Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Golden Review of GOLDEN

         "Readers will fall in love with the characters in this story."
          Wow.  An author dreams of a response like that, and I am humbled and delighted by Jennie Hansen's words about GOLDEN, my latest novel.  Today I'm sharing her review in Meridian Magazine with my blog readers:

reviewed by Jennie Hansen
          No one wants to enter the dark old mansion known as the Witch House. It’s actually a retirement home housing a dozen elderly people, but it’s poorly maintained. The landscaping is overgrown, the house is a dingy black color, and the interior is worse. When Jana Waterson and her seven month pregnant partner are assigned to visit teach a new resident there, she is appalled by the gloomy atmosphere. One of the elderly residents, a former nurse, recognizes the symptoms of preeclampsia in Jana’s partner who is quickly whisked off to the hospital. When Jana calls her husband, Ethan, who is the new bishop, he rushes to the hospital to give the woman a blessing. Thus begins the Waterson’s introduction to the house and its residents that soon become a major part in their lives and the lives of their ward members.
          The Waterson children insist they want nothing to do with the Witch House, but Ethan is more afraid of his calling as bishop than of the spooky old house. With the owners’ approval he takes on renovating the house as a ward project. Many ward members are reluctant at first to get involved, but little by little the various organizations agree to portions of the project and some of the children adopt the individual residents as unofficial grandparents.                       Conversions, an irate son, a visit from a television station, a convert who changes her mind, and a romance or two are just a few of the happenings that occur during the project. Most surprising are the discoveries concerning the old house. Most rewarding perhaps is the discovery that past fears and doubts can be overcome. Black can be turned to gold.
          Readers will fall in love with the characters in this story. Their doubts and fears are the type most of us struggle with. Each of the Watersons is a distinct personality with flaws, strengths, and personality quirks that make them realistic. Ethan and Jan’s interaction with each other and with their children strengthen the story. The residents of the senior facility are a great cross section of the elderly. Like people anywhere at any age they have likes and dislikes, they argue, they support each other. They also have memories they hold dear. They hold life dear too, and aren’t through living. Some are in wheelchairs and some rely on canes, but all are fiercely independent.
          Hilton includes many humorous situations and clever lines, but there is a serious side underlying the humor. The story acknowledges the regrets most of us have and the insecurities we feel in certain situations, but it allows her characters to grow and better understand the atonement. She shows how weaknesses can become strengths, mistakes can be overcome, the power of forgiveness, and shows how in helping others we also help ourselves become stronger and better. As the Witch House is transformed from a place no one wants to enter to a golden opportunity desired by almost everyone, a similar transformation takes place in the hearts of those who take part in the project. Being elderly doesn’t keep the residents who decide to be baptized from becoming pioneers, the first members of the Church in their families. The author manages all this cleverly with a fun story and no preaching.
         Joni Hilton is the author of twenty-four books, many magazine articles, and several award-winning plays. She is a regular feature writer for Meridian Magazine and also writes for Music and the Spoken Word. Formerly a TV talk show host, she now tours the U.S. as a corporate spokeswoman and a motivational speaker. She has held many leadership roles in her ward and stake and currently serves as ward Relief Society president. She and her husband live in California and they are the parents of four children.
          GOLDEN may be purchased as a 333-page paperback, or on Kindle.  You can also visit Hilton's website here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Really Great Debate

No sooner do I post a blog about dragging St. Bob to a home accessory store, than I have yet another encounter with the difference between men and women: Shopping with a grown son.
Our eldest son, Richie, is purchasing his first home, a three-story condo. Naturally you need more things as a homeowner than you do when renting an apartment, so he and I decided to stroll through WalMart and make a list.  This list will then be taken all over town to various stores, but we’ll start by seeing what WalMart has to offer.
It wasn’t long before I realized the disparity in how women see such a task, and how men see it.  “How about shoe racks?” I suggested.
Richie stared at me.  “I have three pairs of shoes.  Four, if you count sandals.” 
Okay, no shoe rack.  “How about some baskets, for organizing?”
He just stared at me.
“A mattress cover?”
“Isn’t that what the bottom sheet is for?” he said.
I tried to sell the idea of another layer of soft quilting, and one that would protect the mattress as well, but soon he was wandering off.
“Look at these big salad bowls,” I said, heading into the dinnerware section.
“When would I ever use one?” he asked.  Richie does not like salads, cannot understand eating leaves, and thinks lettuce is just for people who want to chew their water.
My suggestion of a step ladder was greeted with his arm in the air, reaching higher than I could climb on the ladder.  I guess a guy who’s 6’3” tall doesn’t worry about reaching high places.
“How about a pretty wall clock?” I asked, noticing the large, round ones decorators love to use.
He showed me his cell phone.  “And there’s a clock on my stove.”
Okay.  This list was going to be shorter than I expected, although Richie did point out that Halloween is coming and he doesn’t have a fog machine.
Finally we strolled past glassware and I said, “How about a vase?”
“For what?”
“For flowers!”
“Why would I have flowers?” he asked.
“Well, someone might give you flowers,” I said.
“Who would give me flowers?”
I sighed.  “A friend might want to congratulate you on your new home or something.”
Richie looked at me as if I have a screw loose.  “No one I know would think that I would want flowers.”
So, even though his eyes lit up when we passed Popsicle forms, I realized this move-in is going to be cheaper than I thought.   
And then we hit the electronics department.  “I’m definitely getting a bigger TV than you have,” he said. 
And the budget is now skyrocketing again.

Don’t worry—I have the perfect housewarming gift idea, if you know someone moving into a new home: One of my books!  Check them out here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

One Secret to a Happy Marriage

Something they don’t tell you when you get married, is how many places you are each going to be dragged to, by the other one.
          You may have noticed that I specialize in broad generalizations.  But here’s one that applies to most men: You will be dragged to countless wedding receptions, parties, his-and-hers baby showers, fabric stores, and craft faires.  Also jewelry stores, in which my friend, Bob Rogers, says, “Nothing good can ever happen for a man.”
          Women are dragged on motocross runs, to loud monster truck arenas, through the electronics store, to ninja movies, to guns-and-fishing sporting goods shops, and urged to attend numerous sports that don’t appeal to them. 
          And we go.  We go because we don’t want them to find a more agreeable partner, and also simply because we love them and want to support their weird choice without actually calling it a weird choice.
          So a fabulous new home accessory store opened up, and I couldn’t wait to drag, I mean take, St. Bob there with me.  I could almost feel my own eyes twinkling, as I imagined it. The store would be filled with irresistible pillows, rugs, vases, china, glassware, candlesticks, and lamps—all begging to beautify our home.
          Dutiful husband that he is, St. Bob came along.  In no time I found a gorgeous serving bowl.  Then I turned over the price tag.  “A hundred and sixty bucks?” I gasped.  I moved on to some luxuriously soft towels.  “Eighty dollars for a hand towel?”  Next I found a framed mirror that cost more than my first car.  And my second car.  Put together.
          I looked up at Bob and frowned, but persevered until we had walked every aisle and I had gone from eager anticipation to scowling aggravation.  “I hate this,” I said.
          Bob smiled.  “Whose idea was it to come here?” he asked.  “A, Joni or B, Bob?”
          “I also hate multiple choice questions,” I muttered.  This is not entirely true, but true when I know the answer and I don’t like it.
          Finally we made our way back to the car, Bob happy that Joni didn’t find anything to buy, and Joni mad for the same reason plus the fact that Bob seemed so delighted about it.
          I pouted for half a mile until Bob said, “How about some ice cream?” And that’s how to make marriage work.  
Another way is to buy each other books.  May I suggest my latest novel, Golden, in paperback or on Kindle?  And there are dozens (yes, dozens) of others here.        

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Not With a Goat, Not in a Boat

          Sorry, Dr. Seuss, but there is something even worse than eating Green Eggs and Ham.  It is eating bugs, and I will not do it, Sam I Am.
          Incredibly, our daughter, Nicole did. And I am an eye witness.  We were in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, in a shop where a young man was clerking, who convinced her to try a dried cricket and a dried meal worm. 
          They were highly seasoned with chili and lime, but there are not enough chilis or limes in this universe, to make me put one of those creepy creatures in my mouth.  Even as a child, when my friends would make Creepy Crawler candies, I couldn’t do it.
          I might add that we asked the clerk if he had tried them and he said he was a vegetarian.  Right.  That’s also what I would say if I worked there.
          And yes, I know millions of people in the world eat bugs, they're loaded with protein, and this is currently A Thing.  I'm still not doing it.
          Until now, I considered myself an adventurous eater. In fact, I would think sneering, judgmental thoughts about people who wrinkle their noses and say, “Ewww” about things they’ve never even tried.
          I watched people say this about chocolate-dipped strawberries back in the early 80s, and then again about putting watermelon or peaches in salsa just a few years ago.  And, of course, both of these are wildly popular today.
          In the 90s, I won a glorious trip to Patricia Wells’ cooking school in Provence, France.
          St. Bob and I toured an olive orchard and spoke with the folks making olive oil. Well, I don’t win these trips for nothing—it’s because I think outside the box and look at food and say, “Hey, what if we went vertical with this?” Or “What if we added vanilla instead of cayenne?” In fact, I suggested lacing creme brulee with lavender while I was at Patricia Wells' house.
          So I said to the olive oil proprietors, “Have you ever considered flavoring your oil with basil? Or maybe garlic, or peppers?  Even lemon or truffles would be wonderful.” And so French, right?
          “Oh, no, no,” he said.  “Why try to change something that’s already perfect?”
          Alex Guarnaschelli (who went on to become a celebrity chef, “Chopped” judge, and restaurant owner) was Patricia Wells' assistant at the time and said, “Because we’re Americans, and that’s what we do.”  (I will love her forever, by the way, even if she did get me to eat an entire fried anchovy, with the head still on it.) 
          And, of course, now you can find flavored olive oils everywhere.
So, despite thinking of myself as being a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to foodie matters, I have now discovered my limit and it has six legs.  Or eight.  Or none, but it’s slimy and it slithers. I cannot eat an insect.
          This did, however, teach me not to judge the nose-wrinklers. Because now I’m one of them.
If you like cooking-- or just crazy people-- you MUST read my novel, Sisters in the Mix.  And check out my newest novel, Golden, in paperback or on Kindle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Olympics, New and Improved

          Someone recently pointed out to me that I have not blogged about the Olympics.  Yes, they took place in a city virtually begging to be blogged about with rampant crime, warnings about swallowing more than two tablespoons of river water, athletes renting cruise ships to sleep and eat on, rather than take their chances in Rio, and virus-carrying mosquitoes that made some athletes stay away altogether.  It was like a disaster movie set.
          And, of course, there were champions to cheer for and exciting moments as well.  BUT… what I think I’ll blog about are my vast and varied ideas for Olympic events that ought to be. My list is more inclusive than the Olympic Committee’s, and could involve people of all cultures and ages, even you and I. Herewith, my 15 suggestions:
1.       Uneven parallel bathroom wallpapering.  

2.      Wrestling a resistant child into boots, parka, gloves and hat.
3.      Speed shopping.
4.      Running cross-country after the garbage truck.
5.       Balancing while putting on pantyhose.
6.      Diving into holiday decorating.
7.       Synchronized sandwich making.
8.      Tug o’War Gum removal from a child’s hair.
9.      Curling one’s nostrils during in-law’s visit.
10.     Shot-putting cell phones.
11.     Dry Cycling Laundry folding (extra points for contour sheets).
12.     De-bathlon :Bathtub scrubbing after teenager works on his car.
13.     Triathlon Diaper changing (of triplets).
14.     Freestyle Leftovers disguising.
15.     Computer Diving: Your monitor gets to dive off the board into a very deep pool.  You know you’ve dreamed of that.
And then, as all good athletes must rest and renew, you can put your Nike-sponsored feet up and enjoy my latest novel, Golden.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Best Baby Name EVER!

I have the best idea EVER for a baby name.  You get a corporate sponsor, the same as a stadium or a theatre does.  And you also make a million bucks in the process.  Hey, how do we know this is not how Gwyneth Paltrow wound up with a kid named Apple?
          I hit upon this idea when St. Bob recently sold the naming rights for the new, gorgeous amphitheater here in Rocklin, California.  It took me no time whatsoever to extrapolate this concept to the naming of a child.  Yes, that is how my mind works.
          Think about it.  Do we not all know babies with crazy names, already?  I even collected them and once tried to sell a book called, “You named your baby WHAT?”  but couldn’t get any takers.
          We’ve all heard of the wild names that really exist—Ima and Ura Hogg of Texas, Saran Rapp, Chanda Lear, Orangejello and Lemonjello.  In fact, I spent the majority of my childhood in Utah, which has now become the Crazy Name Capitol, with parents inventing names right and left. In fact, if Tylenol were not already a product name, twenty-five people would be named that right now.
          But this idea is even better because you make money in the process.  And you can raise the rates if your child does well in life.  Graduates high school? Another ten thousand.  Graduates college? Fifteen thousand.  Tack on a few bucks for every award, and for going into a prestigious career.  “Yep, that’s my son, the neurosurgeon, Beano.”  Sure, the name would be ghastly, but the bucks would be worth it
          Although that does bring up a bit of a problem.  Somehow I can’t imagine someone growing up well-adjusted and staying out of jail if their name is HoneyBuns Bakery.  Or Dulcolax. Even Fatburger presents problems. 
          What if you were sponsored by Depends?  Or Roto-Rooter?  You’d definitely have to make sure you could live with the name. 
          There’s an entire city that did this, too, you know.  In fact, St. Bob became a big part of it all.  Back in 1950, Ralph Edwards announced that he would air his 10th anniversary radio quiz show in the city that would change its name to “Truth or Consequences.”  That’s how the city of Hot Springs, New Mexico became Truth or Consequences—still its name today.
And since my St. Bob replaced Bob Barker as host of the national TV show, he went to “T or C” every May for years, to host it on stage in the city’s annual “Fiesta.”   We often took the kids, rode in the parade, 
and have many fond memories with Ralph and other celebrities he brought to town for the event.  
So if an entire city can do it, why can’t you?  I’m just saying, if you’re pregnant and you’d like your child’s college paid for…

Have you read my latest novel, Golden?  You can order it in paperback or on Kindle.  And definitely visit my website for more to watch, see and do!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rockin' it in the Desert

          What are kids for, if not to scare the living daylights out of their mothers?
          And this seems to have no age limit.  Last week I told you about my visit to Las Vegas with eldest son Richie, meeting up with son-who-lives-there Brandon, and Nicole, who came down from Provo, Utah to join us.
          But today you will see why many a mother has gray hair. Brandon decided to show us scenic Red Rock Canyon, just a few miles outside Las Vegas.  He also brought his Great Dane, Odin, along. 

          Did I mention that it was approximately 8,000 degrees outside? And no, you couldn’t fry an egg because any creature capable of laying an egg would be dead of heat suffocation. But there we were, determined to see the iron-rich cliffs and rock formations. (We also did not run into official “spokestortoise” Mojave Max, who was probably buried as deeply as he could possibly dig.)
          And what was the first thing the boys conspired to do?  Climb a cliff IN FLIP FLOPS.  Here they are, surely conspiring (Odin is probably an innocent bystander):
          Before you could say, “Is it hot or is it just me?” they were scuttling up the sandstone, and then waved from the brink of death:
          And, of course, it was only upon leaving that I noticed this sign:
          This is the real reason desert life gives you wrinkles.

          So stay inside, where it’s nice and cool, watch my YouTube Mom channel, and buy my new book, Golden, which makes a wonderful gift, in paperback or on Kindle.