Saturday, May 29, 2010


If you have ever found your eye tearing over the flutter of the red, white and blue; or felt the harrowed pangs of patriotism pound within your breast at the sight of a passing American flag, thank the most famous flag of all— the Star Spangled Banner—for the privilege.

Before the battle of Baltimore and the successful defense of Fort McHenry, the American flag was relegated to serve primarily as a political marker, identifying the current possessor of a position or piece of property. Rarely carried into battle, it was the troops’ company flag that served as their rallying banner and emblem of their fighting spirit. But after September 14th, 1814, when the red white and blue colors were seen fluttering above Fort McHenry through the smoke-filled dawn, defiantly attesting to whom the victory had gone, a national icon—the first of the young nation—was born.

Two ensigns of liberty were sewn by Mary Pickersgill and other ladies in her family during the summer of 1813—a large garrison flag, and a smaller, storm flag. The larger, garrison flag was, by all standards of the day, an un-extraordinary flag. Though nearly one quarter the size of a basketball court, it was not uniquely large as garrison flags go, even though, upon his arrival at Maryland’s Fort McHenry, Major George Armistead had specifically requisitioned it to be large enough that “the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.”

And see it they did, as did others, like Francis Scott Key, who on that September day in 1814, seemed to realize that the defiant wave of the red, white and blue fabric not only indicated that Baltimore had miraculously survived Britain’s bombardment, but that a change was likewise occurring in the human fabric of the infant nation the flag represented.

Caught in the cross-hairs between the warring nations of France and Britain, America had suffered a decade of embargoes and blockades, and with her fragile economy crippled, the northern, merchant-driven states were threatening secession. For two years, the states along the Canadian border and along the Atlantic coast had been bitterly assailed, but the Potomac, whose rocky waters wound along Washington; and the lucrative Chesapeake Bay, whose waters afforded access into Baltimore; also suffered years of pin-prick attacks and plunder.

During the summer of 1813, forces under British command were set loose upon the innocent citizenry after conquering Hampton, Virginia where they meted out the most horrid atrocities to the tenderest and most defenseless persons. Neither were Maryland’s port cities spared as towns such as Havre de Grace and the eastern shore’s villages of Fredericktown and Georgetown were torched.

Europe finally subdued Napoleon, and despite the fact that peace negotiations were beginning in Ghent, Great Britain released her full complement of battle-tested soldiers upon the American theater. In July and August, British ships pounded the tributaries of the Bay, seizing goods and burning what they could not carry. In August, their ground forces stormed into Washington D.C., ransacking and burning the infant nation’s un finished but grand Capitol, and the White House, in retaliation for America’s attack on York. Three weeks later the British armada lined up across the mouth of the Patapsco River near Baltimore.

Some thought the young republic might not survive, but from that battle rose the first truly American icon—the symbol of liberty, the American flag.

One can easily imagine the fevered pitch of worry and fear that overtook Francis Scott Key as sat upon the British flagship anchored in the Patapsco River. Having been welcomed aboard on a diplomatic mission to negotiate the release of a captive friend, he soon found himself detained after overhearing the British plans to lay the torch to Baltimore. Though he had managed to spirit his own family out of the Washington area before the burning of the Capital, he expressed his fears about Baltimore’s fate in a letter written to his friend, John Randolph of Virginia:

“To make my feelings still more acute, the Admiral had intimated his fears that the town must be burned; and I was sure that if taken, it would be given up to plunder. I have reason to believe that such a promise was given to their soldiers. It was filled with women and children!”

He knew what atrocities had been committed elsewhere. The pattern had been set.Fretting and praying through the night over the fate of the city, one can understand the emotions stirred in him as America’s colors waved freely above the smoke-filled skyline of Fort McHenry, the guardian of Baltimore. He didn’t know at the time that the severe winds of a rolling storm had forced the men of McHenry to lower the large flag at some point, replacing it with the smaller, more resilient storm flag. He only knew that the “rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that the flag was still there.” When the assault ceased and the winds calmed, Major Armistead ordered the garrison flag hoisted once more, and upon seeing it, Key recorded these thoughts:

“I hope I shall never cease to feel the warmest gratitude when I think of this mostmanifest deliverance. It seems to have given me a higher idea of the ‘forbearance,long-suffering & tender mercy’ of God than I had ever before conceived.”

Moved by the moment, he removed a letter from his pocket and wrote brief notes describing the scene and his emotions, and from these notes he penned a poem entitled “Defence of Fort McHenry” which later became known as our National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

This poem struck a chord with the American people. Its imagery of that “Star Spangled Banner” which stood like a red, white and blue beacon of liberty, attested not only that the infant republic had taken Britain’s best shot and survived, but it that it had finally arrived as a united people. Americans would never see their flag the same way again.

In 1997, Christopher George, a Baltimore journalist/author, brought his aged uncle who was, interestingly enough, visiting from England, to Fort McHenry. There, they met with Mr. Scott Sheads, the Historian of Fort McHenry as well as the Curator of the Star Spangled Banner Exhibit at the Smithsonian. After discussing the significance of America’s flag to its people, Sheads explained, “The American flag has a special symbolism that no other nation’s flag has. It was the first American icon; the first time the nation had come together.”

The British gentleman agreed, admitting that no other country reveres its flag quite the way the people of the United States reveres theirs. His nephew, Mr. George postulated that “perhaps it’s because the flags of other countries have evolved over thousands of years, while the American flag and this nation were born at the same time.”

Interesting observations.

In January of 2007, I had the privilege of sitting down with Mr. Sheads in the Enlisted Men’s Barracks of Fort McHenry. As we sat within those simple walls, he further explained the singular affect this flag had on American patriotism and our national identity. He attested that two-thirds of the soldiers assigned to the barracks of Fort McHenry had been born on foreign soil, but that after September 14th, 1814, we became a united people “under one symbol of freedom,” the American flag.

“What has happened under the flag has not always been good,” Sheads once told a group of school children, “but it is a flag that gives us the freedom to disagree with each other, no matter who we are or where we are.”

We are drawing near to the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star Spangled Banner. Some will carry on the effort to change the National Anthem and some may continue to desecrate the flag as a means to express their disagreement with the government and its policies. May we all remember the flag’s beginnings, and do our best to hold true to the purposes it achieved in 1814, when it became our symbol of unity and freedom.

(Laurie LC Lewis's fourth book in her FREE MEN and DREAMERS series, due out this August, surrounds the Battle of Baltimore and the Star Spangled banner story.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


If you say, "Hey, I've already seen that picture on your blog," you're right. I slap it up every time I'm feeling overwhelmed, like now.

Book four of Free Men and Dreamers, the next to the last volume, will tell the tender tales behind the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, tie up the War of 1812 and move our beloved characters into the reconstruction of the nation. All good stuff.

My publisher is pressing for an August/September release. This is the fastest pace I've ever had to set to finish a book.

I think we'll make our deadline, but I have to admit I hyperventilate every time the phone rings or someone calls my name. "I need to write! I need to write!"

This will be a phenomenal year if things go as planned. Book three, "Dawn's Early Light," was published in December of 2009, then in April I released "Awakening Avery" with Walnut Springs Press. It was an unexpected pleasure since I've had that manuscript in my hard drive for five years, waiting for the right opportunity to publish.

Even though the major work was already completed, the editing and marketing have cut into this project and now I'm scrambling. Fortunately, most of the research is already done and the storyline is in my crazy little head. I just need to get it down on paper with verbs and nouns and things.

Once book four is out, book five should be right around the corner. It was actually the book I used to pitch the series, and it's basically finished. (Yes, I've been pulling a star Wars move, writing into the original novel.)

So my brain is swimming with American history again, and I'm killing manicures and keyboard keys. Four books in twelve months? That will be a personal best I never want to repeat.

So what's up after book five? Maybe nothing for a while, except grandbaby time and family. I say that now, but I've already got a political suspense novel underway.

Like I said, I'm BUSY!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I love/hate the show LOST, which means I really love it, and I'll sorely miss the angst, confusion, frustration, perplexity and spectacular characters I've embraced over the past six years. And please don't tell me how the finale went because I haven't seen it yet. I'm savoring the pilot one last time, realizing how many directional clues they gave us that I missed. Rats. . . That's my flaw . . . when sitting in the audience box, I'm a character-driven.

And that's why I was one of those loyal fans who loved every episode, even when the writers took us deeper and deeper into what appeared to be an never-ending abyss of more questions. The characters were rich, complex and so very human.

It's been a rude awakening for me to realize that I my tastes are very different between what I enjoy watching and what I enjoy reading. I love to watch sci-fi and fantasy, but I'll rarely pick up books in those genres. I asked myself why, and for me, the answer is two-fold: First, as I've said, I'm character-driven--I love exploring what motivates people to change or to risk everything. I love to see how they rise or fall depending on their circumstances. I love the triumph over adversity and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for a cause or another person. That's great drama. I can relate to such angst. However, in sci-fi, the characters often take a back seat to the action. (I'm the one who felt Star Wars had way too much warring for my tastes, but I loved the characters.)

And secondly, I'm a visual learner. Give me a picture, set up a scene or place an character in a situation I can relate to, and you'll capture my interest. But speculative works require the reader to follow a complex storyline filled with the unfamiliar, and then take the information and recreate the world in their mind. That's not an easily accessed skill set for me. A movie makes the world real to me in a way my brain can't manage alone, so I'll buy a ticket to the film and probably skip the book. It's just the way I'm wired.

LOST was adept at both elements--complex, vulnerable, multi-faceted characters who would have captivated me in any setting, time or situation; combined with plot lines that kept me tense from the first scene to the last. It was brilliant. It taxed all my skill sets, feeding me generously with rich characters that energized me for the work the plots required.

I'll enjoy the finale tonight, and then I'll sorely miss this show.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Welcome to our second annual “Summer Treasure Hunt: Dig for Clues and Win” Contest!

Last year, Joyce Di Pastena and some of our other author friends put together a month long contest where we gave away a prize a day for the entire month of June. The contest was so successful that we have decided to do it again…only this time we’ve gathered together enough prizes to last through the first week of July!

Again, we have something for everyone: romance, fantasy, mystery, suspense, historicals, contemporaries, young adult and middle grade fiction, children’s picture books, and a variety of non-fiction titles. We also have some exciting non-book prizes: a hand crocheted book tote and cell phone case; a book/jewelry combo; a Mary Kay cosmetic assortment; a The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe DVD; and (you aspiring writers won’t want to miss this one!) a free edit/critique for the first 50 pages of an unpublished novel by a three-time published author!

How can you enter to win one of these awesome prizes? Just follow the rules below!

You can send in an entry for each day’s prize, or only for those prizes that strike your fancy. The rules are simple:

(1) Go to the website or blog indicated for each day, find the answer to the question for that day, then email the answer with your name and AND MAILING ADDRES to I promise you will not wind up on any mailing lists. This is only to facilitate the receipt of your prize. All entries will be deleted at the end of the contest.

(2) Please send a separate entry for each day and type the day you are entering in the subject line. (Such as: Summer Treasure Hunt, June 1; Summer Treasure Hunt, June 2, etc).

(3) Deadline for each day: Midnight PST

(4) The winner will be contacted and announced on the day following the deadline.

All winners will be “drawn” by RANDOM.ORG.
You do not have to wait until the designated day to enter. You can start sending in your entries right now, or begin entering at any point along the way. And check back here each day between June 2nd-July 9th to read the names of the winners.

If you have any questions, feel free to email Joyce DiPastena at
And now…let the treasure hunt begin!

June 1
SPONSOR: Donna Hatch
PRIZE: Queen in Exile, (fantasy romance), autographed by author
QUESTION: The princess must rely upon her magic to save whom? (Hint: Look under “Bookshelf” tab)
WINNER: Amber Nielson of Vermont
ANSWER: Herself and her people from death and tyranny

June 2: SPONSOR: Laurie Lewis
PRIZE: Awakening Avery (women's fiction), autographed copy
QUESTION: Avery's signal that she isn't handling her husband's death very well comes to her when she tosses what into what? (Hint: Look under “Books & Reviews, then click on the cover to "Awakening Avery" and read the first chapter)
WINNER: Barbara Stilwell
ANSWER: The remote into the TV

June 3: SPONSOR: E.A. West
PRIZE: Riley's Mission (PDF: romantic suspense)
QUESTION: Where does Jade sit after she sees Aziz Khadoul? (Hint: Click on “Books” tab, then on “excerpt” link for Riley’s Mission)
WINNER: Judy Cox of Louisiana
ANSWER: An empty wheelchair

June 4
SPONSOR: Jenna Dawlish
PRIZE: Sprig of Thyme (Victorian romance), autographed copy
QUESTION: What is the name of the hero in Jenna's first novel Love Engineered? (Check out “The Library” tab)
WINNER: Ginny Romney of Arizona
ANSWER: Charles Lucas

June 5
SPONSOR: Rachael Renee Anderson
PRIZE: Divinely Designed (contemporary LDS romantic comedy), autographed copy
QUESTION: What is the title of Rachael's second book, being released in August? (Hint: scroll down to Rachael’s “Goodreads” titles on the right hand sidebar))
WINNER: Karin Tillotson of Pennsylvania
ANSWER: Luck of the Draw

June 6
SPONSOR: Linda Kay Garner
PRIZE: Some Secrets Hurt (picturebook), autographed copy. This picture book is for all ages. It is simple enough to be understood by a very young child, meaningful enough to appeal to teenagers, informative enough to be helpful to parents, and powerful enough to reach out to a wounded adult.
QUESTION: The only thing worse than finding out that your child is being sexually abused is ____ ____ ____? (Hint: Listen to 5 minute KSL TV interview on the right side of the website or dowload the free Parents’ Guide)
WINNER: Laura Lewis of North Carolina
ANSWER: Not finding out

June 7
SPONSOR: Danielle Thorne
PRIZE: (New/Sealed) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (Widescreen DVD)
QUESTION: In Danielle Thorne's novel, Turtle Soup, what is the name of the marine biologist who inspires Sara Hart to name her deli Turtle Soup? (Hint: read the blurb for Turtle Soup on Danielle’s website homepage)
WINNER: Carol Rainbolt of Arizona
ANSWER: Jack Brandon

June 8
SPONSOR: Larry Hammersley
PRIZE: Lab Partners (sweet 1950’s romance), ebook
QUESTION: What are the first names of the hero and heroine in the short story Lab Partners? (Hint: Check out “WIP Report” post for April 4, 2010)
WINNER:Mina Gerhart of Pennsylvania
ANSWER: Leroy and Jody

June 9
SPONSOR: Linda Weaver Clarke
PRIZE: Melinda and the Wild West: (historical romance, YA and adult), autographed copy
QUESTION: What was Melinda doing when she first met Gilbert and why did he act flustered and then abruptly turn and briskly stride away? (Hint:. Click on “Sample Chapters” tab, then on the book title for Melinda and the Wild West to read a sample chapter.)
WINNER:Cassandra Cantrell of Utah
ANSWER: She was wading in a stream and her skirt was hiked up showing her legs and bare feet

June 10
SPONSOR: Angela Morrison
PRIZE: Taken by Storm (Penguin/Razorbill 2009), YA romance, autographed hard cover
QUESTION: A legendary LDS author of over 30 books for teens called Taken by Storm, "An amazing story written with a clear, refreshing and creative voice." Who was it? (Hint: check “Taken By Storm” tab)
WINNER: Diana Donahoo of Illinois
ANSWER: Jack Weyland

June 11
SPONSOR: Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
PRIZE: Trapped (romantic suspense with a hint of paranormal fantasy), autographed copy
QUESTION: The first trap Emi Warrin encounters is a mysterious letter. To where does it lure her? (Hint: Read the book summary under the Trapped tab)
WINNER: Amanda Isbell of Utah
ANSWER: the Austrian Alps

June 12
SPONSOR: Anne Patrick
PRIZE: Journey to Redemption (inspirational romantic suspense), free download
QUESTION: What did Royce use to do for a living in my upcoming release, Out of the Darkness? (Hint: Look under the “My Books” link for Anne’s new release, Out of the Darkness)
WINNER: Cindy Schuerr of Wisconsin
ANSWER: He played pro football.

June 13
SPONSOR: Rebecca Talley
PRIZE: Altared Plans (contemporary LDS romance), autographed by author
QUESTION: What is unique about my youngest son? (Hint: Watch the YouTube video Extra C posted on the right side of Rebecca’s blog)
WINNER: Rachel Stanley of Arizona
ANSWER: He has an extra chromosome/Down syndrome

June 14
SPONSOR: David J. West
PRIZE: Heroes of the Fallen (historical fiction), autographed hardcopy)
QUESTION: What is the name of my favorite author? (Hint: Scroll through David’s June blogs. He promises you’ll find the answer!)
WINNER: Tawnya Mayo of Utah
ANSWER: Robert E. Howard

June 15
SPONSOR: Jennifer Stewart Griffith, author of Choosing Mr. Right and Delicious Conversation
PRIZE: FREE edit and/or critique of first 50 pages of a novel
QUESTION: What is the Japanese word for the hairstyle worn by sumo wrestlers? (Hint: Check out Jennifer’s favorite sumo blog, Sumo Beautiful. Look for Hama Bijin’s April 13th post)
WINNER: Tracy Astle of California
ANSWER: Chonmage

June 16
SPONSOR: Rebecca Irvine
PRIZE: Family Home Evening Adventures (non-fiction book of FHE lessons), free e-book on CD
QUESTION: What is the title of the first book written by Rebecca Irvine? (Hint: Read “about me” on Rebecca’s blog)
WINNER: Tracie Travis of California
ANSWER: Adventures with the Word of God

June 17
SPONSOR: Marilyn Bunderson
PRIZE: The Mark (YA Fiction), autographed copy with a bookmark
QUESTION: In a deleted scene from my book, The Mark, Jon loses a bet to Shae. What does he have to do to pay up? (Hint: Found in post titled "Deleted Scenes From The Mark" dated April 15, 2010)
WINNER: Karen Haas of North Carolina
ANSWER: go country line dancing

June 18
SPONSOR: Heather Justesen
PRIZE: Winner’s Choice: The Ball’s In Her Court (contemporary inspirational) or Rebound (contemporary romance), autographed by author
QUESTION: How much did the FBI agent expect John's bail to be set at? (Hint: Click on "My Books" tab, then "read more" about Rebound.)
WINNER: Colleen Conklin of Arizona
ANSWER: About half a million

June 19
SPONSOR: Nichole Giles
PRIZE: The Sharp Edge of a Knife (inspirational historical, based on a true story), autographed copy
QUESTION: What is the correct title of the humorous anthology I coauthored? (Hint: Look in the right hand sidebar)
WINNER: Taffy Lovell of Utah
ANSWER: Mormon Mishaps and Mischief

June 20
SPONSOR: Karen Adair
PRIZE: Trendy blue/brown crocheted book tote with matching cell phone case (Check out Karen’s “Diva Strings” website for examples:
QUESTION: Where did Karen learn how to type and what speed did she finally top out at? (Hint: Check Karen’s “Bio” tab)
WINNER: Becky Drew of Arizona
ANSWER: I took a class in middle school and my last clocked speed was 120 words per minute

June 21
SPONSOR: Lynn Parsons, co-author of the soon-to-be-released non-fiction book: (dis)Abilities and the Gospel
PRIZE: A pair of hand-knit socks
QUESTION: What are three of the topics I list on the parent page of my website? (Look on “Parent Page” tab)
WINNER: Karin Tillotson of Pennsylvania
ANSWER: ADD/ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Educational Activities for Home, Transition to Adulthood

June 22
SPONSOR: Kinzie Monroe
PRIZE: Reservations for Two (inspirational romance), autographed CD
QUESTION: What was Maggie doing when she and Carson first met in Reservations for Two? (Hint: click on the “Excerpts” link on Kinzie’s blog)
WINNER: Paige Child of Utah
ANSWER: roller blading

June 23
SPONSOR: Michele Ashman Bell
PRIZE: Summer in Paris (YA romance), autographed copy and Eiffel Tower bookmark
QUESTION: What is Michele "dreaming of"? (Hint: found on sidebar above picture of Eiffel Tower
WINNER: Sharline Mata of Costa Rica

June 24
SPONSOR: Jaimey Grant and JaysDesign Jewelry
PRIZE: A signed copy of Redemption, a Regency romance by Jaimey Grant, and a 19" hand-knotted strand of freshwater pearls ($45 value) handmade by Jay T Lyons of JaysDesign Jewelry.
QUESTION: Artist Jay T Lyons did a sketch for the cover of an upcoming Regency romance of mine. What is the sketch of and what is the title of the upcoming book?
WINNER: Cydni Tongish of Utah (please be sure you type Cydni and not Cyndi...I thought it was the latter at first)
ANSWER: A prison hulk for the cover of Retribution

June 25
SPONSOR: Christine Thackeray
PRIZE: Lipstick Wars (LDS Women’s Fiction), autographed copy
QUESTION: What is the name of the angel who needs a vacation in my recent pamphlet, “Could You Be an Angel Today? (Hint: Play the book trailer for “Could You Be an Angel Today” on Christine’s home page)
WINNER: Carissa Cantrell of Utah
ANSWER: Gladys

June 26
SPONSOR: Bonnie Harris
PRIZE: Mary Kay Satin Lips Set, Travel Size Satin Hands Set and a set of mineral eye colors
QUESTION: What is the name of my African Gray and African Desert Tortosie? (Hint: Read “About Me” in the left hand sidebar)
WINNER: Cheryl Snyder of Pennsylvania
ANSWER: Kumba and Digger

June 27
SPONSOR: Teralee Deighton
PRIZE: Cup of Comfort for New Mothers (personal essay anthology)
QUESTION: Name the editor of Cup of Comfort for New Mothers
WINNER: Susan Arroyo of Utah
ANSWER: Colleen Sell

June 28
SPONSOR: C. LaRene Hall
PRIZE: Martha’s Freedom Train (middle grade historical), autographed by both author and illustrator
QUESTION: How many short stories has C. LaRene Hall published in the humorous anthology, Mormon Mishaps and Mischief? (Hint: Look in the left hand sidebar)
WINNER: Chris Okelberry of Utah

June 29
SPONSOR: Sarah M. Eden
PRIZE: Courting Miss Lancaster (Regency romance), autographed copy
QUESTION: In his "I Need Friends Friday" interview, what reason does Edward Cullen give for not sleeping at night?
WINNER: Teryn Ercanbrack of Utah
ANSWER: "Because I'm a monster."

June 30
SPONSOR: Marcia Mickelson
PRIZE: Reasonable Doubt (LDS Suspense), autographed copy
QUESTION: In what country was author, Marcia Mickelson born? (Hint: Click on “About Marcia” tab)
WINNER: Patricia Cochran of Texas
ANSWER: Guatemala

July 1
SPONSOR: Kimberly Job
PRIZE: I'll Know You by Heart (romantic suspense), autographed copy
QUESTION: What is the title of my current work in progress? (Hint: Look under “My Books” tab)
WINNER: Archana Subramaniam
ANSWER: "A Change of Heart"

July 2
SPONSOR: Joan Sowards
PRIZE: Haunts Haven (an LDS ghost story), autographed copy
QUESTION: What is the name of the town in which the story of Haunts Haven takes place? (Hint: Found on sidebar synopsis of story)
WINNER: Jobie Marshall of Oregon
ANSWER: Cassidy Springs

July 3
SPONSOR: Margaret L. Turley RN
PRIZE: Save the Child (Reality Fiction), autographed copy
QUESTION: Where can you listen to an audio interview with Margaret L. Turley about her book, Save the Child? (Hint: Click on link at the bottom of Margaret’s bio on her “About the Author” page)
WINNER: Heather Parry

July 4
SPONSOR: Joyce DiPastena
PRIZE: Illuminations of the Heart (sweet medieval romance, a 2009 Whitney Award Finalist), autographed by author
QUESTION: Who were gifts usually given to on Epiphany during the Middle Ages? (Hint: Click on “Stolen Christmas” tab and read excerpt from “An Epiphany Gift for Robin”)
WINNER: Lexie Hogan of Utah
ANSWER: small children

July 5
SPONSOR: Cindy R. Williams
PRIZE: Chase McKay Didn’t Get Up Today (Arizona Glyph Award Finalist and Southwest Book Awards Finalist), a snuggle, giggle children’s picture book
QUESTION: There is a picture of Cindy holding two dragons on her website, The names of the dragons are in the caption below the picture. What are their names? (Hint: Look on the “Book” page)
WINNER: Diane Pollock of Iowa
ANSWER: Thundertail and Sparkin

July 6
SPONSOR: Gail Pallotta
PRIZE: Love Turns the Tide (inspirational romance with suspense), free e-book on CD
QUESTION: Who comes to Cammie O'Shea's rescue after she has a break-in at her unit in Destin, Florida? (Hint: Scroll down to: MORE ABOUT THE BOOK)
WINNER: Jeanette Jackson of Canada
ANSWER: Vic Deleona

July 7
SPONSOR: Danyelle Ferguson, co-author of the soon-to-be released non-fiction book: (dis)Abilities and the Gospel
PRIZE: A 30-page manuscript edit
QUESTION: Name three of the "special needs" addressed in (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. (Hint: Click on the "Books" tab for (dis)Abilities and the Gospel)
WINNER: Jacque Stevens of Maryland
ANSWER: autism, Down syndrome, bipolar disorder, memory loss, and more

July 8
SPONSOR: Karen E. Hoover
PRIZE: Sapphire Flute (YA Fantasy), autographed copy
QUESTION: How many bloggers have posted their reviews of The Sapphire Flute? (Hint: Check out the list under “Sapphire Flute Blog Tour” in the right hand side bar and count ‘em up)
WINNER: Paige Ray of California

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Maybe I was a naive kid, but I grew up believing that school teachers, policemen, politicians and soldiers started every day with the Pledge of Allegiance and said their prayers at night. I really did. Aside from my parents, these were the people responsible for protecting me during my day, and in my mind, they were above reproach.

Even the TV station looked out for us. Remember the parental message that came on every evening at the end of the day's programming? First there was a warning--"It's 11:00, do you know where your children are?" That was followed by the playing of the Star Spangled Banner while an image of the flag fluttered across the screen. Some stations even closed with religious message before the station signed off.

I knew my parents loved me, but our home was not always a docile, tender place. We were dysfunctional by today's standards, but still, I felt the world was generally safe, and that I could generally count on adults to be wise, protective and ethically straight.

Pretty different now, eh? Family vigilance has never been more critical.

I'm writing a magazine article on this topic--exploring what families are doing to "up" their vigilance. I'd love your input. What are you doing to strengthen and prepare your family to face personal and family challenges? Have you changed your family strategies? Post a comment, share a story or a strategy and I might use it in my article. Thanks!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


by Rachel Ann Nunes

"Imprints," Rachel Ann Nunes' ground-breaking, envelope-pushing paranormal suspense novel, is my favorite read of the year, and proof that Nunes has upped the game for LDS authors in all genres.

Nunes is a big fan of paranormal suspense, but when the search for clean paranormal books--books a gospel-centered reader could embrace--became increasingly challenging, she decided to write one herself, and try to break a new niche in the market.

This award-winning author isn't gliding on her reputation. In my opinion, "Imprints" is her best work, proof that more great material is ahead, from Nunes, and from other authors who will benefit from "Imprints'" success. Using her considerable talent and clout, Nunes is expanding the market to a wider range of books in order to satisfy a broad hunger for clean, uplifting fiction.

"Imprints" isn't an LDS-themed book, but cautious readers who specifically choose LDS-authored suspense/romance, seeking high moral values and clean language, can comfortably embrace this paranormal book while enjoying the thrills and pace of a national best-selling read. Here's the premise:

Following the tragic death of her beloved adopted hippie-father, Autumn Rain receives a few unexpected gifts--the twin sister separated from her at birth; the paranormal ability to read "imprints," the emotions and images left behind on objects; and the knowledge that her sister also has a gift of her own.

Reining in her gift is Autumn's problem. She attempts to deal with it, and the pain it sometimes causes her, by using her ability to help victims of tragedies. Not everyone believes in her or her ability, causing Autumn to curb her inherently open, giving nature and close ranks around a few trusted relatives and friends. Paramount in her life are her sister, Tawnia: Tawnia's husband, Bret; and her best friend, Jake, the herbalist who owns the shop adjacent to Autumn's antique business. This trio--and a few objects retaining the soothing, loving imprints from Autumn's parents--are all the gifted woman has to anchor her as she comes to term with her ability and the scrutiny it brings her.
The jury is still out on Autumn's character, at least it is for a handsome detective named Shannon, who used information Autumn provided to locate a missing child. The girl was found--dead--and Shannon seemingly moved Autumn into the suspect list, as well as onto his list of informants.

Still, a pair of desperate parents come to the Herb Shoppe seeking Autumn's help. The story of their lost daughter compels Jake to make an introduction to Autumn, whose reading of the imprints left on the girl's possessions reveals cult connections. Autumn advises the family to contact the police, and soon Ethan--a gorgeous part-time P.I. with his own interest in exposing the cult--shows up at Autumn's shop, sweeping her off her logical, bare-footed feet. Consumed by multiples desires to help others, please Ethan, and to justify her ability, Autumn is swept into a world of intrigue that leaves readers pointing the finger of accusation at nearly every character in the book. You'll have a hard time walking away from this one.

And it's not just because the suspense is so tight and compelling, though it absolutely is. "Imprints" is the total package, the real-deal. Nunes' dialogue is smart, savvy, and sassy, giving each of her diverse characters powerful, compelling, and very individual, voices that endear them to the reader. The characters, particularly Autumn and Jake, are unique and adorable in their conflicted friendship, keeping you cheering as the potential love triangle expands to pentagonal proportions. I absolutely loved the book and I'm recommending it to everyone. It has national potential written into every page.

My only unresolved expectation surrounded the mysterious, accidental death of Autumn's father--the event that serves as the catalyst for everything else. I kept expecting it to be tied into this book's storyline somehow. But several "Imprints" characters have unresolved issues, and I expect that these issues, and the details surrounding this accident, are likely to be resolved, or at least explored, in upcoming "Autumn Rain" books. Yes, readers will be delighted to know that a sequel is already in progress.

So bravo to Rachel Ann Nunes--an award-winning, best-selling author of nearly thirty books--for taking a courageous leap of faith and leading out with "Imprints."

And hats off to Deseret Books and Shadow Mountain Publishing for taking a chance on "Imprints" and widening the market for LDS literature, although banking on Nunes--a solid, proven success--can hardly be considered a gamble.

Readers can pick up a copy at their neighborhood LDS book store!

Friday, May 14, 2010


Our only daughter, Amanda, and her little family are walking to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation. Here's the reason why:

Amanda graduated from Utah State in 2004 and came home to Maryland to find work. She found a job at the company owned by a member of our ward, and once her benefits kicked in, we encouraged her to get a good, thorough physical.

I really need to back up here because right after Christmas, as she headed towards graduation, the parental mantra was, "You need a job with benefits." Why? For months I had felt an urgency on this topic--that something big was coming, and she would need to have good insurance.

A few days after her physical she was called in to review her lab results. We didn't think too much about this since she had several other serious but under-control medical issues that made her health more complicated. And since she was now 24, she was her own advocate.

I was in my car when that chilling call came in. She sent one to her father as well. "You'd better come up here." End-stage renal failure was the ultimate diagnosis after days of testing--extensive urinalysis, kidney biopsies, and blood work. We were beyond stunned. My husband and I each had a marker that left Amanda genetically pre-disposed to kidney failure.

Amanda explains:

In 2004 I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease called IGA nephropathy. By the time I found out, I was already in chronic kidney failure and was told I would need a kidney transplant to live. It was overwhelming and devastating news to receive being only 24 years old. I had just found the man of my dreams and was looking forward to a life with him, filled with kids and joy. This dream seemed to be falling apart as I sat across from my doctor and learned this devastating news. Before the news could even sink in, my mom said she would be the donor. From that second on she endured test after test and the waiting game began. My sweetheart, Nick, stood by my side and proposed to me on October 20, 2004 - just one day after hearing the news. We went on and planned our dream wedding and waited for the phone call that would save both our lives.

There are so many miracles and tender mercies attached to our family's transplant story. And it is a family story. I was never prouder of all my family-- my husband, my children, my daughter-in-law, my grandchildren who made us laugh when we were bereft of joy, and of course, my darling Nick. But Amanda was the hero here, not because she wasn't afraid, but because she always took her fears to the Lord.

The feelings are still a little raw, a little close to the surface. We've tried to remain private about our experience. Amanda didn't want to be "the transplant lady" or to have people aggrandize her courage. She's opening up about it now because she realizes how seeing someone with such a positive outcome would have bolstered us during the darker hours. So someday we'll write our story and share it so those who also face a devastating diagnosis can have hope that the Lord does not leave us alone in such times. We felt him with us, sending us help, walking with us, tucking us in at night when we could barely go on. We leaned on prayer, on the temple, on the Priesthood. We were held up by the faith of mortal angels who fasted with us, prayed for us and offered to serve us in countless ways.

Again, from Amanda:

I hope that by sharing my story, others will find hope in their darkest hour. I hope that they will see that there is not only life after transplantation, but one that is full of joy and happiness. I am approaching my five year anniversary and have a 15 month old son that I carried healthily to full term and I will be delivering our second child, a baby girl on the very day of my fifth transplant anniversary. So, on May 16, I will walk in gratitude and for those who need hope. I am walking to help save someone else's life because my mother saved mine!

We realize how very blessed we are, but let me say to those who face transplantation, there is reason for great hope and joy! And to those who consider being a kidney donor--Please do!

For those who would otherwise like to support kidney patients awaiting a miracle, please consider donating to Team Long as Amanda, Nick and little Brady walk to show gratitude for their blessings.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I recently attended the LDStorymakers Conference, and one of the lovely authors I met at the banquet was Joan Sowards, a two-time author whose second book, “Chocolate Roses,” recently debuted. Joan’s book, and my recent release, “Awakening Avery,” are both published by Walnut Springs Press.

The backliner from “Chocolate Roses” makes me want to grab a Hershey bar:

Janie Rose Whitaker's world revolved around her chocolate shop until Roger Wentworth and his young daughter moved into the apartment across from Janie's. Anyone would think Roger fit the mold of the "perfect" guy, but soon Janie discovers secrets that could keep them apart forever. Though she resists getting involved in Roger's complicated life, they are drawn further into a bittersweet relationship.

You will laugh, cry, and crave chocolate as you read this LDS parody of the classic novel Jane Eyre.

Clean-romance lovers will enjoy this “sweet” read. Here’s my interview with Joan:

Q: Aspiring authors are often shocked to hear how much work goes into that first, published novel. When did you start to write and how long did it take you get published?

I have been writing over fifteen years. I felt prompted to sit down and write what a particular ancestor would say if I had the chance to interview her. She didn't want to give me much information, didn't trust me, and from that I wrote a short story that grew into a novel. Through that experience I discovered that I loved to write!

Kerry Blair lived in my ward back then. She'd edit my chapters and I tried to learn the rules behind her changes. I learned a lot from her. She realized she could do a lot better than I was doing, so she wrote her own first novel and sent it to Covenant. They excepted it within two weeks.

(Kerry Blair is not only a very successful author with multiple awards to her credit, but as you may suppose from Joan’s story, she is one of the most generous and lovely people on the earth.)

Q: That’s a great story, Joan. So how did you get your break into publishing?

I admit it was luck. I was in the right place at the right time. Kathy Jenkins of Covenant Com. suggested I send Walnut Springs Press my novel We Have Seen His Star--so I did. I pestered editor Linda Prince every few months asking if she had read it. After the eight month, she asked if I had an LDS romance and that she needed one right away. I sent Haunts Haven and she liked it!

Q: What inspired you to write romance?

I think every story needs romance, if not just a touch of it.

Q: What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?

I write LDS romance. Haunts Haven is a paranormal mystery romance, Chocolate Roses is pure romance with a Jane Eyre parallel. I haven't been able to get away from the LDS genre. I guess because it is so ingrained in me.

Q: And what are you working on now?

I'm writing a story about a recent ASU college grad who takes a journalist job in a seaside village in Oregon. It has a touch of the paranormal, and I love the characters.

Q: That’s a great premise! What has surprised you about being a published author?

Before being published, everything I did had an eternal perspective: taking care of my family which included cooking and cleaning, etc., my relationship with my husband, my calling. Even writing novels and music was developing talents and I felt the Spirit affirming that was what I should be doing. As soon as Haunts Haven hit the stores and I was expected to promote it and myself. I felt uncomfortable with that because it didn't easily fit into the eternal perspective that gave me comfort. I'm still not comfortable about the promotion.

Q: Writing can be all-consuming and then the promo takes so much time. Maintaining a balance in life becomes ever-more critical. So, Joan, what do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I'm a family history addict. I love to sew aprons to give as gifts. I write music ( that I give as a service. My adorable grandchildren take a lot of my time, and I love being with my husband.

Q: Nice balance. What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?

I love crafting the story, plotting it, writing subplots.
Least? that life gets in the way and writing always comes last.

(I’m with ya, sister!)

Q: Story ideas spring from some odd places sometimes. What was the most usual way you came up with a story idea? What made you to think, ‘hey, I could make that into a story?’

My daughter came home from Institute class and said the idea came up that the wise men were Nephites. I loved it! From that I wrote We Have Seen His Star about teenage Nephite boys setting out to find the Christ Child.

Jeni Grossman taught a class at an ANWA conference and handed out feature newspaper articles with big photos and told us to ask ourselves "What if…" I got an article about haunted inns of Southern Arizona and asked myself, "What if a young woman inherited one of these inns, not knowing it was haunted?" Haunts Haven blossomed from there.

Q: The market is changing so quickly. What advice would you give aspiring writers today?

Don't give up. Be ready for when you are "in the right place at the right time." Learn the craft of writing and be open for critiquing. There's a lot to be learned from other writers.

And the power round:
Favorite food?
Favorite dessert? Anything chocolate

Jeans and T-shirt, or designer clothes? Jeans

I just read: "When you have a choice to wear pants or a skirt, choose the skirt. In this age of metro-sexual men, sometimes the only thing that separates you from the guys is the power to put on a skirt." Lloyd Boston, author of Before You Put That On. I like this. My mother used to say something like, "Consider what you wear, because the event you attend is pulled down to the level of the least-dressed person there, and you don't want to be the guilty one." I hear her voice each time I reach for my jeans. (Love it!)

Guilty pleasure? Chocolate
One word that describes you? Gottacreate!
Favorite flower? Roses
Favorite sport? Kissing

Q: Thank you for the Interview, Laurie.

My pleasure, Joan! Thanks for popping by my blog.

I hope readers will also pop over to Joan’s blog and say “hi.” Authors love hearing from readers.
Joan Sowards “Chocolate Roses” is available at Amazon and in Deseret stores.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


by Heather B. Moore

Only a few woman are named in the Book of Mormon. A few more are noted in regard to their husbands, sons and lovers. Despite their anonymity, no one can deny that the powerful men of the the Book of Mormon had equally noble women by their sides, comforting them, bearing and raising their children, and waiting for their return from war. What lessons do their lives hold for us in our day?

Heather B. Moore is a prolific author of scripture-based historical fiction, but her newest book, "Women of the Book of Mormon," is a scholarly piece packed with splendid research and astute analysis on these oft-forgotten scriptural women.

I consider myself fairly well-versed in the scriptures, but Heather B. Moore has again done what she does so well--humanizing her subjects with cultural and historical details that illuminate their lives, making them real to us in ways this reader never before considered. Moore draws from the research of anthropological and scriptural scholars to recreate the locations and times in which these women lived. We weigh their sacrifices and feel the burden of their struggles, while the power of their influence for good or evil is also powerfully felt.

For example, Moore's depiction of the privileged life a wealthy matron in Jerusalem helps us empathize with the changes that likely occurred in the women's lives of Lehi's and Ishmael's households once they headed into the wilderness. Their lives of luxury were over, their beautiful clothing, jewels and household goods were now gone. I understood this, but Moore goes on to explain that without the benefit of servants, the responsibility for cooking, cleaning and serving the men fell to these once-privileged wives and daughters. The nomadic lifestyle required their pampered hands to set up camp, raise tents, toil, spin and weave. According to tradition, the women would have walked the long distances from site to site while the men rode. I saw brave, noble Sariah through new eyes.

The chapter describing the wife of Mormon also moved me deeply. Moore reminds us that Mormon's wife was alone most of her married life, raising at least one noble son while her husband led a fallen, depraved people in battle. I had just finished reading Moroni nine when I reached this chapter, recalling Mormon's horrific details of depravity and torture, and then Moore connected the dots, reminding readers that these were the times and circumstances under which this hero's wife likely lived and died. The heroism and courage of this this unnamed woman leaped off the page at me.

Moore also notes that one fallen women has the distinction of being named in the Book 0f Mormon--the harlot Isabel. Moore again pulls in fascinating research to explain why this woman's actions likely warranted her name being held in remembrance.

"Women of the Book of Mormon" is filled with wonderful insights that make these women and their stories come alive. These were women who understood sacrifice and who had their eyes fixed on eternity. As I read each chapter my mind kept drifting to Relief Society General President Sister Julie Beck's recent conference talk about the need for women in the Church to "live so that we qualify for, receive, and know how to follow the Spirit." Heather B. Moore's book is filled with such women . . . strong, tender, remarkable, and under-considered women.

"Women of the Book of Mormon" is a treasure to add to any family's library. Though the research is solid, Heather B. Moore wrote the vignettes simply, making this book a comfortable, easy read that will satisfy young readers as well as Gospel Doctrine students.

You will learn, and readers will never again gloss over the contributions of these great women. But more than that, careful consideration of this volume could improve one's overall scripture study habits, reminding us to pause as we read, to draw lessons from each character's life and circumstances. This is a book I'll refer to often. Bravo, Heather B. Moore!

"Women of the Book of Mormon" is available wherever LDS books are sold.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I've mentioned before that one of my all-time favorite stories is about a king who sends his three sons out on a quest to return with a picture of peace. A year passes, and when they return, two of the sons present sketches of serene settings. The third returns with a sketch of a solid rock face marred by a crack. Emerging from that crack is a tenacious little branch upon which rests a tiny bird. The king's eyes moistened as he looked upon the image, for he knew that a man who understood that true peace must be found despite opposition would make a wise ruler.

I think of that image often. I'm in a relatively quiet stage of life right now. My husband and I are basically quiet people. I'm a little more animated than he, but life is peaceful--we eat what and when we choose, we nap when we like, and we play when we want. I'm free to write most days now.

It sounds lovely, but I miss the chaos of family life from time to time. My memories are rose-colored, I know. I see cherubs racing home from school with with stories and adventures to share, forgetting the pushing and shoving as they dove into the pantry for after-school snacks, and completely ignoring the hectic rush to prepare and serve dinner to four busy kids who had practices, homework and games to attend.

I'm visiting grandkids now, and life is noisy, busy, messy, chaotic and sleepless. Today my four-year-old granddaughter and eighteen-month-old grandson pulled all the pots and wooden spoons out and held a kitchen-band jam session. I aged five years in twenty minutes. But a few minutes later, after that joy lost its thrill and the floor was littered with abandoned cookware, my grandson toddled over to the shelf, pulled down the family's illustrated Book of Mormon, opened a page and searched for the page he loves best--the picture of Jesus. "Ashus" he said with a reverent timbre befitting an angel.

Yes, Christian, "Ashus" is here.

Like the bird on the tenacious little branch, we have to find peace in the storm. It's there. Because of Ashus.

Saturday, May 1, 2010



For the past five weeks I've been introducing readers to characters from "Awakening Avery," my new release about a recent widow who experiences a remarkable summer of faith and self-discovery in the months following her husband's death.

Avery's Elkins Thompson's failure to face her husband's illness leaves her, and her family, floundering after his death. She finally agrees to a nostalgic request from her oldest son to return to the family's Anna Maria Island vacation spot. With a little help from some quirky, new-found friends, Avery enters into a summer house swap with a most intriguing and complicated man. As they step into one another's messy, complex worlds, they begin an email correspondence that leads to a summer of spiritual and emotional re-awakening for both families . . . and particularly for Avery.

Avery reaches into her heart, accessing priceless bits of personal wisdom from her internal mothering manual in the hope that she can pull her adult children out of their spiritual malaise. Her "food is love," philosophy is being challenged by Oprah, but she has some other mothering tips in her arsenal, and she's in a no-holds-barred battle to rescue her family.

Mothers' wisdom is the theme this week, and in honor of Mother's Day, I'm giving away a custom-designed silver necklace created by Nicole Lefebvre of Sterling Obsession, just for the launch of "Awakening Avery." The all Sterling Silver, 20" rolo chain, holds a wire-wrapped, blue chaldony briolette, a ampule of sand and a starfish, all reminoscent of the book's island setting. The winner will have their choice of a heart that says "live, laugh, love" or "Awaken!" that captures the spirit of the book. Like "Awakening Avery," the necklace is a perfect gift for a special lady. Here's how you enter to win:

1. You must be a follower of this blog, or become a follower

2. Share an item of motherly wisdom in the comment box below.

If you'd like additional entries, you can also:

3. Post the "Awakening Avery" cover image on your Facebook page and/or blog and send me a link. You'll get one entry for each.

4. Add "Awakening Avery" to your "books-to-read" shelf on Goodreads. Amazon or Shelfari. Tell me where you added it and get an entry for each one.

5. Add this link for the preview of Chapter One of "Awakening Avery" to your blog sidebar or Facebook page. Send me the link to your site and get one entry for each.

The winner will be drawn on Saturday, May 8th.

Thanks for helping spread the news about "Awakening Avery's" release. And thanks for sharing your motherly advice this week!


Some of the most powerful sermons on faith are found in Moroni 7. I've read that chapter many, many times, but comprehension and inspiration are dependent upon the reader's readiness to receive, and luckily, last night I was evidently ready.

I can't say what made me ready, other than today I really needed that lesson and the peace that comes with knowing that everything is ultimately in God's hands. I didn't feel any particular sense of urgency or need last evening, but fortunately, the Lord must have.

Today was a hard day, and when hard days come, whatever aspect of your life is out of kilter suddenly dwarfs everything else. The family can be fine, the weather can be beautiful, your house can be enjoying one of those clean-inside-and-out miracles, and the bank account can have an extra jingle, but get bad news, suffer writer's block, have a falling out with a friend, do something socially awkward, be hurt by someone, be forgotten or forget something critical to someone else, and that one painful element will cloud all the rest.

I had one of the above happen today. Grateful I am for the scriptures I read last night--the reminders about faith, and faith's relationship to miracles, charity and hope. I'm grateful that after all we can do, the rest is up to the Lord. We can give our very best as we love, write, work, prepare a lesson, comfort a friend, counsel a child, serve our neighbor and build the kingdom, and if it was our very best effort, it was enough. There is peace in knowing that.