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Monday, January 10, 2011

Review of L.C. Lewis' Oh, Say Can You See

Oh, Say Can You See?, by L.C. Lewis, is the fourth volume in the Free Men and Dreamers series. Oh, Say Can You See? chronicles, through historic fiction, the events leading to and following from the writing of our national anthem. It begins just after the burning of Washington and concludes with the signing of the treaty to end the war.

I knew the gist of the story behind the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. But plunging into a story that illustrated the background, the key events (no pun intended), and the effects of Francis Scott Key’s mighty words is truly rewarding. There have been inspiring moments in the history of America, and Oh, Say Can You See? captured one of those segments in a wonderful way.

I have not read the previous three volumes of Lewis’ Free Men and Dreamers series (Oh, Say Can You See? is the fourth). But that was not a problem. Lewis provides enough background information to make Oh, Say Can You? See sufficient to stand alone. However, this book did kindle my interest to learn the prior elements of the war of 1812 by reading the first three volumes in the series.

I am delighted that L.C. Lewis combined great research with quality writing to provide a more in-depth look at a fundamental segment of American history. The characters are believable, noble, and merge well with the history. Lewis does well to show dignity in humans on both sides of the conflict, which adds class to the patriotic elements.

I highly recommend Oh, Say Can You See? for all interested in American history and/or the story behind the mighty words of our national anthem. Those who enjoy historical fiction will especially enjoy this novel.

To purchase this book, click here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review of Braden Bell's Road Show

The Road Show is the debut novel of author Braden Bell.

My initial reaction to the title was not positive. I thought it would be cheesy. It was not. Rather, The Road Show takes us quickly and deeply into various challenges people commonly face and shows how the Atonement of Christ can answer those challenges.

This is not a long book. It does not need to be. Braden Bell establishes his characters, tells the story, and wraps it up without dragging anything beyond what it should be.

In just a few pages, Bell takes us into the lives of several people as they, through various motives, come together for the ward road show.

The power of this book is in the characters. I know them. Not that I got to know them in the book so much as Bell captures people I have known. Some of the charaters are me (how do you do the grammar for that?). The contact between real human situations and the characters in this little book is impressive.

I really enjoyed this quick read.

Buy the book here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book Review of Steve Westover's Defensive Tactics

Defensive Tactics is Steve Westover’s debut mystery/suspense novel. Defensive tactics is a book my wife and I both found easy to read, fast paced, and enjoyable.

Emily and Paul are young FBI agents. Jimmy is an acquaintance from both of their pasts. After tragedy has decimated his life, Jimmy is in bad shape. In the story, Emily wrestles to find the balance between personal standards and professional assignments. Paul faces workplace ethics and policies that stand in the way of his friends’ safety. Jimmy struggles with hope and liberation from past choices.

As the plot develops, the reader plunges into a foray of law enforcement tactics, organized crime, corruption, and integrity.

A couple of scenes left me uncomfortable. Most notable is the scene where Emily emotionally connects with Jimmy then falls asleep in Paul's apartment. I already felt a loyalty to Paul, and the developments between Jimmy and Paul were unwelcome for me. This was intentional on the part of the author to deepen key conflicts and heighten the emotional involvement of the reader—which Westover did successfully

I like Westover’s depiction of honest relationships devoid of the immature games people commonly play that hinder trust.

Defensive Tactics
By Steve Westover
Bonneville Books
246 pages
Purchase this book here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guest post

Go and read the guest post I wrote for Anne Bradshaw's blog. Thanks Anne!

click here to go to the guest post

Monday, August 16, 2010

Emotional Strength

Every parent knows how annoying it is when a child has an emotional meltdown. Sometimes they're cute. Sometimes they’re funny. But often, they're just frustrating.

Our oldest son passed through a tough emotional period last year (he was about to enter kindergarten). We were wondering if he was emotionally mature enough to start school, and we were worried.

Then we came up with a consequence worth passing on.

When he had a meltdown, he had to stand in front of a mirror and smile for three minutes!


It was very annoying for him. The last thing he wanted to do was smile. But he wanted his freedom back, so he forced a smile. Watching your disgruntled child force a smile is very entertaining.

After a little while, even he thought he looked funny. The smile suddenly was not forced. And he would usually end up laughing.

Within days, as a meltdowns came on, he miraculously turned them away.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Economic Freedom and Happiness

The theme of Hanging by The Thread is the link between economic freedom and human happiness.

I find it ridiculous that so many politicians push for policies that destroy economic freedom. I find it equally ridiculous that every generation has the need to confront the idiocy of freedom destroying trends and philosophies. Staying free is a lot like keeping weeds down in a garden. Last week’s work, as thorough as it was, does nothing to pull this week’s weeds. We are in a constant battle for minds and hearts. How well we as a people understand freedom today will determine how free we are likely to be tomorrow.

If you corner those who would destroy economic freedom and ask them why they wish to spread Socialism, you will learn that—deep down—many people think that decreasing economic freedom will increase happiness. This is a fallacy.

The vicissitudes of freedom are the trials of a good life. The trials of freedom cause pain, discomfort, stress, agony, and so forth. But have you ever found someone who could be truly happy without the blessing and presence of hardship in their life? What would happen to our children if we sought to protect them from all discomfort? Hard lives are not necessarily miserable lives. Difficulty and work enrich the human soul and pull us toward God.

In light of these truths, the effort to remove freedom to protect people is an effort that will never increase happiness among humans. Economic security is not a worthy exchange for personal liberty.

I conclude with reference to a great thinker. Arthur C. Brooks, in his book Gross National Happiness, shows that the level of happiness of a people in a nation correlates strongly with levels of freedom in that nation. Those nations that have abandoned freedom in an effort to make their people equal and happy have lost not only some freedom but some happiness as well. Those nations that are freer economically report higher levels of happiness. I commend his book. It is a fascinating read. Here is a recent article from Brooks that hits these issues:

Anything we can do to spread the principles of freedom will bless our posterity more than almost any other thing we do. Galatians 5:1.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Problem with Insurance: Some Thoughts on Health Care

No reasonable person is against caring for the poor.

But where we debate is HOW to best do that.

Do we promote systems that look compassionate, but end up robbing self reliance?
Do we promote measures that cause more problems than they solve?
Do we promote systems that hurt freedom and assaults the individual?
Are we comfortable with some variation of socialism?

Insurance has a major flaw. Insurance drives up costs. And if you insure the wrong things, you force costs through the roof.

Let me explain. I am a tightwad. When I go to the store, I take limited amounts of money and make constrained choices. Because of my limited money, I seek to maximize the use of my money to get me the greatest benefit for the least cost.

But imagine that the government insures food, so that everyone pays more taxes and is permitted to obtain food for three meals, two snacks, and one desert per citizen per day. Can you see that when I go to the store, I am going to get every last product I can as long as I stay within those limits? I will get the best cheese, meat, snacks, and everything else. I will freely claim things I would not have gotten before because they were too expensive. But with my food insured, that doesn't matter anymore. I get the best of the best!

This is wonderful! Right?

But boy, things are getting expensive.

I already purchase foods to get those three meals, two snacks, and a desert per day. But without insurance, I shop carefully, maximize my resources, and exercise frugality. But as soon as we insure food, I no longer make choices to maximize my resources. I become wasteful and indulgent.

When society insures things that ought fall within the scope of individual responsibility, we drive costs beyond our capacity as a people to maintain.

And what then happens in the insurance world is administrators and bureaucrats step in and regulate such choices in a fruitless attempt to keep down costs. But costs remain wacked and the freedom of individuals withers.

But should we force health issues into tough, constrained, efficient choices for individuals? Is it wise to require people to "shop" and "barter" for medical procedures? Is it wise to place so much decision making power into the hands of individuals and doctors rather than have bureaucrats, doctors, and administrators (experts) make such choices?

And here is my conclusion. Let us insure the thing that should be insured: risk. Nobody should face catastrophic medical costs with their own wallet. That is foolish. But let us leave to individuals those choices that are more basic and that involve mere expense but not major risk. Let parents choose their doctor and hospital, and let the market regulate prices in basic health care. Let us provide market-driven insurance for catastrophic needs, so we can all shop wisely and securely. But then leave to individuals the power to choose in all else. We will then make wise choices that keep costs down while still providing the care we need.

But let us be aware that our current trends toward mass insurance of all things medical and the socialization of that insurance will create inefficient burdens that no society can bear over time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Are the Characters in Hanging By The Thread Inspired by Real People?

Yes. Mostly me. That is not so much me being egotistical as it is me being a new writer. As I created different personalities, I never got beyond myself! One reader who knows me well said, "They're all you!" Now, they all stem from different parts of me, so they are still distinct. And in fairness to me, that did help in the consistency of each character. Jeff reflects my sillier side. Colton reflects my personality in a lot of ways. But the character most reflective of me is the professor.

The professor is a hybrid of me and a friend of mine. He looks and acts like my friend, but he thinks and speaks like me. In other words, I express my voice through him. This is probably obvious to anyone who reads the lectures and may be annoying to some. One critic of an early manuscript was put off by the book's idealistic view of economic freedom--a view he termed as unrealistic in today's world. He said that it seems as if the author was speaking and not the professor. This did not offend me at all. I do use the professor to communicate a message I feel strongly about. Where I disagree with the critic is not in his claim that I use the character to express my own view. Where I disagree is in the conclusion that economic freedom is not realistic in today's world.

I think I am doing much better in my One series (current project) to create characters that are not just variations of me. But I don't ever intend to write a book that does not teach great truths in engaging ways. My characters, events, and stories will always teach.

Why the Title?

I wanted to write a book that teaches the principles of freedom. We often realize how important things are when those things are under attack. So, I decided to teach freedom by creating a scenario where freedom and the Constitution are on the verge of destruction.

Many leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have referred to Joseph Smith as having said that the day will come when the Constitution will hang by a thread, as it were. There are some legitimate questions about the validity of that statement. But the fact is that it is a quote that creates outstanding imagery and is a highly recognized concept in the LDS culture.

At first, I named my story Hanging by a Thread. Although that is an outstanding title, a search of that title yields multiple books, including one already in the LDS market, and at least one more coming out in 2010 to a national market. Changing it from a to The Thread set it apart a bit.

Finally, Hanging by The Thread has a double meaning. On the surface, it appeals to the famous quote attributed to Joseph Smith. But as the story unfolds, the second meaning becomes clear. In Hanging by The Thread, the bad guys call themselves The Thread. And voila!

Friday, February 5, 2010


Granite Publishing & Distribution
will publish Hanging by The Thread.
It is a freedom thriller that educates