Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Nook GIVEAWAY and Review: "COULD IT REALLY BE THIS EASY?" by Ted J. Peck

Could it Really Be This Easy?


Ted J. Peck

(The author is sponsoring a giveaway--one free copy of his book. To enter, simply leave a comment below by July 2.)

From the back of the Could it Really Be This Easy:

It’s easier than you think. Whether you’re trying to figure out which school to attend, who to date, or how to repent after making a mistake, following God’s plan for you isn’t that complicated. 

LDS parents who keep their eyes peeled for resources to strengthen their teens will be heartened by Ted J. Peck’s perspective on navigating these years. His book, Could it Really Be This Easy? The Eternal Equation of Success for Teens breaks the Plan of Salvation and the challenges of mortality into bite-sized nuggets, which he delivers with humor and personal anecdotes.

Peck clearly loves and understands the youth of the Church. After retiring early from a successful career, he chose to become a seminary teacher. Could it Really Be This Easy is the culmination of fifteen years spent presenting Gospel principles to students in terms teens can relate to.

I’ve never met a seminary teacher who didn’t feel a divine responsibility to the youth of the Church, and Peck is no exception. He pours his testimony into Could it Really Be That Easy, sharing life stories that illustrate how the practical application of Gospel principles, like choice, agency, attitude, and a host of others, can impact a youth’s success or failure in life, therefore impacting Eternal Life. Best yet, he shows them how easy it can be to take charge of their choices. To act rather than be acted upon.

Peck mirrors the Master Teacher, who used situations and objects that were familiar to his listeners. In like manner, Peck breaks good and evil into the good team and the evil team, carrying that idea over as he compares mortality to a football game. While the concept is not unique, Peck’s thorough development of that comparison is impressive.  His comparisons and examples hold your attention. He refers to the teen libido as “the beast,” and illustrates principles, like the importance of how we view things, by sharing his personal experience with each one. In the topic of how we view things, case, he tells the story of a to-die-for Mustang he drooled over, and his agony when he could not get his wife to love it as he did. The stories entertain while also serving as the conduit for the delivery of important truths. In short, the messages stick.

The book gets off to a slow start. Peck’s “Introduction,” and the first four pages of his “Welcome to the University” chapter are more about Peck’s journey, and might not engage younger readers, but these pages help introduce the teacher, establishing his credibility, and that of his truth-packed, easily digested messages.  

Peck’s writing style at first feels suited to a pre-teen to early teen crowd. If you’re older, keep reading. Peck clearly addresses the pre-mission crowd as well, from basic doctrines through to a section that includes questions to ask while dating, questions that help identify young people whose values goals and choices compliment yours. Peck writes as if he were delivering a live presentation before a class, complete with the personal asides he would share. One can easily imagine him pulling out all the stops to befriend and reach each individual. I hope his next project is a talk tape of his stories.

The ease and power of making correct choices is Peck’s primary message. His book speaks less to those whose greatest trials are beyond their control—youth who face serious health issues, the death of a loved one, family stress due to job losses, etc. He does address these issues in general ways, by discussing the power they do have--to be as positive as possible, to remember the long game, to exercise faith in God's promises. He encourages those who cannot shape their mortal outcome by mere choice to remember that this game is eternal, and the real win comes further down the road.

Peck’s style will appeal to most youth, but even if you have a less than avid reader, parents and leaders will benefit from reading Could it Really be That Easy. A family could easily pull months of great FHE lessons from these pages. Likewise, the stories would enhance lessons, firesides, and talks, and most importantly, would provide pertinent explanations and examples for critical one-on-one conversations.

The chapter headings don’t always reveal what topics are covered in each section, but Peck includes chapter summaries with a recap of the section’s basic points, which makes locating topics a bit easier. On the next reprinting, I hope they include a topical index as well.  

A read through Could it Really Be This Easy is empowering. The book is written with LDS references, but it has value for any Christian reader, young or old. Adults will find the read enlightening as well because of its simple delivery. The cadence of a few critical messages plays over and over in the background of every chapter. God loves you. He wants you to be happy. Satan wants you to fail. God will help you succeed. You get to choose.

Start by adding a copy of Could it Really Be This Easy to your family bookshelf.

Could it really Be This Easy is available at your local LDS bookstore, or on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Could-Really-Be-This-Easy/dp/146211637X/

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Nook Review: "TWINKLE and LUNA" by J.E. Sakura

Debuting picture book author J. E. Sakura’s work graces walls in many states across the U.S.  During her forty-year career as a professional artist, her passion was creating murals filled with whimsical images children would be drawn to and with which they’d be inclined to interact. Sakura has now turned her some of her most beloved and characters into a delightful children’s e-book titled, Twinkle and Luna.
While the transition from artist to author was long in the making, Sakura admits that her pictures have always come alive in stories that played out in her mind. Some of the ideas were inspired by conversations with clients. Such is the case with Twinkle and Luna. Says Sakura:
Years ago, a ​client, the Fire Chief for Baltimore, told me he called the smoke detector the guardian angel of his daughter's room​. I thought that was adorable,​ ​and​ ​added a little angel around it in​​ the sky​ I painted onto her ceiling​.  His idea of naming a smoke detector inspired me to name the moon Luna, and the main star Twinkle, as well as imagine a relationship.  
Supported by a degree in classical literature, Sakura took a children's book writing class with Rick Walton at BYU. The book was finished during that semester. Here is the back cover blurb that will be included in Lulu’s paperback version:
​"​Have you ever wondered if the Moon might be lonely, surrounded by so many stars far away in the night sky? Twinkle dances with Sparkle, Shimmer, Glimmer, and Glow every night, but Luna has no one.  What would it take to bring them together—maybe some stormy weather?  Twinkle and Luna become unexpected heroes for each other after just such a dark and dreary night.​"​  
More of Sakura’s bright, beautiful picture books are in the works. Her time spent in Japan and Korea, first as a missionary, and then as a teacher, influences her art. On her website and blog she explains how she used Korean paper as the background as she developed some of the night skies in Twinkle and Luna. Says Sakura:
When not teaching English, I wandered through ancient Korean farmlands and mountains, I wrote, and I worked on illustrating my stories, which include 3 more: Flutter Bye and Lady Dot; Bunny Birds & Co.; and When Mommy Stays Home. Like Twinkle and Luna, the words all came to me in the form of lullaby-styled songs.  I'll make the CD for Twinkle and Luna this summer.​
On a personal note, I shared Twinkle and Luna with a three-year-old grandson. The pictures had him completely engaged. I read the words of the story, but he was reacting to the pictures before I was able to get the words out. After one read, he could retell the story on his own.
Children will immediately acquaint Twinkle and Luna to the beloved nursery song, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Twinkle and Luna expands on that magic with a story about being kind, and befriending others. It’s delightful and timeless message is eclipsed by the beautiful images which are the star of this book. It’s a gift parents and grandparents will enjoy sharing with their little ones over and over.
The 8.5” X 11” paperback is available through CreateSpace for $9.25.  The purchase link is https://www.createspace.com/4550406

You can read more about J. E. Sakura’s artistry and her upcoming projects at:  http://jesakuranoyume.blogspot.com/, and https://www.facebook.com/jesakura

Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Nook Review: "THE SONG OF MY FATHER," by Christine T. Hall

Christine T. Hall’s first book, Conversations With a Moonflower, reminded me to slow down, and cherish time with people.  When I saw her new book mentioned on social media, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy and explore more of her insightful essays on life.

Hall’s new release, The Song of My Father, opens with her farewell to her greatest teacher—her father Frank. She arrives on his hospital floor during a code blue call to his room—a call from which he never regains consciousness. Denied the opportunity to speak with him, she sits by his bedside, holding his hand, and speaks to him, recounting aloud moments his example and faith-filled lessons, his song, served as her anchor.

The book is comprised of eighteen tender essays divided thematically into three parts. Within each part there are several chapters. In “Music Lessons,” Hall shares glimpses into how her father’s example, in situations as varied as his treatment of a homeless soldier suffering with PTSD, to his patience over a flat tire. These events supported and mirrored his sage verbal counsel, note for note, becoming the melody of his life’s song. Hall notes how his words, delivered in beautiful simplicity, were often re-edited takes on famous quotes, attributed to the wrong individuals. The whimsy of the delivery did not detract from the quality of the counsel, which, as The Song of My Father illustrates, proved true as Hall grew. Her father’s underlying philosophy of life, that no matter what happens, “good will come of this,” eventually became Hall’s expectation as well.

Part Two, “Learning to Sing” opens with the horrific event that plunged Hall into despair, causing her to question how good could ever come from such an experience.  This section chronicles the experiences that pull her from the abyss by reminding her of her father’s song, setting her back on the path of hope. These poignant essays are written in Hall’s unique voice, elevating each piece from a sweet story to a moving personal experience for the reader.

In the final section, “The Song of Believing,” Hall reminds us that we all need a song of hope. In her own words: “Each of us, at some time in our lives, will experience loss, heartache, and a grief that seems to test us to our limits. If we choose to live and walk by faith . . . we eventually come to a place of acceptance and finally, after much work, to a place of believing.”

It is that tone, that honesty, that makes The Song of My Father so powerful for readers. Admittedly, Hall shares some incredible, deeply personal experiences, facing them with unvarnished candor and straightforwardness. There is no Pollyanna-ism here, nor self-pity, or aggrandizement. Hall squarely leaves you with the understanding that each of us will face hard things, and times when we will need to draw upon an inner strength gleaned over a lifetime. Hall’s resolve was strengthened by the words and example of her father. She challenges readers to identify and build their own song of faith.

What overwhelmingly shines through each essay is the power of parents’ influence, and how deeply the resulting impressions are imprinted upon a child. Hall’s message is that good can be learned, even from imperfect parents.

This book will likely prompt readers to consider their own parents’ influences in their lives, and it should cause parents to consider the “song” they are leaving for their children.

The Song of My Father is worthy of placing on any family’s bookshelf. It would make a treasured, thought-provoking gift for a parent or older child, but there is broader value in this timely book. Each essay would serve as an excellent vehicle for family discussions on a variety of topics, from hope to service, from forgiveness to patience and sacrifice.

Christine T. Hall's The Song of My Father is published by Cedar Fort, and is available in a hardback gift-sized book, or as an ebook. Get the hardback version. You’re going to want to sit and read this one many times.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Getting Your Story and Book on T.V. in 5 Steps, by Rodney Fife

This article by publicist Rodney Fife caught my attention, and he generously agreed to allow me to reprint it here in my blog. His tips on marketing in the digital age are needful for most authors who, like me, find marketing their work their weakest gift on the publishing wheel. 
Fife worked as a publicist with a Utah-based publishing firm before launching Ironrod Media. More of Rodney's media tips are available on his blog at http://ironrodmedia.com/ironrod-media-blog.html. 
You can contact Rodney via Ironrod Media's website at http://www.ironrodmedia.com/about.html. I so appreciate him allowing me to post this article. 

Getting Your Story and Book on T.V. in 5 Steps by Rodney Fife

On many news channels, you will see authors talking about their stories or their books on air. Have you ever wondered how they were able to get themselves on air? You may have asked yourself why that book on air and not my book.
There are many reporters currently looking for reliable and authentic sources for their stories or articles. The way to get their notice and garner a news story for your book relies on you ability to tell your story and to pitch it efficiently. 
Step 1 Opportunities
The first step in getting a story on air is to look for open opportunities. Vocus has set up a program called Help a Reporter Out. This program allows reporters to ask for experts to answer a particular question on a subject they are writing on. This free resource allows you to pitch yourself to a reporter looking to write. Another free service is presspass.me this service allows you to tweet a specific writer a tip or story idea.
Step 2 Prepare Your Pitch
Now that you know where to find potential leads, how do you actually pitch your book? First you should be able to write effectively and tell your story in 200 words or less. This generic pitch should be engaging and should make the reader want more information.
 Step 3 Rewrite Your Pitch
Now that you have the query from the reporter you need to rewrite your pitch to the journalist’s query. For instance, if you wrote a self-help book on happiness and the query you see is a travel piece. You may want to talk about “How an excellent vacation could lead to overall happiness,” or “A good golf trip can make you happy.” Mold your story around the query from the media source. If you are effective in doing so, you will find that you have a lot more success in getting the results you want.
Step 4 Interview Well
 Now that you have a reporter interested they will probably want to interview you. You may learn that they would like to have you on air. Here are some simple tips to be successful. Have fun. Learn to relax and be yourself. You will perform a lot better if you are not stiff from fear. Answer the host’s questions directly and straight to the point. Throw in material from your story if applicable. Always direct the audience where to buy your book.
Step 5 Promote the News story
Now that you have had the interview and did very well. It is not time to relax. You should promote the story to your followers, friends and family. Let everyone you know about the wonderful news. Often other media outlets will call you to find out more.
Here is a real life example:
Betsy Schow wrote a wonderful book called “Finished Being Fat.” Here is a brief synopsis. Not everyone can win the race, but everyone can finish it. In her quest to wish away an extra 75 pounds, Betsy changed her life for good. Using her Philosophy of Finishing, she snowballed her efforts from weight loss into a bucket list of seemingly impossible dreams. This inspiring account of one woman's journey will help you find the strength to conquer your most daunting goals and unfinished projects.
Step 1:
I found an interesting story lead for the Wall Street Journal. Elizabeth Bernstein, WSJ Columnist, wanted to do a story on “When One Partner Is Overweight, Resolving Conflict in the Relationship Takes Two.” I let Betsy know about this lead.
Step 2 & 3:
Together Betsy and I put together a pitch focusing on Elizabeth’s query. Betsy received a call from Elizabeth. An online interview was scheduled.
Step 4: Betsy did a great job interviewing.
Step 5: Due to the wonderful interview with the WSJ. The Today Show called and asked Betsy to come to New York. Watch the great job she did with them. 
The main point of this article is your story can be told on TV. If you would like to ask me questions on promotion or need additional assistance in getting media attention for your book, please contact me at PR@Ironrodmedia.com or visit us at http://Ironrodmedia.com

Friday, May 1, 2015


Award-winning YA author, Angela Carling, is revealing the cover of her upcoming release today--

The Secret Keeper. 

When Seventeen year old Winter Merrill was driven to make a bargain with the mysterious Secret Keeper, she knew there were rules.  The most important one, the next time you have a secret, you will not be able to tell it….even if you try. What she didn’t know is that her next secret if not told, would destroy her life and the life of Liam, the only boy she ever loved. Can Winter find a way out of the dark bargain that binds her tongue or will her deal with the Secret Keeper bring devastating consequences unimaginable even to her?

Ways to connect with Angela:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Marlene Bateman, and her OCD super sleuth, Erica Coleman, dish up another delicious LDS mystery in the author’s newest release, Crooked House, An Erica Coleman Mystery, where the abode isn’t the only thing that’s twisted.

Ms. Bateman is a bankable mystery author who consistently delivers complicated whodunnits with crisp humor and quirky characters. Bateman again sets the reader at her heroine's table by adding an appendix with ten recipes straight from Erica's personal recipe file, making this a mystery that is delicious on every level.

Bateman’s quirky female detective is once again faced with a life and death case and a full slate of potential suspects, from spurned beaus and cash-strapped relatives, to eccentric neighbors and chummy roommates, who each have motives for wanting pretty coed, Liz Johnson, dead. Plot twists, bread crumbs, and red herrings abound in Crooked House, and once again, Bateman manages to leave even the savviest armchair gumshoes guessing and reassessing the whodunnits while salivating over ten delicious Erica Coleman recipes.

From the back cover:

Someone is trying to kill Liz Johnson and it’s up to quirky private investigator, Erica Coleman, to find out who. Erica is no stranger to murder and mystery, which is why her best friend’s daughter, Megan, turns to her when unaccountable and potentially fatal “accidents” threaten her roommate’s life. 

Once Erica arrives at the ramshackle old mansion known as Crooked House, matters go from disturbing to deadly as it becomes clear someone is trying to kill Liz.  As Erica begins to unearth secrets, she discovers a twisted web of love, money, greed, and deception. Although the police and friends sometimes find Erica’s OCD annoying, its those very traits that help her sift through evidence and see clues that others miss. Erica must draw upon her all her investigative prowess to keep Liz safe and unmask the killer before he can accomplish his deadly objective.

 With a dash of romance and surprising twists, this thrilling mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. As with all Erica Coleman mysteries, ten delicious recipes are included. 

Set the clever plot aside, and it’s Bateman’s heroine, Erica Coleman, with her OCD ways and witty repartee, who steals the show. Erica is a “married with children” LDS-lady investigator whose law enforcement officer/husband serves as her long distance sounding board. Their evening phone calls provide insight into Erica’s unique, sometimes bizarre OCD character, and help get the reader into her head.

LDS readers will appreciate Crooked House’s clean-read status and occasional references to Erica’s LDS culture. Non-LDS readers might find these sidebars distracting, but all these elements round out this complex character, endearing her to readers.

Once again, Bateman not only “dishes” up a great story, but she literally sets a place for you at Erica Coleman’s table by including an appendix with ten recipes served in the book. These tasty extras keep you thinking about the story long after you turn the last page.

This reader found the pace of Crooked House very satisfying. So many potential leads are dangled  along the way that the reveal begins early in the second half in a slow and steady cadence that demands your attention to the last page turn. You'll want to share this one with a friend.

Crooked House is the third book in Bateman's Erica Coleman mystery series, following her successful Motive for Murder, and A Death in the Family.  Each book proves that Ms. Bateman has a winning franchise with this character.

Crooked House and its companion books are mysteries that will entertain readers of any age or gender, providing a few lovely hours of delicious escape.

Crooked House, An Erica Coleman Mystery, can be purchsed on Amazon by clicking the cover image, and at any LDS bookstore.

Excerpt from Crooked House

“I’m scared.”

Erica’s heart turned over when she heard the quaver in her young friend’s voice on the phone.

Then Megan asked, “Can you come?”

 “Of course.” Erica’s reply was automatic. She would do anything she could to help. Although she often received emotionally-laden phone calls in her job as a private investigator, there was a difference when the call came from the teen-aged daughter of her best friend. The very fact that Megan—who was usually so calm and composed—sounded frightened out of her wits, put Erica on high alert.

“I think someone’s trying to kill my roommate, Liz,” Megan said.

“What makes you think that?”  Erica asked. “Has someone threatened her?”

“No, but Liz has had a couple of serious accidents lately—at least she says they’re accidents, but either one of them could have killed her.”

Erica made an effort to reel in her skepticism. “Tell me about them.”

“First, someone tampered with her car. The brakes went out and Liz ended up driving across someone’s yard and hitting a tree. Fortunately, she was okay. The second one happened downtown. Liz was on the sidewalk waiting for the bus when someone shoved her. She fell into the road. A truck was coming and if a guy hadn’t pulled her back, Liz could have been killed.”

Still, they could have been accidents, Erica thought, at least until the third one occurred—this time at Crooked House.

Author Biography
Marlene Bateman 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.  Her hobbies include gardening, camping, reading, and enjoying her four cats and three dogs. 

Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder—the first in a mystery series that features Erica Coleman, a quirky private eye with OCD.  The next book in that line, (they do not have to be read in order) is A Death in the Family.

Marlene has also written a number of LDS non-fiction books under the name Marlene Bateman Sullivan. Those books include:  Gaze Into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, which is a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints, Heroes of Faith, and Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines.  Marlene also wrote three books about documented accounts in early LDS church history when a person either saw or heard an angel; Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, And There Were Angels Among Them, and By the Ministering of Angels. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


My previous attempts at organizing and sustaining a writers' critique group failed miserably in the past. The time involved in meeting and reading/critiquing others' work never seemed to produce enough of a benefit to make it worthwhile.

That probably seems cruel and selfish, but for most of us, writing time golden, and hard to come by, and the trade-off must be satisfying for a critique group to be worth the time or effort required.

Five other local writers and I agreed to give it a go. We all wrote in different genres, and entered with varying levels of experience. We didn't know each other well. Some of us had met previously, and some of us were complete strangers, but we had two primary commonalities--we each love to write and we each were serious about publication.

We agreed on a few manageable ground rules:
1. We would each submit ten pages to the group on the fourth Tuesday of the month.
2. We would read and critique each others' pieces.
3. We would be kind but serious about our critiques to foster professional growth.
4. We would meet on the second Tuesday of the month for two hours to discuss each others' work.

The process has worked beautifully for our group. We doubt we could manage more pages or another person, because this work load requires a sacrifice of time that is manageable without cutting too deeply into our personal writing time. Some members are more prolific than others, churning out chapters each month from which they select ten pages for review, while others can barely produce ten pages some months when other life demands are overwhelming.

During the past year, five of us have published at least one manuscript, but each of us would wholeheartedly agree that our group has made our writing stronger, that accountability has made us more dedicated to our craft, and that reviewing others' work has improved our editing skills.

I would recommend such a group to anyone who loves to write. Skill levels should complement one another, but equally important is each members' seriousness about the group and their work. Complacency and laziness are surefire group killers. Trust is important. I help you. You help me.

Someone will always be better than you. You will be better than someone else. If you're a beginner, don't be afraid to surround yourself with writers who are more experienced than you, but be courageous enough to accept competent critiquing without turning tail and burrowing away.

Likewise, be kind and respectful. Aim your comments at furthering growth and not in squashing the creativity out of a peer. Compliment and cheer for others' successes. No one understands the small, lonely victories of a query request, or breaking through a plot block like another writer.