Tuesday, December 18, 2012


One of my fondest Christmas memories take me back to chilly nights with my father driving my brother and me around town to look at the lights. Our town had a yearly contest, and some of the houses were adorned with so many lights it took my breath away and lit up my eyes with wonder.

One year we had a snowy jaunt through the forest while searching for the perfect Christmas tree. It took a while because we each had a distinctly different idea on what the best tree should look like, but we finally agreed on one. The tree, so beautiful and just the right size in the forest, was too tall for our small home and needed far too much trimming. It never stood straight underneath our eight-foot ceiling after that, but leaned just a little to the left.

I remember decorating our tree each year with the same colored lights and our traditional ornaments, and hanging long strings of silver tinsel until it shone like a disco ball. When we were done, I’d sneak behind it and play with my Barbies—but I remember so few of the gifts that Santa brought on Christmas morning.

In our home, there was always hot chocolate to warm our insides, homemade cookies to satisfy our sweet tooth, and carols to bring the Christmas spirit. These are the things I remember with fondness. While it’s true that I don’t remember many of my gifts, I shamefully remember the childish yearning for gifts that I never obtained—things so important to a girl’s happiness for only a moment, and then forgotten.

Now that I’m a parent, I understand. Sometimes the object my child wants more than anything else isn’t something that will hold his interest. Even still, I can’t stand to see the longing in his eyes, and I give in to his pleading. Then true to my intuition, a month after Christmas morning the toy is stuffed to the back of the closet and seldom looked at again.

In our world of commercialism, the television often dictates what we, or our children want—the newest, the brightest, and the most technologically advanced. Wouldn’t it be great if the gifts we asked for at Christmastime were really the things we needed? Today I realize that the gifts I received as a child are not remembered because they weren’t needed. They were unimportant to the spirit of Christmas and unimportant to my life.

Each year, Santa is there wearing his red suit and drawing children to him with his bags of peppermint candy. He’s known around the world and instantly recognized by his full, white beard. Why, he’s the man who makes Christmas fun. Naughty or  nice, he brings children gifts, and his smiling, friendly eyes reassure them as they stand in long lines while waiting to sit on his lap—but he isn’t real.

However, there is someone else robed in red whose gifts we recognize at Christmas. He is also bearded with friendly eyes—and yes, he is real. His garments, crimson from the blood of the Atonement, brought us the gift of eternal life. Naughty or nice, he came bearing gifts for us all.

On the cold nights of my despair when all seems hopeless, the gift of prayer warms my troubled soul. His unconditional love takes my breath away and fills me with wonder.

When I am tempted to be petty and unforgiving, I need never lean to the left or right, but only to follow his example which helps me stand straight and walk the narrow path.

His holy word lights my mind and teaches me the way. It is through the scriptures that I am taught things that I wouldn’t otherwise know. A favorite hymn brings his spirit during times of hardship and reminds me that he is always near.

When my childish soul fills with yearning, the gifts that are the Savior’s to give are mine for the asking. I need not be wealthy or famous to enjoy, for his gospel is obtainable to even the lowliest of heart. His offering is momentous and remembered throughout all eternity.

“Come unto me.” The Savior pleads for us to follow. With his arms outstretched, he’s desirous that we partake of his bread and his water. He brings us his gospel, his spirit, his sacrifice. They are free to all who want them because he has already paid the price; and the Savior’s gifts, once accepted, bring a lifetime of happiness.

This is an article published by Desert Saints Magazine, December 2011.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Pull out your blanket, warm a cup of chocolate, get your e-reader and open to The Timeless Romance Anthology. I've mentioned the Timeless Romance Anthology before, and critiqued Joyce DiPastena's story, Caroles On The Green. Since then, I've read Donna Hatch's story, A Winter's Knight, and Sarah Eden's, The Road To Cavan Town, and enjoyed them all. I had the day off today, and took a moment to read the story by Heidi Ashworth. I've never met her, nor have I read any of her books, but, I decided to give it a try. I was very pleasantly rewarded.

It Happened Twelfth Night, by Heidi Ashworth, is a delightful romance. Once I started reading it, I had to put everything else on hold. Laundry can always wait for another day, and who needs clean dishes? Here's a little bit about her story:

Louisa grew up as friends with Percy even though her family worked for his. As they grew, their friendship turned to love. He made her promise to wait for him while he joined his family on business, which she happily did.

Unfortunately, in regency England, reputations were slippery, and since Louisa was the daughter of a gatekeeper, she had never been on solid footing among the wealthy. During Percy’s absence, her reputation had been damaged further by the scandalous act of a friend.

Even still, it came as a heartbreaking shock when, upon his return, Percy never thought to call on her, and she ended up spending Christmas alone. Louisa felt redeemed upon receiving an invitation to the annual Twelfth Night celebration, and hoped that things would return to normal.

I’ll not give away any more of the story than this, and to say: It would be a heartbreaking thing to realize that the man you put all your hopes and dreams into was nothing more than a cad, a womanizer. Add to that, the realization that you would still have to see him every day because your family has worked for his family since the beginning of time, and that you have no money or any way of making a living in any other way—it makes for a very compelling story.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


A once in the history of mankind kind of thing. The Best Day Of Fishing Ever!
Some fishing stories are a little hard to believe, but this guy has pictures to prove his story...
I've heard of salmon jumping into boats, but never anything quite like this...
Tom Satre told the Sitka Gazette that he was out with a charter group on his 62-foot fishing vessel
when four juvenile black-tailed deer swam directly toward his boat.

"Once the deer reached the boat, the four began to circle the boat, looking directly at us.
We could tell right away that the young bucks were distressed. I opened up my back gate
and we helped the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals onto the boat.
In all my years fishing, I've never seen anything quite like it!

Once onboard, they collapsed with exhaustion, shivering."

This is a picture I took of the rescued bucks on the back of my boat, the Alaska Quest.
We headed for Taku Harbour. Once we reached the dock, the first buck that we had
pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back as if to say 'thank you' and
disappeared into the forest. After a bit of prodding and assistance, two more followed,
but the smallest deer needed a little more help.

This is me carrying the little guy.

My daughter, Anna, and son, Tim, helped the last buck to its feet. We didn't know how
long they had been in the icy waters or if there had been others who did not survive.

My daughter later told me that the experience was something that she would never forget,
and I suspect the deer felt the same way as well!"

"Kindness is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear." - Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes we all fall down . . .

That simple rhyme turns negotiator Claire Michaels’ current hostage situation into an international incident. Claire just wants to help get everyone out safely, but as the crisis escalates she realizes she’s dealing with an al-Qaeda operative who has the means to become another bin Laden¾with the potential to attack America. Claire has her own personal reasons for wanting to stop al-Qaeda, but time is slipping away as negotiations break down. Can she overcome her scars of the past in order to get the hostage out alive and possibly stop an assault on U.S. national security?

Navy SEAL Rafe Kelly is on leave to recover from a knee injury he suffered during his tour in Afghanistan and he doesn’t expect to be fighting terrorists on his home turf. But when he is taken hostage and his brother is kidnapped, Rafe teams up with a hostage negotiator in order to stay alive and get his brother back. The terrorist is always one step ahead of them, however, and the situation quickly turns from desperate to deadly. Will Rafe be able to save himself and his country without anyone he loves getting caught in the crossfire?

This is the back cover blurb for Julie's newest book. And, for everyone tuning in, this is the Author Inquisition with Julie Bellon. Hello Julie.

Julie: Hi. [smiles warmly]

Wow, Julie, this sounds like an exciting book! How long have you been writing?

Julie: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and I even won first place in a second grade writing contest for my essay on why we should respect cows. I need to go look for that certificate. I think it would be fun to frame it!

That sounds like a fun contest. I recently explained to some first graders that there are different breeds or types of cows. They looked amazed. How many books do you have published, and are they all about cows?

Julie: I started to get serious about novel writing in 2002 and my first book was published in 2004. My new novel, All Fall Down just came out a month ago. It has nothing to do with cows, but it takes my published novel count to eight. I also have eight children. What does that say about me? Never mind. Don’t answer that.

All I have to say is, I feel bad for you if you get fourteen books published! Yikers! So, what’s your favorite bit of writing advice—don’t gauge family size by the amount of books you publish?

Julie: No, actually my favorite writing advice is to never give up. The only difference between a published author and an unpublished author is that one gave up.

I'm going to hold on to that tidbit. [taps finger to chin] Hmm. Eight books published in nine years. Do you have a favorite activity when not writing—or are you always writing?

Julie: That’s a hard one. I love to read, play with my kids, and travel. I can’t even choose between those three! Maybe I should just take a vacation where I can do all three and then I don’t have to choose.

It’s called, family vacation. Otherwise, it’s hard to do all three at once. Do I dare ask if you ever get the dreaded writers block?

Julie: Usually when I’m stumped I just write out the dialogue to the scene, then I can go back later and fill in the setting and anchors and such. It frees me a bit to just see the scene in my head, with my characters talking, and I write the conversation down. The rest of the scene seems to follow and my being stumped days are over!

So, if your characters say it, the rest will come. Interesting.
I love candy and my wastline is starting to show it. Do you snack when you write? If so, what?

Julie: Well, it depends on if I’m trying to be healthy or not. If I’m trying to be healthy I snack on baby carrots. If I’m off the wagon, I usually eat pretzels or York peppermint patties. Let’s just say that lately, I’ve been on a peppermint patty kick. I know, I know, it’s naughty. I’m working on it.

Ah, sometimes you’re naughty, and sometimes you’re nice. I feel a Christmas song coming. Do you write lyrics?

Julie: I write novels.

Are you published traditionally or Indie? If you’re an Indie author, what guided your decision to go indie?

Julie: Six of my books are traditionally published, and two are indie. I loved my traditional publishing experience, but there is a freedom in being indie that I also love. I think I have the best of both worlds!

It’s interesting that your latest book is about freedom. What do you write about--Cows--the military?

Julie: Enough with the cows. Sheesh! I write international romantic suspense with spies and military and all the good stuff. Some call it thriller. I would describe it as thrilling adventure with a dash of romance.

That does sound thrilling. What’s the best flavor of ice cream to eat while reading one of your novels?

Julie: Moose tracks. To honor my Canadian heritage.
I went to Alaska once as a child. They sold varnished moose droppings and called it, Moose Moose. [frowns skeptically] This doesn't have anything to do with that, does it?
Julie: No, no. It's vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and fudge swirls.

Okay then, that does sound tasty. Yum! Let’s end the interview with your favorite writer’s memory.

Julie: When I was doing research for my book All’s Fair I was put in contact with a Marine who was stationed in Iraq. His unit would gather around the computer after they’d come in from their missions of disarming IEDs along the roadsides and answer all my questions. (And I was seriously grateful for them and their patience.) One of the things they told me they missed from home was the candy, Skittles. I arranged for a Skittles for Soldiers food drive at all my book signings after the book came out, and was able to collect 900 lbs of food and hygiene items for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just so our soldiers would know they weren’t forgotten and we appreciated them.

My most tender memory was having an older man come to one of my book signings, with an army cap on, who came to my table and could only grasp my arm for a minute while the tears rolled down his face. He finally got out the words, “Thank you. Thank you for remembering us.” I couldn’t do anything else but cry with him. I will always treasure that memory.

That is a sweet memory. Thank you, Julie. I’m sure you have more babies to write—I mean, novels to make—I mean [blushes], have a nice evening.

Julie: Thank you for the interview. It was fun! You can find out more about me at my bloghttp://ldswritermom.blogspot.com or my website www.juliebellon.com or you can follow me on Twitter: @juliebellon

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Thanks to the nice forest ranger.
Before my daughter moved to Illinois, I just had to take her and my son to the Tonto Natural Bridge. It’s a place I’ve been to several times over the years. There used to be more water seeping along the walls, and more moss growing there. Because of this, and the fact that the gnome movies by Disney were a big hit during my youth, I used to pretend that the gnomes lived at the bridge among the moss. It was the perfect place for them, if they existed.
Can you see the gnomes?

Looking down into the bridge.
Now it’s owned by the National Forest Service. They’ve done wonders in building paved paths and sprucing up the place, and although there isn’t nearly enough water flowing through it to keep the walls green, it’s still pretty grand.

The walk down into the bridge is new. The old path is in disrepair and closed off. The Ranger said that there is talk of restoring it. I’m not sure why they would though, since the current path, from the opposite side of the bridge is nice.
Third pool under the bridge.
A stream runs through the bridge and collects in three seperate pools. This is the third from the entrance. A friend and I took a dip in it as teens (before it was owned by the NFS), and I assure you that the water is cold enough to stop your heart.

Can you see my kids?
My daughter is near a brass memorial for someone who died at the bridge years ago, I don't remember how. There is a wide cave near the top (nearly a house length above my son). There used to be a log ladder going up to it, that was washed away during a flood. I went up there once and climbing the ladder was very scary! 
Going through the bridge.
I had fun watching my kids climb all over the place like I used to. This time I was happy staying toward the bottom and watching them. To the right is my son and daughter forging the trail along the slick rock to exit the bridge. There is (or used to be) a trail along the creek where you could climb back out. It was an easier path.
Going back up the current trail is a different story. For me, it was horribly reminiscent of walking up and out of the Grand Canyon. My kids, of course nearly ran up. Showoffs. The thing that kept me going is the seventy-year-old forest ranger coming up behind me with relative ease. Nothing makes a person feel as out of shape as having someone close to twenty years their senior accomplish the task easier.

That said, it was a wonderful experience and I would like to go again. The weather was nice and there were even a few fall colors. And, each time I go is a walk down memory lane.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


In honor of Veteran's Day, I'm posting an article that I wrote for the Desert Saints Magazine last year. I hope you enjoy it.

When we talk of freedom, the many wars we’ve suffered through in order to maintain our freedoms generally come to my mind. I ponder gratefully the many men and women who gave their lives so that we can better enjoy ours.

War isn’t new, however. We’ve been fighting for freedom since before the world began. What was the war in heaven all about if not our desire for freedom? We wanted bodies. We wanted to prove ourselves. We wanted the freedom to choose—and like the old adage, “freedom isn’t free,” neither are our choices. Just like in war, our freedom comes with a price.

With my freedom, I want to make choices that bring eternal happiness instead of just momentary pleasure, but sometimes it’s hard. The world today is a treacherous place to live—generally unrighteous—generally unhappy.

Being moral, and keeping the Ten Commandments is no longer considered by the world in general, to be a good thing. Honesty is not “in.” Chastity is old fashioned. Integrity is forgotten. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is almost unheard of by anyone outside of our faith. Using the Lord’s name in vain is common practice and widely accepted, and the mantra currently guiding the world seems to be, “it isn’t illegal if you don’t get caught.”

Satan is working overtime to destroy our freedoms. He never forgets that our unwise choices bind us to him a little at a time.

How then can we be righteous ourselves and raise a righteous generation to follow? How can we make a difference in the rising tide against us? The answer to these questions is almost as old as time itself. The Lord has not left us helpless, but has given us the roadmap to guide us safely home to Him. It’s interesting that this map, intended to keep us safe from the evils of the world, and to help us better enjoy our freedoms, is free, the only price being the surrendering of our “natural man.”

To keep our families and ourselves free from Satan’s influence, we must pray always. We must develop and continually increase our testimonies, we must read the Book of Mormon and our other scriptures, we must attend church regularly, and because we aren’t perfect, we must continually repent and strive to do better. The result of practicing these age-old principals is greater freedom and increased happiness.

We’ve worked hard since the war in heaven, striving to gain or maintain our freedom. Many have paid for this freedom with their lives or the lives of their loved ones. Since freedom isn’t free, and we pay for each choice we make—either by surrendering a part of our freedom and happiness, or by gaining further freedom and happiness—we must think more about those consequences.

Let’s make a difference in the world by making a difference in our families and in ourselves. Let us fight Satan’s war by acting righteously and unfurling the title of liberty in our hearts. We will strive continually to fight Satan’s influence, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Interview with MARSHA WARD

Marsha Ward, founder of the American Night Writers Association, and multi-published western novelist has a new book coming out and has conscented to an interview. Marsha, how did you become interested in the Civil War?

Marsha: Author Robert Newton Peck once said that every historical writer has their favorite war. While his was the French and Indian War, mine turned out to be the Civil War. I don’t know what sparked my passion for it. It could have been reading some of historian Bruce Catton’s work, or Gone With the Wind, during high school. My interest certainly did not stem from a personal or family issue, since none of my relatives fought on either side. If they had, they’ve have been Union soldiers, and my characters fought for the South.

 That said, my current novels actually have post-Civil War settings, dealing with the aftermath of that great struggle, so they fit more in the classification of Western Migration novels, or Settling of the West.

 Tell us about your novels.

The Man from Shenandoah begins as Carl Owen returns from the Civil War to find the family farm destroyed, his favorite brother dead, food scarce, and his father determined to leave the Shenandoah Valley to build a cattle empire in Colorado Territory. Crossing the continent, Carl falls in love with his brother's fiancée while set to wed another girl, but he might lose everything if the murderous outlaw Berto Acosta has his way. Carl battles a band of outlaws, a prairie fire, blizzards, a trackless waterless desert, and his own brother-all for the hand of feisty Ellen Bates.


Ride to Raton continues from there: after losing the heart of his fiancée to his brother, James Owen leaves home to make a new life for himself. The turbulent world of post-Civil War Colorado Territory is fraught with danger and prejudice that increase his bitter loneliness as personal setbacks threaten to break him. Then James's journey brings him into contact with another wayfarer, beautiful young Amparo Garcés, who has come from Santa Fe to Colorado to marry a stranger. Through a twist of fate, their futures are changed forever when their lives are merged in a marriage of convenience. James and Amparo undertake a hazardous horseback trek over Raton Pass to Santa Fe, battling their personal demons, a challenging language barrier, and winter's raging storms.


My third novel, Trail of Storms, goes back to tell the tale of a peripheral character from the first novel. Jessie Bingham and her family flee post-Civil War Virginia after her sister suffers a brutal attack, and together endure a perilous trek to New Mexico Territory. When she hears her former sweetheart, James Owen, has taken a wife, Jessie accepts Ned Heizer’s marriage proposal on the condition they wait until journey’s end to wed. But then Jessie encounters James again . . . and he isn’t married now!


Spinster’s Folly is the fourth book in the series, and tells Marie Owen’s story. Marie lives in a land that is long on rough characters and short on fitting suitors. Her desire to get married before she winds up a spinster propels her into making hasty decisions that drive her into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers.
When is Spinster's Folly coming out?

Marsha: It's release dat is November 10th, just a few more days! (Dancing with anticipation!) You can find details on events regarding its release at:  https://www.facebook.com/events/333393153425853/

I've read most of your novels and they're very good. What kind of research did you do to make your books historically believable, and did you visit the locations where you set your novels?

Marsha: I read 150 books to research my first novel. Some I bought, but most came from the library. Over the years that I’ve been writing the series, I have been able to do some on-the-ground research, and I recently took a trip back East to visit Civil War battlefields and other areas in preparation to write my next book. I’ve also been amassing books on the Civil War in the last year. Lots of books!

 In the earlier years, I conducted several interviews with people familiar with the areas I wanted to learn about. Photographs were also helpful, as were the state guides produced as WPA projects during the Great Depression. I’ve found several very good online sources for research on my later books.

Are you a seat of the pants writer or do you outline your books carefully?

Marsha: I definitely write by the seat of my pants, once I have an idea for a story and know who my characters will be. I’m doing more planning now than I used to, though, so I don’t spend way too much time rewriting. However, I’ll never again write a complete synopsis early-on. That doesn’t work for me, because my brain then thinks I’ve already written the book.

While I’m writing, I make various charts and spreadsheets to help me analyze the number of occurrances of different points-of-view, and events within scenes. This helps the revision process go faster.

I now use a great writing software program called yWriter5, which allows me to focus on one scene at a time. This is important so that I don’t become daunted by the vastness of the project. A huge upside to using it is that the software is free!


That sounds very interesting. What is your writing schedule like?

Marsha: Very fragmented. I’m easily distracted, but when I’m white-hot in the initial draft, I can write for up to eight hours, broken up by short breaks. This is only possible because I live alone.
I wish I had a better schedule. Almost every writer I know wishes the same thing!


Writers hate this question, but why do you write?
Marsha: I write because I have something to say, I love language, and I want to express my passionate belief that good people can overcome adversity and evil.


What other things have you done in addition to your writing?

Marsha: Through the years I mothered my children, and then worked as a journalist, an educator, and in a retail store. I’ve also volunteered with several organizations, doing websites, newsletters, and a multitude of other chores.


How do you promote your books?

Marsha: I have a website and a couple of blogs, I’m active on Facebook and other social media venues, and I’m always looking for ways to let people know I’m an author, such as giving talks and networking with various groups. I find that word of mouth from enthusiastic readers drives the most sales, though.


Do you have any advice for anyone contemplating writing a Civil War novel?

Marsha: Do thorough research, keep accessible notes, then let the fingers loose.


How would you like to be remembered?

Marsha: As a kind person who could write a little.
Marsha, you are so humble! You will be loved and revered for ages into eternity for birthing the American Night Writers group known as ANWA, and for your loving nurture of so many wannabe writers like myself. AND, you better not even think of going anywhere any time soon! I can't even fathom what our group would do without you.
Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview.
Here are some links to get to know Marsha better - and to buy her books:



Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Author Joyce DiPastena tagged me in The Next Big Thing. It's a game where I get to tell about my work-in-progrress. I also write historical fiction, and contemporary ghost stories, but this is what I'm working on right now.
What is your working title of your book?
Fairy Dust

Where did the idea come from for the book?
When coming home from a writer’s retreat, I was talking with a friend and came up with the idea.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a mixed genre that I call women’s fantasy. Sounds intriguing, right?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Amy Adams for Angela, and Jude Law for her husband, Ted.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Angela Anderson wakes to discover she has fairy wings and a fairy mission to perform, but as she tries determining whether or not she’s gone nuts, her non-believing husband, Ted, becomes increasingly alarmed with Angela’s erratic behavior and a growing friendship between her and a handsome fireman.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
If traditional publishing falls through I won’t hesitate to go Indie.

May we see an intro to your manuscript?
Fairy Dust has a prologue , but this is a few paragraphs from the first chapter when she first discovers her wings:

Angela groaned with frustration. If only she could get some sleep. Leg cramps. Hot flashes. They were having a heyday with her tonight—and that familiar ache in her shoulder. Rubbing it now, she tried alleviating the pain, but something was there—unfamiliar, foreign. Angela swept her hand across the sheets thinking to remove a stray candy wrapper.


Puzzled, she rubbed her shoulder again. Something was stuck to her back. Only able to reach so far, she fingered the edge. It felt soft. She tugged, but it didn’t come off. Curious and sitting in bed now, Angela arched backwards, reaching.

It felt strangely like . . . wings. Wings?

Shagging the sleep away, Angela leaned forward, elbows on her legs, chin in her hands, and massaging her cheeks. What month was it? Had she forgotten to take off her Halloween costume again? No, it was September. Chills surged down her spine and sparkled down her arms, making the hairs stand on end.

Were the kids, or Ted somehow responsible? She glanced at her sleeping husband. This wasn’t some misguided joke, was it? Angela shook her head at the improbability. But wings? It seemed like too much to hope for. That didn’t stop a hopeful grin from spreading across her face.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Although, there are lots of books with teens who develop super powers and such, I haven’t heard of any with a middle-aged protagonist. I’m not discouraged though. Before Twilight, most readers hadn’t heard of a vampire/human romance, and now they’re everywhere. Maybe I’ll start a trend.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Most books end with the ‘happily ever after,’ but what happens after that? In Fairy Dust, Angela is already married to the man of her dreams, but can they hold on to that love after middle-age and hormones set in? To add a little fun to the mix, Angela sprouts wings, a local fireman gets a little too friendly, and just before their first granddaughter is born Ted wants to move the family to California.  

Here is the link back to Joyce DiPastena's blog: http://jdp-news.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Once again it’s time for the Author Inquisition. Please welcome Heather Justesen. [hearty round of applause]

So, let’s get right to this thing, shall we?

Heather: Sounds good. [smiles politely] 

How many novels have you published?  

Heather: I have five published romance novels, plus a couple of novellas, and my newest book is a culinary mystery, Brownies & Betrayal—which has been a totally fun change of pace and includes yummy scrumptious recipes. My character, Tess is fun and a little irreverent giving the book a bit of a chick-lit-y feel.

Yum. Culinary mysteries are a hot genre. [Whispers: That means popular.] And, I love brownies.

A lot of authors like lots of advice. What’s your favorite bit of writing advice?

Heather: Keep writing. You can’t finish the book or have it published if you sit back and dream. Don’t be afraid to rewrite or write crap—it’s the best way to learn.

Nods, then looks off camera. [Whispers: Are we allowed to say crap online?] I’ve been dreaming of being published for several years now – so you’re saying that I need to get up and go to work?

Heather: Absolutely.

I’ll keep that in mind. Although you don’t advocate sitting back and dreaming, everyone needs a break occasionally, even authors. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Heather: Baking. I love to tweak recipes and try new things.

Mmm, I’m starting to feel hungry. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? That’s one of the four food groups, you know.

Heather: I love Brownies Over the Moon by Farr.

I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of that flavor. Is it by farr your favorite? haha. A little Farr joke there.

Heather: [frowns]

No. It’s funny. Really. Farr – far [lifts eyebrows]

Heather: If you say so. [smiles patiently, clasps hands together on table] 

Okay, so that didn’t go over very well. Do you like vegetables? And which one do you think is most vile?

Heather: What does this have to do with writing?

Your newest book – it’s a culinary mystery. That means there’s food in it. Right?

Heather: [sighs] I detest Jalapeños. I don’t like hot and spicy things.

Speaking of hot and spicy ... I understand that you knew a hunk-a, hunk-a college stud-muffin in college. [wiggles eyebrows] Did you get my culinary reference?

Heather: Oh, I got it all right. [Thrums table with fingers]

Well? Tell us more.

Hmmm, there was this guy I worked with in college. He was seriously hot, and an over-the-top flirt. I based a character in a book (okay, make that two books) off of him. [smiles slyly] I even used his name when I wrote the first draft. But he doesn’t read romance so when I finally finish fixing those books and put them out, he’ll never know it was him.

Very clever. They [the writing powers that be] say to write who you know – but to change their names to protect the innocent. Doesn’t sound like he was too innocent though. Eh? [pokes at the air with an elbow]

Heather: I guess not, now that you mention it.

Moving on, what is your writing process after your initial story idea?

Heather: It depends on the book. Some of them I play with characters and plot ideas and find a setting—.

I’ve heard that it’s not polite to play with your characters. [looks sternly] 

Heather: Some of them I start writing with minimal forethought and when I start to get past the first burst of inspiration, I go back and fill in the important details that will make the story sing. My mysteries start with characters, a dead body and motives galore.

There’s a couple of holes in your story—they don’t sing—hello, people sing.

Heather: Metaphorically, speaking.

Meta who? [shakes head and blinks] This is just too confusing. Let’s move to something a bit easier. Are you published as an Indie author, or traditionally? 

Heather: I have three novels out with a traditional publisher and have done the others either indie or with BigWorldNetwork.com, which puts the books out first in serial format and then later as a complete story—that’s sort of hybrid: not really mainstream, but not indie, either.  

Hm. [nods thoughtfully] That’s something new. I’ve never heard of hybrid publishing.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

Heather: I used to be a total pantser. Now I figure out who my characters are and do a loose plot so I have some direction on where I’m headed and start writing.

Do you snack when you write? If so, what?

Heather: Sometimes. If I do, I eat whatever is handy. It’s hard to type with food in my hands, so if I’m feeling really snacky sometimes I just grab a piece of gum, because I don’t keep a lot of munchies in the house or at the office.

Smart girl. The keys get kinda sticky if you eat too much candy while typing.

Heather: Smirks

You’ve been a good sport today, Heather. Will you tell us about your newest book, Brownies & Betrayal, and give us the links so that we can learn more about you. 

Heather: Thanks for having me. Here is a short bit about my book:

Pastry chef Tess Crawford thought moving from Chicago to quiet Silver Springs, Arizona would simplify her life. That was before she found the body of a woman with whom she had traded heated words the previous night, left her fingerprints on the murder weapon, and came under attack for trying to clear her name. When her cheating ex-fiance shows up, intent on convincing her to come back to work for him, Tess—armed with an extra batch of éclairs—decides to take control and solve the mystery herself, with the help of friends and frenemies alike.

But will that be enough to save her when she gets too close and the killer decides it’s safer to get her out of the way?


Here are my links:

Twitter: @HeatherJustesen

Thanks! Heather
No, Thank you, Heather. I think I'm off to find some Farr out ice cream.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


If you like to spend cold nights wrapped in a blanket and reading a good novel, A timeless Romance Anthology, Winter Collection, is just in time. There are six short historical romances set at Christmastime. Each is written by a well-established author. Each is written like a little gift to the heart.

Some of my favorite authors of all time are included in the selection. Joyce DiPastena’s first novel, Loyalty’s Web was so expertly written that I was hooked, and read it four times before finally being able to move on to a new selection, and I've read her subsequent novels nearly as many times. Donna Hatch’s novel, The Stranger She Married, had such a clever twist that I laughed out loud and immediately re-opened the book and started reading it again. Sarah Eden’s historical romances reflect her clever personality, and her characters are full of fun and wit. I don’t know the other authors well, but I’ve heard good things about them.
The stories are short, but they’re not short on plot or romantic adventure. I just finished reading Joyce’s story, Caroles on the Green, twice.

In Caroles on the Green, we are brought into Joyce DiPastena’s medieval world with Isabel and Sir Lucian. Isabel is a stubborn girl who refuses to turn into the mute and docile housewife that most men of that era expect. She has fire, spunk. She has known Sir Lucian most of her life, but it was only after he returned from the Crusades that they became attracted to one another, and were, at one time, betrothed.

As the story opens, we are in Isabel’s home, a castle run by her father under Isabel’s actual command. They are having a Christmas feast with several eligible bachelors vying for Isabel’s hand. But she also wants to find a suitable husband for her younger sister, Agnes.

During desserts, Isabel begins eating her apple tart and discovers a ring inside. Determined to show Sir Lucian that she has the upper hand and will marry whomever she pleases, Isabel immediately puts the ring on her finger. When bashful Sir Theo asks for the first dance, Isabel mistakenly believes that he is the giver of the ring. She could rule his life with no complaints.

When a mistake in etiquette causes Isabel and Sir Lucian to dance together for most of the evening, Isabel realizes she still loves him—but she had accidentally broken his nose, and then told him that she would not marry him. Could he forgive her? Would she ever be able to be the docile wife that she believes he desires?

These questions are not forgotten when Sir Eustace steps forward, claiming the ring as his, and announcing loud enough so that the hall of guests can hear, that they will become man and wife. Knowing it would enrage her father to return the ring, Isabel has no choice. And yet, she is a stubborn vixen, surely she will find a way.

I’ll not say any more. It is a short story after all, and I don’t want to give the whole thing away. Just know that this short story by Joyce DiPasena does not disappoint. If you enjoy her full-length novels, this one will also leave you smiling.

To purchase an e-copy of A Timless Romance Anthology, Winter Collection, go to:

Joyce is also hosting a giveaway on her blog. She'd love for you to join her at:http://jdp-news.blogspot.com/2012/09/not-one-but-two-new-releases-and-four.html#.UGkWFJG9KK0
Learn more about Joyce, and purchase her full-length novels at:

To order a copy of Joyce DiPastena's newest Christmas story, A Candelight Courting, go to:


Monday, September 24, 2012


Here we are with another Inquisition! Has it been a month already? You bet it has, and today our hot seat holds author Shaunna Gonzales. Hello Shaunna, and welcome.

Shaunna: Thanks. I’m glad to be here.

I understand that your new novel touches on the tender subject of PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Do you know someone who suffers from this?

Shaunna: I knew a veteran as a child and I will not soon forget the cautions when playing with him. He would bounce me on his feet in the air or let me use his huge muscular frame as my personal "jungle gym" as long as he was on his back and invited me to do so. He loved children and still does. Never, ever could I touch or try to tackle him from behind. Today I know why. Then I didn't.


What have you learned in your research that has surprised you most about PSTD?


Shaunna: It amazes me how common this is on one level or another. Most cases of PST are not extreme, but if you think about an experience in your life that frightened you, you might realize you deal with the post traumatic stress. For me, I was in a car accident as a child. It was during winter months and the car flew several feet into the snow. (I drew on this experience for a scene in the book.)


There was a situation in my life many years ago involving a helicopter. It was years before I could hear a helicopter nearby without an ominous feeling. But let’s move on to something lighter. What is your favorite bit of writing advice?                                        

Shaunna: Write what you know and love. Write for yourself, not your imagined perfectly matched editor or publisher. Should you one day find them, they will, if they know their stuff and we all hope they do, bruise you and your precious fledgling novel. (Smile - those bruises heal and make you both better.)


So you have imaginary publishers too? [whispers off stage: I thought I was the only one.] You can’t imagine how relieved I am to hear that. [smiles happily]

Shaunna: No—

Yes. And you shouldn’t let him or her bruise you either. That’s abuse, and totally unnecessary in writing. [whispers off stage: I need to start bringing counselors to these interviews.]

Shaunna: You misunderstand—

It doesn’t matter if you have a misunderstanding. Don’t let your imaginary publishers and editors abuse you. Be strong woman! Stand up for yourself!

Shaunna: I have a real publisher. Not a pretend one.

Oh. [shoulders slump] Well don’t let them abuse you either.

Shaunna: [raises eyebrows] Can we move to the next question?

Sure. What do you when you’re feeling the dreaded [whispers:] writer’s block?

Shaunna: I often become stumped, especially in my current WIP. Those are times to take a water or food break to feed the head and the body.

They say the way to every writer’s heart is through his/her stomach.

Shaunna: Of course there is the nature break.

I like walking out in nature too. I don’t do it often though. I live in the city.

Shaunna: [frowning] If the stump was small, it is usually fixed with the small distraction. Other times I have to walk away and get involved in living until the "Wow, it's been awhile. I better go see what is happening in my WIP." Some times that is just a day, but other times a bit longer.

Some of my neighbors plant flowers in the bigger stumps in their yard. Have you tried that? The small ones are a tripping hazard. You can burn them out, did you know?

Shaunna: What? [turns head sideways, brows pinched together]

When you’re feeding your head and body, what do you feed it?

Shaunna: I have an antique library desk with drawers and usually I will stash whatever sugary treat that caught my fancy there. It varies, on the healthy side to nuts, sometimes chocolates and right now? Sour Patch Watermelon.

What is your writing process after your initial story idea?

Shaunna: For me, and I don't advise doing this. Pray for inspiration then sit down and let my fingers follow the racing, but calm thoughts. If I really listen, there aren't a lot of changes. With my current WIP it is different, this WIP has been written for a while, submitted more times than I care to count and yet, it won't let me sleep. Basically I'm merging the thoughts with what is already there on the page. Some of it is good and needs to be kept, some of it needs to be deleted.

So, you don’t advise authors to pray? [eyes open wide in disbelief]

Shaunna: I do advise authors to pray. I don’t advise ... well, never mind. Next question.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

Shaunna: I'm a pantster. Sometime it gets me in trouble, like now with Talisman. I have to keep it fresh enough that I don't get bored knowing how it ends.

Do you have a favorite flavor of ice cream?

Shaunna: That's easy, Rocky Road, preferably Dreyers Grand Light (I used to work for Dreyers.)


Meep! [lip quivers] You worked for Dreyers? [takes a shaky breath. Turns to the side: I don’t know if I can continue. Then, nods] Do you have a favorite writer’s  ice cream—I mean memory? Writer’s memory?

Shaunna: The day I knew Dark Days of Promise would be published. I didn't know by whom or when, I just knew it would be.

Tell us a little about your newest book coming out. The title, blurb, genre, publisher etc.

Shaunna: Dark Days of Promise is an Inspirational Romantic Suspense published by Desert Breeze Publishing. Release date is September 21, 2012.

Thirty-four year old Vicki Laramie must learn to trust before she can love, but she might die trying.

While Vicki’s children grapple with the death of their father—a man whom she’s successfully fabricated as a loving father, a lie her rebellious teenager recognizes—she must find a way to support her family and find a role model for her boys. She never intends to fall for Staff Sergeant Chase, her best friend’s son, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’d much rather choose a safer man to love, but her children have a voice in the decision she makes. With two deaths to deal with, a suitor after her money, a rebellious son, and Sergeant Chase’s repeated attacks, she can only hope to survive the danger she faces. If she doesn’t, her children will be left without either parent.

Whew! Well, it’s time for some ice cream. Don’t you think?

Shaunna: You won’t hear an argument from me.

I love Rocky Road. Let’s go get some together. [stands] Hey, book fans, to learn more about Shaunna and her book, go to: