Monday, August 30, 2010


Back in April, when we were preparing to release "Awakening Avery," I received a request for an interview from a lovely a writer named Linda Weaver Clarke. Linda has a diverse background in several of the arts, including the publication of five historical romance novels. She recently switched genres and she's currently celebrating the release of a new mystery adventure titled, "MAYAN INTRIGUE."

In conjunction with the book's release, Linda is sponsoring a one-week contest on her web site. At the end of the article you'll see the details for entering.

Linda offered to write a guest post on my blog today, but before we begin, let me say that Linda is a pretty inspiring woman. After raising and launching her family, she ended a thirty-year absence from the classroom and returned to college, receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre and Music from Southern Utah University. Additionally, she received the Outstanding Non-Traditional Student Award for the College of Performing Arts in 2002. She's a great example to any of us who set our dreams on the back burner for a time to dust off our paints, our computer, or our instrument, and make those dreams come true.

Those of you who love to write will enjoy this lesson on the different techniques required for specific genres. Readers will enjoy these tips as well. Congratulations on your new release, Linda! Welcome, and take it away!

* * * * * * * *

Thanks, Laurie! I thought I'd discuss the different techniques used in the writing of these two genres:


I have written five historical romance novels but have changed to mystery. The writing process between romance and mystery is quite a change with a completely different mindset. It’s so different from telling a love story. With romance, you plan out the plot around the meeting of a couple. As you write, you develop some sort of charisma between the characters, making the reader feel excited that one day they're going to hit it off and fall in love. You, as the reader, know what the outcome will be. But with a mystery, the reader is in the dark. The author has to come up with a plot that no one knows about until towards the end of the story and hope they haven’t figured it out. In a mystery, you may or may not allow your reader to know who the bad guys are, according to whether it’s just a mystery or mystery suspense. Do you know the difference between a mystery and a mystery suspense novel? In a mystery, when a knock is heard at the door, the reader doesn't know who's behind it. With mystery suspense, the reader knows who's behind the door and yells to the heroine, "Don't open the door!"

Anasazi Intrigue is the first book in a mystery adventure series called “The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.” It’s about a devastating flood that takes out several homes in a small town, the importance of preserving ancient artifacts, and a few puzzling and mysterious events. Julia is a reporter, and when she finds out about a possible poison spill that kills some fish and neighbor's pets, she has a feeling that something isn’t quite right. Before she realizes what is happening, Julia finds out that this incident is much bigger and more dangerous than she thought. With dead fish, a devastating flood, and miscreants chasing John and Julia, they have their hands full.

Artifact theft is a very intriguing subject. That’s why I call it the Intrigue series. In my research, I found that archaeological thievery is becoming more and more of a problem every year. Did you know that looting is only second to selling illegal drugs? While researching the second book in this series, Mayan Intrigue, my eyes were opened to the problems they have in southern Mexico. When an ancient ruin is discovered, it doesn’t take long for thieves to take it apart. The reason why is because the Mayas used astrological alignments when planning their city. Looters have learned the layout of the Mayan cities so they know where to dig. With this knowledge, they can loot a sacred temple in a few days. I also found that artifact theft in Mexico has been taken over by drug dealers from Columbia. In other words, since organized crime has taken over, there is also an increase of violence.

Mayan Intrigue will be released on August 30th and I’m having a week long celebration with a book give-away at my Blog at Mayan Intrigue is about the discovery of a priceless artifact that puts Julia’s life in great danger. While on assignment for the newspaper, John and Julia try to enjoy a romantic vacation among the Mayan ruins, but when Julia accidentally comes upon a couple suspicious men exchanging an item, she quickly turns and leaves but it’s too late. Before John and Julia realize what's going on, they find themselves running for their lives through the jungles of the Yucatan. To read an excerpt from each of my books, you can visit

Monday, August 23, 2010


by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

"Trapped," the second novel by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, is an ambitious suspense/romance/paranormal novel debuting under Walnut Springs Press' banner. From the back cover:

A forged letter, a golden vial, an ancient curse... Her expression remained somber, but excitement crept into her voice. You are the Firstborn She...You must go to them. You want me to act as bait? Not bait, Emi. A spy. Our Trojan horse.

When Emi Warrin wakes one night to find a thief in her mother's house, she has no idea the intruder has planted a trap - a mysterious letter that will change her life forever. Lured to the Austrian Alps with Daniel, the man she loves, Emi is thrown into a perilous, mafia-like world of feuding families and a devastating curse that spans generations. As the Firstborn She - the only firstborn female in hundreds of years - only Emi can free her family from the curse that will soon afflict her as well. But for Emi to break the curse, she must delve into evil designs.

As Emi struggles to understand her destiny as the Firstborn She, she learns that everything isn't as it seems and that all choices have consequences. Can Emi break the curse before it's too late?

Hinrichsen's opening pages prove she is an author with admirable skills. From paragraph one the reader is invested in a bizarre crime scene storyline with a well-placed plot that keeps you turning pages. This section was so well-written I would have been satisfied to follow this thread for the rest of the book. But the novel changes pace as Emi's love interest, Daniel, enters the picture, and we move to the Austrian Alps to search for Emi's father.

The quirky conversational asides between Emi and Daniel interrupted the pace of the book, diluting the tension and reducing the grit of the story. Still, paranormal enthusiasts have some unique elements to sink their teeth into with "Trapped," and suspense lovers will enjoy navigating the plot twists and the unexpected ending.

I think Ms. Hinrichsen is a new talent whose books we will want to follow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Free Men and Dreamers

My trailer just uploaded to YOU TUBE! Click to view it, post a comment and enter to win a free book!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


For the next two years, anyone who loves American history, or who wants to bestow upon their children a remarkable understanding of the sacrifice it took to build and preserve this nation, should look east for vacations.

From the Great Lakes to New England, and especially along the Chesapeake Bay, marvelous events are being planned to salute and celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.

History books will say it was a worthless war, but such things were written by people who measure victory by acreage and gold. To those who study the development of America as a people and as a nation, this war is known as the pulse point of America's rise as "One Nation Under God."

It was during this war that we became a people who saw ourselves as a nation rather than a loose confederation of states. When our capital was burned, our government leaders forced into hiding, when the symbols of our rising democracy--the President's House, the Armory, the Capitol, and the Naval Yard--were destroyed we placed our trust in two new emblems of America that could never be taken away--our people, and a red-white-and blue rectangle of fabric that we had previously paid little mind to, and the song that drove its importance deep into our hearts--the Star Spangled Banner.

Come east and enjoy a re-enactment, a tour around the capital that rose from ashes to become a symbol of freedom the world around. Breathe in the history and let it embed itself in your heart. Here are some places to begin! FROM THE NPS SITE. . .

Representatives from the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail will be present at events throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, in late summer/early fall 2010. Learn more about the Trail at the following events:

Saturday, August 21st - 8th Annual Hancock's Resolution War of 1812 Reenactment; Pasadena, MD Join reenactors from "The Ship's Company" as they commemorate the War of 1812.

Sunday, August 22nd - Chit-Chat Run: The British are coming to Washington; Washington, DC Join the NPS for a three mile run that includes interpretive stops that tell the story of the British burning of Washington.

Sunday, August 22nd - 8th Annual Hancock's Resolution War of 1812 Reenactment; Pasadena, MD Join reenactors from "The Ship's Company" as they commemorate the War of 1812.

Sunday, August 22nd - On This Date in History: The Burning of Washington; Washington, DC Meet at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial for an NPS ranger-led bike tour of the destruction of Washington.

Sunday, August 22nd - Walking Tour to Restore a Patriot's Tombstone; Washington, DC Join Anthony S. Pitch, author of The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, on a walking tour of the burning of Washington. Registration ($20 cost) is limited and required with Congressional Cemetery.

Saturday, August 28th -August 1814: A Town Occupied - "Johnny Bull" Revisits Alexandria; Alexandria, VA Join in a reenactment of the occupation of Alexandria by His Royal Majesty's naval forces. Free admission to the grounds; museum tour is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 5-12. Scale replica of the Schooner Ship Lion will be out front.

Saturday, August 28th - Dolley at Dumbarton Day! Washington, DC Join Anthony S. Pitch, author of The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, for a lecture about Dolley Madison. A tour of Dumbarton is optional. Tickets can be purchased through Dumbarton House.

Sunday, September 5th -Defender's Day at North Point, Edgemere, MD Reenactors will bring to life the events of September 12, 1814; living history displays and presentations are also part of the event.

Friday-Sunday, September 10-12th - Defender's Day at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, MD Fort McHenry's flagship event features reenactors, parades, military bands, fireworks, bombardments, and more!

Saturday, September 18th - The War of 1812 Reenactment and Encampment, St. Leonard, MD Experience a reenactment and activities at the site of Maryland's largest Naval engagement.

The links below provide just a sampling of events occurring at venues throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC as the War of 1812 Bicentennial approaches.

To learn about events at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, click here.

For a schedule of events occurring on the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC, click here.

View a calendar of War of 1812-related events throughout Maryland at

Monday, August 16, 2010

4th and GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"OH SAY CAN YOU SEE?" has turned out to be the most difficult project of my Free Men and Dreamers series. I thought it would be the easiest because I've had all the major plot points in my head forever, but stuff happened. . . mostly great, happy stuff . . . but stuff that delayed me from typing, "THE END."

This season in my life became hectic: unexpected but exciting company arrived, new details about Francis Scott Key emerged that led to more research, and someone whose opinion I trust, begged me not to take the story where I had always intended. So it's considerably different, but a decidedly better story now.

I'm sending chapters out to beta-readers to check for errors and to guage reader-interest, and the feedback makes my arms tingle. I think this book will forever change the way readers feel when they hear the National Anthem.

All in all, I'm nearing the end of this project--at least the writing of it. I'm at the goal line and its the fourth down of the fourth quarter with seconds to spare. This is do-or-die week, because it simply has to be, because as most authors will tell you, you surrender your life to such a project, and I need to "be done."

At the end you tweak and tweak, saying the same things a thousand different ways. Most are no better than another--merely different--but you can't decide which way to go. You drive yourself to distraction worrying over a word a reader will pass by in a nano-second without a second thought. That's when you know you must simply walk away and call it "done." This past weekend really proved that.

I also need to "come home." Not just exist here in space and time, but be here. . . all of me . . . my mind, my emotions. . . without my mind drifting from my current phone conversation to wonder whether I should have Hannah's hair tumbling down her back or flailing loosely behind her as she runs away. . . (ah ah ah!) I've been doing the bare essentials to maintain life this summer--keeping the socks and whites washed, but anything else in the wardrobe has been hit-or-miss. I've pulled some interesting ensembles together for church. . .

I've grocery shopped for produce, but this weekend my poor husband tried to pour milk over his Rice Krispies and it flopped out in chunks. He gagged, visibly and audibly. A few minutes later, he looked at me and said, "You think you'll be finished with the book this week?" Now, lest you think my sweet husband to be a cad for not picking up the milk himself, understand that he frequently travels for his work, and over the thirty-four years of our marriage, we have established an agreement that he could come home from a hard week's travel with the understanding that I had made sure the milk would pour and not PLOP from the jug. That's a hard expectation to break.

Our yard looks terrible, (but most everyone's does this dry, hot summer), and my house looks a little more "creatively-mussed than I care to see it. I also packed on fifteen pounds during this project. (I'm a nibbler when I write, and I've nibbled far too much and exercised far too little.) All these are reasons enough to long for "the end."

This is why authors' attachment to their books is almost maternal--we surrender ourselves to them, and then we have to let them go. This week I'll finish the writing of "OH SAY CAN YOU SEE?" and then I'll play a while while the rest of the beta-readers' input comes in. And then I'll send my baby off to the publisher. We'll edit for a few weeks, and we'll get our cover, and then it will be time for this child meet the world.

For some readers, book four will end Free Men and Dreamers. It will see the conclusion of the war and tie up all the loose ends. For those who want to venture into the next generation, there will be a final volume that explores how these events affect Jed and Hannah's children, but I digress. . .

I've got lots to fill the time. Besides promo work, there are grandbabies I want to rock and birthdays to celebrate, lunches with friends and quiet hours so I can ponder the scriptures without hearing the clock tick. And in between, I'll be working on book five.

Next week, we'll start introducing some characters from the book. There'll be contests and giveaways, lots of sharing of ideas too. A good book should make us think about our own lives and choices, don't you agree?

I'll buy a gallon of milk today, and pound away. It will be a little sad to see it end. But a good book never actually does, does it? And hopefully that's how readers will feel about "OH SAY CAN YOU SEE?"

Friday, August 13, 2010


Historical fiction requires diligent research. Get sloppy with a fact, and like a date who catches you in a lie, a reader's trust is gone and everything else you say is scrutinized.

In the past five years I've probably spent over 1000 hours conducting research on people, places, clothing, battles, guns, churches, ships. . . you name it. Today I spent an hour researching the history of the C-section for a scene. It was fascinating!

I've stumbled upon some informational gems in the public collections. My favorites are the minutes of the congressional hearings from the Revolution through the War of 1812, old maps, and my very favorite--personal correspondence.

I love to read the writings of great men and women in their own "voice." It makes the hair rise on my arms to see their penmanship, to read the beauty of their rich vocabulary, to see the gentility with which they handle even the most bitter exchanges. There certainly was something lovely and elegant in the way they respected and regarded one another, at least on paper.

Today I wrote a scene regarding Thomas Jefferson's offer to sell his exquisite personal library to the nation to replace the volumes lost when the British burned Washington. (The top photo is a view of the book room in his study.) Among the vast colllection of his personal correspondence are several letters he wrote to various individuals as he worked out the details of this transaction. These letters are among my favorite "finds."

The first letter was written by former President Jefferson to his dear friend President James Madison. Even though they were very familiar, with Dolley Madison having served as Jefferson's hostess during his term, he addresses Madison as "Dear Sir," honoring his office. It is my most favorite find.

Dated September 26th, 1814, it was Jefferson's first communication with his friend after the loss at Bladensburg, the burning of Washington and the banking crisis sweeping the country. I love the gentle way he comforts Madison in an hour of extreme national need. Madison knew he had nearly lost the government, and that he was hated by many of his own people, and Jefferson bolsters and encourages him as he advises his friend on how to deal with these events. It is a beautiful glimpse in time.

Dear Sir,

It is a very long time since I troubled you with a letter. . . in the late events at Washington I have felt so much for you that I cannot withhold the expression of my sympathies. . . All you can do is order . . . execution must depend on others. . .I know that when such failures happen they afflict even those who have done everything they could to prevent them. . .

The other two letters were written to Samuel H. Smith, another friend and government official at the time of the destruction of the Capitol. It is to Smith that Jefferson makes his initial proposal. Couched within the letters are tidbits that reveal much about Jefferson's personality and point of view. In referring to his collection of books, he writes:

I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.

Maybe I'm just a history geek, but I thought some of you would enjoy reading these gems. Follow the links and you'll see other wonderful trails to follow another day.


I recently led a workshop on dating and marriage for a Youth Conference, and early in my presentation one female attendee quipped loudly, "Is that all we're supposed to do? Get married and make babies? That's stupid."

The acrid tone of her voice took me back at first. To her, marriage appears to ber a ball and chain, but sadly, she's not the only young person who no longer looks at marriage and family as the ultimate expression of joy. Even in the traditional, family-based LDS community, singles are marrying later, in smaller numbers, and the number of children being born to LDS families is dropping. The doctrine of the family is under serious assault, and no one appears to be immune.

Sister Julie Beck detailed some alarming studies on the subject in a landmark talk given to CES Employees last fall. The real question is, why is marriage losing its appeal, and how do we stop the erosion of the institution?

For me, it goes back to the Adam and Eve principle. Let me explain. In the seventies, a research institute set out to conduct a cultural study. A list of scored questions was devised and researchers scoured the earth to survey every possible cultural group from Manhattan-ites to villagers in islands and in the Rain Forest. They assumed that upon extrapolating the data, they would be able to rate groups based on their level of cultural advancement. It didn't turn out that way.

Instead of breaking down group by group, the results broke into only two major groups . . . male and female. No matter where they went or to whom they spoke, the men's answers generally broke similarly, and so did the women's. The men's trends? They hit the extremes of the scales--they strongly agreed or disagreed; yes/no; black/white; good/bad; right wrong. The women generally fell into the middle ground, expressing a moderate point of view--their responses were more gray, neither black nor white, expressing "maybe, sometimes, I need more information."

The researchers were dumbfounded by the results, but they really shouldn't have been.

Let's look at the first man and woman. When tempted to break God's command that they not partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, look how they responded. Adam flatly said "no," which is in keeping with the findings of the researchers. But Eve gave the idea some thought. Genesis records this:

"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat." She mulled it over, gave it thought, gathered and considered all the information, weighed the consequences. Again, her response mirrors modern data.

Men and women are different by divine design. It is no accident. Men see the world through a prism of justice, while women see it through a prism of mercy. Those Kennedy researchers determined that if men ruled the world without the tempering mercy of women, they would fail to compromise and would destroy one another. They also concluded that if women ruled the world without the men's capacity for justice, they would find it difficult to make the "hard choices" society requires and they would fail as well.

It is the combination of both genders' strength that makes us whole. We are the Yin and the Yang of one another so-to-speak. Together, we can become better than we are alone. A good marriage will not limit your dreams or stifle your growth, it will give you a partner to help you realize those dreams.

Some people will never have the opportunity to discover these joys for themselves, at least not in this life. And some have seen enough sorrow from bad marriages to cut a wide path around this commitment. It doesn't change the truth of the equation. Went entered into wisely and with faith, marriage stands the test of time. Adam and Eve got it right.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Online PhD Degrees
Online PhD Degrees
I received an email yesterday announcing that this blog was chosen as one of the "TOP 50 MORMON BLOGS of 2010!"

Thrilling, to say the least, and completely unexpected, to say what comes next to the least. But wow! I'm honored!

I never considered my blog specifically "Mormon or LDS." I am Mormon/LDS, a Christian conservative, and I write about my feelings and my perspectives on family, God, country, and good literature that supports those themes.I think my topics cut across most religious and political lines.

So thanks to all of you who stop by and add great comments! And thanks also to everyone who picks up my blog thread from my Facebook page! Let's blog-on!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Researching the giants of history has made me sensitive to the erosion of honor and integrity in our day. When most of us hear about violations of honesty and the public trust, images of government leaders or captains of industry generally come to mind. The idea that a man's handshake or word bound him; or that, like Alexander Hamilton, a man would risk his very life to uphold his honor, are nearly incomprehensible concepts today.

As an author of historical fiction, I've noticed this shift in thinking as well. In accurately recreating a historical period, an author must frame the characters within the moral and ethical codes of the day. Some readers can no longer wrap their minds around heroes who place honor above self-gratification, or who make selfless, vulnerable, sometimes self-sacrificing choices. Yet it was the norm. It was how men and women of good faith lived, and not so very long ago.

I love this glimpse from the Revolution. It gives us an arm-tingling view of General Washington as well as of the hearts of the men he led. Here it is, told in the words of David McCullough, author of "1776."

"On Dec. 31, 1776, all the enlistments for the entire army had expired leaving every soldier free to go home. Washington called the troops into formation and urged them to reenlist, promising them a large bonus if they did. As the drums rolled, he asked those willing to re-up to step forward, but nobody did. Many of their farms were neglected, their fields had lain barren and their families were starving. Despite their desperate poverty they were ready to reject the money. They just wanted to go home. Washington turned and rode away from them. Then he stopped, received a moment of inspiration, turned back and rode up to them again. Listen carefully to what he said:"

“My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.”

"Again the drums rolled. This time the men began stepping forward. “God Almighty,” wrote Nathanael Greene, “inclined their hearts to listen to the proposal and they engaged anew.”

They were all men who put honor above self. Remarkable!

I think of scriptural stories where a man's promise or oath could stop a blood bath or win an enemy's trust. Remember Nephi and Zoram from I Nephi:4 30-35? Both men had cause to slay the other to assure their own safety, but instead, they chose honor first. Said Nephi, "I spake with him, that if he would hearken unto my words, as the Lord liveth, and as I live, even so that if he would hearken unto our words, we would spare his life. . . And it came to pass that Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake. Now Zoram was the name of the servant; and he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth."

What tremendous faith they each had in the binding power of their word! Can you imagine laying your life on the line based solely on the promise of an enemy?

It seems improbable today, especially in a world where the excuse, "I'm over-sheduled" casually liberates us from obligations, or when calling in sick to enjoy a day of recreation is deemed expected instead of a lie. Is your word your bond? Can a friend take your promise to the bank? When you say you'll be somewhere, do something, keep a secret, or that your loved one is unable to come to the phone--is it the truth?

This culture of quasi-honesty is more than a nuisance. It's dangerous and a fundamental cause of failures in marriages and families. A national poll rated honesty and integrity critical elements in a relationship. Does that surprise you? I hope not. Integrity and our ability to make and keep small truths, small commitments is the foundation of keeping vows and covenants--the basis of marriage and family.

We can learn so much about honor from studying history and from reading the biographies of great men and women. We've got a generation to change, before the ideas are too foreign.

Monday, August 9, 2010


OF ONE HEART: Being Single in the LDS World
By Valerie J. Steimle

Late this spring, I released “Awakening Avery,” my LDS women’s novel dealing with a recently-widowed middle-aged woman’s struggle to redefine her life and her family after the passing of her husband. While promoting the book, I met just such a woman. Her name is Valerie J. Steimle, and she was a member of a women’s writing group I belong to.

As soon as she heard the premise of my book, she said it sounded very much like her own life, which as it turns out, has become the topic of her own writing career, addressing the particular needs LDS over-30 singles confront in a very family-driven church.

Valerie Steimle’s current release on the topic is “Of One Heart, Being Single In The LDS World.” It is not a dry, professional discourse. Instead, it’s a non-fiction collection of personal essays with a journal-like feel, as if Valerie Steimle were inviting you over to her house to offer you the benefit of her personal observations and experience.

And her experience is vast and unique. Her personal story is so compelling that a fictional account would be criticized for being over-the-top. On December 31st, 2005she awoke, a married, mother of nine children, ages six to twenty-four. One was on a foreign mission, one was married, two were college and post-college, and five were still at home. Minutes after midnight, her fifty-year-old husband of twenty-five years passed silently away of a massive coronary, leaving her to start the New Year alone as a widow, singly-parenting a large family. In the next year she would also become a grandmother, and a success story about not just surviving, but thriving in the face of adversity.

Steimle recognizes the unique needs of singles, but she also points out the nee
d for singles to step up and claim their place in their wards and families. To these ends, she wrote “Of One Heart” to:
a) inspire singles to excel despite being alone in a two-by-two world,
2) to help loved ones better support singles, and
3) to help leaders better minister to singles

In addition to Steimle’s personal observations, “Of One Heart” also represents the insight she’s gleaned from talking to singles in all situations, and from surveys she’s
conducted amongst her peers. Beautiful, insightful quotes and scriptures, that kept her going, are sprinkled throughout.

“Of One Heart” is almost a hands-on manual on living singly, including advice on organizing successful conferences and activities to involve members of this frequently lonely sphere. I caught up with Valerie and asked her opinion on a few topics dear to most adult singles' hearts.

1. What was the hardest part of being an LDS single-parent?

The hardest part of being an LDS single-parent is bearing total responsibility for my children. I can have home teachers and visiting teachers helping me, but the ultimate responsibility was mine and that was overwhelming at times.

2. What is the single best piece of advice for over-30 singles?

Stay active at church. Go to the temple for peace, and keep yourself worthy always. Whether you realize it or not the Lord is watching over you always.

3. What is the best piece of advice you can give to RS and Priesthood leaders trying to minister to over-30 singles?

The best advice is to not judge too harshly. I have seen this occur unnecessarily when there was no fault on the part of the single member. The Lord knows our hearts and why we are in the situation we have found ourselves. Just love those singles in your area. Love them back to the Gospel.

"Of One Heart: Being Single in the LDS World" would make an excellent resource to share with over-30 Singles, as well as those who love and lead them.

“Of One Heart” can be purchased from Valerie's web site, Strengthen Your Home, or at Amazon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


K8 the Book Buff recently read and reviewed "DARK SKY AT DAWN" on her very popular, high-traffic book review site. It was a privilege to see my book reviewed and rated in a forum that features books by national authors like James Patterson. The review was incredibly flattering though tough. I'm grinning ear-to-ear.

Dark Sky at Dawn was an absolute joy to read. One of the most impressive aspects of the book was how much research was put in to create such an authentic feel. I read so many books that it seems as if an author just woke up one day and thought "gee, I think I'll write about the Civil War", considering historical authenticity to be merely a minor detail. Notice I say authenticity, not accuracy. This book is a work of fiction, the characters are fiction, so some creative license is expected to insinuate these characters into a real historical period. This is the delicate tightrope an author must balance, between creative license and authenticity--and L.C. Lewis does so magnificently. Aside from the book being a wonderful period piece, there is a heart rending and beautiful love story going on between some of the main characters. There was one detail where I felt the romance fell a bit short: anyone who reads or writes romance knows that a lot of the tension in a romance is created by miscommunication and mixed signals. I felt as if Dark Sky at Dawn stretched the drama a little too far and may have had just one too many missed communication or mixed signal. An aspect of the romance I did love was the unselfishness of the characters, and also the tenderness and friendship between them.

The non-romantic relationships of the characters in the book were rich and complex as well. Few people in the book are cut and dry simple characters of pure good or pure evil, there are many delicious layers to unwrap on each person, and so many stereotypes are broken. I think this book is a great book to reach out to many different audiences. There is great romance, great action, great history, and a great sprinkling of politics. No one aspect overwhelms another, but instead creates a beautiful symphony of genres. There is also some religion in the book, as the time period had great religious upheaval, but it is not pushy, cheesy, or overdone. Overall I loved Dark Sky at Dawn and rate it a 2, Borders with a Coupon. There were just a few things that held the book back from perfection, but stay tuned because I am loving this author and plan to review more of her books in the future and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a 1 in there somewhere :)

Friday, August 6, 2010


My upcoming release, "OH SAY CAN YOU SEE?, volume four of my Free Men and Dreamers series, carries our characters through the impassioned stories of the Battles of Baltimore and North Point, climaxing with events surrounding the writing and publishing of the Star Spangled Banner.

How much do you know about this great period of history? The bicentennial is fast approaching. Here's a chance to raise your family's "Star Spangled IQ" and win some patriotic prizes as well.

Since "OH SAY CAN YOU SEE?" is set for an October 2010 release, I’m sponsoring a month-long educational contest families can participate in together.

The following list of twenty words or phrases all have significance to the Battle of Baltimore, the Battle of North Point, and/or the “Star Spangled Banner.” Using the following links or others you may find, write a short answer about the significance of each of the twenty items to these events. If you correctly identify all twenty, you’ll be entered in a contest to win a four-volume, autographed set of Free Men and Dreamers books, a children's book about America titled, "Let Freedom Ring," or a commemorative “Star Spangled Banner” flag from Fort McHenry. The last day to enter is September 10, 2010. The winner will be announced on September 14th!

Ready, set, learn!

1. September 14, 1814
2. Clagett’s Brewery
3. Mary Pickersgill
4. Defence of Fort McHenry
5. Patapsco River
6. Major General Ross
7. Admiral Cockburn
8. Major George Armistead
9. Francis Scott Key
10. Dr. William Beanes
11. Major General Samuel Smith
12. Congreve
13. Baltimore Patriot
14. John Skinner
15. Fifteen
16. Rampart
17. Captain Joseph Hopper Nicholson
18. Broadsheet
19. North Point
20. Wool bunting

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Joan Sowards: "Chocolate Roses"

People often ask, “How did you become a writer?” The answers writers give are as diverse as the writers themselves, but a more important question might be, “How did you almost NOT become a writer?” Those answers are more telling, because they frequently illustrate the power of a negative comment to crush budding dreams, preventing an aspiring writer from nurturing their interest into what could prove to be a great talent. How many Emersons’ work never left the notebook for want of a nudge from a supportive mentor, teacher or parent? It’s worrisome.

Author Joan Sowards has such a story to tell, and we’re grateful a second opportunity came along to inspire her to pursue her craft. Parents, take note. These early projects are important.

In 5th grade, I started writing a Nancy Drew wannabe novel. I had no plot planned, only characters, but I knew there should be a lot of weird happenings, ticking clocks, and hidden passageways. It came to a point when I knew the story was going nowhere. One day at school, I told the substitute teacher about my book. She must have had a vendetta against authors for she made some derogatory remarks aimed at them. I didn’t keep that story, but I wish I had so that today I’d have a sample of my first work.

I’ve written songs and lyrics all my life and thought my talents were limited to singing and composing. Since the Nancy Drew incident, I hadn’t tried writing fiction again except that I made up stories on demand for my children. After my last child was born, I was very involved in family history research. I found a name of a woman whom I thought might be by ancestor, but couldn’t prove it. I continually felt prompted to sit down and write how an interview with her would go. When I finally gave in and started, the woman’s reaction surprised me. I kept writing until the story grew into a novel.That experience opened up a whole new world. I learned I loved developing plots, characters, subplots, and everything about the craft of writing novels. I don’t have an agenda in my themes, just the desire to tell a story, something that might be pure enjoyment for readers.

It’s never too late to start writing. It’s never too late to discover new talents.

Joan’s second published novel, Chocolate Roses, an LDS inspirational romance, debuts this month. Her first release was a paranormal/mystery/romance titled, “Haunts Haven.” Even though Joan’s titles straddle different genres, romance appears to be Joan’s first passion and her literary forte. When asked, “What inspired you to write romance? Joan’s response was, “I think every story needs romance, if not just a touch of it.”

Reviews of Chocolate Roses have been glowing, proof that readers are looking for more than a sizzling love story. Many want a positive, uplifting romance that touches their spirits as well as their hearts.

From the back cover. You’ve got to love the premise:

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.

Chocolate Roses hits high marks for being a well-rounded tale with laughter and drama, carefully blended in a style some are calling “similar in style to Jane Austin’s Jane Eyre.”

We’re ever so grateful Joan pursued her dreams. Her publisher is Walnut Springs Publishing, and her books are available on Amazon, at Deseret Books and at your local LDS bookstore.

Joan and Walnut Springs are giving away two copies of Joan’s book and a darling apron as part of the promotional tour. To enter, simply leave a comment below (along with your email address if it isn't on your blog profile) and answer the following question.

What's your favorite type of chocolate: white, dark, or milk?

Click here to see all the dates and locations for Chocolate Roses' book blog tour.

The contest ends midnight MST on August 8 so hurry to be eligible.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


The results are in from the Marriage Survey I hosted last week. The survey question was, "What Characteristics are Most Important When Choosing a Spouse." The results are based on a 10-point scale.

The first column shows the score that characteristic earned on a ten-point scale. Column two indicated the rank it received by it's score.

Sadly, "Integrity" fell off the characteristic list during edits, and from the number of people who manually added it on their entries, I think it would have factored high in the results.

It's not scientific by any means, but it does provide a compelling glimpse at what men and women are looking for in a spouse, and how their concerns differ by gender.

For people familiar with the document, "Family:A Proclamation to the World," the results powerfully support the principles outlined there.

Thanks to all of you who took the survey!


The birth of our fifth grandchild punctuated some other tender memories as her birth fell on the fifth anniversary of her mother's kidney transplant. We've hit some painful milestones in our family--each of them seemed too huge to bear, too overwhelming to survive at the moment. But as we all know, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and after the storm comes the rainbow. Avery is a wondrous rainbow.

The stones that tripped us up in our earlier years were nothing compared to the asteroid-sized troubles we faced as we and our children have gotten older, perhaps because we've grown beyond the point where we even noticed the small ones with any more than a passing scowl. Nearly each of our children has experienced a life-altering event, but Amanda's transplant loomed life-threatening, and we got through this one solely on prayer, priesthood power, the strength of temple blessings and the courage and love of others.

That period seems like another life now. Because of strict obedience to her physicians' counsel, and complete faith in the Lord, Amanda is healthier than ever, and the rewards of enduring well have been the fulfillment of her most precious dreams.

She had a blast in college, (we jokingly recall a conversation where I impressed upon her that "college was not a sleepover with books. . .")but her dream was always clear--she wanted a husband to love and a family.

She and Nick found their way to one another mere weeks before the dreadful diagnosis of end stage renal failure. She had been feeling more tired than usual that last semester of college, but what college senior doesn't? As soon as Nick heard the news, he planned his proposal, and the two were wed two months later while Amanda was healthy enough to enjoy her wedding day. She recovered beautifully, and after following every direction with exactness, she is healthy and happy. Now they have a lovely little family, and the most important dreams have come true.

So storms will come, and then, if we are anchored solidly on good principles with the faith to obey and hold on, eventually, we will see our rainbows. They may not follow the exact outcome we prayed and longed for, but we will receive knowledge that can only he learned in the crucible of faith; and peace and understanding will come. These hard-won rainbows are especially magnificent, perhaps because of what we endured to see them.

So here are a few photos of this little family enjoying a season of bliss. I hope it gives us all strength to hang on through our own moments when we feel like we're sitting in the bulls eye of the dartboard with fiery darts descending upon us.

I hope today is filled with peace for you and those you love.