Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sometimes Life Is Overwhelming

This has been a super busy week for me.  I've been running people around to various activities, trying to make sure everyone is where they need to be, while doing my own to do lists, and trying to can a bushel of tomatoes.  (I haven't even touched the apples yet, but they are sitting there waiting to be made into applesauce.)

Every day my to do list seems to grow longer, in spite of my best efforts to shorten it, and I admit, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Monday night I was so exhausted after I'd finished helping my daughter with homework, that all I could think about was climbing into my bed.  My little girl was busy doing one more thing, and I saw her tape something to my door.  It was this:

Honestly, that little note made me tear up because I needed it.  Being a mom is hard sometimes, but notes like this make it worth it.

Then, today, my older daughter shared this video with me.  It's a little long, but oh so worth it.

It was just what I needed to hear.  My efforts aren't in vain.  Even though I don't get to every item on my to do list, hopefully I'm getting to the important ones.

If you've ever felt overwhelmed, or maybe like you were a failure, this is definitely the video for you.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Instead Of Writing (Recipe Included!)

So, this is what I've been doing instead of writing.

I was given a bushel of tomatoes and so I made the most amazing chili sauce you've ever tasted. My house smelled so wonderful!

I am definitely feeling the writing bug again, though, and I have my critique group coming over tomorrow night, so I'll definitely be motivated for a word count!  How did you do this week?

And if you are interested, here's my recipe.

Super Awesome Super Easy Chili Sauce

24-30 ripe tomatoes--skinned
8 large onions, chopped
3 green peppers, chopped
3 cups vinegar
3 tsp. salt
3 cups sugar
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Boil all together until as thick as desired.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Winners of the Giveaway Announced! (And Another Chance to Win!)

I am so excited to announce the winners of the Ring Around the Rosie Blog Tour Giveaway!

*** drum roll ***

Amanda Sakovitz won the $30 Amazon gift card

NaDell Ransom won the Booklovers Basket


Arena Thompson won the four book set from the Hostage Negotiation Team series!

Woohoo!  Congratulations!

If you weren't one of the winners, you can still win an ebook of Ring Around the Rosie by commenting on Linda Weaver Clarke's blog here (ends Sept. 18th)


You can go to the New LDS Fiction website here for a chance to win an ebook of Ring Around the Rosie and several others! Click here

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who entered. You are awesome!

Monday, September 15, 2014

News, A Double Review, And An Interview!

Today is the last day to enter my giveaway. If you've been waiting until the last minute, it's here! Go enter! (Link on the sidebar)

I got two new reviews this past weekend.  Fay Klingler said my characters seemed so real, she was "expecting to read about them in the daily newspaper."  You can read more about what she said, (and her interview with me!) here

Emily Clawson also reviewed Ring Around the Rosie and said it was "great suspense with delicious romance." I loved that line.  You can read more about what she thought here

Today's reviews are of LuAnn Staheli's new novel, Temporary Bridesmaid and Strike of the Sweepers (Book 4 in the Janitors series) by Tyler Whitesides.  (Loved!)  As a bonus, I was also privileged to interview Ms. Staheli.  So this post will be long, but oh, so worth it!

In Temporary Bridesmaid we meet Jenny Grant, who is in her mid-thirties and unmarried.  Her last friend is getting married and she's been chosen to be the maid of honor.  This throws her into a tailspin of contemplation on why she isn't married and the very real possibility that she might never be married.  Just when she decides she's happy being single and is giving up on men, she meets a stranger in a rainstorm, a gentleman who holds an umbrella over her head, and she can't stop thinking about him.

Our hero, James Cox, has given up a lucrative career in California and moved to Utah. He starts work at a tech firm, and runs across an intriguing young woman.  He can't stop thinking about her until she accuses him of stealing her wallet.  Things get interesting really fast after that with all the twists and turns this love story takes.  There's a ton of misunderstandings that had me turning pages to find out how it all would be resolved.

There is a secondary storyline of Stephie and her husband, Phil.  They are newlyweds, but marriage isn't what Stephie thought it would be at all.  Her husband is suddenly more preoccupied with gaming rather than being a husband and things spiral really fast.  I found myself drawn to this story and the emotions the author evokes with her descriptions of Stephie's predicament.  Staheli's subtle style really shines in this storyline.

As mentioned, I was able to interview Ms. Staheli and found out some really interesting tidbits about what makes her tick!

1.  What is your daily schedule like?

School librarian by day; mom and author by night. This is my third year as librarian at Payson Jr. High, where I taught English 7-9 for 30 years. At the end of the school day, I come home and check in with my youngest, who is a 9th grader this year but at a different school. If there is nothing pressing with him and no major errands to run, I can usually spend the next two hours writing or editing. My husband often works in Los Angeles, and we live in Utah, so this schedule works out pretty well.

2.  What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?

I’m probably more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants author, although I always have a fair idea of exactly where I’m going to end up; it’s just the getting there that can sometimes cause a problem. I write both fiction and non-fiction, and when I’m doing the latter, I will start chapters and dump ideas, research, and drafted passages into the right section of the book, then sort them all out later when I’m focused on finishing a draft. In my fiction I’ve been known to write in a linear fashion, from beginning to end, but I’ve also started in the middle and written my way out. Often, when writing a magazine article, I write the beginning and the end then fill in the missing parts in the middle.

3. How do you choose your characters' names?

I tend to like names that are simple, both easy to remember and to pronounce. If I have someone in mind that I plan to loosely basic a character on I will probably start their fictional name with the same letter to help me keep it all sorted out. The rest of the time, I’ll try out names, pulling ideas from the stack of videos lining the wall by my computer, running through the names of friends and neighbors, and search for combinations that seem to “fit.”

4. How do you handle life interruptions?

Although I grew up telling my mother I had a life ambition to be a “bum,” I somehow turned into a work-a-holic. I’m sort of always writing, and notepad and its little microphone on my cell phone have been the greatest discoveries ever. I can now write anywhere. When I was a columnist for two different newspapers and had small children running around my office and my house, I learned to write in short bursts. I guess I’ve carried that skill over to writing both fiction and non-fiction which are much longer. The past month, while I was in the hospital recovering from surgery, I outlined four new non-fiction books on my phone. Now that I’m home and still in recovery, I’ve published Temporary Bridesmaid, revised a novella for the Timeless Romance Silver Bells Anthology, and planned the next two books I hope to release. Life has a way of throwing some crazy things our way, but we can’t sit around and wait for the bad to happen. We have to tackle it head on and make the good things also happen that are the richest parts of our life.

5. Do you write to music? If so, with lyrics or only instrumentals?

No, I write best to silence. I’m always amazed by the extensive playlists authors assemble as they write their books, but the lyrics would totally distract me (I love to sing my favorite songs quite loudly. How could I possibly write to that?). Even instrumentals distract me.

6. What food or snack keeps the words flowing?

I keep a bottle of water on my desk. Does that count? I think there are some Lifesavers packs there as well, left over from our Christmas critique party. I’ve never noticed a positive correlation between food/snacks and my writing, and since I don’t need the calories, I’m happy to not keep them anywhere near my work space.

7. What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?

The one thing I like most about writing is being able to tell a story and having someone else tell me they liked it. I want my books to touch people. I hope they walk away from my non-fiction having learned something, and maybe feel inspired to go and learn something more. Many of my novels have events from my own life—or the lives of my family—woven into them. I hope those moments of truth resonate with other readers, that they see a little of themselves there as well, and recognize ways they too can deal in a positive manner with adversity. Or perhaps, simply enjoy the moments of love I’ve allowed my characters to share.

What I like least? When J. Scott Savage tells me “there’s just one big thing,” and I see Annette Lyon bleeding red ink all over my pages (I’m an English teacher, for Heaven’s sake! Why didn’t I catch all those grammatical errors on my own?) Then Sarah Eden, Heather Moore, and Michele Holmes demand “more romance here!” when I think I’m describing exactly it happened or how I felt at the time, proving once again, I may not be a true romantic at heart. But then, Robison Wells comes to the rescue and gives me a F –for fantasic! Somehow, the opposite meaning blows my teacher-trained mind. But in the end, they are right and it’s time to let the revisions begin and hope that next time, I do better.

8. Tell us about your new book

Temporary Bridesmaid started out to be my story. Mike and I met when he was a substitute teacher at Payson Jr. High—a temp. We were the same ages as Jenny and James when we married. But, like most great books, fiction starts with only a kernel of reality then the characters themselves take over. That’s what happened with Jenny Grant and James Cox. Here’s the blurb about their story:

Jenny Grant has given up on men, and therefore her dream of ever getting married. But when James Cox comes to work in her building as a temp, she has to convince herself to stay true to her new conviction. All around her, everything is falling apart in her life. She’s been asked to be the Maid of Honor for her best friend’s wedding—leaving Jenny the last single in her group—her mother’s forgetfulness has progressed to a level that might prove dangerous, and the raise and promotion Jenny longs for may not be within her reach. When a man who looks like James steals her wallet her distrust of men rests on his shoulders.

James Cox has no idea why he has given up his position as a California CEO to move to Salt Lake City, but he’s certain it isn’t to find a bride. When the call comes for a temp position at a computer programming company, he figures this must be why. But his co-workers are not always easy to get along with, especially the fiery-tempered woman named Jenny Grant. If he didn’t find her so beautiful and interesting, it might not matter. Except that it does.

9. What is your next project?

As I mentioned, I have a novella slated to be in the Timeless Romance Silver Bells Anthology due for release in October. I’m also finalizing a memoir titled Living in an Osmond World, which is about my days as a fan, friend, and employee of the Osmond family. After that, there is a companion book in the works for Temporary Bridesmaid, and a sequel floating around in my head, plus a million other ideas and projects in various stages of development.

10. What is your advice for other writers?

Don’t wait until you have the time. You have to make the time. You never know what tomorrow will bring, and if writing is truly a part of who you are, you don’t want to miss your chance. Whether you are writing for a public audience, or simply for yourself, get the words down. Let your family know where to find them.

Please list your other published works.

Men of Destiny: Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith (Walnut Springs Press)

The Explorers: Tides Across the Sea

Small Town U.S.A. series: Just Like Elizabeth Taylor; A Note Worth Taking; Leona & Me, Helen Marie

When Hearts Conjoin: The True Story of Utah’s Conjoined Twins

You can click here to buy Temporary Bridesmaid

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli got her start as a celebrity paparazzi-stalker-chick, which led to her award-winning career as a ghostwriter for celebrity memoirs. A masochist at heart, she taught junior high school English for 33 years and then moved to the school library. She once spent two weeks summer vacation backpacking through Europe with 15 of her students. She has won three Best of State Medals--two for writing and one for teaching--but refuses to wear them all at the same time because she'd hate to be known as a show-off.

The second book I wanted to tell you about today is Strike of the Sweepers, Book 4 in the Janitors series by Tyler Whitesides.  If you have middle grade children you want to RUN out and get this series. It is so funny and has great characters with an original storyline that keeps my kids asking to read one more chapter when we've already read until far past bedtime!  I love it because it's something we can read as a family and I've even gotten attached to the characters. This book is really well done, and the entire series is well worth your time, especially if you have kids and enjoy an awesome story!

In this installment, Spencer and Daisy are fighting against even deadlier enemies as they try to summon the Founding Witches so they can put an end to Mr. Clean once and for all! But can they do it? And if they do, will the Founding Witches help or hurt? Seriously, go and buy this series. It is so good! Click here to buy.

Here's the back copy:

The stakes have never been higher, and you’ve never seen squeegees do this before! It is a wild and slightly unsanitary ride as Spencer, Daisy, and the rebels find themselves chased by Mr. Clean’s new and terrifying breed of toxite—the Sweepers. Time is short. With the fabled Manualis Custodem in hand, Spencer must figure out how to summon the founding witches if they ever hope to mop up and save education.

What critics are saying about Janitors:

“ Action-packed and surprising! Readers will become convinced of the value of telling the truth, while having a lot of fun along the way.” —Publishers Weekly

“An entertaining ruckus.” —Kirkus Reviews

“ Entertaining . . . with plenty of twists and turns.” —Brandon Mull, author of Fablehaven and Beyonders series

“An enormously entertaining book.” —Orson Scott Card

Friday, September 12, 2014

Freebie Friday: Homecoming: Identity

First of all, I wanted to tell you about another review I received yesterday from Mel's Shelves.  She said,"I had a difficult time putting this book down until I was finished. I love the dialog and the plot pacing. It's never slow and I was curious to see how they would get out of the tight spots they were in."  You can see what she thought of Ron and Sarah and the rest of the series by reading her entire review here.

Today's Freebie Friday is Homecoming: Identity by Heather Justesen.  I've read one other book by her (Family by Design) and really enjoyed it, so I was happy to see this one come up for free. It's downloaded and in my reading queue!

Here's the back copy:

Hank’s twin brother Bo returns from Iraq during a difficult time for the whole family. Their sister, Karissa, recently found love after a messy divorce, but two new women in town may prove more than these brothers can handle. Love is in the air again in Juniper Ridge, but considering some of the secrets being kept under wraps, it also comes with complications.

It's currently #50 in Romance, with several great reviews. I'm excited to read it.  If this sounds like something you're interested in reading, you can download your free Kindle copy here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lives Can Change In An Instant

photo credit: Scott Hudson * via photopin cc 

Today, I was thinking about the events of 9/11 and how instantly so many lives were changed.  As we were driving home yesterday from the grocery store, I thought to myself, how many people were just going about, doing their normal routine things on September 10, 2001?  No one could have predicted how the world would change just twenty-four hours later.

As I tucked my kids in bed last night, I thought about all the parents who weren't able to tuck their children in ever again.  And all those parents who were holding their children close, trying to comfort them while searching for the words to explain what had happened.

This morning, while I ate breakfast with my little ones, I thought about how I would change my goodbye as they went out the door, if I knew that was the last time we'd be together.

If nothing else, today's date reminds me that my life isn't a guarantee.  Being with my family isn't a given. Life can change in an instant.  Hold it close.  Hold those you love close and tell them what they mean to you.

Never forget the lessons of 9/11.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Head-Hopping--Don't Give Your Readers Whiplash

Today's stop on the blog tour is at I Love to Read and Review Books. They have a Ten Fun Things to Know About Julie Coulter Bellon.  Some of those things are definitely trivia facts! (You can read them here!) As for Fun Fact #3, do any of you even remember Bryan Adams?  Just curious.

photo credit: piccalilli days via photopin cc 

Since I don't have a word count to report, I want to talk to you today about head-hopping, or changing point of view in the story.  So, for example, we could be reading the thoughts of the hero, and then we change to being inside the head of the heroine.  Make sense?

The book I'm reading now (which I won't name because I'm using it as an example) has a TON of head-hopping. The bad guy, the guards who guard the bad guy, the kid, the hero, the heroine, her dead husband's best friend, the maid, the innkeeper, EVERYONE has a point of view in this story. It is driving me crazy to read it because I can't keep all the points of view straight and I've had to go back a paragraph or two every time we switch to see whose thoughts I'm reading. (Because there is NO warning that we've switched. Ever.)  So confusing.

Not only is this difficult for a reader, it also distances the reader from truly experiencing the story.  I can't get close to the heroine's thoughts and identify with her because I only get a paragraph or two of her before we're thrown into her maid's thoughts and then the villain's thoughts.  I really want to get to know her and her reactions to the conflict and I can't do that with a paragraph here and a paragraph there.

It also makes it difficult to go beyond surface emotions when the hero and heroine aren't given top billing.  How can the hero express any real emotion or turmoil when he's barely given two or three minutes on the page?  It doesn't do the story justice.  (And this particular book has a good story, but a terrible delivery because of the head-hopping.)

So, my soapbox today to writers is, please don't head-hop to every Tom, Dick, and Harry in your book. Give yourself time to explore the hero and heroine's feelings, emotions, and reactions.  Don't shortchange yourself or your story by trying to cram everyone's point of view into the book.  Stay with the ones who matter so your readers can come to care about your characters and what they're going through.  You don't want your story to feel like you're trying to tell your best friend what's going on in your life, only to have fifty interruptions until you finally give up.

Point of view is integral to a good story. Use it wisely with only those who need to have it to tell your story in its best light.