“Wednesday Writer” – Kate Palmer

Kate Palmer is the mother of six and lives on a farm in the country, but in her spare time she’s taken to writing and her first novel, THE GUY NEXT DOOR, was published in September, 2012. But that’s a bare bones blurb. I like to go deeper.

kate-authorME:  Where did you grow up and did it prepare you for farm living? If so, how? (I’d love to post a photo of you as a child.)

KATE:  I grew up in Logan, Utah. We had a huge garden, but that’s pretty much all in the way of farm preparation I got. It taught me that the weeding and picking had to be done no matter how I felt. However, farming is a whole other level of hard work. My in-laws work really hard and very long hours. They are happy, not at all grumpy about it, but you finish the job rain or shine. And you learn that you can’t control the weather and a lot of other things and how those circumstances affect your yield. You learn patience and do the best you can regardless. You learn that children are a big help. We couldn’t run the farm without them.

Also, dirt is everywhere. You will get dirty, and it’s okay.

(Personally, I believe farming is what made our country great. That kind of work builds character and binds families closer, as I think you’ve made clear.)

ME: I know your favorite children’s book was Squanto and the Pilgrims. Can you explain the fascination and tell us what your second favorite was?

Squanto and the pilgrimsKATE:  I’ve always loved history and learning about other people and different cultures. (Me too!) I liked reading about Squanto helping the pilgrims. Raising crops is similar to the huge garden I had and my family hunts a lot. I think it was relatable to me. I was only in second grade. My second favorite book was Georgie and the Robbers. I had a record (Yes, I’m that old!) of the story that went with the book. I listened to it over and over again.

ME:  I understand you never thought about being a writer until four years ago, but did you have a knack for English in school? What extracurricular activities were you involved with in high school? (And I’d love a picture of you during those years, preferably engaged in one of those activities.)

KATE:  Drama was pretty much the only extracurricular activity I did. I was in the school play my junior and senior years. The Seminary Council also took up a lot my time, and was super fun.

(Yet another writer with a theater background. It makes perfect sense, of course.)

KateActing(That’s Kate on the right, I believe, in a school play)

ME:  What made you go into teaching and how has the profession changed over the years? Has it helped you in any way in your writing?

KATE:  Teaching has always been my first love. I held summer school for my little brothers. My mom thought I was crazy. I liked helping kids in my class who didn’t understand their assignments. I love learning and I wanted children to enjoy the discovery of learning, not look at it as drudgery.

I quit teaching seventeen years ago so I’ve been out of the loop for a long time. However, from my perspective, it seems like there is so much pressure on the classroom teacher to make sure she spends the correct number of minutes on each subject, and there is so much more testing and teacher training going on. I often wonder how the teachers have time to implement all the training they receive. (You make a lot of valid points based on my own daughter’s experience…I think it’s become a much more stressful profession.) It’s a lot and I think that pressure to perform is passed on to the students. For most children, that’s not a positive learning atmosphere. I see that teaching has changed from being child-centered learning to performance based learning. The joy of learning can be lost if the teacher isn’t paying attention.

ME:  Now four years ago, you’ve said in an interview, you read a book that completely transported you into its world. What book was that and why do you think it succeeded where other books had failed? Also, how has that particular book affected your own writing?

KATE:  Twilight by Stephanie Meyer completely transported me into its world which was weird because it’s not a book I would have picked out for myself. (I had suspected that was the book.) In fact, it was on my desk for three months before I read it. I only read it then because I had run a half marathon the Saturday before Labor Day and by Labor Day morning my muscles didn’t want to get out of bed. I jokingly told my daughter to make breakfast for me and she agreed. I told her I needed something to do if I were going to stay in bed so she brought me the book off my desk. I unwillingly began to read. By the end of September, I’d read the entire series.

Twilight

I wanted to know how Stephanie Meyer had transported me so I began studying how to write. (This would be my love for learning showing itself.) I analyzed Meyer’s work and determined it was the emotion that enveloped me. I think that’s her strength. She did a lot of other things right structurally, as well, but she’s superb at creating emotion within the reader.

I try really hard to make that emotional connection with my readers, as well. Scene and sequel was another big lesson I found in her work. Everything is happening in real time in her books. The reader experiences it with the character. There isn’t a lot of summary. That led me to study Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham. That has revolutionized my writing.

Scene and StructureME:  Living on a farm as you do, what has been the most outlandish experience you’ve had, and have you ever thought about writing something set on a farm or using some of your farm experiences (such as finding manure in your laundry) in your fiction? (And please provide a photo of you and your family on the farm.)

KATE:  Finding manure in my laundry was pretty shocking, but I’ve found it other places in my house unfortunately.

(Yuck!)

My brother-in-law AI-ed (Articficially Inseminated) our milk cow one year. I wasn’t home at the time. Instead of going to his house to clean up, he stopped at mine. I’m pretty sure he was clean because it—you know the stuff—was all over my sink and towels.

(Double yuck!)

I’d have to say the most outlandish experience has been butchering our own chickens. We did it for three years. I DO NOT recommend it. (Yeah, but maybe you should think about auditioning for “Survivor.”)

I definitely want to use my farm experiences in future works. My current work in progress is set on a working cattle ranch. I want to show people what it’s really like to live on a ranch—particularly the amount of work involved. That’s missing in so much western and historical fiction.

IMG_9445(And here’s a photo of life on the farm)

In the photo: My sister-in-law and I hold a rogue calf while my father-in-law teaches my son how to brand. We have a squeeze chute, but this calf slipped under the fence just before her turn. It was easier to catch her in the corral and brand her than feed her back through the corrals and squeeze chute again.

ME:  Tell us how you came up with the idea for your debut novel, THE GUY NEXT DOOR, and what was your writing process?

Guy-Next-Door_COVER-WEBKATE:  My Great-Grandfather died from the effects of being a coal miner. He left behind a wife and thirteen children. The banker wanted to marry my Great-Grandmother, but didn’t want her children. She used to sit up nights on the front porch with the shotgun to keep him away. I could never understand how that banker could think my grandmother would leave her children and how she could love him if he didn’t love her children. I wanted to take that story of a man loving a woman, but not her children and make it a modern story.

I had read that I needed to combine two different story ideas to make an effective novel. So I began thinking what else I could write about. Then I remembered an especially vivid dream I’d had in college. In the dream, I was being chased through the woods holding a baby that wasn’t really mine.

Okay, that wasn’t really so much of a different idea. It was more along the lines of the first idea so I kept thinking. My husband runs the local cable channel. One October morning he got a call from the local police about a marijuana farm that had been found in the mountains above Ephraim. He went with the police and filmed the DEA agents (feet only to protect their identity) going through the site. It was unusual for two reasons. First marijuana doesn’t usually grow at that high of an elevation. Secondly, an irrigation system had been rigged up with black tubing to take water from Ephraim city’s irrigation water.

That’s the kind of second idea I needed. I put those three things together, came up with three disasters and an ending and began writing.

ME:  It appears to be a mix of thriller and romance. Which genre do you lean more toward and why?

KATE:  I describe my work as romance with a dash of suspense. I’m always drawn to the romance in a story—it’s what keeps me coming back.

ME:  What are you working on now, and how would you describe your writing space? (I must have a photo of said space, whether it’s an office, the barn, or a simple recliner.)

KATE:  I’m working on a children’s chapter book (editing it now), a children’s picture book series (Seasons on the Farm), and another romantic suspense. The romantic suspense is a contemporary western and is really fun to write. (I’ll look forward to it.)

When we built our house, my husband was working from home so we planned an office for him. He no longer works from home, and I am very fortunate to have that office as my writing space. (Yay!) It has the all-important door that can be closed. Actually, when I wrote THE GUY NEXT DOOR, I wrote it at the desk in our dining room so I really appreciate the office I have now. I recently started homeschooling one of my children so the office is really a mess right now while I figure out where to house everything.

photo(Great office!)

You can learn a lot more about Kate and all her interests on her website. Her book, THE GUY NEXT DOOR, is available on Amazon, Seagull, and Deseret Book.

And next week I’ll be talking with Alysia Ricks, author of Sweet Romantic Suspense, YA, and Adventure, who writes under the pen name Alysia S. Knight.

Alysia Ricks

 

“Monday Mystery” – THE BALI MYSTERY (Amelia Moore Detective Series)

Bali web

Linda Weaver Clarke describes her book’s genre as a “cozy mystery,” or, in her words:

“A G-rated story with no swearing or sex. It has many twists and turns and must have very likeable characters so that it can be turned into a series. A cozy mystery focuses on the plot and characters, and the main character is usually an intelligent woman.”

With that understood, let’s take a look at her latest:

Synopsis

Amelia Moore, the founder of the Moore Detective Agency, specializes in missing persons. Her cases have taken her to some very interesting places and put her in some dangerous situations, but she always solves the case. With the help of Rick Bonito, her business is flourishing.

When Mrs. Brody hires Amelia and Rick to find her missing brother, they find themselves in Bali, Indonesia. They are mystified why her brother quit his job, put his home up for sale, and ran off to this mysterious and exotic island without telling a soul.

Excerpt

Amelia narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips as she watched the hefty man walk out of her office. She was upset. He had demanded she drop her new case or she would be sorry. Yes, he had threatened her if she continued her search, but he did not know that his threat only encouraged her.

Amelia Moore, the founder of the Moore Detective Agency, was in her thirties and had a positive outlook on life. She had short honey brown hair that framed her face and complemented her hazel eyes. Amelia was confident, stubborn, and spunky. She took her job seriously and enjoyed her work. She always chose cases that made a positive difference in people’s lives. This assignment, however, was unusual.

Author

Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching and encouraging people to write their family history and autobiography. She is the author of several historical sweet romances, a mystery/adventure series, a new cozy mystery series, and two non-fiction books.

Linda Weaver ClarkeYou can purchase THE BALI MYSTERY or any of her other books from her website.

“Wednesday Writer” – Teresa Hirst

It’s nice to be able to interview an author of non-fiction now and then, and I’m very excited to share what I’ve learned about inspirational writer, Teresa Hirst, today. She recently wrote and published a book on using financial crises to build faith, based on the experiences of her own family.

TeresaHirst4

(Photo of Teresa, courtesy of Tammie Olson Photography)

ME:  You talk about having had a Harriet the Spy persona as you grew up in the Midwest. Would you care to elaborate, and what was it about the Midwest that brought that side out of you? (I’d like to post a photo of you as a child, preferably in Harriet the Spy mode.)

TERESA:  I spent the summers of my childhood in St. Charles, Missouri, where this town on the outskirts of St. Louis hadn’t yet exploded into suburbia. I spent my pre-teen summers reading my weekly load of 10-20 books (including Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh) from the library or scouring the neighborhood or the woods behind our house for adventure.

Harriet the Spy 2

My sister and I broke up the monotony of summer days with our own versions of spying on the neighbors in their yards from the best vantage points in our garage. We even marked the spot with a piece of tape. We loved watching how other families and friends lived, although always from a distance. Unlike Harriet, these “characters” didn’t show up in my notebooks or stories, only in an unforgettable nightmare in which one neighbor chased me into the woods with a baker’s hat on his head. (How funny! :D)

My interest in people expanded into a more refined hobby when I discovered how to have conversations from reading an old copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie from my parents’ bookshelf.

(I remember that one . . . required reading for all Communications majors at BYU)

Teresa in 2nd grade small(And here’s Teresa in 2nd Grade…what a cutie!)

ME:  Did anything happen to you in your childhood that helped prepare you for the unexpected financial struggle you and your husband faced years later that you address in your inspirational book, TWELVE STONES TO REMEMBER HIM?

TERESA:  In my teen years, we moved closer into the west county suburbs of St. Louis. As a large Mormon family living a frugal lifestyle in the middle of a well-off community, I always felt like the outsider. We didn’t have a cleaning lady or expensive clothes like our friends.

In a teenage reaction to that, I spent a lot of time imagining what my future would look like in a material sense.

When my husband was in architecture school and we didn’t have any money, I did laundry at my mom’s and grilled her about how to live frugally and still live well. Our dreams then were planning the house we would build for our family someday. As we matured as a family, we carefully chose material and physical surroundings to enhance who we were—our Finnish and Danish heritage, our faith and our design aesthetic. Eventually we built a home that was thoroughly us.

To be able to afford to do this, we still lived providentially on the lessons I learned from my parents and didn’t spend frivolously. However, when the economy fell, our industry and community fell further than others. As a result, I had to slowly let go of all the material things that I thought defined who we were. The last of those was our home.

It seems obvious to say that our material things—even basics like clothes, transportation, shelter—do not define us, but that’s not the message we receive from the world or even people who surround us. And since my teenage years I’ve wrestled with that conflict. On this side of the financial crisis, though, I have a different perspective.

(If you’re interested, Teresa has written a post about what a home meant to her, entitled “Building Our Souvenir Home.”)

ME:  You must have felt you could write by the time you got through high school, since you went on to major in Journalism at BYU. When did you first recognize your ability with words, what made you recognize it, and who helped you to realize it?

TERESA:  I wrote a lot in high school, but it was mostly sappy poetry that seemed at the time to have great metaphorical depth and meaning. (I think we’ve all been there. :D)

When I started college I actually planned to pursue my creativity with an advertising emphasis in the communications department at BYU. After my first year, when I discovered I had more passion for people than products, I shifted toward journalism to pursue a more writing-focused emphasis.

I had two memorable professors at BYU whose lessons have stayed with me.

Don Norton in the English Department nurtured usage and writing skills of all sorts and taught me how to apply them to different types of writing and communication, including personal essays.

Don-Norton-stands-next-to-a-collection-of-taped(Professor Norton)

John Hughes in the Communications Department, a gifted professional editor and journalist who taught an advanced reporting class, gave me a vision of the larger world, which expanded the issues and topics of my writing. He chose me to be a group leader in that class, and his confidence in my skills helped me rise to that and other opportunities.

comms_hughes_john-150x187(Professor Hughes)

Today my husband Paul, more than anyone, propels me to develop, and encourages me in my writing.

(I’ll show a picture of him in a bit.)

ME:  So, once you graduated from BYU and were married, did you keep writing or did you put it on the back burner while raising your kids? Tell us about those years and how you kept your gift alive. (I’d love to post a picture of you and your family.)

TERESA:  I graduated from BYU in 1994 when I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first child. I loved being a mom, and turned to reading and writing personal history as a hobby that first year. After that, I took on some freelance editing and writing projects on a very limited basis—some paid, some volunteer work.

After my third child was a year old, I moved out of my mom-only world and applied and was appointed to the newspaper advisory board for our local daily newspaper. In that role, my opinions developed, and I contributed some editorial writing to the newspaper. Meanwhile, I applied my writing skills to every responsibility I had at church and always seemed to be in charge of producing a newsletter. (Yes, they discover us pretty quickly, don’t they?)

In January 2008, when all my children where busy in school, I started blogging regularly and redeveloped my professional writing skills through a number of biographical interviews that I published in various places. Two years later, I was assigned to LDS public affairs for our stake and have written a large number of news releases or articles for that responsibility. (Another experience we share.)

I did work full-time for a newspaper for two years as a result of the recession. Rather than writing there, I worked in a public relations role to organize and promote the newspapers in education program.

At home I’ve always had a workstation set apart for my writing projects. When my children were little, I set up my desk right at the edge of their playroom. As school-age children, they had desks in a U-shape around mine. Now, as they are leaving the nest and the youngest ones are in high school, I’m still physically present as I write from home. When they are off doing their homework, socializing or working, writing is what I’m doing. When they are around, I can and do make myself available. I love that about working from home.

Hirst Family by Tammie Olson Photography small(Hirst Family by Tammie Olson Photography)

ME:  Please tell us the story behind your first non-fiction book, TWELVE STONES TO REMEMBER HIM: BUILDING MEMORIALS OF FAITH FROM FINANCIAL CRISIS. And how difficult was it to find a publisher?

TERESA:  I came across this story when I was teaching an early morning seminary class for the Church. The Lord commanded the children of Israel to build a memorial of twelve stones after they crossed the Jordan River. It was a physical reminder to them and their children that God sustained and protected them on their journey. His hand was over them.

The idea of applying this Bible story of the twelve stone memorial to modern day germinated in me for more than a year before I really knew where I wanted to take it. I wanted to do something about modern memorials as testaments of God, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. I heard a woman share her story of feeding a homeless man at McDonald’s even when they were trying to save money themselves. I recognized that, like me, others were trying to find faith-filled ways to cope with less during the recession. I realized that He was also sustaining us, like he had the children of Israel, as we applied our faith and trusted in Him. What did that mean and what did it look like?

(Here’s a link to a blog post she titled “Why Memorials?”)

Twelve Stones

It is always challenging to find a traditional publisher. But when you have an LDS-focused work and something that is pretty time-specific, like this was to coincide with the Old Testament being taught in gospel doctrine in 2014, it is more of a challenge. My publisher, Walnut Springs Press, was actually reviewing a piece of fiction and asked if I had any non-fiction. I did, and we switched gears and focused on that.

ME:  Have you written and published other inspirational stories? If so, please tell us about them.

TERESA:  I published a short book about my father, David Jensen, serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. It’s available on Lulu.

support from the sky

I wrote a series of blog posts based on interviews with Vicki Carlson, wife of Elder Bruce A. Carlson of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, when he was approaching retirement as an Air Force Four-Star General.

I wrote two articles for the LDS Church News, one about Elder Carlson’s retirement from the Air Force and one about the first LDS humanitarian missionaries in Macedonia and Kosovo.

Most everything I write at my blog, Illuminate Everyday, would be considered inspirational. A couple of my favorites are Filling in the Blank” and “Five Things I Love About Motherhood.”

ME:  Are you intent on sticking with non-fiction, or do you foresee a time when you might give fiction a try, and why or why not?

TERESA:  I actually wrote a novel before I wrote Twelve Stones to Remember Him, but the timing of publication for the nonfiction was more pressing. The novel is general women’s fiction and is called Flowers of Grace. I’m working through the publication process on that right now. (Terrific!)

ME:  Please describe the writing process you followed when you wrote TWELVE STONES TO REMEMBER HIM.

TERESA:  I began looking for stories of faith from the recession. I used my blog and social media to invite participation and sent to my contacts, seeking individuals they might know who would participate. I conducted the interviews throughout 2012.

An interview consisted of setting up an in-person or Skype interview, and conducting and recording the 60- to 90- minute interview. After the interview, I transcribed exactly what was said by both of us.

After the ninth or tenth interview, toward the end of the year, I saw patterns and common themes developing. I set up the last two interviews for the end of November and began grouping material with like topics—trust in God, gratitude, and patience—together. These and other topics became the twelve common stones of a representative memorial of faith that God had upheld, sustained, and strengthened these individuals despite their financial challenge.

At this point, I wove my own story into these, added scriptures and words of church leaders, wrote transitions and drew conclusions. I then wrote the introductory material to set the premise for the story of the twelve stones memorial, why we build memorials and how they can help our faith today.

Finally, I developed the concluding section as a way to apply these stories and show how a pattern of memorial building can help us through any trial or challenge. It’s a process to recognize God’s hand in our lives, receive from Him and others with gratitude, and recall these “memorials of faith” in times of need. I learned as I went along that, indeed, coming to know He is with us in our darkest hour and then drawing upon that knowledge is the key to always remembering Him.

ME:  What are you working on now, and what ideas do you plan to pursue for the future when it comes to writing?

TERESA:  I am working on a non-fiction LDS Christmas book and a sequel to Flowers of Grace.

ME:  Please describe your writing space and list the five things about it that make it unique to you. (And I must have a picture of your office or space.)

TERESA:  I have an office space in our sunroom, just off the kitchen and dining room that is my home base. Five things that make it unique to me:

  1. Two of my children still live at home, and their desks connect to mine.
  2. Windows surround my space, giving me constant light. We live in Minnesota, and light is precious to me because I never seem to get enough of it.
  3. I have a favorite hibiscus plant on my desk that is special to me. Another hibiscus inspired my novel, and this one was a gift to my sister that I’m tending while she is living in Australia. (Here’s a blog post titled, “The Plant that inspired my Novel.”)
  4. It’s pretty clean and organized because I can’t think if it isn’t. I organize each project in a binder with physical research, notes, ideas and drafts. So I just pull open the binder for that project and go to work.
  5. This place is flexible. When I get cold or want a change, I can move. I switched to a laptop last year and even ditched a monitor, so I have the flexibility to leave that space according to my mood. My back-up workspace, especially on cold winter days, is the living room couch with a cozy blanket and my feet up on the ottoman.

 Teresa's Office Space small

(It certainly looks well organized, doesn’t it?)

If you want to know more about Teresa, check out her website. Her book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Deseret Book.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be chatting with Kate Palmer, author of THE GUY NEXT DOOR.

kate-author

Interested in Self-Publishing But Don’t Know How?

A group to which I belong, Indie Author Hub, is kicking off its first writer’s conference in June, and I’m a presenter (on Dialogue). If you’ve ever thought about writing a book and getting published without jumping through all the hoops necessary in traditional publishing, this is the conference for you! Or if you know others with those same aspirations, spread the word.

It will cover the nuts and bolts of writing, actual book creation (both print and ebook), marketing, the business of writing, and more…and it only lasts one day, all for only $59.

The keynote speaker will be NYT Bestselling Indie Author, Amy Harmon, and we’ve scheduled 21 different classes.

So think about joining me at the Courtyard Marriott in Provo, Utah on Saturday, June 7th, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

To register and get more details, go to IndieAuthorHub.com.

Indie Conference Ad Color

“Wednesday Writer” – Michael Young

When not teaching high school students German online, or practicing and performing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Michael Young writes stories. He has published at least four novels and three Christmas anthologies. In the middle of preparations for choir performances at the recently concluded General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was able to delve a bit deeper into his background:

Michael Young Author headshot

ME:  In your bio on your blog, it says you grew up traveling the world with your military father. Would you care to elaborate, including some details as to place and which branch of the military? Also, how did your mother fit into this picture? (And I’d love a picture or two of you as a child.)

MICHAEL:  My father was a pilot in the US Air Force. For most of his career, he flew the huge cargo plane known as the C-5. It’s big enough to carry tanks, buses, even satellites. It’s one where the nose comes down into a ramp so that you can drive vehicles directly into it.

(Oh, yes. They often show those in action movies.)

My father was gone all the time when I was growing up, traveling all of the continents, even Antarctica on one occasion. My saintly mother stayed home with the children, of which eventually there were eight. She had a huge task just keeping everyone healthy and happy, especially when my dad’s planes broke down overseas, which they often did.

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 9.02.10 PM(Michael as a child)

We moved all over the United States, but then also lived in Japan for a time. While we were there, we visited many of the neighboring countries and learned to love a whole new kind of culture.

Later in my life, I then lived in Germany and came to love Europe as well.

(And it must be wonderful to visit there on tours with the choir!)

ME:  Which country was the most memorable and why? Do any of these countries figure into your fiction and, if so, how?

MICHAEL:  Germany has had the most lasting impression on my mind. I have always been a student of history and it opened my eyes to see so much history up close in Germany.  I grew up thinking or dreaming up stories about castles and then I got to actually explore them.

neuschwanstein castle germany 5(Such as the well-known Neuschwanstein Castle in southwest Bavaria)

Germany and Germans have featured in my stories, especially my Canticle Kingdom series, in which the music box on which the story is based was made in Germany by two German craftsmen.

(I thought so. :D)

ME:  Where did you go to high school and what kinds of extracurricular activities were you involved in? If theater was one, how has that affected your writing? (I’d love to post a picture of you in a play or show.)

MICHAEL:  Performing arts factored heavily into my high school career. Not only did I do the auditioned choirs (Madrigals, show choir, jazz choir), but I also did a lot of drama and musical theater. (Why am I not surprised?)

I did something like eight shows in high school, and often had pretty good roles. On top of that, I played in a handbell choir for my last two years of high school, and had a blast ringing the huge bass bells.

71655_10150098334514428_3758071_n(Michael in a more recent dramatic role…Any guesses as to his character?)

Being in the theater has had a great impact on my writing, as it helps me think of my books as having scenery, characters, and scenes. It helps me look at writing in a different way that I might not had I not worked in the theater.

ME:  When did you first realize you might want to be a writer, and what made you think that?

MICHAEL:  I first realized this in high school, when I had a great writing class by a teacher who was also named Mr. Young. I decided that I wanted to go ahead and try to write a novel just to see if I could make it happen. It took about a year, but I managed it, and it turned out better than I had expected.

ME:  What was the premise of that novel, and what became of it?

MICHAEL:  That first novel is called Face Value and it is about a man who feels responsible for his brother’s death and gets the chance to redo the past. He manages to save his brother, but when he comes back to the present, he finds that his brother instead was the one who married Christine, who had been his wife, but also that his mother, who had died of cancer, had managed to survive.

I’ve been releasing this one a chapter at a time through JukePop.com, and hope to release it as a few ebooks. It was a very long book, so I would definitely need to break it up.

ME:  Tell us a bit about your first published novel, THE CANTICLE KINGDOM, and how it got onto bookstore shelves. How does it relate to THE CANTICLE PRELUDE?

The Canticle KingdomMICHAEL:  I wrote THE CANTICLE KINGDOM in the year after I returned home from living in Germany. Once I had finished the manuscript, I took it to a publisher’s fair at BYU and pitched it to Cedar Fort. It didn’t take them long to get back to me, and the rest is history.

The Canticle PreludeI wrote THE CANTICLE PRELUDE later as a set of prequel stories to THE CANTICLE KINGDOM, because many people told me they wanted to hear more of the backstory. The next book in the series, THE FROZEN GLOBE comes out this month.

(If mystery or suspense are involved, you’ll have to let me feature it here on my blog.)

ME:  What gave you the idea for THE LAST ARCHANGEL, and can we expect a sequel?

The Last Archangel

MICHAEL:  I’ve always loved lore about angels, and my time in Europe only made me more curious about it. I wanted to do something that differed from the other angel stories I had heard about, so I set out to create my own spin on the angel story, making the main character a destroying angel, with the chance to spare or to destroy. I have written it into a trilogy and the other two books will be coming out this year and next year.

(Terrific!)

ME:  Okay, why fantasy and science fiction, as opposed to other genres?

MICHAEL:  These genres let my imagination run rampant. I have complete control over every aspect, which is something I find exciting. (Yes, writers tend to be control freaks.) World building, magic/technology, and fantastic settings are all things that motivate me to write.

ME:  Please describe your typical writer’s day and tell us what you’re working on now.

MICHAEL:  I usually plop down in my favorite chair (see last photo in the interview) at the end of the day once my two kids have gone down and write until I drop.

Right now, I’m working on a few non-fiction projects, a YA Supernatural novel and revising an adult fantasy about people who have both natural and magical hunger. That in addition to a sacred oratorio, three different musicals, short stories, articles…as you can see, writing is a major part of my life.

(Apparently!)

ME:  Besides your writing, what do you do to fill your time and support your family? Also, please describe your writing space. (And I must have a picture of said space.)

MICHAEL:  My favorite writing space has to be my recliner in my living room. I write best when I’m comfortable, and in a familiar place where the things about me don’t distract.

photo(Now that’s a comfy chair!)

In addition to writing, I still do theater work from time to time (that explains the photo of Michael in costume), and most of the rest of my time goes to work as an instructional designer of German courses, and singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I’m pretty busy, but my life is full of great things.

All of Michael’s books are available on Amazon, and you can find out more about the author from his Canticle Blog.

Check back next week when I interview inspirational writer, Teresa Hirst.

Teresa Hirst

“Monday Mystery” – KILMOON (A County Clare Mystery)

I’m very excited to announce Lisa Alber’s debut novel, KILMOON, which takes place in her ancestral homeland, Ireland. Lisa and I met when we were assigned to the same group at the Maui Writer’s Retreat several years ago, and I knew this day would come for her. She’s very talented, as I’m sure you’ll agree once you read her book.

kilmoon_72dpi

Synopsis

Californian Merrit Chase travels to Ireland to meet her father, a celebrated matchmaker, in hopes that she can mend her troubled past. Instead, her arrival triggers a rising tide of violence, and Merrit finds herself both suspect and victim, accomplice and pawn, in a manipulative game that began thirty years previously. When she discovers that the matchmaker’s treacherous past is at the heart of the chaos, she must decide how far she will go to save him from himself—and to get what she wants, a family.

Lisa Alber evokes a world in which ancient tradition collides with modern village life and ageless motivators such as greed and love still wield their power. Kilmoon captures the moodiness of the Irish landscape in a mystery that explores family secrets, betrayal, and vengeance.

Reviews

Brooding, gothic overtones haunt Lisa Alber’s polished, atmospheric debut. Romance, mysticism, and the verdant Irish countryside all contribute to making KILMOON a marvelous, suspenseful read. —Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of Through the Evil Days

This first in Alber’s new County Clare Mystery series is utterly poetic … The author’s prose and lush descriptions of the Irish countryside nicely complement this dark, broody and very intricate mystery.  —RT Book Reviews (four stars)

In her moody debut, Alber skillfully uses many shades of gray to draw complex characters who discover how cruel love can be. —Kirkus Reviews

Excerpt

A squeal, or perhaps a moan, issued from Lonnie’s office. Merrit froze. A moment later the rat-a-tatting of computer keys ceased and oaths in Ivan’s native Russian took over. Merrit smiled. The minion up to no good in the boss’s office. Now he’d see how much he liked having his personal life threatened with exposure. 

On tiptoes, she stepped past computers and around the service counter behind which Ivan usually sat. Thankfully, the window blinds were drawn. No one could see her as she stepped toward one of two doorways marked “For Employees Only,” only to freeze again, this time in the office doorway with the cat pressed against her chest. She knew death when she saw it. There was no mistaking its particular brand of stillness. Death had sucked the energy out of Lonnie’s body, leaving it as bereft of life as a hologram.

Author

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Lisa Alber received an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant based on Kilmoon. Ever distractable, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Lisa lives in Portland, Oregon. Kilmoon is her first novel.

You’ll learn a lot more about Lisa when I interview her later in May. I promise.

Meanwhile, you can find Lisa at: website | Facebook | Twitter

You can order KILMOON through: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

 

“Wednesday Writer” – Susan Aylworth

Besides being the author of 11 published novels (her 12th will be out in June), Susan Aylworth is a wife and mother, owner of a “devoted old dog and two quirky cats,” and grandmother to 21 grandchildren (with two more expected this spring). But you can find all that information on her blog. I like to dig a bit deeper.

Susan AylworthME:  Where did you grow up and what, in your young mind, set your family apart from others? (I’d love a picture of you as a child to share with my readers.)

SUSAN:  Other families on our block were very much like us. If something set us apart, it was probably me–always organizing the neighborhood, staging skits and plays and parades, driving my neighbors half-crazy. A neighbor named Jane Hawes declared she was grateful when I was finally going to school; now she could throw away her oatmeal boxes. Hey! They made great marching drums.

(Already into storytelling in a big way, I see.)

DSCN3496(Susan as a 3rd Grader when she attempted her first novel)

ME:  Which parent did you take after most, and how are you similar? (Please provide a picture of you with your parents)

SUSAN:  Dad was the hard-working, easy-going guy who just settled in and got things done, Mom the fretful worrier albeit equally hard-working. I’m a good mix of both of them, although I’m probably more like Dad. I’m the worrier in our family, although I try not to fuss as much as Mom, but I got Dad’s imagination. He was the family story-teller.

DSCN3497

(Susan and her husband with her parents)

ME:  I understand you started your first novel at age 9. What was the storyline, if you can recall? And how old were you when you finished your first complete novel? What was it about?

SUSAN:  That first novel was a shameless rip-off of Black Beauty, which was then my favorite book. Told entirely from the horse’s point of view, it documented the story of a romantic wild stallion from his birth. (Notice how she described him as “romantic”? Even then, she was thinking romance.) I wrote nine whole pages on a big yellow legal pad before I exhausted my enthusiasm.

The first book I finished was a romance called The Flaming Phoenix. I’d barely completed it before I knew it was a seriously flawed experiment. My second eventually became BENEATH SIERRA SKIES, Silhouette Romance #702, my first published book. The story was a recasting of a real-life plane crash in the snow that killed a high school girlfriend. In this version, the hero and heroine survive for weeks in the high mountains alone and rescue each other, meanwhile falling in love. It was therapy for me, romance for the reader, and a big win for my longed-for entry into publishing. (Yay! Therapy AND a publishing contract. Can’t get much better.)

Beneath Sierra Skies

ME:  Please tell us about your degrees in English and how they helped or shaped your writing and your life.

SUSAN:  I started college as a journalism major with newspapers in mind. Half-way through undergraduate school, I married a competitive journalist (he has worked in newspapers for forty years) and knew my plan was unworkable. I loved my English classes, so the natural switch was into an English major. Since I was going to be a full-time mommy, it didn’t matter where I got my degree, did it?

But it did. When it turned out we needed my income, as well, and I was being offered secretarial jobs, I went back for the graduate degree, taught my first college class as a grad assistant and just kept teaching. I prepared more classes, learned to teach in different areas, and developed a thirty-year teaching career at California State University, Chico.

Anyone who has taken literature courses can tell you how academics sneer at “commercial fiction,” and I absorbed the attitude through my skin while a student. Later as I met people who were earning a living writing commercial fiction and began reading their work, I knew this was the kind of story I had always loved and the career I had always wanted. I endured my share of snide remarks from colleagues when I began publishing, but I was also approached by several of them on the quiet, people who wanted to know the secret for writing a successful romance. I found joy in telling them there is no secret, simply write a good book.

ME:  Which genre of fiction do you enjoy most, as both reader and writer, and why?

SUSAN:  I always come back to romance, but I love books—all kinds of books. Good stories of almost any kind intrigue me, although I have to admit I’m getting tired of the male revenge plot. I guess that’s fair since my husband is weary of romances.

ME:  Please compare your first published book with your latest. Is there any common theme or thread that unites all your writing?

Maggie Rising

SUSAN:  My first book was a romance and most books since are also romances. Even the paranormal mystery MAGGIE RISING and the family saga ZUCCHINI PIE have some romantic elements. It’s a cliché, but I believe the one unifying element in my stories is the healing power of love—romantic love of course, but also family love, closeness between friends who support one another, all forms of love.

Zucchini Pie

ME:  Having taught at the university level for decades, what new directions do you see fiction going, and are those changes positive or negative in your view? (I would love to post a picture of you teaching in a classroom, if available.)

SUSAN:  The past couple of decades have led to many experiments in literary forms. Graphic novels and serialized novels, often told in tweets of 140 characters at a time, are two examples of experimental styles that may or may not hold into the future. Flash fiction is a major trend that will probably stay with us as long as our society is still heavily dependent on social media; it adapts so well to these platforms.

One trend that’s been big for the past several decades and which is likely to continue is the tendency to refute anything as literature if it does not have a tragic or even nihilistic ending. Stories that end well are considered sentimental and unrealistic. To me that always begs the question of why we bother to read “literature.” I do read it and some of the books I love, but a steady diet of tragic endings is hard to stomach. Give me the rebellious, well-written serious novel that ends with joy and hope.

(I agree. Life is difficult enough. I’m all for happy, or at least hopeful, endings as long as they don’t seem forced and they make sense.)

ME:  Tell us the storyline of your latest book, and how different was it from what you envisioned when you first sat down to write it?

SUSAN:  Just last week I sent a book off to my editor and beta readers. It’s book #8 in the Rainbow Rock Romances, so I had expected it to be fairly easy. I knew where it was going when I started it, but DANNY’S GIRL turned out to be a harder story than I had expected to write, hard in terms of the threat of violence, the emotional issues, the depth of the psychology involved. I knew I’d be dealing with domestic abuse. I hadn’t realized I’d be getting into some shady criminal behaviors and questions of co-dependency. The story made me stretch, sometimes in uncomfortable ways, but I’m pleased with the end product. (Sounds interesting.)

Rainbow Rock Romances

ME:  What are you working on now, and how would you describe your writing process?

SUSAN:  My new work in progress is another romance but in a hospital setting in an updated Gold Rush town in the Sierra Nevada. She is an orthopedic surgeon and trauma intern (an extremely rare specialty for a woman to pursue) and he is a field rep for a company that sells orthopedic devices. The difference in their places in the hospital hierarchy and the goals they’ve set in their careers are working to keep them apart while Cupid is busy trying to put them together. I’m having fun with it.

(It also sounds like you’ve had to do a fair amount of research regarding the way hospitals work.)

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space in the voice of one of your favorite characters from one of your books. (And I must have a picture of that space.)

SUSAN:  Danny Sherwood, from DANNY’S GIRL:

Frankly Susan’s work space would drive me nuts. Here at the Highway Patrol sub-station where I file reports, there is a place for everything and everything is always kept in place. The rest of Susan’s house is pretty much like that, but her office is a mess: it’s where she keeps all the half-done projects, all the bits and pieces waiting their turn for her to get to them, all the reminders of other commitments. It’s pretty chaotic, although she seems to know where to find everything. She has a laptop and could choose to work anywhere, but she comes back to that messy corner instead, partly because that’s where she goes into ‘work’ mode and partly because of the windows that look out on her rose garden. All I can say is I’m glad it’s her work space, not mine. 

(:D)

 DSCN3491

(And here’s the proof)

You can learn more about Susan and her work by visiting her website. All of her books are available in both print and ebook form on Amazon. Most of her paperbacks can also be ordered through her own online store.

I’ll be back next Wednesday for a chat with Theresa Sneed, author of the No Angel series built around an angel with an attitude.

DSCN0275-232x300

“Monday Mystery” – TO SLEEP NO MORE

Dalton&Dalton_ARERonda Hinrichsen has a new novella out (under the pseudonym Kathleen Marks) entitled TO SLEEP NO MORE. If you look at the subtitle, you’ll note the term “preternatural mystery.” I recently interviewed Ronda and she briefly discussed that term, so if you’re puzzled, click here. But enough splitting terms. Here’s a quick glimpse of TO SLEEP NO MORE:

Synopsis

Preternatural scientist Alexandra Dalton is near Yellowstone National Park, searching for preternatural mushrooms she hopes will help her find who kidnapped and murdered her young daughter, when she receives a telegram from her uncle’s lawyer. Her beloved uncle is dead, it says, and she must return to Massachusetts ASAP. There, she is thrown together with her estranged husband, Richard Dalton, to unravel two mysterious “Night Hag” murders.

Excerpt

Alex pinched her cheeks to give them a hint of color and opened the door.

Her smile disappeared. Worse, her breath, her thoughts, and her pulse stopped. She stared into a man’s hazel eyes the color of a stormy Atlantic sea surrounded by long, thick lashes lightly tipped with the same color as his blonde, wavy hair. The man was tall, straight, and had well-defined muscles. He was a man to be reckoned with—Richard Edward Dalton, her estranged husband.

“Hello, Alex,” he said.

Alex clenched the door handle. What is he doing here? “Rick.”

He quirked a tentative smile. “Can I come in?”

“Why?”

“I’ve been invited.”

Author

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Kathleen Marks is a pen name for Ronda Hinrichsen, author of romantic suspense and speculative novels as well as the Heroes of the Highest Order chapter book series. She loves history and frequently travels throughout the world with her husband in search of intriguing settings, characters, and stories.

TO SLEEP NO MORE is available on Amazon and CreateSpace. You can also learn a bit more about the story and series on Ronda’s website AND read all of Chapter One.

“Wednesday Writer” – Rebecca Talley

I got to know Rebecca Talley when I served under her on the board on LDStorymakers, a guild for LDS published authors that puts on a terrific writer’s conference every spring. She’s published several other books since then and I thought it was about time I interviewed her here.

Rebecca12-profileME:  Your childhood in Santa Barbara, California near the beach sounds idyllic, but how is it you and your sister came to be raised by your maternal grandparents? And has any of that background worked its way into your fiction writing? (I’d love a picture of you at the beach.)

REBECCA:  Our parents died when my sister and I were quite young. Our maternal grandparents, in their sixties, took on the responsibility of raising a second family. Thankfully, they were willing to raise us so we didn’t have to be separated or sent to foster homes. (What a blessing! Grandparents are so important.)

DaddyandMeatBeach(Rebecca with her daddy at the beach)

Beach3

(Another great picture of her with her father)

Beach

(And here’s one of her and her sister on the beach)

My first novel, “Heaven Scent,” was inspired by my mother, who wore a very specific perfume. During particularly difficult times in my life, I have been able to smell her perfume and feel her so close to me I could almost reach out and touch her. I included this in “Heaven Scent,” as the main character loses her mother and searches for understanding about life after death.

Heaven ScentME:  What made you take up flamenco dancing as a teenager? (And I must have a picture of you performing…please.)

REBECCA:  Santa Barbara has a very strong Spanish influence in both its architecture and its history. Every year in August, SB celebrates Old Spanish Days or “Fiesta” as the locals call it, which is a huge celebration that includes horse events, flamenco dancing and traditional mariachi bands at the Court House and the Old Mission, parades, parties, and outdoor markets.

Fiesta(Rebecca and her sister all dressed up to perform in Fiesta)

As a kid, I took ballet and tap then moved on to flamenco. I loved to dance and play my castanets. I once danced for five miles along the parade route and ended up with lots of blisters. I also once danced for a large group and fell off the stage. That was embarrassing. (I’ll bet! :D)

Flamenco(And there she is ready to dance flamenco)

ME:  How did your years at BYU, and your degree in Communications, prepare you for the kind of fiction writing you do?

REBECCA:  My experience at BYU was the basis for my second novel, “Altared Plans.”

Altared Plans

I now wish I had majored in English, as I had planned when I was in high school. Communications was a good major, but I don’t think it prepared me much to be a novelist. (Hmmm…as a Communications major myself, I might argue with you on that one. It taught me to write sparely.) However, all life experiences are great fodder for writing. (I couldn’t agree more!)

ME:  Okay, you’ve lived in Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado (and did I hear you’ve now moved to Texas?). What are the best and worst things about each of those places, and which has proven to be the most inspirational in terms of your writing, and why? (I’d love to post a picture of you with your family, plus a picture of you with your llama.)

REBECCA:  I lived in Utah while going to school and I loved the college life in Provo. I had a blast there. I didn’t like the pollution in the winter and I wasn’t a big fan of the snow.

BYU Days(Rebecca in jeans with some of her BYU friends)

We lived in Provo for a few years after we got married then moved to NM for a job. I had a great experience in Farmington, NM. I loved the people and the small town feel. I had to get used to the dry desert and the lack of services and goods offered because it was such a small town, but I loved living there.

We decided to move to Colorado to purchase land and live a more rural lifestyle. I loved the peace and quiet and the beauty of living in a rural area. The mountains in Colorado are gorgeous and there’s an abundance of wildlife.

CO(Rebecca and her husband in Colorado not far from their house)

The best part was that my sister and her family (now 12 kids) lived right across the street from us. (Are you two competing for largest family or something?) We had lots and lots of great fun together. I didn’t love the very cold temperatures in the winter (in January it hovered at zero degrees) and I didn’t love when the snow made it impossible to get out of my driveway. It was also hard living on a well with so many kids, especially in the dry years. Most years in August we had to start choosing between doing dishes, taking showers, or doing laundry. But I loved the wide open spaces and having horses, cows, dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, sheep, and pigs. Actually, I didn’t love having pigs. (How come you didn’t mention the llama?)

Talley Family

(Rebecca’s large gorgeous family)

We now live in a suburb of Houston, Texas and love it. There are some wonderful people here and we love where we live. We are so close to everything and the kids especially love having a pool. For me, each place has been its own inspiration and has been a great place for me at that time of my life. I think you can find inspiration anywhere. I just love to be with my family, so wherever they are, I am happy and can find inspiration.

Beach2(Rebecca and her family at the beach)

Courthouse

(The author with her daughters and daughter-in-law in front of the courthouse in Santa Barbara where she used to perform)

ME:  What are some of the common themes in all of your fiction, or are no two books alike? Why or why not?

REBECCA:  I think some of the common themes are that you can’t plan everything. You have to let go and trust God that things will work out. I am such a control freak and I’ve had to realize that I can’t control everything—well, actually, I really can’t control anything, except how I react to what happens. I make my characters struggle with hard questions, some of which have no real answers.

(That makes for good fiction.)

ME:  How would you define LDS fiction as opposed to fiction written by LDS authors, or is there a difference?

REBECCA:  I think LDS fiction deals directly with LDS themes, while fiction written by LDS authors deal with more general themes. LDS fiction generally has LDS subjects and characters within the story and doesn’t include profanity, sex scenes, or explicit violence. Fiction written by LDS authors for a general audience may have sex scenes, violence, profanity, and very mature themes.

There is currently a group of LDS authors who are writing for a general audience but with LDS standards—clean fiction, if you will. These books can range from light romance to fantasy to serious drama, but don’t include much profanity, if any, no sex scenes and no graphic violence. (I’m glad you mentioned that.)

I think there are three categories for readers: if they want to read a story with LDS characters dealing with LDS subjects, or if they want to read general stories that have LDS standards but not LDS characters or themes, or if they are simply looking for a story without LDS characters, themes, or standards.

Books

(Rebecca and a few of her author friends displaying some of her books)

ME:  Tell us about the first novel you ever wrote and compare it with your latest, IMPERFECT LOVE. What have you noticed in terms of your progression as a writer?

Imperfect LoveREBECCA:  My first novel was pretty rough. I didn’t understand the evolution of a story, or the structure, as well as I (hopefully) do now. I just had a story I wanted to tell and that was it. Now, I understand that there are certain elements of story that must be present and a framework underneath the prose. I think I understand the mechanics better and, hopefully, my language use is better. (I’m sure it is. Practice can’t help but make you better.)

ME:  What was the most difficult novel you ever wrote, and why? And which was the most personal?

REBECCA:  My YA paranormal, AURA, was the most difficult for me to write because it’s an urban fantasy with some magic in it. I’m not much into fantasy, so it was difficult for me to get this one right. I learned after writing that book that I’m much more comfortable writing realistic fiction.

Aura

My first three books all had personal ties. HEAVEN SCENT was inspired by my mom and losing her. ALTARED PLANS was inspired by my courtship with my husband and has some true experiences in it. THE UPSIDE OF DOWN was probably the most personal because it delved into a woman learning she has a child with Down syndrome, and I wrote it while my own feelings about having a child with Down syndrome were still very raw. I felt like part of my soul was on those pages.

The Upside of Down

ME:  What are you working on now and how would you describe your writing process?

REBECCA:  I am currently in the brainstorming phase for several novel ideas. I’m going to see which one grabs me the most and work on that next.

I generally do some pre-writing, like outlining some scenes, writing character sketches, finding photos of my characters, freewriting. After I feel like I know enough, I write a rough draft in a month or so. After I let it sit, I go back and rewrite and work on it for a few months then turn it over to my critique partners to shred it. After I rewrite it with their suggestions, I let other readers go through it. I have hired professional editors to also go through my books.

(Never a bad choice.)

ME:  Finally, with such a large household, where do you retreat to write? If you have a favorite writing space, please detail five things about it that makes it different from every other author’s writing space. (And I must have a picture.)

REBECCA:  My writing place isn’t anything special. It’s a big recliner in the corner of my bedroom. It is my own space, and my kids know not to get into my “writing stuff.” I’d love to say I have a large walnut desk overlooking the ocean, but I don’t. My bedroom window does look out to the pool, if that counts.

(Hey, pools always count in my book…literally, if you’ve read A Night on Moon Hill. :D)

WritingArea(And here’s Rebecca’s comfy chair)

If you want to learn more about Rebecca and her books, or even just follow her blog, check out her website. Her books are all available on Amazon.

I’ll be talking with romance author Susan Aylworth next week, so be sure to check back!

Susan Aylworth

“Monday Mystery” – A DEATH IN THE FAMILY

A Banner for Blog TourAs part of Marlene’s blog tour, I’m featuring her new Erica Coleman mystery here today. It’s available for purchase online at Amazon, Deseret Book, and Seagull Book, as well as in  LDS bookstores, including Deseret Book and Seagull Book.

Here’s a quick look:

Synopsis

Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.

A Cover for A Death in the Family

In A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.

Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.

Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case.

Excerpt

“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Kristen said dolefully. “When I moved here, I thought I’d have years with Grandma. She was always so active—I thought she’d keep going for years.”

“And all the time, her heart was getting weaker,” Trent said glumly.

Walter commented, “The last time I saw her, Blanche said the doctor told her she had the constitution of a mule.”

There were a few smiles at this, but Martha’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But Mom’s death didn’t have anything to do with how healthy she was.”

“What are you talking about?” Trent’s impatient voice billowed out and filled the small room.

Martha squirmed but fluttered on, “Well, after what Mom said when she came to visit me, you know—about how something wrong was going on in the company—I worried that something might happen.”

Her response reverberated around the room. Everyone went very still—as if they were holding their breath. 

Martha’s eyes went from one to another. “I didn’t mean—oh, I shouldn’t have said anything,” she stammered. Her voice was pure distress. “It’s just that . . . well, we’re all family here, so it’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, no one else knows.”

“No one else knows what?” Trent said brusquely.

Visibly flustered, Martha’s hands twisted in her lap. “And . . . and Mother was very old and—and the police haven’t even come, have they?”

Erica wondered what Martha could be getting at. Everyone darted quizzical looks at each other, trying to make sense out of Martha’s confused chirruping.

After meeting blank looks all around, Martha blurted, “I mean, that’s good . . . isn’t it? For the family?”

The room remained deadly silent as Martha’s cheeks flamed red.

There was a rumble as Walter cleared his throat. “Why would the police come?”

“Why, to arrest someone.” Martha sounded surprised—as if he had asked something that was completely and absolutely self-evident. She stared at Walter, as if he and he alone could straighten everything out. “Isn’t that why they’re doing an autopsy? I mean, don’t they always do an autopsy when someone has been murdered?” 

Author

A picture of Marlene Bateman

Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.

Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading.  Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith.  Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven; Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints.

Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.

A Cover for Motive for Murder You can learn more about what Marlene is up to as an author from her website.