“Wednesday Writer” – Karen Hoover

Karen Hoover is a fighter. Life keeps throwing things at her, whether it’s health issues or loss or family issues, and she doesn’t blink.

(Except perhaps when she went in for an emergency appendectomy back in May . . . she woke up three days later to discover the doctors had rearranged her insides to help her beat off cancer yet again. Even that wasn’t a real blink, however, because she was unconscious the whole time.)

Anyway, when a problem arises, she just deals with it, and no matter what, continues to write and create. Let’s find out what gave her that kind of character and determination.

photoME:  I’ll begin with a series of questions. First, what was the first book ever read to you and by whom?

KAREN:  I’m not sure which book came first–“Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman or “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss (Yes! Finally I get a Dr. Seuss aficionado.), but they were both a very memorable part of my childhood.

AreYouMyMother1My father read to me every night after work and though he thought Green Eggs and Ham was disgusting, he read it to me anyway. I had no idea how much he disliked the book until I was told as an adult. (Now that’s parental love and sacrifice.)

600full-green-eggs-and-ham-coverME:  Second, what was the first book you remember reading by yourself?

KAREN:  I got two books about the same time and, again, I’m not sure which came first, though I literally read them to pieces. They were Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban (Ah, yes, a classic!) and B-9 The Hungry Metal Eater by Ester Hauser Lawrence. (Intriguing pick.)

bread and jam for francesB-9 the hungry metal eater(A picture of her worn copy)

ME:  And third, what was the latest book you’ve read, so we can get an idea of how your tastes may or may not have changed? :D

KAREN:  Currently, I am reading the serial, The Debt Collector by Susan Kaye Quinn. I’m on episode 6 and loving it. Fascinating premise.

(Hmm . . . B 9, Episode 6 . . . are you catching the common thread here?)

ME:  And what has your progression as a reader taught you about yourself?

KAREN:  I am inquisitive. I love a good mystery that makes my mind work to solve it. I love the twists of the imagination that can take me anywhere, yet keep me grounded with enough truth to make the story believable. I’d rather read than watch TV. I don’t like to be bored and I don’t like boring details. And last of all, everything, whether in life or in books, has to have a point. Also, I don’t believe in absolutes. There is always a choice.

ME:  Most of us learn to read in the laps of our mothers, but in your case, it was your father who encouraged you to read. Tell me about your relationship with him.

Daddy kisses(Karen with her doting father)

KAREN:  My father was 18 years older than my mother, and when they decided to wed he told her, “Sweetheart, between the two of us we have fifty years of bad marriages. We’ve done all the don’ts. Let’s just do all the do’s.” (What a wise man.)

That is the kind of life he lived. He spent every evening reading to me once he came home from work. When my mother told him to rest and put his feet up because he’d been working all day, he told her she’d been working all day too, and when she sat down to rest, so would he. (Wow! A man ahead of his time.)

Between his two marriages, I was the only girl, so I will admit to being a bit spoiled by him. I remember the rumble of his chest as I sat on his lap and leaned against him as he read. His voice resonated through my entire body. It was incredibly soothing.

(This is the real reason I do these kinds of interviews . . . for bits like this. Can’t you just picture it?)

ME:  How do you think the loss of your father from a sudden heart attack when you were only four affected you later as a writer?

KAREN:  It has definitely made me more empathetic and thoughtful as a person, and I think that leaks into my writing. It is easier to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you’ve had to deal with that kind of continual pain.

No father meant no Daddy/Daughter dates. It meant I had to pick a stand-in father for things like my baptism and confirmation. It has meant learning how to parent with a husband when I never had that example. It has forced me to look outside the box for answers to things, whether it be simplifying a method of moving (a zip line/pulley system for moving from a third floor apartment), or being flexible with raising children when my way is different than my husband’s.

For writing, being able to step into someone else’s shoes has made me a good character writer, because I can empathize and understand my characters as if they were real people.

ME:  I had no idea you spent the rest of your childhood in Kennewick, Washington–a stone’s throw away from where I now live. Tell me what Kennewick, now kind of the retail center of the TriCities, was like back in the 70s.

KAREN:  I loved living in the TriCities!

My grandparents moved there in the 1940s, and my grandfather alternated between farming his 100 acres and working security for Hanford when they were building one of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. He had no idea what he guarded until after the fact.

350px-Hanford_N_Reactor_adjusted(Hanford Nuclear Site in 1960)

He turned to full time farming after that and raised sheep and alfalfa. There were no fancy sprinklers back then. He had to go out and change pipes twice a day. My brother and I tried to help, but at 4-8 years old, neither of us was really much help.

Kennewick was mostly agricultural, and my family, being poor, would go out and glean the crops after the pickers had been through. We got apples, peaches, asparagus, and more, and it didn’t cost us a thing. It was a blessing at a time when it was much needed–and fun, too. My brother, Sean, and I always managed to find something fun to do when we were supposed to be working. Collecting tadpoles in the canal near the asparagus was always a favorite.

ME:  You say that you and your brother spent hours playing make-believe or “space,” as you called it. Were you influenced by Star Wars back then, and how has that affected your writing now?

KAREN:  We were definitely influenced by Star Wars, as well as Battlestar Galactica, and The Black Hole. We didn’t get to go to the movies often, but when we did we absorbed it. Most of that came once we got to Oklahoma, but it began in those early years in Kennewick.

Sean, Mom, Karen 1983 or 1984(Karen with Sean and her mother in Oklahoma)

ME:  Please share the struggles you had with reading in First Grade and how your mother helped you overcome them.

KAREN:  You would think that after all the hours my daddy spent reading with me I’d have been dying to finish learning and do it myself, but after losing him, I lost all interest in the written word. It hurt too much to read. It reminded me of him, and when you’re so young (4-6), it is hard to understand why it hurts.

When I started first grade I pretty much refused to do anything to further my english education, and so my teacher put me in the lowest reading group, where I stayed for several months. One day, after seeing my report card, my mom sat down with me and talked about reading and how disappointed my father would have been to see that report card. Talk about a knife to the heart! As I cried, she reminded me how much he loved books, and that if I could learn to love books too, it would be a way of remembering and honoring him, and that even though he was gone, through the books he would be with me.

Right then I changed my attitude and spent the weekend working on my reading. I believe that was the weekend she bought Bread and Jam for Frances and B-9 the Hungry Metal Eater. I read and I read and I read. I read out loud. I read to my brother. I read silently when Sean got bored, and within a month I had gone from the lowest reading group to the highest. The teacher had never seen anyone improve so fast.

(And I’ll bet your dad was bursting with pride too.)

CCF01182012_00000(Karen in Second Grade . . . See how happy she was once she started reading again.)

ME:  How did the move to Oklahoma when you were eight impact your preparation to write the kinds of stories you create today?

KAREN:  Moving to Oklahoma was awesome! We spent a year in a trailer while our house was built, but once it was finished, we moved onto another farm. Forty-five acres this time, but my grandparents joined us and built their own home, and both of my older sisters lived on the acreage at one point or another as well. Even one of my older brothers lived with us.

It was heaven for a kid like me. I think that was where my imagination really took off. We lived several miles from any friends so Sean and I had no choice but to play with one another. We built rafts and forts, we learned how to use a jigsaw and made crossbows and swords and shields. Anything to make our imaginary life seem more real. I hated leaving there. To this day, Oklahoma is still the home of my heart.

ME:  Was it a difficult adjustment to then relocate to Utah at age 14?

KAREN:  I thought I would love moving to Utah, but it was a real challenge. I came from the country, carrying an accent and odd words, and nobody understood who I was. Even the kids who belonged to my church mocked me. I remember coming home from school one day in tears and asking my mom, “Why don’t they like me? If we belong to the same church, shouldn’t they accept me here?”

(Exactly. Of course, this kind of thing can happen other places, too. It’s a shame wherever it happens.)

In Oklahoma I had friends from all religions—Catholic, Baptist, Born again, Jehovah’s Witness, and more. None of them cared what church I went to, and it didn’t matter to me either, and yet in Utah, where I was supposed to be accepted, I was scorned. The lesson that taught me was to keep to myself. Put a smile on my face and put on my armor because I wasn’t going to let them beat me down. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I’ve done my best.

ME:  Tell us about the first book you ever wrote, and then please share the details of how you came to create and publish your first book, THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE.

The Sapphire Flute KAREN:  Actually, my first book was THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE! I got the spark of an idea when I was 22 and played with it for almost twelve years before I discovered writing conferences. I rewrote the book from start to finish at least ten times.

One of the conferences I attend regularly, The LDStorymakers Writing Conference, has a first chapter contest. The first year they began the contest I entered THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE and two other stories. THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE took first place in the fantasy category and another of my stories took second.

I continued to place for the next two years—first place in 2008 and grand prize overall in 2009. (Impressive!) During the conference I spoke with a writer who was beginning her own publishing company and she said that if my book wasn’t snagged by someone else, she wanted to publish it. I decided to go with her company and Book 1 of The Wolfchild Saga, THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE, was released to the world in March 2010.

ME:  What else have you written since then, and what are you currently working on?

The Armor of LightKAREN:  I released book 2 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Armor of Light, and the first book in a new series, The Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard: Two Souls are Better Than One, as well as a short book of poems titled And the Mountain Burns.  I am nearly finished with book 3 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Emerald Wolf, with plans to release it in late summer or early fall of 2013.

Two Souls Are Better Than OneAnd the Mountain BurnsKaren book 4 smaller

After that I’ve got three projects in the works: Book 4 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Amethyst Eye, Book 2 of The Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard: Attack of the Zombie Roadkill, and a Serial titled The Garoux and Faye Detective Agency. As to which one will come first, I have no idea. (Sounds like you’re set for a couple of years at least.)

ME:  Finally, what is your writing process like, and please describe your writing space in the voice of your Teenage Wizard, Jeremy James Johansen. (I must have a picture of your office area, too.)

KAREN:  My writing process is sporadic at best. I am trying to become more consistent in writing every day, but most of the time I will go months and months with no writing, then write a whole book in two weeks. I do a lot of pre-writing though, so that might account for it.

I find pictures of all my characters, do character sheets so I know their characteristics and quirks, learn their history, their goals, motivations, and conflicts and more. It’s a rather extensive process, but it makes it so that I can write those books in a very short period of time.

As for JJ describing my office, well, here you go!

*tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on? Whoa! That’s loud! Can we turn it down a bit? Yo, thanks, dude! *clearing throat* I don’t know why my maker wants me to describe her office. I mean, it’s not like she can’t do it herself or anything. Lazy, I guess, but hey, who am I to talk? So, the office. Yeah. She moves around a lot. You’d think she had ADD or something. She just can’t seem to settle. Right now her office is in the basement right at the bottom of the stairs. It’s dark. She hardly ever turns on any lights. My mom says that will totally ruin your eyes, but the woman does it anyway. She’s got a couple of bookcases with shelves falling down, a fridge throwing up hot air to her left, and a fan trying to counteract the heat on the right. It’s kind of messy, though not as bad as my room, and she keeps a couple of rat dogs in the bathroom. I mean, who keeps their dogs in the bathroom? That’s just weird. Her other rooms were more colorful, but this one works better, so I can’t say much. Sure hope she gets to work on my next story soon though. I really want to see what zombie roadkill has to do with a portal to another world. I mean, I’ve got enough trouble, right? Sigh Oh well. I guess that’s it. 

(That was great! Here’s a look at her office.)

2013-07-22 15.52.19For more about Karen, her writing, book trailers, and all her projects, check out her website.

And next week, I’ll be talking with clean romantic suspense author, Cami Checketts.


Originally posted 2013-07-24 13:28:18.

“Monday Mystery” – Mysteries, Suspense Novels, and Thrillers Are Like Driveways

This past week, we had our driveway torn up because of cracking and appearance issues.

photo 3 of driveway

We discovered, in the process, that the pipe for the sprinkler system had been placed just under the concrete surface where it was likely to bear the most weight and wear down.

photo 2 of drivewayphoto 1 of drivewaySo before the new driveway can be poured, a trench needs to be dug and a new pipe fitted to lie more deeply under the ground.

Brian, the guy doing our new driveway, explained that you’ve really got to watch out for builders cutting corners and getting away with it simply because it’s out of view. As he put it, “They come in here ready to pour concrete and they don’t care what’s already there. They’re just going to cover it up.”

Writers can’t be like that. We may be ready to pour out a whole novel’s worth of words, but we’ve got to make sure we’ve laid the proper foundation first. Why? Because our readers will hold us accountable. Particularly when it comes to mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. We have to place certain clues in the right places and in the right ways (there, but not too obvious) and we also have to be sure and include red herrings to keep things complicated enough. After all, our readers are going to be tearing up our “driveways” as they devour our stories and there had better not be any unacceptable surprises.

What kind of driveways are we constructing in the first place? Asphalt? Concrete? One made out of block pavers? It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between all three.

But where do you draw the line in terms of genre between mystery, suspense novel, and thriller?

Author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford came up with these distinctions:

  • Thrillers have action
  • Suspense has danger, but not necessarily action
  • Mysteries have mysteries (something you don’t know until the end)

Still confused? I am. After all, I think THE BOURNE IDENTITY and THE DA VINCI CODE has all three elements.

Another agent, Jessica Faust, says there are three different kinds of mysteries: the cozy (usually involving an amateur sleuth and not too many bloody bodies), the mystery (grittier and darker…definitely more blood), and the suspense/thriller (the darkest of the three…more about stopping a killer than solving a crime). Check out her explanation here.

There’s a fascinating post by novelist Janet L. Smith describing the conclusions of suspense master, Alfred Hitchcock:

  • Suspense has no relationship to fear
  • It’s the state of waiting for something to happen
  • Therefore, the viewer or reader must be informed of an awful, impending event in order to be held in suspense, rather than merely surprised when it happens

Smith points out that a mystery, on the other hand, “is a novel of revelation, with action more mental than physical.” In this case, the audience is not kept informed.

And here’s one final analysis by Maeve Maddox.

Let’s say Mystery is Asphalt, Suspense is Concrete, and Thrillers are those driveways built with block pavers. What kind of driveway do you specialize in, and why? Please let me know in a comment below. I’m interested to find out which is most popular these days.


Originally posted 2013-07-22 17:40:31.

“Wednesday Writer” – Chris Jefferies

I pulled a switch to accommodate the needs of one of my scheduled authors, so we’re visiting today with historical fiction writer, Chris Jefferies, instead of fantasy author, Karen Hoover. But I promise–she’ll be here next Wednesday.

In the meantime, let’s get to know Chris better, shall we? This is an award-winning writer (a bronze medalist for Best Regional Fiction by the Independent Book Awards) who, like me, came a bit late to the game. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his stuff. He does.

Chris L. Jefferies, PhDME:  How old were you when you wrote your first story, and what was it about? (Also, I’d love a picture of you as a child to post with the interview.)

(Note: I asked that question assuming that he, like most of us, had first tried his hand at creating a story in elementary school . . . No such luck, but he was such a cute kid that I’m posting the picture anyway.)

chris3yrs(Here he is at 3 and he’s already showing an interest in the military!)

CHRIS:  I first began writing seriously during my Air Force career when my bosses discovered I could write. (Notwithstanding the picture above, this was not when he was three. :D)

That led to writing for professional journals and other periodicals over the years. I’ve always enjoyed reading novels, particularly historical fiction, and over a period of time I began reading them with a critical eye. I finally concluded I could write better than many of the authors I was reading. I wrote my first story during my early 60s. That story became the first ZION’S PROMISE book.

ME:  Where did you grow up and how has it impacted you as a writer?

CHRIS:  I grew up in Oakland, California, where my parents moved from Utah during the late 1930s, but my family roots remained in Utah, particularly Grantsville. That’s the town, on Utah’s western frontier, where almost all of my ancestors settled after emigrating from England during the mid-1800s. So I grew up with a keen awareness of my Mormon Pioneer heritage which, in turn, influenced my writing.

(More about that later. But here’s a picture of the land around Grantsville.)


ME:  Please fill us in on your education and career up until the time you decided to begin writing the ZION’S PROMISE series. (And I hope you won’t mind if I post a picture of you in your Air Force uniform . . . as an adult, that is.)

CHRIS:  I am a career Air Force officer and a retired colonel. Spanning 28 years, my career includes 8 years flying world-wide airlift missions, a tour flying C-130s in Vietnam, a tour as an exchange officer with the British Royal Air Force, five years on the faculty of the US Air Force Academy, service at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and two tours in Washington, D.C. (Okay, I’m officially tired.)

CHRIS UNIFORM(There’s the man in uniform.)

After retiring from the Air Force, I served as an administrator at the University of Oklahoma, and then as the Executive Director of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center and museum. (Wait! What about retirement? The Air Force didn’t wear you out?)

My educational degrees are from BYU, a Master’s from the University of Pittsburgh, and a PhD from the University of Oklahoma. (Envision a snappy military salute to Dr. Jefferies at this point.)

Chris Jefferies(He looks like someone with a PhD, doesn’t he?)

ME:  It’s apparent that history is important to you. After all, you’re a western historical fiction writer and you currently serve as editor of Prairie Lore, the journal of the Southwest Oklahoma Historical Society. Why does history matter so much to you?

CHRIS:  I’m not sure why, but history has always fascinated me. (Me too.) I have always chosen history when given a choice of reading materials. As I grew older I began to appreciate that we are who we are because of our history. It defines us as families and individuals. I firmly believe that our ancestors influence us even today, often by whisperings of the spirit. (Agreed.)

Zion's Promise 1ME:  What gave you the idea for ZION’S PROMISE, and did you envision it as a series to begin with?

CHRIS:  No, I did not envision my first book as a series. It just happened. The idea for ZION’S PROMISE grew from two sources.

First, my great-great grandfather’s journal. As I read his accounts, I was intrigued by his adventures, many of which surpassed those I had read in historical fiction novels over the years. (Hint to readers: you might be well-advised to start digging through your attics for your ancestors’ journals.)

Zion's Promise 2

The second idea grew out of my admiration for Porter Rockwell, one of the unsung heroes of Mormon history. He is a fascinating character, and the factual accounts of his exploits read better than a novel. When I realized that he and my great-great grandfather were contemporaries, whose paths had crossed, I concluded I had the source material for a novel. 

ME:  Does the story change through the course of the series and, if so, how?

CHRIS:  The story line is the adventures, trials, sacrifices and triumphs of a Mormon family emigrating from England in 1861 to join the Mormon Zion in Utah Territory in search of the blessings and opportunities it offers. That continues throughout all three volumes.

Zion's Promise 3The events evolve more than change as they emigrate, settle on Zion’s western frontier, and struggle to establish their own Zion in the face of adversity and challenges.

author.bookfair.10-12(And here’s the author at a signing)

ME:  You’ve described yourself as a “rut-nut.” Could you explain exactly what you mean by that, and please share one of your most memorable experiences in your exploration of the western migration trails. (And I must have a picture of you out on the trail.)

CHRIS:  A “rut-nut” is a self-descriptive term for one who seeks out and follows old frontier trails and roads, looking for evidence of those who originally traveled the trails.

My most memorable experience was standing on a stretch of Mormon Trail ruts in Wyoming with my father, and both of us realizing that our direct ancestors passed by that very spot. It was as though they were whispering to us.

IMG_0458(Here they are on the spot. What a resemblance between father and son!)

ME:  Please describe your research and writing process. Does one precede the other or do they go hand in hand for you?

CHRIS:  Before I begin writing, I research as much general background material relevant to my intended story as I can until I feel confident enough to start. For example, before I began volume 3, in which I describe Colonel Conner and his California volunteers sent to Utah Territory at the beginning of the Civil War, I researched what life was like for the frontier soldier. Then, as I got into writing, I referred to contemporary journals and accounts by actual soldiers of the Volunteers. So the answer is both: research begins before I write, and continues during the process.

ME:  What are five things you have on or near your writing desk that make your creative space special? (And please send a photo of your writing space.)

CHRIS:  I don’t think I have anything special in my writing space, except a good dictionary and thesaurus. And, of course, stacks of books . . . Oh yes. (You see, I knew there’s be something.) There is one special item: a needlepoint that Betty, my wife, sewed for me years ago. I still like to look at it.

(Drat! The only picture I could find of him at a desk doesn’t show the needlepoint. I wonder if it’s a design, a picture, or a saying.)

Chris Jefferies at desk(That desk looks old enough to have some history behind it.)

ME:  Finally, I hope you won’t mind sharing one of your great-great grandfather’s most interesting journal entries.

CHRIS:  Most of his entries are factual and brief, and emotion-free. Putting feeling and emotions into these accounts was my challenge as an author hoping to bring him to life. I think I succeeded. However, there is one entry he made at the journal’s end that impressed me the most as one of his direct descendants. It may be of interest to others.

William Jefferies & WO0002(First, a picture to help you visualize the man behind the pen. Chris’s great-great grandfather, William Jefferies, with two of his children/grandchildren.)

I have dwelt somewhat lengthily on several incidents in my early life, because I perceive in them the visible hand of my Father in heaven, in leading, guiding and directing my course, so as to bring me into his fold, and give me a chance to secure unto myself eternal lives, in his celestial Kingdom. Others may not acknowledge His hand in such matters, but I do, and I feel thankful to Him for the benefits of His guiding Hand all my life through, thus far; and I hope to be able to serve Him faithfully all the remainder of my days, so that when I shall have to give an account of the deeds done in the body, I may be considered worthy to be an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ, and dwell in the mansions of celestial light and glory for evermore. 

(Wow. Talk about a voice whispering from the dust.)

If you’d like to know more about Chris and his writing, please check out his website. And you can order his books here.

Next Wednesday, I promise to chat with Karen Hoover.


Originally posted 2013-07-17 15:43:24.

“Monday Mystery” – MOTIVE FOR MURDER

I’m starting something new here involving suspense.

Beginning today, my Monday postings will be about mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels.

The postings will be either reviews of suspense novels that I choose (no requests, please), musings about the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres in general, or announcements of new releases. (Here, I will welcome requests from authors . . . If you’ve got a new mystery, thriller, or suspense novel coming out, just send me a basic synopsis, a short excerpt of around 100 words or less, and a brief bio, along with a cover image and your author photo.)

Some of you may recall that I had originally set aside Mondays for various things attached to the acronym MOLESKIN–one of my favorite writing product lines. But it became too complicated to keep track of . . . hence, the change.

I’m kicking it off this week with an announcement of a new release: Marlene Bateman’s MOTIVE FOR MURDER: An Erica Coleman Mystery. Published only last month, it’s available on Amazon and at all LDS bookstores, including Deseret Book and Seagull.

A Motive for Murder_High resolution

Here’s a quick look:


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.

Erica imagined that her trip to Florida would be a slice of heaven—a chance to get away from it all and catch up with her best friend, Wendy. But one day into her vacation, all hope of fun in the sun is dashed when she stumbles, literally, over a dead man on Wendy’s driveway. With police closing in on her friend as their main suspect, Erica must find the real killer before Wendy ends up behind bars.

With Erica’s skill, solving the mystery should be a piece of cake but then a second homicide attempt hits close to home and generates a whole new list of suspects. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. A murderer is on the prowl, and no one is above suspicion.

As the plot thickens, it appears Erica may have bitten off more than she can chew, but she forges on, sifting through mounting evidence until she hones in on the killer who has a surprising motive for murder. With a dash of romance and some surprising twists, this thrilling mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.



“As she drove back to Wendy’s house, the headlights cleaved the darkness and shone through the rain, which was falling harder now. Erica parked across the street and was nearly to Wendy’s door when she stopped suddenly, catching herself as she nearly fell over something.

It was the still figure of a man lying face down on the driveway. He was strangely unmoving. The light from the porch illuminated a puddle alongside him, which was growing bigger by the second. A chill shivered down Erica’s spine as she noticed that the puddle was streaked by dark red threads that ran and merged with rivulets of rain.”



Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah.  She 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, and Brigham’s Boys. Marlene also wrote the best-selling novel, Light on Fire Island.

A busy writer, Marlene is set to have three books published this year. Gaze Into Heaven, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences in early church history, was published earlier this year. Now we have Motive for Murder, the first in a mystery series featuring the quirky Erica Coleman. Later in July, Heroes of Faith, a collection of stories about people who risked their life for the gospel, will be released by Cedar Fort Inc. You can learn more about Marlene at her website.

Originally posted 2013-07-15 06:00:53.

In Celebration of “Bastille Day”

I’ve been apprised of a special deal that I thought I’d pass on to my readers:

Le French Book

July 14 is Bastille Day in France, and Le French Book is celebrating. This ebook-first publisher focuses on fiction in translation from France, with a special emphasis on the country’s top-selling mysteries and thrillers.

To mark the date, it is running Bastille Day Sweepstakes for an ereader and a number of summer ebook reads with a French flair.

“With our focus on entertaining reads from France, we couldn’t miss out on this Bastille Day opportunity to share what we are doing with new readers,” says Anne Trager, the company’s founder. She started Le French Book with the goal of sharing what she loves about the Gallic nation and its fiction.

The sweepstakes run from July 11 through July 14.

Get your chance to win via Facebook.

Or enter the sweepstakes directly here.

You can even get a free Bastille Day short story by seven of France’s top writers.


Originally posted 2013-07-11 14:16:34.

“Wednesday Writer” – Rebecca Belliston

Are you comfortable? Do you have a ready supply of chocolate (or your favorite snack if it’s not chocolate)? Then settle yourself in for a long, detailed interview with Rebecca Belliston, an author of YA Romance and dystopian fiction, and a composer of religious and classical-styled music.

index~~element457 ME:  I didn’t realize (until I was preparing for this interview) that you’re the daughter of Gerald Lund, one of the most respected and well-known authors in LDS circles, thanks mostly to his series, The Work and the Glory. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, or do you not even worry about it? How have you dealt with his fame when it comes to your own writing career? (And I’d love a picture of you with your father when you were a child.)

REBECCA:  Growing up, I had a lot of people ask me, “Are you a writer like your dad?” I’d quickly respond that I wasn’t. Not at all. I loved watching him write, reading his books, and talking about his characters over dinner and whether Joshua Steed should ever turn good. But writing was always his thing.

Until five years ago.

I had this story stuck in my head for a year, and I decided to jot down a few notes so I could hopefully stop thinking about it. (Uh-oh. That sounds familiar.) But once I started writing . . . oh boy, I couldn’t stop. (Addictive, isn’t it?) I fell in love with the process of creating, refining, and molding characters, and then trying to figure out what might happen next. And then next.

Since I never planned to write, and since I grew up being “Gerald Lund’s daughter,” I had an unreasonably hard time admitting what I was doing. It took me two weeks to tell my husband. Pathetic, right? (But kind of understandable, too.) When he didn’t disown me or laugh me out of town, I told my dad.

Gerald & Rebecca(Gerald Lund with Rebecca…and, unseen in the frame, a keyboard. Just kidding!)

My dad’s been so supportive and excited for me right from the start. I’m smiling right now just thinking about his enthusiasm. It’s been a blast to talk writing jargon with him and to watch a pro like him work through the creative process. I’ve learned so, so, so much.

But to answer your question, yes. Those are huge writing shoes to fill. Ginormous. When I found out SADIE was being published, I kind of freaked out, wondering if people would compare my book with my dad’s and expect some amazing doctrinal dissertation that would change their life.

(That does sound like a major freak out.)

You might notice that “Lund” is not in my official author name on my book covers. That was for a few reasons. Rebecca Belliston is a long enough name to fit on a cover without inserting “Lund” in there. But I also wanted to protect my dad, myself, and my readers. If people disliked my books, I didn’t want them to think less of my dad. I also didn’t want any readers to pick up my book and think they were getting a Gerald Lund-type book. I write romances.

However, one thing I inherited from my dad is the ability to write long books and long answers. (:D) Sorry. That was probably more detail than you wanted. :D

(Not at all. I love details.)

ME:  Or perhaps it’s your mother, Lynn, with all of her composing, who has been most influential creatively? (Again, I’d love a picture of you as a child with her.)

REBECCA:  While I never grew up thinking I’d follow my dad’s footsteps, I definitely followed my mom’s, even from a young age. My mom has written hundreds of songs and taught piano since before I was born. I’m told that, as a baby, I’d sit quietly on her lap during all her piano lessons. (I can think of a few piano-teaching moms who are probably envious right now.) I’ve loved music as long as I can remember.

By three years old, I was sounding out songs on the piano. (Piano lessons by osmosis, right?) By four, I was taking piano lessons. By six, I had perfect pitch, and I was writing my own songs about purple unicorns and rainbows.

My mom and I singing in a program(Rebecca with her mom)

My mom has been a huge creative influence in my life, and I love her dearly for it. She would encourage me to think about melodies and what made them unique and beautiful. Then she’d point out accompaniments that would counter the melody instead of following it.

Like my dad, my mom has been a huge support of my compositions, cheering me on in the tiniest achievements. When my first choral arrangement was published with Jackman Music, I could practically hear her screaming across the country.

As you can see, I have the best parents. I was raised in an attitude of, If you can dream it, do it! Don’t let doubt get in your way. (Great motto for all creative types, particularly writers.) I watched them get these crazy ideas that no one ever tried, but they’d just run with it and turn it into something inspiring. Fear of failure was either non-existent or unseen.

Whenever I’ve exhibited the least bit of interest in the creative process, they’ve been on the sidelines cheering me on and telling me I’m the best in the world. Ha ha. I love them!

Everything I’m doing today with books and music I owe to my parents. Seriously.

(I hope you’ll share this interview with them so they realize how grateful you are.)

ME:  What was your major in college and why? Were you able to finish a degree before your husband, Troy, swept you off your feet? (And please share a wedding photo of the two of you.) If not, do you plan on completing it at some time in the future?

REBECCA:  I took a lot of music classes in college, but I technically didn’t major in music. I wasn’t really majoring in anything. I took computer classes, medical classes, science classes, and a bunch of other stuff, but I loved too many things to narrow it down to one subject. (At least not by the time you met Troy, I take it.)

Our Wedding(Troy and Rebecca, appropriately by the piano)

Once our oldest kid was born, I knew I wanted to be at home with him all the time. I never finished my degree. I wasn’t even close. But I’ve never regretted that decision. Not once.

As of now, I don’t have plans to finish my degree because, again, I’m not sure how I’d narrow it down to one subject. I’d love to major in six things. Maybe some day I’ll find the time to do all of it.

(That’s me. I wanted to be an archaeologist, historian, actress, playwright, filmmaker, foreign correspondent, etc. That’s the great thing about being a writer. We can satisfy so many different interests in our writing.)

Instead, I’ve used Google as my university. I’m a learning addict (Here, here!), and usually it’s random, useless things that catch my interest. But I love that I can have a simple question, and .30 seconds later I get 4.2 million answers. Thank goodness for Google!


ME:  My sister and her husband lived in Detroit for a couple of years early on in their marriage and really didn’t like it, but that was almost 30 years ago. How has your family liked Detroit, and has that setting influenced your writing in any way?

REBECCA:  I was born and raised in Utah, but once my husband graduated from Utah State, we moved to Michigan. We’ve lived here sixteen years now. He’s an automotive engineer and currently works on the Ford F-150, so Metro Detroit is the place to be.

2013-Ford-F-150-Limited-front-three-quarter(2013 Ford F-150…looking nice, Troy!)

We live outside of the city 45 minutes, and we love it! Michigan is so gorgeous and green. Where we live has a strong Midwest feel. The people are so warm and open. The area is family friendly and strongly Christian, which is awesome for my kids.

(Now, if you’d asked me if I like Michigan in the dead of winter, I’d probably have a different answer.)

(It’s a good thing I interviewed you in summertime!)

Living outside of Utah and watching LDS people outside of Mormonville made me want to keep Sadie’s story outside of that little bubble. I wanted to show how LDS twenty-somethings maintain their standards when they’re in the minority. Because of that, most of the characters in SADIE and AUGUSTINA aren’t LDS. I like it that way. That’s my kids’ lives right now. There are so many good, Christian people in the world, and I have many close friends that aren’t of my faith. I guess I wanted to highlight that.

(I know what you mean. I always try to have a mix of faiths in my stories, too.)

ME:  What gave you the idea to put lyrics into your manuscript for SADIE, and do you do it again in the sequel? Also, has the song “Look Past” been recorded anywhere?

REBECCA:  I’m not sure where I got the idea for “Look Past.” It’s my first real attempt at writing lyrics. I wish it was recorded! That would be so cool! In my mind–and I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly (That’s okay…we don’t mind.)–but David Archuleta sings it. So . . . anyone know how to get Archie to record my song for me? :D (Even if we did, I think you’ll have to wait until he’s finished his mission first.)

(The more you get to know me, the more you’ll see what a dreamer I am. That’s the downside of my parents’ influence. My husband has a hard time keeping my feet on the floor. I have a bucket list a mile long, which involves Hollywood movies, Billboard-chart songs, and a lot of other stuff I’ll force myself to quit admitting.)

(Hey, don’t forget what your parents taught you. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming.)

I’m currently working on a song for AUGUSTINA, but it’s a hymn arrangement, not an original composition like “Look Past.” We’ll see if I can finish it before the release. Here’s hoping.

ME:  Tell us about your successful first novel, SADIE, as well as its sequel, AUGUSTINA, due to come out shortly. How are they alike, and what differences might your readers expect in this sequel?

SadieREBECCA:  My first novel, SADIE, is about a girl in Montana who’s dating a guy with all the appearance of being wonderful and charming. Everyone loves Guillermo. But Sadie’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he turns violent. She goes on the run and meets four quirky guys on their annual ski vacation. They take her in, hide her, and show her a different way of living that doesn’t revolve around diamonds and dinner parties.

One of the guys, Josh, catches her interest with stupid jokes and amazing piano abilities. (My love of music shines strong in the books.) But Guillermo is cunning and powerful enough to draw Sadie back in. Before she knows it, she’s in the middle of a dangerous duel between him and the FBI, and it turns deadly. She has to figure out which side she’s on and which man she loves before it’s too late.


(Slight spoiler alert ahead for those who haven’t read SADIE yet . . . even if it is by the author, herself.)

In the sequel, AUGUSTINA, Sadie is on the run. Guillermo is furious she turned against him, and her body still shows the effects of his rage. Forced to leave Montana behind, she and Josh head south where she hopes to conquer her past–even if only in her mind. But Guillermo can’t let go. He’s still orchestrating, hunting, and devising ways to exact his own kind of justice. When the law swings in his favor, he’s ready to end the feud that started the moment Josh walked into Sadie’s life.

Book two was hard to write. Sadie goes to a dark place in her mind, and as an author, I wanted to protect her from that. I love my characters. But unfortunately, that wasn’t realistic. Domestic abuse is a reality for far too many women, and I didn’t want to minimize it. So in some ways, AUGUSTINA is a little heavier than SADIE. But there is still a lot of teasing and laughter.

There’s also a change of scenery in this second book. Josh and Sadie move to Tennessee, which allows them to spend more time outside. That was a lot of fun to write. I visited Knoxville with my parents ten years back when they were filming The Work and the Glory. I fell in love with the area. It’s gorgeous.

Also in book two, Sadie spends some time focusing on her spirituality. She’s desperate to find some peace–any peace–and part of her journey is exploring Josh’s religion.

ME:  What led you to turn to dystopian fiction with CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, and do you have a publisher for that trilogy yet?

REBECCA:  CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND is a little different than SADIE and AUGUSTINA. It’s set in the future about five years after the financial collapse of America. It’s still a romance and has some suspense elements, but it’s not LDS fiction. In a way, it’s the story of a small community as much as it’s a romance.

LifeI think the most powerful question a writer can ask is “What if?” Those two little words are the reason I wrote CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND.

What if the end of America as we know it isn’t caused from some massive world war? What if it’s caused by the collapse of the economy? What if our technologically spoiled civilization suddenly has to live without running water, electricity, and even a basic grocery store? What if the government wants to help people and prevent mass starvation, but in reality, they only make things worse? What would that do to a small community of 36 neighbors? How would I survive if I didn’t have a dime to my name? (Okay, now I’m looking at a sleepless night ahead of me.)

I’m thrilled that Crescent Moon Press will be publishing this new trilogy. They’ve been so enthusiastic about the characters and story, it’s been awesome. I’m not sure yet when it will be published, but I’m starting round one of edits in the near future.

(Congratulations! I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.)

ME:  How would you describe your writing process and what part does music play in it, if any? (I must have a picture of you at the piano.)

REBECCA:  Hmmm. My writing process is constantly evolving. As I mentioned, I never planned to write SADIE. It just kinda happened. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about writing.

Now, I usually let a story play out in my mind for a while before I write anything down. I’m a daydreamer, so I start there, much to the chagrin of my family.

“Mom? Hello?”

Once I feel I’m onto something, I start to plot and outline. I use a couple of outlining methods, but I really like Blake Snyder’s beat sheet method. I also do some intense character sketching to figure out motivations, fears, strengths and weaknesses for the major characters.

From there, I start writing. First drafts are hard for me. Ironic, I know, considering I wrote the first draft of SADIE in three weeks. But I’d much prefer to edit and refine now. Still, I’ve learned to push through the first draft and allow myself to be dull and boring the first time through so I can get to the fun, refining process.

(I think most writers feel that way. I’ll bet your father does, too. And since you didn’t mention music, I guess it doesn’t play a role, but here’s a picture anyway.)

At piano(Rebecca at the piano)

ME:  Finally, I’d love a peek at the place where you do most of your writing. Please describe it in Guillermo’s voice, as if he’s come there looking for Sadie. (And we must have a photo.)

REBECCA:  In Guillermo’s voice? Oh, man. Let’s see . . .

She sat at her desk, unaware. Her back was to the room, trusting her surroundings.

I smiled. I loved this about her.

She worked from two screens, and her eyes darted back and forth, mind racing and wonderfully preoccupied. Several books were strewn about, and papers filled every inch of work space. Homework assignments. Bills. Even a random screwdriver. What was the purpose in that?

I found the answer to my own question, and my smile grew. The screwdriver was long and sharp. Perfecto!

I crept closer.

Children climbed on and off her lap, causing more typos than she could keep up with. She was distracted. Always distracted. And oh, so very trusting.

Okay. I have to stop now because I’m freaking myself out. (What? No. It was just getting good! You can’t leave us hanging there.) Anyone could sneak up to me when I write because I’m so focused. (That’s why I write with my back to a wall…and a window that doesn’t open.) Thank you so much for that little writing exercise. (Picture me turning my laptop around to face the room.)

I’m seriously tempted to clean up my workspace before snapping a photo, but I won’t. Welcome to my frazzled brain. In my defense, my computer files are perfectly organized and tidy. Sort of.

My desk(And there you have it…the scene of Guillermo’s almost crime)

You can learn more about Rebecca’s writing or watch the trailer for SADIE (and even listen to some of her musical compositions) by checking out her website and blog.

But don’t forget to come back here next Wednesday when I’ll be interviewing fantasy author, Karen Hoover.


Originally posted 2013-07-10 06:00:18.

“Wednesday Writer” – Fay Klingler

While I normally interview fiction writers, today’s guest, Fay Klingler, writes primarily non-fiction. In fact, I like to think of her work as women’s non-fiction because almost all of it applies to the challenges of women, mothers, and grandmothers.


ME:  I know you were reared in Mesa, Arizona, but where in the mountains did your father build that summer home for your family? And what kind of an effect did that kind of childhood have on you in terms of your writing later on? (I’d love a picture of you as a child up in the mountains.)

FAY:  Our home in the mountains was the highlight of my entire childhood. It was built in Strawberry, Arizona. My brother and I roamed those mountains and explored all summer, every summer. Back then, there were few fences and a small population. We rode roundup for a neighboring cattle rancher. We discovered an amazing chalk mine. In the night, we heard the loud screams of a nearby mountain lion. We slept out under the stars with apples situated on top of us to feed the skunks who frequented at night. (Okay, I’m visualizing young Fay with an apple on her forehead…or would she have put it on her tummy?) On the pond, we rode the wooden raft my brother made, and we collected snakes, frogs, and Indian corn grinders.

At one point, I started to draft a manuscript that included some of the colorful events I happily experienced there. But then my use of time migrated to caring for family and the necessary chores of life. (Well, I hope you can get back to that unfinished manuscript, and I’m sure your children do, too.)

You asked for a picture. I came across this one. My greatest love was riding horses in the mountains. This was taken in Pine, Arizona, on the 24th of July 1960—me and my Great Uncle Jody. He was a true cowboy. I was a would-be true cowgirl :)


(She looks pretty authentic to me)

ME:  I loved the lesson you described that your creative writing teacher in junior high provided when she came to class, all plain, and then proceeded to put on all her makeup in front of the whole lot of you, asking you to describe the process afterward. If you had to give a similar lesson, what would you demonstrate and why?

FAY:  I would show how to make bread or cinnamon rolls. Then I would share the results with my students! (Sign me up for your class!) My mother was a marvelous baker. When I was in college at Brigham Young University, I tried to make bread like hers. I thought it should just come naturally. You read a recipe. You follow what it tells you to do, and walla you have a delicious-smelling, perfect textured loaf of bread, right? Not mine! It was as hard as a brick. No kidding! (On second thought…)

My mother came to my rescue by giving me lessons on bread-making. I have loved making bread ever sense and do so often for my family. (Okay, I’m all signed up again. :D)

ME:  Where did you pursue your degree in Advertising and Commercial Art, and did you end up working in either of those fields?

FAY:  As a young mother, I took classes through a correspondence school. It was a well-known school with a good reputation—Art Instruction Schools. It took me several years to complete the course.

I worked as a professional illustrator for a number of years. My work was featured by greeting card companies, “Highlights for Children” magazine, “Cricket” magazine (That’s two weeks in a row that Cricket has been mentioned), and others. For a period of time when I had to provide for my family alone, I used my skills to teach commercial art in the public school system. With the curriculum I wrote, my students won state art awards for the first time in that school’s history. (Brava!)

ME:  If you had to choose between your two loves–art and writing–which would it be and why?

FAY:  I did have to choose. As a single mom, I could not earn as much money with my art as I could with my writing. But that writing was not creative work. It was technical writing. I wrote safety manuals for oil refineries, railroad procedures, bank operation manuals, and communication style guides. (I’ll bet none of your current readers would have guessed that.)

ME:  Which illustrated book are you most proud of and why? (And please provide a cover photo.)

FAY:  I think I’m most proud of my illustrating for Highlights for Children magazine (I won their Science Corner of the Year award twice) and my greeting card work (I illustrated for the third largest greeting card company in the world, Recycled Paper Products). This is an illustration I did for one of their greeting cards.

Recycled-Paper-Products-art-1(Beautiful, isn’t it? You can tell she’s gearing up for her future books.)

ME:  You seem to specialize now in women’s non-fiction. Could you please tell us about your latest publication and what prompted you to write it? And are there any subjects concerning women and families that you are thinking about addressing in the future?

FAY:  I have two books coming out in 2014. They are actually tied together. I wrote a children’s fiction piece I AM STRONG! I AM SMART! (for ages 8 to 12). I’m not prone to writing fiction, but I love this story. Its heartfelt message unites and bonds generations. Grandma May and young Lu offer each other and women of all ages the tremendous gift of “girl power”! (Good for you! You’re branching out.)

Initially, it was suggested by my publisher that I use that title to also write a non-fiction book. It evolved into WE ARE STRONG! MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS STAND TOGETHER.

This book provides the why and how of teaching strong Christian values, with true stories communicating the purpose of those values. This inspiring work helps women strengthen their relationship with their daughters as they learn how powerful a faithful mother’s example can be. (Sounds terrific for me and my daughter.)

ME:  How have your own experiences impacted your ability to write about women, marriage, and raising children and grandchildren? Does your family ever feel like they’re being exposed, or do you avoid using personal examples in your writing? (And I’d really appreciate a picture of your large, blended family, if you don’t mind.)

FAY:  My experiences have greatly impacted my writing. Like far too many women, I lived in an abusive marriage for many years. After my divorce, as a single mother I struggled to protect and provide for my family alone. When I remarried (a saint of a man), I found blending a large family to be one of the most challenging experiences of my life. (I’ll bet! But that’s also what gave you such expertise.)

Over the past 30 years, I’ve shared the wisdom I gained from my life’s experiences, and I am grateful my Heavenly Father has helped me in that writing so the words impact others in positive, life-changing ways.


This is a picture of a portion of our family. (Hint: Click on it for a larger view.) We have members living around the world. Several of our children and grandchildren could not attend this gathering. We have twelve children in our blended family, and thirty-five grandchildren. (That’s a lot of bread baking!)

ME:  As a non-fiction writer, could you describe your writing process and how you approach publishing?

FAY:  I try to follow the promptings I receive from the Spirit. I feel driven to write or I really wouldn’t do it. Creative writing is a very difficult career. (Yes, but it’s too fun to give up…)

With an outline of my work in place, I make digital file folders and paper file folders. As the weeks of research and gathering pass, I collect materials that fit the various chapter subjects. It’s amazing to me how I meet just the right person or am exposed to the perfect story that fits the chapter I am working on. (Yep, something tells me that, fiction or non-fiction, the real Author’s putting his hand in.) I am consistently thrilled by our Heavenly Father’s choreography. (Great way to put it!)

ME:  Finally, where do you do your best writing? (And please provide a picture.)

FAY:  My husband and I share an office. My corner looks out on our front yard flower garden, making my spot a peaceful, quiet location to write.

My husband even made a label for under my computer screen. The label reads, “Fay’s Work Spot”! (Now that’s supportive!)

My-office-corner(See the label? Either she’s very organized, or she cleaned up for the photo. I have a feeling it’s the former since this is a lady who successfully raised 12 children.)

You can always find out more about Fay and her creative work on her website. She blogs right on her home page like I do.

Be sure and come back next week when I talk to YA Romance author, Rebecca Belliston, about her well-known parents and much more!


Originally posted 2013-07-03 06:00:05.

“Wednesday Writer” – Dene Low

In terms of a career, there are two sides to Laura Dene Low Card–the professorial side, Dr. Laura Card, who teaches English at BYU . . . and the authorial side, Dene Low, who has won multiple awards for her fiction:

  • Edgar Award finalist (Mystery Writers of America) 2010
  • Editor’s Choice of the Historical Novel Society, fall 2009
  • Best of 2009, the Children’s Hour
  • And a few more best of 2009 lists.

Not to discount her teaching, but we will be talking to Dene today.

picture_15ME:  You say that where you were born is irrelevant, but I find that most authors’ backgrounds have an effect on their writing in one way or another . . . so please tell us where you were born and raised–all the countries and states–and what your early childhood was like. (And I’d love a picture of you when you were young.)

DENE:  You are so right. Where I’ve lived plays a huge part in my writing. I’ve lived in 6 states and 2 other countries: Utah, Minnesota, California, Kentucky, Texas, and Colorado plus Germany and Austria. I use scenes and memories from those places—so far, mostly Colorado and California, but the others are definitely there to supply material for my writing.

(I knew it. And had I known in advance, I might have asked to see your kids in lederhosen.)

Low Family 035(Dene in the striped dress…I think…with her sister and parents)

ME:  Generally, all of that travel, both within and without the country, indicates a military background, but was it your father or your husband that took you to all those places, or both? (And a picture of you and your family abroad would be nice.)

DENE:  My husband was an Army officer, so many of those places were lived in because of his career. However, my father was getting his education and Ph.D. and then got a job in California and then Utah, so he’s responsible for several moves.

Low Family 033(Dene with her father and sister by the Mississippi River)


(Her three oldest children at home in Germany in 1978)

ME:  I want to hear more about that mermaid book you tried to write in fourth grade. What was the basic plot and what stalled you in the first chapter?

DENE:  That’s a funny one. There wasn’t much of a plot, which is why when I got to the end of the first chapter, I kind of gave up and decided to move on to loftier things, like taking swimming lessons (no doubt pretending to be a mermaid) and roaming the hills of California with the poison oak and blue belly lizards and my dog.

(Now I’m feeling a bit itchy.)

ME:  Other than your sixth grade class newspaper, what do you consider your first success in publishing?

DENE:  I remember the day I got the check from Cricket magazine for a short story I had revised and revised and then been told I had revised the good part out of and I probably couldn’t fix it. I had let it sit for months before deciding that they couldn’t tell me I couldn’t fix it, so I did. The note with the check just said, “Persistence pays.” I was ecstatic.

(Let that be a lesson to us all!)

ME:  Where did you get your B.A., your M.A., and your Ph.D., and what is the greatest value of a master’s degree in creative writing, in your opinion? Also, how has being published affected your role as Dr. Card, the English professor?

DENE:  BA—Brigham Young University. MA—Brigham Young University, PhD—University of Utah.

The value of a master’s degree in creative writing is that it makes you write to a deadline and then you get feedback. I remember taking the first 50 pages of my thesis in to a class and getting the response, “That’s very good.” I was shocked. I thought they ought to be jumping for joy and they didn’t. So, I threw away all 50 pages and started over. (I sense a perfectionist here.) The next time I brought it in, they were wowed and I was happy. I don’t think a creative writing master’s is necessary to be a good writer, but it is worthwhile if you want to develop discipline and to push yourself and to get feedback with your tuition.

ME:  Please describe one of the most “unbelievable” experiences you’ve had in life.

DENE:  OK, it’s a cliché, but having my babies was the most unbelievable—all six of them.

After that, I’d have to say the awards ceremony for the Edgar Award that I was a finalist for with PETRONELLA SAVES NEARLY EVERYONE. It was like the Academy Awards, just like you see on TV. Lots of fun and my agent treated me like I was gold that he didn’t want to let out of his sight. (I can imagine…he’d probably lost a client or two before by not keeping close enough tabs at such events.)

042910_edgars-106MattPeytonPhotography(Dene on the far right at the Edgar Awards…if you look really closely, you can see her agent peeking through the bars behind her)

ME:  Which book did you read as a child that cemented your goal of becoming an author one day, and why do you think it had that effect on you?

DENE:  Probably King of the Wind, Little Women, Little Men, or Black Beauty or any of the many Nancy Drew mysteries…or any of the hundreds of other books that I read. (Okay, that’s really narrowing it down.)

I read nearly every book in our city library. They only let me take 5 at a time, which was discouraging, because I would finish them in a couple of days and not be able to get any more for another week. (Oh, so you’re the one that always had the book I wanted checked out…just kidding, I doubt we ever went to the same library.)

ME:  Please tell us in detail about how your book, THE ENTOMOLOGICAL TALES OF AUGUSTUS T. PERCIVAL: PETRONELLA SAVES NEARLY EVERYONE, came to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2009.

UnknownDENE:  The first time I sold the book was to an editor at a conference for one of the big New York publishers. (You see? Conferences work!)

We did two or three revisions and then she quit and disappeared and my book was an orphan. (But sometimes editors don’t.) 

I was devastated and told Rick Walton about it and he told me to resubmit and gave me the names of 15 publishers and editors. (Okay, I want Rick Walton for my friend.)

I only had one respond. (But one is all you need if it’s the right one.)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editor Kate O’Sullivan had an assistant ask me for the full manuscript. (Yay!) I did another couple of revisions and then the assistant told me I could talk to Kate in person over the phone. (Even bigger “Yay!”) We worked on more revisions until the final copy. (Yes!) 

Unfortunately, another book came out from HMH just a couple of months before mine with a protagonist with the same last name and time frame and setting and subplot (Okay, a minor setback), so I had to do some major rewriting and change all those things. It worked, but it was a lot of work.

(You see? Just like the guys at Cricket magazine said all those years ago, “Persistence pays.”)

ME:  Why do you write in so many different genres (YA, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Non-fiction), and do you plan on using pen names to avoid confusing your readers? What other books have you published and what stories do you have in the works? And how would you describe your writing process?

DENE:  My brain clickety-clicks along with the speed of a bullet and I come up with all kinds of stories. I try to write a chapter for each idea so I have the idea cemented and then I put it away in a file on my computer to work on later. (Hmm…that’s an interesting approach. Might have to try that one.)

I’ve actually finished a few of those and they are now books. (By my count, which could be off, she has had about 15 books published now for both young and older readers. You can see the whole list on her website. I’ll post a few covers.)


On a daily basis, I get up very early, write for a few hours, take a nap, and then go to work as a writing professor. I try to gather material and do research later in the day when my brain isn’t as active so I have something to work on the next morning. To start writing in the morning, I read what I wrote or researched the previous day and that starts the juices flowing. I use a pen name now to separate my publishing career from my professorial career. I write my scholarly material using my first name and married name. The pen name is really my middle name and maiden name, which is fine, because my oldest friends don’t think of me as anything but Dene, pronounced deenee. So, my pen name is really my real name. Are you confused yet? (No, because I’ve had a week or so to wrap my head around it, but my readers might be. Just remember–Laura Card, professor…Dene Low, author.)

ME:  Finally, while I know you love flying planes and riding your motorcycle (and I’d love a picture of that, please), I want to know where you really do most of your writing. Please describe your writing space in the voice of Petronella. (And I must have a picture.)

denelowbyKevinWinzeler(First, Dene on her bike)

DENE:  It is well known that some people are nest builders, while others are compulsively organized. I fall into the category of nest builder; in which category it is important to gather as much extraneous and useless stuff about one as possible in order to be comfortable. Also of importance is having said stuff within arm’s reach in case one should find a possible use for anything that might come to mind, be it a bit that has recently been added to the pile or something more anciently placed there. Extraneous and useless stuff in the form of a nest is necessary for creativity to take place as well as to keep unwanted visitors from finding their way into the place of writing and to discourage them from settling in and staying an unwelcome amount of time. In other words, mess is safety and privacy as well as comfort.

(And that is no doubt why she didn’t send me a picture of her nest…I mean, writing space. I think she gave us all a pretty clear visual, however.)

If you want to know more about Dene and her writing, check out her website and her blog.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be talking with Fay Klingler, author of several works of what I like to call “Women’s Non-fiction.”


Originally posted 2013-06-26 15:10:51.

Special Deal on Mystery E-books

For those of you who have read my interviews with French authors published by Le French Book, you might want to grab up their terrific titles today while they’re still being offered on Kindle for just ninety-nine cents! The offer ends at midnight.

Here’s the link to buy.

This is a great deal for great books by great authors, including one I haven’t yet interviewed: David Khara, who wrote THE BLEIBERG PROJECT (A CONSORTIUM THRILLER), winner of the Blue Moon Award for Best Thriller.

The Bleiberg Project

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

An adrenaline-packed ride to save the world from a horrific conspiracy straight out of the darkest hours of history. 

Are Hitler’s atrocities really over? For depressive Wall Street trader Jeremy Corbin, absolute truths become undeniable lies overnight. He finds out his long-lost father is dead, he discovers his boss’s real identity, and he ends up boarding a plane to Zurich. He has a Nazi medallion in his pocket, a hot CIA bodyguard next to him, and a clearly dangerous Mossad agent on his tail. What was his father investigating? Why was his mother assassinated? Why are unknown sides fighting over him with automatic weapons? Can the conspiracy be stopped? This fast-paced thriller full of humor and humanity was an instant sensation in France. Think a dash of Robin Cook, a splash of John Grisham, and pinch of Clive Cussler with a very distinctive voice all it’s own.

Originally posted 2013-06-21 11:27:40.

“Wednesday Writer” – Margot Hovley

It’s hard to catch up with an author on tour, particularly when her writing isn’t the reason she’s on tour. You see, Margot Hovley is currently accompanying her husband on tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As a result, I’ve got her responses, but there aren’t so many pictures. (And I particularly wanted a picture of her with the pigs! Oh, well.)

Margot HovleyME:  Since I live in Washington State, I wondered exactly where in the rural part of this state you were raised, and how that has affected you? (And I’d love a picture of you as a little girl.)

MARGOT:  My parents were some of the last “homesteaders” in central Washington when I was a baby (outside of George), breaking hundreds of acres for the first time, and then we moved just north of Pasco. (YAY! That’s just across the river from me.)

I love and miss my rural roots. Just like everyone says, there’s no better childhood.

Untitled1(She does look happy, doesn’t she?)

ME:  What’s harder–herding pigs or making produce boxes, and how hard is it to put a pig in a box?

MARGOT:  Pigs are hilarious! Our pigs were lemming-like, so if one escaped the pen, they’d all try to follow, braving the electric fences and squealing like mad. Herding them is exactly as weird as it sounds. Box-making: well, it’s tedious when you have to fold them together for hours, so we’d do anything to make it less boring. That meant holding double-elimination tournaments with all my siblings and cousins who worked on our farm. I was pretty much unstoppable. (Margot, the Unstoppable Pig-herding, Box-making Champion!)

(For a picture, try this link. It’s how I imagine Margot was as a pig-herder.)

ME:  How did you come to be a storyteller, and what was your first story about?

MARGOT:  While working on our farm I told stories to myself to pass the time. Most of the stories were about a little slave girl. Now that makes me giggle. I thought I was working so hard, slaving away. When I had the chance I’d write down and illustrate my stories, and always dreamed of seeing my name on a book cover. It was truly a great moment when I saw that dream come true last October.

(I know the feeling!)

ME:  Tell us about your “firstborn” novel, THE SOWER, what made you write it, and your hopes for getting it published along with its sequel, BLOOD OF KINGS.

MARGOT:  I love a good hero story, and I love classic fantasy, so my first writing project follows that idea. I also wanted to see if I could write a story that was inspiring and spiritual without being preachy or religious. It’s harder than it sounds, I discovered. I am still tweaking that project and hope to sell it to the national market. The sequel is a NANOWRIMO project that was absolutely a blast to write. I learned a lot by drafting quickly. I also learned how to completely annoy my family that month.

(Hmm…is that why your husband whisked you away on tour? To get you away from your family?)

ME:  Your first “published” novel, SUDDEN DARKNESS, came out last year, and as I understand it, you’re now finishing the sequel, GLIMMER OF LIGHT. Can you describe the basic story premise for each?

Sudden DarknessMARGOT:  SUDDEN DARKNESS begins in rural Washington (surprise!) when an EMP (That’s short for electromagnetic pulse, in case you’re not up on Newt Gingrich’s latest warnings) attack occurs, taking out the national electrical grid. The entire LDS stake in the area is counseled to travel to Utah for safety. The story is their journey as two thousand modern folks have to walk 700 miles. (Hmm…I’ve gotten to enjoy the 10-hour drive, but walking? Ouch!)

Have you heard that tradition that we will have to walk back to Missouri some day? Have you ever wondered why we would have to walk when we have cars and so on? Have you thought about how difficult that would be for us, when we are so unused to that sort of thing? Here’s one possible scenario why and what it might be like. The sequel takes the characters from Salt Lake to Missouri in another even longer trek. (Intriguing…but double ouch!)

ME:  Tell us about your identity as The Damsel, please. (And please include an image of your alter ego.)

MARGOT:  That’s the name I use on my self-reliance blog: The Damsel in Dis Dress. There I discuss how to do things the old-fashioned way, with a modern twist. I love old things–antiques, handmade items, and so on, and I feel sad that so many of the skills our grandparents knew are being forgotten. And, as the folks in my book discover, it’s possible we will wish we still had those skills someday. 

(Yet another reason to buy your books…that is, if you go into detail in describing those kinds of skills. At least, I hope there’s at least one character in your book who’s got the know-how.)

Untitled2(And there she is…The Damsel, herself)

ME:  I would think that, given your self-reliance blog, Old School, your YA fiction should veer toward dystopian. Does it and, if not, why not?

MARGOT:  SUDDEN DARKNESS is sort of dystopian, since the characters have to deal with a world where technology doesn’t work anymore, and they have to learn to get along without it when they’ve become completely dependent on it. It’s just the sort of scenario the Old School blog might help prepare people for. (Hint, hint. Check out her blog already!)

ME:  Please describe your writing process and the place you do it best in the voice of The Damsel. (And I must have a photo of your writing space.)

MARGOT:  The Damsel writes her blog posts in 3rd person. She knows it’s kind of ridiculous and causes funny passive-voice problems, but she does it nonetheless. As far as a writing space goes, she longs to write on her hammock in the sunshine. Someone please invent a screen she can see in the sun! This would make her life complete. In the meantime she writes wherever: on her bed propped on her Mt. Everest of down pillows (don’t judge!), hunched over the kitchen counter while stirring the soup, or like right now, a bus while traveling with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (The Damsel’s husband is a 2nd bass.)

IMAG0416(Her laptop on the bus–a MacBook Air, which she loves! I love mine too. :D)

ME:  Exactly what “techy gadgets” do you fool around with, and have some form of them made their way into any of your fiction?

MARGOT:  I love computers and adore my MacBook Air way more than is appropriate. I can’t go anywhere without my cell, either. New technology fascinates me. I suppose this love has found its way into my fiction in SUDDEN DARKNESS, as I imagine a world where the characters suddenly have to do without those things.

ME:  Finally, when will you know you’ve arrived as a writer?

MARGOT:  I feel like a poser when I call myself a “writer” or an “author,” but I’m working on my attitude. If the criteria is the sheer amount of time spent writing or thinking about writing, then I’m so there.

(I like that criteria; that works for me.)

Once more, if you haven’t yet checked out her self-reliance blog, here’s the link. And you can find out more about Margot and her thoughts about writing at Inklings.

Next week, I’ll be interviewing nationally published author and Edgar Award Finalist Dene Low.


Originally posted 2013-06-19 17:59:14.