Monday, March 20, 2017

Enter To Win Free Books

Dear Friends & Fans,

I continually deal with many misconceptions from my readers about the publishing business, the biggest of which is that becoming a published author equates with wealth. Alas, it does not. For those of you who are still hanging in there and reading my books after so many years, you can be grateful that I need to keep writing in order to earn a paycheck, otherwise it would be tempting to stop—especially given my ongoing battle with pain and illness every day. I’ve found through the last few projects that I feel like my own worst enemy: I have to write something that will be good enough to compete with the works of Anita Stansfield, and some of those books were pretty darn good; some better than others, of course. Each time I embark upon a new project I wonder if I really have what it takes to come up with another good story, relatable characters, and some twists and turns. If I come up with anything good, I owe it all to divine intervention; there are surely angels helping me do what I do. Otherwise, it would be impossible. I never want to stop writing, but doing it under pressure is difficult.  
Moving along, for those of you who have endured reading my occasional emails and especially those of you who read my blog entries, you know that I am pretty straightforward about the challenges in my life. I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about my physical challenges, my depression and anxiety, nor in admitting that given these challenges—along with both my husband and myself being cancer survivors—financial challenges have been a big part of my life, and these most recent years have been especially difficult. And now I have a daughter heading off to college and then a mission. The irony is that I have worked so hard to write books that I truly believe are good enough to be competitive out in the world, and that they could sell a great deal more if only people became more aware. So, that’s where I’m turning to you, my most devoted and loving fans, and asking for some help.
It’s no secret that social media is the pathway these days to spreading the word about a product—any product. Also, in the book business, reviews on amazon or other book sights can make a huge difference in the way that books gain attention. So, I’m humbly asking for your assistance in giving this a big push to see if it will help, but I’m willing to offer the enticement of giving you the opportunity to win a free book for your efforts. And each thing you do (amounting to only seconds of effort) gives you another opportunity to win. And there can be dozens of opportunities. For each thing you do, your name goes in the drawing.
So, here’s how it works . . . .
Just make a list of everything you did to help promote or spread the word about my books (I will assume you are telling me the truth) and email it to stansfieldwriter@gmail.com
Your list should be something like this:
I posted a review on amazon for “The Captain of Her Heart” (Buchanan Saga)
(There are five books in the Buchanan Saga, so you have five opportunities. 
For each review your name goes in the drawing.)
I posted a review on amazon for “Behind the Mask” (Horstberg Saga)
(Again, this saga has five books;
remember it’s under the pseudonym Elizabeth D. Michaels)
I posted a review on amazon for “Color of Love”
. . . . and “The Heir of Brownlie Manor”
. . . . and “Legally and Lawfully Yours”
Etc. Etc. Etc.
(You can also add your name again to the drawing by doing social media posts)
I shared the link to horstbergsaga.com on Facebook (or Instagram, or Twitter, etc.)
I started following you on Instagram (@horstbergwriter)

I started following you on Twitter (Anita Stansfield)
I got a friend to start following you on Twitter or Instagram
I joined the Anita Stansfield Fan Club Facebook page
I got a friend to join the Anita Stansfield Fan Club Facebook page
I liked the Anita Stansfield Facebook page
I liked the Elizabeth D. Michaels Facebook page
I got a friend to do the same, etc. etc. You get the idea.
(I have three Facebook pages; they all have a castle photo across the top) 

If you have any questions about this, email me at the address listed above. Any and every review you post would be greatly appreciated, as well as anything you can do to help spread the word on social media. If there is a particular book you’ve liked take a minute to mention it on social media. Then send me an email and put it on your list and your name will go in the drawing as many times as you would like. And reviews on amazon are immensely helpful! 
If your name is drawn and you’re a winner, I will send you an autographed and personalized copy of one of my novels. (Sorry, but this is limited to the continental United States.) Or I will email you a Kindle copy of one of my books. The choice is yours and you can let me know your preference when I email you. 
I’m writing this very early in the morning with a headache, so I hope it’s making sense. I’ll look forward to your emails, and thank you in advance to those of you who take even a few minutes to help me out.
God bless, Anita

Thursday, January 5, 2017

THE HOPE OF BETTER DAYS

So, it’s a new year. And it’s a powerful element of our culture to begin the new year with reflection and pondering and consideration on how we might improve our lives through the coming year, and so we set goals. I respectfully confess that I’ve come to detest the very idea of “goals,” and I’m not even terribly fond of the word. I attribute this aversion mostly to my chronic health issues and other challenges that are completely beyond my control, but the result is that no amount of self-discipline or self-motivation will give me the physical strength (or lack of depression sometimes) to do anything beyond the bare minimum requirements of life. Losing weight is not possible with so many strange food restrictions and ongoing illness. Exercise amounts to having to go up and down the stairs in my house many times a day, but that’s all my muscles can handle. Getting organized (which I want to do desperately) just isn’t possible when doing what I absolutely HAVE to do wears me out completely. Hence, my quandary. But I want to back up a little . . .
I always find the days following Christmas to be strange, but it was more strange than usual this time. I love Christmas, and in spite of my limitations I put a great deal of effort into making it nice for my loved ones. I’m grateful for the help I get from certain family members and friends that helped pull it all together. I actually had some little miracles come about this Christmas that made the experience extra special. There was one deputy elf especially whose efforts were a greater blessing than she could ever imagine. I know you’re reading this, and you know I’m talking about you. Thank you! 
Getting back on topic . . . once Christmas was over I felt some of the letdown that often happens when everything you’ve been preparing for weeks is suddenly over and done. But this was my last Christmas with a minor child, which means that in five months my youngest child will be eighteen and graduated from high school. I became a mother thirty-five years ago on New Year’s Day, and now my official mothering days are almost over—even though we never stop being a mother. So, I found myself very weepy and feeling down the week after Christmas, which wasn’t helped by the fact that my body was giving me an especially difficult time. The Christmas tree had been removed from the house due to it being completely dead in spite of our diligently giving it water every day. The lights had come down. Empty boxes are everywhere needing to get to the recycling can. And while I was hearing people talking about their plans for New Year’s Eve, I knew I couldn’t even manage to stay up until midnight. On top of that, there’s the goal thing, which brings us back to the pessimistic beginning of this missive. 
The reality is that I have set many goals over the years and they have failed miserably—not usually due to my giving up or not being committed, but rather due to circumstances beyond my control. Which brings up the question: how can I strive to move forward in a positive way when life’s experiences have mostly taught me that no matter what I do or how hard I try the challenges of health and finances and disorder continue relentlessly—among other things. I even look back at my determination a year ago to write on this blog more consistently. For those of you who have followed me here, you know well enough how the entries became less frequent and then basically stopped. I can legitimately say that I was too ill or steeped in deadlines to feel like writing a blog post, but it still made me feel like I had failed at something I had been determined to do and do well. 
Given all of this, I’ve been trying very hard to come up with a way to be more positive about beginning a new year with the hope that something will actually get better; to believe that 2017 might actually be the year that could bring the breakthrough with my health that my team of those in healing professions are assisting me with. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if 2017 could be the year when my book sales just took off and I was able to finally get out of debt and put some money away for retirement? I mean . . . the Horstberg Saga is just sitting there on amazon with great ratings, waiting to be discovered by the reading masses. I’ve put in the work, made the sacrifices, held onto my tenacity in spite of all of the challenges. It’s always my prayer that the law of the harvest might be manifested in my life—that what I have sown will bring a good harvest. 
In the spirit of new beginnings, I have been searching my soul to consider what I might do better in the coming year. First of all, I had a conversation with a friend about my distaste of goals, and it brought me to the conclusion that I’m simply going to change the idea of a goal to that of an intention. So, I will hold to the intention to become healthier, to have more order in my home, and to attract abundance into my life so that I can be more financially secure. But I have to accept the great disclaimer, and this is the hard part: sometimes life just doesn’t go the way we want it to in spite of our very best efforts, and sometimes that means God has a different plan in mind for us. I know one thing for certain: I can’t see my life from God’s perspective, and I have no idea what He’s trying to make out of me. But discovering that could be a great adventure if I choose to look at it that way. Therefore, my greatest intention for 2017 is to trust in the Lord. I love what Nephi says about trusting in the Lord, and I love the scripture that tells us we should trust in the Lord with ALL our hearts and not lean unto our own understanding. I know for a fact that my understanding is puny and shortsighted; that’s just a fact of being human. 
And so, I am drying my tears, putting away the Christmas decorations (with some help from my kids) and I’m going to take it one day at a time. I will strive to live in the present, be mindful of gratitude for all that’s good in my life, and look for moments of joy each day. I will remain committed to live in truth and be a woman with integrity. And I will focus on the intention of making life better, even if that’s only measured by incremental positive changes within my own spirit. 
There’s a song by the Goo Goo Dolls that I love dearly; it’s full of hope and it can lift my spirits when I listen to it. It’s kind of Christmas song; here are a portion of the lyrics . . .

And you asked me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
'Cause I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
So take these words and sing out loud
'Cause everyone is forgiven now
'Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

Happy new year, everyone. Thank you for reading what I write, and for the prayers and love and support. I would LOVE to hear about your intentions for the coming year in the comments here or on my Facebook pages, and perhaps we can help encourage each other to keep moving forward. God bless, Anita

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter under Anita Stansfield, or on Instagram as @horstbergwriter

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

LEARNING, ALWAYS LEARNING . . .

Considering that my last entry was about procrastination, and seeing how long it’s been since I’ve gotten around to writing another entry, I obviously have a lot of work to do on overcoming my tendency to procrastinate. I could defend myself with the fact that I’ve been on deadline writing a novel—which is now completed—but it really doesn’t take that much time for me to write something for the blog. It really boils down to procrastinating, and I’d really like to get over it. I’ll keep working on it.

In that same vein, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how difficult it can be to figure out our weaknesses as human beings, and then to actually apply what we learn in a positive and productive way, especially when we have decades of habit working against us. But in a way, I supposed that’s the summary of life’s challenges—to keep forging ahead and striving to become better. Sometimes I wonder if life would be easier if I were one of those people who seems content to remain in some form of denial, but in reality I know it would only appear to be easier. In the long run, the things we are in denial over are likely the very things that cause us the most difficulty—but since denial is real, you can’t develop an awareness unless you really start paying attention to what makes you uncomfortable and why. 

Forgive me if I sound like I’m rambling; I really am working up to a point. In my own journey of striving to become better, I’ve had some harsh moments of being shocked out of denial, but eventually I’m always glad to be more self-aware and to keep learning. I love learning more and more. I love learning about the human condition, and how to continue to make it better—starting with ourselves and then by reaching out to others with a more genuine ability to love and be compassionate. 

Hence, I would like to share something that has taught me a great deal. I’m including the link here to a YouTube video that is less than six minutes, and definitely worth watching. It’s an interview clip with Brene Brown, a woman I have come to admire more and more. I’ve read more than one of her books, and I highly recommend her TED talks and all the other stuff on YouTube, as well as her books, which are on Amazon. I’ve watched this particular video clip several times, and I’ve pondered its messages a great deal in how they apply to me and how I can use what’s being taught here to make life better for me and for those I love. 

I’ll just leave it at that. I hope you’ll take the time to watch it, and I’d love to know your thoughts. May you live in gratitude and find joy! Much love, Anita





Monday, October 3, 2016

THE PROCRASTINATION CONUNDRUM

Several months ago I made a decision that I needed to write more consistently on this blog. If you’ve been following the blog, you know the reasons for that, and I sincerely believed it would be good for me to be able to write here and share my challenges. It’s an added bonus when I feel like candidly sharing my own struggles might help those who take the time to read what I write. I can look back over the months and know that it HAS been helpful—at least to me. And I’ve received some wonderful comments and emails from some of you that have lifted my spirits. So, what is this thing about human nature that makes it so difficult to do the very thing that we know will help us feel better? For WEEKS I have thought every day that I need to write something for the blog and get my daughter to post it (due to my enormous lack of computer knowledge) and every day I have felt a little more uncomfortable over the fact that another day has passed without that goal being accomplished. It’s not really that difficult for me to sit down at the computer and write something the length of a reasonable blog post. And it’s not like I can’t think of something to write about. I’ve found some great quotes since I last wrote here that would be worth sharing. I’ve seen some wonderful inspirational things on Youtube and I’ve thought about putting a link or two here and talking about what I learned. I could do that, and I probably will in time. But today I’m more caught up in examining the reason why we as human beings tend to procrastinate. Perhaps I’m being presumptuous to say that it’s so common among the majority of us humans; maybe I’m in a minority. It just seems so difficult to get myself to do simple tasks that I know will make me feel better if I do them.


Eat a salad. Get that bill mailed. Email that person that you love sharing letters with. Remove some dust from your living area. Throw out the food in your fridge that stopped being edible long ago. Do that load of laundry so you have clean pajamas. Doing a load of underwear before you actually run out would be good. Etc. Etc. Etc. 


Already as I’m writing I’m wondering why I’ve put this off so long. It’s not that big of a deal. Is it? Well, I don’t know what YOUR reasons might be for procrastinating (assuming that at least one person reading this is a procrastinator) but I’ve been giving a great deal of thought as to my own. And most of it comes back to that depression thing which was confessed here many months ago, and I have since written about multiple times. Sometimes depression is present without any obvious reasons, and I believe that’s when medical intervention is perhaps necessary. For me, I struggle with physical pain and illness every day. And even though I’ve been known to do some amazing writing in spite of it, motivating myself to do anything before it’s urgent is more often than not just plain hard. I can also say there’s been more than a fair amount of crisis with some loved ones lately. And when someone you love is struggling, or even suffering, it’s difficult to look past the draining effects of such challenges and feel capable of doing anything at all. STILL would I not be better off to sit down here with you and share my feelings as opposed to avoiding them? Perhaps I could have felt my own burdens lifted by writing about them here. Perhaps I could have offered some validation or perspective for someone else. As trivial as it sounds, I think of comparing it to taking the time to cut up some vegetables in order to eat a salad instead of something less healthy. It’s not THAT big of a deal, and the results are obviously good. So, why is it so difficult to get past this vague sensation of stagnancy that feels like an enormous ball and chain that slows me down and holds me back?


I don’t have any obvious answers or insights beyond that. Maybe you do. I just keep making to-do lists so my foggy brain can keep track of what’s important, and I force myself to do what needs to be done. But I would like to cross more things off that list before they become urgent, as opposed to having it feel like such a burden. That’s my hope for today: to be more motivated and productive this week, and to form some better habits about doing so as a way of life. There, I’ve written a blog post. Task completed. Now, that wasn’t so hard! I would love to know if ANYONE out there relates to it in any way. Or is it just me? 


Given my recent stagnancy in this area, I also had the thought that perhaps it’s a good time to do some simple Q&A right here. I often get emails with questions, and back in the day when I was able to do more public speaking, I was bombarded with questions. So, if you have any questions you would like to have answered here, email me at contact@anitastansfield.com


With your question include how you would like yourself identified when I post the answers. Such as: Buffy from Sunnydale. Or: Mary Margaret from Storybrooke. Or you can use an online handle like: stormtrooper47. Or: wanttogotohogwarts89. Okay, just getting silly now.


I hope you’re all having a good week. Here in Utah Valley, I am enjoying the autumn weather. This is my favorite time of year, and in spite of my daily struggles, I take some moments every day to soak in the cooling temperatures and the color of the leaves changing. May God bless you all, and with any luck I’ll be back here posting again very soon. It’s a worthy goal. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

69 DOWN, 1 TO GO

Many years ago, when my children were younger, there was a time when I had two children in elementary school, one in junior high, and one in a high school. And then an infant was added to the mix. Now, I know families come in all sizes; some have certainly had more children to care for than I did, and some have had less. But since this is my blog, I only have my own experience to write about.

During the majority of years that I was raising children, I was also writing one novel after another. Even though I “worked” at home, I still had more than a full-time job on top of mothering and being in charge of a household. And I must declare that I still “worked” all those years, even though it took me many years to get published and actually receive income from my efforts. 

But the point is this: children. They’re great, aren’t they? And they are challenging! It’s true what they say, that being a parent is absolutely the most fulfilling thing you can do in this life, and absolutely the most difficult. I remember clearly a point in my life, as summer vacation was drawing to a close, that I was so overwhelmed by school preparations that I could hardly see straight. Getting multiple children ready for school with clothes, supplies, adjusting bedtimes, etc.—and then there’s the actual registration that’s necessary for children in the upper grades—was indeed overwhelming. And then I considered that with school starting there was always a trade off. At the time with a houseful of children—and often their friends—summer was noisy and chaotic, which made it difficult to get much writing done. Some of my children had difficulty getting along with each other, particularly during different stages. Therefore I looked forward to the end of summer vacation and returning to a more structured schedule and having them out of the house for some ours every day. But the trade off was that having children in school means homework, projects, parent-teacher conferences, meetings about extracurricular activities, etc. etc., not to mention the more personal matters that come up of their hurt feelings or social dramas that came into play. 

At one point it occurred to me that for each child I had brought into the world, there were fourteen school years. Preschool, kindergarten, and twelve grades in order to achieve high school graduation. Multiply fourteen school years with five children and that’s seventy school years—many of them occurring simultaneously of course. My children are spread out in years, so the oldest had barely finished his junior year in high school when the youngest was born. The youngest is now at exactly that same stage, and the transitions of life amaze me and at times can feel a little alarming. 

Now, coming to the present, my baby girl, my youngest child, is about to begin her senior year of high school. Of those seventy school years I once calculated that I had to get through, I’m now down to one left. One. To say I have mixed emotions is an understatement. The thought of being done with getting my children through school—at least the schooling that takes place prior to their becoming adults and mostly (supposedly) forging ahead from that point on their own. 

As I send my little girl out the door for her first day of school, knowing that it will be an extremely busy school year given all of the many school-related things she’s involved in, I feel myself stepping over a threshold that is the beginning of the end. I realistically expect to actually have a chance to spend time with my daughter a little bit on Sundays and during Christmas break. She’s a very busy girl who is engaged in doing very good things. I’m proud of her and from the sidelines I observe her life like a merry-go-round that keeps zooming past me while I wave at her as she glides by, offering a smile and words of encouragement. By the time this school year ends, she will technically be an adult, and a whole new season of life will officially be upon me as a mother.

I’m not one of those mothers that is heart broken over the prospect of an empty nest. I’ve been raising kids for nearly thirty-five years and it’s been an exhausting and often traumatic endeavor. I like having my kids be adults, able to care for themselves and move forward with their own lives. Still, this is a big step with a lot of change on the horizon. I’ve been the mother of adult children long enough to know that mothering never ends. It’s typical to not hear from my children for a long time, and then they need advice, or love, or encouragement, or money, or a place to live temporarily, and they pop up. I love my children dearly—and their spouses, and those beautiful grandchildren—and I strive to offer them unconditional love always, support and encouragement when needed, and never to enable them. I know they need to have their own journey and work their way through as adults. But as my baby girl is now on the verge of adulthood, I find myself struggling somewhat with the transition. I’ve certainly paid my dues as a mother, and I look forward to a time when I will be free of the complications of being responsible for a minor child. But a mother never stops loving their children, and a mother of adult children knows well enough that you never cease to be concerned and often caught up in challenges when they occur. 

It’s been a crazy, marvelous, exhausting, magnificent, overwhelming, exquisite journey of raising five children and observing them as they need me less and less. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. They start out needing you for everything, and they go forward needing you for nothing (most of the time) and they generally have absolutely no idea how much you’ve given, and loved, and sacrificed for their best interests. 

So, here’s to moving forward. Sixty-nine school years down, one to go. And it’s going to be a wild year! But not to worry, with college and a mission in my daughter’s sights, it will still be a good, long while before I can really step out of the active mother role and just sit back in my rocking chair and take it easy. Oh, gosh! What a journey!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

WE JUST NEED LOVE!

Life is definitely a battle. The battles take on many forms as we contend with cruelty, abuse, financial disasters, death, divorce, disappointment, heartbreak, natural disasters, accidents, etc. etc. blah, blah, blah. The list is endless, and so is the possibility of crumbling under the pressure.

As we struggle to survive all the world throws at us, we often get so battle-weary that I think we can start to lose sight of what’s really important. And if we START to lose sight and don’t realize what’s happening, before we know it, we’ve completely lost sight, and then we can start behaving in ways that we’d never imagined, and we might not even realize we’re doing it. 

It’s a natural human response that when we’ve been hurt, or when something frightens us, we become defensive. It’s a protective mechanism. But I consider myself an observer of human nature and the human condition, and I’ve been observing something that I’m finding increasingly alarming. I believe at the heart of it there is confusion and hurt and fear, but more and more it seems to be manifesting in anger. I learned years ago (and have put this concept into some of my stories) that anger is a secondary emotion; there is always something beneath it. We get angry with a child who runs out in the street or runs with scissors in their hand—because it scared the bajeebies out of us. We get angry with people when they have hurt or betrayed or disappointed us. If we look beneath our angry feelings and reactions with humility and self-honesty, we will usually be able to find the REAL emotion beneath it, and then we can address it appropriately and work on solving problems effectively.

Given that preamble of psycho-babble, I’ll get to the point that’s on my mind. We who are conscious of striving to be good people and stand up for our morals and values are keenly aware that the world is becoming more and more confusing and difficult in regard to our morals and values. Disagreement on what’s right and wrong is everywhere, and social media has made it so easy to express our views in a way that distances us from the consequences of how those words can never be taken back. But the problem isn’t only manifested through social media; I see it leaking into conversations and discussions among social groups, church groups, etc. And what I see happening is something I find more and more disturbing. 

Let me try and explain by asking this question: Why do good people with good intentions often seem unable to discern the difference between standing up for their own personal beliefs and values, and behaving in a way that is self-righteous, condemning, and judgmental? I ask every person who reads this to consider that question long and hard before I follow with another hard question: Are we inadvertently hurting others by making assumptions and jumping to conclusions, as opposed to simply striving to offer love and understanding? I defer to the adage that we should first seek to understand before we seek to be understood. Trying to “bear your testimony” to someone who already knows the gospel backward and forward doesn’t come across as loving and concerned; it comes across as “I’m trying to convince you that you’re wrong because I don’t like the way you see things, or the way you’re living your life.” Hence, we sound judgmental, and if we really look inside ourselves with careful examination, I think we’ll find that our discomfort likely IS coming out in a form of judgment.

Only God has the right to judge! Why? Because only God has the ABILITY to judge fairly! ONLY God knows the heart and mind and intentions of every individual; only God knows the personality, the body chemistry, the challenges and experiences of each life, and how those things have been impacted by what life has thrown at a person. How can I possibly begin to think that I know how to see life through the eyes of a Muslim, or a Baptist who was raised with strong anti-Mormon beliefs? How can I know how it feels to struggle with same-sex attraction and be treated cruelly because of it? How can I know what it’s like to have someone I love commit a heinous crime? Or be the victim of one? And even IF a person HAS experienced these things, how can that person still say that they understand how ANOTHER person experiences it? For example: I know of a person who has had a lifelong struggle with same-sex attraction and has made some choices that are regretted. With strong religious convictions, this person eventually chose a path of adhering to the requirements of that religion in order to be an active member with full privileges. This path has given him great fulfillment and joy in the long run, and it has strengthened his relationship with God. I am SO happy for him in having come to this place of peace in having conquered this struggle. HOWEVER, I have also been aware of this person (I believe unintentionally) saying things that are very hurtful in a passive-aggressive way regarding others who are a part of the LGBTQ community. There is an underlying message in this person’s attitude that implies all people who have these kind of struggles should follow the same path this person successfully followed, and if they don’t, they are not acceptable to him or to God. I admire this person for his strength and conviction. But that does not mean that his reasons for this challenge in his life are the same as anyone else’s. And it doesn’t mean that his strengths and weakness are the same as any other person, anywhere, ever. We are all completely unique. Some people are strong enough to take on that challenge and choose the path of adhering to religious doctrine. Others feel and believe they must choose another path. And you know what? It’s none of our business! Even if we are a close friend or family member of someone with such struggles, every person has their agency, and we have ONE job! ONE! To love! I’m not talking about loving someone blindly in a way that enables bad behavior that hurts other people. I’m talking about having the confidence to stand in your own value system, with your own convictions, and still be able to love others without condition and with complete respect. 

Bottom line is this: I believe that as a people we get so caught up in the battle between good and evil, and our own perception of it, that we forget the REAL battle is between love and hate. By example, during His mortal ministry, Jesus taught love, love, love. He commanded us to love one another as He has loved us. Well, hello? He loves us unconditionally! Unconditionally! He never spoke to sinners with anything but love and kindness and compassion. Yes, He told them to go and sin no more, but He is GOD! He has that right! He earned that right! The only people that Jesus outwardly rebuked were the hypocrites and the self-righteous. I believe that without even realizing it, we are those among the crowd surrounding the woman taken in adultery, those that Jesus called out by saying that he who was without sin should cast the first stone. He was the only one without sin, and he did not cast a stone. He spoke to this woman respectfully and with kindness. 

So, as I see it, there is a big human lesson here, and it’s BIG! While we stand in our own fear and discomfort regarding the current issues of the world, whether it be gay marriage, abortion, terrorism, gun control, or . . . whatever . . . we are allowing our fear and discomfort to come out of our mouths (or through our keyboards as we hide behind the distance of social media) in a way that is coming across as very UN-Christian. I’m looking around at people who are so deeply hurt by the carelessness of this kind of behavior, from well-intentioned, good people, and I see a storm brewing that has the power to undermine a “Christian” society from its very core. Terrorism is an act of hate, and we have little to no control over it. But the way we treat those we come in contact with, whether in person or online, is something we have complete control over, and we should pause, think, and consider WWJD! What would Jesus do? If you’re the Christian you claim to be, or want to be, you know the answer to that. 

So, I have some specific challenges. Go study what it says about beams and motes in the New Testament and take it very seriously. And then study Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon and take that very seriously. And then study the parable of the ten virgins and take that very seriously. Ask yourself if you’re one of those people who gives Christians a bad reputation. And if you’re a Mormon, ask yourself if you’re one of those people that helps perpetuate the world’s belief that Mormons are NOT Christian. If we don’t act like Christians, how can we teach the world that we are? 

And here’s some food for thought: If a Muslim family moved into your predominantly Mormon neighborhood, how would they be treated? If an anti-Mormon Baptist family moved in, how would THEY be treated? Would they quickly be convinced that they’d been right all along? Or would they come to see that Mormons really do behave like Christians, because they’re kind and accepting and loving even if they disagree with your beliefs? And what if a gay couple moved in? Could they be accepted in your neighborhood? Could they come to church and not be ostracized? If they had children would those children be treated with kindness or cruelty? 

I am aware of a number of people who grew up in the LDS Church, and they struggle with varying degrees of the LGBTQ label. I know of more than one of these people who would like to be able to continue to attend church, even though they’ve chosen a lifestyle contrary to the Church’s doctrine and policy. I find it interesting that while they may disagree with certain policies, there is often a respect for the fact that a religious sect has the right to decide their own rules. If a Mormon isn’t living up to certain expected standards, they cannot serve in a church calling or attend the temple. Anyone who grows up in the Church knows that. And other religions have their own versions of the same application. But what if these people just want to come to church and be part of that community? What if they want and need the love and support of that community? And being LGBTQ does NOT mean a lack of belief in God, or even a lack of testimony in the Savior. In fact, I’ve seen a great reliance on, and gratitude for, the Atonement of Jesus Christ from people who have such struggles. Can we not embrace such people for sharing that common ground? 

A woman shared her story with me who was struggling with her own sexual identity, and trying to come to terms with it in regard to the Church she had been raised in. She hadn’t been to church for a long time and missed it, so she decided to give it another chance, longing for the love and belonging she had felt in the past by attending church meetings and interacting with those who shared her faith. As she sat in the classes, she was astonished to hear comments that seemed to justify that it was okay to ostracize people who didn’t share their beliefs or lifestyle. There was also an attitude presented that seemed to imply that all of the people with struggles were “out there somewhere” when this woman knew that she was far from the only person in the room who was struggling. She fought to keep from crying through the meeting, and left feeling completely judged and excluded, and no one knew. She never went back. This breaks my heart, and it makes me wonder what Jesus was really trying to teach us when he talked about having oil in your lamp at the time when He comes again. I’m guessing that oil is not comprised of the ways we seek to make ourselves feel more comfortable and distanced from the struggles of others. It’s my belief that the oil is pure love, Christlike love. In the parable He states to those who didn’t have the oil in their lamps, “I never knew you.” I think He means that we never knew Him, because we were so caught up in the wrong battles that we forgot how to love, to love others as He loves us. 

May we love our fellow human beings, may we become a truly Christlike people and prove it through our words and our actions. May we remember that the only battle that really matters is the battle between love and hate, and every hour of every day we choose which side we’re on. More than ever, what the world needs now is love. Just love. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

GRATITUDE: THE GREAT ANTIDOTE

An antidote is defined as the substance that counteracts a disease or poison. Life is full of all kinds of disease and poison; some of it being literal, and much of it being metaphorical. If you’re reading this blog post and you’ve read what I’ve written here previously, you know that I’ve struggled a great deal with many challenges that have been depressing and difficult—as we all do in some way. Getting through each day can be a strain, sometimes more than others, but one thing I’ve learned through the years is that gratitude truly does counteract the intensity of hardship and struggle. As it says in one of the songs from the movie White Christmas (one of my all-time favorites during the season) “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep.” Counting blessings doesn’t necessarily help me sleep, given my messed up body chemistry, but it always helps me get some perspective.

I believe part of why assessing how blessed we are is beneficial stems back to the fact that we are humbled enough to acknowledge that all we have comes from God. When we take the time and make the effort to consider how much God has given us, and how much that’s good in our lives, we cannot help but realize that He is IN our lives, and therefore we are not alone. The other powerful facet of gratitude is simply to help us keep perspective. Being grateful for all that’s good doesn’t magically erase all of the challenges, and it’s important to be realistic about what we are up against. But consciously stepping into the paradigm of assessing and appreciating what’s good offers perspective and grants strength and comfort. I know it to be true, because I’ve practiced it for many years.

A very long time ago I became aware of the concept of a gratitude journal. I’ve heard it come up from many different sources, with different suggestions of how to do it. I think what works best is an individual preference. While I’ve done well at this here and there, I’m often not good at following through on just writing down what I’m grateful for, but I’m pretty good at mentally recounting those things. However, I’ve read studies of how the act of writing something down shifts the way our brain perceives it, so I’m offering a challenge for you to get yourself a notebook or journal dedicated to a gratitude list that you can add to regularly—and therefore refer to it when you need a boost—or perhaps at least designate a file on your electronic device where you can quickly jot down the things that are good in your life when they come to mind. 

Since I know that we all have our own individual struggles, I’m proposing that we begin a list right here. I’ll start by listing some of the things I think about every day that help me remember how blessed I am. I invite anyone reading this to add to the list. Write as many things as you want, or just one. Leave as many comment posts as you feel inclined. Perhaps together we can generate some positive force of energy that might ripple out into our lives and the lives of those around us that will help us feel stronger as a community in facing our challenges.

I’m EXTREMELY grateful to all of you who read this blog, which makes my efforts actually worth something. I’m especially grateful to those of you who have left personal and touching comments here on the blog, or who have commented on my Facebook pages about it, or who have emailed me with support and encouragement. Your efforts mean so much to me. Although I have not always been able to respond to your comments, I want you to know that they don’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. Thank you!

This is a big one for me in the overall summary of something I think is so easily taken for granted. I’m grateful for peace and prosperity, safety and protection. Even with financial struggles, accidents, etc. we cannot deny that we are a remarkably prosperous people—those of us who live in the first world, as they define it. If you have a computer, a roof over your head, enough to eat, and feel relatively safe, you have much to be grateful for. These are things we often don’t think about; we just lives our lives and take for granted that this is the way it is. But it isn’t this way for so many people in the world.

I’m grateful to live in THIS time and in THIS place. I’ve written historical novels and sometimes going to previous time periods where life seemed less complicated feels so appealing. The present can often feel so daunting and overwhelming—because it is—and the world can be a scary place. However, we have so many blessings in being those who were born here and now. 

Expounding on the last one: I’m SO grateful for indoor plumbing, electricity, central air, and all of the electronic devices and appliances that go along with that. What would I ever do without them? I’m so grateful!

Sometimes when I’m feeling especially down over the pain I’m in, or the lack of sleep I suffer from, I will close my eyes and mentally list all that I have that makes it easier to endure these challenges. I’m grateful for my comfortable bed, my lovely bedroom, the supplements and medications that help ease my symptoms, the TV and DVR and computer that make it so easy to access information and entertainment that helps keep me distracted when I literally can’t do anything else. 

I’m grateful for access to good food. This is a big one for me. Since I can’t eat gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, or corn, I often feel hungry and crave things I can’t have, and my choices are so limited on what I CAN have. Since I don’t feel well, it’s difficult to cook for myself, and it takes a lot more effort than the way I used to cook. HOWEVER, I live in a time and place when there are so many good things available to me, and I have come to truly appreciate a good, safe meal. I also have to add how grateful I am to think that my children have never gone hungry. I’ve always had something to feed them. My father knew real hunger in his childhood, during the depression, and so many people in the world DO know true hunger. And most of us can’t even imagine what that’s like. How can we not be grateful for that? 

I’m grateful for all the parts of my body that are free of pain and functioning properly. When pain and illness are a part of my daily life, it’s easy to only focus on what hurts. Pain has a way of screaming very loudly for attention. But I often remind myself—and take the time to express my gratitude to God—for everything that works just fine and doesn’t hurt. If you add up all the body parts and body systems, the percentage is hugely in my favor. It could always be so much worse! 

And speaking of my body, I have to acknowledge how grateful I am for the way it has held together through so much difficulty. Sometimes I can feel like my body has betrayed me and let me down, but in actuality, my body has survived cancer and a life-threatening disease. It has kept me going when I needed it to in spite of being deprived of so much of what it needed through many long years of not knowing what was going on. It has given me five beautiful and amazing children. I can look in the mirror after a shower and see a lot of scars and ugliness; I can focus on the extra pounds and flabbiness of the descending end of middle age, and the evidence of having incubated those babies. Or I can see much evidence of survival and strength. I can love my five-baby belly because it was stretched to unreasonable limits and it deserves to be flabby for its efforts. I can look at the scars that exist where my breasts used to be and see the battle scars which prove I was blessed enough to survive the attack of one of the great beasts of our time. Thank you, Body! You’re awesome! Just hang in with me until my life’s work is done, and then you can rest. 

I’m grateful for my gift of writing. It’s been a blessing and a curse, but it’s part of who I am, and I’m so grateful for the joy and fulfillment it’s given me, as well as the way it has helped our family financially through many challenges. You might read this one and think: But I’m not a writer, or an artist, or an athlete, or whatever. But EVERY person has SOMETHING unique about what they do and how they do it. Find it, embrace it, let it help you be your best self.

I’m grateful for TRUE friends; the kind that see the real you and never judge or criticize, even when they disagree with you. What a vast difference there is, and how clearly I’ve come to see it! The value of true friendship is remarkably priceless!

I’m grateful for a beautiful family! No one is more aware of the weaknesses of my family members than I am. We are all so grossly imperfect and in some ways dysfunctional. But we love each other, and we respect each other’s differences, and I’m grateful for every one of them—my grown up babies, and the new little grandbabies, and the husband who has been with me for the long haul. It’s been a rough road, as family usually is, but there is nothing more valuable or worthwhile than the commitment and dedication we have the opportunity to offer to those we love most. 

I’m grateful for this computer I’m writing on. Geez! I remember my old typewriters, and the computers of more than thirty years ago, the dinosaurs that were so temperamental and challenging. For a writer, this technology is over the top! Charles Dickens and others like him would have been blown away by the very idea of not having to dip a quill into ink after every sentence or two. 

I’m going to stop here. I could go on and on, but now it’s time for you to add to the list. Humor me and take a minute to comment. Let my gratitude feed yours, and let your gratitude feed mine, and let’s focus on all the good we have and allow it counteract the challenges and scariness of the world.

I’m grateful for you! Love you all!

Friday, June 24, 2016

CONFESSIONS OF A FLAILING WRITER

In my last post I promised to write about the beginnings of THE HORSTBERG SAGA, and hopefully along the way it will answer some of the frequently asked questions that have come to me through the years. 

I began writing when I was sixteen. My sister and I cowrote a novel which I doubt will ever see the light of day. It was practice. But it did awaken in me a very strong conviction that writing fiction was my calling in life. I certainly had no idea how far that conviction would take me, nor how intensely difficult the journey would be. I can look back now and see that the first seeds of Horstberg were planted in my mind during those high school years. There was a song I loved and a novel I’d read that both intrigued me, as if there were just some tiny elements in them that were leading me to something more that I needed to figure out. A few years later when my first child was an infant, the story began to take shape and I started writing. I was a terrible writer back then, which I define to mean that the storytelling was a gift and the story was coming to my mind very clearly, but I didn’t have the writing skills to transfer what I could see and hear in my mind into anything remotely readable. But being young and insecure in a world where having the hobby of being a romance novelist did not fit into any category of normality, I stopped writing completely for about three years. I had written a detailed outline of the first Horstberg book (although at the time I believed it to be the ONLY one; no saga was intended initially) and I stuffed it away somewhere and focused on trying to find other avenues of creativity that would soothe me. I taught dance and ran my own dance studio for two years. I did counted cross stitch and a lot of sewing. I tried to learn cake decorating and did a lot of crafty things; the things that all the other women I knew were doing. When my second child was moving toward a year old, I experienced what I have come to call “A Horstberg Day.” There are only a handful of people in my life who know what that means, but if they hear that phrase, they know EXACTLY what it means. 

I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday, which I have come to learn means that it was undoubtedly a spiritual moment, and it had enormous emotional impact. I recall being near the front window of the little house we were renting, and glancing outside to see that the trees across the street were almost completely bare of leaves, and there was a flock of crows playing among the branches. The sky was heavy and dark with the threat of that first storm when autumn converges into winter. The wind was blowing and the last leaves of autumn were being tugged off the trees. I felt drawn to go outside as if I’d been hypnotized. I remember sitting on my porch and just taking in the atmosphere as if it could fill me up, the way water soaks into a dry sponge. I thought to myself that this was the kind of day that Abbi had become lost on the mountain above the valley of Horstberg, and Cameron had saved her life. It was exactly this kind of day! And then I felt it flood back into me. The plot, the characters, the absolute love of storytelling that was a part of my deepest self all flooded back into me. I knew in an instant that I had been giving into a form of peer pressure that had been squelching a gift God had given me that I needed to acknowledge and use, even if it caused an upset in my life. It felt as if I needed to write or die; I believe I would completely shrivel up inside and die of unhappiness if I didn’t fight for the right to be a storyteller. My entire life changed in that Horstberg moment; Horstberg was the means by which my gift was brought back to me and I finally, fully accepted it into my being and committed myself to this life riddled with overwhelming challenges and opposition, and remarkable creative experiences and miracles.

Of course I’ve written many, many book besides the five novels that now comprise the Horstberg Saga, but Horstberg is most precious to me. The corporation I have through which I do my business transactions is called Key to the Kingdom Productions. For me, Horstberg represents the kingdom (given the castle and the duke in the story it’s kind of really a kingdom) but metaphorically for me it’s the place I go in my mind where my characters and stories exist, and the key that takes me there is this God-given gift that has always left me in awe. I often feel like being a storyteller has been both a blessing and a curse, but I think that’s the way all truly good things must feel to anyone who experiences them. I have truly invested blood, sweat, and tears into these books. I have sacrificed and fought and struggled to get them written the way I believe in my deepest self they were meant to be written, and I have fought even harder to make them available to the public. None of this turned out the way I expected. Publishing has changed a great deal, and the story has met a great deal of resistance which differs depending on what group of people you talk to. There are the stuffy Mormons who make up what some of us in the business refer to as the Self-appointed Morality Patrol who believe that some of my historical fiction is horrible because people don’t always make the best choices and human intimacy and the associated feelings are actually acknowledged. I have been accused of writing pornography and “detailed sexual acts.” If you’ve read the books, or you do in the future, I hope you will see that these people have no idea of the definition of these accusations. I stand by what I’ve written and know that it was done with God’s blessing, the way it was intended to be written. I can’t put work out into the world that will make a positive difference if it’s written in a way that’s unrealistic, stuffy, or contrived. These characters are not Mormons and it’s ridiculous to assume they would behave as if they were. I’ve also come up against enormous roadblocks over the course of many years in trying to get these stories published. I can’t count how many times I was told (through the medium of rejection letters) that the story was good, the writing was good, but it was just too . . . different, and it didn’t fit into any particular slot. Well . . . hello . . . my whole point was NOT to fit into a slot, but to create something that rose above other fiction because it IS different. 

Now they are finally published and available, but there were no huge advances (as I often dreamed of) and they mostly sit on amazon and remain unnoticed. My heart hurts over thinking of them remaining so obscure when my heart is so invested. But I’m holding to the belief that all the love and hard work I poured into them will pay off.

More than thirty years since my “Horstberg Day” experience, I always anticipate those kind of days in the autumn when the sky has a certain, indescribable look, and there’s an unmistakable feeling in the air that winter is pushing its way through. I think of Abbi and Cameron (as well as their posterity and loved ones) and how much a part of my lives they have been. Their journey is so closely integrated into my own life’s journey, and I love them dearly for all that they taught me as they each came to understand who they really are and what God had intended for them to do with their lives. 

I think I need to go check in with them and see how they’re doing. There are some scenes that will never grow old, and I hear them calling to me. 

Love you all! Anita   www.horstbergsaga.com 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I’D RATHER BE IN HORSTBERG

t’s been way too many weeks since I last posted, and nearly every day during that time I’ve tried to talk myself into doing it, knowing it would help me feel better. But it’s pathetic being too depressed to even be able to write down some thoughts about depression. I’m starting to pull myself together and force myself to do just a little bit every day that will help me feel productive. And while I certainly have some thoughts to share about my recent experiences and what I continue to learn, I feel more compelled today to take a completely different avenue in what I want to share. 

For those of you who are not yet familiar with Horstberg, it is a fictional country in the heart of Bavaria, and it began germinating in my creative brain almost forty years ago. Of everything I’ve written—or will likely ever write—Horstberg is most dear to me. The journey experienced by these characters and the things they learn (all amidst some pretty intense plotlines) is as real to me as anything else in my life. As of a year or so ago, all five volumes of this series—which I have worked on amidst other projects for decades—were finally available to readers both in electronic and print form through amazon.com. The books have an average of 4.8 star ratings, and it’s wonderful to know they are out there. The problem is that without marketing funds available, it seems not very many people know they’re out there, so they aren’t selling nearly as well as I had hoped—which is depressing. (Reference to overall blog theme here.) 

Nevertheless, I still have high hopes for the Horstberg Saga; I believe it’s a story that’s powerful enough and unique enough to break past barriers, and I keep hoping and praying that it will. As a writer, I’ve found an interesting conundrum in the reality of finally seeing a story like this in print. It’s like when an artist signs a painting, frames it, and hangs it in a gallery. It’s done, over, finis. After sharing years and years of a complicated journey with these characters, they no longer need me—like kids who have gotten married and they now have their own homes. I can check in with them, but my part in their story is done. Still, I have a remarkable string of memories related to my time in Horstberg, and the journey will always be dear to me.

Long before I ever considered writing for the LDS market, it was my dream to write powerful historical romantic suspenseful novels for a world market. If you’ve read and enjoyed “The Gable Faces East,” “Gables Against the Sky,” “Towers of Brierley,” and the “Buchanan Saga,” then you’ll know what I mean when I say that these books are different from those that I’ve written for the LDS market, even though not all of the other books necessarily have LDS content. My goal was always to write books that would be much more clean than what was out there, and that my characters would have a strong moral compass, and that sin and crime would always result in appropriate consequences. Many readers get that and understand it; others have judged these books (and me) very harshly, and hate mail has flowed forth. I still stand by them as being a far more clean and appropriate option, but I respect those who might prefer not to read them. (But please don’t write me hate mail about it.) For this and other reasons, I’ve released these books under the pen name Elizabeth D. Michaels, mostly just to differentiate the genre. I wish I could go back and put my pen name on those other books; perhaps it could have avoided some of the hating and cruel judgment that took place. 

Anyway, back to Horstberg. Given that it IS a fictional country, not unlike Genovia in the Princess Diary movies, I was able to create my own laws and social dynamics for the country, even though I did my best to make it historically accurate to how things worked in Bavaria at the time. I would call the story a realistic fairy tale. There’s a castle and a royal family and happy endings, and there’s murder and treason and tyranny and all kinds of other drama along the way. But woven into this larger-than-life story that is capable of transporting a reader to another place and time, there are real social and emotional issues the characters go through that are timeless and full of life lessons. 

I miss the magic of Horstberg, of being able to go there and see what needed revisions or adjustments. I can still go back and read my favorite scenes, and maybe one day enough time will have passed that I can just read it from start to finish again and actually enjoy it. (The editing process has a way of making you sick of stories even when you love them.) I envy readers who have the opportunity to start at the beginning and not know what’s going to happen, or even if they DO know, or they figure it out, they can enjoy the journey of getting there through the eyes of these remarkable characters. 

For some reason I’m feeling very nostalgic about Horstberg, so in response to questions that readers have posed to me in regard to the project, I’m going to write a little about how it began and evolved through the next blog post....or two or three; we’ll see how it goes. 

If you’ve not yet had the privilege of visiting Horstberg, I’m happy to say that there’s now a website with all the information you need in one place. Spoiler alert: Don’t read the backliners (what’s usually on the back of a book) for volumes two through five until you’ve finished reading the first book! 

I’d love to hear your comments if you feel inclined to share here, or you can email me at contact@anitastansfield.com

I hope that all of you who take the time to read what I write here will be richly blessed in your lives, and that you’re finding joy in the midst of summer.

God bless you all, Anita


P.S. My daughter Anna (amazing artist AND amazing daughter) did all of the cover art for these books. Go to the website just to see her beautiful paintings if nothing else. To see more of her work, you can go to www.artofannastansfield.blogspot.com