Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Style and Substance

Read the following two descriptive passages and decide which one you like best:

It was completely dark. Thunder rumbled as clouds slowly filled the valley and threatened rain. Suddenly, a lightning bolt flashed down from the sky, striking somewhere nearby, and a loud peal of thunder followed.

The night was moonless. Clouds growled and climbed over one another as they filled the valley. A jagged shard of liquid light shot from the underbelly of the roiling mass and touched down nearby, like a door to a much brighter world cracking open before slamming shut again.

In discussions I’ve had with readers and writers of LDS fiction lately, several of them have noted the same thing. Something is missing from many of the books currently being published, something that makes them not quite up-to-par with fiction published in larger market or at the national level in most genres.


What I’m hearing is that readers are not consistently seeing the kind of emotion-evoking description that they find in the highest quality writing. In many cases, manuscripts are being accepted because they tell a good story, are well-written, and follow the general rules of fiction. They just don’t have the spit-polished “dazzle” that lights up what readers consider to be “great writing”.

In the first of the passages above, the description is pedestrian. There’s nothing new or interesting about any of the words. Almost all of them are everyday terms that could be used in a middle-grade book without anyone scrambling for a dictionary. It describes a thunderstorm in a way that’s been used a thousand times. The word “suddenly” may be one of the top 10 most overused words in all fiction.

The second passage is more original. We don’t normally think of clouds as associated with verbs like “growl” or “climb” but they create the picture. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a lightning bolt described as “a jagged shard of liquid light”, or the image of a lightning bolt as a cracked-open door to another world. The words used are not obscure or overstuffed with syllables, but they are fresh and seldom used in this context.

How do we improve our descriptive images without adding substantially to our word count or alienating the reader with obscure words? One answer is to read more high-quality published fiction. Reading is how I best acquire new words, not by repeating vocabulary lists or perusing the dictionary. Of course, occasionally I’ll run across one that I can’t decipher from the context, and have to look it up. I’m okay with that as a reader. As a writer, I should stick with words that I already own, however limited my vocabulary may be, and not scramble for reference books. Too much word research could result in inappropriate usage that puts off editors and annoys readers. Researching words while reading, on the other hand, is more like a basketball player doing layup drills and practicing free throws: It gets me ready for the game.

While drafting, I don’t worry much about word choice. Since I’m going to re-write and revise several more times before submission, why bog myself down debating between “green” and “verdant”? But on that final or next-to-final run-through, you can bet I’ll be searching my cerebral archives (not Webster, if I can help it) for the best descriptive words in each sentence. I’ll look for simile opportunities to replace flat description, and strong verbs to replace weak adverbs. I’ll ask myself questions like, “Have I already used this word too many times? Is there another word or phrase that says it better?” I’ll often use my word processor’s “search” function to count how many times a certain word or phrase appears, and that task has saved me much of the embarrassment of repetition.

Of course, you might disagree with my assessment of the two passages above. You might be thinking the second passage is TOO wordy, and that the first one is better for most readers in most situations. In a recent review, my first novel was criticized as being "weighty" in its description. I’ll admit, I love words, and if I’m not careful I’ll use most of the ones I know in every story. I may not be your best role model when it comes to this subject.

How do you feel about your own vocabulary, and the way you use it? Do you always have a dictionary and thesaurus nearby, or do you trust what’s in your head, at least in the drafting stage? What processes do you use to make sure you are creating the best imagery possible with your word choices?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

by Rebecca Talley

I did a book signing the weekend before last. The signing was great, but I learned even more on the way home. The four of us, Tristi Pinkston, Daron Fraley, Don Carey, and I stopped at libraries and bookstores between Logan and Salt Lake. Following Tristi's lead, I learned from a fearless master to step out of my comfort zone and approach people about my book.

I don't have a problem talking to people. I can talk for a long time (just ask my kids), but talking to someone about my author self and my books is something altogether different. I always feel funny talking up my book because I feel like I'm bragging and being conceited or something. I love to talk writing and I love my books, but I don't want people to think of me as a salesperson trying to pawn off my books. Yet, if I don't talk about my books than I may not be doing part of my job as an author. It's a catch-22 for me.

I used to think being an author meant I wrote books. That's true, but that isn't the whole picture. Promotion and marketing are a big part of being an author. With so many great LDS books by so many talented authors, how will I stand out, especially if I don't try to promote mine? And, yet, I feel like that obnoxious car salesman that won't leave you alone for two seconds.

I haven't been too vocal about my books in the area where I live. I have visited, and even done a book launch, at an area LDS bookstore (I've known the owners forever) and I've contacted the newspaper to do an article. But, other than that, I've left my promotion to what I can do online because I'm way cooler online. But, after watching Mistress Tristi in action, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try a few more things in my area.

I visited an area library and asked if I could leave bookmarks, but was told I couldn't and that left me a little deflated. But I decided not to give up and visited Hastings Bookstore and asked again. Not only did they allow me to leave bookmarks, but asked if I'd like to do a book signing. A few days later, I visited another nearby library. After slipping on the ice and landing in a snowbank, I wiped myself off, shook the snow out of my shoe, dusted off my purse, and asked if I could leave bookmarks. I was pleasantly surprised when the librarian there agreed to let me. I then went to a bookstore near that library and was able to leave bookmarks. The gentleman even asked me to call back so they could get more information and help promote a local author. Hooray!!

I'd still much rather write than promote. And if I never had to promote again, I'd be happy. But, it is what it is and stepping out of my comfort zone didn't actually kill me so I may try it again. Someday.

PS I ordered 1000 bookmarks from, both sides, glossy finish for about $60. I chose the 2-4 business day turnaround on a Wednesday and had my bookmarks the following Monday morning. I'd recommend this company.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I'm embarrassingly late getting this posted today. It'd be great if I could tell you all that, somehow, my automatic post just didn't work right or that I'd been on vacation in some south pacific island and had no internet.

But, really, I've been sidetracked.

Sidetracked is not the same as being derailed, though it can feel similar sometimes. For me, being derailed means everything you had prioritized and orderly in your life falls apart. That happened a few months ago, actually. Fortunately, this time I was just sidetracked.

I have this stupid sinus thing going on. It's been driving me crazy for over a week now. And, this morning, I decided to go to the doctor rather than tend to my Monday blog posts. I was going to type up all my blog posts for the week yesterday, but, again, I felt too miserable to sit at the computer.

Pity party over. I hate dwelling on how miserable I feel, the pain I'm in, the symptoms--and all that. So, we're done. Tomorrow I will be feeling much better.

I've also been working really hard on edits for The Tyrant King. In fact, I almost have a full manuscript ready for beta readers. Granted, my work has slacked off considerably in the last few days, but I'm not stopping. No way.

Saturday, I woke up with a fantastic idea for solving a particular plot problem. I'd dreamed the scene the night before. But my kids decided to be incredibly needy Saturday, so I didn't get the writing done I'd planned. Such is life.

I imagine the things that sidetrack me are the things that get each of us in turn. Life happens, so the saying goes. But I'm not going to let that stop me. I'm stubborn that way. :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Kind of Creature Are You?

I am a creature of habit. When I go to my favorite restaurant I usually order the same meal. If I’m daring, I might rotate between two different meals. When I vacation in a certain city, I tend to stay at the same hotel. I wake up at the same time every morning, whether I have work or not, and I essentially follow the same routine every day. Sounds a bit boring doesn’t it, but to me it’s comfortable. I like knowing what to expect, but I’ve got to be honest, sometimes it bores me too.

Sometimes I get in a rut and need to shake things up a bit, you know, live a little. So from time to time I’ll get wild and switch my brand of chocolate cupcake or order the Chalupa instead of a Chimichanga. I’m a wild and crazy guy.

I notice I get into similar ruts in my writing. The rut I noticed most recently is that I write everything in 3rd person. There’s nothing wrong with third person. I enjoy reading it and when I envision a story in my mind, I usually view it like I would watch a TV show or movie, which lends itself to 3rd person point of view. But I have to ask myself “Do I dare try something new?” My answer this week, is “yes”!

My first two completed manuscripts, including Defensive Tactics, and my current Work In Progress are all 3rd person so I decided to shake things up. This week I started another WIP in 1st person POV. I’m the last of the party animals. I have to admit, this new experiment makes me a little nervous. Can I do it? Will it suck rocks? Is it a total waste of my time? The answers are- I don’t know, I don’t know, and NO. I will never know the answer to the first two questions if I don’t try, but regardless of whether it turns into a publishable manuscript or not, my new 1st person WIP is not a waste of my time because it is forcing me to stretch and grow and experiment. So far I love it.

A couple of years ago I started writing Defensive Tactics because I was curious if I could write a novel. It was an experiment. I had never written anything before, unless you count college papers, which I don’t. I wrote my second manuscript, Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island because I love adventures and treasure hunts and I wondered if I could write a mid-grade fantasy that my kids would enjoy. My kids love it but the publishing jury is still out. In both cases I took a chance to try something new.

There is comfort and safety in sticking with habit and the familiar, but there can be excitement, challenge and reward in broadening horizons.

I have a couple of questions for you.

1- What kind of a creature are you?
2- What kind of ruts do you get into? Writing? Reading?
3- How do you get out of it?
4- How many WIP do you have going at the same time?

I would love to read your answers and learn from your wisdom.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chocolate, The Staff of Life

After reading Don's post, I'd like to suggest one more thing. Have chocolate at the signing table as an incentive to draw potential customers to your table.

I have to say that dark chocolate is my best friend and we get together every afternoon and ponder many things. One subject that rattles in my head while chewing a piece of dark chocolate is the time I've spend in rewriting chapters or paragraphs . . . even sentences in the manuscript I'm now working on, because I can't seem to get them where they need to be. I've even found myself trying to control the characters.

I know! I know! The author should never try to control the characters in his or her book, only let the characters control themselves and, at times, the author. It is the responsibility of the author to let the characters tell the story and just accommodate them by being there to do the typing. You might be interested to know that it was while chewing on a piece of dark chocolate, that I realized that I was actually trying to be the boss.

Then, this morning, I got up at 4:00 a.m. and spent three hours overworking six paragraphs with no chocolate to console me, because it is not wise, so I understand, to eat dark chocolate in the dark. But, if I find myself working on my manuscript at 4:00 tomorrow morning, I will take a detour into the kitchen, open the cupboard that stores the chocolate and remove three squares. Then I shall continue on my trek to the little office where I sit with my laptop, because I know that where there's chocolate there is clarity of the imagination. (Perfect excuse, don't you think?)

But, again, you may think that I'm becoming a hopeless chocoholic. But one does what is necessary to clear the path to publication.

Have a great day and please eat some chocolate.

Marketing: Where the Rubber Hits the Runway

I love writing, and am proud to call myself a writer, yet it's been weeks and weeks since I've actually written anything. Instead, I've (temporarily) become that somewhat scary and misunderstood creature, a Marketer.

This past week I had the privilege of introducing Bumpy Landings to the world, and I've learned quite a bit in that short time. I'm by no means an expert, but I thought it would be helpful for both you and me if I shared three of the lessons I've learned.

1. Have books on hand and be prepared to sell them. My home teacher came by the day after my books arrived, and I proudly showed them to him. He asked where he could buy one, and I pointed him to Amazon and Moon's LDS bookstore in Dallas. After he left, my wife said, "I think he really wanted to buy one from you."

I answered that these were copies for me to send to reviewers, but as I thought about it I realized I could always get more for them. So I took one with me the next time we met, and he eagerly bought it. I have since schlepped a box of books with me everywhere I go, and when people ask where they can buy one, I say "Right here."

Being prepared also applies to having business cards with book info in my pocket, and preparing a smooth 30-second pitch. I'm still working on that, but it's gotten a lot better than "It's about this guy, and, um, there are airplanes..."

2. Play to your (and your book's) strengths. My book is set in Hawai'i, so I've adopted that as the theme for much of my promotion. The idea of "escaping the winter chill" features prominently in my marketing material, and people have commented that Bumpy Landings helps them do just that.

At a recent signing, I took my ukulele to fill in the quiet spots. I'm hardly a master strummer, but it was fun for both me and the people I was with. Also, notice the little paper airplane to the side of my stack of books. Since Bumpy Landings features flying as part of its central conflict, I printed up airplane patterns with the cover colors and book title, and give them out to kids. I have no idea how effective they will be as marketing tool, but they sure are fun.

3. Include your friends. I stand by my assertion that the best part of this whole writing gig has been the friends I've made in the writing community. This past Saturday, I was invited to participate with three of those friends at a signing in Logan at The Book Table. Having friends at the store made it especially fun, as we were able to talk amongst ourselves during the slow periods, and we were able to attract a broader range of readers.

(Okay, actually everyone came to see Tristi, but that worked out well for the rest of us.)

Once the signing was over, we worked our way down the Wasatch Front, stopping at bookstores and libraries to introduce ourselves and share bookmarks. I learned a ton from hanging out with Tristi and Rebecca and Daron, and I look forward to planning events with other authors in the very near future.

What are some of the marketing lessons you have to share?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

You Are What You Read

                                                                 By Trina Boice

Scholastic Books has recently created a fun, new web site entitled  where you can join an online book community that lets you connect with readers around the world through the books that have shaped your life. 

The web site showcases celebrities and other famous people as they reveal which five books most influenced them in their lives.  It's called your "bookprint"...the list of books that leave an indelible mark on our lives, shaping who we are and who we become.

So, is it true that you are what you read?  If so, what are YOU?  What do the books on your bedside table say about you? Which books would you put on your top five?  According to the web site, the most listed books include:
* To Kill a Mockingbird
* The Bible
* Harry Potter Boxed Set
* Pride and Prejudice
* The Catcher in the Rye
* Gone with the Wind
* The Hunger Games
* The Giving Tree
* The Giver
* Charlotte's Web
* The Lord of the Rings

Hmmm....that explains a lot about our society, eh?  A great book stays with you, no matter where it goes.  Even funner is sharing a good book with someone else.  The web site features "Pass It On", where you can select a favorite book, print out a bookplate, and then give it to someone who may not be familiar with that particular book.

Teachers and parents are given tips to help younger readers discover the wonders of reading, and the site boasts a world-wide map that shows favorite book trends across the globe.  "Bookmates", "Book Blurbs" and other fun options allow you to create an interactive profile on their site. 

It's all a lot of fun.  Check it out and if you can't think of your top five books, you could always list one of the ones I wrote...(wink).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to Write

I'm thinking about starting another fiction writing project, and I'm wondering to myself, how did I actually write a whole book before? If the truth were known, as it should be because I consider myself to be an honest person, each time I have written fiction, it has come out differently, and I've decided that each of these ways have their own benefits. They are as follows:

1. The I've-never-written-a-novel-before-so-I-really-have-no-idea-what-I'm-doing method. My first ever novel started with a wisp of a story line. I had written the whole story, everything in my mind from start to finish, and it was only 74 pages long. Well, I knew that novels were longer than that, and if there was any hope to getting it published, I needed to make it longer. Then a subplot idea came to mind, and I worked that in through the pages. By the time I was done, it was around 70,000 words, and it took roughly six months to complete it. (However, it never did get published.)
~Pros: I was able to crank this work out because I first focused on the base plot, then subplots.
~Cons: I feel less creative when I write this way because so much of what I write just comes as I'm typing.

2. The I-can't-type-the-words-in-my-head-out-fast-enough method. My second novel just came to me one day, and I had all these scenes rolling through my mind. I jotted them down on paper, then started typing at the beginning of the story and worked my way up to those scenes. It took about a year to finish it. I say finish, because I thought at the time that I was. In reality, it was just a rough draft I had completed, and it took a great chunk of time to learn about editing and other tools to turn my draft into something publishable.
~Pros: This worked well for me because there was a great deal of passion to help me get the story out.
~Cons: I fear that I was almost obsessed with this story while writing it, and probably bored many a people in my family with talking about it all the time.

3. The This-is-a-really-cool-story-but-I-have-no-idea-how-to-develop-it method. When my third story came to mind, I had a rough idea of some scenes and where I wanted the story to go, and I began typing, again, jotting down specific scenes so they wouldn't be forgotten. But this one was really different for me because so much of the story, subplots, character quirks and other things, just fell from my fingers as I typed. Often times I would sit at my computer at the designated writing time, with absolutely no clue what to write, and the words just came. I still don't know how.
~Pros: Allows for a great deal of random creativity. I was guessing how it was going to turn out. It was almost like I was reading it, only I was more actively involved.
~Cons: I still don't know how to end it just right.

4. The My-brain-is-aching-from-thinking-about-how-to-work-plots-so-I'm-going-to-write-with-two-other-brains method. My fourth fiction work was different than them all, because I wrote it with my two sisters. It was pure fun (something that's an absolute must for me in writing.) While writing it, we would each take a turn creating and typing a chapter, then we rotated through like this until it was complete. It was so interesting to see a plot and subplots unfold as we wrote and added onto what the others had written.
~Pros: There is no brain wracking, trying to think of a way to finish things off or tie them in.
~Cons: If you are stubborn about how you want the story to go, then this method won't work. But if you can create, type, and let go until it's your turn again, it's wonderful.

Now with this new work I would like to start, I'm thinking of typing up certain main scenes, kind of like a skeleton, then adding muscle and flesh with subplots. It's very similar to the first method I used, when I didn't realize that writing that way was actually a method.

So, what works for you?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Signing Etiquette - A Fine Line

Just one last plug from me for this event Thursday night. Please show up and bring every reader you know to support Don if you possibly can. He's coming all the way from Texas, so the Utah crowd doesn't get to see him often. Getting a signed copy of "Bumpy Landings" will bring a breath of fresh tropical air to your frigid January. Oh, and the "light pupus" do sound intriguing.

So I’ve been contacted by Emily at Cedar Fort, who wants to set up a series of signings for me at Seagull Book stores up and down the Wasatch Front. Seagull has 20 locations from Riverdale to Spanish Fork, most of them smaller (less than 2,000 square feet) stores in “strip mall” type shopping centers. There won’t be a whole lot of traffic unless I bring it in. It’s going to take all of my marketing and promotion skills to prepare for this tour and ensure that it’s worthwhile.
Since my novel’s theme involves formalwear, I plan to make my appearances in a tuxedo, the same uncomfortable yet elegant outfit I wore at the launch party. I’ll have my posters, bookmarks, and a decorated table as a base of operations. The overall effect is that I will probably scare the heck out of unsuspecting customers entering the tiny store.
I’ve combed the internet for articles on how to make signings successful. If there’s one thing they all agree on, it’s that the author should not just sit there and play with his cell phone, waiting for customers to come up and demand his or her precious signature on a book. On the other hand, coming across as too gregarious can send people running for the door. My wife admitted to me that if a guy in a tuxedo walked up to her at Seagull Book and greeted her with “What kind of books do YOU like?”, she would be decidedly “creeped out”. The last thing I’m shooting for in my presentation is the “creep factor”.
So where’s the fine line between vanishing introversion and overbearing extroversion? I’ll need to experiment. If someone avoids eye contact and keeps moving, let ‘em go. Those fish aren’t biting. If they make eye contact and smile with even a hint of curiosity, I’ll be ready with a question. Being a natural introvert, a certain amount of awkwardness is inevitable at first. I need to be polite, visible, and confident, without coming across as a street vendor.
The key to my confidence, or course, is my book. I have no doubt that it’s worth the purchase price. There are hundreds of people who could be entertained and uplifted by what I’ve written if they just KNEW about it. There are no billboards advertising it, no TV or radio spots, and no magazine ads. Just one guy in a tux with a passion for a good story and a great suggestion for a Valentine’s Day gift. This is more than selling; this is making connections with people one-on-one. It’s something I haven’t been particularly good at, a skill I know I need to improve on. This tour is a huge opportunity.
What about you experienced authors out there, the battle-scarred veterans of many signings? What have you learned that made your signing appearances more successful, and what are the big no-nos? How have you found a way to straddle the “fine line”? Please illuminate us with your comments. Also, if any of you authors are approved to sign at Seagull and want to partner with me for any appearances (arranged through CFI of course), it would sure make me feel a lot less nervous.
Speaking of book signings, let’s not forget about the Northern Utah events on Saturday featuring that Quintessential Quartet of Quixotic Quill-bearers, namely Rebecca Talley, Don Carey, Tristi Pinkston, and Daron Fraley (go HERE for more info!).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Super Fantastic Book Signing THIS Saturday

Did I get your attention with that title? I hope so. I wanted to announce a Super Fantastic Book Signing. That's right, it's going to be awesome.

Tristi Pinkston, Daron Fraley, Don Carey, and I are all going to be signing books THIS Saturday. I'm celebrating the launch of my book, The Upside of Down. Both Tristi and Don have January releases as well. Bumpy Landings by Don Carey is now available as is Dearly Departed by Tristi Pinkston. Daron Fraley will be signing his book, The Thorn. Isn't that exciting? We think it is and we'd love to have you join us for our book signings. (You know, I keep wanting to type book "singings"--maybe that'd be fun, you could come and hear us sing about our books . . . . Or not.)

Here are the details:

We'll be in Logan from 11:00-1:00 at The Book Table, 29 South Main Street. Then we'll head over to Ogden and be there from 3:00-5:00 at Wisebird Bookery, 4850 Harrison Blvd # 5. If you are going to be in the Logan or Ogden area this Saturday, January 15th, please stop by to see us. And, if you can keep your fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate and allow me to travel, that'd be awesome.

Hope to see you there!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Making Headway

It feels good to be making progress again, as a writer. With the craziness of the book launch, signings, and then the holidays, I really fell behind on my editing. But, last week, I edited the first six chapters of The Tyrant King. Yay!

Chapter seven is where it starts getting really hairy. I mean, so far we've had two characters die, but now the attacks start hitting home. My main characters are going to face some direct peril, which is always good in a story, but I'm terribly curious to see how my beta readers react.

I'm doing something a little different this time. I have three beta readers who get the story chapter by chapter and give me feedback. I'd planned to stop at chapter three, but the process has been working for me--and providing accountability if I fall behind--so I'm going to stick with it. I love that my beta readers are patient with me. And it really helps that they are loving the story.

One reader, in particular, is troubled by how many small details I had to leave out of The Peasant Queen. What is the main character wearing? What are the details of the room? I'm better at putting those things in now without slowing the pace of the story. I don't have to stop the action to explain how the room looks now, or what the character is wearing--though I don't always have the descriptions right at the front of a scene.

But, this process is all about getting better, right? This is what we do. And some of it we simply have to learn through trial and error.

On to chapter seven!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Stranger Comes to Town- Book Review of Who's At the Door?

Who’s At The Door? is a classic “Stranger Comes to Town” master plot. In this case the “Stranger” is the full time missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dan is the hero of his own story and as is always the case, the “Stranger” enters the scene and provides a disruption, which is the basis of this page-turning memoir.

To start out, I have a couple of confessions to make. 1- I have never read a memoir before, 2- Because I am such a slow reader, I really don’t read all that often. When I say I’m slow, I mean I’m REALLY slow so for me reading is a huge commitment of time. With those two confessions made, I must tell you that I read Who’s At the Door? in one afternoon. I stretched out on the couch with the fire roaring in front of me and I lost myself in the story. Since I really didn’t know what to expect from this book, I intended to read a chapter or two to get a feel for it, but just as in good fiction, each chapter had a hook that compelled me to keep reading.

As a private person myself, I find it fascinating how Dan is able to open up and share so much of his personal thoughts and feelings with the reader. There are moments of deep thought and doctrinal searching but also many moments of fun and humor as he describes the process of getting to know and become friends with various sets of missionaries. When the missionaries first show up at his door, Dan describes the excitement he feels for having the chance to teach these hay-seed Elders a thing or two about the world. He plans to awe them with the modern contraptions like…the microwave oven and microwave popcorn. He’s sure they’ve never seen anything so wonderful in their lives. Dan quickly learns that he has some misconceptions about the Elders and the entire LDS church.

Who’s At The Door? challenges members of other faiths to evaluate their misconceptions of the Mormon Church. It also challenges members of the church to look at the culture and doctrines of the church through fresh eyes, viewing it as an investigator or returning member might. If we do this we may find ways to connect with people in a meaningful way and advance our own goals in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When a “Stranger” comes into our life, do we treat them with mistrust and fear, or are we open to learn from their unique perspectives and life history? Dan’s book is not a conversion story or even a recommendation that people investigate or join the LDS church. It is simply one man’s experience as he broadens his horizons to understand a people and a faith he previously did not know. He sought knowledge directly from the people and scriptures of the LDS faith, which is a good example to all of us. He accepted the “Strangers” into his home and grew from the experience.

After finishing the book, I had many questions so I inquired of Dan and he graciously agreed to do an interview. I posted the interview on my blog before Christmas. Check out my interview here.

In case you couldn’t tell, I recommend this book. The writing style is easy and the story is compelling. Great combination. Buy it here

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years Resolutions

I've often wondered who it was that resolved in making New Years Resolutions a new year's tradition. I've often wondered how many individuals resolve to keep the resolutions they make each year. Do I? Do You? Hmm.

So that I would more fully understand the meaning and commitment of a resolution, I looked it up in the dictionary.


1. Something decided on.
2. Act of resolving or determining.
3. Power of holding firmly to a purpose.
4. Determination.
5. A formal expression of opinion

Okay, does that mean that we resolve to make up our minds to be better in the future? To be firm in carrying out a purpose? To do what we meant to do, last year, but didn't get it done? To stand by an opinion and follow through, no matter what?

I pondered and I considered and finally, when all was resolved, I decided a tea party would be much more fun. There is no rhyme or reason to consider here. I just simply resolved to begin each day with a smile and a tea party with a special friend - my imagination.

Have a Happy New Year, everyone.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Vote for Your Favorite Covers

Every year LDS Publisher selects her favorite covers in various genres and posts them on her blog for public vote.

Eight genres. Five covers per genre.

Check them out and cast your vote. There are some great covers this year!

LDS Publisher

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Starting the new year right with FREE books!

                                                                     By Trina Boice

What's the best way for a writer to start the new year right?  Read more books!  Even better....get them for free!  Nothing gets me more excited than getting awesome stuff for free, so I just had to share with you a list and link of the top 10 books that are available for free download on Kindle:

  1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  2. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  4. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  5. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  6. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  7. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  8. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  10. Invisible (Ivy Malone Mystery Series #1) by Lorena McCourtney

Enjoy!  May your 2011 be filled with many wonderful adventures, both in and out of books!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Start off the new year winning free stuff!

                                                                    by Trina Boice

I'm the Entertainment News Editor at and I'm offering a fun contest there that I wanted you to know about!

While living in Atlanta for 15 years, I became a big fan of Ray Charles’ famous song “Georgia on my Mind.”  Concord Records recently released his newest collection entitled Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters , an incredible collection of newly discovered Ray Charles recordings.   The hit album was produced by John Burk, who gave us Genius Loves Company, Charles’ 2004 Grammy award winning last album. 

After sifting through four decades worth of Ray Charles’ unreleased material, John Burk explains “We have so much respect for Ray, and now being the guardians of his legacy, we didn’t want to release anything substandard. In the end, I think what we have here is on par with some of his greatest works.”  And it is.

Although Ray Charles Robinson died in 2004, the world gets to continue to enjoy his great music, thanks to technology.   The “sonically enhanced” material creates cool tracks, smooth background vocals from Eric Benet and Keb’ Mo’ guitar licks. If you love Ray’s cool blues, soulful gospel and warm country sounds, you’re going to get a kick out this new album. 

In addition to the tracks culled from R.P.M. International, the set also includes a surprise from the Sony vaults – a stirring rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me, Lord?” a gospel flavored duet with Johnny Cash produced by Billy Sherrill in Nashville, recorded in 1981. This one-of-a-kind pearl has gone unheard by the public until now. Contrary to correspondence between Charles and Cash anticipating the release of the song on CBS, the track never saw the light of day for three decades for reasons that remain unknown. Cash takes the lead vocal, while Charles hangs back slightly and delivers hefty backup vocals and equally compelling piano lines. “Ray’s presence in the song helps to establish a sort of marriage between gospel, Christian and country music – the kind of thing Ray was so uniquely good at,” says Burk.

A great American Jazz legend, Ray’s newest CD includes high energy music that gets you moving, as well as romantic ballads that will make you sway and laugh, such as in the song when he questions why he’s still talking to a particular woman when he could be doing something else with her, if ya know what I mean. 

His spirit is alive and well in this album, a reminder that Ray was truly an American treasure.   “The rhythmic and improvisational things Ray did with his vocals were incredibly influential to generations of singers in all genres of music,” says Burk.  “And he would always get inside the meaning of a lyric and make the listener believe every word, as if he were describing his own experiences.  His vocals carried incredible emotion and intensity, even on demo tapes.  That’s how Ray approached his music; I don’t think he knew any other way to do it.” 

Ray would have turned 80 this year, so I thought it would be fitting to hold a contest in his honor, awarding the winner a copy of this outstanding CD. 
To enter the contest, simply answer the 5 questions in the Bella Online forum at:

Be the first to respond correctly and you win!  The free CD is being provided by Concord Records.

Free song:
All people who download are entered to win an 11 CD catalog and a travel itinerary owned by Ray Charles and used on his 1998 tour.
VIDEO:  Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters - Episode 1

Ray Charles Store Buy  Link:  includes special packages
Amazon Buy Link: