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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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Shannon and Elliott’s Review of: Quiet as a Church Mouse by Stephen Bevan and Author Interview

 

Find Quiet as a Church Mouse on Amazon

The Story:
What does it mean to be quiet as a church mouse? This charming picture book
shares the story of how one little boy learned to sit still while his imagination
kept running free. With these fun and colorful illustrations, follow along as a
boy and a mouse discover how reverence shows our love and respect for our
Savior.

Elliott’s Review:
Elliott Dickerson, age 6 thinks, “I like it! Because it’s really cool cause it has that mouse that goes to church. I liked its blue jacket. It is really tiny. It was a new mouse who goes to church. I wish I had a mouse in my church bag. I think I can be as quiet as a mouse when I sit in church. I sit with dad on the stage. He leads the music.”

Nana: Do you think the church mouse will help you sit still?

Elliott: Uh huh. Because it is being quiet and I will copy it being quiet.

Elliott in his fake reading glasses. According to Elliott, they make him look like Dumbledore.

Nana Shannon’s Review: 
I LOVED this story! I want a church mouse in my church bag too! The art is adorable. There is so much to looks at. I also love that it is a based on a childhood moment in the author’s life (We had a little online chat. Read his interview below).

Elliott’s review is totally authentic. I am an amazing typist. I asked him what he thought and the statement above is all his, word for word. The interesting thing is he made the correlation between the cool little church mouse and his reverence. Elliott loves to sing and make car noises. Reverence is a challenge. I wonder what will happen when I remind him to be as quiet as a mouse.

Quiet as a Church Mouse is a 2017 Association Of Mormon Letters Winner

5 out of 5 Stars! Without a doubt.

About the Author: Stephen Bevan

Stephen Bevan imagined his church mouse at age 5. All those wild Sundays of imaginings are distilled in this book. He and his little church mouse lived in
Montgomery County Maryland, until Heavenly Father took them both to Western Australia for many amazing adventures “down under.” Now those two troublemakers reside in beautiful Cache Valley, Utah. On Friday nights they are telling stories and hammock camping with the scouts but each Sunday
morning they are both trying to sit reverently in church with Stephen’s own wonderful and imaginative children. Learn more about Stephen at
www.bevanstories.com, while you are there see what other adventures he and his mouse have to share.

 My Author Interview: 
Hi Stephen, Is this your first book? Have you written anything before?
I grew up with 7 brothers and sisters. Being one of the older children in the family meant I was often the bedtime storyteller. At first, I read stories by others and by the time I was 10, I was writing my own stories for my siblings. Time and teenage years tend to lead you off into new paths for a time. While attending Brigham Young University I majored in Socio-Cultural Anthropology, which included a lot of ethnographic interviewing and writing. I found I loved writing again. Although I have co-written a few research papers no one else has ever read, and a few electronics articles that a few folks have read, my first book is this fun little picture book, Quiet as a Church Mouse.
Can you tell us the story behind your book?
When I was a little guy about four years old my father was in the US Navy and he was assigned as a Corpsman to the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan. For the next two years, my Dad would be off with the Marines and my Mom was left in Maryland with five children and one on the way! We didn’t even have a car. Nevertheless, my diligent and faithful Mother got up every Sunday morning, fed us, dressed us, and then walked the mile to church. You would think that after walking a mile a four-year-old boy might be tired enough to sit still in church, but not me. I was crazy! Army crawling under the pews, hanging from door frames I had climbed etc. My poor mother had her hands full and everywhere I went my little brother followed. One day my saintly Mother asked me to be as quiet as a church mouse, and I could not help but wonder why I had never seen one of these church mice in all my wanderings through the building? I began to sit very still in hopes of seeing and catching a church mouse as a pet. I tried to imagine what a church mouse might do. Somewhere along the way, I began to hear the words from the pulpit and more importantly feel what those words meant. I began to see Christ for the first time.
Are any of the characters patterned after someone you know?
The characters in the book are really me and my family. That little boy who finally learns to sit reverently was me. And those two siblings in the book represent my five younger siblings. Though I do tease one of my sisters that the little girl not paying attention is her!
If you have children, and they go to church, what other things have you done to help them understand why reverence is important in their Heavenly Father’s house?
I have seven lovely children who sometimes are more like their me than I could have ever imagined. We have tried to teach them reverence by helping them see the bigger picture. We have never shied away from teaching them of Heavenly Father’s plan. I guess I might be considered a mean Dad, but we just don’t do Cheerios at church– we do have a few books, and a paper where they can write or draw things they are hearing, but they can’t just doodle pictures of dogs and cats. We expect them to listen and they know they will get asked at dinner, “what did you learn today and how can you apply it to your life.” It can be fun to hear the responses from children at 3 or at 14. They see things in God’s plan that sometimes I overlook so sometimes they teach me!

One thing that my children enjoy is as the music plays before the service starts I like to doodle a scripture or gospel scene on the offering envelope, and then incorporate in a scripture.  They have taken to decorating their own tithing/offering envelopes. 
Learn More Here:
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Valentine’s Day Celebration Book Tour hosted by Singing Librarian Books

Safe House

Love, gone wrong can go so right!

Tour Schedule

February 12-cherylbbookblog
February 13-All-of-a-kind Mom
February 14-Singing Librarian Books
February 15-Red Headed Book Lady Heidi Reads…
February 16-amandainpa
February 17-Soulfully Romantic | Reading for the Stars and Moon

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2017 Whitney Nomination for Safe House by ME! (No not the other one…really….me!)

Thank you to everyone who nominated Safe House for a Whitney Award! Wondering what a Whitney Award is? Look HERE. And yes- it is for my book! I am so relieved you can’t see my dance of joy! What a gift it is to have you all in my life. I love every person I have met on this journey including Cedar Fort staff, the critics, the other authors, bookstore family, and bloggers.

Okay, there is another Safe House, which came out later by everyone’s favorite author, but she is nominated too! Wouldn’t it be fun to actually make it to the finals and sit together? I would lean over and say, “Hey, nice title,” real smooth and casual like I wasn’t jumping out of my skin to be at the Whitney Awards by Traci Abramson. Then I would say, “So, I hear we share a shelf at Deseret Book.” Do you think she would sign my copy of her book?

Well… a nomination is just the first step. It is such an honor to even be listed. To be in the same room as the people I read and respect would be like Christmas times ten!

This is the happiest photo I own. This is my face one second after finding Safe House in the Deseret Book Catalog. Trust me – you don’t want me to video my dance of joy!

P.S. Sunday is my birthday. This was the best gift! But if you feel like it, visit my Operation Underground Railroad donation site and donate. A small portion of the proceeds from Safe House will go to O.U.R.

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How do you help light up the world?

 

Light the World! 

What is your favorite way to serve at Christmas? How many secret Santa/Angel missions have you pulled off? This year our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invites you to do MORE! Learn more about the “Light Up The World Campaign” Here.

We had the gift of being near enough to Leavenworth Washington to finally stop and see the Christmas lights in the beautiful Bavarian town. I wondered why so many of us love the lights at Christmas. And then I remembered, Heavenly Father used light, a single star to announce the birth of his precious son.

This Christmas be the light. Light up the world the way the Savior did, with personal service to others. How will you light up the world? Please comment with ideas. I need them!

I will be donating a few of my signed personal copies of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for a Holiday Catalog giveaway. I am already donating a small portion of the proceeds from every single copy of Safe House sold to O.U.R. to end sex trafficking. Shop the Catalog and donate HERE.

Please! Send me ideas. Let’s light up this world!

#operationshinelight #shopandshine #lighttheworld #safehouse #lighttheworldwithgoodbooks

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When the Holidays stink and so do you!

Elliott Christmas Day

Do you watch endless Hallmark Christmas movies and feel more people of Walmart? I do. Do you feel like everyone is in love but you? Do you wonder how everyone else does it as you sweep up more dog hair than the dog is wearing, and the cat knocks the tree over for the third time? Does your gingerbread house look like a gingerbread ghetto? Does everyone have their lights up before you? If so, you and I should be best friends!

Christmas, Bountiful Utah, the year is %$ AD or (Not telling because it will date me) After Divorce. My ex-husband had just bought all five children very loud musical instruments, toys that required batteries and assembly with no less than 1 million moving parts. My mother was taking video #nofilter and no way to disguise my sleepless life. I was dating someone new, but neither of us had a Christmas budget. All the packages were coming from my sweet mom and dad.

Imagine my kids’ joy when they opened their new coats, hats, gloves, and boots. Wrong! And we caught all the complaining on film. Even though it was one of the worst winters on record and snow was as high as my mother’s eaves, they were not thrilled. My 3 and 5-year-old sons had grown so much they couldn’t zip their leather bomber jackets, but still cried when I said it was time to give their old coats up.

We decided to put the new coats on, load the kids in our VW Van and go to see the lights on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The kids were crying and I was the Queen of this particular pity party! I had been feeling sorry for myself all day.

As we drove to Temple square the radio reported that local homeless shelters were overflowing due to the extremely cold weather. There was a shortage of blankets and coats. Anyone having coats or blankets to donate should go to the shelter and drop them off as soon as possible. It was a crisis.

We just happened to be an exit away from one of the shelters. We pulled off the freeway through mountains of snow and chugged into an icy parking lot. The shelter looked like a refurbished grocery store with automatic sliding doors. People were in line behind the glass doors.

We parked and the kids began piling out of the van, while I gathered their old coats. My kids were crying and complaining. The boys were refusing to let go of their old jackets when the glass doors slid open and a man pushing a shopping cart came out.

The man’s clothes looked paper thin for the freezing winter weather. We all froze. Startled at the gaunt figure. The cart was full of layers of newspaper and I wondered if he was going to use them to pad his clothing.

“They’re full!” he called to us as he came closer. “But don’t worry, there is a Christmas dinner being served at the freeway underpass and I will find you a place to keep warm.” I was shocked. There he was with nothing in the world but a shopping cart full of paper and he was taking care of us!

“It’s ok.” I stammered. “We are just bringing coats to donate.”

He smiled and said, “Kids! Look! Coats!” The papers fell away and two small children in torn, dirty t-shirts emerged. My heart broke and all I could do was hold out the coat in my hand. Meanwhile, silently, my kids began throwing in the leather bomber jacket, all the other coats, their new gloves, and their new hats.

The kids in the cart will forever be burned into my memory and heart. Joyfully they celebrated as they put on the coats and hats. “Merry Christmas!” Their father called as he wheeled them over the icy ground towards the freeway. And suddenly I knew. I knew no matter how bad my life was, there was always something I could do for someone else.

There will always be someone in more need than me and some way for me to forget myself and see angels among us like this sweet man. This man, who had nothing, and yet was ready to take care of all of us.

I did stink! I had been indulging in self-pity when all around me were opportunities to love others. The Savior was born on Christmas day to a circumstance as humble as this man and yet we celebrate that birth and look to that small baby in a manger to save all of mankind.

Christmas. The first Christmas was never about getting. It was always about giving. The message that changed the world and caused the angels in Heaven to sing was one of love and hope for all mankind, even you and me. Even when we stink just a little.

Merry Christmas

Here is a Thanksgiving message from Elliott. He grew up to smile and can’t wait for Christmas Day.

 

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Love through my eyes

Yup! There it is! True love! After all the Disney princesses, the romance novels, vampires, and werewolves, I never expected to see true love demonstrated so clearly. On the left, my cousin (more sister) Jami and on the right her husband Joe in their natural habitat- the kitchen. But first, the back story.

Time Out For Women (TOFW) is a long-standing L.D.S. tradition hosted by Deseret Book. Thousands of woman meet for a weekend to listen to best selling authors and musicians while taking time out from our crazy lives. Sounds like a weekend at the spa, right?! Wrong!

It is a weekend for us girls to meet at some poor unsuspecting friends house, talk non-stop, eat all their goodies, and laugh until the sun rises. We spend hundreds of dollars our favorite books, art, clothes, and music (Oh, that old book?) and eat mounds of ice-cream and drink diet coke. That’s right. Mormons drink coke.

Friday night we started by driving hours, waiting for parking, running for good seats and ended by talking over ice-cream until well past 1 AM. At that point, we decided to be grown-ups. So, we talked for another half hour and promptly went to bed. Joe, being amazing, sat up and waited for us to get home, made sure the house was clean and took care of the family left behind.

Early Saturday, before the sun even rose, we got up to get ready to do it all again. While we chatted non-stop over cold cereal I watched Jami lay a towel over the burners on her stove. Without missing a beat in the conversation she plugged in an iron. She got me more cereal and while chatting away ironed the front of the shirt she was wearing. No lie! Without taking it off! It was amazing! If circuses didn’t involve creepy clowns, she could have joined as a contortionist.

Where does the love come in? Somewhere between telling me about babysitting and her son’s new school she called Joe. Magically, he was there. The chatter continued. She handed Joe the iron and with three words, “Iron the back.” Without missing a beat he started ironing the back of the shirt she was wearing. True love, right there in the kitchen.

What is true love? I don’t know what the rest of the world thinks it is, but I learned a lot about it at TOFW. In this case, true love was as much unspoken as spoken. True love was a connection between people who dance through life gracefully as a team. It is a dance this author only knows how to observe, and one I wish for everyone on earth.

I want to share with you some of the great things I learned at TOFW about true love and more. Later this week, I will share my favorite quotes. But for now, here is a personal lesson I learned about love.

 

Here is a group shot we had taken in 2014 at TOFW Portland. Little did I know, it would be one of the last few TOFW’s we would be able to spend with our beloved Aunt Joann. This year, while we took new photos, I relished every second, no complaints. Life is short. Time with friends, family, and loved ones has become more precious to me with every passing year, and loss.

True love, to this author, is making time, spending time and giving time to the ones we love. Connections are created in long lines, great music, late night laughter, and in the simple moments like ironing a shirt.

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Broken

Have you ever felt broken?  As an Advocate, I have heard survivors use the term over and over.

 

 Beautiful Broken Heart 

What you didn’t know

When you shattered me

Is you left my heart wide open,

Making space for hope to get in,

Letting passion burst through the cracks,

Blinding sun

Lighting the way to a better life.

 

I choose to keep the myriad fractures,

Places to look out from within,

Space to see other broken.

Let them in.

Patterns mapping the way,

Beautiful broken symbols revealing my power,

The power of survival.

 

Shattered designs,

Only visible to the broken,

Survivors carrying the gift of seeing out,

A glance,

A nod,

Connection,

Support.

 

You didn’t know when you shattered us

You improved our view,

And now,

Clearly,

We all see you.

There is no place to hide from the broken.

All of our pieces bring us together.

And when the mosaic is complete,

We will be more beautiful,

More powerful,

Than ever before.

By Shannon Symonds

After a particularly difficult day, I once again said to a family member, “I feel broken,” while driving to Washington to hear Jeffrey R. Holland speak.

Holland began his talk, and then stopped midsentence. He said he felt inspired to talk about something else, and then he said the words that will forever be written on my heart. Frantically I typed them on my cell phone, so I would never forget.

He said, “God loves broken things.” Those words struck members of the congregation, silencing the room. He went on to explain, “He loves a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” A contrite spirit is someone who feels guilt and remorse.

Shortly after Hollands talk I wrote this article for FamilyShare: Why God loves broken things

Embrace your unique heart.

Photographic art by Haley Miller Captures Photography may be copied, shared, printed and used for the benefit of survivors and personal use. FaceBook link hereInstagram here. More about Haley Miller and Captures Photography here. More about Shannon Symonds novel “Safe House” here.

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