Monday, August 31, 2009


Sarah and Trent are the winners of the second contest for August. Please send me your mailing address and a list of five or more LDS Fiction books you'd like to own, but don't. If I have one of them and it isn't a 2009 strong possibility for a Whitney award, that will be your prize. If none of the books you list are available, I'll ask for a second wish list. Please notify me by Friday.

The first of September contest begins now and will end at noon on September 15. Remember everyone who comments on any of my blogs between now and the fifteenth and/or is a follower on this blog is eligible for the drawing. You can comment on each blog I post and be entered more than once.

Even though many people start a new school year in August, September will always be associated with back to school in my mind. It's also a time when summer comes to an end and the rich colors of fall and a return to regular pastimes occurs. I'm not sure why, but autumn is always my internal "new year."

Every season has its good points, but early fall brings a break from intense summer heat, begins a new routine, and is filled with the most vibrant colors of the year. I think my favorite thing about fall is the food that belongs to the season. The garden is filled with new potatoes and corn, two of my favorites. And peaches! Warm peaches picked from a tree in the backyard, so juicy there's a steady stream down my arms and the faces of my grandchildren. Crisp apples, mellow pears, and fat squash. These are hard to beat. So tell me what does September or early fall mean to you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


It may come as a surprise to most people, but authors don’t get a lot of say on either the title or the cover of their books. We wait, nervously chewing our fingernails, to find out what title has been chosen to grace our offerings and what the cover is going to look like. Most of the time I’ve been satisfied with both and a few times my publisher has actually kept my working title for the book’s official title. This time I had nothing to do with either. Shudder fits , but doesn’t even come close to my working title--Until Forever. I didn’t have so much as a hint what the artists were working on for my cover. I wasn’t certain I liked it at first, but it has grown on me. Maybe it’s the eyes; they don’t look scared enough.
Here's the blurb from the back of the book:
Darcy and Clare grew up as best friends, sharing trials and triumphs from preschool through college graduation. Now they're sharing an apartment in Boise, Idaho where Clare just landed a great job and Darcy is pursuing a teaching certificate. There's only one problem: Blaine, Clare's boyfriend. His chauvinistic, know-it-all ways set Darcy's teeth on edge. Darcy vows not to let Blaine ruin her lifelong friendship with Clare, but when Blaine insists on moving in, Darcy suddenly finds herself alone.

The estranged friends forge ahead on seemingly separate paths. Engaged to Blaine, Clare becomes trapped in ugly family politics and vicious treatment from her finace. Darcy finds a temporary home with Karlene, an accident victim seeking live-in help, but a twisted plot soon threatens their safety. Clare's wedding briefly reunites her with Darcy, yet the friends have never been farther apart. And when Clare finds herself in mortal peril and finally calls upon Darcy to help, it might be too late.

I’ll post the first chapter on my web page shortly. My daughter, Janice, is my webmaster and she has pneumonia, so needless to say, I won’t be pressuring her to hurry. The book has almost six weeks until its release date so there’s plenty of time. Until then I'd love to know what you think of the cover.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

and the winner is . . .

Haikuamy is the name drawn to win two prizes! Gale Sears will send her a copy of The Route and I will send her a book of her choice as soon as she sends me her address and a list of books to choose from.

As usual, the new contest begins now. Instead of announcing particular books as prizes this time, I'm going to focus on choices. Later I'll post some of my views on choices, but to begin this contest I'm just asking readers to post a list of five or six books you don't own, but would like to. They can be old or new, but must be LDS fiction. Please tell us why at least one of those books has caught your fancy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I've never been patient with excuses, but it seems I've done a lot of making excuses this summer for not posting blogs more often. Between my sister's illness and some tight, but necessary writing deadlines, I haven't found much time to blog. The death of my desktop computer hasn't helped either. My editor and I are down to the wire now finishing the edit of Shudder which is to be released October 1. This book is contemporary and part suspense, part romance, and part social issue. As soon as the cover is finalized, I'll post a picture. There's already an early sample of the cover posted on Deseret Book and on Covenant's sites. I won't say this book was fun to write because it made me relive some painful memories some special women shared with me, yet it is a book I've known for a long time that I would write. I don't yet know how many reviewers copies my publisher's marketing department will make available, but if any of my readers post reviews on your blogs and are interested in reviewing Shudder, please let me know and I'll try to get enough copies for you.

I've finished my historical/western WIP and just need to get it submitted. That has kept me busy. With a special on Gerald Lund and his new book, The Undaunted, and my regular review column to prepare this month, I've certainly been challenged. Reviews this month will include two outstanding mysteries. I can already predict Whitney judges in the mystery/suspense category are going to have a difficult time picking a winner. Not only are these two by Josi Killpack and Stephanie Black exceptional, but there have been a few other outstanding ones in this category so far this year. Please get busy and get your nominating votes in.

Now for a reminder. The current contest ends in two days. The winner will receive two books, The Route by Gale Sears and a book from my bookshelf. Submit a list of your choices and if it is available, it's yours. There are two ways to enter the contest, become a follower of my blog and/or comment on any of my blogs posted since the first of August.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


If you’ve ever had a friend recommend a book to you, one he or she has gushed over, and found when you tried to read it that it was endless, boring drivel, then welcome to the world of reality. Or perhaps you’ve been on the opposite side, giving a glowing account of a book that made an impact on you, only to find family and friends consider the same book to be ho hum. Fortunate and few are the authors who manage to appeal to a wide cross-section of readers.

People are different and their tastes vary, that’s why we have different genres of fiction. In fact, most people don’t find a single genre appealing throughout their entire life. As I trace my own fiction preferences, I started out being crazy about animal books: The Black Stallion, Old Yeller, The Yearling, My Friend Flicka, Lassie, Tiger! Tiger! From there I jumped to mythology and fairy tales, followed by the usual mystery and adventures of Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, The Hardy Boys, and Tarzan. I went through a Perry Mason phase, a Martian Chronicles phase, and a Louis L’Amour phase before falling in love with epic novels such as Exodus, The Big Fisherman, the Delderfields, The Far Pavilions, The Winthrop Woman, and Desiree. For years I loved romances, then moved on to romantic suspense and historical. I now enjoy a broad spectrum of genres, but continue to like books filled with action. Since I review LDS fiction for Meridian Magazine, I’m glad that LDS fiction now comes in so many different genres.

I find something I like in almost every LDS novel I read, though granted, I have to look pretty hard in some. Some books, I don’t care so much for, fail to appeal to me because of personal taste. They might be well-written for their particular genre, but they don’t appeal to me. Other times a book isn’t particularly well written, but the research and basic story are so interesting I like the book anyway.

Some readers enjoy a slow leisurely read while others crave action. Some enjoy stories based primarily on the characters and their thought processes and evolution. Still others are more interested in following a convoluted plot than concerning themselves with the twists and turns going on in the characters’ minds. Fantasy is popular now because it provides total escapism from this world’s problems. Romance is always popular because almost everyone falls in love at some time, or hopes to, and can relate to the emotions and crisis involved in finding a perfect mate. There are those who feel they are learning something as well as being entertained when they read historical novels. Others thrive on the challenge of outwitting the characters in a book (or the author) to solve a mystery.

I’ve served as a judge for quite a few writing contests and I write a review column for an internationally recognized online magazine which are the reasons, I assume, that I’m sometimes asked what makes one book good or successful and another not so good. I can only answer with my own personal criteria. First is something I call personal appeal. The subject matter or premise of the book must be appealing to the reader. Next is packaging. This means a cover that stirs a potential reader’s imagination. Then follows style and accuracy. The first page of a book needs to start where the real story begins, using words that intrigue or capture attention, copy errors must be at a minimum, and font and print size need to be right for the projected audience. The heart and meat of a novel are plot and characters. Readers who find they care nothing for the characters in a novel aren’t likely to finish the book and they won’t recommend it to their friends. If the plot is soft and predictable, the reader has no reason to continue turning pages. A book can be a good book if it accomplishes all this for one person. But unless it accomplishes all this for a large number of readers, most people won’t consider it a success.

Surprise! Surprise! There is no magic formula for writing a perfect super successful novel. Not even J. K. Rowling managed to appeal to everyone. Just as people and their individual tastes vary, so do the imaginations of readers and writers. Some writers’ imaginations are too extreme, too dull, or too repetitive for some readers even if other readers find them just right. Most writers can only aspire to appeal to a large enough group of readers with like imaginations to develop a profitable following.

If someone tells me a book is great, I’ll probably give it a try, but I’m not surprised when I don’t like it as much as they do. And if I sing the praises of a certain book, it’s fun if others agree, but I’m never surprised if it doesn’t strike the same chord in another book lover as it does for me. Sometimes two or more readers discover they like the same book and tell their friends, who like it too, that’s how a book becomes a best seller. So keep sharing with your friends the titles of books you like. You’ll agree on the merits of some and disagree on others, but that’s part of the fun of being able to read.

Tell me about your favorite books, especially the LDS ones. Or share experiences you've had where you and a friend have disagreed on whether a book was really good or really bad. Those who sign up as followers on my blog will be automatically entered in this contest and the winner will receive The Route from author Gale Sears and another book of his/her choosing from my bookshelf.