Saturday, January 30, 2010

Adventures, Being Crazy, and Sweet 16

I’m quite the adventurer. I present this photo of me skateboarding near my daughter’s house as proof.

This second photo is more how my adventures really go. I need a lot of help to pull them off. That skateboard is kind of wobbly. I think I only went about six inches on my own. If that.

So, now you know the truth—I talk big, but inside I’m a big coward. That’s how it is with me and birthday parties, too. My youngest daughter is 16. She wants a party, and unfortunately she’s due for one. Party lover that she is, and she hasn’t had one for probably eight years. Grief!

Every day turns into planning day, she FB’s her friends asking them for advice, she Googles for party ideas. Some of her ideas make me nervous.

Fear Factor is one of her ideas. She wants to make her friends eat a bunch of gross stuff. “It’ll be fun,” she says. I’m not so certain, but my husband chimes in, “We could go to the store and buy pickled pigs feet and make them suck the jelly from in-between the toes.” I’m still not buying into the idea. I don’t think making her friends sick at her party is a good idea.

She finds another party idea—put clothes and make-up in a bag and have the girls dress the boys in whatever is in the bag. That could be a cute idea IF all the players were game for it. But my son will be there and I’m certain that no amount of money or coercion will convince him to do something like that. I figure he’s not alone.

We decide on pizza, bowling, and then games back at our house. Sounds harmless enough. EXCEPT—the day before the party we discover that there’s been a miscommunication with the bowling alley—they have league bowling that night. AARG!

Now what?

True adventurer that I am (or crazy person), I come up with the idea to let them go to the hot tubs—a place that utilizes the natural hot mineral springs in the area. It’s a crazy idea but my daughter loves it.

It’s been raining all week—we have water puddles in our backyard to prove it. I wonder if anyone will be crazy enough to come. Will their parents let them come? My son suggests that I form a back-up plan. He doesn’t realize that this is the back-up plan.

The night of the party, there is no miraculous parting of the clouds, although I am grateful that the rain isn’t heavy and the weather not obnoxiously cold. I’m also grateful that enough of her friends are crazy enough to come, and that their parents are crazy enough to allow it.

She had a good time, and her friends did, too. This last picture is of my daughter after playing her “stick your face in whipped topping to find the gum and then see who can blow a bubble fastest,” game.
It ended in a whipped topping fight—but the dog was more than happy to help clean it off the floor.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interview with Christine Thackaray

This week I'm interviewing Christine Thackeray. She's a wife and mother and a multi-published author.

Christine, I’m so excited to learn more about you and your books.
What are your books’ names?

My first book came out in 2008 called "Crayon Messages: A Visiting Teaching Adventure." Then I co-authored a non-fiction book entitled "C.S. Lewis Latter Day Truths in Narnia." This Mother's Day I have a short gift book coming out called "Could You Be an Angel Today?" And my next visiting teaching adventure should be out by this summer called "Lipstick Wars."

Are your books fiction or non-fiction?
My books are both fiction and non-fiction. My WIP is historical fiction so I guess I'm all over the place.

What was your inspiration?
My first book was inspired by real visiting teaching experiences, as is "Lipstick Wars." I suppose I like to write about the silent struggle of being a full-time mom. It's the hardest, loneliest but most satisfying work I know.

What is the setting of your book?
"Lipstick Wars" is set on a high end cul-de-sac in a typical Midwest town. The only problem is that every home on the street is a veritable mansion except for the shabby Victorian shack at the end of the road, painted the same blue as tacky eye shadow.

Who are your main characters?
With a new baby and an escaping toddler, Lindsay is at her wits end. Her husband is constantly working overtime, and she feels overwhelmed and embarrassed by her fixer upper. The women from church invite her to walk in the morning. Desperate for friends she agrees, only to inadvertently kill the walking group altogether. Lonelier than ever (and thinking most of the people in the ward hate her) Lindsay finds herself at the door of a eclusive artist after chasing her little boy up a gravel road. These two women, who are so different, change each other's lives for the better and make miracles happen.

In what ways do you think you are like them?
I have always thought of myself more as the young mother but I turn 50 this year, so maybe I'm the reclusive crazy artist. Yikes. Whichever I am, I think I'm like both of them because I believe friends should come in every shape and size. One of my best friends is an edgy, young mom with a new baby and a hot temper, another is a retired social worker that makes me laugh until I pee my pants, and another is a freshman in college. I would much rather have a bouquet made up of a variety of unique and beautiful flowers than two dozen plain roses. Reaching beyond our comfort zones to find lasting friendships just makes life better.

In what ways are you different?
Lindsay hasn't figure out that you can't do it all yet and is burning herself out. I figure life is a smorgasbord and you can only take so much before you puke. So pacing yourself is really important. She ultimately learns to let the small things go. Eat the frosting and leave the cake-that's my motto.

What is your favorite scene in the book?
The first scene I wrote was a powerful one where Lindsay finds out a neighbor down the street with no children that always seems so perfectly put together has had a miscarriage. The last thing in the world she wants to do is go visit her, but she knows she should. I loved the scene where these two women, one with everything and the other with nothing, discover each other, but after writing the rest of the book the characters had evolved and the dynamics of the scene had changed. After many rewrites I think it turned out
really strong, but it was interesting to have to adjust the scene to match the real personalities of my characters rather than the ones I had guessed they would turn out like when I started the project. (I don't think I'll ever write out of order again.)

After you wrote the book, how long did it take you to get it published?
When I finished this story it was twice as long as it is now. I sent it in and it was rejected so I killed some subplots, cut it in half and tried again. I was shocked when it was accepted. It's a year later than I wanted it to come out, but I think it turned out sharp and will really ring true to those who read it.

Have you been published before?
My first book came out a little over a year ago, as I said above, but what I didn't say was that I had sent out my first manuscript to every LDS publisher I could find and was totally rejected. I finally gave up writing but my sister approached me about a project she was working on. After I finished working with her I realized that my first manuscript was much too long. I cut it from over 600 pages to 200 and it was accepted.

How did the publisher let you know your book was being considered for publication?
I got the contract in the mail. No one has ever told me by email. I'm always pleasantly surprised by a big bulky letter.

What did you do when you found out your book was being published?
The first time my daughter opened the letter and I literally thought she was lying to me until I read it myself. Then there was a lot of screaming- happy screaming.

Where can we purchase a copy of your book?
"Lipstick Wars" should be at most Deseret Bookstores, Seagulls and at the CFI website. Look for it this summer. And pick up "Could You Be an Angel Today?" for Mother's Day 2010


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Book Review of Crossing Montana, by Laura Torres

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review. Not because I haven’t been reading although I must confess my stock of fresh books to read has grown thin—it’s time to go to some writer’s conferences so that I can buy more signed copies of some really great books.

However, I did find one lonely book tucked away that I hadn’t read before. Crossing Montana, by Laura Torres is a book I picked up several years ago and I have no idea why it didn’t get read.

Crossing Montana is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Callie Gray. It’s a touching story that made me appreciate my childhood. Callie’s life is far from perfect. Her mom is scatter-brained and leaves Callie to care for her nine-year-old step-brother more often than not.

The story starts with Callie being told that her grandpa is missing. Callie and her mom pack quickly and the three of them drive to Idaho where grandma lives in order to help out. Mom gets tired and can’t handle the drive. Rather than stop at a motel to rest, she has Callie drive. It’s not her first time driving a car. Once they get there, all Grandma and Mom do is reminisce about Jack (Callie’s deceased dad) and worry that grandpa has done the same thing.

Also in Idaho, near grandma is a boy named Raf (short for Rafael) who Callie has known forever and they’ve developed a budding relationship. Callie’s family is dysfunctional with a capitol D, and she wishes her family was more like Raf’s. He proves to be a true friend.

Unable to sleep and frustrated by her adults’ non-action, Callie forms her own plan. She steals money, a credit card—and the car from her mom and takes off on a cross-country drive to find her grandpa and bring him home.

She hits a snag when she discovers that her little brother ‘Stink’ has stowed away in the trunk. Callie is the only mom he’s ever known and he’s afraid to be left behind. Callie does find grandpa—he’s drunk. She also discovers how her dad really died, and fears that she’s a lot more like him than anyone understands.

The story doesn’t end with all of Callie’s problems magically being fixed—her family is still dysfunctional, but she has hope that now that she knows the truth about her father and the past, their family can seek counseling and grow into a better future.

This was not one of those sugar coated stories where the main characters’ biggest worry is being grounded on Friday night. It handles the difficulties that far too many children face with tact yet it didn’t feel contrived or watered down. It was a good read and compelling to the end.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Time for Hot Chocolate!

The grey clouds parted just long enough to show off the layer of snow they’d left on the mountains. An amazing sight, really. For us moisture-starved Arizonans, this past week has been quite a treat—there’s rain in the deserts and snow on the mountains.

Our cat doesn’t like the rain—it’s wet, he’s wet. He meows at the door wanting us to make the rain stop. We don’t. He wonders if we should let him come in where it’s warm. We don’t. I’m not sure I’d like the outcome of letting an outdoor cat have a sleep-in.

Our dog is also put out by the rain—the whole two minutes she’s out in it. She scratches at the door after being good and doing her ‘business’ outside. We open the door to let her in and she brushes against the cat to enter.

My daughter goes out and gives the cat come attention and then makes a warm little cubby for him to sleep in. He quits meowing, and that is good.

This is the perfect weather for curling up in a nice cozy blanket and reading a good book. It’s the perfect weather for hot chocolate—or soup. Both are good, but today I’m going to share a recipe for Paula Deen’s Dreamy Creamy Hot Chocolate. I’ve tried it, and it is dreamy and creamy.

Dreamy Creamy Hot Chocolate

Makes 2 quarts
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
½ C unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
6 ½ C hot water
Mini marshmallow (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, vanilla and salt; mix well. Over medium heat, slowly stir in water; heat through, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Top with marshmallow if desired.

**This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. Mix well and reheat before serving.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Today is Author Interview Monday, and our interview is with Anna del C. Dye, a multi-published author of fantasy. 

Anna, what are your books’ names?
The Silent Warrior Trilogy
Book one "The Elf and the Princess"
Book two "Trouble in the Elf City"
Book Three "Elfs in a Conquered Realm"

What was your inspiration?
Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings"

What is the setting of your books?
A medieval fantasy land.

Who are your main characters?
Princess Adren: the last survivor of her massacred mankind kingdom.
Prince Paletin: The prince of Adren's kingdom sister city. He discovers the dead realm and takes her in.
The Silent Warrior: Adren's champion and mute companion.
Dellin: The Elf captain archer who falls in-love with Adren.
Tadren: The elf commander and Dellin's father.
Tahitans: Bloody and lazy people.
Orks: A wizard's dark inventions.

In what ways do you think you are like them?
Adren lost everything she knew and has to start over with new people, customs and language.
I left... grant you by my own will... everything I knew, including my family, thirty years ago for a new people, customs, and language.

In what ways are you different?
I'm much less athletic than she is. lol
What is your favorite scene in the book?
When Adren and Dellin discover each other. An 8' tall man with a 5' girl. That has to be a sight. (lol) But they say love is blind.

After you wrote book one, how long did it take you to get it published?
Four years

Do you consider your work  fan-fiction for Tolkien?
No. I consider my work inspired by Tolkien but not fan fiction. I don't use the same characters he has. I do use Orks, Elfs, dwarfs, trolls, gnomes and many more... but they are universal characters and used in many books besides Tolkien's without being fan fiction.

Is there a book trailer for any of your books?
Yes, two of my first book and one of the second, none for the third yet. They are on my website, youtube and also under my profile in facebook.

Book #1

Book #2

Do you have any advice for authors trying to break into the industry?

NEVER give up. Find the writers' group closest to you and join. They are a fountain of wisdom and ideas at your fingertips. Also get your name out... start blogs and participate in forums-- especially the genre you write for. Enter short story contests and do online magazine reviews.

What are your plans to write next?
The Silent Warrior Trilogy is just the doorway to my elf series. You can expect in the future at least four more titles in that series. All of them will have new characters and plots that are not related to the Trilogy.

Anna if you could give your book to only one person, who would it be and why?
A teenager in trouble ... in the hope that he/she could discover the power they have deep inside to change and become better. I want them to see that nothing is impossible if we put our minds to it.

Where can we purchase a copy of your books?
Any online book store, including my site where you can purchase signed copies, including book #3 for less and you will find a promotion for the Trilogy.,
Thanks so much for inviting me to be a guest this week.
Anna del C. Dye.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Veritas Literary Agency, e-queries, cell phones and the Internet

Recently, I submitted an e-query to Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary Agency regarding a novel I wrote about a middle-aged woman who woke up one night amidst the suffering of menopause only to discover that she had been granted fairy wings. It’s a fun story and I had a lot of fun writing it—I haven’t had a lot of fun trying to find someone to help me get it published.

Anyway, back to my e-query. Within three hours, Ms. Boyle sent me a reply. Her response, although short, was personal. I appreciated that. It didn’t take her any longer to type a personal response than it took the others who sent an impersonal form response and yet it was received with greater appreciation. (Because of this, however, I’ve decided that I should be included in the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest manuscript rejection.)

On a seemingly unrelated note, I called my son who lives in Illinois the other day. We visited while I drove to the grocery store and back. That alone was pretty great. He had me turn on my computer (once I got home) and through Google Maps, we were able to take a walk down his street together—the street where he takes my grandson for walks—and I got to see his neighbors’ houses while he told me a bit about each of them. It was an interesting and fun experience. Not quite as good as having him and his family here in person, but about as close as I could get.

I’m just old enough that I remember life without cell phones. Our phone growing up was a big, ugly black thing with a short cord. For long conversations, we had to bring a chair to sit on or sit on the floor. I also remember life without computers—but we won’t get into that.

We’re a spoiled generation, don’t you think? We can do anything and achieve almost any goal through the use of electronics and technology (with enough money). We can travel half way around the world in a matter of hours—we can communicate via the Internet with millions of people at a time. But, just like in the old days, it’s a personal touch that’s appreciated the most.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If you are ready to take your writing serious, you won't want to miss this Writer's Conference. It’s one of the best in the west, with some very big names in the business. The cost is about a third of most other writer's conferences. I"ve probably been to this conference eight to ten times. I've always had a good experience and came away feeling inspired and rejuvinated toward writing.

The 2010 ANWA Writer’s Conference

“Start Write Now”

Saturday, February 27, 2010

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Dobson Ranch Inn,

1666 South Dobson Road

Mesa, Arizona 85202-5699

Open to all writers on this or any other planet.

Early Registration: $75 General Public, $60 ANWA Member

Register after February 7, add $5

Register at

Discounted Hotel reservations available on the above registration site or by calling Dobson Ranch Inn directly at 480-831-7000 or 1-800-528-1356

Monday, January 11, 2010

Author Interview with Margaret Turley

My Interview this week is with Margaret Turley, author of Save the Child, coming out the end of February. Margaret, is your book non-fiction, or fiction?

What was your inspiration?
Upon hearing the Parker Jensen Story out of Utah in 2003 where parents were not wanting to have their child subjected to chemotherapy - I started doing more research. I was appalled to find out that here in the land of the free - parents are not allowed to choose different treatment. Every child is under the authority of the State until the age of majority. I strongly endorse that every patient including and especially pediatrics should have the choice of being able to incorporate these methods into their regimen.

What is the setting of your book?
I have set the book in Gilbert Arizona and created a fictional hospital so that I could avoid casting any dispersion against established Medical institutions and doctors.

Who are your main characters?
The Johnson family. Robert Johnson is the Father and is changing careers. He works part time in a law office and is attending ASU Law School. Nancy Johnson is the mother. Abby is 15. Sharon - the daughter with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is 8 years old, and Ben is 5. The grandmother is Phyllis Lundgren - widow of Greg Lundgren MD.

In what ways do you think you are like them?
I am a fierce Momma Bear when it comes to my children and grandchildren and patients I’ve care for – like Nancy Johnson.

In what ways are you different?
Robert is a much more understanding and supportive spouse than I have experienced. He does have his faults – because of his choice to change careers their family is financially challenged – like many families are due to the recession at this time.

What is your favorite scene in the book?
Sharon is based on my niece. The Easter Nativity Scene that I posted on Margaret’s Blog at is based on an actual event at my mother’s home.

After you wrote the book, how long did it take you to get it published?
I started writing this book in 2003. Due to illness and disability I’ve been delayed. It gives me a great sense of achievement to finally have the manuscript completed.

Have you been published before?
Yes. I’ve published three volumes of my nursing memoirs under a penname. I’ve had articles published in magazines.

How did the publisher let you know your book was being considered for publication?
I signed up for a writing course with Pamela Goodfellow, Crafting the Character Based Novel with the goal in mind to get this work published. She is producing the book. Her mentoring, instructions and editing are wonderful. She coaches the writer all the way through the process from beginning to end and assists you prepare your marketing plan.

What did you do when you found out your book was being published?
Sighed with relief.

Please share a brief description of your book.
The Johnson’s reside in Gilbert Arizona. Nancy and Robert’s middle child Sharon develops Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Nancy wants to use alternative medicine to treat the child. She strongly opposes chemotherapy. Robert is changing careers mid-life and attending the last year of law school and works part time at law firm. They have run out of Cobra insurance and are very tight financially. Abby uses the family car to try to meet a date she makes via the internet and has a tragic accident. She ends up in a coma and is hospitalized amidst the medical and legal battle for Sharon. Phyllis is Nancy’s mother—ongoing struggles between mother and daughter heighten the drama.

Where can we purchase a copy of your book?
On my website or Pamela’s,
at and by request to order from any local bookstore after its release at the end of next month.

Save the Child will come out the end of February 2010
I've started posting blogs on the Save the Child Website @

The Untold Scripture Stories coming later this year by Margaret Larsen with original artwork by Kali Higgins
I will soon have Ribbons and Bows: multiple births memory books ready to market DBA

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Taco Soup for Busy Writers

Can you use a can opener? Know how to brown ground beef? If the answer is yes, then I’ve found a great recipe for busy writers whose characters have kept them a bit too long at the computer. Actually it’s a good recipe for moms, construction workers, doctors, or anyone. I wouldn’t want to discriminate. Anyway, Taco Soup is a crowd pleaser at my house. It can be adjusted—hot or mild—to fit your family’s taste buds. Recipe is below:

Taco Soup

1 lb hamburger, browned
1 small onion—cook w/ hamburger
28-oz can diced tomatoes—don’t drain
1 can corn—don’t drain
1 can kidney beans—don’t drain
3 T taco seasoning (or to taste) I never buy taco seasoning, so I use a mixture of chili powder, paprika, and salsa.

Brown ground beef and onions. (I season w/ season-all salt) Add remaining ingredients to the pot. Simmer. Top each bowl-full with shredded cheese and serve with corn chips.


The first time I made this, I watched my kids to see if they’d pick out the kidney beans—they’re pretty big and my kids don’t like beans much. They ate each one and came back for seconds. The corn has a nice little crisp texture, so last time I added two cans. Still good.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Author interview with Rachel Rager

I have the opportunity today of interviewing Rachel Rager, the author of By Love or By Sea, a novel that I reviewed here several months ago.

Rachel, what was your inspiration for this story?

I was writing my second story and was in the shower one day when I came up with the idea for By Love or By Sea. (By Love or By Sea is the third story I wrote. The first and second are prequels to By Love or By Sea but not published.)I wrote down some notes and when I was done with the one I was working on, I began By Love or By Sea.

I guess I should fess up to one little secret. Caleb Newman was inspired by my little brother. Though my brother is quite different than Caleb, he has a similar build and attitude. My brother once dropped a plant in his bedroom, spilling soil all over the carpet while he was talking on the phone to a girl he didn’t particularly care for. And, not wanting my mother to hang him for making a mess on the carpet, but not knowing how to get off the phone with the girl, he decided to vacuum up the mess while on the phone! That made me laugh so hard and it just felt like something Caleb would do (if he lived in today’s world!) So, there you have it!

What is the setting of your book?
~The setting of my story is purely fictional. If I had to actually state a location on a map, I’d say it was somewhere between the Netherlands and Belgium. Originally Belgium was a part of the Netherlands but they rebelled and in 1830 or so, gained their independence. In my mind, this kingdom is simply a small section of the land in between—neither here nor there. Obviously I took some liberties. Since this kingdom exists in my mind, the weather obeys my every desire! (evil chuckle)

Who are your main characters?
~Alice Lind Frank grew up as a kitchen servant before moving in with her grandparents. Suffering heartache as a young girl, she has chosen a path that will keep her safe from heartbreak but it will also keep her from happiness.
Caleb Newman is a sailor who was assumed dead after his ship sank. Missing for six years, he finally returns to put the pieces of his life back together. Unfortunately, his childhood sweetheart is nearly engaged to the local shipyard owner and his own dark past hangs over him.

Clarence Hielott is the local shipyard owner and hates everything about Caleb Newman. However, Clarence is nearly engaged to Alice and he and Caleb struggle to capture her heart.

There is also the colorful, sour, and miserable Betsy Winters. Having endured her own heartache, she is a thorn in everyone’s side and never passes up the opportunity to make her opinions known.

In what ways do you think you are like them?
~I think there’s probably a little of me in all my characters. I have always loved the idea of loving someone from childhood. (Though I can’t think of anyone from my childhood I wish I’d loved.) Unfortunately, I am like Alice in that I was engaged to my husband but had a hard time pushing another boy away from me. I enjoyed his friendship, and though he liked me more than I did him, I selfishly wanted his friendship and had a difficult time letting him go. I also have always been terrified of thunderstorms, though I’m not as bad as Alice.

In what ways are you different?
~I’d like to say I’m very different from my characters. That they all live separate lives from me. But I’m sure I had some influences on them. One marked difference is that I would never dream (okay, I’d probably dream it but never have the guts) to stand up to an old bitty like Betsy Winters the way Alice does.

What is your favorite scene in the book?
~My personal favorite scene is when Alice and Caleb are picking cherries in her grandparents’ orchard! I love tart cherries and used to pick them as a kid at my own grandparents’ house. For some reason, I love the flirting, secrets, and kisses shared in this scene!

After you wrote the book, how long did it take you to get it published?
~From writing the first word until I held the published book, it was just under five years. After I wrote the book, I immersed myself in learning the proper way to submit the manuscript. I think after all the edits were made and the book was finished, it took a year and a half to publish.

Have you been published before?

How did the publisher let you know your book was being considered for publication?
~One day, actually the day my brother got home from his mission, I got an email saying CFI wanted to publish By Love or By Sea along with a contract.

What did you do when you found out your book was being published?
~ I started jumping up and down, screaming and crying. My seven-year-old daughter looked at me as though I had lost my mind!

Please share a brief description of your book.
~ Alice Lind Frank never forgot the boy she loved when she was just six years old, even after he was lost at sea. Now a young woman, Alice has found happiness in living and working with her grandparents, and in the affections of Clarence Hielott, the wealthy shipyard owner who intends to make Alice his bride.

When a ragged sailor appears in town, Alice is reminded of the young boy who once held her heart. Upon learning that the sailor is in fact her childhood love, Caleb, she finds herself falling for him again.

But Clarence refuses to let this ghost from the past destroy his plans for the future. He exposes the secrets of Caleb’s past, and Alice realizes that the boy she once knew is now a man with a dark history. Soon Caleb and Clarence are locked in a fierce competition for Alice’s heart.

Can Alice overcome her fears and surrender her heart to Caleb once more? And what will she do about Clarence? Action, adventure, and most of all, romance, make By love or By Sea a thrilling and emotional love story you won’t soon forget.

Where can we purchase a copy of your book?
~Segullbook,, Barnes and Noble, Cedar Fort, Inc.
Rachel Rager
By Love or By Sea