Monday, April 7, 2014

BOOK NOOK SPOTLIGHT: "SWEET CONFECTIONS" by Danyelle Ferguson


Sweet Confections
by
 
Danyelle Ferguson
 
 
There's nothing like a great book to make a rainy, snowy Saturday perfect, and Danyelle Ferguson's Sweet Confections fit the bill wonderfully for me a few weeks ago, dishing up a sweet and clean romance with a mystery that fooled this super sleuth.
 
Here's the blurb from the back of the book:


According to Rachel Marconi chocolate heals all wounds. That and throwing darts at pictures of her ex-boyfriend. Burned by yet another bad relationship, Rachel decides to reprioritize her life, putting her dream to compete on a Food Network Challenge on the top of her list and dating at the bottom crossed out in red sharpie. But what's a girl to do when a certain sexy guy keeps asking her out?


Cue in Graydon Green, a former pro hockey player turned restaurant owner. After a lot of persistent and humorous teasing, he finally convinces Rachel to commit to a date. Just when things begin to warm up, threatening notes directed at Rachel arrive. When her bakery is vandalized, Graydon's protective streak goes on red alert. Is it her obsessive ex-boyfriend stalking her? Or maybe a challenger trying to sabotage the competition?

Either way, Rachel is definitely going to need more chocolate - perhaps drizzled over ice cream and devil's food cake.
 
Ferguson's characters were thoughtful and real, making it easy for readers to invest fully in the challenges and hiccups in their budding relationship. I especially enjoyed the heroine. Rachel Marconi is not a Barbie doll. Nearing thirty, and a few pounds above svelte from all that delicious baking, she proves that real women eat, laugh, love, work, and drive men crazy--even perfect 10s like Graydon Green.
 
Ferguson's dialogue is snappy and sharp, and flows with a realism that allows readers to wrap themselves in the story. Ferguson tosses in an added bonus by including sevedral of the delicious recipes the Sweet Confections Bakery ladies whip up in the book, delectibles like Hot Lava Sundaes.

This is a splendid before bedtime read, and a great girlfriend book, one you'll want to get for a friend who needs a spa-day, or a diversion to tuck into her purse or kindle to enjoy while waiting for soccer practice to end. I gobbled it up and closed the cover wishing for more.

Yep. It's that good.
 
You can get your cope through AmazonKindle, and and through  Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBookstore.
 


Giveaway Details


 
 


About the Author


Danyelle Ferguson discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her first article was published when she was in 6th grade. Since then, she’s won several awards and her work has been published world-wide in newspapers, magazines and books.

 

Danyelle grew up surrounded by Pennsylvania’s beautiful Allegheny Mountains. Then she lived for ten years among the majestic Wasatch Mountains. She is currently experiencing mountain-withdrawal while living in Kansas with her husband and family. She enjoys reading, writing, dancing and singing in the kitchen, and the occasional long bubble bath to relax from the everyday stress of being “Mommy.”
 
You can follow Danyelle here, and here, and here... (She's so nice. You really should!)
 

 
 


Friday, March 7, 2014

Love, Aging, and the Other Tsunamis of Life

Life sometimes comes at us like a tsunami, washing away the supports beneath our feet, knocking us over, changing the landscape of the path we were on, or at least we were heading towards.

I'm sure that's how my mother felt the day we finally explained that she could no longer live on her beloved farm. I'm certain she feels that way now, as her dementia steals more and more of the life she knew, replacing it with clouded snippets of memories, and confusion. She notices the whispers as we discuss the remaining options open to us--those that fit the needs of parents that failed to plan, whose golden years must be worked out by children who waited too long to have the hard conversations.

Most of us are unprepared for the sudden change, when what was thought to be merely stubbornness and depression is actually much more. When a mother renowned for her cooking chooses to eat spoiled food rather than waste, resulting in frequent bouts of "the flu."

There are more unexplained falls, rambling calls, cries for help, unpaid bills, late notices, creditor calls, and worse. Families finally reach the point, when they can no longer excuse away the increasing chaos. When unwanted action is required.

Mom made it clear, far in advance of any effort to move her, that she suspected we were plotting something. She told us she would rather die. Hard words from a once gentle lady, who now shakes her fists at you as if she's ready to strike out, and damn the consequences.

There are no good choices. They're angry if you intervene, and they suffer if you don't.

So many well-meaning people offer their opinions on something that is amongst the most personal decisions a child will ever make. We are the cream filling in the Oreo, trying to balance the needs of multiple generations, to honor the wishes of ailing parents, an aging spouse, overwhelmed married children, single adults who still need loving approbation, and grandchildren who cry for us to come right now, across thousands of miles, to play.

We consider the impact each decision will have on the rest of the family. Ripples. . . .

Life hits like a tsunami sometimes. I'm still enough of a work-in-progress that my first momentary instinct is to panic, then He sends help--a call, a verse, a talk, a friend--and I am reminded of His greatest advice. "Be still, and know that I am God."

(Laurie is preparing "The Dragons of Alsace Farm" for publication. It deals with the impact of dementia.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Nook Spotlight and Giveaway: "A DEATH IN THE FAMILY" by Marlene Sullivan

GIVEAWAY DETAILS BELOW

Author Marlene Bateman follows the success of  Motive For Murder, book one in her Erica Coleman Murder Mystery Series, by serving up another quirky murder investigation featuring her charming OCD chef/sleuth in book two, A Death in the Family.

The author is generously offering a free copy of A Death in the Family, to one of my readers, so after reading the post, please leave a comment to enter. 

(We'll select our winner at midnight on March 11th. Multiple entries are acceptable. The winner must live in the U.S.)

I'll be doing a full review in April, but A Death in the Family is debuting right now, and I hopped on the blog tour to introduce my readers to this LDS mystery series.

Marlene is an experienced author with seven LDS non-fiction books, and two previous novels, to her credit. The list of titles can be found below in her bio, or on her website. (I especially enjoyed Gaze Into Heaven.) It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Marlene Bateman's heroine, Erica Coleman, in A Death in the Family, which is available now in Seagull, and Deseret Books stores, and online at these sites:




Enjoy!

Laurie


And now, a Synopsis of A Death in the Family

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.

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

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

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

 

Excerpt from A Death in the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  
Author Biography

Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children. 
Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading.  Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith.  Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences in early church history.
          Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.

 

Interview Questions for Marlene

How did you learn to write?

Learning how to write is an ongoing process.  I started in elementary school, did more writing in junior high, and so on. I’ve spent countless hours on manuscripts that were never published, but I don’t count that as a loss, since it helped me improve my writing.  I have a bookshelf full of books on writing and every weekday morning, I try to read 2-4 pages.  I underline important parts, then type them up, which hopefully, sets the ideas in my brain. When I’m done with the book, I print out up my notes and save them in a master binder so I can look them over now and then. 

Another thing that helps me is that I try to pay attention when I read. If I don’t like something, I try to figure out why and then not do that in my own writing! And when I read something I like, I try to think about why it worked so I can use that same technique in my own writing.  I also attend a yearly writer’s conference and the wonderful workshops help me learn more about the craft of writing.  Anyone can write—as long as they are willing to practice and study.

 

What is the "funnest thing" about being an author? The most frustrating thing?

The greatest thing is simply being able to sit down and take time to write.  When my children were small, I felt very guilty about taking time to write, as though it was some nefarious indulgence. Now that I’ve published nine books, I no longer feel guilty taking time to do what I enjoy. Sometimes writing is difficult, occasionally it’s a chore, but I love it. I’ve always felt driven to write. I have such a deep inner desire to put words down that I sometimes wonder if I’m an addict!  It gives me a great sense of accomplishment and pleasure to write, polish and revise and get the words just right.

The most frustrating thing for me is usually the first draft.  I’m not sure why, but it’s very difficult for me to get the rough draft down.  I enjoy coming up with an idea and plotting out the story line, but the first draft is torture.  It seems that whatever I write is garbage. I take heart only in knowing that you have to get something down before you can revise, and that revising is the essence of good writing. So, I grind my way through it, and then enjoy the revising process, going through the manuscript 6-10 times until I’m satisfied. I liken revising to taking a nondescript stone and polishing it until it sparkles. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

BOOK NOOK REVIEW: "A Is For Abinadi," written by Heidi Poelman, Illustrations by Jason Pruett

Heidi Poelman and Jason Pruett have combined their considerable talents to create a delightful, illustrated alphabet book hitting store shelves this month.

A Is For Abinadi is a must-have treasure parents will want to pack in their Church bags, and grandparents will want on their shelves when reading moments occur. Packed with colorful scriptural scenes organized alphabetically by the name of the hero, A Is For Abinadi offers multiple opportunities for learning and play.

From the authors:

A is for apple but also for Abinadi! Teach your children about some of the greatest heroes in the scriptures with this beautifully illustrated alphabet book. They will love searching for items that represent each letter while they get to know heroes like Captain Moroni and Esther. Along with learning their ABCs, your children will learn to recognize and love these great Book of Mormon and Bible examples.

There is plenty here to launch great teaching moments on gospel themes. Poelman chose great heroes from both male and female scriptural characters. Her short story text is written in easy language, capturing the essence of these beloved Biblical and Book of Mormon characters and stories. Poelman's captions also reinforce values and positive character traits.

Pruett's bright, engaging illustrations provide a beautiful palette from which to teach the same lessons visually. There are stories within each picture as readers examine the enticing details Pruett adds to reveal the subjects' character. The Biblical hero Uriah looks anything but heroic, and yet, quivering knees and all, he is fighting for his king, his country, and his people. Imagine the wonderful discussions that picture could launch on the idea of what true courage really is.

But there is still more. Teach the alphabet using the names of the featured heroes, and search for other things on the page that start with the same letter. Play "I Spy," reinforce colors, and let your little one practice his or her own storytelling skills by telling you what they see on each page. This book is a treasury of activity that will add reverence and entertainment to your family.

A Is For Abinadi is available at Amazon for $10.79 in hardback. You can also download this delightful book to your Kindle or iPad for $5.99. I'm giving hardback copies to my grandchildren, and downloading the Kindle version so I have a better alternative when grandchildren ask to play on my iPad.



Friday, February 14, 2014

A LITTLE VALENTINE'S DAY WRITING FUN

So here's a fun Valentine's Day exercise that will help me with my current WIP. I'm having some fun today, creating a sweet, chubby, thirty-ish, try-too-hard-wannabe ladies' man, with a receding hairline, and an affinty for switching things up as he tries to find a wardrobe and hair style that will win him a wife. Give me some input on some intro lines this poor fellow would use, some wardrobe combos he might try, and some sweet curiosities about such a man who is desperate to find love.

Each post will be entered to win a copy of  my summer romance, "Awakening Avery." Multiple posts are welcomed!

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

THE POWER OF ONE: The Baroness Emma Nicholson

It was recently my privilege to spend an evening  in the company of great grace. Emma Nicholson, The Baroness of Winterbourne, and a Member of The House of Lords, spoke at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Washington D.C. Temple Visitor's Center auditorium, last Sunday night.
 
This petite, titled woman who has stood before Parliament and amongst kings and queens, has also walked the dusty streets of Iraq, visited the filthy orphanages of Romania, and held the hands of suffering children around the globe.
 
She has seen majesty and misery, which gives consequence to her perspective on the world and its people. Partnering with other groups, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she is saving lives, rebuilding dignity, and elevating people ravaged by war and despotism.
 
I helped prepare food for the VIP reception prior to her presentation, and first met the baroness in the kitchen where she greeted the helpers. I later spent a few moments with her at the reception, and then I had the pleasure of hearing her speak about her organization--The AMAR Foundation--and the work she is currently engaged in. Money is not the engine that drives her charity work. She uses partnerships between people to make things happen--a blind teacher helps a young girl blinded by war and both lives improve. She puts paintbrushes and buckets of paint in the hands of locals and soon a home for boys emerges from what was once a lifeless purgatory warehousing bodies devoid of life.

On a shoestring budget, she makes miracles occur, by trusting in people and their innate desire to to good. Here is my takeaway from that evening.

1. Grace is the ability to make every person feel they are the most important person in the room. It is rare and priceless in our hurry-up world. She embodied grace.

 2. Regardless of position and advantages, it
is a caring heart and raw desire that make things happen. She is making critical differences all across the globe, one person at a time.

3. There is beauty in a certain amount of formality. 

4. Make no apologies for being strong when a mountain needs pushing.

 5. We can all do great things. (The baroness is a deaf woman fearlessly working miracles in places least friendly to any woman.) 

 6. Helping people is a hands-on enterprise.

 7. No one is expendable. The most "broken" people can do great things when given a noble work to do.

 8. Tyrannical governments know strong families breed the spirit of freedom. Therefore, protecting families is the best way to ensure liberty, and rebuilding families restores societies.


(Please click the link above and learn more about AMAR.)
 

Monday, February 10, 2014

AUTHOR ROBINSON WELLS, GETTING A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS

Award-winning author, mentor, husband, father, Robinson Wells, who has helped many in the LDS writing community and beyond, now needs a hand of help himself. He suffers from mental illness and some new, recently diagnosed medical issues, and now the financial toll of being ill and raising a family is crushing in on him.

Rob probably doesn't know me, but he has impacted my career path. We belong to the same writing community where I've benefited from his sage advice on the business of writing. He's been a regular at the LDStorymakers writing conferences where he has generously given of his time to teach others the craft. He may have been a founder of that group whose primary focus is to mentor others. He would walk around, making people feel welcome and offering them a hand of friendship. He's a good guy. Now he's the one who could use a hand.

Author Luisa Perkins, with the help of many wonderful authors, has assembled a treasure trove of wonderful prizes for people who participate in this fundraiser for Rob and his family.

If you love speculative fiction, click this link, check out his books, and help that way.

Here's Rob's story and a donate button if you can help with a cash gift.

If you do either, head over to Luisa's blog and enter to win some terrific books as a thank you for helping.