Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Castles and Caverns: Zeld and the Invaders" by JD Raisor

Last winter when I was traveling all over the state talking to students about being a writer, and teaching writing assemblies, I made a memorable (if insanely long) trip to the Four Corners area. Since we were broke, as most new writers are, my husband posted a request from his friends to see if anyone knew someone who would put me up for a night in that area. Yeah, I thought it was a little scary too, when I heard.

However, my good friend Karen Hoover hooked me up with this family in Blanding who had put her up on a similar trip in the previous year. JD Raisor and his wife some of the sweetest, nicest people on the planet. They fed me meals, came to my sparsely attended speaking opportunity at the college library (which his wife arranged for me), visited when I signed books the next evening at the grocery store, and gave me directions to the tiny school I spoke at in the day in between.They didn't know me or anything about me, but it didn't make a difference to them. And, of course, while I was there, we talked about books (because writers always talk about books when they get together--it's like the law or something.)

Today I got word that JD's first book is finally in print. Check it out:

Zeld has never done anything grand with his life, like fighting a dragon or riding on a cloud to London to save the king. But in an age of magic and mystical creatures, his life is about to change as he emerges from exile to attend the Castles and Caverns School of Knighthood.

The Hesse family, on the other hand, has long awaited his return and are only too glad to greet him with innocent smiles on their faces and sharpened daggers behind their backs.

The book's gotten some great reviews including:

"JD Raisor has crafted an imaginative fantasy filled to the brim with magical characters, boyhood humor, lasting friendships, never-ending loyalty, and a battle of cunning powers. Castles and Caverns - Zeld and the Invaders is a rousing read from beginning to end." Cindy A. Christiansen, multi-published fiction author
"Zeld and the Invaders is an intricately woven story full of adventure and rife with danger." Cheri Chesley, author of The Peasant Queen.

Read an excerpt and learn more about the author on his website.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tons of awesome giveaways!

Okay, seriously, there are giveaways everywhere right now, so I thought I'd highlight a few.

First, my critique partner Tristi Pinkston's second book in the Secret Sisters cozy mystery series is coming out in about a month, and to celebrate, she's giving away something different EVERY day this month. Seriously, including an awesome stay at a hotel. She'll even be giving away a copy of either of my books in ebook format (though if you live in the U.S. and would really rather a hard copy, that could be arranged). Check it out here.

My friend Rebecca Blevins is celebrating the end of Nanowrimo, in which she finally wrote "The End" on her very first manuscript. Go Rebecca! She's giving away an adorable set of play food on her blog, great if you have little girls.

Stop by Valerie Ipson's blog to find out how to win one of three copies of Stephanie Humphrey's new book, Finding Rose, the first book for this romance writer. You can learn how to enter here.

Author and potter Carolyn Thayne Warburton is giving away this awesome pitcher she made in conjunction with the release of her new book, Sun Tunnels and Secrets. You can find out how to enter here.

Kathy is giving away a copy of Daron Fraley's YA book, The Thorn on her blog. You can check this out here.

Another critique partner of mine, Nichole Giles, is giving away a cute bracelet and a cell phone charm on her blog--but hurry because the contest ends tonight!

For any writers out there, Gotham Writer's Workshop is giving away a TON of fun writing equipment and paraphernalia on their website. The contest runs through January 1.

Also, LDS Women's Book Review does a big set of giveaways for great, clean books for the whole family every year called Countdown to Christmas. They had scads of books up for grabs, so definitely check it out here. They also do podcasts about the books they love with interviews with authors, which you can find here.

I already missed a bunch of great giveaways last month because I'm such a slacker, but there should be something here for just about everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What, December already?

I'm not sure where the past few weeks have gone except that they seem to have melted away much faster than the snow in my yard is likely to do. In the past few weeks I've completed the second draft of my Nano project and am more than halfway through a third draft (can I say how amazingly fast this has happened, earth-shatteringly fast, seriously.) I attended a seriously awesome EMT conference in Salt Lake City with teachers from around the country and participants coming from at least 7 states. I've worked a lot, dealt with a major snow storm last weekend, and actually found time to run on the ambulance a little too.

One of my online writing groups--the first one I ever joined--had 32 people participate in NaNoWriMo this year, at least half again as many as joined us last year. Our group's total words written for the month is, drumroll, 1,144,102. Yes, that is over seven figures. Incredible, I know. We had fifteen people actually write the full 50K or more, and at leas half of the others added a minimum of 20K to their manuscripts--not too shabby considering the time of year. Honestly, this was such a huge revelation for me. I've known for a few years that I work best when I can punch out a huge amount of writing in a short time, but November has always been so terrible for me, so I've never 'won' at NaNoWriMo. This year I finished my first draft in eight day, then went back to fill it out and add all of the extra details that make a story interesting, and I found that as the month progressed, it got harder and harder to get any writing done, simply because my schedule went completely out of whack.

As for the project itself, all I have to say is wow, I never knew writing mysteries could be so much fun! I have ideas for upcoming books in the series and look forward to peeling back more layers on some of the minor characters who will be playing bigger roles in later books. At the same time I'm a little freaked out. What if the next story I try ends up being totally bad? What if I get in a rut (can you call it a rut if there are only two books?) and can't come up with a fresh angle for the story? And can I say how excited I am with the twist at the end of this one--I totally thought I knew who the murderer was until I went to write the climax and then, hello, I was so wrong! I love it when the characters surprise me.

As for my conference, it was a blast. I admit, I had just come from working graveyard shifts several days in a row and then switched to early morning classes, which meant I struggled to stay awake a few times, even though the teachers were fantastic, and I didn't do anything in the evenings but sleep, which meant I got none of those fun errands done that I had planned (like seeing the new Harry Potter movie, which I still haven't done. My honey and I are going north tomorrow, maybe we'll catch it while we're up there). I came back on Saturday evening and went right back to graveyards that night, so it's taken until yesterday to get my sleep schedule back into a normal rhythm, but it was worth it.

The word blizzard was thrown around like crazy early last week because of a major storm that was coming through Utah. Strangely it nearly fizzled as it crossed south into Utah Valley, and left only a few inches down the rest of the state. Ironically, hardly anyone discussed the big storm on Sunday, and it left a good foot in my yard and made the roads barely passable (if you wanted to take double the usual time to get anywhere) the entire length of the state. Slide-offs, roll overs, and stranded drivers galore. Thankfully there were no major accidents in my area.

Now I look forward to Christmas, and I'm starting to think, hey, maybe I ought to buy a present or two because seriously, we've done zero shopping. How did it get to be December so quickly? Five o'clock already and I have a huge to-do list to accomplish before the city rolls up the sidewalks in an hour. I love small town life.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

First drafts can be fun!

I did warn you all that I'd disappear when November arrived, right? Well NaNoWriMo has been engrossing, exciting and exhausting. And for the first time ever, I've actually completed the 50K challenge while it's still November. Yes, it is only the 9th, so I've had a phenomenal week of writing.

Though I've worked on other books with mystery elements, this is the first time I've written something that was supposed to be a mystery before I even started writing, and it's been so much fun! The story is about Tess, a renown pastry chef who quits her job when she finds her boss/fiance kissing another employee. She drives to the small town of Silver Springs, Arizona, where her best friend since they were six immediately starts hassling her to stay and open a custom desserts shop. A wedding, a murder, and possible arrest hang over her head as she's drawn into the search for what really happened that night. My first draft is way short for me at 58,000 words, but most of it is straight dialogue, so as I flesh out the scenes and add things the story needs to become complete, I'll probably end up back around 90K, which seems to be the usual length for me.

I have to tell you that the last quarter of a book is usually the hardest for me to write (I've probably said that before). But last weekend I attended a writing retreat in Park City with fifteen of my closest friends--well, okay, honestly I hadn't met some of them before this, but that's beside the point. Since I was slightly over halfway through my first draft, then I had a good reason to force myself to keep writing through the hardest part of the story. If I felt lost, that's fine, find something else to write, because we were having a speed competition and I had to find something to work on. Uncertain about someone's motives, write it anyway, and see what they tell you.

I know, that probably seems odd if you aren't a writer--you probably think we decide everything, and boss the characters around, but once in a while they push back. For example: I couldn't get my climax scene to work where Tess and the killer came head to head. I kept trying to write it and it just wasn't working. Then I had a brilliant moment when I realized I was trying to make the WRONG character the murderer! How did I not realize that I'd screwed up the investigation? As soon as I changed the angle, suddenly it all came together. And it was easy and fun (and it probably stinks, but that's okay, first drafts always stink!)

Funny how the idea of writing murder mysteries overwhelmed and terrified me a few weeks back. I think I'm going to have to play with this genre a lot more in the future.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Three days left until Nanowrimo take over

In three more days it'll be November, and if you're a writer, you probably know what that means: NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. (Never heard of it before? Go to NaNoWrimo.org to learn more) I know, like I need to start another story before I've polished up the ones I've got in the pipeline, but I'm a lemming, so I'm gearing up for the challenge. November has always been a rough month for me to do this challenge because there are so many things going on, but I have an idea I've been exploring, and have started a very basic plotline (very, very basic), along with some character sketches. I still need to write The End on SAB, but I think I'm only a few scenes away from finishing my rough draft of that, and I'll need to let it sit for a few weeks before I start serious edits so I can forget most of the details and see it all with 'fresh' eyes. Yes, writers really say crazy things like that.

Now, to celebrate Nano, I've been checking out some Youtube videos, and I thought you might enjoy this one:


This one isn't nearly as much fun, but it explains what Nano is all about and gives you a few tips if you want to join us.



There are lots of others, so pop over and do a search. Oh, and feel free to join me in the insanity!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Politics, writing, and my life

Can I say that I'm a complete and utter blogging slacker? On the other hand, I've had some interesting things going on. My husband is running for county auditor, and he's been sick for the past week--thankfully he's finally starting to feel better--and since he was unable to get out last week I got to attend Meet Your Candidate in both Fillmore and Delta in his place.

I've never been to a Meet your Candidate meeting before and didn't expect to see so many people there-on the stage or in the audience. The Fillmore meeting was held at noon (insane hour, if you ask me, bu no one did) and it seemed like four hundred people attended, but it was probably more like a hundred and fifty--which is still quite good for such a small town. There were 22 candidates (or their representatives) in attendance, including a couple who were running unopposed--which surprised me because it was the last place I wanted to be and if I were running unopposed I don't know if I would have attended.

My tiny little area has hit the news quite a bit recently with allegations of misconduct in the Sheriff's department, rumors about some of the other positions, and today another scandal came out about the local judge, so it's been an interesting election season here. Thankfully despite the way-too-juicy opportunities, the mudslinging has been nearly non-existent. The meeting in Delta was smaller, though that might have been because there was nowhere else to sit, rather than because there was less interest from citizens.

I also finished the mystery novel (Danica's story--which totally needs a title) that I was working on, which still needs a significant edit, but is more or less fully written. I'm going to let it settle until the end of November (Nanowrimo time is nearly here, after all) and then go over it again with a fresh pair of eyes.

Then, of course, instead of getting back to SAB, which I've been taking to my critique group for most of the summer, I had a great new mystery series idea and spent most of last week doing character sketches and backgrounds, and using Google Earth to locate a spot for the fictitious town in Texas where I'm going to set the book (I LOVE Google Earth!). I even wrote almost 5,500 words on it to establish the characters and setting in my mind so it'll be easier to com back to. Now I've set that aside again so I can get back to SAB--I need to do some more writing before I tweak up the chapter for my critique group this week and make sure I'm headed in the right direction.

Meanwhile I've been trying to lose some weight and joined some fun ladies in the Game On! diet, which means I'm eating five small meals a day, (something that's driving me a bit batty if only because of the kinds of foods and portions I'm supposed to each at each meal, but I'm getting used to it) I have continued to drop weight slow but steady, so I'm going to keep working in this direction. The biggest frustration for me is that I want to try out some new recipes I'm thinking about including in a book I'm working on, but cupcakes and pizza don't really fit in my diet, so I'll have to plan out the day that I test recipes in advance, and hope things don't conspire against me.

All right, back to writing. I need to get this draft done before November starts--National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) will kick in at midnight on November 1st and I'm ready to plow into that new mystery series. For more information on NaNoWriMo, check out their website--they even have a different set of rules for busy students who want to participate.

Oh, and if any of you are going to be in Fillmore this Saturday, I'll be signing books with Jewel Adams at the annual boutique, which is being held in the high school girls gym from 10 am to 3 pm.

Friday, October 1, 2010

October writing challenge

It's October, time once again for Tristi's Quarterly Writing Challenge. She tells us we must post our goals on our blogs, so here they are:

I know my August goal was to finish writing SAB---but I didn't. So that's on my to-do list. To get it to my normal length it would take about 30K, but I don't think it's going to get that long, so I'll just be happy when it's done! Current word count 54,588.

Also, the reason I didn't finish SAB yet is because I started rewriting (practically from scratch) a mystery/suspense novel in late August. (Which I didn't realize was supposed to be a mystery until I was 40K into this version--because I'm just that thick.) I need about 20,000 more words to finish it. Current word count 69,860.

And if I happen to have extra time left over (haha), I still need to one a final polish on FBD so it'll be ready to submit as soon as I know where I'll be sending it.

That's all, nothing much on my plate, right? Okay, now I need to go get ready for work. Have a fab night, all!

Click the link at the top of the page if you want to join the challenge, write, edit, or anything else you need to accomplish in October!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I recently started a nearly full-time job, which has my schedule all mixed up and robbed lots of my free time, so my blogging may continue to be less regular than it once was, and I apologize about that. I'm just trying to keep my golf balls all where they belong.

I know we've all heard people say they wish they could do xyz--if only they had more time. Then they sit in front of the computer playing video games, or 'have' to watch the latest episode of 24--but they don't 'have time' for that dream that stands out of reach (authors hear this constantly from people who have just been wanting to write a book for their whole lives, but the same could be said of people who always wanted to learn how to cook, or play the piano, or put in a garden or any other worthy goal).

For most everyone, time is what they make of it--and I just received this fun email (sorry, I have no idea where it originated from, but if you do, I'd be more than happy to credit the writer), and thought I'd share it before I get back to working on my new manuscript:

The Mayonnaise Jar

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle,

When 24 hours in a day is not enough;

remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class

and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly,

he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar

and start to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured

it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.

The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again

if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand

and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded

With an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table

and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively

filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided,

'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things - God, family,

children, health, friends, and favorite passions

Things that if everything else was lost

and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else --

The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued,

'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff,

You will never have room for the things that are

important to you.

So...

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Play with your children.

Take time to get medical checkups.

Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time

to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.

'Take care of the golf balls first --

The things that really matter.

Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand

and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.

'I'm glad you asked'.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,

there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'


I'm waiting anxiously to hear back on the submission for my third book in my current series and hope to have an answer in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, I have several other writing irons in the fire that I'm going to keep working on.

Also in my busy past week: several ambulance calls, bottling and drying two boxes of pears, signing books at the Authorpalooza at Barnes & Noble, a temple trip, and trying to squeeze by on not-quite-enough sleep. Current word count of my newest WIP--my first mystery/suspense book: 53,062.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book review: Gregg Luke's "Blink of an Eye"

I first became acquainted with Gregg's work last winter when I read his Whitney Award finalist book, Altered State (check out my review here). He's a talented writer with a gift for details, description, great plots, likable characters...I could go on and on. I was thrilled when he offered to send me a copy of his new book, Blink of an Eye for review.

The book is about Joseph Ramirez, middle school science teacher, who is in a debilitating car accident that should have killed him. Due to his crushed skull, he spends three weeks in a coma, then another five weeks in the hospital recovering. During this time he starts having disturbing dreams about his childhood. Dreams so real, he believes they are actually repressed memories.

Though Joseph had always believed he'd had a happy childhood, the feelings of fear and visions of violence in his dreams tell a different story. With the help of defense attorney Michelle Haas, and a great therapist, he delves into the truth of his past, finding truths he never would have suspected, and raising more questions--was he actually guilty of the murder his hospital roommate says he confessed to?

I thoroughly enjoyed this story (in case you didn't already pick up on that). The plot is intriguing, has plenty of twists and is obviously well researched. The details and descriptions are vivid and real, but the scenes of violence are largely sounds heard in the background and emotions the child-Joseph felt, so they shouldn't be at all difficult for any but the very most sensitive readers. My only issue is that he has Joseph's hispanic mother speaking to him in accented English instead of in Spanish (as she almost certainly would have been when they held private conversations), but the light dialect Gregg gives her makes it easy to keep this woman's background and history in mind with every sentence and makes her more real too, so that's just a tiny quibble. I love that she's constantly trying to push him toward a relationship--as long as the woman is "e'Spanish" like he is--and that she thinks his LDS conversion nine months earlier is just a phase he'll grow out of.

If you haven't read any of Gregg's books, go check them out on his website, or pick one up at a store--you can't go wrong. I expect he's got another serious contender for this year's Whitney finalists!

P.S., if you have read any great new LDS fiction released in 2010 that you think deserve to be considered for an award, visit the Whitney website listed above and nominate it!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Video of an editor giving feedback to an author

Just had to share this funny Youtube video of a writer talking to an editor and trying to get feedback, sort of. It's a total spoof, but sometimes feedback can feel just this specific!







Also, there's still a little time left to enter the Stone Traveler blog contest where you can win a KINDLE--yes, really. Check out my previous post for directions.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: "The Stone Traveler" by Kathi Oram Peterson

Kathi is having a contest in conjunction with her blog tour, so read to the bottom to learn how to enter--the grand prize is a Kindle--I know, I wish I could enter!

Sixteen-year-old Tag can't believe he's in this much trouble. He's not actually a member of the gang known as the Primes-all he did was spray paint some graffiti that caught their attention. In all honesty, ever since his dad and brother left, Tag just wants to be alone. And it's certainly not his fault that the Primes nearly beat up his goofy cousin, Ethan. But his mom is furious about these gang-related activities and insists that Tag spend the whole summer at his grandpa's lakeside cabin, which is not Tag's idea of a good time. So he does what any self-respecting teenager would do: run away. But he doesn't get far before he encounters three strange men carrying an even stranger object-a stone that glows with radiant light as bright as a thousand sparklers.

Tag doesn't steal the stone-not exactly. He feels like he is supposed to take it. But he doesn't expect the stone to transport him through space and time to a place he's never seen before-a place that looks an awful lot like the ancient lands described in the Book of Mormon. And he definitely doesn't expect to join Sabirah, the entrancing daughter of Samuel the Lamanite, on a quest to rescue her father and brother from the evil King Jacob. And he absolutely doesn't expect to be captured by Jacob's minions and prepared as a sacrifice to the evil idol of the city. But just as Tag faces his death, a terrible storm begins to break, and the ground cracks into jagged pieces. And he's not sure which event will impact his life more: his captor's knife coming at his body, the violent tempest sweeping the land . . . Or the men who later appear, glowing even more brightly than the traveler's stone.

I read Kathi's previous Book of Mormon time-traveler story, so I knew I was going to enjoy this one, and I wasn't at all disappointed. Tag wears makeup and black clothes because he wants a little rebellion, but not enough to actually get into trouble (if you don't count his, um, efforts at giving beautiful artwork to the community, aka vandalism). He's a good kid making decisions that could easily take him somewhere he doesn't want to be. Then he re-appropriates the strange glowing stone and finds himself in another place and time.

Tag is adaptable, courageous, and a little confused, but very likable. The plot moves quickly, provides plenty of action and provides just enough historical context to keep the reader immersed in the story without feeling like the plot was contrived to show off how much research the writer did (a major irritation of mine when it comes to historical books). Instead it felt genuine and intrigued me.

Here's the book trailer:



And here's the info for the contest:

The Stone Traveler - Blog Tour Contest

When: Weekdays in September.

Important Rule: Leave a comment on "every" site on the tour.

Monday through Friday commenter names will be collected from the blog tour. On Saturday a name will be drawn to win a prize that includes a very cuddly toy jaguar; a stone necklace; and chocolates with the flavor of South America—real cacao and chili. The winner will be announced on the following Monday.

The GRAND prize for The Stone Traveler blog tour will be a (drumroll, please) Kindle. The cutoff to be eligible is midnight on September 30. The winner will be announced October 4th. If you find the tour midway through and want to participate, you can still go back and comment on every blog simply by going to www.kathiswritingnook.com. Starting in September the sidebar will list each stop on the tour as they are posted, making it very easy to click to any of the sites and leave a comment. AND even if you’ve already won one of the weekly drawings, your name will still go in the jar for the Kindle.



You can learn more about the author and where else to stop on the blog tour at her blog.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Proofreading


I know, it' only funny because it's true. I used to work at a newspaper, and they would post signs in the bathroom reminding us about meetings and such. The signs often had misspellings and homonym problems. And as the copy editors often had pens on them (read:us) they also often had corrections in red pen.

Right now I'm proofreading the third book in my series and am hoping to get it submitted really soon. Once I get it done I promise to return to more normal blog posts.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August goals and upcoming appearances

July is over and I'm pretty happy with the goals I reached as I added 30,000 words to my WIP and finished two other edits. August is just beginning so it's time to set new ones--two goals this month:

1) finish my rough draft of SAB

2) Get over the heartbreak of red ink dripping from the pages of Shelly's story (Which has been through so many edits, it really ought to be perfect by now) and get the edits done (yes, I edited it last month, yes, it needs another round). Submit before month's end.

Oh, and 3) Come up with a real title for that book, because Shelly's story, isn't very interesting.

That done, I have a full few days ahead of me.

Tomorrow, Friday and Saturday I'll be at a booth at the Millard County Fair with D.N Giles selling our books. Well, I'll be leaving a bit early tomorrow because I have an event at the LDS Bookseller's Association Convention tomorrow night mingling with other authors and bookstore owners. I admit, getting together with other writers is one of my favorite parts of this job. There's always something I can learn, a fun new personality to become familiar with, hints and tricks being shared.

If the fair goes well, Nichole and I will be hitting a few more before fair season ends. I'm also gearing up for a round of visits to young women's meetings, Relief Society enrichments, book clubs and more. If you're looking for a speaker, drop me a line and we'll see if we can work out a date.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reaching July's goals!

I know I've been a complete blogging slacker this month. I'm going to blame my laptop being in for repairs for the past few weeks for part of my slackerliness because using my husband's computer is a major pain (and I can't always get it online).

But my near-absence from all thing online has brought forth good fruit.

1) I submitted a manuscript earlier this month. I should get a response, oh, sometimes around Christmas. *sigh* I hate waiting.

2) I have another book edited and sent out for a last round of critiques from the fabulous Tristi Pinkston (so I am bound to be gnashing my teeth and wailing when I get it back, but hey, what's a good book without a lot of teeth gnashing in it's super-secret history?)

3) Despite two family weddings, a family reunion, the Fourth of July (and the accompanying time spent in the fireworks stand), and the computer issues this month, I have added no less than 30,00 words to my next manuscript--Yay me!

The top two items and a 10,00 word minimum were my goals for Tristi's Challenges quarterly challenge, so I'm pretty darn happy (and was I supposed to blog about my goal like four weeks ago? Whoops--that's what happens when I disappear off the blog-o-spere.)

I had some great experiences this month, from weddings, to EMT trainings, to cool family history moments--so I have plenty to blog about in the next week or two. Tomorrow I head north to work with my sister Kristi on my sister Pauline's totally nontraditional topsy-turvy wedding cake for her wedding Saturday--this is going to be fun!

Also, I got some great reviews on "Rebound" this month, crowned with the very awesome review from Jennie Hansen at Meridian Magazine, which you can find here. I'll share an awesome quote (and promise to post links and quotes from a couple of other reviews next week when it's not the wee hours of the night.)

"The plot is well crafted, fast, and fun. I enjoyed Justesen's down-to-earth, easy dialog and style. The characters are multi-dimensional and show growth as the novel progresses." --Jennie Hansen

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review: "Leaning Into the Curves"

Nancy Anderson and Carrol Hofeling Morris are two parts of a trio of ladies whose writing careers melded with their series The Company of Good Women, written with Lael Littke. With this new venture, Nancy and Carrol explored a side of LDS life I hadn't known existed.

It was funny, because at my last writer's conference I sat at a lunch table with these three women, as they chatted, discussing someone and a trial they were going through. Then a thought occurred to me and I turned to the ladies, "Hey can I ask a question?"

"Sure."

"Are you talking about a real person, or one of your characters?"

Of course they had been discussing a character for a story they were working on as if she were real--which she was to them! We writers are weird people!

Here's the blurb:

Molly is happy with her life the way it is, but everything changes when her husband, Hank, retires. When Hank brings home a Gold Wing motorcycle and joins the Temple Riders Association, a “Mormon motorcycle gang” that combines road trips with temple work, things go from bad to worse. Faced with the prospect of being left behind as Hank hits the road with his new group of friends, Molly starts making some changes of her own.


A funny, often poignant, look at the challenges of reinventing life after sixty.

I reviewed the last book in The Company of Good Women series when it came out and was impressed with the way the three women wove their talents together to create books with three point-of-view characters. I've heard more than once that co-writing is actually more work than writing a book alone, especially when you have to meld writing styles. I attributed much of their previous success to the fact that they were writing from three different points of view--and that the three characters *ought* to have different styles of thought and speech.

That left me wondering how these ladies would tackle a book that is all in a single point of view. They did it well, so well there was no discernible change in writing style that I could see. Maybe that comes from years of writing as a team, or maybe it comes from diligent and thorough editing. Either way, I'm very impressed!

I liked that Molly had a good reason for her hatred of motorcycles, that her feelings about them were well established long before her husband brought his Gold Wing home. I love that she was always taking classes and playing with different hobbies--I think many women get so bogged down with our homes and families that we forget to keep stretching ourselves and pushing to learn more and be more. And I appreciated the book's message that things change, and even though we hadn't planned a change in our lives, if we're willing to lean into the curves, we can grow and stretch and find something more out there than we ever expected.

This is another great read by Nancy and Carroll with realistic characters, a complex plot, and plenty of life's lessons along the way!

Monday, June 28, 2010

New baby birds in the barn yard

Tonight I got a fun surprise when I went out to collect eggs and check on my birds. First I came across a tiny white chick--which stupid idiot that I am, took me several minutes to realize it was actually a guinea keet. This was totally exciting since I've incubated dozens of guinea eggs this summer and not hatched a one. Last week I had two geese, two ducks, a guinea, and a chicken all sitting on nests. Oh wait--make that two chickens, yes, that's a lot of nesting mommies.

A few minutes after I found the keet running around I found one of my duck hens running around--with five tiny ducklings following after her! Okay, seriously, that's the coolest thing ever, and she's being such a great little mommy. It's too bad I really can't keep any more ducks (One has to set a limit sometime, right?) and I have someone who wants some ducklings, so I'll let her play mommy for a few more days before I take them away. The thought makes me sad, but I know the lady who wants them and the little quackers will have a lot of fun running through her huge, gorgeous back yard.

Cute, aren't they? Baby ducklings are the cutest things ever!

In other news, I did a fun interview with Nichole Giles on her book blog, and Diony George reviewed Rebound on her blog, here's a quote from her blog: "Rebound is a well-written, clean, and engaging romance novel that held my attention from the first chapter on."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Final winners for my giveaway!

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway this week. It's been a blast! here are the final three prizes in the giveaway chosen by Random.org--

Santa Maybe goes to Stephanie Humphreys!

Keeping Keller goes to Valerie Ipson!

And the Scrapmabob goes to Elizabeth Morgan!

Congratulations ladies! I'll contact you to get your mailing addresses.

And two more stops on the blog tour: Jenn Wilks reviewed Rebound on her blog, and said this: "The characters were rich and the issues were pretty complex."

And Tamara Hart Heiner reviewed it on her blog. She said: "Overall, it was a fun read, and romance is always fun because it helps us remember the feelings of falling in love with our own dear ones."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday's winners!

Thursday's prizes include The Wednesday Letters, and Divinely Designed--both books I added to my personal shelf.

The Wednesday Letters goes to Brendajean

Divinely Designed goes to Melissa Seager!

Congratulations, ladies! I'll be getting in touch with you to get your mailing addresses!

And in the Summer Treasure Hunt winner for yesterday was Cydni Tongish of Utah! There are still a couple of weeks left to enter this contest, check this out to see what prizes are being given away and how to enter!

Today's bog tour stop is Mary Gray, who said "For me, this was a great reminder of true romance."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cool celebration cake and yesterday's contest winners!

You may be aware that I often go in search of cake ideas, and reasons to make cake (my husband not being much of a cake eater, and me not wanting to eat whole cakes by myself, excuses to give cakes away are always welcome). Thus I've been happy to take advantage of the fact that my critique group has given me several excuses this past year or so to make cakes for THEM! Cakes for book launches have be great fun. You can see some of those cakes here, here, here, and here. Well, my friend Nichole Giles decided while she was doing a gorgeous cake for her neices's wedding this week, that she would do one to celebrate my book launches (because, as she said, I'm always making them for other people, but never for my own books).

Isn't it pretty? And it was completely tasty too! She said you have to heat the brick of chocolate to just the right temperature if you want it to curl and not crack, and she used four different implements to get the chocolate to curl in different shapes. She also said it took about seven hours to carve the 10lb block she used between my cake and her nieces wedding cake (which was gorgeous, by the way). Thanks Nichole, you're the bomb!

Now, for the winners of yesterday's drawing:

Wednesday's giveaway items included the book A Circle of Souls, and Shattered Silence.

A Circle of Souls goes to : Martha Lawson

And Shattered Silence goes to : Cassandra!

Thanks ladies, and I'll be contacting you to get your mailing addresses!

________
Great review for Rebound today from RaShelle Workman, which you can find in it's entirety here. She said: "From the beginning I was engaged. The characters were easy to connect with. I found myself laughing, enraged, happy, mystified and even crying."

Thanks RaShelle!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Mormon Miracle Pageant Rocks!

I took my niece with me to the Manti pageant last night because she's staying with us for a few weeks, is fourteen, and has never seen it. To be fair, my sister's family hasn't been in the country at this time of years since my niece was eight or nine, so I can't complain that her education has been neglected (which so completely wouldn't be true anyway, but that's beside the point).

Can I say Holey Moley, what a spectacle? I mean that in the best possible way, of course. Now, you have to understand that I've seen the pageant at least ten times, but not in the past twelve years. This year's pageant was bigger --900 actors, 200 of which were under the age of ten, and over 400 MORE of which were under the age of eighteen. (Just the thought of trying to organize that many kids and get them all where they need to be, when they need to be there, boggles my mind).

The scenery has had a major face lift since I attended last, and I have to say I was totally impressed. The props were so numerous it must take an army just to make sure everything gets where it's supposed to be (oh yeah, cast of 900, I guess they have an army). The costumes were great, and the special effects were completely impressive.

I don't know if I was just naive and simple last time I saw it, or if the production has really gotten that much bigger, but there must have been thousands of hours of work that went into this show. And the emotional impact of the story was amazing, as always. It was simply spectacular.

If you haven't been in a while, it runs through Saturday night and starts about 9:30 p.m. Plan for a very late night, but do go (oh, and take extra blankets and bug spray, because you'll need them.)

Now, for yesterday's winners in my drawing using Random.org!

Shawna Williams wins The Sister Pact!

And Miss Mae wins Running on Empty!

Congratulations ladies! More prizes to come over the next few days. If you haven't entered yet, pop over to Monday's post and find out how to enter!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bountiful Baskets is completely awesome! (and today's winners)

All right, so I admit, I don't tend to be the healthiest eater on the planet. Fruits and vegetables are expensive and take time to prepare, and well, I don't always think about adding them to my meals. Plus, going to the store--not high on my to-do list. A couple of months ago some friends of mine started talking about a program that runs through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Texas, and Washington called Bountiful Baskets. A bunch of us signed up on the site and they just added a drop-off location in our area a few weeks back.

Here's the deal, Every week you sign up for a basket--which is actually two baskets, one of fruits and one of veggies. You pay $15 by credit card over the net (plus a 10% handling fee, so really it's $16.50) and you get half fruits and half veggies. Of course you don't get to pick and choose, but you always get a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The first time we did this, we more-than filled one of those large camping coolers with the food we brought home. The second week the cooler was almost full, but it was still a ton of produce for $16.50.

The first week's offerings included 6 ears of corn, 2 large bunches of leaf lettuce, at least half a dozen baby bok choy, 8 or 10 medium potatoes (okay, maybe they're large, but I've seen some that feed whole families back when Clover Club's potatoes were grown in my area, so in my head, they're only medium!) 5 or 6 red peppers, 5 big tomatoes, a dozen or more small peaches, a large bag of red grapes, a 6-oz container of blackberries, 5 bananas, several apples, and a honeydew melon...I feel like I'm forgetting something, but can't remember what.

The second week we got a bunch of leaf lettuce, 1 lb of baby carrots, 2 stalks of broccoli, a big baggy of fresh green beans, five large tomatoes, 2 large avocados, six bananas, well over a dozen small red plums, 8-10 more peaches, another big bag of red grapes, about 2 lbs of fresh cherries, and a cantaloupe. Again, I may be missing something, but the list is pretty complete.

I know if I went to the store and bought all of that I would pay close to double the money--maybe more. The variety has been great, and I've had an excuse to try new dishes I never thought of before. Also, it forces me to think about adding fruits or veggies to just about every meal, because there are only two people in my household, and that's a lot of produce for two! if this sounds interesting to you, check out their website and find out if there's a drop-off location in your area!

Now, for Monday's winners of my giveaway!

Life in the Pit goes to Taffy!

Women of Virtue goes to kbrebes!

Thanks for entering ladies, I'll be sending you emails right off for your addresses!

Keeping those entries coming in, I still have nine items to give away!

_________________

Today's tour stop: Mary Gray's blog.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Big giveaway to celebrate my book release!

In celebration of the release of my new book, Rebound I'm giving away a bunch of books and some other great stuff! Okay, so it'll mostly be books because, well, they rock! I have books for a wide variety of genres and ages.

First up are Monday's prizes. We have Life in the Pit by Kristen Landon. This is a fun YA mystery about a young woman who plays the cello in the school orchestra. She's always felt second-best to her prettier, more-popular best friend, who has the lead in the school musical while Brittany is stuck in the orchestra pit. When things begin to go horribly wrong at practices they start to wonder who doesn't want the show to go on, and how far the perpetrator is willing to go.
The second book is Women of Virtue by Jodi Marie Robinson. In Women of Virtue beauty is redefined as a rare and priceless love of one's inner self. Learn the beauty of virtue with this book.
Tuesday's prizes!
The Sister Pact by Cami Checketts is the story of a woman's search for answers to what happened to her sister, who is in a coma. Mystery, adventure and romance ensue. I haven't actually read this book yet, but it was donated by Cami.

The second prize for Tuesday is Running on Empty: A Practical Guide to a Contented Life by J Burns Alston. In it, the author gives 12 ground-breaking tips for navigating the road of life and the obstacles you'll face.

Wednesday's prizes!
We have two more fun books today--First up is A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi. Seven-year-old Naya begins having dreams of grisly murders and drawing pictures of them. The pictures are the only clues the police have to find the murderer. Sounds fabulous, doesn't it? I might have to go buy another copy so I can read it myself!

The other story, Shattered Silence by Melissa G. Moore with Bridget Cook, (wow, I totally didn't intend this) is about a real serial killer. Well, okay, it's about his daughter's story and all of the times she felt impressed to do or say things that saved her life. It's been on national television shows like Oprah and Good Morning America. .

Thursday's prizes!
We'll start with New York Times bestseller The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright. It's about a man who sends his wife letters every Wednesday--thousands of them pile up during his lifetime, but when their children find them after both parents are dead, they will be brought face-to-face with a life-changing moment of truth. This one is hard back, and I haven't read it yet, but I have an extra copy just for me!

Second is Rachel Renee Anderson's book Divinely Designed, which has done brilliantly since it's release. It's about an interior designer who's starting life over in a new town and a flat tire causes a chance encounter that takes her life on a whole different road. I have a particular interest in this one, as the book I'm preparing to submit to my publisher this week also has an interior designer (though I promise, there's nothing in mine about flat tires.)
Friday's prizes!
Friday we have three prizes. Two books and a Scrapmabob.

First is Audrey Mace's book Santa Maybe. Yes, I know this is Christmas themed, but whoever said you can't read books with some Christmas love in them unless it's Christmastime? Whoever it was, hasn't read this book because it's totally cute and fun. It was a Whitney finalist for 2009, and completely deserved it. After her neice convinces Abbie to write to Santa and ask for a husband, she is surprised to find a man sleeping under her Christmas tree. Had Santa really left her a man, or is it all a hoax? Much witty dialogue and manifold cupcakes ensue (have I ever mentioned how much I love cupcakes?)
The next book is Keeping Keller by Tracy Winegar.This is a great story about a couple who have a handicapped son who can be difficult to manage. It takes place in 1955 when most people institutionalized their handicapped children, but the parents in the story chose not to. After a disasterous incident, they struggle to keep their family together. I haven't read this book yet (it's on my very, very tall to-be-read stack) but I've heard wonderful things about it.
And lastly we have the Scrapmabob: Create a mess free work area! Avoid destructive rings in your project area. The ScrapMaBob™ is a drink holder & trash bag in one. Holds 32 ounces and fits on most countertops and tables! Made of durable steel construction. This is very popular with scrapbookers and crafters.
Okay, now you know what you can win, here's how to enter:

First, for one entry simply leave a comment on this post. Make sure I can reach you, either through a blog or by leaving an email address where I can contact you. If I don’t hear back from you within 24 hours, I’ll draw again.

Next, for two entries, post on your blog about the giveaway, and link them back to this post (the permalink, not the general blog address), then leave me a comment saying that you’ve done so.

For two more entries, post a link to the contest on your Facebook account or on Twitter. If you aren’t my friend on Facebook or if your Twitter account is blocked, you’ll have to friend me so I can check out your post. Each day you post up about the contest you can earn another two points for each location.

For four entries, post this cute blog button in your sidebar for the week, with a link back to this post.
And finally, if you sign up for my newsletter (which I promise only goes out a handful of times a year) on my website here you get three points!

That's A LOT of chances to win!

If you want to do several things in one blog post, I’m totally good with that. Just make sure to let me know by email, or a comment on this post what you’ve done so I can make sure and get your entries listed. I’ll post back here every day with the winners!

Today's tour stop:

Christine Bryant's blog.

And the completely awesome quote from her: "For me, this book had everything I want in a good read. Great characters. Incredible voice. Just the right amount of suspense and intrigue, and of course, that romantic element we all love. "

Thanks Christine!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Trapped" by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

A forged letter, a golden vial, an ancient curse...

Her expression remained somber, but excitement crept into her voice. You are the Firstborn She...You must go to them. You want me to act as bait? Not bait, Emi. A spy. Our Trojan horse.

When Emi Warrin wakes one night to find a thief in her mother's house, she has no idea the intruder has planted a trap - a mysterious letter that will change her life forever. Lured to the Austrian Alps with Daniel, the man she loves, Emi is thrown into a perilous, mafia-like world of feuding families and a devastating curse that spans generations. As the Firstborn She - the only firstborn female in hundreds of years - only Emi can free her family from the curse that will soon afflict her as well. But for Emi to break the curse, she must delve into evil designs.

As Emi struggles to understand her destiny as the Firstborn She, she learns that everything isn't as it seems and that all choices have consequences. Can Emi break the curse before it's too late?

This is Ronda Hinrichsen's second suspense novel in less than a year. I found it thoroughly entertaining with plenty of twists and turns, including one at the end that took me totally by surprise--and that's a hard thing to do. I almost always guess who's responsible way before the main character does. On the other hand, I thought Emi was a tad naive and trusting considering she went to the castle knowing she shouldn't trust anyone she met. Still, the characters are interesting, the descriptions vivid, and the book kept my attention to the very end. I look forward to seeing what else Ronda's got up her sleeve.

You can learn more about Ronda and her books, including reading an excerpt, on her website.

_________________
Here are some more great reviews of Rebound!

"I really enjoyed reading Rebound and following the lives of the people I grew to love in The Ball’s in Her Court. It was great to be able to look down the road and see how things turned out for everyone. I felt Heather was able to wrap up everyone’s story very nicely. I look forward to more of her books in the future." --M.R. Bunderson read the rest of the review here.

"Heather Justesen weaves a complicated tale of deceit mixed with a good dose of romance and does it very well." --Mary Greathouse reviewed it on her blog.

"I was riveted from the first page as I traveled along the emotional roller coaster with Lily, the main character. "--posted by Kim Job

Also, LDS Woman's Book Review posted up some interview questions from me on their blog today. You can check it out here. They're also giving away some great prizes, so check it out and enter to win some cool new books.

Speaking of winning, in the Summer Treasure Hunt today, Colleen of Arizona won a copy of my book "The Ball's in Her Court." Congratulations Colleen! There are still a couple of weeks left to enter to win the prizes, which are being given away everyday.

Also, I'm having a bunch of fun giveaways here on my blog next week, at least a couple of books everyday--check back and enter to win!

Monday, June 14, 2010

New reviews of Rebound!

The past couple of weeks have been fun for me: filled with book signings, great new reviews of "Rebound" and having my niece come visit us for a few weeks. I think we've about got her ready to leave for girl's camp tomorrow, which I know she's excited about since girl's camp in Mexico is only overnight.

I've been rather scatter brained and unable to focus on the myriad things that I ought to be doing, so I've been distracted from blogging and all of those other things I need to be doing and love, but haven't had time for in the past week. I'm not sure weeding the garden is on the list of things I love, but it's also something I've been putting off, and will, unfortunately, have to be faced this week as well. =)

Oh, and we've been having a great discussion about writing and balancing time for families on one of my email lists and I had to share this great quote from one of the authors on the list. I think it's going on my wall because sometimes we need the reminder to keep things in perspective. GG Vandagriff posted up that she wrote for years while her kids were still at home, but didn't start submitting until they were grown. Her tenth book is coming out later this year and she said to remember "If your priorities are the Lord's priorities, he will help you achieve your destiny." I love that, and have to remember that I don't have to do everything at once, I just have to prioritize and remember the things that matter and the rest will work out.

Now for the list of my most recent reviews!

Wendy Swore reviewed this book here, and also did a fun author interview with me here. She said: This novel has rich characters, a good plot, and is well written.

Nichole Giles listed the five things she looks for in a book and how mine stacks up on her new book review blog here. Here's an excerpt from the review, which you can find here:
What’s more, this story isn’t just about boy meets girl and the romance that follows. This story delves into family ties, fraud, trust, adoption, early childhood trauma and what it takes for some people to overcome the past so they can move onto the future. Talk about a lot of content in one little book. This is why I’m such a fan of Heather’s work.


C. LaRene Hall reviewed the book on her blog and said:
I knew the story would be a good clean romance and would have plenty of action to keep me turning the pages.

And Keith Fisher reviewed Rebound on his blog too and had this to say:
Heather Justesen is carrying on a tradition of great literature. In her second book in the series, we delve further into the lives of the delightful circle of family and friends Heather created.

Thanks you guys! You rock!

Also, the Summer Treasure Hunt is in full swing, so check out the list of books and other goodies being given away daily through the first part of July. You can enter to win a copy of Rebound too between now and June 20th. The latest winner is Cindy Schuerr of Wisconsin, who won an ebook copy of Anne Patrick's inspirational romantic suspense, Journey to Redemption.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book Review: "Chocolate Roses" by Joan Sowards

I first read Jane Eyre when I was in college. I was taking a Victorian lit course (which I totally loved), but this wasn't on the list of requred reading. My roommate had a copy, however, and I spent most of a weekend reading the story and falling in love with the characters.

Joan Soward's Chocolate Roses is a fun parody of the story told in Jane Eyre. Here's the back cover blurb:

Janie Rose Whitaker's world revolved around her chocolate shop until Roger Wentworth and his young daughter moved into the apartment across from Janie's. Anyone would think Roger fit the mold of the "perfect" guy, but soon Janie discovers secrets that could keep them apart forever.

Though she resists getting involved in Roger's complicated life, they are drawn further into a bittersweet relationship.


You will laugh, cry, and crave chocolate as you read this LDS paraody of the classic novel Jane Eyre.

The cast of characters at the chocolate shop is many and varied (perhaps a bit too many, actually as I had trouble keeping them all straight) with lots of quirks and stories of their own. I love the way Janie's relationship with Roger grew and developed, even while they managed to keep things appropriate between them (If you're familiar with Jane Eyre, I won't have to explain the basic reasons for this, and if you aren't, it's best if you read it for yourself). I love Janie's great Dane, Flo, and her quirky personality. I thought Joan did a great job of using the structure of Jane Eyre while making Chocolate Roses still relevant and resonable in today's world. It's a light, fun read.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I know I've been remiss

I've been bad about blogging lately, too wrapped up in publicity for Rebound and final edits for Family By Design (Which I'm hoping to get submitted next week). And then there's landscaping and camping trips . . .

It's been a busy few weeks, and June is looking just as busy, with July coming in close on its heels, but I'm totally excited about everything I've got going on this summer. And my landscaping project is making big strides, which I'm sure the neighbors appreciate.

My blog tour for Rebound started yesterday and I have a couple of fun excerpts to share with you. Danyelle Ferguson reviewed it yesterday on her blog and she said:

I really enjoyed the balance of drama and romance in this book. There are even some touches of humor that just made me laugh out loud. Rebound is truly a story that grips you, pulls you in, and end with a sigh from your heart and a smile on your face. Definitely one of my favs!

And Cheri Chelsey reviewed it on her blog and she said:

Heather's a genius. Seriously. And she writes the sweetest kissing scenes. :)

How can I argue with either of those sentiments? You can read the full reviews on the links above. I'm going to be doing a fun prize giveaway here the week of the 21st, so check back for more details as the date draws closer!

As for the Summer Treasure Hunt winner for yesterday, Laurie Lewis' copy of Awakening Avery (which was awesome, and you can read my review here) went to Barbara Stillwell. You can check out the other prizes and learn how to win them here.

Oh, and don't forget, if you live in the area, I'm having a launch party for Rebound at Barnes & Noble tonight from 6-8 in Sandy. We're going to have fun!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review: "Queen in Exile" by Donna Hatch

Most women I know grew up wishing they could be princesses. There's something about the idea of beautiful gowns and handsome princes, dancing until dawn and having someone else responsible for the cooking and cleaning--but that's not at all what Princess Jeniah gets in this book.

Instead, Jeniah faces war, the death of her entire family, cold, hard journeys, the threat of marrying a man she knows is a brutal warrior, kidnapping, and loss. (Not necessarily in that order). Oh, you want the back cover copy? Here it is:

Rumors of war hang over Princess Jeniah's peaceful country of Arden, a land that shuns both magic and warfare. Following a lifelong dream, Jeniah forms a telpathic bond with a revered creature called a chayim, who is prophesied to save her kingdom. But when a Darborian knight comes upon Jeniah with her chayim, he sees only a vicious monster about to devour a maiden, and he slays the beast.

Devastated by the loss of her chayim, and fearing that her own magic is evil, Jeniah doubts her destiny. When an enemy invades Arden City, they slaughter the people, storm the castle, and execute the entire royal family except the princess. Rescued by the knight who slew her chayim, Jeniah is now heir to the throne of Arden and the only hope for freeing her people from tyranny.

On the run and hunted by enemy soldiers, Jeniah must place her life and the fate of her kingdom in the hands of this trained killer. Torn between embracing her destiny as queen of Arden, and her love for a mere knight, she must ultimately rely on her magic to save herself and her people from death and tyranny.

I wasn't sure what to expect of this book when I picked it up, but hey, I like romance, medieval settings, and fantasy. It seemed to have all of those good elements, so I thought I'd give it a try. Though I thought the death of the chayim (basically in the opening scene of the book), was too early for me, as the reader, to have understood what a momentous occasion she had experienced, and lost, the cause for her anger at the knight is easy to understand.

I liked Jeniah. I thought she was an interesting character, selfless, patient, and uncomplaining despite huge trials that came her way. The storyline seemed to move along at a good pace, and there was plenty of chemistry between Jeniah and Kai throughout--which always wins points from me! There were also plenty of bad guys along the way throwing realistic obstacles in her path, and the solutions weren't easy.

One warning, there were a couple of scenes near the end that someone with a weak stomach may want to skim over (write me for specifics, if you want them). They are entirely necessary for the story, and not overly detailed, but even I was a tad grossed out by them--then again, maybe I just have a very vivid imagination, I am an EMT, after all, and have seen many a gross thing.

That said, I definitely enjoyed the story and plan to look for more of Donna's books. You can learn more about Donna and her books on her website.

Oh, and lucky lady Amber Nielson of Vermont just won a copy of this book in the Summer Treasure Hunt I'm participating in. Learn more about this fun giveaway here. There are five weeks of daily prizes you can still enter to win!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: "Awakening Avery" by Laurie Lewis

This was a beautiful book. Though I've never read anything by Laurie Lewis before, I'd heard she was a great writer, so I was excited when her publisher contacted me about reviewing Awakening Avery on my blog. I didn't know what the book was about until I got it and read the back cover copy:

"You're depressed," the doctor declared.

"Ya think?" is author Avery Elkins Thompson's sarcastic response to the astute diagnosis for the malaise that set in following her husband's untimely death. Avery's carefully controlled world is imploding, and her adult children fear they are losing her too.

"You're just a shadow of the person you used to be...We'd gladly give you up for a while if it meant getting you back."

Avery can't write, and questions about their father's death leave the family mired in pain. "We need a healing place," her oldest son tells her, suggesting she find it on Anna Maria Island, Florida, a former family vacation spot.

When Avery returns to Baltimore to sell the family's waterfront condo, she meets rodeo-ers-turned-real-estate-brokers Teddie and Rider Davis, and Avery's quiet life will never be the same again.

The Davises help arrange a short-term house swap with widower Gabriel Carson from Anna Maria, whose overprotective parenting has resulted in two self-centered, twenty-something daughters. Avery and Gabriel are in for the summer of their lives as they step into one another's messy, complicated worlds.

Still, venturing out on her own again is challenging for Avery, whose experiences at the Ringling's magnificent Ca d'Zan mansion, and with the quirky characters she meets there, eventually awaken her to truths she has long forgotten - that as crazy as life can be, it is possible to laugh and love again.

I found the characters complex and well developed. They all seemed like real people to me with real challenges. There were so many little storylines for the characters that keeping them all straight should have been confusing, but other than when I couldn't get back to the book for two days, I had no problem keeping everyone's roles straight. (That's what happens when I set down a book for more than a day though). The descriptions were well done, the plot interesting with plenty of twists.

I loved that the story opened with Avery having ruined her television and computer monitor in her grief over losing her husband. Greif manifests itself in so many ways, and you see several of those displayed in the various characters in the story. The stories wrap themselves up maybe just a little too pat (in one case), but it left me with lots of warm fuzzies and I would definitely reccommend this book to anyone. It's an LDS story with LDS values, great lessons and the kind of far-reaching lessons that touch lives.

You can learn more about Laurie on her blog or website. She's also the author of the Free Men and Dreamer's series--three books set in the early 1800s of the U.S. (the first is pre-was of 1812).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Signings, yardwork and other fun stuff

There are lots of fun things going on for me lately. I've been busy, busy, busy with Costco book signings, which has been great, and I've had a chance to meet and talk with so many people I wouldn't have met otherwise. I don't anticipate that Costco will stock my books much longer, so if you have a membership (and live in Utah), now's the time! Their price is awesome ($10.49 instead of $16.99!).

I had my launch party in Fillmore last week, which was great! I got to talk to several people I hadn't expected to be there, along with a teen who is interested in publishing and stopped to chat for a while. The librarian said my book was checked out within five minutes of when they put it out on the shelf, which always feels good! I gave away some fun prizes and had chocolate chip cookies (which are almost a running joke through the story).

My book blog tour starts next week and runs through June, and I'll have some fun prizes and interviews all over blog land. Also, I have a second book launch party in Sandy at the Barnes & Noble on Thursday, June 3 from 6-8 along with the other women from my critique group. It'll be a ton of fun and we'll have more prizes and treats, so put it on your calendar!

I'm trying to finish up some edits on a new book and hope to have it submitted by next week. My critique members say it's the best thing I've ever written, so I'm really excited and nervous to hear what my publisher has to say about it.

Today instead of editing, however, I spent the day planning, shopping, and planting in my landscape. For those of you who don't know, I used to write a gardening section on my blog because I LOVE to garden, but last year I was so swamped with everything going on that I didn't get squat done in my yard, which means weeds are seriously overtaking everything. This spring my husband and I decided it needed some serious rehab, so we're doing a big overhaul. After a massive shopping trip for plants today we (and some awesome friends), finished digging out my biggest flower bed, pulled the rock border, stretched landscaping fabric, planted a bunch of new plants and spread mulch! Yes, I still need to buy more plants (apparently my neglect killed most of the perennials that were in there--but that's another post), but it looks so much better and I'm so excited to look out at my pretty garden again! Now we have to master the drip irrigation system (and where is Seth when I need him to explain this 'simple' setup to me? Huh? Northern Nevada! *sigh*). More yard work tomorrow--and definitely some editing--because I'm on a roll!