Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Review: "The Alias" by Mandi Slack

What happens when two FBI agents start to dog your footsteps and you’re afraid your violent ex-husband is going to track you down and make you pay for taking away his son (even with the court’s approval?). Obviously it’s time to get away—and how better than to take an alias and go somewhere he won’t expect?

When Jacey is faced with this exact problem, she takes her old college roommate up on the offer to visit an aunt and uncle the roommate had never met—in Mona. Utah, of all places--and assumes Melissa's identity. Jacey's son, Blaze falls instantly in love with the tiny farming community, with the horses and cows on the farm, and settles into life with the people they’re lying to. Jacey loves them as well, but their son, Grant rubs her wrong. Maybe it’s the way he scowls at her from the first moment they meet or the fact that as they get to know each other, she finds herself attracted to more than just his good looks. The question remains—will she stay safe with this family for long enough to get her feet under her and start over again, or will trouble come knocking on her door?

The Alias is a fun story with a sweet romance, great characters and a suspenseful plot that keeps moving. At barely two-hundred pages, it was all too short--stories like this are always too short--but it was a great story for first time author, Mandi Slack. I look forward to seeing what else she’s got up her sleeve. Oh, and I met Mandi at Authorpalooza in Orem last week--and she's a totally nice person, which is always a plus in my opinion.

You can purchase Mandi's book on Amazon here and it's also available on ebook for only $3.99--which is a great deal for an LDS novel. You can learn more about Mandi and her projects on her blog.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: "The Outer Edge of Heaven" by Jaclyn Hawkes

Charlie (short for Charlene) is twenty-three, a college graduate (with a double major in business management for her parents and elementary education for herself) and independent--but her parents would rather she weren't. They are determined she will go to law school, become a successful lawyer and marry their up-and-coming neighbor, the divorce lawyer (who marries those anyway, isn't it just asking for trouble?) who leaves her cold.

Though she's willing to bend on law school against her inclination, she isn't willing to go home and be courted by the man of their choice, so when her best friend, Fo (short for Forest) suggests she go with him to stay at his uncle's ranch in Montana for the summer, she jumps at it.

What ensues is kitchen mayhem, muddy dogs, a ranch hand who stalks her, one rancher's son who comes on to her every day, while the one she is interested in grows elusive just as things start to look interesting.

The characters were fun and well rounded, the action moved at a steady pace and the hero was well worth the wait. I did feel like she put too many of the early scenes in narration instead of letting me watch the scene unfold, because she had killer dialogue. It was definitely a fun read.

You can purchase The Outer Edge of Heaven here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How do You Train the Monkey?

I was reading a book recently and came across an interesting passage where Fo (short for Forest) talks about the difference in the way his best friend reacts to himself versus other people. In it he refers to that reaction as how they 'trained the monkey.'

I thought it was a really interesting way to explain how we condition people to react to us based on how we treat them and it got me thinking off in other ways that we, every day, with every person we meet, train the monkey to behave in a certain way.

This doesn't just apply in how we train our kids (do we say no, then give in, thus training them that if they just wheedle and coax long enough, they will get what they want), but also in whether or not they trust us to confide in. If I as a parent (okay, so I'm not a parent, but I'm using my experience as a former foster parent here) maintain a dialogue with my child, and respond to their crisis in a way that doesn't make them wish they hadn't come to me, they are more likely to confide in the future.

For example: I spoke with a parent recently whose child was caught looking at porn. One parent raked the kid over the coals for over an hour while the other had a calm discussion about what happened, and what they were going to do about it so it didn't happen again. Which parent do you think that child is going to confide in if they have a problem down the road?

My boss likes to get a rise out of people and when I first started work (before he was my boss), he used to poke at me verbally, teasing, and okay, sometimes crossing the line into mean. I didn't react to his teasing, he never got a rise out of me, so now I only get good-natured teasing. I 'trained' him to treat me nicely by not giving him the response he craved.

When I was growing up there was a kid I knew and well into his teen years he was a favorite for others to pick on--but he laughed and goaded them into it as often as not. He didn't like being dumped in the trash can, but his reactions reinforced their bad behavior (people don't often get that laughing can be a defensive action, and generally mistake it for enjoyment). He didn't know it, and they didn't realize, but he 'trained' them to continue treating him that way. It didn't stop until he got big enough to push back--and the guts to follow through.

By the way, this works in reverse too, now he often sees offense where it wasn't intended and blows up at people who are trying to honestly be helpful because people around him trained him too.

People who work in customer service can either make life-time customers, or destroy relationships by how they treat people.

We all 'train the monkey' with every person we encounter every day. We may be training them for other people to deal with (if enough people mistreat someone, they'll become difficult for everyone else, even if someone hasn't given them an excuse), or training them to treat us with respect or disrespect.

The good news, we can always make a conscious decision to undo the way we've been trained to react and to start treating others differently. What can be trained can almost always be untrained.

PS, the book was The Outer Edge of Heaven by Jaclyn Hawkes, which I'll be reviewing on Friday.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why I Love the LDStorymakers Writing Conference

For anyone who attended last year's LDStorymaker's writing conference, or who wants to go this year, here's a fun video that shows you what we're all about!

Registration for this year's conference should open Dec 1, and we have a terrific lineup planned with four (yes, 4) agents doing pitch sessions this year. I'll post a link to the conference page when we get it posted! The conference is being held May 4-5 at the Provo Marriot.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review: Fall by Jennifer Hurst

I admit to picking up this book knowing only that it had romance elements, and that the female character was heading a construction crew. (I love to see book where female characters work in non-traditional jobs.) What I got was that and a whole bag of chips. You see, the old two-story school

house/church/social hall that she’s redoing into a bed and breakfast holds a secret—a big box that houses demons waiting for judgment.

And they want out.

JD (she refuses to go by her given name) was abandoned by her mother, has no clue who her father was, and was raised by a grandfather who spent his whole life putting his business first. He’s getting on in years and JD is in line to inherit his half of the business—but he’s not exactly let her prove herself at a construction site before, though her building plans are known for their brilliance.

So city girl ends up in the middle of nowhere Torrey, Utah (and yes, I’ve been in that area, and no, there’s really not much civilization in that part of the world, but it’s totally beautiful). There’s no high-speed internet. There’s no cell signal. And her town has one tiny shop where she can buy food—at outrageous prices, (but, hey, live in a small town and you have to deal with the drawbacks.)

Almost from day one things start to go wrong—including her developing feelings for bad-boy demolition crewman Matthew Rigo (who is totally off limits because he works for her.) There are plenty of highs and lows with some of local color thrown in and more than one very drool-worthy guy.

There were a few more typos than I like to see (and while there are EMTs in that area—not so much with the paramedics, though I suppose that’s being picky since most people don’t seem to understand that not everyone on an ambulance is a paramedic, and most especially not in a small town), but the writing was solid, the story was interesting, and the heroine well worth rooting for.

My question? When’s the next book coming out?

In conjunction with this blog tour, Jennifer is holding a contest. It will involve any of the blogs that Jennifer visits or where her book is featured and will close on December 31st, 2011. The entrants have to answer three questions about the book they’ve read (bought, borrowed, or stolen - shame on you) and post a link to Jennifer's website on their Twitter, Facebook, or blog (need link for verification).

Then the names will be entered in a random name picker generator ( and announced on Jennifer's website ( on January 31st, 2012. The winner will receive a gift certificate for a night’s stay at the actual bed and breakfast where the story takes place.

Other prizes include an autographed copy of FALL, and she will randomly select 3 contestants’ names to use in the sequel to FALL. Plus, they will receive a free copy of that book when it is published.

Each blog that Jennifer Hurst visits will have a different set of questions people can answer, and they may enter as many times as they want - but they can enter once per blog site that they visit. So the more sites you visit, the more you can enter your name, thus increasing your chances of winning the gift certificate, a copy of the book FALL, and your name in the sequel.

Get the book, read the book, and then read over the questions below. Once you have your answers, e-mail them to Jennifer.

Your privacy is respected and your email address will NOT be used for anything but the contest. Once the contest is over - your email address will be deleted from the database.

Here are the questions for you to answer:

What color is Roy's hat?

Who drew the floor plans for the renovation?

Who was JD talking to when she said, "Stop it, fiend!".

If you would like to visit the other sites, go here for the master list of all participating sites:

Best of luck, and thanks for participating!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Author interview about "Blank Slate"

Last May during the LDStorymakers Writer's conference my author's guild did a few video interviews--and I got to be one of the lucky people they spoke with. Here Frank Cole (author of the picture book series starting with Hashbrown Winters) asks me about my latest book, Blank Slate, and what's coming up next.

I've seen the cover for my next book, Family by Design and as soon as I get an official final version from my publisher I'll share it.