Friday, May 29, 2009

Interview with Jillayne Clements author of Deadly Treasure by Michele Ashman Bell


None of these things are on Lexi's mind when she returns home to Park City, Utah, for her grandfather's funeral. That is, until she stumbles across an old diary while cleaning out his attic. Soon Lexi's head is filled with tales of hidden treasure buried deep in the mines of the Uintah Mountains.

When the diary is stolen and Lexi realizes her life is in danger, she decides to find out if the stories are true. She heads to the Uintahs in search of the secret mine, with her handsome friend Brad by her side. What they don't know is that someone is following them, someone who will stop at nothing to get the treasure. Soon Lexi and Brad are in a fight for their lives, just as they are starting to realize that there may be more to their relationship than they originally thought.

With surprising twists around every corner, expect the unexpected in this thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and mystery.

From Jillayne's Unofficial Author Bio I took the following information about her:

While growing up, I learned very quickly that the two halves of my brain were both right. This is great if you like to create things and daydream about plots while your teachers are talking, not so great if you ever need to know math or be logical.

Creating characters and story lines (especially love stories) isn't my only passion. I also enjoy creating divine-tasting recipes that are actually healthy.

Though I graduated from USU years ago, I still daydream about plots and now recipes while doing my daily activities. It's a great way for me put life's stresses in perspective as long as I don't confuse the two and come up with some bizarre recipe like Hunk a Muffins.

Jillayne is an author with a fresh voice and a riveting story. Her passion for her characters and plot pull the reader in immediately.

Here is my interview with Jillayne:

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

Jillayne: I have always enjoyed writing, but the dream to become an author didn’t come until the idea for my very first novel came to me.

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

Jillayne: It was a great learning experience. It started several years ago when I decided to write my personal family history novel style. It was so fun. The next thing I knew, the idea of a novel came to my mind. I quickly wrote it, submitted it for publishing, and it’s still collecting dust on my shelf in its manuscript form. After those rejections I thought, “Well, writing a novel was a complete waste of time. I’m never doing that again.” (But I learned a lot about what not to do when writing from that experience so it wasn’t a waste at all.) About a year later, another story idea came to me. I was hesitant to write another novel, but I started it anyway. I just had fun with the plot, scenes, and characters. After about four years of working on it off and on I was ready to submit it to publishers. (It took four years because I took time out while I was ill, and because I also devoted a lot of time to creating recipes for and writing a whole foods cookbook.) But this time I believed in my story. I believed in my characters and felt others would enjoy it as well. With that frame of mind I sent it in. I received a quick, positive response and 8 months later was holding it in my hands for the first time.

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

Jillayne: Yes! Mainly because it took so much longer than I ever expected it would. Then there were all the self-doubts. Sometimes I would read over chapters and think, “That’s pretty good.” Other times I’d read over them and think, “This is just so cheesy. It’s never going to get published.” But I just kept plugging away, setting goals, and having fun. Then one day, it was completely done and accepted for publication.

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

Jillayne: Writing schedule? Am I supposed to have one? Ideally, when my mind is on target, I contemplate plots and character details while doing my daily activities. I jot down ideas on a pad of paper. Then I like to type it out between the hours of 8-10 p.m. This is when I’m most alert and feel the best. Then when my juices really get flowing it’s time for bed. Hmmm. Maybe that’s why Deadly Treasure took 4 years to finish.

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?

Jillayne: For Deadly Treasure the characters and a rough plot popped into my mind one day. I worked on it for a few weeks knowing that they would have an occasion to tell ghost stories around a campfire, but I was still looking for a main plot for everything to revolve around. So I went to the library to check out books about ghost stories and right there on the shelf next to them were all these books about the Lost Rhoades Mines. I literally froze. I knew it was it. I was so excited because my husband is a direct descendant of the man who originally attained gold from the mines, Thomas Rhoades. The whole story drew me in on a very personal level.

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

Jillayne: 1. Characterization is huge. My most favorite books are ones where I can relate well with the character, or get so pulled into their life that I can’t put the book down. 2. Having others read and critique my work along the way was essential. I also bounced ideas off others. 3. I think taking the time to write a good cover letter and synopsis before submitting a manuscript is really important. 4. Keep going and think positively.

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

Jillayne: Usually, I just let my imagination take over for a while. I keep notes of how the plot and characters develop. I do like to have a rough outline to work from, but most of the story just develops as I go.

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?

Jillayne: Absolutely! Usually I get stuck because something just isn’t right. After pondering and even praying about it for a while, an alternate solution comes to mind, and everything else flows after that. Until I get to the next snag.

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

Jillayne: Sometimes I’ll listen to music while I think of the scenes, but not when I write. I prefer quiet for that, but it’s hard since the only times my house is quiet is when everyone is asleep including me.

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

Jillayne: I like to do research. That usually gets my mind spinning with plot and sub plot ideas.

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

Jillayne: I would have to say my sister. She never gets tired of reading and critiquing my work over and over, and she’s great to for bouncing around ideas. My husband and children are great for this too. They are all a great source of support.

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

Jillayne: If having everyone I know read it and critique it counts as a critique group, then yes. Had I not done this with my novel that’s published, I don’t believe it would be published because a lot of my writing weaknesses were brought out in the process.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

Jillayne: Everything I’ve written is a part of me, in a way. But my favorite so far is one I’m currently writing. It’s a novel intended for a national audience. I’ve really seen my writing skills improve with this one, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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

Jillayne: I’m just happy to be an author. It’s one of the most rewarding and creative outlets I can imagine.

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

Jillayne: Links to my book (and updates on when my cookbook will be available) can be found on my website, I’m hoping it will be in Deseret Book and Seagull soon.
And at Amazon . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Seagull Box girls --
Back row: Abbie Mather, Brianne Whatcott, Lauren Lewis, Elizabeth Haight
Front row: Megan Isham, Syrina Starr, Michele Bell, Debbie Nielson, Paige mather

I was invited (actually I kind of invited myself) to the first annual opening of the Seagull Box. What, you may ask, is a Seagull Box?
I'm so glad you asked.
In my book, A Modest Proposal, I write about 5 best friends from high school who put items that represent themselves and their friendship, into a box with a butterfly on top. This box becomes of symbol of their bond, friendship and commitment to each other. They get together each year and have a reunion where they open up the box and talk about the items and renewing their friendship. Each year the box goes home with one girl, with the idea that this girl will receive extra prayers and luck because she is in possession of the box.
The wacky and awesome employees at Seagull Book and Tape in Taylorsville, Utah, decided they wanted to put a box together. Each of them put in an item that represented them as an individual and then something that represented their friendship. A year later, they celebrated the opening of the box and I got to be there when it happened.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun I had with these girls. As they went around the circle and talked about the items they'd put in the box, they relived and recounted experiences and moments through the year that they had shared together, most of them a ten on the "hysterical moments in life" scale. I laughed till my face hurt as they remembered these shared moments together. Some of the things that were in the box were:
a CD of their favorite songs
a photo album
PJ bottoms (they all have matching PJ bottoms)
a napkin with a boy's phone number - long story, but that's what girls do . . . help their friends get the phone number of the cute boy that was in the play they went to see, who just happened to show up at the same restaurant!
paper clips from an apron at work
there was something about the cheese fries at Leatherby's and the water at Leatherby's, which they claim must have something in it because they always get seriously loopy after drinking it (my theory is that just being together makes them this way)
memories of getting kicked out of places (like Olive Garden) because they get so silly (see above comment)
And the list could go on . . .

As I observed the bond these girls share and the amount of fun they had remembering the things that they share as friends, I realized that this "BOX" idea really has something to it. I also realized that maybe other girls might be interested in getting their own "BOX" together with their friends. It doesn't have to be a butterfly box or a seagull box. It could be a sister box, a cousin box, a Young Women box, or just a friendship box, filled with items and memories that will solidify the bond of sisterhood, whether biological or not. It could even contain goals and dreams, almost like a time capsule, to help girls set goals and then check each year to see how they are doing with their progress.

If anyone out there is interested in doing it and I can help, please contact me. I'd love to be involved. I'd even be thrilled to come and be a part of it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Interview with Candace Salima

Hold the phone, people. It's been that kind of week. I wanted to add more to this interview before it posted but I didn't get to it before it got sent out, so my apologies to my dear friend Candace.

Now, having said that let's begin.

I first met Candace on the internet. She's one of those people who can pack more into a day than any ten people and I remember thinking, "Good grief, doesn't this woman ever sleep?" Several months later I finally got to meet Candace at a luncheon with some friends. I was blown away by her. First, by how truly nice and fun she is, and then, by how unbelievably dynamic she is. I don't know how much sleep she gets a night but she has the capacity to accomplish a lot of really great things.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting Candace in person, here's your chance to get to know a little more about this wonderful woman, someone I am happy to call my friend.

Here's some background about Candace . . .

Candace E. Salima was born right smack dab in the middle of twelve children. In a family comprised of his, mine and ours, Candace can barely remember a time when reading wasn't an integral part of her life. Her love of books, reading and writing, was born of hearing her mother read nightly from the James Herriot series about a veterinarian's mishaps in the British countryside. She thrived in a family of readers, began writing original stories at the age of eleven and has never looked back.

The daughter of a father who survived the invasion of Hitler's war machine in his homeland and a mother who is an often controversial conservative columnist, Candace spent her childhood on the back of a horse or trudging through the mountains and valleys of the American west. Born in California, she lived in Nebraska, Montana, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico . . . all before she was twelve-years-old. As an adult she lived in Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, and another short stint in California before making her home in Utah.

She met her sweetheart at Brigham Young University in 1983. Ten years later she appeared on the Phil Donahue Show in defense of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which precipitated a reunion with him. In 1995, Alvin and Candace were married in the Bountiful Temple and settled in Utah Valley. Unable to have children, Alvin and Candace shower their love and attention on their nieces and nephews.

In the course of her life, Candace has been a reporter, a writer of health booklets, a screenwriter, and a teacher. Her philosophy in life is simple . . . everything can be turned into a good story. Hence her nine day rafting trip down the Colorado River, hiking the Colorado Rockies, or horseback riding in the northern Wyoming Grand Teton mountains. A love of BYU football, basketball, swimming, movies, plays, concerts and socializing with family and friends round out her life. All this, and she still prefers to be curled up on her couch with a good book, a cup of hot chocolate and a blustery Winnie-the-Pooh day brewing outside.

Here are the questions...Candace E. Salima

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

AUTHOR: Interestingly, I began writing original stories at the age of eleven, with a beginning, middle and end. I read books and would think to myself, this could be so much better. But it wasn’t until I took a creative writing class in college that I was steered in the direction of writing. Initially, I wrote screenplays but when I turned 40 and the movie industry hadn’t work out for me I decided to try my hand at writing. “Out of the Shadows…Into the Light” was the result.

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

AUTHOR: I wanted to write romantic suspense. With my values being what they are, I knew writing that genre in the national market was not something I could do and live with myself, or look my mother in the eye. So I did a little research in the LDS market, sat down and wrote three chapters and sent them to a friend of my sister’s at Covenant. The editor who ended up with the chapters really liked them and asked me to finish the book and submit it. I did that, but we ran into some problems when we disagreed on how to handle certain parts of the book.

In the meantime, I attended the first LDS Storymakers Writers Conference and met Chad Daybell who was just launching his new publishing house Spring Creek Book Company. By June of that year, I signed a contract with Spring Creek on “Out of the Shadows…Into the Light”. The rest, as they say, is history.

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

AUTHOR: Yes, I have been discouraged. Not in the beginning because I had three books out in the course of 18 months. Writing was cruising along and book sales were brisk. My husband became very ill, but I continued to write until it came to the point where I could no longer think creatively. As day after day by his bedside went on, I ceased doing anything creative and simply stuck to the task of keeping my husband alive.

I stressed about it daily but anything I sat down and wrote was far below the high standard I hold myself to and so I deleted and tried again. I eventually gave up and decided to concentrate on staying awake and Alvin alive.

It is only recently that I have begun to write again. I am still in the middle of the two books I began two years ago, but now have begun writing again on a daily basis. I knew one day I would be able to write again and am very grateful that time has come. In the meantime, I read books, worked with other authors, edited the manuscripts of others in order to keep my hand in the creative process and continued to hone my skills. Oddly, I am a better writer than I was four years ago. I hope to have one book out at the end of this year and another in the first quarter of the next.

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

AUTHOR: I used to get up every morning at 4:00 and write in the quiet of the early morning awakening of the earth. But I haven’t seen 4:00 a.m. in awhile. So now I write when I can. I carry a laptop with me everywhere, although I caught a glimpse of Alison Palmer’s Mobile Pro and am considering purchasing one of those to keep with me at all times so that I can write during any downtime in the course of a regular day. There is a lot of that, oddly enough.

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?

AUTHOR: I’m inspired by everything around me. A turn of phrase, a title to a song, the events unfolding around me, the news, my hopes, dreams and fears—all of them, somehow, trigger entire stories in my head and I write. I then take the outline and first couple of chapters to a select group to see if I have anything good. Their responses give me the idea of where I need to go with the story and the best way to bring that about.

I haven’t had a bad story come to mind yet. I have a very colorful imagination and am able to weave an intriguing story out of just about anything.

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

AUTHOR: Read, read and read more. Be certain you are reading authors who can actually write. Bad writers, although they may be good storytellers, will actually affect your writing ability. So stay far away from those.

Attend writing conferences. Don’t spend a fortune doing so, but find the ones which challenge, teach and inspire you and attend them regularly. Not only will you improve as a writer, but you will also develop connections and friendships which will last a lifetime.

Create a critique group and listen. You don’t always have to take the suggestions offered, but make certain it is because it’s a bad suggestion rather than one of ego.

Get a story journal and for the first 5 to 10 minutes of each day do free form writing. Whether you purchase an actual journal or use your computer, it really doesn’t matter. But write. This will trigger the creative process and get you in the mode of storytelling. This was an exercise one of the best writing teachers I ever had utilized at the beginning of each class period. I was amazed at how well it worked. It still does.

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

AUTHOR: Stories hit me out of the blue, like a bolt of lightning. The fleshing out of the story takes a little longer. I start with a general outline, very general. I identify the research points and then begin my research. As I conduct that research the story begins to unfold and become three dimensional. I then began writing the actual story; a creative dumping of story and thought that only a mother would love, and actually, that might be in question too. Through that process, invariably, I will come upon points where more research is required. I make a note and finish the rough draft of the book. I then go and conduct the necessary research and then begin honing the second draft of the book. When that one is complete, I send it out to a select group of readers who fill out a questionnaire upon completion of the book. I go carefully through their thoughts, impressions and suggestions and use the ones which make sense. I then go through it one more time, looking for any mistakes and then submit that version to my publisher.

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?

AUTHOR: I just came out of a four year writer’s block. I tried everything I could think of to break free from it, but with the pressures and stresses of my life at the time, staying upright and fighting was about all I could manage. It was after my husband regained his health, finances eased up and life got on a more even keel I was able to begin writing away. I tried going up in the mountains. I tried gardening, exercising, playing music, anything. I tried going to Colorado. I tried reading. I tried everything I could think of, but until my husband was given a clean bill of health after eight very scary years, I was not able to write. My last book was released in February of 2006. By the release of my next book it will have been four years to the day. Not a good thing, but nonetheless, it is the way my life has played out. I’ve stopped stressing over, accepted that sometimes life just happens and there isn’t much you can do about it. But writing is as necessary as breathing and I’m so grateful to be doing it again.

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

AUTHOR: No, I don’t listen to music. I like to sing along to the music I listen to which makes it very tough to write. So I lock myself in my office and do my writing in absolute peace and quiet. I know. I’m spoiled.

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

AUTHOR: Hot fudge brownie sundaes? Okay, maybe not. As long as I am reading my scriptures and praying daily, get a little sun and exercise and eating properly I seem to do really well in the writing process. If I neglect any of that it gets a lot harder to pull that story out of my brain.

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

AUTHOR: Nora Roberts and my mother. I absolutely adore the writing style of Nora Roberts, but not necessarily the scenes I have to skip when I’m reading her books. I find her to be a brilliant writer. When I was hung with the moniker of the LDS Nora Roberts it was the greatest of compliments. In the meantime, my sweet mother, Muriel Sluyter, reads everything I write and always offers honest, helpful critique as well as correction of punctuation and grammar. One disagreement we had about split infinitives triggered a scene in “Out of the Shadows…Into the Light”.

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

AUTHOR: I used to, now I just use my mother, my brother, my sister (all of which are painfully honest and see different problems than the others) and Tristi Pinkston.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

AUTHOR: It’s hard to say. I love “Out of the Shadows…Into the Light” and am so pleased to be close to finishing the book in that series. It’s a romantic suspense that kept me thoroughly entertained and on seat’s edge throughout the entire writing of it. But then again, Forged in the Refiner’s Fire was a deeply inspiring book to compile and write. It has touched so many lives. I don’t know, I can’t choose between the two. Sorry.

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

AUTHOR: Writing can be a lonely and difficult process. And yet, as we create characters and stories, breathe life into them and watch them blossom we find ourselves immersed in a world created in our minds. It’s a fascinating place to be and sad when we have to leave. So I make sure I spend time with family and friends, read, watch football and basketball games nephews and nieces are playing in, garden and spend time with my husband. All that makes me happy and a better writer, I don’t need angst to write, I need peace.

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

AUTHOR: is the best place to go, following the links up there. When Spring Creek declared bankruptcy it left my readership in somewhat of a lurch, so I reprinted both Shadows and Forged via CreateSpace and made them available on again. In addition, Provident Book in Pleasant Grove, UT carries my books as well. By next year, all my books will once again be available at your local bookstore.

Link to order "Forged in the Refiners Fire"

Link to order "Out of the Shadows, Into the Light"

Link to order "13 and 0: Reflections of Champions

Dream a little dream…
Salima Enterprises, LLC

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two in One Day!

From time to time I will share favorite blogs sites with you. I hope you'll return the favor and share some of the blogs you visit often, other than mine, of course:-)

Take a minute and add Doug Johnston's blog to your list of favorites and visit his site often. He's a wonderful person and has great insights in life.

Doug's blog address is:

I'm pretty sure you'll thank me for passing this on.

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most!

Taffy and Lianne, where are you? You have won Jodi Marie Robinson's book and mine. Please contact me so we can send them to you.

I need a secretary, a maid, a cook, and a driver (I would have typed chauffer, chaufeur, sho-fer -- oh forget it, but I'm not in the mood to look it up!).

It's time to simplify.

That's been my focus lately. I'm not doing a very good job of it. In fact, if anything, it's gotten worse.

Busy husband, busy kids, busy callings, busy life. Don't get me started.

My sweet, awesome and handsome editor (don't make anything of that, I'm old enough to be his mother) said something the other day when I was in a meeting with him. He said that sometimes we get so busy doing good things that we sometimes neglect the important things. He used the example of social networking and how much time people spend on it when maybe they could be using their time more wisely doing other things. He was politely and kindly telling me that I needed to give my writing some priority status. Thank you, Kirk, for that much needed kick in the rear.

Did that ever ring true, especially for this Bell (Ha-ha, how clever was that? And me functioning with no brain cells).

That is why I dropped my blog posts down to two days a week and that is why I am trying to get rid of things in my life that don't really matter and are taking up my time. I am trying to assess things that I can trim down or cut out of my life. Maybe my next blog can be about the things I've decided to work on. I would love your help and suggestions. I don't have time for therapy, so you, dear readers, are the next best thing. What have you done to simplify your life? I've tried going without sleep and not cooking for my family, both of which failed miserably. Other than that, I'm open to your suggestions.

Don't forget to check back on Friday. I am posting an interview with the amazing Candace Salima. A woman who gets more done in a day, than any five people I know.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jerry Borrowman, Jodi Marie Robinson and and interview with Tristi Pinkston, what more could you ask for?

First of all, please take a minute a watch the Youtube video about Jerry Borrowman's new book that was showcased two weeks ago on my blog. This book is awesome!

Secondly, Jodi Marie Robinson has decided to make an honest woman out of me and will be giving books to the other two winners, who will also be receiving my books. I think that makes them grand prize winners!!! So, keep entering for giveaways -- you seriously never know what's going to happen.

And finally, saving the best for last, I am pleased to interview the wonderfully witty, amazingly aweseome, Tristi Pinkston.

First, let me give you a little background about Tristi, which I stole from her web-site.

With her crisp writing style and attention to detail, Tristi Pinkston pulls her readers into the pages of history and helps them feel the emotions that fueled the events of that time. She has been hailed as one of the most talented historical fiction writers currently on the market.

Jeff Needle's review for AML, said, "This kind of writing can only come about when the author has thoroughly researched her subject and worked very hard to put herself in the place of her protagonist."

"You can find basic history lessons anywhere," Tristi says. "I specialize in telling the other side of the story, things that aren’t so commonly discussed. I feel that in order to really understand history, we need to look at it from all angles. I’ll admit, some of my viewpoints keep me from winning the political popularity contest, but that’s okay with me. I’m telling the stories I feel need to be told."

Here's what Tristi has to say about herself: I'm a stay at home mom and a homeschooler (visit I spend lots of time ignoring my dirty house and hiding laundry in weird places. I specialize in moving things from one place to another, and then back again. I love Flylady’s housework routines (visit and I sometimes even do them. In my spare time, you know, those hours most people waste with sleep, I'm a writer. I love to do research and make my novels as realistic as possible, helping my readers to understand nuances of history that escape the textbooks.

In addition to the novels I write, I maintain a blog which contains tips for aspiring authors and also my own personal ramblings, which sometimes make sense and sometimes do not. I also write book reviews for It’s a fabulous job – I get to read books and talk about them, two of my favorite things.

I was just called to serve as the Wolf Leader in my ward. Scouting is something I’ve never done before but I’m looking forward to the new experiences. I enjoy reading, watching good movies, and scrapbooking. I like trying new recipes (even though my kids won't eat them and would much rather have Ramen noodles), spending time with my kids, and taking Sunday afternoon naps, which are so necessary. I also enjoy chocolate just a little more than I really should.

On a personal note, I met Tristi when her first book, "Nothing to Regret" came out. The book was powerful, well-written and completely knocked my socks off. I knew then that Tristi's books would become fan favorites and she would be a strong presence in the LDS market.

Here is my interview with Tristi:

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

AUTHOR: I’ve wanted to be an author my whole life. I wrote my first poem when I was about seven, I think, and I knew back then that this is what I wanted. I don’t write poetry any more, though.

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

AUTHOR: I first submitted to Covenant, and they had it for a year. They asked me to do some revisions, and I did them, and then it turned out to be a no. I then submitted to a few other places, and I had just about decided it wasn’t going to work until I got a call from Granite. They asked me to come in and meet with them, I dry-heaved all the way there (not very lady-like, but true) and we signed a contract.

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

AUTHOR: Oh, of course! I thought Covenant was going to pick it up. Then I made it all the way through to the end of the process with another company, and then they asked for money to help publish it, money I didn’t have. I went to bed and cried for two hours. Then I got up, went to an all-night Kinko’s, ran off six copies and submitted to everyone else I could think of. That’s how I found Granite. I published two books with them, self-published my third, and now I’m with Cedar Fort.

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

AUTHOR: I do most of my actual writing between nine and midnight, after the kids are in bed. I do the bulk of my e-mailing in the late morning.

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?

AUTHOR: I really do get my ideas in the strangest places. My first novel came from a dream, my second came from a Relief Society lesson, my third is a family history story, and “Agent in Old Lace,” my new release, came about from a news story. The series I’m starting in the fall came from a late-night conversation with my husband and we got the giggles while we brain-stormed it.

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

AUTHOR: First, beware of pride. When someone wants to give you constructive criticism, listen to it. Take what they’re saying and apply the parts that are true and junk the parts that might not be true for your story, but be willing to listen to everything. It’s hard to admit that someone else is right about your story. It was quite the blow to my ego last month to be working on a revision and realize my mother was right – my first chapter really did drag. But as we listen and evaluate and apply, we’ll find that our writing becomes so much stronger. This isn’t to say we should do absolutely everything we’re told. Sometimes someone will make a suggestion and we’ll know it’s way off base – those you just shrug off.

Second, you have to be willing to keep trying. Too often, I hear people say that they submitted to a company and were rejected, and so they’re not going to try again. You can’t do that. Submit, and submit, and submit. And if some advice comes along with the rejection, take that advice. Revise, and then submit again.

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

AUTHOR: It all depends on the story. When I’m writing a historical fiction, I have a timeline in front of me. I know what battle happened when and where, and I know which historical figures were there and what they did, so I know how to move my character in and out of the scene. Beyond that, I do tend to let it flow.

For my contemporary novels, I start with a general idea of what I want, and then I just see where it takes me. I’d say about 70% of the final version of “Agent in Old Lace” was spur of the moment, and nearly all of my fall release was just written as it came.

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?

AUTHOR: I set it aside and I do other things. I read books, I watch movies, I scrapbook, and before long the answer will just come. If I sit and stew, it rarely comes.

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

AUTHOR: I can’t listen to music while I write. If I’m listening to music, I need to be singing along, and I can’t sing and write at the same time. But I can write without absolute quiet—there’s often “Blue’s Clues” in the background, or children discussing the merits of one Lego piece over another.

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

AUTHOR: I like to immerse myself in the time period I’m writing about, when doing a historical. I read books and watch movies about that era and try to soak in the atmosphere. For “Agent in Old Lace,” I talked to authors who had written suspense, and they helped me start the story where it really needed to start.

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

AUTHOR: Wow. That’s a hard question. My parents have always been really supportive, and my husband has really stepped up to the plate and been there for me. I’ve met scads of authors who have made comments that have influenced me. I’ve read scads of books that have helped me hone my skills. I don’t know if I can narrow it down any further than that.

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

AUTHOR: I have used a critique group for the last year. Before that, I felt I didn’t have time, and it’s true—my children were younger and I wasn’t able to leave them for long stretches without very disastrous things happening. But last year, I was invited to participate in a critique group and my husband felt like he could handle a little more absence on my part, so I meet with my group every week. (Hi, Keith, Kim, Nichole and Heather!!) Each member of the group brings something different to the table and they have pointed out things to me I wasn’t noticing on my own. Now, when I write, I hear their voices in my head. “Tristi, take out ‘that’ in the first sentence.” It’s making my writing so much stronger, and I hope I’m reciprocating.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

AUTHOR: Okay, Michele, which of your kids do you like best?  I’m joking, but only sort of. Each book represents who I was at the time I wrote it. When I look at them, I can remember the thoughts and feelings I had during the process and it’s like a journal to me. I have to say that “Season of Sacrifice” has the deepest emotional impact to me because it’s the true story of my ancestors, and “Secret Sisters,” my fall release, was the most fun to write. But they are each important to me in their own way.

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

AUTHOR I’d like to thank you for hosting me, Michele!

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

AUTHOR: You can get my first three books from my website ( and “Agent in Old Lace” here

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

WINNERS ANNOUNCED! Jodi Marie Robinson book giveaway! One small boo-boo!

And the winners are . . . Danyelle Fergusen and Alexis!

Your names were chosen to receive Jodi's wonderful products. Please email me with your contact information and Jodi will get those in the mail to you.

And because I just turned 50 and lost half of my brain cells in the process, I have to make a correction to the giveaway. I said Jodi would give out two books and two tiles. I was wrong. She will give out one book and one tile. So I apologize for misleading you.

BUT . . . to hopefully help you forgive me and not delete me from your life, I am giving out two of my own books to make up for my boo-boo.

These winners are . . . Taffy and liane66. Would you two awesome girls send me your contact info at and I will send you each my first book, An Unexpected Love. If you already have this book, let me know. I can send you something else.

As always, thank you, dear friends and fans, for taking time to check my blog and read my entries and for letting me into your life.

Make sure you check back Friday, when I will post my interview with Tristi Pinkston!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Interview and giveaway with Jodi Marie Robinson author of "Women of Virtue" by Michele Ashman Bell

"Mom, I look ugly."

How often have we heard our young daughters proclaim such a heartbreaking statement? In a world that has convinced young women they must look like supermodels to be considered beautiful, self-esteems and self-worth are suffering greatly.

Jodie Marie Robinson refuses to allow her three daughters to grow up believing they are anything but beautiful. Not beautiful by the world s definition beautiful by the Lord s definition. And that definition is virtue.

President Hinckley said, There is none more beautiful, more inspiring than a [woman] who knows who she is, who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so. True beauty is virtuous beauty. It is felt with the heart, not seen with the eyes. It is inherently part of a woman's divine nature.

In Women of Virtue, beauty is redefined as a rare and priceless love of one's inner self. Let each of us open our eyes to discover within ourselves the beauty of virtue, and teach our children our future that therein lies true happiness.

Jodi Marie Robinson has taken on the daunting task of changing the world's perception of beauty and helping women of all ages discover the "true beauty" that lies within each of them. Her book, "Woman of Virtue" shares a message that reminds us all that we are precious daughters of our Father in Heaven, and that we indeed, are beautiful.

This book would make a perfect gift for Mother's Day. It would also make a nice gift for any young woman as she enters the Young Women Program or any time through those difficult years of junior high and high school.

I was thrilled that Jodi would let me interview her so we could find out about her journey of writing this book.

Here's my interview:

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

Honestly, it took a good friend of mine saying you need to write a book before I actually got serious about it. In 2007, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of women on the topic of “Living Virtuously in an Un-virtuous World.” After the presentation, my friend said to me: “Jodi, you need to keep going with this and put your information into Chapters.” Her words of encouragement motivated me. From there, the fire was lit! It was exciting! In writing a book I could reach more people. I could give wings to this message I so passionately believed in.

Then the experience with my 8-year-old that I write about in the Introduction of my book solidified that desire. “Mom, I look ugly.” Those words crushed me. And I had to do something. I refused to allow my three daughters to grow up in a “red carpet world” that constantly tried to convince them that beauty is about your body and your looks. I want them to know who they are and that they are beautiful not because they are beautiful by the world’s definition—because they are beautiful by the Lord’s definition. And that’s the definition that counts.

I’ve always been passionate about inner beauty. Over the last eight years, I’ve taught self-esteem workshops to women recovering from drug abuse at a treatment center in Salt Lake City. As I have watched hundreds of women rediscover who they are and learn to love themselves, my testimony of the beauty of virtue has grown stronger.

Women of all ages are thirsty for this message. They are thirsty to know who they are and what their purpose is. Each time I conduct a workshop or give a talk, women drink it up because it feels right! It’ feels right because it is true. It is “eternal truth” and eternal truths remind us who we are and who we’ve always been. It’s the Adversary who works hard to confuse women. Women today have to know how to “live in the world” but not be “of the world.” If they don’t learn how to do this, they risk losing themselves. It’s that plain and simple.

Young girls, young women, and adult women, at some point in their lives suffer with self-esteem and body image issues. It’s not something we talk about, but it’s there inside of us. I knew my experiences could help others. If I can help one girl, one woman, to see herself as God sees her, then it all will have been worth it.

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

AUTHOR: When you’re writing a book about believing in your true potential, it’s hard to get a rejection letter that basically says you’re not good enough—REJECT! Well, luckily those rejection letters compelled me to try even harder—and to pray harder and to rely on the Spirit more intently. After each revision my manuscript got better. Eventually I got a “Yes!” Oh, that was a happy day.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in the April 2008 General Conference “to step off the sidelines.” Well, I’m stepping off the sidelines. I’m speaking out to women to remind them that we can only truly be happy when we live authentically as the women God intended us to be. And that is women of virtue.

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

AUTHOR: At times I faced a lot of opposition. You wouldn’t think that to be the case, because I’m writing about virtue. But you’d be surprised at what the Adversary threw in my way. When you’re trying to do something good there will always be a force working against you. Once I figured out that that was what it was, I was able to overcome it and put it in its proper place. I really had to stay close to my Heavenly Father. I needed his help to move forward. It really was such an incredible experience.

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

AUTHOR: As a mother of four children, I had to be creative about when I would write. Most of my writing took place from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. There were sleepless nights when I’d wake up to thoughts flowing in my brain and I would have to get up and write them down. I believe we all have the ability to tap into that “higher source” of creativity. All we have to do is ask and in faith we will receive answers.

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

I had questions and I needed answers. Really, my book is my own journey to find answers to those questions. I have definitely learned when you “knock” God answers and he leads you to where He wants you to go. Even when it comes to beauty and self-esteem issues God has answers. I have had many a moments when I worried whether or not my message was something other women were feeling. When other women told me, “I’ve thought that same thing.” Or, “Oh, you are so right!” I knew I was on to something. It wasn’t just me. It was something many women had experienced as well. I just was able to put those feelings into words.

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

AUTHOR: Don’t think about the book. Think about the message. If that message adds to the good in this world, then believe that will happen. And ask for God’s help. Listen to your inner voice and don’t give up. Learn from others who have gone before you. Don’t be afraid to change what needs to be changed. I deleted an entire chapter when someone told me it didn’t work. (In my mind it was a GREAT chapter. But I listened. And now I see that the book is better without it.) Don’t be arrogant and understand you are NOT the best writer on the planet; however, you don’t have to be the best writer on the planet to write. You just have to be the best writer YOU can be. There will always be better writers. Be happy for them. And be happy for you. When someone gives you advice about your manuscript, be humble. You can learn from constructive criticism even when you don’t want to.

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

AUTHOR: The process of writing this book was interesting because my thoughts were random and I could never force them. I would think about something for a while; study and pray and then I’d wait for answers. I wish my thoughts were organized and I could just make an outline and write. Oh, wouldn’t that be nice! I quickly learned when random thoughts entered my brain (and they came at the most inopportune times like while I was doing dishes or driving carpool or sleeping) I had to immediately jot them down on sticky notes or napkins, or whatever piece of paper I could find so I could come back to them later. Eventually, I could organize those thoughts into chapters. If I were to ever try writing a novel, I don’t know how I would it!

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?

AUTHOR: As I mentioned above, I couldn’t force what I was writing. It had to come when the timing was right. Over the course of writing my book, I took week breaks. Those breaks seemed to make a difference and gave me a boost of energy. Then I was excited to get back to writing and editing.

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

AUTHOR: If I waited for silence, I’d never write. I’ve always been able to write no matter what is going on around me. It’s the magic of a multi-tasking brain. Thirteen years ago, I was free-lance writing for a marketing company and working from home. My baby Jacqueline would sit on my desk and play with my pens and pencils, my file folders, anything I could hand her to keep her busy while I typed. My husband would come home and say, “How can you get anything done?” Honestly, I just can. Not everyone can write while everything is going on around them, but I can. And I do. And I actually prefer it. I haven’t really used music as a back drop but David Tolk’s latest piano CD is something I’m going to try.

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

AUTHOR: Because I’m writing non-fiction based on gospel centered principles, my inspiration comes after I have studied the gospel principles I’m writing about. I follow the “search, ponder and pray method.” And it works for me!

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

AUTHOR: My inspiration doesn’t come from just one person. It comes from anyone who is willing to change because they find a better way and they want something better for themselves and for their children. Who inspires me? The women at House of Hope, who against all odds, overcome addiction and learn to live a better life. These women teach me humility. They are so much more humble in admitting their shortcomings than I am. They are my examples. They inspire me to be better and to do better. These women are beautiful women because they overcome the impossible. They literally “defy gravity” each and every day.

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

AUTHOR: True beauty is felt more than it is seen. This is a message that will change you forever if you let it. It will teach you how to feel beautiful. I hope and pray those who are lead to read my book will discover the beauty of virtue. For that is truly the only way to be happy.

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

AUTHOR: As of May 2, 2009, “Women of Virtue” is currently available at the BYU Bookstore,,,, and hopefully will make its way to other bookstores in the coming months.

Jodi is giving out two autographed books and two tiles (you can choose either 8X8 or 12X12 size (stand not included).

How to enter . . . post a comment here and announce the contest on your site! It's that easy.

Lucky winner will be announced Tuesday! Enter now!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Interview and Asthma

Two things.

The awesome blog has featured an interview of me on their blog. I hope you'll take a minute and pop over and check it out. You'll probably stay a while, they've got a lot of wonderful things to interest you.

Secondly, my 22 year old daughter has asthma. She's had a cold lately so of course, this has really kicked her asthma into high gear. She was diagnosed when she was 17, but she suffered with asthma most of her life. Because I don't have asthma myself and didn't really understand that warning signs and signals, it took us years before we finally figured out what was going on with her. As a child, she had a hard time running out doors for long periods of time. She wondered why she got so winded during sports or at recess, when all the other kids could go on for hours. Finally, in high school, as a member of the drill things, the problem escalated, until one night, during the stressful competition season, with a cold, with a horrible inversion going on, she collapsed. Nothing is as frightening as watching your child unable to breathe and not be able to do anything about it. I was terrified. I rushed her to the emergency room and the doctor there gave her a breathing treatment and examined her, then declared that she suffered from asthma. He also told us that it was people like her who died because they weren't taking care of themselves.

I tell you this story only because there might be someone out there who has a child showing signs of asthma and not know it. It is crucial that children with asthma get a proper diagnosis and begin a treatment program to help them keep the effects under control. Because I've learned about this disease I now can watch her and help her when she struggles to breathe. If you have any questions, please contact me. I would love to help. You can also visit the American Lung Association of Utah and find out all the signs and symptoms to watch for.

Happy reading. Stay healthy!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book giveaway and more! by Michele Ashman Bell

This weeks winners announced!

I am sad that I can't give a book to everyone who entered the contest. I will be doing a drawing every week so please keep entering. I PROMISE you will win something!

The winners of the Jerry Borrowman book giveaway are:
Covington Sensations
Please email me at with your address and the book will be sent directly to you.

I've decided that each week I don't have a giveaway scheduled I will do a book giveaway, starting with my first release, "An Unexpected Love." If you would like to win this book, please post a comment and your name will go into a drawing. Even if you've already entered for a giveaway you can enter again.

Have a really great day. Tune in Wednesday for my random post and Friday for my weekly author's interview!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Interview with Sian Bessey by Michele Ashman Bell

It is such a pleasure to interview my dear friend, and amazing author, Sian Ann Bessey. There is something so elegant and classy about Sian, yet so warm and genuine, that you just can't help but be drawn to her. Her books are interesting, entertaining and beautifully written. My only complaint (Sian . . . this is meant for you) is that she needs to write more!

I asked Sian for a bio, so you could know a little about her background.

Sian Ann Bessey was born in Cambridge, England but grew up on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. She, and the rest of her family, joined the Church when Sian was ten years old. When she finished Secondary School, she left Wales to attend BYU in Provo. She graduated with a bachelor degree (majoring in Communications and minoring in English) six weeks before her first child was born.

She has written several articles for the New Era and Ensign magazines, and is the author of eight books, including the Kids on a Mission children's series, three adult novels and two picture books.

Sian and her husband, Kent, live in Rexburg, Idaho. They have five children and are expecting their first grandchild.

Here's my interview with Sian:

Michele: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Sian: I’ve always enjoyed writing and publishing books seemed to come as an extension of that rather than as the result of a specific goal to be an author.
Michele: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Sian: My first book, Forgotten Notes, was written for my family. When it was completed, I printed it off on our home printer and mailed it to my father for Father’s Day. My sister-in-law found the manuscript at my parents’ home and read it. Then she called and persuaded me to submit it to Deseret Book and Covenant. Three months later, the managing editor of Covenant called and told me they wanted to publish it.
Michele: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Sian: Having my first book accepted on its first submission gave me very little excuse for discouragement. However, with every book there have been the typical struggles with rewrites, deadlines, etc. I’ve been fortunate to work with great editors. Very often, if I talk something through with my editor, we are able to see the other’s perspective and reach a compromise. My greatest discouragement has probably been how long it takes to draft a new book. I have to keep reminding myself that they really are created line upon line—and eventually those lines add up.
Michele: What is your writing schedule like?
Sian: When I am working on a book I try to write a little every day. Sometimes my writing time may be only a few minutes stolen while I’m waiting for the timer to go off on the oven or drier. Other times, I’m able to devote a couple of hours to it. I like to write in the afternoon before my children get home from school but after my household chores and errands are finished.
Michele: Where did your idea come from for your books?
Sian: Most of my ideas are loosely based on personal experiences. I was blessed to grow up in Wales and to have the opportunity to travel quite extensively. Sharing my love for other countries, cultures and the Gospel has been one of the highlights of being an author.
Michele: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Sian: Don’t give up. Sometimes it’s just a matter of timing.
Michele: 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?
Sian: I have to know how I want my story to start and end, and what the main conflict will be before I begin writing. The details develop as I write.
Michele: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Sian: Yes. I think all writers experience this. Sometimes it helps to walk away from the story for a short time and return with fresh eyes. Sometimes I simply rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until something clicks.
Michele: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Sian: I usually write with the background sounds of family life, but I concentrate best when it is quiet.
Michele: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Sian: My secondary school English teacher who helped me develop my writing skills and my father who introduced me to good books and encouraged me to write my first book.
Michele: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?
Sian: I’ve never been part of a critique group. I sometimes have my husband read over my work. He’s a great editor and helps clean up my manuscripts.
Michele: Anything about yourself that you would like readers to know about?
Sian: One thing that not many people know is that I love to cook. I bake almost every day and enjoy trying new recipes.
Michele: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Sian: Some of my earlier books are now out of print and may be hard to find in stores. Most are still available on line.

As a HUGE fan of Sian's, I'm here to tell you, whatever you have to do so track down one of her books . . . DO IT! They are so worth it. And maybe if enough of you readers respond, we can convince her to get working on something new.