Monday, March 30, 2009

Miracles Never Cease

So it truly is a miracle, I have finally finished the next book in my Butterfly Box series. It has taken over a year to complete this story. I can usually write a book in 5 or 6 months, depending on the amount of research involved. This book hasn't really required a lot of extensive reserch. So, you ask, what's my problem?

Hmm, where do I begin? I have been slightly distracted by my family. I'll start with the oldest. My son, and adorable daughter-in-law, had a baby last July. A granddaughter named Halle. I am crazy in love with her. She lights up my world. Aslo, my oldest daughter competed at the Miss Utah pageant and then, 4 months later, in the Miss Utah USA pageant. I know pageants get a bad rap, probably for good reason. I however feel there are some wonderfully redeeming qualities about the preparation and in competing. I'll save that for another day, but, I'm so proud of my daughter's accomplishments and the strengths she's gained, because she competed. She is truly my winner. One of her greatest achievements is starting an asthma program in schools to help with early diagnosis of asthma. She suffered from asthma as a child and wasn't diagnosed until she was a Senior in high school. This program was recognized by Governor Huntsman and the National American Lung Association. My next daughter spent the summer in Seattle at ballet camp, then came home and danced in Mountain West Ballet's Nutcraker, then prepared for the YAPG ballet competition, and dances at the University of Utah. Her daily schedule is exhausting. My youngest is still manageable, but is also very busy. Not to mention my husband's job that takes him out of town 3 or 4 times a month, and my two church callings. Then there's cleaning, cooking, laundry, birthdays, Christmas . . . what am I forgetting. Oh yeah, sleep.
Anyway, finding time to write has been a challenge. But I did it. And only heavenly help can explain how I managed to get a word or two written, let alone a 400 page novel. Let's just hope it gets published!
So, for anyone who is a fan, the series isn't dead, and neither am I. This story is about Jocelyn, one of the Butterfly Girls. Her story will reveal her secret and give you further information regarding Ava's death. Was it an accident? Tell me what you think?
I really want to thank and pay tribute to all the wonderful fans who spend their hard earned money to buy my books, and spend their precious time reading my books. You are the ones who make it all worth it. You are the ones who give validation to the time I spend writing when I should be cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and even sleeping.
I'll keep you posted on release dates and all the fun exciting stuff that goes along with it. I'm even coming up with a contest and some giveaways. So watch my blog for more details regarding that. In the meantime, I'm getting started on the next book. My goal is to have it done in 6 months. I'm posting that for the whole world to see, so hopefully it will keep me on track and focused. That means the end of September. Don't bet any money on that date, but if I get it done then, I am going to have one wing-ding of a celebration, and you're all invited.

Friday, March 27, 2009


This is last minute but I just wanted to let you know I will be doing autograph signings at:

SEAGULL BOOK 17th South Redwood Road 10:00 - 12:00

SEAGULL BOOK Taylorsville 12:15 - 1:30

Hope to see you there!

PS I just finished the next book in the Butterfly Box series! I'll give you more information about it on my next blog.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interview with Lynn Gardner

I have been a fan of Lynn Gardner's since her Jewel series. The Maggie McKenzie mysteries are her new series and have quickly become of favorite of Lynn Gardner fans. Vanished, the first book, was an engrossing mystery with some interesting turns. Her new and much anticipated novel, Pursued, is sure to deliver another installment of fast-paced excitement.

Here's my interview with Lynn:

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
AUTHOR: Apparently since before high school. In one of my year books, I vowed to publish a book.
M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
AUTHOR: I wandered a beautiful golf course with my husband for a couple of years, concentrating on the story that was weaving itself in my mind more than on my golf game! At the end of those two years I had a finished manuscript. I went to a writer's conference at BYU-Hawaii, connected with Darla Hanks (now Isaacson) and she liked what she read and said to send it to her. I didn't hear anything for about five months, but in the meantime, I went to several other conferences, took writing classes, and discovered I really didn't know how to write a book, though I could tell a good story. So I rewrote it. I finally heard from another editor at Covenant (Darla had moved on) who said if I wanted to make the three single spaced pages of changes, they would look at it again. Of course, I did.
M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
AUTHOR: The only discouragement I've felt was when I first read the rejection letter. I was totally and completely devastated. But after I reread the letter, I realized it wasn't a final rejection. I talked to some published author friends who couldn't believe that an editor would take the time to detail so clearly what was wrong with the book. So, of course, I immediately set about rewriting the manuscript. Emeralds and Espionage probably went through five total revisions before it was published. There have been some setbacks with the latest book which have been discouraging, but you just bite the bullet, go back to the computer and write again and again until you get it right! M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?
AUTHOR: I get up at 4:00 a.m. every morning so I can get prayers, scripture study and journal out of the way, and get into my writing before the world wakes up and starts its demands on my time.
M.B.: Where do your ideas come from for your books?
AUTHOR: The ideas for Emeralds came from the unique setting of the golf course - a wonderful huge old Oak tree that had a perfect pocket in the center of its intersecting branches to snuggle into and be hidden from the world. (I used to sit up in my apple tree when I was a girl and read a book. My younger siblings couldn't interrupt me and I could still keep an eye on them from up there.) Then there was a circle of stones surrounding a tall straight tree on the course, that was totally unlike any of the other twisted, gnarled trees there. It had to be a fairy circle. On the tee box of one hole, a tree had been hit by lightning and only about six feet of charred, blackened wood remained, but underneath that, a slab of rock was balanced on a big boulder. It looked for all the world like a sacrificial altar. A waterfall cascaded into a pool and the little stream that flowed from that were perfect hiding places. Some mornings, the mist nearly obscured the fairways, so the story really just evolved around all these things. Each of my stories for the gem series came from the headlines of the day, or a news article in the paper. Amethysts and Arson was born from a tiny little two paragraph article on churches being burned in the south to cover up the theft of valuable items from the church. The police had found a cache of stolen goods, but hadn't been able to find the owner of an antique amethyst altar cross. Vanished: A Maggie McKenzie Mystery came into being during the Bi-Centennial Anniversary of Lewis and Clark's historic Corps of Discovery journey to the Pacific Coast. I had been conjuring up an adventurous young photo-journalist and that was the perfect setting for her story to evolve. We were traveling to see two of our daughters, one in South Dakota and one in Louisiana, so I plotted the book as we traveled and stopped at all the places in the book to find scenes and settings for Maggie's search for the missing girl and research for her articles. Two cousins and a friend and I went to England and Wales on a family history research trip, and Pursued: A Maggie McKenzie Mystery was born. M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire tohave their manuscripts become books in print?
AUTHOR: Learn the craft. Most everyone can tell a story, but there are certain skills that have to be mastered before it can be turned into a saleable book. Write, rewrite, edit, and edit some more to make it as perfect as you can.
M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sitdown and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outlinefirst?
AUTHOR: I know the inciting incident - the thing the story will be built around. Then I put my characters in place, turn them loose, and follow them as they move through all the challenges and trials that will come to them. It's like a movie playing in my mind and I just describe what I'm seeing. I know my characters so well that I know how they will react in any given situation. I don't outline. I do know about where the story will end, but I have been surprised at times at where my characters have led me.
M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer'sblock? If so, how do you deal with it?
AUTHOR: I don't really believe in writer's block. I think if you experience something like that, you may have written yourself into a corner and you need to back track and see where the story went wrong. This will sound funny, but maybe your characters don't want to do what you wanted them to do. They really do have minds of their own, you know, and sometimes they just want the story to go a different way.
M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music whenyou are writing?
AUTHOR: I prefer quiet. In fact, when I'm really into a story, I will shut my study door and ask my husband not to interrupt me. When you are interrupted, you then have to go back and read where you were, and get back into the story again. That can cause you to lose the thread of where you were going.
M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
AUTHOR: Mmmm. Inspiration? Just a very active imagination, lots of in-depth research, and traveling to the places that I'm writing about so I can get the feel of the place, the smells, sounds. I want my readers to feel familiar with the place when they have finished the book. I want to know the history of what has happened there and why it was important, so I can pass that on to the readers.
M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?
AUTHOR: I've been in a critique group for 14 years - mostly with the same people. A few have moved on for one reason or another and we have replaced them with others. In fact, we just included two new people in our group this year. It certainly changes the dynamics of the group. But we have one gal who looks for description of the scene, and if she can't visualize it (if I've been going too fast with the action to include a good description) she'll call me on it and I'll go back and fix it. Another of my critique group looks for motivation. People always have a reason for doing things, and if my motivation isn't obvious, I get to rewrite to put it there. One is really into conflict, so she makes sure that's in place. We have one who is a perfectionist in grammar and punctuation. You can see how all of these wonderful people can help in making sure you have all the necessary elements in place. Everyone should belong to a critique group.
M.B.: Anything about yourself that you would like readers to know about?
AUTHOR: I love reading. I love losing myself in a book and entering other worlds, and I imagine others readers feel the same. The world would be a much sadder place without the comfort of good books, the excitement of vicarious experiences through reading, the opportunity of learning about places and events and people that are not in our current sphere of activity.
M.B.: Any final words you would like to share
AUTHOR: I'd just like to thank those who have been my faithful readers for hanging in there and waiting for Pursued to finally arrive. It has been a long, painful process, but Maggie McKenzie is back and I hope they'll think it has been worth the wait when they read it. Look for Pursued: A Maggie McKenzie Mystery to be released in May.
M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
AUTHOR: Any Seagull or Deseret book store, or

Monday, March 23, 2009

Behind the Lense

I don't know if you've noticed by I tend to change my blog picture a lot. There are two reasons why. First, because I don't like any of them enough to keep them up very long, and second, I don't have many pictures to choose from because I'm always the one always taking the pictures, and I am not the type to say, "Okay, now take a picture of me!"
I operate on the philosophy that you can never have enough pictures. And nowadays with the whole digital thing, it's possible to have hundreds of pictures of events that, in the days of film, we would normally only take 3 or 4 pictures. Same with video. I am the photographer and videographer of the family, sometimes actually recording events with both cameras at the same time. (Hey, I didn't say I was good, I just get the job done, okay!)
So, as I search for a picture to put on my blog, I find that there aren't that many pictures of me to begin with, and, that most of the pictures I'm in are with other people, so I have to crop them out.
That's all. I felt like I need to explain the rotating photo thing I have going on.
Maybe I'll surprise my family one day and tell them it's their turn to take the pictures, if they can figure out how to use the cameras!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Interview with C.S. Bezas

Through various callings in the church many of us get to teach children or interact with them in some way and I can't think of a better book to provide insight and wisdom to this awesome responsibility. I want to lead in with a review of Cindy's book, Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers.

"Eloquent and thoughtful, Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers will be as welcome as sunshine for early morning seminary teachers - and anybody else who builds and blesses the kingdom one class at a time. It is a book of vivid explanation, touching spiritual insight, and helpful practicality. I've been teaching for more than two decades, but I can't wait to start my own teacher's journal and apply the wisdom - and charity - I found in this wonderful little book! I can't think of a teacher anywhere (and aren't we all teachers?) who wouldn't benefit from these powerful tips. It was a joy and delight to read!" ~Kerry Blair, author Counting Blessings: Wit and Wisdom for Women and Of Infinite Worth: Tributes to Motherhood

Born in Colorado, C.S. grew up in the Rockie Mountains and loved the beauty and wonder of her surroundings. She began reading at the early age of four and fell in love with the printed word. in 7th grade she won her first writing contest. She graduated from BYU with a Communications degree but had an emphasis in human resource development, speech and instructional matierals (along with a heavy dose of theater).
C.S. is a remarkable woman with a remarkable talent.
Here's her delightful interview:
M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
CINDY: I remember playing with words even as a small child. I loved how they rolled around my mouth. I also played like crazy with sentence structure and emphasis. It amazed me that pushing one word harder could change the meaning of a sentence from "I'm going to the store" to "I'm going to the store." That kind of nuance fascinated me.
Later as a new teenager, instead of exploring dangerous territories (well, maybe a dictionary is a dangerous territory?), I would sit in my room for hours and read Webster's. How could there be this many words? What did they all mean? Words like "sycee" and "lithosol" and "hermeneutical" held deep fascination. To my little mind, they held the secrets to the mysteries of life (although the character "Mathemagician" in Norton Juster's The Phantom Tolbooth would disagree ... ).
M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
CINDY: I remember wanting to be a writer and published author more than anything. My parents were both educators, so for me, books held the wisdom of the ages. Bookstores could get my blood pumping like nothing else. I would walk in them and feel the yearning to have something of me placed on those shelves. But my writing has taken a circuitous route. I am also a composer and am fascinated with sound and its impact. Through the years I experimented both with writing and composing. My initial efforts were aimed at stage productions. I had done much theater through the years as an actress and vocalist, so it was a natural evolution to write plays and musicals. I wanted to touch peoples' lives. I wanted to leave them different than they were when they first sat down in the theater.
This ability to move people became paramount for me as I wrote. Whether through song or through spoken word, I wanted others to know that hope is a real emotion. But as you know, hope does not glimmer its brightest shade without exposure to the darkest colors of suffering. Thus, my productions weren't necessarily upbeat, but they were important in what they wrought. I could see the joy in audience members' faces as they left.
From there, I branched out into poetry, with my poems being accepted for inclusion in different publications. After that, I began writing for both online and print media, and have hundreds of articles in print. Eventually this brought me to my book, Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers: Helping Youth Find Their Spiritual Wings. It is a book to help adults understand teens in life-changing ways. I have several novels in the works, in addition to other non-fiction pieces nearing completion. I continue to teach creativity workshops and privately coach writers in the creativity process.
M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
CINDY: I think deep emotions are an inherent part of authors, artists, composers, etc. How can you hope to sculpt something--whether on a printed page, on a stage, or even in a painting--without feeling deeply? Thus, I think any great individual who is creating will be prone to discouragement and perhaps even dark feelings of despair. I know I've had my share. What I think is important for all those who are attracted to the arts is to remember there are always opposites in life. That is the great principle of the law of opposition. So if you feel discouraged, it is important to lift your head and remember the gift of that discouragement. It means you are close to finding and receiving, opening, its opposite, which gift may differ for each person.
For me, the legacy that discouragement brings is the companionship of wisdom. With wisdom, we stand ready to create something that is everlasting ... something will lift others on the pathway through life. My purpose is to bring hope through my creative works. For hope really does exist; it just sometimes requires mucking through the mud to find it. :0)
M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?
CINDY: I'm a mother and a wife. I am active in my church. I love the privilege of having all those things in my life. But I'm also intensely creative. For me, if I can't create I can't breathe (or at least it feels that way). I notice I begin to get cranky, almost like a fish whose pores are covered and is dying. Over-scheduling my days suffocates me. When those times happen, and I can't get to writing or to the piano to compose, I then have to find solace in the smile of my child. Creating those "smile minutes"--happy moments of laughter and tickle-fights and fun with my kids--helps me stay balanced until I can get writing or composing again.
I find that I write best in the mornings. And so as long as I stick with an early morning writing schedule, I do much better at actually getting to creating and moving forward.
M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book or a play about it?
CINDY: Wow, that is a great question! It comes in tiny moments for me ... the turn of a phrase I overhear in a restaurant or a picture I see in a magazine. Or a newspaper clipping of a person in an anguished situation. I also love history books and am intrigued by the overlooked UNfamous people. I get to wondering what the individual's life was (or is) like. What were their greatest sorrows? Their greatest joys? It frustrates me that I can't ask that ancient person and so my mind begins to fill in the blanks. And then I want to start writing. Or it might be a concern about something occurring in today's world. That's when my non-fiction writing kicks in.
M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
CINDY: I think the most startling idea new writers eventually recognize is this: very rarely does a person go from non-writing to six-figure wealth due to writing. And the writer who does succeed in this way has worked very hard. Writing is work. It should stay fun, but it is effort.
Second, new writers would do well to learn from someone like you, Michele, with more than 20 successful books to your name. Successful writers are attracted to the learning of the craft of writing, almost as much as loving the writing itself. Successful writers study to improve and continue their writing output--all at the same time. Seeing books in print is not a hobby. It's a lifetime of joyful labor.
M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
CINDY: It depends on whether I'm working on non-fiction or fiction. I love Victoria Lynn Schmidt's approach in her Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days. Using her "Ten Event" technique helps clarify the power of the story, bringing it greater depth and resonance. It also is a simple approach that actually helps writing that dreaded synopsis. :0)
M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
CINDY: For years I'd had a problem with this. Jack Heffron addresses this in his book, The Writer's Idea Workshop: How to Make Your Good Ideas Great. He encourages the writer to look deeper and to see what he or she is dealing with on a personal level that prevents completion of projects. That book is an excellent resource for individuals who get snagged by writer's block.
M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
CINDY: Quiet isn't so much the problem for me. I can lose myself in nearly any location. What is a problem for me is the way my mind thinks. I am very good at laser beam creativity. I've always been a bit this way. But my greatest strength is my greatest weakness. I can focus to the exclusion of all else, but it takes me time to sync and sink into that creative place. Once I get there, I could write for 14 hours straight (and have). My creative juices get flowing and the work output is amazing. The flow is good. The emotional resonance and vibe from it all closely arrives at what I'm pleased with. But when there are only little snitches of time here and there, I struggle to write anything that resonates on any level. It seems to fall flat. This, more than anything for me is my greatest challenge. But it's something I'm working with, now that I'm a mom. And I wouldn't trade being a "mommy" for anything. It's worth it.
M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
CINDY: I demonstrate and teach a lot of different techniques during my creativity workshops. But one that is my favorite is to research a unique word from the time period I'm writing about. I'll select a singular vocab word of that era (i.e. "coinage"--a term used in 1629) and write a scene with the goal of using that word. It gives the flavor I need and keeps the writing fun. Others teach this technique also. It has a way of opening the creative flow.
M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
CINDY: My favorite writer is Shakespeare. While in college I learned that over 600 vocabulary words in use today come from Shakespeare's own inventions. He simply made up words if none existed to express what he wanted. To me, that is the height of creativity and the power of boldness.
M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?
CINDY: Absolutely. It doesn't matter how many times I've looked at something, there is always something I miss. It could be a grammatical term, a punctuation point (such as accidentally typing two periods at the end of a sentence), or a complete flaw in the timeline of the story. Perhaps it was an artificial emotion. Whatever it might be, I need fresh eyes to help me morph what I'm trying to say into something that actually says what I meant.
I must say, though, critique groups are hard to get used to at first. The most important thing for new writers to remember is that if you are a member of a GOOD critique group, each member of that group will be vying for your success (and you for them). Thus, the comments expressed are there to help the writer achieve quality writing, not to hurt feelings. It is important for the new writer not to personalize critiques meant to help the story. Really, if what you've written is not yet "there", embrace all feedback. Analyze it. Use what works for you. Listen to what has been said with an open mind. Then do what you choose, but remember: it exists to help make your writing better.
M.B.: Any final words you would like to share?
CINDY: I earnestly believe that talents are given to bless the lives of others. We feel joy when we've found those unique purposes and gifts. Those talents renew us as we work within them. For some, those gifts might be found in gardening. The sun on your back, feeling the fresh dirt, smelling the herbs, it all brings joy. Joy is a pretty big indicator of having found your gift, your purpose. On the other hand, if smelling the interior of books, writing in long hand, editing words ... if these are the things that bring joy and satisfaction, these then are a strong indicator of your place in this world. The more you uncover what makes you unique and worthwhile, the more joy you'll find developing those gifts and bettering the world we live in. But I still feel family trumps it all! :0)
M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your works and order them?
CINDY: Thank you, Michele. My website will include that information. My current book Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers is available at at But make sure to bookmark my blog for inspiration on the creativity process and for news about future creativity workshops!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Winning weekend in San Diego - New York here we come!

My daughter Andrea competed last weekend in San Diego at the YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) which is a ballet competition. We've never done this before so we weren't really sure what was going on, but figured it would be a good experience. The students can compete in a contemporary ballet piece and then a variation ballet piece. Andi was in the Senior category which has dancers from ages 15 to 19. (Andi is 15 by the way) Andi danced the Black Swan variation from Swan Lake. Her contemporary was choreographed by the insanely talented and wonderful Jenny Hill Barlow. The top twelve in each category are invited to compete in the national competition in New York in April.
ANDI MADE TOP TWELVE IN BOTH CATEGORIES AND WAS THIRD IN CONTEMPORARY! The pictures below are from her competition. We are so stinking proud of her and all her hard, hard work.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Author Interview - Kersten Campbell

My daughter was in a hurry to get to work the other day. She was dressed in a black skirt, cream silk shirt and black patent leather heels. I was sitting at the computer (shocker--I know) and I heard the clunk, bam, bumpity-bump, crash of her falling down the stairs. Then, I heard . . . laughter. It hurt like heck but she found it incredibly funny. I loved that she could laugh. If you can't laugh when you're down, then you got a long, hard road ahead of you.

That's why I'm thrilled to post an interview with Kersten Campbell. She's discovered the secret of happiness . . . laughter.

In her new book, Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother Kersten expertly writes on the escapades of daily life that any woman can relate to. With subjects ranging from zucchini crime to selling rocks to the neighbors, this book is sure to please any mother who is overwhelmed, tired, frustrated, bored, or ultimately happy. Mothers and grandmothers everywhere will find therapy and comfort through the humor of these hilarious escapades.

Kersten Campbell grew up in Wisconsin until she turned sixteen, when her family moved to Boise, Idaho. When she protested the move, her father said, Don t worry, you ll probably find some nice Mormon boy to marry. Confused, Kersten replied, What s a Mormon? She soon found out and joined the LDS Church at age twenty-one. She earned a bachelor s degree from the University of Idaho in English Literature and has written many articles for Church publications and other magazines. When not writing, she enjoys reading, painting, family history research, playing the clarinet, and playing with children.She and that nice Mormon boy live in Washington with their five beautiful children.

Here's the inteview with Kersten:

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

KERSTEN: I think I only fully realized it after I became a mother. I’ve always loved to read. My parents had my hearing tested because I was always so lost in a book that I couldn’t hear them calling me. I studied literature in college because I loved to read. But I didn’t realize that I could write until after I started sending in little articles here and there and kept getting published. It was then that I realized I loved to write. And the wonderful experience of becoming a mother made me realize that I had a message about motherhood that needed to be shared: how to enjoy it, in spite of its ups and downs.

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

KERSTEN: I started by trying to write a teenage romance novel. It was terrible! And it seemed to be getting worse each time I tried to fix it. Then, on a whim I decided to see if I could write humor that would make people laugh. I began to write little humor vignettes about motherhood on a blog, and the few people who read the blog loved the stories and kept telling me they laughed until they cried. So, after a while of doing this I decided to collect what I had written and see if I could get it published. The first publisher turned me down and I was so discouraged I tried to file it away forever. But as I was putting the file in the drawer something stopped me and told me to give it one more try. I did, and the next publisher liked it.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

KERSTEN: Whenever I get discouraged as a writer, whether it be an article or a book that gets rejected, I always remember one piece of writing advice that I read in a book. Always keep writing. It takes away the sting of rejection to be fully involved in your next project. I always try to start on something new the minute I send something in to a publisher.

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

KERSTEN: I have five children ages 3-14, so I don’t have much time to actually sit down and write. Right now I write during my youngest son’s nap which gives me about two hours per day on weekdays. Now that the book is published I have to use those two hours to work on publicity for the book as well. I try not to be at the computer when the kids are home or awake because they don’t like it. I’m not always successful, but I try. I don’t write on the weekends in order to spend time with the family. If I’m really pressed I’ll write late at night.

M.B.: Where did your idea come from for this book?

KERSTEN: I think it was the Holy Ghost, because the idea just hit me out of the blue and surprised me. I had never even been a joking type person before. It was crazy to think I could write things that would make people laugh. Even now I can feel inspiration as I continue to write humor stories. I am positive that I am receiving help so that I can accomplish much in the little time that I have, and so I always try hard to qualify for the Holy Ghost, in order not to lose this gift the Lord has given me.

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to
have their manuscripts become books in print?

KERSTEN: First, never give up. Even if you aren’t good at writing, you will get better if you keep doing it. Writing is something that can be learned. I know. I’m a formerly non-funny person writing humor books. Secondly, be patient. Don’t sacrifice what’s most important in life to achieve your dream. The Lord knows your desire to write, and I believe that when the gospel and our family come first, He blesses us with every good thing that we desire as long as it is in accordance with His plan. He will open up doors of opportunity for us when it is our time. Meanwhile…keep writing, so you’re ready when it happens!! Keep sending in those manuscripts! And keep praying!

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit
down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline

KERSTEN: I like to take a couple of days to brainstorm an idea. I write down every funny thing I can think of that will go along with my subject. I also have a worksheet of plot and character questions that I fill out for each story. Sometimes I do research on the internet. Then I stew on it for a day, until the plot begins to form in my mind. After that, I may outline, or I may just sit down and write, depending on how clearly I can see the story in my head. But I’m always surprised by what comes out. The story I write always deviates from the one that I planned to write.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's
block? If so, how do you deal with it?

KERSTEN: Yes, often! If that happens I take a break. I walk around, do a chore and think while I work. If it still doesn’t come to me, I wait another day. Praying helps too. Usually the solution comes when I’m pondering in the shower or while I exercise.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when
you are writing?

KERSTEN: I need absolute silence. If there is any noise or music I can’t think. I spend a lot of time staring at walls in silence…just thinking.

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

KERSTEN: My family is my inspiration. They are so crazy and funny. I keep index cards in all my pockets and write down the hilarious things they do and say. Then I file the index cards in a box and look at them later to become inspired as to what to write.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

KERSTEN: Other than my husband, who supports me, it would have to be Patrick McManus, the author. His books taught me that humor doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, sarcastic, or put people down. It can be uplifting. I love his stories. I wanted to do something like that with a family theme in order to inspire mothers to laugh and enjoy the craziness of family life and not be discouraged.

M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?

KERSTEN: My husband is my critique group. I have never had time to search one out or to go to regular meetings, and so I have relied on his advice. Luckily he’s a realist and will tell it like it is. I can rely on him for complete honesty when I’ve written something terrible.

M.B.: Anything about yourself that you would like readers to know about?

KERSTEN: Just that I’m old. Not ancient, but I am almost forty and just now getting my first book published. It’s okay if it takes a long time before your dream comes true. Sometimes there are other things that you need to experience first. And in the end your writing will be better for it. I know mine is.

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share

KERSTEN: Yes. One final confession. All reports of me being addicted to chocolate doughnuts are absolutely true. I’m eating one right now, in fact.

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

KERSTEN: Right now you can get “Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother” through my publisher at under “new releases”. Within the next month the books will be available at all LDS bookstores and online, including sites such as, Seagull, and Deseret Book.

I can't wait for Kersten's book to come out. I can think of about twenty people, including myself, that could use a book filled with laughter and hope. This is the perfect book for birthdays, Mother's Day or just for someone who needs a little boost during a rough time in their life.

Thanks Kersten!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Random Thoughts

I won't take up too much of your time today. It was a rough weekend. I attended the funeral of a very dear friend from my ward who passed away. I find myself thinking of her a lot, worrying about her family, being a little more paranoid when a loved one leaves the house. She died in an automobile accident, along with both of her in-laws. She was an amazing wife, mother and person. I found it interesting as I listened to the talks at her funeral that she was the type who always had her camera with her and was always the one taking the famiy videos and pictures. That's why she was rarely in any of the pictures of the vacations and family events.
This made me laugh.
I don't know if you've visited my blog much lately, but I've been searching for a picture of myself to use for it. With not much luck I might add. You might notice that every picture I've tried to use of me has another person cut out of the picture.
Not that a picture of myself is vital to the blog, maybe it would be best to just forego the picture and put up a nice sunset or tropical scene or something interesting. But it did make me realize that even though I'm not the type of person who hands the camera to her husband or kids and says, "will you take a picture of me in front of that landmark, or next to something interesting like the Empire State Building, or at the Sacred Grove or something," I would like to leave some memories of myself in pictures when the day comes that I do pass away.
My motto is, you can never have too many pictures or too many videos. I live by that and I'll die by that. And maybe, if I do it right, my face will even be in the mix somewhere.

Also, don't miss Thursday's blog, which will be an interview with Kersten Campbell! You won't want to miss it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

INTERVIEW with Lisa Mangum, author of The Hourglass Door

Lisa's book The Hourglass Door hits store shelves May 13th and is destined to become a best-seller! I was so excited get to know Lisa and interview her to find out more about her and this awesome book she's written.

Lisa's bio reads: I knew I was destined to work with books when I opted to skip recess in elementary school to help out at the school library instead. A voracious reader my entire life, my first paying job was at the Sandy Library as a Page (I shelved books all day, dreaming of the day I could be a "Chapter" :) I worked at Waldenbooks for the four years I attended the University of Utah, earning a BA (with honors) in English (graduating cum laude in 1997). Four months to the day of my graduation, I landed a job as an Editorial Assistant at Bookcraft, Inc. I've been a book editor ever since. Perhaps with that background, it was logical that I would take the next step and actually write a book. So I did: The Hourglass Door is my first book, and the first in a trilogy.

Here's my interview with Lisa:

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

LISA: I grew up with writing in my blood, I think. My mom is an author and so I grew up reading and writing all kinds of things—stories, poems, plays. I remember being a sophomore in high school and writing down my goals—one of which was to be a published author before I graduated. While I didn’t get a publishing contract then, I did have some of my work featured in my high school literary magazine and I did win some state writing awards. Another early, vivid memory I have is standing in the stacks at Waldenbooks, reading the back of Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn and thinking to myself, “I want to be the person who writes the summary on the back of the book.” And now here I am, not only writing back cover copy as part of my job as an editor, but writing the back cover copy for my own novel.

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

LISA: I love hearing about how authors find their way to publication because no two stories are ever the same. For me, it all started with a conversation I had with Chris Schoebinger (Product Director at Shadow Mountain) on the afternoon of June 13, 2007, about YA fiction—what worked, what didn’t, and what he was hoping to find to publish. Our conversation was interrupted, but I kept thinking about it. After work, I was driving to Provo to attend a writer’s conference and I started thinking about the possibility of writing a YA love story. And then it was like Dante and Abby just jumped in the car with me and told me the whole story of The Hourglass Door. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot of the conference, I scrounged up some paper I had in the car and wrote everything down as fast as I could—plot outlines, character’s names and relationships, key scenes. Chris was attending the same conference and I made a beeline for him the minute I came through the door. I showed him what I’d done and said, “What do you think?” Chris said, “I think you should write it.” So I did.
It took me about a year to complete the manuscript. I turned it in and waited anxiously for Chris’s feedback. I knew that, even though we worked together, if he didn’t like it, he wasn’t going to publish it. It was early in June 2008 when we met and he said, yes, he did want to publish my book and it officially went on the schedule for Summer 2009. Start to finish, it’ll be almost exactly two years from when I got the idea to when finished books will be published and in the stores.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

LISA: I think discouragement and doubt are part and parcel of writing. It’s sometimes hard to convince yourself that what you have to say is something other people are going to want to read—especially on those days that end with a still-blank screen—but I found that sometimes the doubt can be a help instead of a hindrance. On those days when I didn’t know what to do, or when that little voice in the back of my head tried to tell me my writing wasn’t good enough and no one was going to like it, I found that if I tossed all that doubt and discouragement out the window—magic happened. Some of my best writing came about when I let loose and just wrote.

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

LISA: With a full-time job, I do most of my writing on the weekends and the occasional weeknight. For Hourglass Door, though, a couple of key scenes wouldn’t wait until I got home so I wrote them by hand on the train on my way home from work. Often I’ll do a lot of thinking and mental plotting on the train and then, while it’s fresh in my mind, I’ll jot down an outline to work on later.

M.B.: Where did your idea come from for this book?

LISA: As a junior in college, I took a class at the University of Utah that focused on Dante’s Divine Comedy. The class turned out to be one of the best classes I ever took at college—and one of my favorites. At the end of Paradiso, there is a beautiful passage that I fell in love with—Dante’s final prayer to his true love, Beatrice. And so when I first thought about writing a YA love story, I immediately thought of Dante and Beatrice. I drew a lot of inspiration from the classics—Dante, Shakespeare, Virgil—as well as from some of my favorite poets, including W. H. Auden.

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

LISA: Don’t give up! I know that sounds like a cliché, but there is a world of truth in those three words. Publishing is all about sending your story to the right place at the right time. I was talking to a friend the other day about this and I said I thought that publishing sometimes is like dating because often you have to go on a lot of blind dates before you find Mr. Right. So keep polishing up those stories and keep sending them out. If it’s a good story, someone will propose—so to speak. J

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

LISA: I’ve done both, and I’ve had success with both. Because I’m the type of person who likes to make lists and organize my life, I really enjoy outlining a story start to finish. But because I’m also the type of person who loves to be surprised and enjoys puzzles and mysteries, I allow enough flexibility in my outline to just write and see where the story takes me. Even though I had outlined all of Hourglass Door over the course of a couple of days, it turned out that the whole second half wasn’t going to work the way I had planned it. So I ditched the outline and followed the story into new and unexplored territory.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

LISA: When I was younger, I’d write chronologically. I’d start at chapter one and try to write straight through. But inevitably, I’d run into a troublesome spot and instead of skipping to something else, I’d stop. So now, I write whatever I want, whenever I want. If there is a scene that is itching at my brain, then I’ll write that—even if I don’t know where it will end up in the story. I keep a file labeled “Text That Needs a Home” where I gather up all the odds and ends and bits of scenes. Sometimes they work into the story and sometimes they don’t. But I find that when I follow my muse, I write more and stop less.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

LISA: I enjoy some background noise, but it’s harder to write if it’s a TV show or movie—I get caught up in that story instead of working on mine. Music is a must for me. I love stretching out on the couch with my computer on my lap, my cat asleep on my legs, and my iPod on shuffle—a trifecta of writing bliss.

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

LISA: Is chocolate considered an inspiration? J For me, I love it when I find a story—whether in a book or a movie—that is deeply satisfying to me. I love analyzing a good story, seeing what works and why, and then thinking about what I can learn from it and how I can apply to my own work. I also find inspiration in the relationships I have with my family and friends.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

LISA: I would probably have to say my mom (LaRene Gaunt). She set the example for me with her own writing and her own books. She is always willing to give me honest feedback on my writing—she’ll tell me what is good and what needs work as well as suggestions on how to improve. She loves to talk shop with me about all things books. And when I was little, she loved to have me read aloud to her. We read lots and lots of books together that way—me following her around the house while she hung up wallpaper or made cookies. Whatever talent I have as a writer was first nurtured and encouraged by my mom and I am so grateful to her.

M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?

LISA: I do belong to a writing group and I love it! It’s a small group of people I’ve met at work and we are all committed to improving as writers. We meet every other Saturday for breakfast and books. We have rotating deadlines so every ten to twelve weeks my work is due for discussion. It’s also nice because then we can focus on one person’s work each time and not feel the extra pressure of having to turn in something every two weeks. But there is still enough pressure that the deadlines become helpful. One reason I wrote Hourglass Door on such a quick schedule was because I was working against my writer’s group deadlines.

M.B.: Anything about yourself that you would like readers to know about?

LISA: My favorite Girl Scout cookies are Samoas. I’ve seen Rush in concert eight times; they are easily the best band on the planet. I never miss an episode of Lost. I love watching previews at the movie theater (and ordering extra butter on my popcorn). I love jigsaw puzzles and Sudoku puzzles—but not crossword puzzles. I’m becoming more of a sports fan every year (Go Utes!) The best movie I saw last year was The Dark Knight and one of the best books I read last year was Watchmen by Alan Moore and David Gibbons.

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share.

LISA: I’ve shared this motto before, but it’s worth sharing again: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. Don’t quit.” I don’t know who said it—it was on a display I saw at Disneyland and attributed to one of Walt Disney’s Imagineers—but it’s one of my favorites. Even though he was talking about animation, I think it applies to anything creative. Don’t hurry your talent—develop it. Don’t worry if you make a mistake. Don’t quit—persistence is the key to great art.

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

LISA: The Hourglass Door is available for pre-orders at,, and The book will be in stores May 13, 2009. I’m thrilled to join the ranks of published authors and I hope people enjoy my book. I’d love to hear readers’ reactions and reviews; you can contact me (and read my blog “The Word Nerd”) at my web site
I want to thank Lisa for spending time sharing a little about herself and her writing. She is one talented lady and I'm really looking forward to The Hourglass Door.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Keys to Success - making dreams come true!

I am fascinated by what makes people tick. People watching is one of my favorite things to do and I can't help but wonder as I watch them, what their story is, who they are, what their lives are like. I think that's the author in me. My father is a Psychology professor, maybe some of that rubbed off on me.
I'm particularly fascinated by people who are survivors, who have exhibited an amazing ability to exercise the human will and overcome incredible odds. I also enjoy hearing about people who have achieved great success and I am inspired by certain aspects of their character that allows them to achieve their dreams and goals.
I found a wonderful list on the internet I thought would be interesting to share. I believe inside every person is greatness. And usually, the only thing holding us back from making our dreams come true is . . . ourselves. Sometimes it's fear, sometimes it's doubt, sometimes it's laziness. No matter what, we all have the key to unlock that greatness. We just have to use it.

I hope you take these not-so-secret, secrets to heart and realize your dreams – whatever they may be.
1. How You Think is Everything.
Always be positive. Think Success, not Failure. Beware of a negative environment.
This trait has to be one of the most important in the entire list. Your belief that you can accomplish your goals has to be unwavering. The moment you say to yourself “I can’t…”, then you won’t. I was always given the advice “never say I can’t” and I’d like to strike those words from the dictionary.
Positive things happen to positive people.
2. Decide upon Your True Dreams and Goals: Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them.
You may have heard the old adage: A New Years resolution that isn’t written down is just a dream, and dreams are not goals.
Goals are those concrete, measurable stepping stones of achievement that track your progress towards your dreams.
3. Take Action. Goals are nothing without action.
Be like Nike and “Just do it”.
4. Never Stop Learning: Go back to school or read books. Get training & acquire skills.
Becoming a life long learner would benefit us all and is something we should instill in our kids. It’s funny that once you’re out of school you realize how enjoyable learning can be. What have you learned today?
5. Be Persistent and Work Hard: Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.
There is no getting around this and there is no free lunch. But, if you’re working towards something that you’re passionate about, something you love – then is it really work?
6. Learn to Analyze Details: Get all the facts, all the input. Learn from your mistakes.
Spend time gathering details, but don’t catch ‘analysis paralysis’.
7. Focus Your Time And Money: Don’t let other people or things distract you.
Remain laser focused on your goals and surround yourself with positive people that believe in you. Don’t be distracted by the naysayer’s or tasks that are not helping you achieve your goals.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate: Be different. Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.
Follow through on that break-out idea you have. Ask yourself “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”
9. Deal And Communicate With People Effectively: No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others.
Successful people develop and nurture a network and they only do that by treating people openly, fairly and many times firmly. There is nothing wrong about being firm – just don’t cross the line to being overbearing. How do you deal with people?
10. Be Honest And Dependable: Take responsibility, otherwise numbers 1 – 9 won’t matter.
(January 17th, 2008 by Victor Stachura)

I've said in a previous post, (I think), that achieving the dream of becoming an author, for me wasn't attributed to a great talent I possess, but rather, a strong desire to make that dream come true. I worked hard and I never gave up, and that is all there is to it. We create our own luck and we make our own dreams come true. There's no magic involved.