Category: Shannon Symonds

Hello Operator Can You Help Me Please

Today, sleep eluded me, and I was up and on my knees talking to my Father in Heaven. Just like so many of us, I was feeling overwhelmed with my list of responsibilities. I felt I was failing. I listed the things I am thankful for and asked for a few massive miracles. On my list was, “Please give me more hours in this day.”

I am in the middle of editing my next novel, Finding Hope, and it is taking much longer than I thought it should. Editing is a long process for me. Errors don’t jump out at me, they hide. I have to hunt them down by reading my entire book out loud. I beg saints to be beta readers who correct a copy which I integrate into my master copy. And then, after another read through and a second, third, fourth, edit I can send it off to a professional editor.

At 4 this morning my brain woke me up to think about editing. I had a whole conversation with myself. It went something like this:

Me: You should just get up right now and edit until work and then through the next night. You could get it all done.

Also Me: Right….like that time you were writing in the night and woke up to find out you had typed a whole paragraph of a dream? Editing is not something a sleep-deprived person like you should be doing.

Me: I can push harder. Let’s see. Editing from 4:30 to 7:30, Workout 7:30, work 8:30 (looking really bad), Editing from 5:00 to Midnight. See, it can work.

Also Me: Why am I am so anxious. Why isn’t it done? Everyone else in the whole world, I mean every single person, could do this faster than me.

Satan: You’re not good enough. This is a waste of time. You should be spending time cleaning the house or with your family. You should just quit. Quit. Quit.

It was at that moment that I decided to roll onto my knees and give all my worries to my Heavenly Father.

One of my favorite spiritual leaders, Deiter F. Uchtdorf said,

“We must learn that in the Lord’s plan, our understanding comes “line upon line, precept upon precept.”6 In short, knowledge and understanding come at the price of patience.

Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness.”

This morning, I didn’t get my answer on my knees. All I could do was give my challenges up in prayer, say Amen, and get on with my day.

I work at a nonprofit that sits a few blocks from the ocean. Weekly, we have the gift of a wellness hour with free yoga. Today, however, was bright and sunny so I opted to take a walk. I put my headphones in, turned on a good book and walked to the beach.

Somewhere on the walk, I remembered I needed to call Deseret Book and update my platinum membership. Ironically, I am on a tight budget, but it felt important.

Because I was walking, (And I am a new age girl who can walk and text), I googled the customer service line and got on with an Operator.

Me: Hello? I think I need to renew my platinum membership so I get Bookshelf for less. I might have been charged more this month. Someone there called me last month, but I forgot to call back. My name is Shannon Symonds.

Operator: That was me! I called you last month. I remember because after we talked, I bought your book, Safe House, and read it. I have been wanting to tell you I loved it. It was good. I think it will help people.

Me: You just answered my prayer! I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I was pretty discouraged this morning and wondering if I was doing the right thing.

Operator: You are! Keep writing.

Me: Tears of gratitude for a Heavenly Father who answers prayers and for a sweet woman who listens to the spirit and blessed my life.

When it feels like you are overwhelmed, and your burden is too hard to carry, remember the operator. Call Heaven and ask for help. Maybe you will get the operator, maybe you will get a miracle, or maybe, if you are patient, you will find a mountaintop and look back to see the Lord was with you every step of the way, and the journey was for your own good.

Wait! Did I use too many commas, not enough? I should edit this again.

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How to get Cinnamon Rolls and the Keys to Dad’s Car

Do you want to see this author geek out? Just tell me you read something I wrote in a newspaper. It is like Christmas morning! Yes, I wrote the article. Yes, I thought it might be published. And yet, every time I cannot contain my joy. It is like opening a new book and smelling the pages (Confess true book lovers, you know you’re closet book sniffers).

The Deseret News Mormon Times (I know- didn’t we all rebrand ourselves?) published an article by several authors detailing the way they prepare for General Conference. It is filled with wonderful ideas. But, as for me and my house? We prepare with Celestia Sappenfield’s Cinnamon Rolls, lovingly known as Mom’s or Grandma’s Rolls. They have kept us together for General Conference for more than 40 years.

The only person happier than me to see the newspaper story was my dad, Jeffrey Sappenfield. You see, there is nothing my father loves better than reading a newspaper. Not on a Kindle, but a real paper newspaper. The kind that is thrown on your porch.

Growing up, my brother’s and sister’s knew that for my father, his mother, and all of the relatives, newspaper reading was to be taken seriously. All pages were to be read. Every front page story was to be discussed. And then the paper was folded lovingly for the next reader. My job was to cut out all the good political cartoons and paste them in my notebook.

We also knew that dad came home after 5 PM. He would walk in the door with the paper. He would sit in his lounger and read, cover to cover. if we wanted the keys to the car, we let dad finish the paper before we asked. It felt like an eternity.

Today is my father’s birthday. I won’t give away his age, but I will say the older I get, the younger he seems. It may be silly, but seeing an article in a newspaper about his family by his daughter (me!) was the perfect gift. Tonight, when I say my prayers, I will thank the appropriate person.

And here is the recipe!

Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls

Preheat Oven to 425

In this century – Use parchment paper on a thick Costco Baking Pan

In a very large bowl (Yeast hates metal)  add 1 and 1/2 cup water. Make sure it is 110 degree (Yeast likes warm)

Add 3 Tablespoons Yeast (Rapid rise is okay – use fresh new yeast)

Add 4 Tablespoons….or more…sugar

Let this rest for 15 minutes. Yes – the ENTIRE 15 minutes. Let the yeast have a party.

Add 2 eggs

3 Tablespoons oil (I like to use melted and cooled real butter)

Add 2 cups warm milk – 110 degrees (Not too hot! You will kill the yeast)

Mix

Take 1 Tablespoon of Salt and add it to a cup of flour and set it aside.

Gently mix in 4 cups flour

Add your 1 cup salt and flour

Add 3 more cups until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl

Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot in your kitchen. Let the dough rise until double.

On a clean surface (There is more dough than you think) roll out the dough until it is a thick rectangle. Pour melted and cooled real butter allllll over it.

Mix a bag of brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. Sprinkle it generously all over the butter. Roll the dough and slice into cinnamon rolls.

Place them on the parchment paper on your baking tray and let them rise for a few minutes.

Bake 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees

Frost with a mixture of powdered sugar, 1 TBL real butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and water. Serve hot with MORE butter.

Next week- The Gluten Free, Dairy Free Cinnamon Bun recipe for me…sigh…

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The Making of the Cover Art for Finding Hope by Shannon Symonds

Do you believe in answers to prayer? I do! Recently I discussed cover art with the talented author of the Buxton Peak series and other clean adult fiction, Julie L. Spencer. She gave me some great tips. I hung up the phone and wondered how I would ever get cover art done in Seaside, Oregon on the edge of the world?

I actually prayed out loud, a name came to mind and the phone rang. One of those rare friends, the kind you meet and feel like you’ve known a hundred years, was calling – Haley Miller of HisNames.org and Captures Photography. She said, “I’ve been thinking about you. How can I help you?” I felt like Angels were in the room singing.

Haley was there for me when I launched Safe House. I was so happy to see her!

Today we went to a little known local spot. I had the privilege of watching Haley, a talented photographic artist, create the cover art for my next novel, “Finding Hope.” She asked about the characters, the story, the feelings, and went to work. I can’t wait to reveal the cover.

Here is a sample of her photographic art from the release of Safe House. You can find out more about HisNames.org and Haley’s artwork here. Haley is also an Operation Underground Railroad supporter!

Finding Hope is a clean stand-alone novel which takes place in the same beloved town as Safe House with everyone’s favorite characters, Grace and Officer Joe Hart. Maybe this time Grace will find love.

17-year-old Hope Experience Flanagan thought she was escaping danger when she walked away from the Yeti Haven Trailer Park and the Rat. But, the world is a dangerous place, unless you have Grace and a little help from friends. Grace James and Officer Hart work together to help Hope find her mother and a place to call her own before she becomes easy prey for traffickers and finds herself in deep water.

So I leave you with this thought, Can Grace find Hope, while Hart saves Grace?

Comment below if you want to know the location of the shoot and maybe, just maybe, I will share one of my favorite local (and often missed) beaches on the Oregon Coast.

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I was Never a Mormon

I was never a Mormon. Mormon was an ancient prophet in the Book of Mormon* who has been dead for many years. To top it off, someone once bought a handwritten manuscript of Mormon’s abridgment for 35 million dollars!** Trust me… I have not come close to making that kind of money as an author and no one wants to buy my messy original word doc for ten cents.

I have always been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Recently our Prophet announced we were no longer to be called or call ourselves, “Mormon,” or “LDS.” This was major news to the world. We were being “rebranded.”

This was not major news to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I had been hearing this for years! Here is a little history behind the shortened or slang term or name, “Mormon.”

In the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, according to Deseret News *** and everything I have been taught, “The church has had a complicated relationship with the term Mormon since its restoration in 1830. Church leaders long chafed at antagonists calling them Mormons and, early on, Mormonites, but in recent decades they have been more accepting of the nickname.”

Let me tell you what I think this means. In early history, there was an Extermination Order allowing people to legally kill “Mormons.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were burned out of their homes, run out into the snow and driven across state lines, massacred, and generally misunderstood. “Mormon” was a slang term used in derision that we adopted ourselves and used.

However, I have speculated, as others have, that it created confusion around whether or not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were Christians. We are.

Here are a few facts about me and some of my friends who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are not perfect. We are human. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I go to church in an effort to become more Christlike and grow.  At church, I have been taught we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father, and I know from many church meetings, that we want everyone to be together as one big happy family again.  We are taught to love everyone, no exceptions, unconditionally. We only ask the same in return. Love us as we are and let us work towards the next life as we choose. If you have questions just ask, and I will find someone who knows more than I do to answer them.

I personally don’t need rebranding. I do need people to stop calling me “Mormon.” He is a dead but respected prophet. I also need people to ask me questions, instead of guessing what I believe or telling me what they think I believe.

In all honesty, not much has changed in history, except we have stepped into the light, stopped hiding, and want you to know we hold firm to our belief in the Savior. I want my friends, co-workers, and neighbors to know I was never a Mormon, but I was always a Christian and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

*https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/explanation?lang=eng

**https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/26/book-of-mormon-sets-new-record-for-most-expensive-manuscript-ever-sold

*** https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900028401/the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints-issues-new-name-guidelines-dropping-term-mormon-in-most-uses.html

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Cedar Fort Author Appreciation Dinner

Do you ever wonder what happens behind the curtain? Are you ever curious about what it takes to publish mountains of quality family entertainment and education? I did, and so I flew to Utah for Cedar Fort’s Author Appreciation Dinner.

Not only did Cedar Fort feed us great food and entertain us with wonderful prizes, they gave us a peek behind the curtain and shared what goes on in the Cedar Fort house.

As an author who writes alone on the Oregon Coast, I had never been to the building or met the staff. It was great to see all the support we have.

I don’t know why, but whenever I called the office, I pictured a small office with books stacked in a closet. Boy, was I wrong! Cedar Fort is a talented team whose CEO, a second generation publisher,  is putting into place new and exciting ideas to support clean, quality entertainment.

My sister Sara came as my date for the night. We sat with Nikki Zacharias Trionfo, author of “Shatter,”  wonderful Cedar Fort family members and more. Table 8 rocked the house.

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Safe House funds for Freedom

In honor of my favorite holiday, July 4th, and Safe House’s first birthday on July 11, I am donating 100% of my ebook profits to Operation Underground Railroad and reducing the cost of my ebook to $0.99 for the ENTIRE month of July.

Cedar Fort is supporting the cause and donating 1 signed copy of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for their aftercare programs, auctions, or to give away for every 50 ebooks sold during the month of July.

The Singing Librarian is helping by giving away a signed copy of Safe House and promoting the sale on her Christian & Clean Fiction Summer Reading Safari, as well as a ton of other giveaways and fun!

July 4th is my favorite holiday! Since 1921, our family has gathered on the Seaside, Oregon Beach and lit a massive bonfire, made s’mores, and celebrated Independence Day together. So, of course, I want the same for everyone in America, including victims of human trafficking!

Comment below or on my blog, FaceBook page, Instagram, or Twitter, with the word Freedom and I will enter you into a Facebook Live drawing from a jar! One of my beautiful family members will help me on the 4th of July.

Remember, the fight for freedom is far from over. Somewhere out there are children who need us to care. Learn more at OurRescue.org.

And watch for the first annual Seaside, Oregon family fun run on the historic prom on August 18th. I will be there and we will be running to raise funds for Operation Underground Railroad, as well as our local Seaside Sunset Empire Parks & Recreation- providing safe programs for kids!

Sponsored by: 

  • Sam’s Seaside Cafe
  • Providence Seaside Hospital
  • Clatsop Community Bank
  • The Human Bean

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The End! My Two New Favorite Words & A Preview

It is 1 AM and I had to write and tell you, I just typed the last two words I plan to type on my next novel. The End. What lovely words they are! Not only is the story written, but it has been read and re-read.

This morning early, I finished reading my book out loud. I momentarily panicked when I realized several corrections hadn’t been saved, but then I decided it was an opportunity to do it all again, and better.

I could spend every second, or forever, fixing one more thing, trying one more time to make something, anything, just a little better. Perhaps, I will decide later,  I should have worked longer or smarter, but for now. Finished.

Because it is better to take the leap of faith than to never leap at all.

My wish? This story becomes another opportunity to serve and give to

Operation Underground Railroad. 

 

FINDING HOPE by Shannon Symonds

 Hope Experience Flanagan had to get out of the Rat’s trailer tonight. It made more sense to wait until her 18th birthday, or until the cold Oregon Coast weather warmed, but everything told her the Rat was dangerous and she was out of time.

“Come on Hope! I just want you to watch a movie with me.” the Rat begged from the other side of her locked bedroom door.

“I’m not coming out until Mom’s home!”

“See how nice I am! Your Mom hasn’t been home for weeks and I let you stay with me.”

“Just let me finish my homework,” she said nicely, trying to hide her frustration.

The flimsy bedroom door in the timeworn 1967 Rancho trailer shook angrily. Poised to move, Hope held her breath until it stopped. “You promise?” he yelled.

Finally,  she heard the Rat shuffle down the little hall. Five foot one Richard Culligan, ironically known as ‘Rich’ to his friends, and Rat to her, was her mother’s latest partner in a steady stream of companions. Hope hated them all.

The lacey ice on the windows of the Rat’s ancient trailer was as much on the inside in winter as on the outside. The trailer hadn’t moved for more years than Hope had been alive. It was parked in the Yeti Trailer Haven among other molding heaps of aluminum hidden by forest, vines, and foliage which obliterated their existence. Hope thought it was the best part of the coast. Magic green that erased every sign of man if you gave it long enough.

She sat on an old sleeping bag on a bare mattress, headphones in, music playing, when hailstones began pelting the aluminum walls. Gradually the torrent picked up. Larger and larger hailstones assaulted the windows so loudly it broke through her music and then it stopped.

Everything else she owned was packed in her old orange backpack including a Ziploc bag with a picture of her missing mother. Quietly, she pulled back the red rug, moved a loose floorboard, and dropped her pack into the black hole. Then, Hope slid down through the same hole and out from under Rich Culligan’s trailer forever.

***

Grace James had a smile painted on her face, but her nylons had gradually fallen until she was sure the crotch was at her bony knees and below the hem of her skirt. She had been wearing two hour high heels for four hours and her feet begged for mercy. She stood tall, at the end of her thirties with her long blond hair sprayed into submission on stage next to her boss in the old Victorian Church, now the Bay City Performing Arts Center.

Grace’s boss Eunice had the microphone. Her gray bob looked purple in the spotlight. She took off her bedazzled cat eye glasses, and said to the audience, “Next I want to introduce our senior advocate, Grace James.”

Hailstones started pelting the large stained glass windows in the ancient hall.

Every head turned to look at the row of 20-foot windows lining both sides of the room as a cascade threatened to break through the glass. The echo was deafening and then ended almost as quickly as it started.

 

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Memorial Day- I never thought…..

While visiting my mother, I was given this old photo. My first thoughts when I looked at it was how little my children all were when we took this picture, and I wish Jamie was smiling. My second thought was I wish I had known then what I know now.

I didn’t know that in 6 short years one of my children would be flying off to Germany as a United State Army Air Traffic Controller during a war. I didn’t know she would be pregnant halfway around the world while her husband flew out for 5 months as a soldier set to enter combat.

I didn’t know that one more child would shortly find himself in harm’s way while serving in the United States Army and return home honorably as a disabled veteran. I didn’t know we would be going to war.

Would it have changed anything if I had known? Would I have spent more time teaching them how to survive, to be smarter, stronger? What would I have done to equip them for the mighty challenges they would face in a few short years?

It would have changed everything. I would have cared less about clean bedrooms and bedtimes. I would have cared less about grades and chores.

If I had known then, what I know now I would do everything differently. I would spend hours playing on the beach with them. I would have spent days doing nothing but snuggling, reading, and talking to them about the importance of home and family. I would have read them more scriptures, prayed more often, and made sure they knew God would always be by their side.

When my children entered the United States Army I saw them for the first time and I marveled at the people I had been raising. I saw my daughter, with pneumonia and infected tonsils rank 7th in a class of over 400 soldiers when she completed basic training. I saw my son’s heroic love of his fellow soldiers. I watched him become more of a natural leader, connected, caring, and courageous. He was happiest when helping others.

I learned the military is about more than guns and war. I learned the military is about courageous, connected children of other mothers sacrificing for a cause greater than themselves and joining a larger family.

My children came home, I am one of the lucky ones. My heart breaks for those who lost family. Everything was so simple on that summer day.

I can’t look at a marching army, a soldier’s face, even a soldier from across enemy lines without thinking, somewhere there is a family, friends, a mother missing you, loving you, and wishing they had one more day to play.

Thank you to all the men and women across all time who have served to protect our country and thank you to all the mothers, family, and friends who love them.

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My New Read: The Road to Freedom by Shawn Pollock

World War II is ending, but for Captain Meier, the fight for his life has only begun. Stranded behind enemy lines and tormented by his past, his only ally is a young private who practices a strange American religion. As they travel through treacherous Russia, the two quickly realize they will have to trust in merciful God to have any chance of escaping a deadly fate.

Excerpt from: The Road To Freedom:

A rumbling rose in the distance; it was harsh, mechanized, and unwelcome. He watched as a truck appeared in the west, coming from the town he had just left. Only one. He sighed with relief. He could handle one, and maybe the driver could help him. He pushed himself upright and went to the shoulder of the road and waved. The truck stopped. The driver leaned over and pushed the passenger door open.

“Dobroye utro!” he said. Then, with a shake of his head, he said, “I mean, good morning! Do you need a ride?”

Christoph backed away, suddenly panic-stricken at the sound of the driver’s voice. An instinct surged inside him–primal and violent–triggered by those words, that accent. He tried to push it down, but the anxiety ignited once again at the sound of the truck flaring again. His mind raced and his heart pounded. The driver had offered the ride in broken German, but “dobroye utro” was “good morning” in Russian.

In the late war, every German had learned to fear the Russians. He especially knew that fear. He had survived on it. And now, a Russian was here? Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.

My Thoughts….

When Shawn asked me to read his book, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, I am a girly girl who likes mystery, romance, and historical fiction. So far, so wonderful and very unexpected.

Shawn’s characters are very three dimensional. I can see the story unfold. Break out a little, and give Shawn’s story a try. I am glad I did.

Shawn and I talked, and I am pleased to share a little author interview with you.

Shawn Pollock, Author

Shawn grew up in Cache Valley, Utah, served a mission in Japan, and graduated from Utah State University with degrees in Professional Writing and Instructional Technology. He works as an instructional designer in the software industry. His short story, “Hats,” won first place in The New Era magazine’s fiction contest. Any time not devoted to work and family goes to cooking, reading about history, and participating in the League of Utah Writers. The Road to Freedom is his first novel.

What inspired you to write about this era?

Well, I have always been fascinated by both World Wars and have a natural interest in Germany. I’m not sure where that comes from because I’ve never been to Germany and I don’t speak German or even know any Germans, but hopefully someday.

I also thought it made for a very fertile place to examine some questions of faith that are also found in the Book of Mormon. How can a man try to stick to values and convictions when he’s in a place where no one shares them and everyone is very war-like and violent? What effect might that have on those around him? Will he change, or will they?

How did you do your research?

I have a large collection of books on World War II, most of which belonged to one of my grandfathers. I got them when he passed away. I also made good use of my library card. So, tons of reading and making notes. I’d been reading about the war for years already anyway, so I started off with a good base.

Your characters are so believable. Are they based on people you know or knew? How did you develop them?

None of my characters are base too specifically on real people. Certain elements of people I know did find their way into the story, though. For example, my grandfather who served in WW2 in Europe was a big guy who lost a lot of weight from endless walking and bad food, so I made that part of Kohler’s character. I also knew a man who got really pouty about things his neighbors did, which became the inspiration for Heinz Kohler.

Other times, little things inspired some of the characters. If you read about the uprising at the Sobibor death camp, Gustav Wagner was one of the meanest, most vicious guard there. I transplanted that idea into the character of Wagner. Likewise, Captain Manteuffel was inspired by Ian Holmes’ performance in the 1979 version of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which I’ve seen several times.

I made Meier and Kohler as opposite from one another as I could because I knew their growth through the story would show in the ways they played off each other. In an earlier version of the story, Kohler was an experienced sergeant who had been with Meier for a long time. I eventually realized I was just writing the same character twice and changed Kohler into a green private.

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