Archive for the “reviews” Category
Posted by Margot in reviews
Today at Inklings, I’m interviewing Marlene Sullivan, author of Gaze Into Heaven, a book on near-death experiences of early Latter-Day Saints.
1. Tell us a little about Gaze Into Heaven. Why did you decide to write a book on this fascinating topic?
I didn’t set out to write a book about near-death experiences—I stumbled upon it—and it was the best accident I ever had! I was researching for my first book, Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, when I came across a couple of near-death experiences. I was fascinated and jotted down the references and put them aside, thinking I’d come back to them after I finished my book. Then I began finding truly amazing stories about angels who came to earth to comfort, inspire, or direct early latter-day Saints and ended up writing a series of three books about people who had actually seen or heard an angel.
Then I started to write Gaze Into Heaven. It was so exciting to research and find these near-death experiences. The warm feelings that enveloped me while reading them convinced me they would make a fabulous book. It’s been such a comfort knowing that life continues on in an absolutely beautiful place and that people there are happy, active, and at peace.
2. Is Gaze Into Heaven your first published book? What else have you written?
My first two nonfiction books were Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, volume one and two. These books are compilations of true stories about people in early Church history who risked their life in defense of the gospel.
My next three books are also compilations of true stories in early Church History, and are about angelic experiences. The first book is; And There Were Angels Among Them. The second book in this series is, Visits From Beyond the Veil, and the third is; By the Ministering of Angels. Researching and writing these books made me realize how much Heavenly Father loves his children and that He is completely aware of us and our lives.
I then wrote Brigham’s Boys, which tells the life stories of sixteen men who worked closely with Brigham Young as he brought the Saints across the plains and colonized the Great Basin area.
My first novel, Light on Fire Island came next and I was so happy that it became a bestseller. My second novel, Motive for Murder, will be out in June.
3. Tell us a little about how you fit writing into your schedule? Do you have a special place you like to work on your writing? (home office, hammock, etc. )
I am fortunate to be able to write full time now. In the morning, I do housework, visiting teaching, grocery shopping, yard work, etc. until about 10:30. Then I write until 12:30, taking an hour for lunch and reading. I then take a 10-15 min. power nap before writing until 7 p.m. In the afternoons, I let my two dogs take me for a walk.
I have a wonderful area to write. We remodeled our house four years ago and my writing area is in what used to be our formal dining room. I have an L-shaped desk, which gives me plenty of room. My son talked me into getting two monitors and now I could not live without them.
Outside, I have what I call my “second” office, which is our gazebo. It’s my writing oasis in the late spring, summer, and early fall. We have a large yard and lots of bushes, trees, and lawn so I’m surrounded by nature. I had my husband put up blinds on two sides of the gazebo to cut down on the glare on my laptop. I put a little fountain in one corner, and have a cushioned swing to sit on.
4. Does music help you or distract you while you are writing? If you like to listen to music while you write, what is a favorite selection?
I don’t generally listen to music as I write. However, once in a while I’ll slip in a CD, but it is something simple and soothing, like “Sounds of the Forest” or “Rain” or “Sounds of Nature.”
5. Who is your favorite author? Can you name a favorite book?
One of my favorite authors is Maeve Binchy. I just love her writing, you get really involved in her characters and just fall in love with them. There’s a goodness about her books. She writes about Ireland and its just so interesting. I just finished Minding Frankie, which is good. Glass Lake is really amazing, as is Firefly Summer. I’ve read everything she’s written.
6. How long did it take to write Gaze Into Heaven?
I’d have to guess, because as I mentioned above, it was a on again, off again sort of thing for a while. But I’d estimate it took me nine months. And I LOVED every minute!
7. How did you learn to write?
Learning how to write is an ongoing process. I started in elementary school, did more writing in junior high, and so on. I’ve spent countless hours on manuscripts that were never published, but which helped me improve my writing. I have a bookshelf full of books on writing and every weekday morning, I try to read 2-4 pages. I underline, then later, type up my notes, and save them in a master binder so I can look them over now and then.
I also try to pay attention when I read and when I like something in a book, I think about it and try to figure out why it worked and how I might be able to get it to work for me in my own writing. I also attend writer’s conferences to learn more about the craft of writing. Anyone can write—as long as they are willing to work, work, and work on it.
8. What is the funnest thing about being an author? The most frustrating thing?
The greatest thing about being an author is simply being able to sit down and write. I’m very fortunate to be able to have my husband support my “habit.” I love to write. Sometimes I want to pull out my hair, but the feeling soon passes. I just feel driven to write. Many authors will tell you the same thing—they have this deep inner desire to write. Maybe I’m an addict! So, it’s a joy to simply be able to write and when I polish and revise and am able to put things down just right, there is a real thrill and satisfaction.
I think the most frustrating thing is the first draft. It’s difficult to get the rough draft down. The first step in writing is to come up with an idea, the next step is to plot out the story line, which I enjoy. There’s a sense of satisfaction in getting a solid foundation down. But the first draft is almost torture. It seems that I can write nothing but garbage. I know you have to get something down before you can revise, so I grind my way through it. Then comes revision, which is like taking a stone and polishing it until it sparkles. I go through the manuscript between 6-12 times before I’m satisfied.
Marlene’s book can be purchased at:
as well as the physical locations for Deseret Book and Seagull Book.
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Posted by Margot in reviews
Today I’m sitting down with author Rachel McClellan for a little insight into her writing world.
Rachel is the author of the hysterical–and touching–mommy memoir, Confessions of a Cereal Mother, published by Cedar Fort.
Q: You’ve written two YA paranormal books and now, Confessions of a Cereal Mother, within the space of a fairly short time. Have you always wanted to write, or is this a new passion?
A: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but never took it seriously because I didn’t believe I could ever be an author. Who would want to read what I write? Those were my thoughts anyway. But in 2007 I went on trip to Ireland and something there gave me a burst of confidence and I’ve been writing ever since.
Q: Your mommy memoir Confessions is hilarious! Is life at your home often this funny?
A: Funny, scary….sometimes there isn’t much of a difference. When things are going wrong (i.e. kid throwing up in the car), I’m often thinking, “How can this be happening?” But later, sometimes much later, I can laugh about the events. However, as I grow older, I find just about everything funny and don’t take life so seriously.
Q: With four busy young children, how do you find time to write? Do you have a favorite time of day to sit down and create? Do you have a special place in your home where you can retreat for quiet, or is that sort of a joke? (I know it have been when my kids were little!)
A: My best place to write will probably surprise you. It’s at the gym. Why there? Because they have a place for my kids to play while I “workout”. I drop the kids off then go sit in the lobby and exercise my fingers.
Q: What authors have influenced you the most?
A: When it comes to writing, it was Obert Skye (Leven Thumps) who first showed me how far you can take characters, Markus Zusak (The Book Thief) who showed me how to make words come alive, and Dean Koontz who taught me good story structure. As for authors who influenced my beliefs, I love Ayn Rand and C.S. Lewis.
Q: In what other ways have you learned the craft of writing? Do you enjoy classes, conferences, workshops, etc.?
A: I attended a writers group for a long time in Idaho. They really helped me hone my work. Conferences can be good, too, if you find the right ones. There’s also a couple of killer writing books that helped me immensely like “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Mass and “On Writing” by Stephen King.
Q: Can you name a favorite book/author?
A: I can name several. I love the Odd Thomas series, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Angels are the Repears, Angelfall, Hunger Games, and many, many more.
Q: Any comments on the state of the LDS fiction market?
A: There are some amazing reads that have come from LDS writers, and what’s been wonderful about this is they have proven that you can write a great book free from language and sexual content.
Q: You’ve also written two other books in a young adult paranormal series, Fractured Light and Fractured Soul. Do you enjoy writing fiction?
A: I love it! It is so much fun to create new worlds with all kinds of characters both funny and scary. I like to illicit emotions from my readers and aim hard to do this.
Learn more about Rachel and her books at her website, Rachel McClellan.
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My dear friend Christy Monson has done it again with a wonderful new installment in her Texting Through Time series.
Micah and Alicia are back with their amazing time-traveling smartphone. In the first book, they visited Brigham Young. Next up is John Taylor. The kids time-travel back to various points in his life and get to know him, while at the same time solve a fun, intriguing puzzle.
Christy has a knack for getting historical details correct while keeping the story fresh and fun for kids. The book is packed with fascinating details about John Taylor’s life that I never knew before. I don’t know of a more engaging way for young people to learn about the prophets, and can only hope that the series will continue.
And I just have to say with a proud nod of the head: the illustrations are great! My daughter, Rosalie Ledezma, drew them.
Have you heard of a book blast? If many people plan their purchase of a book for the same day, it helps that book’s Amazon ranking tremendously. The John Taylor Texting Through Time book is set for a book blast on November 13, and Christy is sweetening the pot by holding a drawing for a free Amazon gift card. To participate, buy the book on Amazon on November 13, and then leave a comment on her blog here. You will be automatically entered in the drawing.
This book is a wonderful Christmas gift idea for the young people on your list.
Yay! I have a new article in the Deseret News today. (Sunday, Arts section)
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
Hope you like it.
Posted by Margot in reviews
Please welcome my friend and neighbor Jennifer Beckstrand to Inklings today as part of her blog tour.
I have been married for almost 28 years to the same wonderful guy I fell in love with in college. My four oldest children are girls, and I have two boys at the end. Now that the daughters are out of the house, dinnertime is quite silent. My eldest daughter is married and is mother to my first and only grandchild. One daughter got married in June and another daughter got married in July. It was a crazy summer. We told my fourth daughter she can’t get married for at least a year. We are out of money! I promised myself I would take a very long nap after the second wedding and still haven’t got to it yet.
Amish Romance—and Happy Endings
I currently write Amish romance, which is a blast. I love romance in general and love to dream up wonderful stories. I’ve heard from many readers of Kate’s Song that they’re tempted to read ahead just to make sure things turn out all right. They do! It’s a romance, after all, and I can’t resist a happy ending.
There are three Amish romances in the Forever After in Apple Lake Series (Summerside/Guideposts). Kate’s Song and Rebecca’s Rose are now available. Miriam’s Quilt is scheduled for release in spring of 2013. Kate’s Song was the #1 Romantic Religious Fiction download in the Free Kindle Store, and Rebecca’s Rose is currently in the top 100 Religious Fiction books on Amazon.com.
My books are available online and wherever Inspirational books are sold.
You can learn more about me and my books by going to jenniferbeckstrand.com or on Facebook at Jennifer Beckstrand Fans.
My Writing Journey—or Detour
You know how about four kids into your life you suffer from chronic insomnia because you can’t stop wondering what you forgot to do that day—like hug your child or go to the bathroom?
That is basically how I started my writing career. One night, a few months after the birth of my fourth daughter, I lingered on my pillow unable to sleep and decided to make up a story. It took me 14 years to finish my first romance. Then my agent, Mary Sue Seymour, asked me to try my hand at Amish romance. I fell in love with the genre and about five months later, I had a publisher. It was very exciting!
Writing Process—or Lack Thereof
I do a lot of sitting at the computer, staring at the blank screen, hoping by sheer will that words will come to me. The problem is that when I sit still for more than a few minutes, I invariably fall asleep. I have tried to correct this weakness by snacking while sitting at the computer, which leads to another, weightier problem. As long as my inspiration is flowing and my fingers are flying, I can usually stay awake, although, even on good writing days, my son often comes home to his mother sprawled out on the couch trying to steal a few minutes of sleep.
The advantage of being a task-oriented, stay-at-home mother is that many of my daily jobs allow ample time for musing. I ruminate while puffing on the treadmill or running a vacuum over my carpet or taking a shower. I am notorious for long, indulgent showers—my guilty pleasure. I do my best thinking in there.
I spend about four hours a day writing, three days a week. The rest of the week is hit and miss, and I am very slow.
My motto as a stay-at-home mom is: “My interruptions are my work.” My family takes priority over my writing. So, when my children need me, I’m there. I have been able to manage my deadlines in such a way that I have a little more time for distractions.
Advice—Free and worth every penny
I love dispensing advice! If you are a beginning writer, the first thing I recommend is to learn your craft. Good writing will always be noticed by agents and editors.
How do you learn your craft? Join a writers group like Romance Writers of America or find a critique partner. Attend writing conferences. Read books on writing. Write, write, write every day.
If you want honest feedback on your writing, enter a writing contest. Even if you don’t win, the judges should give you some valuable pointers on how to make your story better.
I’ve heard that the best thing someone can do to improve her writing is to read. I wholeheartedly agree. Read good books of all genres. Even reading poorly written material can help you recognize and avoid mistakes. Volunteer to judge a writing contest. You’ll see lots of things you would do differently.
If you are a writer and you live in Utah, have you considered joining Deseret Connect? That’s the fancy name for freelancing for the Deseret News, and that’s how I snag these fun book review assignments. I had one in the Sunday paper, Arts section yesterday.
New book tells of great S.L walks
It’s good experience and gets me reading out of my usual same-old-same-old. You see, they won’t allow me to review anything that is
1. by a friend
2. published by Covenant
3. a YA book
4. any book in which my own book might be in competition with
These rules are to keep away from a possible conflict of interest. Good idea, but sometimes it really makes me giggle. Like for example, if a YA book by Orson Scott Card came out, I wouldn’t be allowed to review it because our books “compete” in the same market. HAHAHA!!!! As if they could even be spoken of in the same breath.
Anyway, get a hold of me if you’d like info on doing some freelancing of your own for the newspaper. You don’t have to do book reviews…they have all sorts of categories, and you can always come up with your own article ideas and submit them for consideration. Fun!
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Woohoo! I have an article in the Deseret News, reviewing the new book Fit2Fat2Fit, about a guy who gained 75 lbs on purpose…and then lost it again, all in one year. Pretty interesting book.
Click here for the word
Tristi Pinkston has a new book for women on how to become proactive and strong with your money. Check out this way cute video:
(My blogging juju failed to embed the video directly, but please do click over.)
I enjoyed this book. Written in conversations between Tristi and her financial gurus, women can find plenty to relate to. I applaud her gutsy honesty–the numbers used are her actual financials. Fans will be able to continue to track her progress toward her financial goals by going to the above website.
Most things in the book sound like good old common sense. I’m a HUGE Dave Ramsey fan, so I immediately recognized the debt reduction plan in the book as his “Debt Snowball.” Many other money counselors have recommended the same plan. Hey, it works. It’s the best.
Tristi is offering this book FREE until June 15–all you have to do is cover the shipping and handling.
Posted by Margot in reviews
I was pleasantly surprised to find out the mom of my son’s good friend just had a book come out.
Kate’s Song, by Jennifer Beckstrand, is an Amish romance. I confess, I’m not a romance reader, so I wasn’t aware this has become a popular subgenre. Well, I can see why. It’s clean, gentle, and heartwarming. Sort of like Amish people.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish. I suppose I envy them–their peaceful existence, their devotion. In the clamor of real life, it was nice to pick up this book and go somewhere quiet.
That’s not to say the book has no tension or conflict. It’s there. But it’s more along the lines of “will they discover they both love each other despite the twists of fate” rather than bruised lips, heavy breathing and bodice ripping.
Of course it’s not gritty reality. Some books serve a different purpose.
Kate’s Song is well written and edited, published by Summerside Press. Two more Amish romances are on the way.
More information can be found at Jennifer’s website: jenniferbeckstrand.com.
Yay! My book review of a Michael Jackson bio is on the front page of the Deseret News arts section today.
Link to the online version
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