Featured Artist

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I'm excited and honored to be this week's featured artist on Manic's Author/Illustrator Network. Click here to view.

And the Winners Are...

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For the Christmas gift package that includes three of my books, Stolen Christmas, Three Angels for Christmas, and The Magic and the Miracle of Christmas, Volume two: Kathi Oram Peterson!

For the copy of Three Angels for Christmas AND an assortment of my angel cards: L.T. Elliot!

Ladies send me the address you'd like things shipped to and we'll get everything sent to you by Christmas.

Thanks to all who participated!

Finding Uses for Used Christmas Cards

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This week I worked on an article about all the things you can make out of used Christmas cards. It was fun and I enjoyed coming up with ideas and taking photos of my creations. Some of my inspirations didn't pan out though. Here are a few that didn't make the cut:

*Festive Candle Holder - I decided I wasn't as adept as I'd hoped at designing a good candle holder that wouldn't go up in flames and set someone's house on fire the very first use.

*Decorative Toilet Paper Holder - Um, it just lost something in the translation from my brain to the actual usage...

*Holiday Boa - Too many little pieces to try and stick together.

*Seasonal Duck Call - It iced up in the cold and my lips stuck to it--anyone with shreds of old Christmas card hanging from their lips is not a pretty sight.

*Santa Pet Dish - Yeah, you're smart enough to know that won't work before you even try it. I wasn't.

All in all I was lucky to get some good ones (and that the editor bought it). What do you do with your used Christmas cards? Besides throw them away...

Christmas Home Tour

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Host: me
What: Christmas tour of my home
Where: HERE
Why: because it sounded fun

Free Book Giveaway

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Haley Hatch Freeman is offering a copy of her book A Future for Tomorrow HERE

Changing Can't into Can

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This past few months I’ve read several blogs that have discussed believing in yourself as a writer. One post that hit home for me is by Jennifer Blanchard of Procrastinating Writers. In her post Believe in Yourself and the Writing Will Come Jennifer discusses replacing limitations with possibilities. Since building confidence and replacing my can’ts with cans has been especially important this last year her words are of great interest to me. I’ve known I wanted to write for a couple of decades now, but giving myself permission to do so took a long time. Bit by bit, considering both the perceived and the real limitations in my life, I have come a long way. I’ve already accomplished more than I ever thought possible. But in the past couple of years I’ve had the nagging feeling I could accomplish even more.

I want to write novels.

Edged with emotion and trepidation it has been, for some time now, the thought that won’t go away. It wakes me at night. It tugs at my heart strings during the day. It fills every crack and crevice of my life causing me to neglect art clients and job responsibilities, abandon laundry and housekeeping—and often times common sense—and shut myself in my office to write, and write.

And write.

My first great effort, above and beyond short stories and essays, was a novella, a coming of age story about a young boy named Martin. When I sent it out to the world it was met with mixed reviews. One publisher said he loved it and wanted to publish it the following March. When March rolled around his company had gone out of business. Another publisher said they would love to publish it—if only I were already an author of note, or if I was a man. Only men, they said, should write coming of age stories about young boys. Two more publishers said they loved my writing, it just wasn’t right for them. One author I knew told me, “You know, you just weren’t meant to write books.”

I believed her.

I believed her because early on that’s what I’d been taught: You should not write. You have no talent for it. You will make a fool of yourself.

Those words played over and over in my head like background music in a bad movie. So much so that if I even sat down to type I felt immense guilt. Until what other writers have aptly termed voices in my head haunted me and I had to write again. I abandoned the thought of writing a novel, but I had an essay published by a magazine I never thought would be interested in my work. Then a short story, then two, then three, published. It felt good. I told myself it was enough.

It wasn’t.

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t write novels.

I want to. I want to. I want to write novels.

I came to a point last year where I got tired of the battle. I decided I had nothing to lose. Now, three requests for full manuscripts from editors and one request for a full from a noted agent later, I have witnessed how changing can’ts into can’s changes everything.

Still, believing in myself and building confidence is an ongoing process. I pray one day it will get easier for me to write without guilt. But for now striving to replace impossibilities with possibilities continues to be something I must work on every day.

Stolen Christmas Contest: Two chances to win

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A contest to celebrate the release of Stolen Christmas!

Two ways to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this blog and/or on my other blog Hearts and Hands. Each time you comment between November 15 and December 10 you will be entered to win a Christmas gift package that includes three of my books, Stolen Christmas, Three Angels for Christmas, and The Magic and the Miracle of Christmas, Volume two.

2. Become a follower of this blog and/or Hearts and Hands. All my followers will be entered for a chance to win a copy of Three Angels for Christmas AND an assortment of my angel cards.


Order Stolen Christmas on Amazon.

An Angel on Main Street

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An Angel on Main Street by Kathi Oram Peterson

My review:

The year is 1953
and Christmas looks anything but bright for eleven-year-old Micah Connors. The boy is no stranger to trouble--his mother recently moved the family to Bolton, Idaho with the hope her son could forge a new start with better friends than he left behind. But old habits die hard and Micah soon becomes acquainted with the local sheriff. The family is already awash in trials. Micah's father is dead, a casualty of the Korean War, and his younger sister, Annie, is gravely ill. The boy knows he can't add to his mother's stress so he makes a deal with the sheriff and strives to redeem himself.

The author of the book captured elements of both the charm and the incongruity of small town living, and I enjoyed the love and unity demonstrated by Micah's close-knit family members. I found myself rooting for Micah, with the desire he would find his inner strengths, and I was anxious to learn if his sister would recover. The character of the sheriff is well-crafted, a good guy who is the backbone of the story. All the characters are engaging and I wanted to know more about each one, more depth to the promising storyline. The story illuminates the strength of the human spirit, and is sure to be an enduring Christmas favorite.

At around 100 pages the book is a quick read that will provide respite from the hustle and bustle of the holidays as it helps to recapture the spirit of the season. A wonderful gift for all ages--my eleven-year-old enjoyed it and one of my friends plans to give it to all her married children--the book would also make a nice accompaniment to giving during the Twelve Days of Christmas (for article click here).


Blurb:


Micah Connors promised his mother he would be good in their new town. But with Christmas only three days away, being escorted home by the sheriff does not bode well. Can the towering officer be trusted not to tell what happened? Perhaps the ramshackle stable that has appeared on Main Street will sidetrack him from spilling the day’s events — or maybe his interest in Micah’s widowed mother will do the trick.


The last thing Dawn Connors needs is to hear her son is in trouble. She has enough to worry about with her husband gone and her daughter, Annie, ill. Even though Micah has told his sister the rustic structure in the middle of town is simply part of the town’s holiday decorations, Annie is sure that unseen angels are building the crude stable — which means baby Jesus is coming, and he can make her better.

Terrified that his little sister might die, Micah vows to find the baby Jesus for Annie, even if it is only a plastic doll. But as Micah gets nearer to his goal he finds angels are closer than he ever would have believed.

Buy the book at: Desert Book

Interview with Kathi Oram Peterson:

She blogs here

Kathi, who are you as a person, versus an author?

My passion other than writing would be my family. But that's probably not the kind of answer you want. Let's see, hobbies...I enjoy going to the movies. Might have been to be a movie critic, but than I'd have to watch movies I don't want to. I enjoy cooking, but I'm no gourmet, more meat and potatoes. I love butter and sugar and whipping cream so it's probably best I'm not a professional cook. Now you can see why I write. I can live through my characters. I can be a cowgirl, have a black belt, and go back in time. Nothing better in my book. I do yearn to travel, but I'm more the hermit. Give me some good books, several classic movies and a pizza and I'm good. Soooo boring.

What genre(s) do you write in?


I have written children's concept and biography books K-2; YA inspirational time travel; and romantic suspense. I've also written a screenplay.

Do you seek to educate or entertain?

Can't we have both? I think some of the best stories teach and entertain at the same time. My objectives are to write a story that makes people laugh, cry and think.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?


I'm definitely a seclusion writer. When all the kids lived at home I didn't have an office, but I had a walk-in closet in my bedroom. So I put my desk and computer in there. Totally private. I wrote some of my best scenes in the closet...that doesn't sound very good, but literally it was true. My prime time is the mornings. Especially if I'm writing the rough draft. When I'm in the throes of writing a book I usually write new stuff in the morning and spend the afternoon editing. Lately I've written in spurts, but I prefer a regular schedule. I'm hoping after the holidays my life will get back to normal...whatever that is.

Why do you write?


I've always loved reading. I had times in school when I'd write a good paper and the teacher would comment or make me read it before the class, but I really didn't think about writing books until after my first child was born. My mother suggested that I try writing a book and it stuck. I'm to the point if I don't write I become depressed. That's why I don't like writing in spurts.

What do you love to read?


I love good YA novels. A while back I spent a year reading as many Newbery winners as I could find. I loved Harry Potter and marvel at the world Rowling created. I'd love to do that. I also love romantic suspense novels. For me the best read has adventure, battles, and romance.

Vanilla or chocolate?


Chocolate hands down.


What is your preferred manner of writing?


PC. I also use the laptop after a long day on the PC. Most of my research information is saved on my PC. I like sitting at my desk with all my books around me within easy reach.


What is your current book?


An Angel on Main Street. I love Christmas and wanted to write a Christmas story that would remind people of simpler times. So I set the story in the fifties, plus it was what I rem
ember. The book takes place in a small town. I was raised in a small town, so I know what it was like. My family lived in an apartment over my father's store, like the Connors family lived over a restaurant in the book. My father worked part-time for the police department, so it wasn't much of a stretch to think up and characterize Sheriff Anderson. When I was a little girl, my mother suffered a heart attack while washing my hair for a dance recital. I remember how scared I was that she would die. Many times I'd stare down on Main Street wondering if my mother would ever come home from the hospital. I was able to use those emotions as I wrote Micah's fears about death. When my mother finally came home, she shared a very sacred experience with the family that left little doubt that there was life after death. As you can see this little book is very close to my heart.

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

The world...keep it simple and remember God is in charge. I think many times we forget that. I was always taught that if I wanted something I had to do everything humanly possible and then leave it up to the Lord. That's good advice.


Dogs or cats?


Dogs. I have the cutest little Yorkie. She's my little buddy.

What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

I hope I'm remembered for being a good mother, wife, sister, and friend. Also that my novels would long be remembered as good books the entire family could read and enjoy.



Contest:

An Angel in Your Life Contest runs from now until December 15th. Anyone can enter by simply emailing Kathi at kathiorampeterso@yahoo.com and writing about an experience you have had with someone who became an angel in your life. The winner will be announced on her blog (www.kathiswritingnook.com). A gift certificate from either Seagull Book or Deseret Book will be given to the winner and an "Angel" in his/her life. This contest celebrates the selfless, kind acts performed daily, many times unnoticed.

From the author: "If you are like me, many people have helped you through times of trouble. Let's face it, life is tough and the small acts of kindness shown to us by others needs to be remembered and celebrated especially during the holidays. Christmas brings out the best in people and I wanted to give others the opportunity to thank those who have touched their lives in a profound way. Hopefully this contest will remind us of the angels in our lives."

Stolen Christmas

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What happens when you’re so poor you have to steal your Christmas presents? Have you ever taken a punch in the face as your Christmas gift to the girl you love? Or saved Christmas while hunting were-weevils?

The award-winning stories from seventeen LDS authors featured in Stolen Christmas are the best of the best from the LDS Publisher Christmas Story Contests. From Christmases past, to present, to future; from sweet and inspirational, to zany and delightful—there’s a story for everyone in this eclectic collection. I'm excited and honored to have one of my short stories included.

Please visit LDS Publisher's blog to pre-order your copy here.

What Are You Thinking? is a Finalist!

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Valerie and I just received word that What Are You Thinking? has been chosen as a finalist in the 2009 National Best Books Awards. According to a press release winners and finalists traversed the publishing landscape: Simon & Schuster, Penguin, W.W. Norton, Revell, McGraw-Hill, Thomas Nelson, American Cancer Society, and many more.

Finalists and winners in the competition will garner national media coverage for the upcoming holiday retail season.

We are so excited!

Good Thinking Equals Good Writing

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"Good writing is just good thinking made visible; poor writing is just evidence of poor thinking.” --Richard Shipley

What Are You Thinking?

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I can't believe almost a year has passed since I met with talented author Valerie Ackley. The sister of New York Best Times selling author Leslie Householder, Valerie was determined to
portray the power of positive thinking in a fun and interesting way that would appeal to kids. A busy mom herself she spent a lot of time and energy on a manuscript she hoped would convey
her message. I was honored to meet her last fall and discuss the possibilities. Look for the book in stores and online by Christmas.

Author Interview: Gale Sears

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Gale Sears

Website www.galesears.com

Blog www.galesears.blogspot.com

Gale, who are you as a person versus an author?

Like everyone else I’m a lot of different things, but I think foremost I’m a spiritual person. Growing up in a Christian home, I remember feeling comfortable with intangible realities, and feeling drawn to the spiritual story. I’m also deeply touched by nature: mountains, trees, flowers, oceans, sky, sunsets, sunrises, animals.

I love to travel. I love to experience new places, and meet people from varied backgrounds.

I love to cook, but I’m not very creative or brave. Untried recipes scare me.

I’m very fond of my family. I love them in any and every condition.

I love my friends.

I love to laugh.

I love the concept of giving up old ways of thinking if they don’t work and moving on.

I love that learning continues to the grave and then on into the eternities. Perhaps I’ll learn how to love math in the hereafter.


What genre(s) do you write in?

I write historical fiction, slice of life novels, and children’s books.


Do you seek to educate or entertain?

Both! I’ve spent years as a teacher, years as an actress, years as a stage director, and years as a playwright. I’ve also spent my life in crazy antics that make people laugh. (Well…my sister thinks I’m hilarious)

I craft my books to be good stories, but I also want them to evoke deeper thought and feeling.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?

I have to have quiet when I write. Mornings are my most creative times, but if I have good dark chocolate on hand, I can write well into the night.

I try and discipline myself to write every day, at least an hour or two. If I’m in the middle of a book I’m normally in the chair five to six hours a day.


Why do you write?

I like to tell stories. I grew up in the enchantment of Lake Tahoe, and I think the surroundings just flowed into my little heart and made me acutely aware of sights, sounds, smells, and magic. I loved writing stories at a young age. At eight I remember making nests for myself which I’d stock with a supply of pencils, crayons, and paper. I’d spend hours drawing and writing. It soon became evident that I was not a Monet, but more a Mark Twain.

I also write because I believe there are words and stories that can inform and inspire. I love the English language; the power of the written word. I scored high on my SAT’s in English, but low in…can you guess? Yep. Math.


What do you love to read?

Historical fiction, biographies, autobiographies, LDS fiction, a Sue Grafton mystery now and then, Scriptures, Ellis Peters, the classics, CS Lewis, a fantasy now and then, slice of life novels, children’s books, poetry, plays, joke books…


Vanilla or chocolate?

As mentioned above…chocolate. I love dark chocolate. Have you ever had Belgian chocolate? The first time I had Belgian chocolate I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. There will be chocolate in heaven, I’m sure of it. Let’s see, how many more times can I write chocolate? Chocolate…chocolate…chocolate.

What is your preferred manner of writing?

I write pencil on paper and then transfer the work to my PC. I do my editing on the computer, but the original flow of the story comes out through the lead of the pencil.


What is your current book?

My latest book on the shelves is entitled, The Route. It is a novel based on my experiences delivering meals-on-wheels to a cast of zany, inspiring, and delightful older folks. It lets us take a sneak peak at the wonders to be cherished, and the lessons to be learned along life’s highway.


Will people’s lives be changed or enriched by reading it?

My life was changed by the amazing people on my route, and I believe much of that magic jumped into the pages of the book.

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

Embrace change. Realize there is a God and you’re not it. One day at a time.

Dogs or cats?

Sorry cat lovers, but my answer is dogs. I have a cherished photo of me at age three with my arm around the shoulder of our black cocker spaniel dog, Eightball. I was obviously destined to love dogs.


What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

I want to be remembered as a good friend.

Love, Gram: The Art of Letter Writing

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“Love, Gram”
The Art of Letter Writing


Grandparents are blessed with the opportunity of contributing to their grandchildren’s lives in myriad ways, yet sometimes they struggle to be a vital part of their family’s world, especially if they live far away. Email can provide a vital link, however, even in this high tech day and age, there’s still nothing like good old-fashioned handwritten sentiment to touch hearts and bridge geographical and generational distance, working miracles that last a lifetime.

Growing up I lived within a few blocks of my maternal grandmother. After school I would rush to her home. Waiting with open arms she was always ready to give me a hug and ask about my day. She kept her cookie jar stocked with my favorites: spicy gingerbread with creamy white icing, pink cream wafers, and peanut-shaped cookies filled with peanut butter.

After helping myself to a couple of cookies and a glassful of milk, I would sit next to Grandma at her kitchen table as we discussed our lives. From experiences I had with other children—some not pleasant—to problems with my parents, and activities I looked forward to, I told Grandma about my heartaches and joys and she responded with compassion and love. In return, I listened and learned about what life was like when she
was a child. Days spent with no TV, no phone, and no electricity were fascinating to me, as were her tales of raising her own pet calf, Star, and the love she felt when her mother made her favorite jam in a special crock.

My paternal grandmother lived over two-hundred miles away yet her determination to share herself with me was no less intense. At least once every month I received a handwritten card or letter from her. Through her correspondence I not only learned about the frigid Idaho winters she and my grandfather endured in a little valley at the edge of the Snake River, but also about her hopes and dreams. Stories of adventures she shared with my grandfather, their travels, and her efforts to create quilts depicting the history of the town in which they lived, came alive for me and I saw her as a fascinating, heroic figure who I was proud to call my grandmother.

As I grew older the letters never ceased. Even through my sometimes turbulent teenage years, when I became wracked with doubt and lack of self-esteem, I knew—no matter what—that I was still valued and cherished. Assuring me of her confidence in my integrity and her belief in my abilities—and always signed, “Love, Gram”—her never preaching words of love, wisdom, and encouragement were my most cherished possessions.

When I married and had children the letters came with less frequency. Grandma’s once flawless handwriting became jagged as her gnarled hands shook with age over the effort of writing. Knowing how difficult the process had become for her I loved her more dearly with each letter I received. They became a priceless line of communication, from her heart to my mine, and also to the hearts of my children. Stories of she and Grandfather’s triumphs over age and the Idaho elements, as they continued on in faith endeavoring to retain their independence, their farm, and their herd of horses, were a true testament to my family of the strength of the human spirit and of great blessings that should never be taken for granted.

In 1922, philosopher and etiquette authority Emily Post included a section on the art of letter writing in her popular book on manners:

“. . . THE ART of general letter-writing in the present day is shrinking until the letter threatens to become a telegram, a telephone message, a post-card. It is the letter from the friend in this city to the friend in that, or from the traveling relative to the relative at home, that is gradually dwindling . . . The difference though, between letter-writers of the past and of the present, is that in other days they all tried to write, and to express themselves the very best they knew how – today people don’t care a bit whether they write well or ill.”

Some eighty years later, Post would surely be appalled to find email and text messaging to be the norm and that handwritten letters are a forgotten art, the crisp feel and texture of paper and envelopes replaced by a cold computer screen. Sadly, though technological advances provide us with the means to correspond more easily and more frequently, too often they encourage a level of communication that rarely enhances interpersonal relationships.

With the hope of discovering a good “handwritten” face, software companies have conducted typographical experimentation with numerous script typefaces. While one day they may be successful in developing a font that is close to imitating the intimate feeling one receives from getting a letter in the mail—versus an email in their inbox—there is no application that involves the same care, love, effort, and time that go into a handwritten letter. The computer screen will never match the warmth and human quality of the touch of pencil or pen to paper.

Though my grandmother has passed on I continue to find strength and direction in the words contained in the cards and letters she wrote years ago. Now, as a grandmother myself to two granddaughters, I look forward to keeping my cookie jar well stocked and to sharing special grandmother/granddaughter conversations.

I also look forward to passing on the art of letter writing. In the future, my granddaughters and I will surely use email to communicate. However, I am already giving priority to creating time to sit at my desk, pen in hand, to contemplate and record the things I want to share with my granddaughters when they get older. I want to teach them what I have learned and relate all that I feel I have yet to learn, hopes and dreams as well as things both sacred and miraculous in my life. In doing so I pray they will be proud to come to know who I really am and what I stand for. I believe that one day they will recognize my efforts as an act of love and know how much I value them through the letters I will sign, “Love, Gram.”

Author Interview: GG Vandagriff

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G.G. Vandagriff

Her website here

She blogs here

GG, who are you as a person versus an author?

GG My kids are raised, and I have chosen to spend my life as the writer I always wanted to be. I also love to travel, and in researching an upcoming series (The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood) I will be traveling to four of my favorite places on earth: Florence (this October), the Greek Isles, Provence, and the Scottish Highlands. This is providing the earth holds together. Aside from being a writer, I am a mother of grown children, a grandmother, a wife of an extraordinary man, and a passionate Latter-day Saint.

What genre(s) do you write in?

G.G.: I have written mostly mysteries in the past: Cankered Roots, Of Deadly Descent, Tangled Roots, Poisoned Pedigree, The Hidden Branch, and The Arthurian Omen. (see www.ggvandagriff.com and www.arthurianomen.com) I call these my "potato chip books." We all love and need potato chip books at times. But my serious novel "The Last Waltz,"(www.last-waltz.com) represents the direction I would like to go in now—women's fiction. There will always be romance in my books, but it will be true romance, even though it may take a lifetime to achieve. DB has my "Only Bright Thing," right now, which I hope they will publish next spring—another woman's novel with romance, but it is not a romance, if you get my drift. I also write non-fiction, primarily my twice-monthly column for Meridian. However, I am currently working on a gift book: Embracing Abundance, which I hope to publish next year. I already have two non-fiction books: Voices in Your Blood: Discovering Identity Through Family History and Deliverance from Depression: Finding Hope and Healing through the Atonement of Christ.(www.deliverance-depression.com)

Do you seek to educate or entertain?
GG: Both. All the books that I have written since my miraculous healing three years ago contain my testimony of the atonement somewhere in the story.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?

G.G.: I write daily for most of the day. Right now, I am trying to promote two books and write two others, so it is very demanding and difficult work. I have a lovely office overlooking the Utah Valley. It is painted cranberry, and I have pictures of the Savior and my family all around me, as well as copies my husband framed of each of my books. In front of my nose, just behind my computer screen is a large sign: "Life is God's Novel, Let Him write it."

Why do you write?

GG: I have been writing since before I could write. I used to draw picture books when I was little. I have been creating alternative realities ever since I can remember. It was a long time before I realized everyone didn't do this. Now I write because I want to have my readers experience, through my stories, the power of real love to change peoples' hearts.

Vanilla or chocolate?

GG: Chocolate definitely, and the darker the better.

Laptop, PC, Mac, longhand, other? Why?

GG: I have a PC with a large flat screen and an ergonomic keyboard. I also just purchased a netbook which I take with me on my travels or when I want to sit in my zero gravity chair and rest my back, but continue working. The why is just that we've always been a PC family.

What do you like to read?

G.G.: It depends on my mood and how hard I've been working and what I have been working on. I like to read things that will bleed into my writing consciousness. So when I am writing serious fiction, I read serious fiction. When I am writing fun stuff, I read fun stuff. When I'm writing spiritual stuff, I read the scriptures and conference talks almost exclusively. Sometimes, I must confess, I'm too tired to read, and simply veg out watching TV—mostly classic movies from Netflix.

What is your current book?

GG: I have two this year. The Last Waltz (Shadow Mountain, www.last-waltz.com) has been compared by four reviewers to Gone with the Wind. It is a romance that is not according to formula, set in a time and place most Americans know very little about—Vienna, 1913-1938. Its flawed characters are ultimately redeemed by love. People should read this to understand the fragile nature of democracy and some surprising truths about love.


The Hidden Branch(Deseret Book, www.ggvandagriff.com) is a serio-comic mystery, featuring my mischievous sleuths: Alex and Briggie who own a genealogy research company. This time, they are working with a quirky large family of Armenian-Americans among the surfers of Huntington Beach. They suspect one of them of murder, of course. Alex experiences a crisis in her faith and in her love life, while Briggie (a grandmother of nine) buys a wetsuit and learns to boogie board. Unfortunately, she also has several brushes with the law. People should read this for entertainment, and to understand the Lord's prescription for a sound, Christ-centered marriage.

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

GG: Mosiah 3:19.

Dogs or cats?

Dachshunds

What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

GG: A valiant servant and witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.







GG Vandagriff's novel of mystery, romance, and comedy, The Hidden Branch, will be released on or before September 16th. Set in Huntington Beach, CA, the book is the fifth in the Alex and Briggie Mystery Series, but can also be read as an introduction to the series. For more information please see: www.ggvandagriff.com

From now now until September 17th anyone who buys the book on line or in a store will qualify for an Alex and Briggie gift package and a chance to win an autographed set of the entire series. Simply e-mail GG your name and address (ggvan1@gmail.com ) and tell her where you bought the book.

Author Interview: Shaunda Wenger

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Shaunda Wenger

She blogs here.


Shaunda, who are you as a person, versus an author?


I'm a mother, a book-lover, a friend, a cook, a teacher, a gardener, an athlete, a closet artist ... (although artist is a stretch--I like paper, and love the idea of putting something on it, whether that be words or pictures). When my children are grown I imagine I'll continue with everything I do now, although I'll have more time to do it. New and unusual things always interest me, so I imagine I'll put more time into exploring, both locally and globally.

What genre(s) do you write in?

I started with cookbooks--a literary one I wrote with Janet Kay Jensen, called The Book Lover's Cookbook, Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages That Feature Them (Ballantine), which combined my love for books and food. We couldn't have been more pleased to see this book in print. Because creating new dishes is an ongoing pastime, I hope to see more cookbook projects published in the future, so stay tuned! However, I'd started writing for children a few years before The Book Lover's Cookbook came to fruition, so I returned to writing children's fiction after the cookbook was out.

My favorite genres to write in are middle grade and picture book. However, I've also dipped in to chick-lit when I'm looking for a fun break.

With middle-grade, I enjoy creating characters with eccentric senses of humor or outlooks, given the situations I put them in. I also love writing picture books, but they are definitely a challenge to write well for today's market. Picture books being published today are getting shorter and shorter. They're great when the concept works, but I wonder if we're not selling children short by feeding into the idea that their attention can't be held for long durations.... Really? I've seen them sit for long periods of time for story-tellers who love the stories they're telling. The children respond by listening intently, and wanting more when the story ends. They respond because they know that story-teller is there for them, sharing something special. I worry society may be dropping--or losing out on--the chance to nuture "a love of story" in today's children. My love of reading wasn't fostered with short picture books. We owned ver y few--not for lack of want, but for lack of budget. Yet, my mother did sit with my brother and I and read aloud from a single large book filled with classic stories--stories that would be considered too long by today's standards.

Do you seek to educate or entertain?

It depends. For picture books, I write solely for entertainment. For novels, I also write to entertain, but I always get excited when I can weave in interesting facts or tidbits that readers might not otherwise know. On the whole, my hope is for readers to walk away feeling inspired to overcome their own obstacles after experiencing the stories of my characters.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?

I write best in my truck (parked, of course!), when I've got a snippet of free time between chauffeuring kids from place to place. Because their schedule is fairly regular from season to season, my free time in the driver's seat goes by a pretty good schedule. I actually like working in the truck, because once I pull out the lap-top, there's not much else to focus on, other than what's on the screen. But I do have an office, and it works well for providing space for writing in the morning.

Why do you write?

I always knew I loved to write. One of my favorite classes in college was a writing class, and that professor had pulled me aside to see if I might want to pursue it more seriously. But for me, at that point, I considered it a hobby, and I was on-track for graduation with a science degree, which would lead me to a practical, if not interesting career. It wasn't until after my first child was born, when I was staying at home, wondering what I might do with my "free-time" outside of being a full-time mother, that I decided I'd write. Once I opened myself up to the craft, I couldn't stop.

What do you love to read?

Middle-grade and YA, whether it be contemporary, historical, humorous, or fantasy. I love reading aloud with my younger sons, and sharing books with my daugther.

Vanilla or chocolate?

Definitely vanilla.

Laptop, PC, Mac, longhand, other? Why?

I prefer longhand when I'm fleshing out new ideas. The only problem is that the pen never seems to keep up with my thoughts, so much so, that for all the speedy scrabbling, sometimes I can't read what I wrote--nor do I remember what was intended, which is troubling for another reason I'd rather not think about....Dementia, anyone? ;)

What is your current book?

My current book remains The Book Lover's Cookbook, which is geared to entice people to the library after sampling good food in the kitchen. The four books I published with Benchmark Education (Caterpillar Can't Wait!, How Does a Butterfly Grow?, How Many Muffins?, and The Farm Stand Mystery) are designed to be sold to schools, and thus, are not available to the general market.

I do hope to place a historical cookbook online soon. It's based on the cookery journal of my great-grandmother who boarded railroad workers at her home in the early 1900s in Avis, Pennsylvania. She not only housed the workers, but fed them, recording her favorite recipes--and those she sought to perfect--in her journal. Avis was home to a series of railroad machine shops, which fixed and maintained the engines. My great grandfather managed the shops. All of the recipes and tidbits from the journal are absolutely delightful. I really look forward to sharing this gem. It's nearly ready, so keep an eye out for it.

Rick Walton and I also have plans for a fun children's cookbook in the works. Fingers are crossed for this one!

As for my novels and picture books, I'm currently submitting like many others, hoping to find a bit of luck. I've come close a few times, which keeps me working for and chasing the dream.

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

Keep learning, keep sharing, keep yourself open to possiblities--and when they arrive, take them, and repeat.

Dogs or cats?

Can I say horses? I own cats, but I grew up riding horses.

What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

I just want to be remembered for always doing and giving my best.

Author Interview: Michele Ashman Bell

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Michele Ashman Bell

She blogs here
Her website is here

Michele, who are you as a person versus an author?

I love this question! My greatest passion in life is my husband and children. They easily consume 90% of my time, which only leaves 10% for the other stuff. I have a few outside interests and passions that people might not know about me. One, is that I'm an aerobics instructor (current term for this is Group Fitness Instructor). I have been teaching since 1982. That is twenty seven-years! I still love it and hope to teach another twenty-seven. The people in my class and I figured we would sweat and grow old together. I'm also a freak about Broadway shows. I've seen 18 thus far and dream about the day I write something that will be on Broadway. (Far-fetched, I know, but I can dream, can't I?) I absolutely love to travel and experience new cultures. People and places fascinate me. I also am a huge Doris Day fan and have collected every one of her movies. I would love to meet her someday. Anyone have any connections?

What genre(s) do you write in?

Most of my books are Women's Fiction. I love to write stories about characters who face difficult situations and overcome them and become strong in the process. Characters who really inspire people. I also have written for the YA and Children's market and hope to do more Children's books. And I am crazy about Christmas and have several booklets and books around this theme. I'm most proud of "A Candle in the Window" a true story based on my Grandma Ashman who just turned 100 years old this month!

Do you seek to educate or entertain?

Mostly entertain. I write stories about relationships and life experiences. However, people who read my books will learn and grow along with the characters. I do tons of research so readers are definitely going to learn about different places and cultures and careers through my stories.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?

Oh man, I wish I had a good answer for this. I'm a morning writing person. I've learned if I don't get my writing in first thing I usually don't get around to it the rest of the day. I try and write every day, even if it's only for an hour. Depending on how hectic life is at the moment I can get a lot done in a short amount of time, but I can also sit and stare at the computer for an hour. I have an office in my basement that is quiet and secluded and doesn't have a lot of distractions, which is good since I tend to get distracted easily.

Why do you write?

I have always loved to read. The magical moment for me came in third grade when my teacher read to our class the book, "My Father's Dragon." This book was full of fun and imagination and totally carried me away. I became a reading fanatic. At that time I was a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan and read her whole series of books over and over from start to finish. In high school I read romances and would hide them inside my text books while I was in class. And yes, I got busted many times and got in trouble. I also started keeping a journal in 8th grade and found that pouring my heart out on paper was very therapeutic and enjoyable for me. Combining the love of books and of writing my feelings was the catalyst that created my desire to write when I was twenty-six. I read a really bad short-story in "Good Housekeeping" and said, "I could write better than this!" That was the beginning.

What do you love to read?

I love biographies. They are my favorite. I really enjoy learning about people and real life drama. Three of my favorites; Not Without My Daughter, Mutant Message Down Under and Follow the River (not completely a biography, but based on a true story.) I also love romantic suspense. I think that is the perfect combination for a plot. The book, "Romancing the Stone" is a great combination of romance, suspense and comedy.

Vanilla or chocolate?

Vanilla. I love white chocolate! But after I turned 40 I developed a serious craving for regular chocolate. I've never been known to turn down any kind of chocolate. Especially if it's German or Swiss.

Laptop, PC, Mac, longhand, other?

I am most comfortable writing on my PC. I outline in longhand first, then type it onto my computer, print it out, then begin writing. I have to revamp my outline several times during the course of writing a book because my characters tend to develop minds of their own.

What is your current book?

My most current release is called "A Modest Proposal" which is the first book in the "Butterfly Box" series. It's the story of five girls who experience the death of their friend on the day of high school graduation. They create a memory box called the "Butterfly Box" and have a yearly reunion. Each year the box is passed to one of the girls and is believed to bring them good luck and blessings. "A Modest Proposal" is about Lauryn, who is a clothes designer in New York City and wants to design modesty clothing for women. Her efforts are thwarted by a designer from Hungary, Laszlo Molnar, who tries to sabotage her collection. It's a book about fighting for what you believe in and working hard to make dreams come true. I love the message of inspiration it gives for women of all ages to go out and make a difference in the world.

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

Sheesh! No pressure there. Well, I live my life by the rule that if you want something badly enough and you are willing to work hard enough and never give up you can make anything happen. It took me ten years to get published. I'm living proof that it works.I've taught this philosophy to my children and my greatest joy is watching them make their dreams come true.

Dogs or cats?

My daughter has asthma so neither, but if I could have a pet it would be a dog.

What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

Mostly for being a devoted wife and mother. But I also hope people say that I touched lives through service and through my writing. I probably won't change the world but I'm trying to make a difference in my corner of it.

I hope people will visit my web-site at www.micheleashmanbell.com and my blog at http://micheleabell.blogspot.com. Or they can email me at micheleabell@gmail.com.

--Michele Ashman Bell author of, "A Modest Proposal" YA and Children's book reviewer for Meridian Magazine

Author Interview: Rebecca Talley

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For her website click here
She blogs here

Rebecca, who are you as a person versus an author?

All I've ever aspired to be is a wife and mom. My greatest goal in this life is to stand in the celestial room of the temple with all of my kids there. I love being married and being a mom. I'm not so crazy about booger noses and sticky Kool-Aid messes on the floor, but I love watching my kids grow, I love to hear them bear their testimonies, I love to see them develop their talents, I love to listen to their questions.

I also love to teach. My favorite callings in the Church have been teaching, especially in Primary. I absolutely loved serving as the Primary chorister. It was so much fun.

I enjoy knitting, playing the piano, and redecorating the house, but have given most of that up in pursuit of writing.

I do yearn for a clean house and an organized basement so I can actually find my food storage (I know it’s down there somewhere).

After my kids are raised, I hope to serve a mission with my husband, travel to research my ancestors, and serve in the temple. Since I have a 3-year-old, that might be quite a few years down the road.

What genre(s) do you write in?

Mainly, I've written for children. All of my magazine stories have been targeted at children. I wrote a children’s picture book, “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), and I’ve graduated from the Institute of Children’s Literature.

I also write LDS romance and LDS women's fiction.

Do you seek to educate or entertain?

Probably a little of both. I think all good stories entertain, but the best ones also teach us a little about life and about ourselves. Through books, we can explore so much and learn so many things. I hope that my stories entertain, but also teach a little about how I view life and the world around me.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?

I try to write every day, usually in the afternoon while my youngest sleeps, after all the chores are done. But, some days I just write whenever I get the chance. My life can be crazy at times so I'm always thankful for any time I have to write.

Why do you write?

I've always loved language and how words sound. I love to string together sentences and use different words. I write because it’s my way of creatively expressing what’s in my head and in my heart (the world is grateful that I don’t try to express myself through singing). I love to see a story take shape and share my stories with others.

Vanilla or chocolate?

Chocolate--the darker, the better.

Laptop, PC, Mac, longhand, other? Why?

I write on a laptop. Unfortunately, my youngest child has learned how to delete my writing and reboot my laptop. He has even figured out how to get past my password protection.
I like that my laptop allows me more opportunities to write because it's so versatile. However, I also use a notebook to write longhand because I love the feel of the pen in my fingers and the smoothness under my hand as it moves across the paper. It's very tactile and I like that.

What do you love to read?

I read LDS fiction and children's books. I shy away from national releases because I'm afraid they will have foul language and/or inappropriate scenes. If I don’t want my kids to read a book, I won’t read it either. The books I read have to be suitable for my kids to read. I loved, "Stargirl," by Jerry Spinelli and "Princess Academy," by Shannon Hale.

What is your current book?

My current book is Altared Plans. Here’s the tagline, “Abandoned at the altar, Caitlyn vows to never love again. Will Travis change her mind or will it be déjà vu?” The story chronicles Caitlyn’s reentry into dating life at BYU. It’s a romantic comedy that is a feel-good, escape-at-the-end-of-a-long-day kind of book.

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

Keeping the commandments of God is the only way to find true peace and joy in this life.

Dogs or cats?

Cats. My mother gave my grandparents a Siamese cat shortly before she passed away. I lived with my grandparents after my mother’s death and spent a lot of time with that cat. I was devastated when he died in my arms because he was a connection to my mom. I guess I’ll always have a soft spot for cats.

What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

I want to be remembered as a faithful member of the Church and as a devoted wife and mother. Having an eternal family is the very most important thing to me. I truly believe the words of David O. McKay when he said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” I want to raise strong, faithful, committed children who will marry in the temple and, in turn, raise their own children in the gospel.


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