Friday, February 26, 2010

Interview with Anne Patrick

I recently became acquainted with best-selling author Anne Patrick and her books. If you aren’t familiar with her work, she writes mostly ‘Sweet’ Edge of Your Seat Romantic Suspense. Although her romances are ‘G’ rated, her books are far from boring. Influenced by authors such as Iris Johansen, Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag and Dee Henderson, Anne's heroines are usually strong willed, witty, and often very opinionated…which usually gets them into situations where they need a dashing hero to rescue them. Not that they would ever admit that.

Anne has an alter ego by the name of Kinzie Monroe, who writes Inspirational Romance. Anne, you might say, is the dark side of Kinzie. Anne’s books may be darker in subject matter, but all her books carry messages of hope and faith.

Anne also has a blog, Suspense by Anne, that is regularly updated and, where she does weekly author interviews. Be sure to read about her March Madness Contest coming soon. You'll also find details about it on her News & Events page. There will be book giveaways each week and a grand prize at the end of the month.

Check out these great books by Anne Patrick/Kinzie Monroe

Lethal Dreams

Dr. Erin Jacobs is making a name for herself in the sports world. Drawing on her own life experiences, she encourages and inspires athletes to recover from career ending injuries. So why would someone want to hurt the good doctor? Detective Logan Sinclair is determined to find that answer. He’s been mesmerized by Erin from the moment she found him and his partner shot in an alleyway. Since that night their lives have never been the same. Will Logan be able to solve the puzzle of who wants Erin out of the way before it’s too late? And if so what impact will those answers have on their lives?

Reservations for Two

Widower’s Maggie O’Brien and Carson Jennings are both on a journey to rediscover who they are. Maggie, an adventurous former pastor’s wife of thirty-nine years, hopes to find closure in the place she and her husband spent their honeymoon. Carson, a retired judge, is living his lifelong dream of traveling across the U.S. in his RV. When their paths cross in the tranquil setting of Mason Springs, New Mexico, love is the last thing that either of them expects to find.

Val at You Gotta Read Reviews gave it a 'You Gotta Read' rating. "Kinzie Monroe has written a story laced with intrigue, drama and a very pure and captivating romance. Reservations For Two is the type of book that captures your attention and takes you away to places you may not have been. The imagery is spectacular and I felt as though I was hiking and experiencing the sunsets right there with the characters. If you are looking for a sweet romance that will give you an "aha" moment, then look no further than Reservations For Two. I highly recommend this book to any lover of the romance genre. Ms. Monroe, I commend you on a well written book with characters that kept me coming back for more."

Here is my interview with Anne.

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

Anne: Since I was a kid growing up in a rather boring neighborhood. To entertain myself and my friends, we would live out the adventures I dreamed up in my head.

M.B.: What is your writing and educational background?

Anne: Recess and gym were my favorite subjects in school…well except for History…so of course I now regret not paying better attention in English class. Some of my editors wish I had too :-). Once I started getting serious about my writing, I took a class and was fortunate enough to have an instructor who was a multi-published mystery writer who taught me a great deal about the craft.

M.B.: What makes you passionate about writing?

Anne: My faith in the Lord is the driving force behind my desire to write stories that both entertain and inspire my readers.

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

Anne: Unfortunately, my first publication was a mistake I’m still living with. After many rejections, a friend recommended Publish America, and I foolishly fell for their promises and am stuck with a seven year contract. I chalk it up as a painful learning experience. Now I am more careful with whom I place my works. My experiences have been very pleasant with my new publishers.

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

Anne: More than a few times. To help me through those dark places, I have a scrap book of awesome reviews, notes from readers and editors that inspire me to continue.

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

Anne: Since I have a day job, evenings and weekends are reserved for writing and editing.

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

Anne: All kinds of places. Newspaper headlines, dreams, life in general.

M.B.: When did the idea for these books first come to you?

Anne: The idea for Lethal Dreams was planted a couple of years ago, and I started Reservations for Two Thanksgiving Day 2008 and finished it New Years Day 2009.

M.B.: What do you hope readers will get from these books?

Anne: Lethal Dreams is an Inspirational Romantic Suspense & Reservations for Two is an Inspirational Romance, so I hope the readers are both entertained and inspired by both my heroines and the heroes they meet on their journeys.

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?

Anne: I write all my ideas down in a folder. Sometimes I’ll go as far as writing out a brief outline. Later, if one jumps out at me, I’ll play around with it for a few days and maybe do some character profiles and the first chapter. By this point, the characters have usually sprung to life and I pretty much let them take over from there.

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?

Anne: If I can’t force my way through the stumbling block after taking a short break, then I set the story aside for a couple of days and come back to it with fresh eyes. Usually after reading the last chapter I complete, I’m back in my zone.

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

Anne: I’m almost always listening to music. I listen mostly to classic rock n’ roll, but will sometimes listen to classical or instrumental, depending on my mood.

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

Anne: Great question! When I’m creating my characters I like to have a visual aid—stock photos that resemble them—and a profile listing their attributes etc.

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

Anne: My mother was always my biggest supporter. She’s the one who first encouraged me to submit my work. She even came up with my pen name for my romantic suspense novels.

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

Anne: I don’t because I live in a small town. If I hit a snag or need advice on a scene, I’ll contact someone from one of my on-line writer groups.

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

Anne: I don’t really have a favorite. The one I had the most fun writing was Reservations for Two. I fell in love with Maggie from the start, probably because she was inspired by some very special friends in my life.

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

Anne: It’s scary to put your work out there and risk rejection, but the rewards far outweigh that fear. There is no greater feeling than to hold that first book in your hands. But do your research on the publishers you are going to submit to. If possible, contact some authors who are published with them and ask if they’ve had any problems with them.

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

Anne: I want to thank you, Michele, for having me here today and giving me the chance to talk about my books.

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

Anne: Both my website: and my blog: have excerpts and buy links for all my books.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Interview with Melissa Aylstock

I'm so excited to shine the spotlight on Melissa Aylstock today. As I've gotten to know her I've been so impressed with her drive, work ethic and sense of humor. What a great lady. Enjoy getting to know Melissa Aylstock.

I adore the entire process of writing fiction novels. I can think of nothing I enjoy more. I have had two novels published and I completed three additional novels in 2009 which are at various publishing houses and agencies being read. I am currently editing my fourth. I have been able to write this much because I made a commitment in May of 2009 to leave the residential real estate appraising field and write full time with the total support of my husband. These completed novels are a direct result of my ability to stick with book projects I love, and I do love all my books! I believe these novels are also a concrete expression of my commitment to personal and professional excellence, and what I think is my uncanny ability to tap into the hearts and minds of the young women of today.
My non-LDS books are morally conservative, para-normal romances. My LDS books reflect the realistic angst that young adults in teens and young adults in the church feel when they are out of step with their "more active" peers. I grew up in a "less active" family and was "less active" myself in my youth. As my children grew, they too at times strayed from the "iron rod." My first book, CTR's Ring (2005), deals with one of my children's word of wisdom struggles while continuing to wear a very visible CTR ring. My second book, 80 Miles from Nowhere (2006), deals with the issues of not belonging to a “forever family.” As a recent seminary teacher, I am still acutely aware of how much distress is caused by not fitting into a “Molly or Norman Mormon” role.

CTR’s Ring. Utah: Cedar Fort Incorporated. 2005
Cameron Richards, a young Jeep-driving free spirit from the Bible Belt, arrives in California to meet a long-lost branch of his family. Shock awaits him when he discovers that his new family is not only large but also decidedly Mormon—a religious “cult” he has always been wary of. To complicate matters, he finds himself falling for the friend of his cousin, who turns out to be one of the nicest “cult” members he has ever met.

80 Miles from Nowhere. Utah: Cedar Fort Incorporated. 2006
Lance Morris, a young man on the run from himself and his religion, finds himself in Magna, Utah without a car, without a job, and without a friend in the world. But soon he finds himself hiding from more that just his painful upbringing. Lance’s impulsive behavior thrusts him into a dangerous situation. To make matters worse, he inadvertently drags his new roommate’s quirky sister into the mess.

Lauren’s Ring. Submitted
Lauren Emma Smith is a BYU attending young adult from Roseville, CA. While in Provo, she meets and civilly marries fellow student, Joel Vassaux, a recent convert to the church. Lauren finds herself living a fairly idyllic life; she is happily pregnant, attending school and living in student housing. Then a letter to her husband arrives that changes everything.

Nicole’s Nic Nackery. Submitted

Nicole is a recent young single adult convert to the church. Her conversion came at a high price for three reasons:.
• Her parents own a winery she was being groomed to inherit.
• She now has a worthless Master’s Degree from UC Davis in Viticulture and Enology (study of wines and wine making).
• Her one and only budding male/female relationship ended when she started to show an interest in the church.

Life Afterlife. Submitted
A young girl gets help from another dimension in coping with the aftermath of recent tragedies in her life. With voices in her head warning her of imminent danger, she questions her own sanity. A new male friend is intrigued by this girl’s admission of hearing voices, until he hears them as well.

Dead is a Temporary Thing. Being edited.
A single young adult woman gets help with her non-existent love life from her mother—who is dead. This mother from another place and time posts confidential information and pictures on her daughter’s Facebook page. Mom directs a few specifically selected men to contact her confused and perplexed daughter. The daughter, in trying to find out who is behind this apparent hoax, is hampered by having to juggle four males all vying for her attention.

My interview with Melissa:

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

I’ve always been a writer with my earliest attempt at influencing someone’s opinion through writing coming when I was in third grade. I wrote a letter to the principal, Dr. Papadakis, asking him to give my teacher a vacation because she seemed tired and overworked. Maybe it was that day when I was called into his office to explain, that I discovered the power of the pen.
Now if your real question is: when did I first commit to writing as a complete avocation? That would be in May of 2009 after I already had two books published. It wasn’t until I went to a seminar for real estate professionals—where the speaker insisted you could only be truly successful if you did what you loved— that I realized the only thing I really ever loved was writing. I went home and timidly asked my husband if I could change careers. This would mean no income during the transition period. He was beyond gracious and accommodating. He has always been my biggest fan. I have finished four complete novels since that time. Two of the novels are currently being read at Covenant and Granite and my first non-LDS novel is being read by a New York agency.

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

If not for Kerry Blair (, I would never have gotten my first novel published. She read CTR’s Ring, and then encouraged me to submit it to the major LDS publishers. I now realize what a genuine act of benevolence this was. She was a very busy and prolific author in her own right, with multiple writing projects in the works. Reading an unpublished author’s first attempt is a true act of service.

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

Of course. I got four letter’s of rejection before CTR’s Ring was picked up by Cedar Fort, Inc. The hardest letter of rejection was the first one, but Kerry Blair was there to hold my hand and encouraged me to send the book out again and again.

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

I write like I read, in big blocks of time and until I’m utterly exhausted and can’t keep my eyes open. It is not unusual, when I’m in the “zone,” for me to write until after midnight and get up at five AM and start again. I actually hate the fact that I have to sleep. I ignore, or at least try to ignore, everything around me. I resent meals, cooking meals, telephone calls, IM messages, doctor’s appointments and any other normal, everyday occurrence. I am lucky that my children are mostly grown and out of the house. My husband is very supportive for the most part, but I’ll admit to pushing him right over the edge at times. However, this writing style allows me to finish books in relatively short bursts of time. As mentioned before, I finished four novels between May of 2009 and January of 2010. I can pick up and put down my work a little easier during editing and rewrites.

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

I attribute my ideas to heaven sent inspiration and perspiration. The truth is, I have an unlimited supply of ideas, more than I will ever be able to write about in my lifetime. I’ve always been a creative person. Presented with any problem, I can almost always offer multiple solutions. This comes in handy when my characters are presented with the various forms of conflict all humans face.

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

First, don’t even bother if you don’t LOVE to write. Second, find a writer mentor who is not afraid to be truthful with you. Kerry Blair was that for me. To this day, I don’t know why she chose to take me under her wing, but I am eternally grateful she did.

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?

I sit down and write—period. I tried outlining one time and my characters refused to go along. They kept doing what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it. I often have absolutely no control over the characters who take up residence in my head. If I do try to corral them, they get very testy with me. This comes out in choppy, unrealistic dialogue. I then back off and let them play out their own lives on paper.

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?

Not usually, as long as I let my characters say what they want to say and do what they want to do the story just seems to write itself. I am often surprised at how well the minor conflicts are resolved as the story goes along. I don’t consciously think of the resolutions but they show up anyway. It’s very, very cool for me to see.

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

I MUST HAVE absolute, total, complete, utter, unqualified, unconditional and unlimited quiet. I HATE to be interrupted. If I am writing and you ask me a question, don’t expect me to remember what I said. More importantly, don’t expect me to follow through on what you thought I agreed to. I can guarantee, I won’t remember you even coming in my office. Feel free to query any of my family—especially my children about this subject. My inability to write on a normal schedule, with normal distractions is, in fact, the hardest part of this new career path for my entire family.

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

I just write what’s in my head. I do however try to keep my head clear and clean by staying 100% active in the LDS church and working at the LDS Sacramento Temple. I think these two things allow for the inspiration I rely on. I also think it helps my characters (even in my non-LDS books) to not go too far out of bounds morally.

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

Recognizing, and being grateful for, where the inspiration comes from and Kerry Blair, my hero.

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

No, I might if I lived in Utah where there are more conservative writers, but in California the critique groups I’ve tried to be a part of require me to read works of fiction that are not up to my moral code. I don’t like being in that position.

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

My favorite book is always the one I’m currently writing. That’s because the characters live in my head. I eat, breath, sleep and play with them while writing. They’re my best friends. Okay, they’re my best “imaginary friends,” which can be scary at times, but I do love the people who populate my books, especially the slightly flawed, vulnerable males I prefer for main characters.

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

Readers can follow my exploits and stay current with my works in process via my blog at at Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share my story!

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

My first two books, CTR’s Ring and 80 miles From Nowhere are available through Ceder Fort ( and ( where 80 Miles From Nowhere is also available in a Kindle edition.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Launch Scheduled - authors, giveaways, food and more!

Join Valor Publishing as we throw an Author Lollapalooza that you won't want to miss at the Gateway Barnes & Noble. 6 Rio Grande Salt Lake City, UT 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. March 16th, marks the day that Valor will launch five of its new books and authors Michele Ashman Bell, Tristi Pinkston, Karen Hoover, Daron Fraley and Kimberly Job will all be in attendance. We'll start with a mini-concert from Shaun "Hammer Hands" Barrowes. ( And then we'll move on to the main event!

Michele's "Summer in Paris" is sure to delight YA readers with romance and laughter. (Young Adult)

Tristi's "Secret Sisters" will leave you in stitches as you dive into seniors taking on the mob, and believe me, hilarity ensues! (Comedic Mystery)

Karen's "The Sapphire Flute" takes us into the world of magic and shapeshifting. The first book in the Wolfchild Saga we watch as two teenagers take on enemies beyond imagination in an effort to save their world. (YA Fantasy)

Daron's "The Thorn" takes us to another world at war as the believers keep an eye on the prophecies of a savior being born on a different world far away. (Speculative Fiction)

Kimberly's "I'll Know You By Heart" is romance at its finest. Kimberly introduces us to a battered woman who frees herself from her abusive husband only to find love with the father of the little girl she babysits. Suspenseful and equally heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the exact same time. (Read more about the books at
Although none of Valor's books are distinctly LDS, the wildly popular LDS Womens Book Review podcast ( will be broadcasting from the book-launch party. They not only will interview the authors, but will be reviewing readers as well. Please make sure you stop by their table sometime during the party. So join us and meet the authors, listen to Shaun Barrowes, mingle with other authors, munch on refreshments and just enjoy yourselves! It's all about making reading fun, fun, fun!

Special announcement:
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, a review of the final book in the Family Saga series, "Elena, Woman of Courage: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho" is being reviewed at Suko's Notebook Drop by and enter the contest, which ends March 7th, just in time for St. Patrick's Day (March 17th). Remember the luck of the Irish! Perhaps your luck will double if you find a four leaf clover. Good luck, everyone!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Interview with David Vandagriff and review of "I Need Thee Every Hour"

David P. Vandagriff joined the Church in Chicago when he was twenty-four. The first Latter-day Saint he had ever met, G.G. Vandagriff, would become his wife. David received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and graduated with honors from Pepperdine University School of Law. He has practiced law in California and Missouri and has worked as an executive in several technology companies. His wife G.G. is an accomplished author and is a featured columnist on Meridian Magazine. David and G.G. have three children and one grandson.

David has served as a bishop on two occasions, as a member of a Stake Presidency and three high councils, and as Stake Young Men’s President and Stake Mission President. He is currently a Gospel Doctrine teacher in his ward and an ordinance worker in the Provo Utah Temple.

I Need Thee Every Hour
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important event that ever happened or ever will occur at any time or in any place in our universe. It is a gift not only for our last breath and the last day of our lives, but it is also for every day of our lives and every breath of our lives. For it is during the hours of our everyday lives that we work out our salvation, usually unobserved by others, sometimes feeling alone, and often feeling opposed.
Though commonly mentioned in the Church, the Atonement of Christ is frequently misunderstood by many of the Saints. It is often viewed as a tool that is only to be employed when dramatic sins are committed. However, the Atonement is something that should be a part of every facet of our lives - in both joyful periods and challenging times.
Drawing on his personal experience as a husband and bishop, David Vandagriff has written I Need Thee Every Hour to help readers see how the Atonement can encourage us and improve our lives as we realize the enormity of the Savior's sacrifice and how far it extends. Using real-life stories, each individual chapter discusses how the Atonement relates to different areas of daily life including - death, prosperity, trials, service, and undeserved suffering - to show how the Atonement is the foundation of all hope and the proof of a loving God.

My review:
There aren’t many pursuits in life that are as valuable to an individual as the pursuit of gaining a deeper understanding and personal testimony of the Atonement. Nothing has more importance to our salvation than the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. This doctrine is often studied and taught in Sunday School lessons and over the pulpit, but like Brother Vandagriff points out is often viewed as "a tool that is only to be employed when dramatic sins are committed." I Need Thee Every Hour is written to help us understand that the Atonement is something that should be part of “every facet of our lives—in joyful periods and challenging times."

Beautifully and powerfully written, I Need Thee Every Hour not only gives remarkable insight and instruction on why we need the power of the Atonement in our lives but goes a step further and tells us how we can apply it in our lives every day.

Through personal stories from his own life and from his service as a singles ward Bishop and other leadership callings, Brother Vandagriff shares lessons learned about various aspects of the Atonement that teach us how we can better understand our Savior’s great sacrifice and love for us. While Bishop of a singles ward he was inspired to ask that every talk and every lesson be explicitly connected to the Atonement of Christ. He noticed that this principle--the Atonement--had a transforming effect on the members of that ward and their bishop. He also realized that if the Atonement was important on Sunday, it was equally so on every other day of the week.

When we gain a deeper understanding, we naturally want to serve our Savior and our fellow man. Brother Vandagriff writes, "What profound spiritual rewards await us as we serve others: 'One of the ways that God is here is because I am here.' We are the hands of God when we share the gospel with those who have not received it... We can have the privilege of playing a role in bringing the healing and strengthening blessings of the Atonement into the lives of those whose hearts and lives can be rescued only by their Savior."

I appreciated throughout the book how Brother Vandagriff picked a variety of topics to help illustrate his points about finding greater understanding in dealing with challenges in life. Readers who are struggling with the death of a loved one, making sense of suffering, chastity issues, or a myriad of other struggles will feel comforted by the book’s message and be encouraged to apply the healing balm of the Atonement in their lives. Brother Vandagriff also covers topics such as; the charge to avoid pride and the pursuit of wealth, prayer, and the valuable message of enduring to the end. And the greatest message of all is that understanding and applying the Atonement in our life will help strengthen us during trials and draw us closer to our Savior and allow his Spirit to dwell with us continually. Also included is a very personal account of his wife’s, G.G., twenty-five year battle with depression and how she was healed through faith, the power of the priesthood, and the Atonement. Their story of enduring this battle together is inspiring and provides hope for others in the same situation. This is a book I intend to share with others and plan to read often.

I had the pleasure of interviewing David. Here's my interview:

M.B.: How many books have your written? How many do you have in print?

David: I have been the author or co-author of two books for LDS audiences, I Need Thee Every Hour – The Atonement in Everyday Life and Deliverance from Depression: Finding Hope and Healing Through the Atonement of Christ, which I co-authored with my wife, G.G., and my son, Greg. I also contributed to several books for attorneys while I was a practicing attorney prior to 1996.

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

David: Fortunately, G.G. and I developed a good relationship with Covenant Communications during the publication and promotion of Deliverance from Depression, so they were the logical organization to approach with I Need Thee Every Hour.

Even so, it took several months for Covenant to make the decision to publish the book. As with many publishing decisions, the book had champions and skeptics inside the publisher. I was asked to make some suggestions for marketing and positioning statements that would insure that the book would stand out in a crowded marketplace.

If there was ever a time when an author simply dropped off a manuscript with a publisher and waited for magic to happen, those days are over. Particularly during our current economic times, a publisher has to believe that there is a high probability that it will be able to make a reasonable profit from publishing a book.

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

David: I have the great advantage of being married to an active and successful author, G.G. Vandagriff. Like 99.99% of authors, sometimes her manuscripts have been rejected and that can be very discouraging. However, one of G.G.'s dominant character traits is that she never gives up. If she didn't have this attitude, I doubt she would have ever been published.

The other thing that helped me is that this is a book about the Atonement, a subject of the deepest spiritual significance. As I wrote it, I worked hard to understand the Atonement better and that can only be done with the help of the Spirit. President Eyring once said that whenever you feel the Spirit, you know the Atonement is working in your life. Whenever the Holy Ghost comes to you, he cleanses and uplifts you, leaving you better than you were before his visit.

The process of thinking and writing about my own experiences in the book helped me to come to a deeper understanding of their significance and a greater appreciation of how often the Lord had provided assistance to me over many years. Even if no one but me ever read what I wrote about the Atonement, I was a better person for doing so. After all the times that I had read and rewritten the manuscript, when I was reviewing the galleys for typographical errors, tears often came to my eyes as I was reminded over and over again of how kind the Lord has been to me and my family.

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

David: The best time for me to write is first thing in the morning. Everything is clearer then. As I progress further into the day, all sorts of little and large things start claiming pieces of my mind. Early in the morning, my mind is all my own.

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

David: This book began when I was called as bishop of the BYU 28th Ward. When the stake president issued my call, he said that he wanted me to make certain that every talk and every lesson in the ward was explicitly connected to the Atonement of Christ.

He shared a quote from then-Elder Boyd K. Packer, "[The Atonement of Christ] is the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them."

I accepted this as both a personal assignment as well as one that I would give to teachers and speakers in the ward. If I was counseling someone who was dealing with a chastity problem, I needed to know how the Atonement related to chastity. Speaking to a man and woman who were preparing for marriage, I worked to explain how the Atonement applied to temple ordinances and married life.

As to the question as to whether this idea is good enough to write a book about, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, "Now the greatest and most important single thing there is in all eternity—the thing that transcends all others since the time of the creation of man and of the worlds—is the fact of the atoning sacrifice of Christ the Lord." I cannot conceive of a better idea for a book.

M.B.: I noticed that you put a great deal of yourself in this book, personal stories and experiences. Why did you feel it was important to share what was so close to your heart?

David: While no one but the Lord can compare crosses, some of the experiences I have had have been very difficult for me. In the midst of those difficulties, I had no choice but to turn to the Savior. It would have been better if I had done so without such trials and I know a few people who seem to have that gift. For me, however, in retrospect, the intensity of the trials forged a powerful bond between the Lord and myself that might not have happened in any other way. I usually didn't understand what was happening in the midst of the trial, but the Lord was working on me.

The statement of one of the handcart pioneers who experienced such incredible suffering on the winter plains of Wyoming has always resonated with me, " Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company."

M.B.: What would you like to see happen as a result of this book? Do you plan to write another one along this topic?

David: I hope my book helps people to understand what their Savior has truly done for them. I need to improve my understanding of the Atonement and think no one ever reaches the point in this life where they understand it completely. There are always more things to discover about how much our Redeemer loves and blesses us.

The more our understanding and appreciation grows, the more tightly we will hold onto Christ. If we hold Him tightly, He will hold us in return and carry us back to our heavenly home, regardless of what happens in our mortal lives.

I remember reading somewhere that one of the early leaders of the Church was asked what we would talk about through all eternity if we were privileged to enter the Celestial Kingdom. He responded that we would speak of the love the Lord had for us and all the ways in which He has blessed us and that we would never reach the end of such conversations.

As far as another book is concerned, there will always be more to write about the Atonement.

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

David: I consider myself to be a beginning writer, so I may not be a fount of much wisdom for other beginning writers.

Given that caveat, it is always important for me to read the work of accomplished authors. Without implying anything about those brethren who are not mentioned, on spiritual topics, I find the writings and speeches of President Eyring, President Packer, Elder Holland, Elder Scott, Elder Bednar, Elder Hafen and the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell to be wonderfully instructive not only in the substance of their teaching, but also the manner in which they express their ideas. These brethren differ greatly from one another in their writing and speaking styles, but each displays a superb talent for articulating spiritual principles in a way that teaches, uplifts and inspires me.

M.B.: Did you work from an outline?

David: Not on this book. When I was writing legal briefs, I always used an outline, but each of the chapters of this book germinated either from a scripture or from a personal experience that had taught me something important.

M.B.: You have a lot of powerful quotes in this book. How did you do the research for them?

David: When I started talking about the Atonement with my student ward members, I started collecting quotes about the Atonement to use both in personal counseling as well as sacrament meeting talks. Once you become aware of how central the Atonement is to every aspect of the Gospel, the quotes just jump out at you.

Rich sources of quotes include the Church's website, the BYU and BYU-Idaho devotional websites, LDS Library - - a subscription site with lots of older Church books and books written by the General Authorities I mentioned earlier. Also, The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister is a wonderful comprehensive work that Elder Callister took many years to write.

M.B.: Did you ever experience writer's block? If so, how did you deal with it?

David: I get writer's block all the time, but never had it with I Need Thee Every Hour. The biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to write about experiences that didn't lend themselves to words.

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

David: I'm one of the quiet writers. I usually have to be able to hear how a sentence sounds with my inner ear. Sometimes instrumental music in another room is OK, but never music with lyrics.

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

David: Stories from the life of Christ, the great Atonement sermons of the Book of Mormon, General Conference talks and Devotionals. One of the great things about both General Conference talks and BYU and BYU-I devotionals is that you can get MP3 sound files. I really like to listen to the way the speakers sound. Elder Maxwell and Elder Holland are always wonderful to listen to.

I have an iPod full of these kinds of talks. Some of my best cardio workouts at the gym happen when I'm listening to the brethren talk about the Atonement. I sometimes wonder what people must think when they see tears in my eyes while I'm sweating on the elliptical machine.

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

AUTHOR: For this book, in chronological order: Jacob, King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma and Amulek. The Book of Mormon is the Atonement testament.

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

David: Thanks for asking such great questions. I learned some things while I was thinking about how to respond to them.

The Atonement is real. It is the most important thing that exists in time and eternity. You have a Heavenly Father and a Savior who are passionate about saving each of their children, about giving them Eternal Life if they will accept it.

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

David: Right this minute, Deseret Book's website is the only place that the book is listed. In the next week or two, it should be available in LDS bookstores (hopefully everywhere) and online at Seagull Book and Amazon.

My author website is
I have a blog about the Atonement at
I tweet new blog entries at atonementblog

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fun Valentines Day book giveaway!

I just found out about this fun Valentines Day book giveaway. It's hosted by a book reviewer at the blog Allison's Attic and features books by Linda Weaver Clarke.

Just go to Allison's Attic at
Sorry I can't get the hyperlink to post. Please cut and paste address into your browser.
GOOD LUCK! And Happy Valentines Day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Interview with Liz Adair

A native of New Mexico, Liz Adair now lives in northwest Washington with Derrill, her husband of 46 years. They are parents of seven children and eighteen grandchildren. A late bloomer, Liz published her first Spider Latham Mysteries with Deseret Book just as AARP started sending her mail. Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan and The Mist of Quarry Harbor followed soon after. Liz’s latest book, based on family history and entitled Counting the Cost, was published last year. Liz works in construction management. Counting the Cost has been nominated for a Whitney Award. Congratulations, Liz!

Liz's books are full of personal and family history. In fact, she blogs about using family history in fiction on She also offers presentations on Using Family History in Fiction at family history conferences and writers conferences.

Liz is a beloved author and her books are wonderful. If you haven't read any, I hope you'll give them a try. If you visit her blog you'll find excerpts from each of her books.

Here's my interview with this charming lady.
M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Liz: I’ve always been a scrawler, but I first had the thought, “I want to be a writer” when I was about twenty. However, at that time I had no idea all that it entailed. I was middle aged when I began writing in earnest.

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

Liz: It was about ten years wide and three books long.

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

Liz: There were times when I was crushed—every time I opened an envelope and found a rejection slip—but I don’t know that I was ever discouraged.

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

Liz: You’ve seen that object lesson, haven’t you, where there’s a bowl full of apples, and you then put in some grapes, which fill in between the apples, and then you pour a quart of rice over the already-full bowl of fruit, and the rice packs into the crannies and crevices? That’s my writing time. I still work, I live in the same town as nine of my eighteen grandchildren, I’m choir director and work with the Young Women in Church. So I pack my writing in around all my other obligations. There is no schedule, it’s just that I’d rather be writing, so I fit it in wherever I can.

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

Liz: I think any idea is good enough to write about if it’s handled well. That’s the adventure of reading, to see the multitude of ideas that are turned into well-told stories.

Where do I get my ideas? From family history, from personal experience, from the newspaper, from standing in line at the grocery store. If you people-watch very long, you’ll see conflict playing out all around you. Conflict is what a story must have. I think a good writer can watch a subtle exchange about whether or not to buy salmon or hamburger for dinner and build a whole scene, if not a whole plot, out of it.

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

Liz: Find a writing group or a writing partner who will read your manuscript and critique it honestly. Someone who will read what you’ve written as an unpublished writer is golden. Someone who has the capacity to help you be a better writer is priceless.

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

Liz: I first sketch out a skeleton—a very rough beginning, middle, end, with the conflict identified. Then I start fleshing it out, making a more detailed, yet still sketchy, outline of what needs to happen to get all the elements of the story in. Then I go through and write a detailed half- or three-quarter-page summary of each chapter. I find that, if I do that, when I come to the time when I’m actually writing and I get to chapter twenty of twenty-five chapters, I can go on because I have a detailed road map and I know the wretched thing is going to end soon.

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?

Liz: I’ve never had writer’s block (knock wood). I’ve had snags, but I find if I let them alone and work on something else, the answer will come to me. Usually in the shower.

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

Liz: I like quiet, but as mother of seven, I’ve learned to tune out almost anything. I don’t listen to music, except I did when I was writing Counting the Cost. Early in his career, Lyle Lovett wrote two songs that were catalysts in my channeling that book. One was called “Walk Through the Bottomland,” about a rodeo cowboy who fell in love with a lady from New Jersey. The other has this line in it: If I were the man you wanted, I would not be the man that I am. That kind of sums up the book.

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

Liz: Faith. To me, sitting down with a pencil and a notebook—which is how I always do my initial blocking—is an act of faith. The same way sitting down at the computer and beginning to string words together is an act of faith. I really believe that faith precedes the miracle of creation in an author’s life. After that comes the hard work of rewriting.

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

Liz: Probably my husband, because he has always taken me seriously and believed in me.

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

Liz: I have used my ANWA (American Night Writers Association) chapter (my writers group) as an informal critique group, but I’m just now joining with a group of talented writers to form a critique group.

My feeling is that, as an author grows, she goes through several phases. The first one is the discovery that she needs to write to be whole. The next phase is when she begins to share her writing with a select few. The third phase is when she gets brave enough to send it out for consideration by a publisher—and usually finds that it’s not good enough yet. What she needs is to learn the craft. Using the word ‘hone’ is very apt, because a writer has to come up against the rough edge of criticism in order to be a better writer. So, the next phase is when the writer finally discovers that there are things she can learn and begins to practice those skills. The last phase, when she is finally a pro, is when she has a critique group and says, “Don’t pull any punches. Be harsh, because I want this to be the best it can be.”

That’s where I am now. I’m way excited about it.

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

Liz: I have two: Counting the Cost is a favorite because, first, it’s about my family history, and second, because it was a gift. It came to me whole. I didn’t have to block and flesh out and write outlines. It just flowed out my fingers.

Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan is the book I’m proudest of. I didn’t write it. My daughters and I edited my mother’s letters that she wrote when she lived and worked in Afghanistan in the mid-1960’s. She lived in Helmand Provence, now a Taliban stronghold, and she had fifteen Afghan men who worked for her as she ran a small hotel and restaurant for USAID. A gifted writer, her letters, sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, are glimpses into the lives of the Afghan peasants. One hundred per cent of the sales of these books go to help women in developing countries through a microcredit program administered by SWAN (Serving Women Across Nations).

(here’s a link for that:

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

Liz: I’d like to invite everyone to visit my blog LIZ SEZ at I do some philosophizing, share recipes, interview authors, and throw out a parenting tip every now and then. When you visit my blog, you might want to click on the link to the book trailer for Counting the Cost.

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

Liz: I have links on the book images on my blog and on my web site at Otherwise, Counting the Cost and the Spider Latham Mystery Series can be purchased at my publisher’s book store (Here’s a link: ) or at Amazon
(here’s the link to the page it’s on: )

The Mist of Quarry Harbor is at Deseret Book. (here’s the link for the page it’s on: )

Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan can be purchased at the SWAN web site. (here’s a link to the page: )