Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Review of "The Alias"

                                                                     by Trina Boice

Haven’t we all fantasized about changing our identity and slipping into another world at some point?  Ok, maybe I’m revealing a little too much about myself now.  (wink)

Blog tours for new book releases are a lot of fun, but I’m so busy that I don’t normally participate in many.   My blog post yesterday concluded a tour that features newbie author, Mandi Tucker Slack, whose first book caught my eye and made me want to jump on the blog tour train.  I love a good man-on-the run story, especially when he’s innocent, and especially when he’s a woman!   Mandi’s suspenseful story reminded me of Julia Roberts’ movie “Sleeping With the Enemy,” which I got a real kick out of.

Without any spoiler alerts, here’s the gist of Mandi Slack’s tale:  Jacey’s ex-husband is wanted by the FBI.  To protect her son, Jacey flees to a small town and attempts to hide their identity, but her past is never too far behind.  Neither is the FBI.  Throw in a little romance, and it’s a fun, quick read, perfect for when I was taking a long flight, escaping from my own personal world on a quick business trip.

Jacey’s son’s name is Blaze, the same name my family gave our pet dog.  Every time I read the name Blaze in Mandi’s book, I imagined my sweet Papillon as a shapeshifter in her story.  Their personalities are somewhat similar…young, adventurous and not quite a man.  What mother doesn’t want to protect her son?  I have four sons and could relate very well to the mother-bear mentality of doing whatever it takes to keep them safe.  The author is a playful mother of three who lives in beautiful Utah, where the story takes place. 

In an interview with Mandi, she explains “I love to incorporate my hobbies and interests into my writing.”  My favorite thing about writing is being able to create my own adventure. I was a tom-boy and as a child I craved adventure. I explored exotic countries and conquered high mountain peaks all from the comfort of my own back yard. I had a very vivid imagination and that love of creativity followed me into adulthood. I have so much fun when I am able to sit down and pound out the ideas floating around in my head, and I enjoy writing the type of stories that I love to read.”

To learn more about Mandi Tucker Slack and her new book “The Alias”, visit her blog at:

The Kindle edition is only $3.99!  To read more reviews about Mandi’s new book, check out the rest of the blog tour stops:

October 1st –   DebbieDavis
October 3rd –   KimberlyJob
October 4th –   JulieBellon
October 5th –   CindyHogan
October 6th –   CamiChecketts
October 8th –   LauraBingham
October 11th – Aimee Brown
October 12th – Steve Westover
October 13th – Mindy Holt
October 14th – Holly Barnes
October 14th – Danyelle Ferguson
October 15th – Lynn Parsons
October 17th – Janice Johnson
October 18th – Kaylynn England
October 18th – Maria Hoagland
October 19th – Rachelle Christensen
October 21st – Alice Gold          
October 25th – Tristi Pinkston  
October 28th – Heather Justesen
October 29th - Trina Boice   

By the way, if you’re a new author or even a seasoned one, take note of Tristi Pinkston’s excellent marketing techniques.  She’s the one who put this blog tour together and is a master at networking in this industry! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Defeat Your Personal El Guapo!

"In a way, all of us have an El Guapo to face some day. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo, for others a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous guy who wants to kill us. As sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people can conquer their personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo."

See the inspirational speach here. Are you inspired? I am.

As writers, we each face our own personal El Guapo. We face obstacles that prevent us from being the writer we desire to be. For some, finding the time to write might be their El Guapo, for others commas might be their El Guapo, for others character development or dialogue. For me, El Guapo is the doubt that my writing will ever measure up to be what I want it to be.

So how do we face our personal El Guapo? Practice. Persistence. Patience.
Check out my post on Happy Gilmore and the 3 P’s of Writing.
Good luck to each of you in facing and defeating your own personal El Guapo.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Girl

Alison got into the shower late. Mom was shopping, Dad was watching the younger kids. Ali heard the screaming, but she put it all down to Dad's roughhousing--until she stepped out of the bathroom and got the shock of her young life.

A year later, Ali and her mom are starting over--again. She hasn't yet recovered from the dark turn her life has taken, and doesn't know if she ever will. Then there's that pesky little detail--she's seen the face of a murderer and doesn't know if he will let her live long enough to graduate high school.

Honestly, all I did was take a shower today and this story hit me. What would this do to a young girl? How would she pull out of it? What are the immediate after-effects? By the time I get to bed tonight, I'll have a rough draft of the details all ironed out.

As if I don't have enough to do, writing-wise. Lately, my strong suit has been ideas. I've been getting them in spades--some good, others not so much--but they don't stop coming. I take notes and put them aside. If the story seems strong enough, I'll pick it up at a later date. There are some details that might change, but that standard life-or-death struggle is something that readers never seem to tire of.

What is your writing strength? Are you a plotter? A pantser? Do you love the idea stage, or the rough draft stage, but hate editing? Or are you one of those amazing people who loves the editing stage? Come on, don't be shy. :) Share!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Books Eligible for a 2011 Whitney Award

Bitter Blessings by Christine Mehring

After Megan lost her father her family became a separate thing, cut off from other people.

Her suspicious grandmother insisted that Megan and her sisters "keep themselves to themselves." Her mother worked long hours and was too tired to argue. They moved often, drifting, rootless, until Tucson.

The warm desert sun suited her mother and for the first time it seemed they would have a home and a stable life.

Then, one normal summer day, when Megan's friends were getting ready to start their senior year, a freak accident took her mother and Megan found herself desperately trying to hold her family together.

With her grandmother and sisters lost in their own grief, it's left to Megan to sort through the past and find a path to the future, but when a small insurance detail uncovers a devastating family secret, making the people she loves into strangers, will she find anyone she can trust before it's too late?

Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack

Jacey Grayson is an average, young, divorced mother struggling to build a new life for her son, Blaze.

But when the FBI discloses some disturbing information about her ex-husband, Jacey's life becomes anything but average.

At the risk of losing her identity, her future, and her heart, Jacey and Blaze flee to Utah, hoping to hide and start over once again. But no matter how far she runs or who she pretends to be, her past is always lurking nearby, bringing old fears with it.

Thrilling action and a suspenseful plot make this novel an edge-of-your-seat-read.

The Last Archangel by Michael Young

Xandir has been exiled to earth until the end of time.

But when his cherub trainee disappears, Xandir makes a deal with rogue angels and giants that could restore life to the mortal woman he loves and end his assignment as a destroying angel in exchange for helping them bring about the end of the world and all of mankind.

Wings of Light by Laura Bingham
Becoming immortal isn't everything they thought it would be.
Sixteen-year-old Erin and her twin brother, Bain, chose to leave their normal lives, step into the magical world, and become immortal elves.
But when it comes to falling in love and solving mysteries, all the magic in the world doesn't seem to help.

Carving Angels by Diane Stringam Tolley  
Papa Adam, the North Pole's oldest elf and Santa's former chief carver, has given up.
Blind, frail, and useless, he counts the minutes in every day as he waits to die.
But a challenge to carve, given by his youngest granddaughter, reawakens Papa Adam.
Together they prove that the most paralyzing thing you can do is underestimate or undervalue anyone, especially yourself. With the right love and encouragement, anything is possible.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amazon Scares Publishers

                                                                    By Trina Boice

In publishing news today....
Amazon will soon be competing with the publishing houses that supply it.  The giant company is set to publish 122 books this fall in both physical and e-book form. Amazon has signed deals already with self-help author Tim Ferriss and film director Penny Marshall, and is said to be aggressively targeting top authors.

 “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do,” says Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House. Amazon has hired publishing veteran Laurence Kirshbaum to run the operation, which will publish both fiction and nonfiction.

LDS Fiction: The Minor Leagues?

A few short decades ago, I was serving as a missionary in southern Illinois with three other elders. On one particular P-day (excuse me--PREPARATION day) we were cleaning our apartment and listening to some music.

Our mission rules allowed us to listen to "church music" on Sundays and P-days, and while some guys I knew interpreted that to mean "music by anyone rumored to have talked to a missionary," we stuck to the more traditional groups like Afterglow and the Tabernacle Choir.

I don't remember which contemporary (ca 1988) musician we were listening to that day, but the new elder in our group soon got a little irritated and said, "Can we please turn that garbage off?"

"What's wrong with it?" I asked.

"Oh, please. I can't stand any of those guys. It bothers me that they're just trying to make a buck off of the church, and the only reason they're singing LDS songs is they're not good enough to make it in the real music industry."

The rest of us didn't agree, but to preserve peace we switched to some classics by the Mormon Youth Symphony, since Beethoven's "real music industry" success is pretty much indisputable.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and my foray into LDS literature. While I have never agreed with this missionary's opinions, those thoughts were always in the back of my mind as I worked on the early drafts of "Bumpy Landings." Am I just trying to make a buck off of the church? Am I not good enough for the national market?

Lately, I've seen a similar discussion questioning whether or not the LDS literary market is some kind of "Minor League", which implies that those who write LDS fiction somehow aren't good enough to make it in the real literary industry.

I've thought about this question a lot: Is LDS fiction the minor leagues of writing? I've decided that the answer is no. And maybe.

The reason there are two answers to this question is that what we call the "LDS Market" is in fact two different markets, both closely related and serviced by the same few publishers.

The "traditional" LDS market--books where being (or becoming) LDS is central to the story--are very popular within the church but have no real interest in the broader market. LDS fiction is a niche, and as such fills a need ignored by the national market.

As for whether or not they are any good, LDS books, just like their national counterparts, fall along a broad spectrum of quality, with the best of LDS fiction easily in the top tier. And the books are getting better and better every year, thanks to an excellent LDS writing community that supports, educates, and motivates its members through conferences and awards for excellence.

In addition to traditional LDS-themed fiction, LDS publishers also sell works that have little or no connection to Mormon life. These titles are considered "regional," rather than "niche." Where a niche publisher focuses on an audience that has specific religious/cultural/recreational interests, a regional publisher focuses on an audience in a specific geographical region.

These regional publishers are often willing to take a chance on unknown writers. Combining this fact with their smaller size, limited marketing budget, and more modest sales numbers, it's easy to understand why regional publishers are often referred to as the Minor League of publishing.

All around the country, there are local authors writing and publishing books with local flavor through these regional publishers. The same is true for the Intermountain West, only here the regional publishers are the same companies that publish for the LDS niche.

This is why LDS publishing is sometimes seen as a stepping stone for authors looking to break in nationally. Recent years have seen a number of high-profile writers make this transition: Ally Condie, James Dashner, Rob Wells, and Jeff Savage, just to name a few. Even the LDS publishers are looking to grow nationally, with the Shadow Mountain imprint at Deseret Book, and CFI calling for more national-market submissions.

This is an exciting transition, and it's fun to see local friends and authors make good on the national scene.

But don't assume that since some authors have honed their skills by writing LDS fiction and then moved on nationally, that this is the purpose of the LDS market, or the goal of all LDS writers.

Many authors I know write LDS fiction because that is what they love. They would enjoy a national market-sized royalties check, and have the knowledge and skills they would need to break if that's what they wanted. But they love writing LDS fiction, and they are free to write the books they want in the way they want, because their values line up so well with those of their readers. They write LDS fiction because they can.

LDS fiction is kind to beginners, and provides a great place to learn and develop excellent writing skills. But it also provides a valuable product to hundreds of thousands of readers, and those who make LDS fiction their permanent career can be every bit as satisfied with their success as those who publish nationally.

Perhaps maybe even a little bit more.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Writing a Synopsis

You’ve just written the final word on your novel, and you’ve combed through it no less than 35 times editing, reworking subplots and characters, and you’re ready to submit your manuscript. One thing you may need is a synopsis, or an outline that discloses the plot. Depending on the publisher or agent, the synopsis will vary in length, usually one to two pages.

A synopsis is important to give the agent/editor a disclosure of the plot. They also give a glimpse of your writing style.

When I wrote my second novel, I was surprised at how much time it took for me to make sure every word in my synopsis counted. But it paid off. At least I think it did, because my book did get published. 

But how can a 100,000 word manuscript be squished into two pages? What do you put in? What do you leave out?

A basic outline for a synopsis can be:

  1. A brief summary of the beginning of the story.
  2. A brief description of the characters and the problems they will need to solve as they go through the book, the basic plot.
  3. The obstacles they go through to solve these problems, and climax.
  4. Summary of how the story ends, who the bad guy is and all. (Leaving any hanging ends or questions that haven’t been answered doesn’t generate curiosity here.)
It’s important to keep fluff minimal in a synopsis, use an omniscient point of view, and to do the obvious like spelling and grammar checks. It doesn’t hurt to have others look at it and give you feedback. Would they want to read your story based on what you’ve written in your synopsis? Are the characters and plot presented in such a way that it creates interest? If so, then your manuscript may well be on its way to becoming a book in your hands.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack

The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack is much more than just a “girl power” kind of book. Yes, there is an abused woman who fights back. Yes, she is brave and willing to do anything to protect her son. (What mother isn’t) She is strong but proud, independent but vulnerable. This book has something for everyone: Romance, Action, Intrigue and a development of characters that makes you feel good when you finish. I may not sit down to read a straight romance, but I enjoy the book that successfully involves all of these elements. The Alias is a winner.

The story is centered around a woman who flees her abusive ex-husband and hides out on a Utah ranch. When the FBI locates her to ask questions about her Ex’s business dealings, she realizes she may not be as well hidden as she thought. If the FBI can find her, so can her ex-husband.

The first half of the book develops at a modest pace but Mandi knows how to turn a good phrase and keep the tension high. I need a fast pace to keep from getting bored and Mandi succeeded in keeping my attention, teasing with tension and conflict in every chapter until it ultimately races to its exciting conclusion.

I’m the kind of guy who identifies the ending of a story within the first ten minutes of watching a movie or TV show. (My wife and kids REALLY love that) I ALWAYS know who did it the moment I’m introduced to the character. I recognize a plot twist is coming before it happens. Pretty impressive, huh :>)My keen eye is attuned to these kind of things and while the plot is sometimes predictable the many twists keep you on your toes, guessing, wondering until you reach the satisfying resolution.

Again, this is more than just a “girl power” book for women. Men can definitely enjoy this as well and I recommend it. The Alias is a quick and enjoyable read.
You can purchase The Alias here
You can also order the eBook version for only $3.99 which is a GREAT deal.
and check out Mandi’s Blog Here

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Literature Turned Into a Vegas Show!

by Trina Boice

 “Jabbawockeez is the best show I’ve seen in Vegas by far” was what my 16 year old son posted on his Facebook status last night, after seeing their fun show at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino.  We live in Sin City and my son has seen quite a few shows, so that’s really saying something. 

Even if you don’t have a break-dancing teen in your family, you’re sure to enjoy this world-famous dance crew’s high energy show. (Old folks near the stage will want to wear ear plugs.) Picture comedic mimes doing some of the coolest hip hop dance moves you’ve seen, add some fly costumes designed by Kara Saun, the runner up on Bravo’s “Project Runway” Season 1, and put it all on a hip stage set and you’ve got 90 minutes of good, CLEAN entertainment, perfect for families.

The Jabbawockeez first gained fame in their national television appearance on America's Got Talent in 2006, before winning the MTV hip-hop dance reality series, Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew in March 2008. They’re considered to be the ultimate dance crew these days and have inspired countless kids to get out there and bust a move.  Does anyone say “bust a move” anymore or did I just reveal my age?

 While the target audience is most definitely the young club set, we were surrounded by an amused older crowd in the audience as well.  The dancing is accompanied by a spliced mixed tape of sorts that features musical fan favorites and movie audio clips that span several decades, causing the audience to cheer and clap in excited spurts.

The crew’s signature look includes white masks and white gloves, but even without faces, the dancers’ bodies gave effective expression, often communicating with hesitant volunteers from the audience for some delightful comedy sketches.  In fact, the performers don’t take themselves too seriously at all and the show is almost a comedy routine mixed with some impressive flares, locking, popping and dime stopping.

Without a word from the dancers, they were able to weave a faint story throughout the show of how anyone can find their muse (the show’s title “MUS.I.C” is read “Muse I See”.  I’ve seen several Vegas shows start with a janitor sweeping the stage (get in your seat at least fifteen minutes early to enjoy his pre-show antics), but this blue collar Wockee maintains his faceless identity during the whole show and attempts to teach us that anyone can dream big by bringing “the colors of sound” to life.

 One of my favorite sections of the show was a ninja showdown that featured some glow-in-the-dark antics that were fun with the lights off and hilarious when the lights came back on to reveal their secret tricks.  The Jabbawockeez know how to poke fun at Vegas too, dressing up as Elvis, Blue Man Group, Carrot Top, and a show girl.

The original crew consists of seven members: Kevin Brewer, Joe Larot, Phil Tayag, Chris Gatdula, Ryan Paguio, Jeff “Phi” Nguyen, and Ben Chung “B-Tek.” Before being accepted as official members of Jabbawockeez, Jeff and Ben Chung had to participate in a dance battle with one of the three founders.  I did a head count during the Vegas show and soon learned that MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 2 winners Super Cr3w perform nightly with Jabbawockeez, adding some extra athleticism and acrobatics to the show.  In fact, at times there is so much going on the stage that it’s hard to know which performer to focus on.

The name Jabbawockeez is derived from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, briefly alluded to in the show when the janitor starts to read the book and then falls into a dream state.  By the way, don’t sit in the first three rows if fog machines bother you. Although the show started off a little slowly, the packed audience was eager to award the crew with a standing ovation at the end.

And now a few bummers…I talked to several adoring audience members who had their wallets out, ready to buy merchandise before and after the show, but were quickly discouraged by the ridiculously steep prices, leaving the dope signature masks and t-shirts in the store.  I was surprised that the dance crew didn’t take their masks off at the end of the performance like they so often do, and a bit disappointed that they didn’t come outside the theater to greet the audience and take photos.  (I had my Flipcam ready to film them becoming best friends with my son.)

The crew’s success in Vegas means that the show has been extended through spring 2012.  Performances are Thursday at 9:30 p.m., Friday at 9:30 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and Sunday and Monday at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets start at $52 (plus tax and fees).    For more information, please visit or

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Story Inspired

Today, an incredibly beautiful and talented young lady turns twenty years old. I first met her shortly before she turned four--she caught my eye when I saw her bouncing down the aisle in my sacrament meeting. Twice. I next saw her dancing circles around my mom and some guy in the foyer.

I married the guy. :)

But I saw her first.

Someday, I'm going to write a picture book about the love a stepmom can have for a child. The kind of love that doesn't lessen the love either of her parents feel for her; it's just another person who loves her. It's called I Saw You First. It's funny to me how sometimes the title of a story comes to me first. For this one, I have the title and the first couple of lines. It's going to be a poem I turn into a book. Rhyming and all that. Which, in large part, is why it's not written yet.

I receive story inspirations in different ways. Sometimes, an entire plot will sit down in my mind and not move until I write it down. Other times, like the above situation, it's the title that hits me first, but with a meaning I can't set aside. And, occasionally, a character will come to me with a story so powerful it can't be ignored. Though I doubt we've ever talked about it, I'm sure every writer has similar experiences. I don't know anyone who is always inspired the same way for every story they write.

It's my firm belief that the Lord speaks to each of us in ways He knows we will hear. The inspiration I receive at different times is what will actually impact me in those moments--and, as I stated before, it's not always the same thing. He knows me. And He speaks to me, but not the same way He speaks to you.

How are you inspired?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Need a Little Inspiration? You Have to See This

This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I’ve taken to my new home state of Texas in the years since we were blessed to move here. Here are a few of the things I love:

1) Blue Bell ice cream

2) The fact that In-N-Out Burger recently opened multiple locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (the Calfornia-grown girl in me can't get enough of those fries)

3) Falling asleep to the sound of the cows outside my window

4) The Bluebonnets that blossom in the spring

5) The seemingly endless sky

6) The kind people with huge hearts and a love of God and country (In fact, I have to say, it's this last one I think I love the most)

In my first two books, the protagonist keeps a notebook in which she writes about the people who inspire her. The other day, I was watching the local news and saw a story that inspired me so deeply, I had to share a link here.

What a joy to be in the same state, the same country, the same planet as such inspirational young people. Way to go Mariah! Way to go Azle High School!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Whitney Awards: Eligible Novels

by Rebecca Talley

Some of our blog team members have books that are eligible for a Whitney Award. The following books are eligible for nominations:

Blank Slate by Heather Justesen

Adrianna Mueller may be a world-renowned concert pianist, but when she wakes from her coma after a serious car accident, her ability to perform has disappeared as completely as her lost memory. As she recovers from her injuries, she struggles with the expectations of everyone—her family, friends, and fiancĂ©, Brock—who all want everything to go back to the way it was.

Everyone except Gavin, Adrianna’s brother’s business partner, who finds himself drawn to the woman she is now. But he has his own problems. As he tries to get a handle on a former employee’s embezzlement, he fights his growing feelings for Adrianna.

And then a trip to the emergency room shakes everything up, leaving her to stumble as she tries to regain her footing all over again.


Minor Adjustments by Rachael Renee Anderson

Chicago businessman and bachelor Devon Pierce doesn't want to be appointed guardian of Australian four-year-old Ryan Caldwell - but Ryan's solicitor, Stella Walker, won't take no for an answer.

Little does Devon know that this "minor" adjustment will grant him a future he never expected to have.

Told in a fast-paced, poignant, and witty style, Minor Adjustments will take you on a journey filled with humor, growth, romance, and love.

The Upside of Down by Rebecca Talley

"Hmmm," the doctor muttered.
Natalie wrinkled her forehead, almost afraid to ask, and said, "What does that mean?"
"You do know you're pregnant, right?"
Her breath caught in her throat. "Excuse me?"
"You're pregnant."
Her heartbeat thundered in her ears. "I'm what?"

Natalie Drake certainly has her hands full raising a large family, dealing with her difficult mother, and maintaining a relationship with her rebellious teenager. Just when things seem to be going smoothly, she finds out another unexpected surprise--she's going to have a baby. Faced with so many challenges, Natalie must learn to trust in a plan that isn't what she imagined and discover that every situation has an upside.

Rebecca Talley carefully creates this touching and heartfelt story that is sure to inspire you. With true-to-life characters and situations,
The Upside of Down will reignite your faith and remind you of the importance of family.


My Girlfriend's Boyfriend by Elodia Strain

Jesse is looking for the "right guy." When she bumps into Ethan, a despairing writer who she inspires, she thinks she's found him. But only moments later she meets Troy, a successful advertising executive who makes almost every moment romantic.

Both seem perfect, but things are not always what they seem.
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend is a fun romance that blends warm sincerity with fresh storytelling.

If you've read any of these novels and would like to nominate them for a Whitney Award, please go here.

If you've read other novels by LDS authors published in 2011 and would like to nominate them, please go here.

You can learn more about the Whitney Awards here. Please spread the word!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Writing Support Online

                                                                    by Trina Boice

In writing news this week:

Writing can be a lonely task. It can be tricky to motivate yourself, and without proper feedback, it’s hard to know how to improve. Several websites already exist to encourage writers, through classes, workshops, online forums and more. Tomorrow, a new site called LitReactor adds its name to the list.

Created by the team who built Chuck Palahniuk‘s website, which itself has hosted writing classes and more, LitReactor uses a combination of engaging content and smart gaming mechanics to encourage writers to gain both new skills and new trusted friends.  Check it out!