. Whether those people served overseas in the military together, or helped each other survive the Twin Towers, or simply spent long hours together on a huge work deadline, a bond forms that's real. So, too, is living in a jungle for a month hoping to win Survivor, or joining twenty-five other men or women on The Bachelor/ette

For that reason, I will allow myself to cheer Emily and Jef on as they explore their real emotions in their real world. I will get out of their way and wish them the best. They seem like wonderful people. And I hope for them this is more than a happy ending. I hope it's a great beginning.