Oct 252012
 

We are happy to welcome Stephanie Black to Guest Author Thursday. Stephanie is the author of several mystery-suspense novels as well as the winner of FOUR Whitney Awards in the Mystery-Suspense category. Her lastest novel, SHADOWED, was released last month.

Visit Stephanie on her WEBSITE, BLOG, and TWITTER.

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The Shy Writer

I started trying to write a novel when I was seventeen—“trying” in the sense of playing around with a story, writing scenes that interested me. I took that approach for many years, just having fun with it. I didn’t do a whole lot with it in college, but after I graduated and was at home with my first baby, I retrieved the folder containing my writing from my parents’ house and got into it (tangent: that infant daughter is now APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL. AAAAAAAAAAAHH! Where did the time go?)

Okay. Whew. Back to the topic at hand. At first, I was shy about my writing. I would work on it when my husband wasn’t home, and (this is a little silly) I even gave some computer files fake names like “letter 9-19” or whatever it was, so if he stumbled across the files, they would look like letters to my family (this was in the pre-email days, so I occasionally wrote an actual letter. Dark ages, huh?). My sister (who is now the Evil HR Lady and a business blogger for CBS) wrote some fiction too, so she was the first person I showed my work to.

Even when I got further in the process of writing a novel, I was still shy about it. I didn’t want to write if anyone could see what I was writing (unless the person was a child too young to read). If someone walked past the computer screen, I could minimize that screen at the speed of light. But eventually I got to the point where I was seeking feedback on full drafts—but only from my family. Some experts may say that family members don’t make good feedback-givers, but I haven’t found that to be true. My family has been extremely helpful. I should give them chocolate.

I suppose it’s kind of a funny thing that I was so private about what I was doing when my goal was to publish the book so a bunch of strangers—the more the better!—could read it. But I’m betting I’m not the only writer who was shy in the early stages. Heck, even in the later stages, there’s plenty to be shy about, don’t you think? Creating stories in our minds and at our keyboards, shaping them as best we can with dialogue and semicolons and verbs—then taking those stories and putting them in the public eye, vulnerable, inviting comments from anyone who wants to praise or criticize. But when you love to write, that risk is worth it, and the “I loved your book! It kept me up until three in the morning!” makes it easier to weather the “This book stunk on this, this, this, and THAT level.” And believe me, once you publish, you will get some negative reviews among the positive, no matter how good your book is. Gone With the Wind has 10,175 one-star Goodreads ratings, for goodness sake. Yoooouuu willll noootttt esccaaappe (Oh, sorry. Went all Halloween there for a moment).

In some ways, I’ve become a lot less shy about my writing. When I’m working on a project, I usually leave the file open, minimized at the bottom of the screen—gasp! I’m not too worried about someone picking up my computer and sneaking a peek—I don’t think anyone in my household is that curious about my current work-in-progress. I usually don’t send my manuscripts out for test reads until the third draft. Of course, if I got really mad at someone, I could torment him or her by sending a first draft (Me: “Read this. You’ll love it. Bwahahahaha!” Test reader, after a few chapters: “Noooooooo! Aaaaaaah! What is this?” (flees shrieking to Barnes and Noble and builds a protective fort out of copies of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) and annotated editions of War and Peace). But I’m usually not THAT mean—at least not in real life. My characters might have a different opinion.

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Find SHADOWED (just in time for Halloween, too!)

GOODREADS | AMAZON | KINDLE | DESERET BOOK |  SEAGULL BOOK

Gifted musician Catherine Clayton was born into a life of wealth and privilege. Following the death of her father, she makes a bold decision she hopes would make him proud: she’s using the family money to establish a music school and offer free lessons to the underprivileged. A providential suggestion from an old college friend leads Catherine to select Riley, New York, as the perfect location for her new school. Hit hard by the economic downturn, Riley personifies economic hardship: peeling paint, overgrown landscapes, and damaged buildings. But the damage runs much deeper than Catherine first realizes.

Two years ago, Riley was rocked by weeks of vandalism, followed by the brutal murder of beautiful elementary school secretary Olivia Perry. Everyone in town loved Olivia—but especially the two men with whom she was caught in a love triangle. Though the murder remains unsolved, Catherine receives ominous warnings that one of these men, Adam Becket, is responsible for her death. Unimpressed by the lack of evidence against him, Catherine is drawn to the shy but endearing Adam. Could he really have been involved in Olivia’s murder?

Just as Catherine is settling in and getting to know Adam, a vandal strikes again, and it’s eerily reminiscent of the events surrounding Olivia’s murder. The death threats splashed on the walls prove that the killer is back—and this time, it’s Catherine who wonders if she’s come to the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

 

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Oct 042012
 

We are happy to welcome Julie Coulter Bellon to our Guest Author Thursday feature. She is the author of several international intrigues and her most recent novel, All Fall Down, was released just last month.

For more about Julie and her books, visit her BLOG and find her on TWITTER and Facebook.

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What Do We Have to Fear?

With the Halloween season upon us, I’ve been thinking a bit about what I’m afraid of. Spiders, snakes, and heights come to mind immediately.

One time, my children were in our backyard playing and our dog started barking in a really strange way. I can only describe it as urgent. Since I’d never heard her bark like that before I went to the back door to peek out and check on things and she was barking at a four foot snake lying in our grass. I quickly got my children indoors, and the dog, then I called Animal Control. When the Animal Control officer came, he got out a long stick with a loop at the end and as he wrangled the snake, even he was surprised at how vicious it was. “Most blow snakes don’t do this,” he told me, as I cringed from my door, ready to slam it if the snake even twitched in my direction. He finally wrestled it into a bag and the snake was still thrashing. He held the bag out in front of him and came toward me. I quickly realized he wanted to come through the house to get to the front door and my mind went to, “Oh, let me get the gate for you,” because there was no way that snake was actually going to come into my house–bag or not. I closed that door quickly.

And once, when we were in Paris, we went to the Eiffel Tower and started for the top. The higher we got, the more uncomfortable I became because of my fear of heights, but there was a crush of people so it made me feel a little more secure. When we were at the very top, though, when my husband and I had our own little corner, I ventured to look over at the incredible view. My stomach lurched and I felt dizzy so I stepped back. But then my husband took my hand and I was able to take that step, and then another, and finally look over and see the view of Paris that couldn’t be seen any other way. It was an experience I won’t soon forget and I was so glad I hadn’t let my fear of heights prevent me from it.

I think we’re all like that sometimes. We let our fear of rejection or insecurity keep us from going after our dreams. We wonder whether we’re good enough and maybe become like I was, at my back door, ready to slam it if anything scary or unknown looked my way. So instead of letting something new or unknown in, I shut the door. And like the Eiffel tower I let things get comfortable and masked my fear by insulating it with other people or things to help myself feel more secure. I distracted myself from my goals. But then suddenly your goal is right in front of you. You’re at the top. You’re out of your comfort zone, and all you have to do is reach out to take the opportunity, to face your fear. You take that step forward, but you’re unsure. Can I do it? Then, even when you get up the courage to do it, the old fears begin to take hold again and you feel sick. You step back.

Well, today I want to take on the role of my husband when I was at the top of the Eiffel tower as he offered me his hand. I want to be your Eleanor Roosevelt when she said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” Each experience strengthens us, prepares us, gives us courage to face the fear to overcome it. Today, I’m offering you my hand. You are good enough. You can do this, you can accomplish the goal you have in mind. It’s going to be hard. There will be times when you will feel like crying and wonder why you’re even doing this at all. But when you take that step forward and then another one, until finally you see the view from the top of your goals and dreams, you will be so glad you did. Just like I was.

So I’m getting out my pompoms (and that is a big deal my friends) to say, what are you waiting for? You can do it. You can climb your Eiffel tower, you can face that thrashing snake. You can. (Did you see me jumping up and down and cheering? Good.)

Go get ‘em.

Julie Coulter Bellon is the mother of eight children and the author of eight books. Her favorite things in the world are the number eight, reading, writing and fun family dinners. She also loves to travel and read and blog. You can read more about her at http://ldswritermom.blogspot.com

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Thank you so much, Julie!

What are you afraid of? Have you ever stepped back when you should have stepped forward? Who is your biggest cheerleader?

 

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Sep 062012
 

Last week I reviewed The Cinderella Project by Stan Crowe as part of the blog tour. I know LDSWBR blog readers are just as curious as I am about how Stan came to write contemporary romance, and I am so glad Stan agreed to write a guest post for Guest Author Thursday.

Publisher Breezy Reads has generously agreed to host an international giveaway for a copy of The Cinderella Project (physical copy – US only; electronic copy – US & International). Keep reading after Stan’s highly entertaining post to find out how to enter to win your own copy of The Cinderella Project.

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Inside The Life and Mind of Male Romance Author, Stan Crowe

There’s something to be said about being reared in a perpetual cloud of estrogen, lacking father or brothers in the house. My time growing up with just sisters helped me be less clueless about the opposite sex, and I was raised with a healthy respect for women in general. I also had a reasonable idea of what they hoped for in a man.

That still didn’t help my dating life. Ah, well.

Writing romance, specifically, started out as an accident for me. I entered a writing contest and found that it required writing a love story. I went ahead anyway. Even before that contest, however, relationships factored heavily into many of my earlier stories—even the science fiction and fantasy ones.

For me, genre is predominantly a setting for human drama. There are few things more potentially dramatic than romantic relationships. Romance can certainly trigger non-romantic conflicts (Why hello, Helen! How are the Trojans doing?), and provide a myriad of story hooks. So even when I’m not targeting romance as a plot I’m usually developing one as a subplot in a story. That’s almost proverbial, actually. How many good stories don’t feature some kind of love interests?

Being a male writing about love, emotions, et cetera has proven interesting. Not surprisingly, I’ve been the target of good-natured mockery from some male friends (one guy’s reaction, when he learned I had written “chick lit,” was particularly priceless). Others have been more supportive, though my dad didn’t have much to say; I hope he doesn’t think he spawned a pansy. Women have received the story much more eagerly—no surprise there.

Even in our post-women’s lib society, we still have some pretty clear gender expectations. Many of those make perfect sense, and are natural (e.g. women can have babies; men just get to help), while others (e.g. “real” men don’t wear pink) are more artificial. Suppressing certain emotions is one of those in the “other” category. It’s too easy to think of men in love as nothing other than hormonal animals trying to breed as frequently as possible. While it’s true that men do tend to think about sex much more readily than women, that doesn’t mean it’s all we think about, and it’s certainly not the biggest factor in mate selection. Well, not for most men.

I hope to bring an inside perspective on the fact that us guys also deal with complicated emotions during courtship, and even into marriage. “Does she actually love me?” “Can I really take care of her properly?” “What will her parents think of me?” “How will I know what she really wants?”

The life and mind of this male romance author isn’t much different from the life and mind of most male authors (though they probably had brothers). I just get to include more kissing in my books, and not feel ashamed of it.

My wife loves it. She lets me practice my lines on her.

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Thank you, Stan!

To enter the giveaway for a copy of The Cinderella Project, complete the Rafflecopter form below. The only required entry is to leave a thoughtful comment about Stan’s post below, though there are additional options if you want more entires into the giveaway. For your required entry to count, you must complete the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below.

Good luck!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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May 102012
 

Today’s Guest Author is Michele Paige Holmes, author of three contemporary romances (Counting StarsAll the Stars in Heaven, My Lucky Stars) and one historical romance, Captive Heart, that was a finalist in 2011 Whitney Awards.

Every time I talk to Michele I am impressed with her calm and friendly disposition, no matter what is going on in her life. Despite so many overwhelming things that have demanded her time over the years, she has still managed to write four very enjoyable novels. She is amazing. After reading her guest blog below, I know you will agree. PS – grab a tissue, just in case.

Michele’s most recent release, My Lucky Stars, is available for purchase at Amazon, Deseret Book and Seagull Book.

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What If I Had Missed It?

Last week I attended the LDStorymakers Conference. It was fun. It was inspiring. It was the kick in the pants I needed. And so I came home ready to write—ready to finish the four novels I have partially completed (I’m pretty sure I have some sort of writing ADD. Though the keynote speaker, Kevin J. Anderson, made me feel better about letting my writing veer off into so many avenues). I was ready to write and ready to query the manuscript I’ve rewritten and polished.

Then reality set in.

That other life I live, the one I’m busy with the 363 days of the year I’m not at the conference, rushed back in to sabotage my time.

Five children (one of whom is getting married in fifteen days), one husband, one dog, one soon-to-be son-in-law, my soon-to-be-living with us Mom, homeschooling, and my calling in Young Women easily consume every single second of my day. And then some.

It is often frustrating, and in the few days since the conference, I’ve felt that frustration more keenly.

I love learning of others’ successes. It is both encouraging and inspiring to see the incredible number of national market authors this state is producing. It gives me hope that someday I can join their ranks. But man, some days that someday seems to be taking forever. And it isn’t even because I’m busy collecting rejections. It’s simply that my day job as a mom often requires 24/7 commitment, leaving little or no time for pursuing my dreams.

Sigh.

It was in this somewhat frumpy, frustrated mood yesterday evening that I began the task of going through scrapbooks and piles and piles of photos (the scrapbooks only go to about second grade in our house—and that’s if you are one of the older kids. Alas, I have no time to stay on top of scrapbooking either), helping my oldest daughter choose pictures for her wedding reception slide show.

It was a sobering experience, the words from Fiddler on the Roof’s “Sunrise, Sunset” trailing through my head as I sorted.

Is this the little girl I carried?

Well, not for quite some time. She’s 5’8” now, a good three inches taller than me.

Is this the little boy at play?

Seeing the photos of our oldest son and daughter together—dressed as pirates, playing Legos, dancing in the rain—gave me hope that one day their relationship will return to a similar level of closeness.

I don’t remember growing older
When did they?

Like so many families today, ours seems to travel at the speed of light, running here and there to different schools, recitals, practices, sporting events, plays, and church activities. When our children were younger, family dinner seven nights a week used to be the norm. Now we’re excited if we get everyone to the table together once a week.

All this busyness isn’t necessarily bad. My husband is the picture of health because he competes in marathons and triathlons; our daughters have developed their talents and excel at dance and theatre. Our oldest son and daughter are responsible and hold down jobs. I sneak away to my critique group to hone my writing skills. We all serve in our church. Our lives are rich and full. But all of this has added up to make life fly by at a frightening pace.

So much so that last night I felt my frustration melt away into melancholy as I realized just how quickly time has passed. My daughter, my little girl, is getting married!

And then the thought . . .

What if I had missed it, this blur of time that sped by as her growing up years?

Fortunately, I didn’t. Our photographs indicate that we’ve used our time well. My daughter’s fiancé was amazed at just how many pictures Carissa has, how well-documented her life is, how many things our family has done.

How grateful I felt last night for all those camping trips (that were so much work and generated so much laundry), all the trips to Disneyland (instead of writing conferences), all the stamps in our national park passbook, all the effort we put into hauling our family around to support each other in their different endeavors. When all is said and done, I have to admit I’d rather have those pictures and memories than a contract with a big publisher. Of course, both would be nice, but if I can only ever have one, I wouldn’t trade.

Repeating to myself: I wouldn’t trade. I wouldn’t trade. I wouldn’t . . .

And really, that is true.

This summer my husband and I will celebrate twenty-four years of marriage. It has been a wild ride, and many times over the years we’ve said to each other—over the head of one of our children who has just thrown us for a loop—“this isn’t the program we signed up for!” Nevertheless, it’s what we got—every financially and emotionally draining moment, all the sorrows and joys, the delights and despairs of parenthood. We’ve stuck together through it all. Our family life hasn’t always been bliss, but overall the memories we’ve created are truly beautiful.

As will our daughter be on her upcoming wedding day.

I know because I spent the time with her finding the perfect dress. We’ve spent hours styling her hair, so it will be just right on her special day. Heart and soul I’ve thrown myself into wedding preparations with her these past four months. All the while, my hero and heroine have languished on the hard drive of my laptop, patiently waiting their turn at the altar.

They’re probably going to have to wait a little longer.

The three-year-old climbing on my lap as I type this, using his sticky fingers to turn my face to his, would like some attention. He’s been out of sorts lately too—what with Mom away at a conference and all this fuss with his older sister.

I completely understand how he feels; I’d like my turn too. I’m guessing that from now into the foreseeable future, there will always be a part of me desperately wishing for and trying to find more writing time. Some days that may get to me. I’m sure I won’t always be as patient as I should be. But after yesterday’s poignant reminder about how quickly time passes, I think I’ll set aside whatever it is I deemed important on my day’s to do list, in favor of taking my son to the park, pushing him high on the swing, and listening to the joy in his laughter.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

Wouldn’t trade it. I’m so glad I’ve got it.

And if the stories in my head will stick around long enough, perhaps someday I’ll have those too.

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Thank you so much, Michele.

Now it’s YOUR turn, LDSWBR readers:

How do you balance your priorities between life and your reading/writing time?

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Mar 292012
 

Today’s guest is Angela Eschler, co-author of Christ’s Gifts to Women with Heather Moore. Angela is the owner of Eschler Editing, and one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. She is funny, well-read and an amazingly talented editor. Some of you may have heard this before, but I want to be Angela when I grow up.

Connect with Angela: WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOOGLE+

Purchase Christ’s Gifts to Women: DESERET BOOK | SEAGULL BOOK

Watch Angela and Heather talk about Christ’s Gifts to Women HERE.

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I’ve always loved reading and writing, and I was very fortunate to discover an Editing for Publication class in college the semester before I graduated or I might be on the street begging even now; I had no plans for a career before that point. I guess I just hoped I could find a job where I got paid to use my reading or writing skills. It sounds crazy, but I honestly had never even thought of what editors do or if I could get a job like that. I just wanted to read or write.

So far I’ve written nonfiction gift books, mostly for the women’s inspirational category for the LDS market. My current books on the market are Love Letters of Joseph and Emma, and Christ’s Gifts to Women. Both are coffee table art books with inspirational prose. The talented Heather Moore is my co-author on Christ’s Gifts to Women.

In it we look at the women who were friends and associates of Christ during the Meridian of time, and what He taught them personally about their worth and potential and of His love and mercy for them; and then it compares those experiences to the same personalized messages Christ is trying to give us today if we will slow down enough to listen. It’s a very meaningful book for me personally, as the study that went into the project really helped me work through some difficult and ever ongoing trials and helped me come to terms with some damaging lies I believed about myself and my mistakes and potential.

I never go anywhere without a book. I walked my dog, and now my dog and baby, with a book in hand (I tie the dog’s leash to my waist and try not to run into trees). When I can convince my husband to put something on the iPod for me (I’m technologically challenged), I’m less likely to come home with injuries.

I love zillions of topics and writing styles. I really do love speculative fiction though—that visiting-other-worlds thing. I’d be reading my own published novel if only agents were looking for a book on Wales and ancient Egypt by a fourth-grade debut novelist….

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Thank you, Angela! And thank you to Julie Bellon who allowed her interview with Angela to serve double duty. To read the full interview with Angela, visit Julie’s blog HERE.

 

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Mar 222012
 

Josi is the author of several novels, including Banana Split, the most recent novel in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery series, and Daisy of the Newport Ladies Book Club series, a collaboration with authors Julie Wright, Annette Lyon and Heather Moore. Daisy is scheduled to be released in May.

Josi’s next two signings will be:

Saturday, March 24th at the downtown Deseret Book from 3:00-5:00

Saturday, March 31st at the Fort Union Deseret Book from 6:00-8:00

Connect with Josi: WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER

Find out more about the Newport Ladies Book Club HERE.

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There was a time when I considered myself a voracious reader—I would start a book and could do nothing else until the book was done. I read several books a week, stayed up late, and always had a book with me. It got to the point when I couldn’t find enough good books to read, I would ask everyone I knew for recommendations and read most of them. And then I started writing and my love affair with reading developed complications.

I’m not what I would call an “educated” writer. I don’t have a college degree and I didn’t have the goal of becoming a novelist in high-school and college. Hence, when I started writing my first book, I had nothing other than a decade of neurotic reading as a foundation of how to pattern my own creations. I certainly don’t discount the part all those books played in my ability to write a coherent story, but I didn’t know what I was doing and although I did have that first book accepted through a program where I paid a portion of it’s publication, it was not well crafted and it didn’t do well. I was embarrassed but determined to do a better job. So, I found a local writer’s conference. I read books on how to write novels, but perhaps the most important skill I developed was becoming a critical reader.

Until this point, I liked 98% of the books I read. I followed the journey of whatever character was presented to me and closed the book with a satisfied smile on my face while I reached for the next book in my stack. It wasn’t that every book was well written, I just didn’t care. I was reading for the journey and easily satisfied. Now that I was writing, however, and feeling my lack of training and skill, I began asking myself what I liked and didn’t like about the books I read. Did I like that character? Why? Did I find the ending satisfying? Why not? I started asking myself what I would change if I could, how I felt the book could have been improved, and what elements I absolutely loved. It was exciting to feel like I was taking a class with each book I read, but in time this began to work against me.

Now that I was more aware of elements of craft, characterization, and structure, when these things were done poorly, I found myself aggravated and annoyed. I started not finishing books when they were so poorly done that I couldn’t get lost in the pages. By the time I’d been writing for 4 or 5 years, I was finishing about 60% of the books I picked up. The other 40% would be put aside after about 20 pages, never to be picked up again. By the time I’d been writing for 9 years, I was finishing about 30% of what I picked up. Granted, my writing was taking more of the time once used for reading, but I think I’d have made time if not for the fact that I’d lost the joy of reading. I couldn’t seem to turn off my critical assessment of what I read. It was frustrating to pick up book after book after book and put it down because I couldn’t get my brain to click into the story. I noticed too many adverbs, too few adverbs, names that were hard to pronounce, motivations that didn’t make sense, too much setting, not enough setting, ridiculous dialogue. Now and then a book would capture me, and I would ride that wave all the way into the shore, relieved to know that I could still enjoy a book, but I was more and more discriminating and harder and harder to please.

For the last two years I’ve set goals on how many books to read, and I have not met those goals. I’ve been annoyed by this—I miss reading—and I’ve worried that my own writing will suffer from not having the creative energy sparked by other people’s books. But what to do? Life certainly hasn’t become less intense. I was ruined, right?

And then, this year, I decided to read all thirty-five finalists for the Whitney Awards. Even as I said I would do it, I couldn’t imagine how it would work. I hadn’t been able to read 30 books in a year, let alone thirty-five in less than three months. And I have serious prejudice against a couple of the genres—I don’t read them AT ALL—but I was committing to read five of them? Still, I knew other people easily as busy as myself and they were doing it. I could do it too.

I worried about my novel deadlines—I’m on two right now—how would I ever fit reading this many books into my already limited time? But, I was committed all the same. Here I am, almost two months into the Academy reading and absolutely loving it! I’ve read twenty of the thirty-five finalists so far and am still going strong. I have almost finished one of the categories I dreaded—it wasn’t too bad—the other one is looming but I’m feeling encouraged. I haven’t loved every book, but only one was so unenjoyable that I put it down at fifty pages. It still seems impossible that I’ve found the time, but I have, and my writing hasn’t suffered. In fact, I think it’s been helped. There’s been a few different books that got me so excited about my own story, I pumped out 2,000 words in the hours following my reading of it. In the process of this experience, I’ve been reminded of how much I once loved to read. I’ve remembered how fun it is to get lost in someone else’s journey, of how invigorating it is to visit new places and read different styles of writing and I have been able to turn off the uber-critical part of myself.

I have four weeks left to read the remaining 15 books—and I’m looking forward to it and thinking ahead to all the nooks and crannies I can fit some reading time into. I hope that when I finish all thirty-five—and I will finish—that I’ll be able to continue finding great books to enhance my life and my writing. I can’t imagine letting go of this love affair again but I’m very grateful for second chances to rediscover something wonderful.

 

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