About Me

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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, December 4, 2009

2010 ANWA Writers Conference & Book Signing

2010 ANWA Writers Conference
"Start Write Now!"
with Keynote Speaker
J. Scott Savage
Author of the "Farworld" Series

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Best Western Dobson Ranch Inn
1666 South Dobson Road
Mesa AZ 85202-5699

Presenters include Helen Bair, Sara Francis Fujimura, Dr. Pamela Goodfellow, Doug Johnston, Aprilynne Pike, Nancy E. Turner, and Marsha Ward

Open to the Public

Registration in now open at

Time's A Wasting!

Don't forget to leave a comment on the reviews for Dawn's Early Light and The Ball's in Her Court to enter for chances to win books and other cool stuff! Both blog tours end very soon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Amazing Annette Lyon

I'm just so proud of my sweet friend, Annette Lyon, for winning first place with her essay. But more than that, I think she managed to capture the world of a Writer-Mother very well.

Take a moment to pop over and read The Invisible Writing Mother. It's worth it.

Hurray Annette!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Ball's In Her Court by Heather Justesen

The Ball is in Her Court by Heather Justesen offers a straightforward, but sensitive view into the world of foster care and adoptive families. I was excited to hear about the topic matter of this book, it’s one I don’t feel has been “over-done” and I think Heather did an admirable job telling the story. So, first an introductory book trailer and portion of the backliner.

She's got a great job, a loving group of family and friends and basketball skills like you wouldn't believe, but Denise DeWalt's life is far from perfect, and she's about to come face-to-face with a past she hoped to leave behind forever.

Twenty-six-year-old Denise thinks she's come to terms with her childhood in the foster care system, but when her old nightmares return, Denise realizes that she must deal with her past once and for all if she ever wants to move on to a brighter future with Rich, the only man who can see past her former life. As Denise's search leads her closer and closer to the one person she hoped she'd never have to face again, she begins to realize that her future depends on just one person--herself.

Denise was a very likable character for me. She was a strong woman who still had flaws and problems that needed to be addressed. I loved the way Heather created a very realistic set of coping mechanisms for Denise. I also greatly appreciated the explanation of the grief and healing process. I think it was valuable information that many of us tend to look over. It applies to any difficult situation, sometimes we forget that those things can bury themselves deep within us, then find their way to the surface again when you least expect it. Healing is not quick and clean and sometimes those of us who find ourselves on the outside of that process looking in, forget to respect that process and the individual time table of another.

There were times when I read that things felt a little too repetitive-- a little too much emphasis on things that had already been explained to the reader being re-told. Some of it minor, one more major. It might just be me, and it may not necessary be anything negative overall. We all know I tend to be a little whiny where most would not see a problem, but in the few major incidences I felt a little cheated.

Let me explain. I, as a reader, had knowledge of how certain situations affected Denise. I knew what her reaction and thoughts would be. Denise knew, as well, but was still working through those issues (see the above thoughts on healing). There were just some times when I felt there was more of the story that could be told, a set of more in depth emotions and concerns I was still missing. Maybe not. Heather was focusing on what mattered most and made the greatest impact in the story. But I felt there were layers that we as a reader might need to know about, thoughts and ways of coping that weren't presented, that could be helpful to someone who found themselves in a similar real-life situation. Does that even make any sense? The Ball’s in Her Court was a book that made me want to understand and gave me greater compassion for people I might come in contact with. I’d bet it would have the same affect on you.

Try it out- You can read the first chapter of The Ball’s in Her Court on Heather’s website.

Thanks for a straightforward, yet still positive, look into a world most of us haven’t been close enough to in order to understand. You did a great job, Heather!

Heather is also celebrating her new release with a ton of give-aways on her blog, so stop by and get your name into the mix. You’ll also find the complete list of stops on her blog tour in the side bar of this blog.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

LDSstorymakers 2010 Writers Conference

The registration for the 2010 Writers Conference is officially open!

The 7th Annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference
Will be held at:
The Marriott Hotel in downtown Provo, Utah
April 23-24, 2010
2-Day Conference - $165.00
Friday-only Conference - $95.00
Saturday-only Conference - $75.00

Clear your calander for April 23 and 24, 2010, then click here to register and come join the party at the best Writing Conference you'll ever experience.

See you there!

And the Winners Are

Josi and Janet Jensen

Thank my two boys for drawing your names out of the hat, you've just become the proud owners of Simply Singing Time!

If you didn't win, I have 3 more copies of Simply Singing Time available for the sale price of $5 (including shipping). Retail price is $8.99. First come, first served. Email me at ampalmer30 (at) hotmail (dot) com with Simply Singing Time in the subject line.

Thanks for playing, everybody!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Getting Rid of My Stuff

Okay, so I’m reading one of those “get your life together” books. I read a lot of those and none of them seem to stick, btw. As the book pontificates on stepping back to see how you really perceive and feel about all the stuff in your life, physical, emotional, activities, everything, I think I’ve realized something about myself. Well, it really is something I’m well aware of but I haven’t thought much about it in several years.

It seems that the main reason I get bogged down is because I’m still placing more value on what others think I should value than what I actually do. Does that make sense?

Since it’s the Christmas season, take Christmas card giving as an example. It’s a tradition, it’s a nice thought. But what happens when you sit down to decide who you want to send cards to? You write down all the names that come to mind, then you sit and stare at the list for days, adding names frantically as you think of other people you should acknowledge. You haven’t actually thought about that neighbor that lived by you 12 years ago in ages, but you don’t want her to know that because she sent you a card last year. What about the post man? What about his weekend substitute? What about the garbage men, they certainly deserve your gratitude. See where I’m going with this? Something that started out as a simple way to let people around you know they are loved turns into a bigger nightmare than going to six different stores to find that one special toy. Of course, everyone’s world would be forever shattered if they didn’t get a card from you this year and you don’t want that on your shoulders!

Thus it is with me and my stuff in all its forms.

Case in point #1: I have a large picture of a temple in my basement. It hasn’t matched anything in my décor for the last two houses (I’ve been in this one 8 years if that tells you anything). But I hang on to it. Why? Well, yes there is the standard, “It might match again some day” thought, but more importantly there is a huge amount of guilt that goes with imagining throwing it out. I mean, it’s the temple! If I throw it away that means I don’t value the temple, right? If I take it to church and try to give it away, will somebody recognize which temple it is and know it’s mine? Then they’ll think I don’t value the temple either! And, heaven forbid the person who gave it to me should ever ask why it isn’t on my wall! (Yes, she does thing like that- frequently)

Case in point #2: I have a sweet friend who is constantly inviting me to do things with her. She knows I don’t get out much and worries about me. What she doesn’t understand is I don’t get out much by choice. My life is very full with the things I will do for my children. My own ideal is a hot bubble bath, a good book, and total silence. I don’t want to go out and play nice, that’s just not me. I turn her down repeatedly, then begin to feel guilty-- thinking she is going to think I don’t like her and I’m rejecting her. So I go and come home with a headache and more tired than when I left. Because I went, she invites me more often. . . . Wouldn’t it be easier if I could explain that I’m not lacking anything and just don’t like socializing, that I won’t think any less of her for not inviting me? Wouldn’t it be easier if she could accept that and not fear that something is terribly wrong with me?

Case in point #3: My home is not full of nice things. It is not immaculate and beautiful. It is over-run with children and the evidence of those children. The clutter books all tell you to get rid of things, have a garage sale, sell them on ebay! I look around my home and fully realize that I’m pushing it by thinking someone at Goodwill would want my stuff. I feel bad. I long for something pretty. Something nice that will stay that way. Logically, I know it won’t. But I want to perceive myself as being worthy and capable of having something nice. I want those who see me, and those I actually let into my home, to think I’ve got it together and I’m a better person because of the way I live my life. So I put my foot down and go in search of that one thing I think I need. In the end I can’t bare to part with the money that “nice” requires, so I compromise. I have a baby grand piano in my living room that is the epitome of this compromise. I got it for $50 and some manual labor moving it. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, it needed to be refinished, the key tops had been removed in preparation for the previous owner to get new ones, ditto for the peddles. No problem. When we put our minds to it, my husband and I can accomplish almost anything. For $50 we’d finish refinishing it and have something beautiful that both of us value, right? It’s been a year. It’s partly tuned, the rest is still as we got it. Now, instead of something beautiful I have another physical testimony to the fact that I’m a flighty, scatterbrained gal who can’t get it together. I feel bad. . . I get mad. . . I attack something, determined to make it into something I can be proud of. . . it backfires big time. . . I feel bad. Get the picture?

Have you figured out my “ah-hah!” moment yet? I think I’ve discovered the core problem with me and my stuff. My life is ruled by perceptions. Not what I think of myself and my things, but what I think everybody else thinks. Realistically, I may know darn good and well that my child’s Primary teacher isn’t spending all her time wondering why I haven’t taught my child to read better (though I bet she’s still wondering about his proclamation that his parents were married in a jail- which is true, btw). But all it takes is one passing thought like that or even worse, one innocent comment and my mind is in turmoil trying to figure out how to fix other people’s perception of me.

Do I want to get rid of the things that are weighing me down? Yes, but it begins much deeper than whether or not I have a picture of the temple that I haven’t used in years.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dawn's Early Light by L.C. Lewis

Some months ago I had the privilege of sitting in on a class taught by L.C. (Laurie) Lewis on her methods for creating historical fiction. What an eye opener! I sat in awe as she talked with shining eyes about spread sheets and file folders and how to get on the good side of your historians and experts. At one point in the class, I believe it was after she mentioned that her research and world building stage lasts at least a year, the woman next to me slumped her seat and sighed, “Man, that’s a lot of work.”

I just smiled and nodded toward Laurie, “She warned you, you can’t write historical fiction if you don’t absolutely love it.”

I knew L.C. Lewis loved what she did. I saw the passion for her subject matter, but it was a thrill to see the physical evidence of that love in book form.

I’m not an avid historical fiction reader. I have to be teased into it by a topic that intrigues me. This time it was not only topic but the writer’s excitement for the subject that convinced me to give it a try. I knew from meeting and learning from Laurie that I could expect a well-researched and enthusiastic story. Laurie has a flair for description and conveying difficult emotions. It was a pleasure to read Dawn’s Early Light.

Covering a portion of the War of 1812, it’s one of a very few fictional accounts of these events. I enjoyed the unique perspective and “Ah! So that’s how it happened,” moments. Reading Dawn’s Early Light was an enlightening experience that I think almost anyone can find pleasure in. For me, the most important message of the story wasn’t actually about the war. While that is very important, the thing that stuck with me the most was a bit of council given by a tutor near the end of the book.

“In some instances, the truth depends on who’s telling the story . . . on whose point of view you’re hearing.”

To me, that’s something very important to remember and one of the things I admire about Laurie’s account. All perspectives are given and it becomes very clear that everyone has feelings, beliefs, desires for the future that need to be respected even when we don’t necessarily agree.

Thank goodness for character lists, though. As with most historical fiction, there are usually more than a few players and it was difficult for my tiny brain to keep them all straight, as well as who was real and who was fictional until I really got into the story. I liked that Laurie put this info right up front where I could easily refer to it as I read. Of all the characters presented, I grew most attached to Hannah. She grabbed my heart and I could most clearly understand her role in the book and those events in history that many women would have faced.

Dawn’s Early Light is the third and final installment of the Free Men and Dreamers series but it stands very well on its own if you haven’t read the first two books. Fair warning, though: once you become involved with the characters, you will want to go back and catch the rest of their story.

During her blog tour to introduce Dawn’s Early Light, L.C. Lewis is giving away several different prizes to those who comment on the reviews and interviews. Not only autographed copies of Dawn’s Early Light, but also a unique, handcrafted silver "Liberty" necklace made by Sterling Obsessions. So, check all the sites and comment often! The names will be gathered on December 18th for the drawing.

You can also read the first three chapters at http://www.laurielclewis.com/books.html

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Prodigal Son Launch Party

Just in case you didn't get to see the Facebook announcement. (And because I'm completely excited and want you to come party with me) ;)

Join Valor Publishing as we throw an Author Lollapalooza that you won't want to miss.

March 16th, marks the day that Valor will launch six of its new books and authors Michele Ashman Bell, Tristi Pinkston, Alison Palmer, Karen Hoover, Daron Fraley and Kimberly Job will all be in attendance.

We'll start with a mini-concert from Shaun "Hammer Hands" Barrowes. (www.shaunbarrowes.com)

And then we'll move on to the main event!

Michele's "Summer in Paris" is sure to delight YA readers with romance and laughter. (Young Adult)

Tristi's "Secret Sisters" will leave you in stitches as you dive into seniors taking on the mob, and believe me, hilarity ensues! (Comedic Mystery)

Alison's "The Prodigal Son" takes on the more serious subject of a teenager involved in drugs and cutting himself. He is returned to his birth mother and the challenges are only beginning. (General Fiction)

Karen's "The Sapphire Flute" takes us into the world of magic and shapeshifting. The first book in the Wolfchild Saga we watch as two teenagers take on enemies beyond imagination in an effort to save their world. (YA Fantasy)

Daron's "The Thorn" takes us to another world at war as the believers keep an eye on the prophecies of a savior being born on a different world far away. (Speculative Fiction)

Kimberly's "I'll Know You By Heart" is romance at its finest. Kimberly introduces us to a battered woman who frees herself from her abusive husband only to find love with the father of the little girl she babysits. Suspenseful and equally heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the exact same time.

(Read more about the books at http://www.valorpublishinggroup.com/books.php)

Although none of Valor's books are distinctly LDS, the wildly popular LDS Womens Book Review podcast (www.ldswomensbookreview.com) will be broadcasting from the book-launch party. They not only will interview the authors, but will be reviewing readers as well. Please make sure you stop by their table sometime during the party.

So join us and meet the authors, listen to Shaun Barrowes, mingle with other authors, munch on refreshments and just enjoy yourselves! It's all about making reading fun, fun, fun!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
6:00pm - 8:30pm
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
6 North Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT

Friday, November 20, 2009

When All Else Fails. . .

Give something away.

I've been at a loss lately, no books to review for the past couple of weeks and nothing totally awesome floating around in my brain begging for me write about it. Sigh.

Soooo. Just to fill the time, I thought I'd do a give away. Know someone who wants a copy of my latest book?

Direct them here. Leave a comment telling me what your favorite Primary song is. December 1st I'll draw a name and send them a copy of Simply Singing Time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fun New Stuff from LDStorymakers

Okay, a few quick announcements about some fun stuff from my fabulous friends in LDStorymakers.

There are two new blogs dedicated to books and writing.
The first features the Storymaker authors, their new releases and their wonderful book trailers.
You can find it at http://www.ldstorymakers.blogspot.com

You can also subscribe to the Storymaker's new release newsletter on the Yahoo groups setting, or from LDStorymakers.com

Then, there's the new writing blog at

This blog will feature a huge variety of LDStorymaker authors (including yours truly) with tips and thoughts on writing, reading, publishing and the world of books in general.

Lastly, registration for the 2010 Writer's Conference will open December 1. They're starting to post some of the awesome guests and other information, with more showing up all the time.
I'm getting really excited, so save you pennies and your time for April 23 and 24, 2010!

I'll even greet you at the registration table. :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace

I just spent a very pleasant afternoon reading Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace.

When I saw the back liner, I was completely hooked.

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a good girl this year. (Well . . . pretty good.) I have a nice life and there’s only one thing that I really want-one thing that’s missing. If you happen to have an extra one lying around your work shop, I would really like a husband. I promise to take good care of him.

Love, Abbie

It made me giggle and I prepared myself for some fun. Sure enough, a man shows up under Abbie’s Christmas tree with no memory of who he is, or how he got there.

Okay, it seems silly, but Christmas is all about believing in things that are bigger than life so I had to see how Aubrey would play out this scheme of hers. The answer? Splendidly.

Yes, this is most definitely another romance. Rest assured that I gave myself a healthy dose of books in the spirit of Halloween, so I was ready for Christmas and a little more mush. J My poor brain keeps telling me it shouldn’t be time to think about Christmas, but all the stores I’ve been in recently seem to say that’s not the case. Sigh. How time flies when you have your nose in a good book.

Given my Christmas reluctance, Santa Maybe turned out to be an excellent ice breaker for the season. It was just the right touch of humor, holiday fun, and of course, impossible relationships that end up conquering all. There were no overly sappy, cryptic morals such as “Tis better to give, than receive” and all its various cousins. Yes, it does have a Santa element, so those that are staunchly against holiday books may still be put off, but for the rest of us it’s just plain fun- no strings attached.

I did honestly wish for the Santa element to be explored a little more than it was. That was such a amusing part of the equation. I know it wasn’t really the point, but as I read I could see a hundred possibilities of fun in my head. What can I say? I’m a sucker for types of things. I still believe in fairy tales.

I do have a bone to pick with Aubrey though. Abbie is a baker. We get to read about all the yummy things she’s making, but there’s not a single stinking recipe in the entire book. That, to me, is cruel and unusual punishment. The least Aubrey could have done was tuck one in the back of the book, but, noooooo.

I came away very, very hungry. You’ve been given fair warning- be prepared to feed your inner cupcake monster while reading this one.

Great job, Aubrey! Now I’m torn: is Spare Change my favorite Aubrey Mace title or Santa Maybe? Hmmmmm.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Okay, Now I'm Blushing

My good friend, and historical fiction author, Lauri L.C. Lewis just did me a huge favor by posting a review of my latest title Simply Singing Time.

She's so sweet. :)

Go check it out at
and see why Laurie has me blushing!

Thank you Laurie!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hurray for Halloween (books)

Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. I love Halloween. I’m not a blood and guts for the sake of blood and guts type of person, but I do love the myths and legends associated with the holiday.

So, in honor of my dark side (I know I seem so sweet-lol) here’s a list of my favorite Halloween-type books. Sorry, I know the Amazon links are a little tacky but simplicity was the order of the day. Sigh.

Goodnight Goon

Wake the Dead

Franny K. Stein: Lunch Walks Among Us

The Best Halloween Ever

Artemia Spooky: My Haunted House

The Great Ghost Rescue

Aunt Dimity’s Death

The Awakening

The Graveyard Book

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Though I don’t agree with the “I’m so love sick I can’t be a normal, productive human being anymore” philosophy.)

Lily Dale: Awakening

Shadow Land by Meg Cabot

Got a favorite? Let me know, my “to-read” is always looking for a few more entries!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tower of Strength by Annette Lyon

Tower of Strength by Annette Lyon is a sweet love story about a strong woman who is making her mark on the world in an age when women were looked down upon for such things. Tabitha made a wonderful heroine who has to learn that there are times to be strong and there are times when being strong means letting someone else share in your burden. Sometimes that’s a tough lesson to learn and I enjoyed exploring it through Tabitha’s eyes.

True to the nature of her last three books, Annette has given us another “temple” book. I think she’s really found her historical niche. This account takes place during the construction of the Manti temple, mostly in the year 1884. While the temple is not necessarily what the book is about, it is central to her character’s lives. I’ve enjoyed the way Annette is able to weave a good story with the history of our temples, she really puts you not only into the people’s lives but the temple construction site, as well. She gives the readers a sense of personally vested interest in the progress.

Love interest? Of course. I love that he has his own flaws and talents that make him stand out.

A sense history, time and place? Yes. I also appreciated the subplot involving the horse; though a little bird told me Annette has vowed never to write about horses again. I can’t say I’d blame her for making such a promise.

Worth the read? Absolutely. I truly cared about Tabitha and what she could make out of her life.

Do I have any whines or complaints? Sort of.

I had a great time reading the Tower of Strength for the story’s sake. There is no fault to be found with Annette’s ability to tell a great story. But, though I loved the characters and the account, for some reason I did feel the personal attachment in the temple construction as I have in some of the others. Does that make sense? I’m not really sure why I didn’t gain that connection this time. At least for me, the information about the Manti temple seemed very toned down and didn’t really play into the story until the end.

Tower of Strength will go on my re-read shelf. I have a feeling I’m not done learning from it yet.

If you haven’t yet tried this series, I’d highly recommend it. It’s reading time well spent.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gearing Up For NaNoWriMo

Soooo, here’s my dilemma. It’s almost NaNoWriMo time and I still haven’t picked my project. I went through my active files and chose the one I wanted to finish first, but I can’t decide if it’s cheating to start with 12,000 words if you still set a goal of writing 50,000 more.

The whole point is to start with only an idea and a determined spirit and come out the other end of November with a 50,000 word novel. No, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a good one. It’s more an exercise in kicking yourself in the pants and demonstrating that you really can write when you put your mind to it.

I could start something entirely new, of course. But that opens up another Pandora’s Box of decisions. My idea file is quite extensive and more than a handful are screaming “Pick me! Pick me!”

It’s quite a problem as you can see.
What would you do if you were me?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2010 LDStorymakers' Writer's Conference!


The first notices for the 2010 Writer's Conference have been posted to the LDStorymakers' website. For me, being at this conference is one of the things I look forward to all year long. Even if you've been to other writer's conferences, trust me when I say the Storymaker's conference tops them all. It's a must.

So, go check out the details and save April 23&24, 2010 to come join in the fun!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Speculating on the Whitney Awards

By now I hope you've all heard about the Whitney Award program. I've attended the Awards Gala the past two years and I can tell you that it's a wonderful experience. The room over-flows with love, support and inspiration. Very different than some other types of awards.

The Whitney Awards were created for that specific reason. They celebrate all the wonderful things LDS writer's contribute to the LDS community and the world in general.

Now, I love to be part of the voting for these awards. It's amazing to submerge myself in the LDS community has deemed awesome literature. But, it's also a problem for me. By the time the finalists are announced we have a short time to acquire and read all the titles in order to cast an honest vote. Getting those titles when you live outside of Utah can prove a challenge, so I try to keep my eye out for the titles that are getting the highest reviews and the most buzz. These I try to grab before the Whitney finalists are announced so I'm ahead of the game.

I have an itching to place a new order of LDS fiction. Here's where you come in.
Leave a comment here and let me know that best fiction written by an LDS author you've read so far this year. Let's see if my guesses line up with yours.

Remember: the book itself doesn't need to be specific to the LDS market, just written by and LDS author.

Oh, and make sure you pop over to the Whitney site and cast your votes there as well!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Read Before You Buy: or,

A great way to waste an afternoon.

This week there is no specific review. I just thought I’d point out that there are a lot of ways to preview a title that you’re interested in buying. Yes, if you walk into a bookstore you can flip open the pages and see what catches you’re eye. If you’re like me, whatever it is will be about twice as much as your budget for said trip to the bookstore.

Or, you can go to Amazon and “take a peek” inside whenever that option is available.

Then, there’s another way. Go to the author’s web site. Many will post the first chapter of one or more books on their site for the specific purpose of giving you a chance to read before you buy. They want you to buy, they want to draw you in. What better way to do that then to let you read a bit of the book?

Because I’m such a nice blogger, I’ve provided a list of such authors here for you.

Because I’m also a lazy blogger, please understand that this is by no means an exhaustive list. They just happen to be ones I know about in my tiny portion of the universe. If you have a book in mind, look up its web site. Odds are pretty good you’ll get a nice size teaser to let you know if the book really does catch your fancy.

If you have a favorite author who has their first chapter(s) posted and their not listed here, post it in the comments so we can all go take a peek. My “to-read” list is just about to pass the 1000 book mark so help me reach my goal of wishful thinking. (I’m firmly convinced I’ll get them all read before I’m too senile to remember I’ve read them. At that point I get to start over.)

Happy web browsing!


Shirley Bahlmann

Annette Lyon

Sariah Wilson


Robison Wells


Abel Keogh

Middle grade

Clint Johnson

Tamra Norton

Mystery and Suspense

Julie Bellon

Stephanie Black

Kerry Blair

Christine Kersey

Josi Kilpack

Marcia Mickelson

Jeffrey Savage

G.G Vandagriff

Sweet Romance

Michele Ashman Bell

Kerry Blair

Joyce DiPastena

Marcia Mickelson

Tamra Norton

Suzanne Reese

Rebecca Talley


Marsha Ward

Women’s Fiction

Heather Justesen

Christine Thackeray


James Dashner

Katie Parker

Rick Riordan

Friday, October 2, 2009

By Love or By Sea by Rachel Rager

This week I’m happy to share my review of By Love of By Sea by Rachel Rager.

In case you can’t tell, it’s another one of those sweet romances. Note to self: review a mystery or comedy soon, before I go into sweetness overload. ;)

I was off to a slow start with By Love or By Sea. I liked the introduction well enough; the premise was sound and intriguing in its way. But I can’t say that I got the whole “can’t speak his/her name” thing. It felt rather forced to me, or maybe I’m just dense and clueless to the superstitions of the time. Despite that little hiccup, once all introductions were formally made to the reader I found it much easier to become involved in the characters. By Love or By Sea proved to be an easy, clean, and enjoyable escape for me.

The basic plot line is just what you’d expect: good girl with the wrong guy, enter the right guy. Personal and emotional struggles ensue; you worry and pine with the characters, but know there will always be a happy ending. Rachel Rager definitely lives up to her promise of sweet kisses. I loved the chemistry she managed to portray without being graphic or vulgar. Great job, Rachel!

I also had complete admiration for her heroine, Alice. Despite her tendency to get herself into mortal peril (as every good romantic heroine should), she was spunky, happy, and had a loving, pure heart that let her see good where most would never think to look.

Now for the totally nit-picky whines. Don’t judge the book too harshly for them though because they were totally out of the author’s control and had nothing to do with the meat of the book.

First: I loved the cover, you can't tell so much from the picture, but I thought it was beautiful. Didn’t care for the title.

Second: Every time I came across a new chapter heading I was sure my son’s pet spider had escaped and gotten himself squashed between the pages. The headings were over-the-top loopy and flamboyant. To me, they were distracting. But then again, not every one let’s their kids keep pet spiders in danger of escaping at any moment. . .

See, I told you they were nit-picky. Overall, I found By Love or By Sea to be a very satisfying first book for Rachel. She has a flare for good clean romance that can only get better with future projects. Keep going Rachel, your readers will thank you for it!

Here’s a note from Rachel about her By Love or By Sea blog tour:

“Let your readers know that if they leave a comment on your review, or become a follower of my blog, they will be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of the book. They can comment on more than one review and become a follower and be entered multiple times.”

If you’ve read it, stop by Rachel’s blog or website to offer your own hurrahs! I know she’ll appreciate it. Oh, and don’t forget to leave a comment here, as well, to be entered in the drawing for your own copy!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes

Okay, as promised, here is my review of Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes. Saving Madeline is compelling story about one of many challenges we face in the world today. While Rachel’s signature romantic tones come through loud and clear, it by no means overwhelms a very powerful and thought provoking story. But don’t worry, even though the subject matter is far from light, Saving Madeline will pull you in with out depressing you beyond belief.

I enjoyed the story very much and think Rachel will manage her goal of expanding her audience while still inspiring and teaching at the same time. I think Saving Madeline has earned a place on my “favorites” shelf. It was a good read.

I had very selfish reasons for wanting to know if writing this story kept Rachel up and night, since she managed to keep me up past my bedtime in order to find out what happened. Even though I had a pretty good idea of how things would play out, the last third of the book sucked me right in and wouldn’t let me go until I reached The End. Some may have difficulties with an aspect of the ending, but I agree with Rachel. It needed to be there, and I don’t see any other way she could have made such a powerful point. Kudos to Rachel for her sensitive and powerful storytelling ability in Saving Madeline.

I also liked the fact that even though it was clear who the love interest for heroine was supposed to be, it wasn’t an easy path and he wasn’t her only choice. There were others that liked her and others she liked and had to get to know as well. While not every woman will have multiple suitors I still think it’s a healthier view than having the world revolve around one man and one woman as if no one else has or ever will exist.

Did I have any hiccups while reading? I guess, for me, I felt the timing of when and how people were investigated seemed a little off. It was what the story needed, but it still felt slightly backward to me. Did it pull me far enough out of the book to make me unsatisfied with it? No, not at all. It was more like a yelling at the guy in the movie, “You moron what do you mean you can’t tell he’s guilty?” moment.

Rachel should be very proud of Saving Madeline. I look forward to seeing where Imprints, and her future titles take her.

Don’t forget to leave a comment on this blog to be entered in the drawing for a copy of Saving Madeline. I believe this is her last stop on the tour, so speak up quick!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One Hit Wonder

Have you ever considered what happened to your favorite One Hit Wonder?

I mean, really. What happened? Did they just decide they didn’t like performing? Did they “sell out” for a bigger market and never made it? Did they just sing really awful stuff except for one song? Or, was it just their goal in life to make it big that one time, kind of an “I want to climb Mount Everest” kind of deal?

Personally, my goal has always been to be a Million Mid-list Master of Mediocrity. (Say that five times fast.) I don’t exactly want to be a best seller. I just want to someday be so prolific that people all over the world say “oh, yeah, her” when they hear my name. I just want to write. A lot. But every few days I wonder about that aspiration.

I recently started the final edits on my upcoming LDS novel, The Prodigal Son.

High point: I’ve had a few nice “wow, I actually wrote that!” moments. I still think it’s a great story and I’m amazed that I was able to find a way to tell it.

Low point: Letting Satan sneak back in to remind me that now this means I have to do it again, and again. What if I can’t? (Yes, Judy. I can hear you lecturing me on that one from the other side of the United States. You’re so awesome.)

Here’s the problem. I have several WIP in various stages of done-ness. I started each because I loved the premise and I wanted to tell the story, but then self doubt and rationalizations start creeping in. What if I get finished and it’s only okay, not amazing?

I’ve finished other projects since I wrote The Prodigal Son. I’ve liked them, too. But they are still waiting for some editor or agent to recognize my genius. A whole ‘nother problem of inferiority anxiety.

I specifically recall that these types of concerns never even entered my mind the day I announced I intended to become a writer. This is not what I signed up for. I just wanted an outlet for the voices in my head. I was under the impression that those voices could be a benefit to others so they needed to be published. Ah, naive aspirations.

My husband suggests I quit writing and take up crocheting. He knows darn good and well that I can’t crochet. So, I guess my only choice is to quit whining, dust off my “I can do anything ego”, and keep writing a few more books. They may turn out to be nothing special, but at least I wrote them.

I refuse to be a One Hit Wonder. Mid-list Mediocrity, here I come.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Alma by H.B. Moore

Well, H.B. Moore has done it again. Personally, I’m very glad the wait is over. I loved the direction she took with Abinadi: it really made me think. But I’m relieved the wait is over to find out what happens next.

Okay, yeah, I know what happens next. But see, the scriptures don’t have Raquel and Maia in them. I missed the connection with the women Ms. Moore created to expand and personalize history. In my opinion Alma is another hit.

Just as a matter of coincidence I was reading the same chapters from the Book of Mormon while I read the fictional account of Alma. It made it kind of fun and added a new dimension. In the morning I’d read the scripture version. In the evening I’d read Ms. Moore’s version. As always, she did a great job of staying true to the scriptures while bringing them alive for my imagination.

I loved the way the events became more personal, more intimate to me through Alma. Nothing can compare to the word of the Lord for building a relationship with Him. But I do feel there is a place of gratitude and respect for those that can take the scriptures and help others [me] understand the emotion and difficulty behind the messages that Heavenly Father would have us learn from.

I have a greater understanding now of the suffering the believers faced, and a greater appreciation of the fact that no lines of black and white, good and evil, can be drawn by mere race alone.

Still, I have to admit I still don’t get the kidnapped Lamanite women. Ms. Moore did her best to help me understand and while I get it, I just don’t “get” it. That’s just me. I would have been right there with Maia thinking nothing in the world could be worse than having to marry a man who had so violently tried to capture my heart.

Whines and complaints? Um, I really don’t know. I seem to recall hitting a scene somewhere in the middle of the book that appeared to be abruptly cut short. But, when I went back to find it, I couldn’t. So I have no idea if it really was a little choppy or if I was just completely brain dead when I read it. I suspect the latter. Either way I doubt it’s enough to take away from the message the book and the scripture story carry.

Alma by H.B. Moore goes right next to Abinadi in a place of “hip-hip-horray!” honor on my bookshelf. She is a master of scripture based fiction and one to count on for an uplifting experience in imagination and faith. It’s a good thing she’s all ready working on Alma the Younger. I need to know how everything turns out. Well, I know, but. . . . you know what I mean.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Introducing Simply Singing Time

With the implementation of the new Primary theme outline I faced a bit of a quandary: how to provide quality and inspired supplements for those things that would be most needed. My publisher and I spent the better part of a month going back and forth with ideas and thoughts until this emerged.

Simply Singing Time will replace the now retired Sharing Through Song series, but I hope it will prove just as fun and useful to my readers and my previous yearly materials. As always, my goal is to help you feel inspired and prepared to give the Primary children the best opportunities to feel the Spirit and learn and grow in the gospel.

Simply Singing Time will be available for purchase in early October from Cedar Fort, Amazon and LDS Bookstores everywhere.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Don't Forget to Comment for Free Books!

Don’t forget,

Joyce DiPastena’s blog tour and book giveaway for Illuminations of the Heart ends September 14th.

Gale Sears’ tour and giveaway for The Route ends September 17th.

Rachel Nunes’ tour for Saving Madeline ends September 25th, here on this blog.

Leave a comment on the actual reviews here, and track down as many other reviews as you can to leave comments on. Each comment earns you an entry for a free book. That’s the best kind if you ask me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Few Moments with Rachel Ann Nunes

Rachel Nunes is a prolific, best-selling author, the founder and president of LDStorymakers, and an all around awesome lady. I had to include the picture, ‘cause, isn’t she just so cute? I could never even hold that pose much less look elegant doing it. ;)

When Rachel decided to do a blog tour to promote her newest title, Saving Madeline, of course I was happy to jump on board. But, when I began to read the story behind the story, I thought it was compelling enough that it needed to be shared as well.

So this week you get a prequel to a book review. You can read Rachel's thoughts on the Saving Madeline, those she's shared with others and a few she graciously shared with me. You'll have to pop back in on the 25th to see what I thought about the actual book.

In the cases where I've pulled information from other interviews, you'll find a link back to the source. This is both to give the original author credit and to give you someplace else to look if that particular topic catches your eye. So, please spend a few moments with Rachel Nunes.

Alison: So, tell us why writing Saving Madeline was important to you.

Rachel: Several years ago, shock radiated throughout Utah when an infant was found dead after ingesting meth she had found in a plastic bag on the floor of her home. What made this tragic circumstance even more notable and horrific is that weeks earlier her father had forcibly taken her across state lines, hoping to protect her from her mother’s substance abuse. Authorities found the child, placed her back with her mother, and sent the father to jail for assault and burglary. A little over a week later, the baby was dead and the mother was charged with desecration of a dead body for moving her daughter to cover up the mother’s drug abuse. All charges against the father were eventually dropped.

. . . In meth homes throughout the country, baby bottles share sinks and refrigerators with meth containers, and the drug is often made in the same kitchen where food is prepared. Poison is only inches away from dinner plates and glasses of milk. Law enforcement officers wear protective gear when dismantling these meth labs, but the children who live there on a daily basis are unprotected from the toxic fumes that saturate their bodies, clothing, and toys—if they are lucky to have such things. Often these houses have no food, no toilet paper, and no sheets on the beds. The children are completely neglected, and the houses are filthy. Many of these children show developmental delays, organ injuries from the fumes, heart problems, seizures, and violent behavior.

. . .States seem to be losing the battle against methamphetamine addiction. Child welfare, law enforcement, substance abuse, and treatment systems are overloaded. Some estimate that over 8.3 million children in the United States live with a parent who has a substance abuse issue. Nearly 2 million child abuse cases each year are investigated, and a half million of those have enough evidence to act on. Some 200,000 children are removed from their homes each year.

But what about the cases that aren’t proven? What about the children who fall through the cracks, but are still at risk? To what lengths might a non-custodial parent be compelled to go in order to protect a child from danger?

These were the questions I thought about as I began writing Saving Madeline. I wanted to show one man’s dilemma in balancing his need to protect his daughter with his duty to obey the law, to detail his struggle in an overloaded system where there are no second chances for the innocent victims. Please keep in mind that though the idea for this novel was inspired by the numerous true-life stories I researched, the plot, characters, and resolution in Saving Madeline are completely fictional. No actual experiences or interviews of real -life people were used in the text itself. (Neither does this story in any way reflect the life of the sweet Madeline I dedicated this book to. Though challenged with Muscular Dystrophy, that Madeline has the great fortune to have been born to loving and responsible parents.)

Could such a story actually happen? I believe so. Trust me about the outcome of my story, though, okay? My young character has a lot of people fighting for her. But keep in mind as you read my story all the children who have no one to fight for them and who do not survive.

Anne Bradshaw: So is the book a tragedy? Are people going to be sad when they’re through reading it?

Rachel: My work has always been about touching on tough issues in a positive light. I believe in happy endings, though maybe not perfect ones. My young character has a lot of people fighting for her, and I have a few twists in store for all the characters. I think my readers will be content when they finished reading but also very much aware of all the children who have no one to fight for them and who do not survive.

Anne Bradshaw: On your website, Saving Madeline is listed as a romance. Why is that?

Rachel: Good question. The story has heavy suspense elements, and it is certainly a family drama, but it also is a great romance. I had so much fun with the interaction between Caitlin, Parker, and two other love interests. The back and forth dialogue, the misdirection, the teasing—all so much fun! In the end I just couldn’t put the novel under any other category.

GG Vandagriff: You seem to be an inexhaustible well of creativity. Where do your plots originate?

Rachel: They just come–out of thin air, from what I see, from research, from inspiration. The more I write, the more the ideas flow. I’m always compelled to write. It’s as if I’m in a huge amphitheatre and sitting in the audience are all the thousands of story ideas and they are calling to me to write them. The one that yells the loudest wins. Hmm, that’s sort of like real life children, isn’t it? :-) When I don’t get regular writing time, I’m pretty unhappy.

Teri Rodeman: Do you create stories or scenes from dreams you have?

Rachel: Sometimes I will receive inspiration in dreams, but more often than not they are day dreams that I'm purposefully pursuing rather than night dreams. There have been notable times, however, when I've gone to bed thinking about my characters and then dreamed about the plot and it worked perfectly into my story.

Alison: Was there a scene or character from Saving Madeline that really kept you awake at night while you were writing?

Rachel: I was haunted by the real life stories I'd researched about children who didn't survive the similar situations my characters were facing. And I kept seeing a man sneaking into a child's bedroom, a man who wasn't perfect and had done a lot of dumb things in his life, but who was now trying to right those wrong and protect a child he loved. I enjoyed the feel of him appearing to be the bad guy, when in reality he was doing the only thing he felt he could to help Madeline. This scene, now in the second chapter, was the first I wrote. Toward the end of the book, there was a scene I really worried over, and it might bring tears to some readers, but ultimately, I knew I had to show some very real consequences.

Alison: Tell me about the real Madeline that you dedicated the book to.

Rachel: Ah, not a question I've ever been asked thus far, though in my author's note at the very end of the novel, I do explain a little more about her. Madeline is a six-year-old girl whose family we lived next door to for ten years. She has very blonde hair, an adventuresome nature, and loves to talk. She and my youngest daughter were best friends for most of their lives and still adore spending time together now that we've moved. Madeline has Muscular Dystrophy and speeds around in a motorized wheelchair. This year we discovered she can also swim, bouncing up and down in water over her head, barely coming up for a breath and then going back under again. A very frightening event for those watching, but to her it's ultimate freedom. So far, she's always come back up, though someone's always watching to make sure. Madeline is the youngest of six children. Her older sister and brother, the first two children born to the family, also had MD and died before Madeline was born. Madeline's strong spirit, and the example of her wonderful parents have inspired me for many years. Though my character is younger than the real life Madeline and doesn't share the challenge of MD, she was definitely patterned after her.

GG Vandagriff: What do you think about the direction that LDS fiction is going? Do you think it is getting better? If so, why?

Rachel: Overall, I think LDS fiction is getting better. However, some of it isn’t. I feel that many writers are still stuck on the conversion story, which is a great venue for the younger generation, but I personally feel converted and my reading tastes have changed. Now I want to read stories about LDS people in every day situations where they don’t have to convert their neighbor or future spouse. The real life truth is that not everyone sees the light. Perhaps every LDS author goes though the conversion phase, I don’t know. I certainly did, and I’m glad I wrote those novels. But I think it’s time LDS authors explored the other issues our people need to read about. I’m not saying we shouldn’t write about conversions at all, because when they are portrayed realistically they can be powerful and compelling, but for me, it’s hard to see a plot in a suspense novel come to a screeching halt so that we can hear a missionary discussion or have a baptism. I would much rather see the quiet convictions of a character living her religion during personal trials. Or a family who has members struggling with their faith in the midst of some compelling plotline.

I was able to attempt this in several of my LDS novels, and now I’m also reaching out to a wider market where my characters are not overtly LDS. The plot doesn’t focus at all around the Church and convincing the reader that it’s true, but rather on the lives of the characters and what they are feeling and experiencing that may or may not involve their faith (depending on the genre).

I think a lot of LDS readers are ready for this, and I’m grateful my publisher has a national imprint where they can publish such stories. I think our market is growing up a bit, focusing deeper or perhaps even on simply creating more entertaining, believable genre stories that are every bit as good as what is being published in the national market. If we continue in this direction, I think we will eventually reach an entire new set of LDS readers who now don’t read LDS novels because they are so focused on convincing rather than portraying.

Alison: Is this what you envisioned when you first sat down to be a writer? How have your aspirations and interests evolved during the process and where do you see yourself going in the future?

Rachel: I think I am heading in the right direction of what I've always dreamed of doing. For many years, I strictly wrote LDS novels, but I've also wanted to write novels that could reach anyone anywhere, regardless of religious affiliation. There are so many experiences shared by the human family, and there are good people everywhere. I want to portray these people and their trials.

I also aim to write stories that allow people to take time out from the stress of their busy lives and relax in another world for a while. Good, page-turning literature meant to thrill and entertain. I'm grateful my publisher has different imprints that have allowed me to explore my various plotlines and audiences.

My next book, Imprints, takes another different direction as I'm jumping on the national bandwagon by including a paranormal element. On the day of her father's funeral, Autumn discovers a paranormal gift that allows her to find clues about missing people. Nothing so weird as to put off my regular readers, though. In fact, I'm sure they will enjoy what I have planned. I hope to have four or more books in the series.

GG Vandagriff: Are you taking your fiction in a different direction permanently? If so, what path are you pursuing now?

Rachel: Saving Madeline is very similar in style to other novels I’ve written–family drama with suspense and romance. However, my next novel Imprints, also contemporary suspense, does go in a different direction as it contains a paranormal element. I’ve always been interested in fantasy, and as a believer I feel that sometimes we are given certain gifts when we need them at different times in our lives. It was only natural that at some point I’d combine my love of women’s fiction and my beliefs with my love of the supernatural. Yet at the same time the novel isn’t so strange as to be considered high fantasy or anything. I think my current readers will be very pleased.

Teri Rodeman: What does Rachel do in her spare moments when she's not writing? . . . Do you have other interests and also Church callings and how many children you have and any grandchildren?

Rachel: TJ and I have six children. No grandchildren yet, though I'm looking forward to having them. My oldest son (19) is on a mission to Japan and my oldest daughter is 17 and just started college at SUU. My other children are 15, 13, 10, and 6.

As for what I do in my free time. Well, there isn't much of that because usually someone wants me to do something--correct homework, make food, run an errand. You get the idea. But what I love to do when I have a moment is to read, go for walks, swim with my kids. I enjoy exercising while I watch a video. I love traveling, always taking the whole family at this point. I enjoy going out on dates with my husband.

I teach Relief Society once a month, I'm a visiting teacher, and I'm the chairman of the activities committee (which, BTW, is a feast or famine calling, and we have an activity this week so I'm pretty stressed). I love my ward and my neighbors. I feel really fortunate in that.

GG Vandagriff: You have literally thousands of fans who wonder how you can possibly publish as much as you do while raising six children. I have seen first hand what a hands-on, terrific mother you are. How do you balance such an intense inner life with your love for and the needs of your children?

Rachel: The kids always came first. Period. That’s my rule. But they have learned not to run to me for every little thing. They learned to solve some problems themselves, and I learned to buy microwaveable snacks. I used to write more easily when they were little children under my desk and around my feet, but as they grew, they became involved in more things and I had less time at the computer. I’d have to tell them I was going into my office for a while and to watch this show, or play in the back yard for certain time. I’d say, “If you aren’t bleeding and it’s not really that important, then don’t come to my office. If you give me time to work, I’ll do x and x for you then.” Sometimes that even worked. I’d often leave the computer on and steal into the office for any available second.

Teenagers are even more demanding, I’ve found. They always need rides or help with some incredibly important last-minute task. But finally for the first time all six are in school (my oldest is on a mission), so I anticipate having a bit easier time writing in the next few months.

One important thing is that I’m careful to tell my children often that I love them more than my writing and if they need me, I’m available to hear what they have to say. Often that means I don’t get all the writing in that I want, but that is the life I chose when I decided to have children. They are the reward that makes not doing all I want with my writing okay. I wouldn’t trade being their mother for all the success in the world.

See? I told you she was an awesome lady. ;)

Rachel is also doing a book give away with this blog tour. Leave a comment here, and track down other blogs from Rachel’s site to leave comments on. Each comment gives you and entry for the drawing to win a copy of Saving Madeline. Yippeee!