Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Memories of Those We Lost 2013

With the passing of each year, we often look back at those whose deaths have greatly affected us. Some of these people are close to us as family and friends. Others we only feel close to because of the body of work they produced which influenced our lives. I honor here the passing of few people who were important to me or my family.

Paul Walker 
The death of actor Paul Walker was a shock to our family on many levels. My husband worked with Paul on two of his early films--Meet the Deedles and Joy Ride. Paul was raised a member of the LDS church, a faith our family holds dear. Although Paul was no longer an active member of the church, nowhere have we read or heard anything about him denouncing the faith. Instead, his charitable attitude and the way he treated others on film sets seem to prove that his adult life was still deeply rooted in the teachings of his youth. Because of this, two of my sons who want to become filmmakers felt a closeness to him though his work. It was always their intention to make a movie with Paul so they could discuss the gospel with him, as well as watch him work. One of the movies I most enjoyed this year was Fast & Furious 6. I'd never seen the other films in the series, but when I watched The Fast & the Furious for the first time, I was struck by how prophetic is was in the loss of this man, one we can still admire.  

Annette Funicello

It seems like Annette was always a part of my life. From those early days of watching her on The Mickey Mouse Club, through the teen beach movies, and on to her adult life as a designer for teddy bears on QVC, I've always been aware of what Annette was up to in her career. She was a woman to be admired. Her lifelong respect for Mr. Disney and the business gave us a role model to be emulated. My closest association with Annette came though Alan Osmond, who has been both my friend and employer for many years. When Alan got word that a national rag mag was going to break the story about his own battle with MS, he called fellow sufferer and Disney-friend, Annette Funicello, who advised him to break the story himself before the magazines could make up stories. She told him to take charge, which he did, just as Annette did with her own battles with the disease. What an example of courage! 

Jean Stapleton
How well I remember my mother singing along with actress Jean Stapleton as she screeched her way through the theme song to All in the Family. Lucky for me, my mother could actually sing, and if the truth be known, Jean Stapleton probably could as well. But the bad vocals added upon the outlandish character being portrayed by a comedic actress who probably could have given Lucille Ball a run for the money. Edith Bunker was the most likable character on the entire show, although I'm not sure she was supposed to be. "Archie! Archie!" could only be properly intoned by Edith in her nasally voice as she tried to explain life to her husband, Archie Bunker. Those were the days! How did I also forget that she was in another of my favorite movies of all time, You've Got Mail?

Richard Griffiths
Most people recognize him as Vernon Dursley, Harry Potter's most unaccommodating uncle, but a quick skim though his listings on IMBD prove we've probably all seen him elsewhere as well. Two films of note are Superman II with Christopher Reeve and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with Johnny Depp. The comment most often heard another my students, and the members of my household, at his passing was, "It's a good thing all the Harry Potter movies have been made." No one could replace Uncle Vernon.

Of course, there are many other persons of note who passed away in 2013, but these are the ones I've chosen to write a little something more about. A search on in the internet will provides lists and film clips of hundreds more names of those who left us in 2013. Death is a part of life, but our memories can help sustain the talents these people shared with the world. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Best of 2013 - Books

Because I'm a former English teacher and currently a school librarian, the question I am most often asked is "What should I read?" I'm always ready with an answer, and I've had years of success at taking kids who entered my class as non-readers into the life of avid readers by the time they move to the next grade. This is not only my job; it's my PASSION.

One of the men I've admired most in life is Andrew Carnegie, not necessarily because of the business he built, but because he gave his money away to build libraries. And that is my personal theme:


And I have. I've donated books to so many classrooms in Nebo School District that I have trouble keeping count anymore. I've sent books to friends, relatives, shelters, and public libraries. I spent this last summer reading through my eternal stack of books-to-be-read stored in a spare bedroom. Once read, those books were packed up to send to my niece or friends for their children, or to donate to the school library where I work, using the books to enrich our collection, or to give as gifts to students and faculty who enter the weekly drawings.

I completed 114 books this year according to my records on GoodReads. I won't list them all here, but I will tell you about some of the best, and give you a list of the others that made my Top of the List.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars
For thirty-five years I taught Romeo & Juliet, a play I fell in love with when I was in 9th grade and the Franco Zefferelli version starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey first hit the theater screen. Perhaps because Shakespeare is my cousin--thirty-four generations removed--I have deep respect for his work as an author. Add that to my love of Star Wars, and this book had the potential to either be a complete flop, or one of the best books ever written in my opinion. I LOVED IT! The author totally understood the rhythms and nuance of Shakespeare's work, while using A New Hope as his basis for the plot of this re-envisioned work. I've recommended this to many students who have also loved it.

The Fifth Assassin
Anyone who knows me well knows I am a political junkie who loves to read about conspiracy theories, and has an affinity toward learning about Abraham Lincoln. (Since I wrote a book about Lincoln and Joseph Smith three years ago that will be published in 2014, I've read a lot about the assassination of the former president.) Meltzer has developed the ultimate conspiracy theory in this fast-paced novel. What if John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and others were not lone wolves? What if all of the presidential assassinations were somehow linked? Ignore the critics, who are likely upset because President George W. Bush gave Meltzer access to inside information from the archives. As thrillers go, this one grabbed my attention fast and didn't let go until the very end. Something too many books have failed to do lately.

Clockwork Angel 
Another book which grabbed me a the beginning and didn't let go, I loved the steampunk feel of this series enough to carry me through both this novel and the sequel, Clockwork Prince, with the intention to finish the series next summer. Sometimes a little racy, making the books definitely YA or above, the trip into the dark streets and mysterious happenings of 1878 London held my attention to the point I forgot it was another vampire novel. I didn't care. Whoever decided to start with the more modern Mortal Instruments series made a huge mistake as far as movies go. This prequel Infernal Devices series is awesome, somewhat like the Robert Downey, Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes for paranormal fans. 

The Obituary Writer
I don't read much women's fiction, but this novel had the added elements of two significant historical events--the Great San Francisco Earthquake for 1906, and John F. Kennedy's inauguration--as well as the unusual writing career for one of the main characters to draw me in. I'd never thought before about the skills one must have to be an obituary writer, at least the kind of obituaries they used to publish in the newspaper. The crafting of this novel is beautiful, and although I had begun to sort out the mystery long before the moment the truth was revealed, I was still completely satisfied. I was so intrigued by Hood's storytelling that I also read The Knitting Circle and loved it just as much. She is an author I'll add to my list of those to watch for new releases. 

Longing for Home
Back in the day when the members of my critique group were all just getting started we had the luxury of reading entire novels before they were sent off to our publishers. No longer so. Deadlines and hectic publishing schedules mean we are only getting to read opening chapters and a few random chapters and have some plot discussions along the way before the completed manuscript is sent off, never to be seen by us again until the author brings us the published book. Such was the case with Longing for Home. I knew Katie and the struggles she had faced. I knew the two men she would be forced to choose between. What I didn't know was that each friendship would blossom into a relationship that would make the final decisions Katie had to make so evenly matched that I didn't want to insist that she decide. Can we have them both? No, of course that wouldn't be fair to anyone, but making the choice is a torturous thing! Now, when is the sequel coming out? 

Like with my Best Movies list yesterday, there is no way I can do write-ups for all of the other books that have made my list, but I will give you titles and authors. I'll even place them into target audiences to help you know a little more about them than just the titles will say. One of my goals is to do some reviews again throughout the coming year, but those are always going to be books of my choice here on the main blog. Occasionally I'm asked to review a book, but those will be on another linked blog, based on target audience. See the top of LuAnn's Library for those links. 

Middle Grade
13th Reality: The Void of Mist and Thunder -- James Dashner
Case File 13: Zombie Kid -- J. Scott Savage
Case File 13: Making the Team -- J. Scott Savage
Wonder -- RJ Palacio
Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret -- Chad Morris
Wednesdays in the Tower -- Jessica Day George
Vampire Plagues: Paris -- Sebastian Rook
Far World: Air Keep -- J. Scott Savage
The Runaway King - Jennifer Nielsen
Slob -- Ellen Potter
Michael Vey: Battle of the Ampere -- Richard Paul Evans

Young Adult
Going Dark novella -- Robison Wells
Blackout -- Robison Wells
The Eye of Minds -- James Dashner
Adult Novels
Band of Sisters: Coming Home -- Annette Lyon
Heart of the Ocean -- Heather Moore
Finding Sheba -- Heather Moore
Deadly Undertakings -- Gregg Luke
Agenda 21 -- Glenn Beck
The Aliso Creek novella series -- H. B. Moore
Edenbrooke -- Julianne Donaldson
Blackmoore -- Julianne Donaldson
Becoming a Lady novella -- Marie Higgins
Non-Fiction / Education
Book Love -- Penny Kittle

Hope you find something new here to enjoy in 2014! 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of 2013 - Movies

Thus approaches the end of another year, and like many bloggers, it's time for me to post my annual Best of Lists. One caveat, none of us have seen every movie that was released the previous year, nor do we like the same things, so these lists are often useless when it comes to making comparisons to the lists our readers would make. That's okay. It's still fun to see what our friends enjoyed. My list has no particular order, but it is filled with 20 movies I enjoyed.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Rare is the moment when I've enjoyed a movie more than the book it is based on, but that's exactly what happened with this episode of The Hunger Games. (This was NOT the case with the first movie and the original book, where I felt too many details about the way their world worked were omitted from the movie for the audience to understand the significance of so many details.) The tension that was built through this movie was compelling, the way details were changed made scenes more dramatic, and I cared more about the characters than I did in the book where they seemed a little flat. Perhaps that was because I read the book after seeing the movie this time. In any case, I enjoyed the film more, especially liking the way the wedding dress reveal was changed and the scenes in response to Gale's beating. Well worth seeing, but not as a stand-alone, and if you don't like to wait for what happens next, you might want to wait until closer to the release of Mockingjay.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Since I'm talking about movies I liked better than the book, I'd better jump in here with The Hobbit. I've read the book twice. I hated it both times. I fell asleep watching An Unexpected Journey. I was reluctant to see this episode in the theater. My husband tricked me, making sure we arrived too late to get tickets to see Saving Mr. Banks, which is still on my must see list. But, I was pleasantly surprised. For the first time I was able to tell the characters apart--the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a nightmare for me to watch for this very reason--and I was able to follow the story without feeling like I'd already seen this battle before--another problem with LOTR. I know purists aren't sure about this film because Jackson took the liberty of adding to the original plot, but since these new scenes and characters helped someone like me finally figure out important elements of the LOTR, perhaps he wasn't so off-base in doing so. This is another film that if you want to know what happens next, wait until the end of the year to watch it, right before the final episode is released.

The Lone Ranger
If you're one of those people who listens to the national media when it comes to movie reviews, then you probably think this movie was a real clunker. Not so! Disney marketing was the problem. Like they did with John Carter, the marketing department had another epic fail, trying to sell the movie to the wrong audience in the wrong way, thereby cutting off their own noses to spite their face when it comes to sales. I grew up watching The Lone Ranger as a child. Every Saturday morning my brother and I watched the show, which we recognized as somewhat campy even then. Sure Hammer's Ranger comes off a little more like Dudley Doo-Right, but that's okay. We loved that show too. This movie was hysterical! The subtlety Depp brings to the character of Tonto kept me in stitches. From the moment the William Tell Overture begins I was totally into the chase scene--both times I saw it in the theater. I bought only six movies this year for Christmas, and The Lone Ranger was one of them. Give it a chance, and be prepared to laugh!

Despicable Me 2 
 Speaking of laughs, this second installment about Gru, the girls, and those crazy minions will also have you laughing like crazy. The first time I saw it was in a theater packed with a hundred kids younger than eight-years-old and I felt like a fool whenever I laughed at the humor that was obviously aimed toward adults. The kids didn't get it. But then, I'm sure i didn't laugh as hard as they did and the physical comedy based on bringing pain to the characters. That's okay. It's all part of understanding the ladder of comedy. Those kids will grow into it. In the meantime, I loved the film enough that this was another movie I bought for Christmas. We watched it this week and I found even more to laugh about because I could actually hear the dialogue over the constant chatter of little people in the movie house. The producers left the series open if they decide to do another episode, but this one also has the perfect ending. 

The Saratov Approach
Perhaps its because I currently have two sons serving LDS missions; maybe it's because one of those sons started telling me I had to see this movie long before I'd even heard of it; maybe it's because I like to revisit events in history, even if they were unfamiliar to me before seeing the film. Whatever the reason, I was touched by this movie and I've been recommending it to people everywhere. The core of the story is one every missionary mom prays she will never experience--a phone call from the Church office letting you know something is wrong. Your missionary has been hurt and you're half a world away with nothing you can do to set things right. As an audience, we go in knowing that everything works out alright--the two elders are still alive and doing press junkets, but that doesn't stop your heart from beating a little faster, your palms getting a little sweaty, and the tears from pouring out of your eyes uncontrollably. One of the best LDS movies I've ever seen, yet any audience will understand. 

 So, there are detailed reasons why I enjoyed five of the movies on my list. I could write about the other fifteen, but that would take me all day and I don't have all day. You don't have all day to read them either, so here are the remaining films that made it onto to my favorite list for 2013. 

Man of Steel
Fast & Furious 6
Star Trek Into Darkness
Iron Man 3
Oz the Great and Terrible
World War Z
White House Down
The Croods
G.I. Joe Retaliation
Jack the Giant Slayer
Monsters University

Hope you had a great time in 2013 At the Movies! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Explorers: Tides Acrss the Sea -- Kindle Countdown Christmas Sale

“Beautiful coming of age and young love story. TIDES ACROSS THE SEA sends readers deep into history and gives them a story they will find difficult to put down!”--InD’TALE MAGAZINE, Stephenia McGee

“TIDES ACROSS THE SEA is an intriguing adventure, rooted in a fascinating historical era of the famous New World explorers as they infiltrate the Aztec culture. I loved learning more about the time period and Staheli's excellent story-telling had me immersed in the first chapter.” Heather B. Moore, Best of State & Whitney Award-winning author

“History buffs will love reading about the adventures and tragedies of the Cortés expedition and the Aztec people.” –WHY NOT? BECAUSE I SAID SO, Sheila Staley

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli is a three-time Utah Best of State Medal recipient for Literary Arts and Education, winner of Utah’s Original Writing Competition and the League of Utah Writer’s Diamond Quill for Juvenile Fiction. “My fascination with Cortés and the Aztec people began years ago as my husband shared legends about Montezuma’s gold,” Staheli says.

Set against the background of the exploration of the Aztec civilization, TIDES ACROSS THE SEA, opens in the year 1519, where the passion for adventure and the lust for gold reign in the hearts of both young and old. Fifteen-year-old Felipe is no exception, though his yearning for adventure is tempered by his love for the beautiful Manuela. She wants to marry Felipe, but she must first rid herself of the betrothal bands her papa has accepted on her behalf to the local bully, who threatens the life of the one she loves. When Felipe ends up on Cortés’ ship bound for the New World, the young couple is pulled apart.

Felipe and Manuela each must find a way to overcome the odds stacked against them if they want to someday reunite. But the New World is filled with danger, and Felipe may not escape the human sacrifices being made to the Great White God, unless the young slave girl, Tia, who also yearns for home, can help him escape and return to Manuela.

EXCERPT: Manuela Perez couldn’t stop the perspiration pouring across her brow. The azure sky was crisp and clear above the piazza where the sun radiated from the cobblestones, making the day seem hotter. But it was more than the heat making her feel drained. The words coming from the mouth of the boy she hoped to one day marry brought her great worry.

“A New World. Just saying the words brings a fire to my belly,” Felipe Marco said, reading from one of the many notices posted in the village. Felipe’s fists rested on his hips and he pulled his shoulders back, his lean torso enhanced by the muscles bulging from the sleeve above his almond-colored arms. “To travel to a new continent across the Caribbean. This—this would prove to your father that I am a man. Old enough to own a bull and a piece of land, old enough to travel beyond the southern shores of Santiago de Cuba, and to marry his daughter.”

“Oh, Felipe,” Manuela said, sighing. Her tiny frame was almost hidden beneath the orange, yellow, and green ruffles that decorated her skirt and blouse. “What if you never return from this voyage with Cortés? Who would I marry?” She placed her head against the woven fabric of his tunic and touched her creamy palm against his dark curls. The noise of the market swirled around them, but she paid no attention.

A smile played at Felipe’s lips as he embraced her. “A child as lovely as you need not worry about marriage.”

TIDES ACROSS THE SEA, a young adult novel from The Explorers series, is historical fiction with a touch of romance in the style of Carolyn Meyer (Loving Will Shakespeare) and Ann Rinaldi (The Coffin Quilt)., which takes readers on a journey to the New World with Cortés and into the palace of Moctezuma, satisfying their own lust for adventure.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just Like Elizabeth Taylor

WINNER — Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition, Juvenile Division

WINNER — League of Utah Writer’s Juvenile Novel & Diamond Quill

Twelve-year-old Liz Taylor has known for a long time that she would escape—escape the abuse against herself, and against her mother. She just didn’t know how or when.

Then the perfect opportunity comes—money left of the table by her mother’s abuser—and Liz is on the run. But a girl her age doesn’t have many options when it comes to hideouts, making a K.O. A. Kampground and a nearby middle school her perfect choices.

If only she can keep to herself, Liz, now using the name Beth, knows she can make it on her own, until things change, and she realizes she must face her situation head on if she is to save herself and her mom.

Excerpt: I was named after a movie star. Elizabeth Taylor. When Mom was pregnant she watched National Velvet on a cable station playing old movies.

“She was so beautiful, and with our last name being Taylor, I couldn’t resist,” Mom told me. “The doctor in the delivery room placed the tiny bundle that was you across my stomach. Your eyes almost looked violet, and you had a head full of dark hair and a little birthmark on your cheek, just like Elizabeth Taylor. I knew that had to be your name.”

“Liz, if you please,” I reminded her for the millionth time.

I’d read some of the biographies. I didn’t want to spoil Mom’s impression by telling her that baby Elizabeth Taylor had been ugly, her little newborn body covered all over by dark hair. Mom didn’t have any idea that my life—and hers—would turn out to be filled with those same unglamorous experiences her idol had faced. Life wasn’t all movie stars and parties like Mom imagined.

JUST LIKE ELIZABETH TAYLOR, a young adult novel from the Small Town U.S.A. series, is historical fiction with the feel of today. Liz faces challenges too horrific to think about, yet learns much about life and herself as she struggles to survive.

Like with the works of Carol Lynch Williams (Miles from Ordinary), or Sara Zarr (Story of a Girl), readers will find a main character in Liz that they will love, as well as want to save.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli is a three-time Utah Best of State Medal recipient for Literary Arts and Education, winner of Utah’s Original Writing Competition and the League of Utah Writer’s Diamond Quill for Juvenile Fiction.

Use the Look Inside feature to read more, or click the LIKE button above to share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Reviews are appreciated on Amazon or GoodReads.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Now That I Got THAT Out of My System

Last month I wrote a long blog entry that was very well-received by so many people in the writing community who have been frustrated with the whole road to traditional publication, as I myself had been feeling. But a funny thing has happened to me and my creativity in the three weeks that have passed since I wrote that blog—I’ve suddenly been filled with ideas for books and magazine articles that would fit perfectly with the traditional market.

WHAT?! You might wonder what happened. Did I change my mind about Indie publishing? Have I suddenly turned my back on all of you, who might be struggling like I am to not only publish, but also sell books like the ones I self-published?

The answer is NO. Indie publishing has done something wonderful for me. Actually, many wonderful things:

The manuscripts I’ve been working on for so many years, the ones that never seemed to fit the right niche, or to be just what an editor was looking for, are now either available for family, friends, or a growing fan base to purchase.

Because those manuscripts are no longer just sitting, waiting, hoping to be the very thing an editor or agent connects to, they are also not staring me in the face, the characters begging for me to find them a publication home, which has freed my mind toward more creativity.

New ideas have poured in to take their place, and unfinished manuscripts are crowding my thoughts, hoping now is the time for them to be finished and see the light of day. Some of them will be direct to eBook, but others have long hoped for a traditional publishing deal.

At least two of these not-quite-finished manuscripts have made my critique group sit up and pay attention in the last two years, causing them to ask, “When are you going to bring more pages?” One of the books has had interest from two agents and two NY editors in the past. “Send them to me once you’re ready.”

So, why haven’t I done so? Somehow I think those completed, yet homeless manuscripts, have somehow held me back. It’s not that they weren’t good books; they were, and I thank so many of you who have purchased them and written nice reviews. I hope many more readers will discover them in the future, now that they are available on Kindle. They just weren’t the right thing for the major markets to buy at that time, and that’s okay. I never saw them as anything more than sweet books for the mid-list anyway, yet they have given me an incredible opportunity to tell a story, hone my craft, and introduce my work to those who do appreciate a nostalgic story. 

I still have my list of books to release this year, with a new YA novel coming out very shortly, but I also now have my list of manuscripts to complete. Those books will be polished, query letters prepared, and their stories will get the chance to visit agents and editors, looking for a match, a phone call and an offer saying, “I love it!”

Writing is part of me, and I’ll never give it up, even if sometimes I try to tell myself I want to. I can't get over it. Good stories are a part of me, and when it comes right down to it, I’ll never get THAT out of my system. When it comes to publishing, Traditional or Indie, my stories deserve to be shared.

I hope that you, my readers, will still come along on that journey with me.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Book-of-the-Month Club

The Book of the Month Club
At the end of 2012, I was sitting around, feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been working on a writing career since I first moved to Utah in 1988, and although I’ve had some small successes, published two books with niche presses and won several writing awards, the all-elusive benchmarks of having an agent and signing with a big-name publisher had never come to be.

Oh sure, I’d pitched to agents, who requested both partial and full manuscripts, then I never heard from them again. Not even a-thanks-but-no-thanks email, even after I sent them a follow-up. I guess ignoring the writer is the newest trend in giving a rejection. Maybe it’s easier on the agent, or at least less time consuming.

Meanwhile, as an author, and like many others I know, we all sit at home, thinking surely a phone call, a letter, or an email will come sometime soon saying “YES, I’d love to represent you.” But that moment never came.

The editors I met with were a little better, albeit not much. About half of them had the courtesy to respond, even though about half of those were form letters, often poorly photocopied, but a response at least, even if the answer was “No, thank you.”  

“I love your writing, but it’s just not right for my list.”

“We’ve decided to pass.”

“Good luck finding a house for your work.”

Right. Good luck with that. If my book isn’t the next-big-thing then I can forget about finding a traditional publisher.

I don’t write about vampires, dystopian America, or erotica so that throws out the possibility of catching the current wave, which really isn’t current at all since those topics have all been covered and covered again in the last few years.

So what is the next new wave? What should I be writing and submitting?

“We’ll know it when we see it.”

Right again. Finding that one on my own is more difficult than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Stand about 500 feet away and throw the dart, hoping you pop the right balloon to win the prize. Oh, and you have to do it before anyone else does, yet be so much like everyone else’s story that the publishers know what to do with it, how to market, where to shove it into a category, and it had better be hot, hot, hot when it comes to sales or you’re right back where you started from.

That’s when I started to look at my writing realistically.

I love to write. I know how to tell a good story. Readers have enjoyed my work enough that the reviews have been good and I’ve won awards from a variety of writing contests. But I’m not getting any younger, and the books I’ve written have been rejected by every agent or editor who has requested them, and everyone else I’ve simply queried. There came a point when I told my critique group—most of you know them and the powerhouse bunch of published authors they are—that I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I was tired of the rejection, tired of spending every evening, weekend or summer vacation writing away and never seeing any acceptance letters as a result.

I was done with writing.

So I came home and took some time off. It was hard. My characters kept calling out to me, begging for their stories to be finished. Those that were already done, complained about how tired they were of sitting on my computer hard drive, constantly being backed up to make sure they didn’t one day disappear altogether. They wanted to be read by people who would love them.

And that’s all I wanted for them as well. I didn’t need a huge contract with a large advance. Of course that would be nice, but I didn’t need it, and if the truth be known, I wasn’t sure I ever even really wanted that. A contract came with its own set of obligations—new books, topics sometimes chosen at the discretion of the editor and publisher, rather than the characters who spoke to me, written on a schedule that allowed a full year to pass from one publication to the next, and promotion that possibly meant travel and time on the road that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with physically, as well as finding a way to travel when I still have a son at home who needs a parent.

What I wanted was to write the books I wanted, at the speed I wanted to write them, to have the way to publish them, and to find the right audience who wanted to read them. I don’t have a single platform—I have many. I write novels for middle grade, young adult and adult audiences. I write for LDS readers, and non-LDS readers. I write non-fiction for both groups as well, and the range of topics is broad—memoir, education, and history so far, with lots of other ideas swirling around in my head.

The email messages started coming in from the members of my group: “You can’t quit.”

And the characters in my head told me they were right.

So in December, I made a decision. If publishers didn’t want to buy my books, then I’d need to move on without them. I had readers who were tired of waiting and I was too.

That’s where my 2013 goal came in. I would publish a book-a-month, even if I had to do it on Kindle. I made a list of all the books I had already written that were sitting on my hard drive, waiting for a home. I added the manuscripts that were nearly done as well, and found, that even with not yet counting the two manuscripts I had out waiting for a response from traditional publishers, that I had enough books close enough to completion to meet my goal. (Since then, both of those books have been formally rejected, so they are now a part of my master list of books that will be lining up on Amazon, ready for an instant download to the readers who want them.)

In January, my goal started to become a reality. Leona & Me, Helen Marie was the first entry out of the gate, just like it was the first novel I ever wrote. Based on the stories my mother told me about her childhood, growing up in southern Indiana, this middle grade novel is near and dear to my heart. It was written shortly after my mother passed away and I am thrilled that the two beautiful girls on the front cover are actually my mom, Helen Marie, and my aunt, Leona Mae.

February was highlighted by the release of A Note Worth Taking, adorned with a new cover that placed it into the Small Town U.S.A. series. Although some readers have tried to read themselves into this novel, when it comes right down to it, it’s a story I made up in my mind. Sure, some of the events are based on truth, but the conflict and resolution, and the characters who play key roles are purely fiction. I’ve taught school for over 30 years, and I’m here to tell you, when it comes to girl drama, there is nothing new under the sun, so you could change the names a million times and people would still wonder, “Is this about ME?”

The digital version of When Hearts Conjoin was available starting in March. As the credited ghostwriter of this family drama/memoir, I was pleased to be the recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for Non-Fiction Literary Arts after its original publication, and I was thrilled to work with New York Times Best-selling author Richard Paul Evans throughout the entire publication stage that brought the book to you.  

I celebrated my birthday with the release of Tides Across the Sea, a YA historical with a hint of romance. This book is set to be the first in a series called The Explorers, with novels about Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky already outlined on my computer, waiting their turn at draft. Tides saw its performance debut at Payson Jr. High when I read it to a class of 7th graders, one of whom who decided to act the entire thing out as I read to the group.

Currently I’m doing a final read through and proof of Just Like Elizabeth Taylor, which will be my May release. This YA novel was the winner of the Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition for Juvenile Fiction, as well as The League of Utah Writers Juvenile Novel of the Year. Although the topic is darker than most of my books, it is filled with hope, friendship, and a silver-lining at the end.

That brings us to the date of this blog post, but the list won’t stop there.

Not all of my releases will be fiction, although those are coming too. Men of Destiny: Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith; Living in an Osmond World; Been There, Done That, Bought the T-Shirt; and volume 2 of Books, Books, and More Books: A Parent and Teacher’s Guide to Adolescent Literature are all in the running for the summer release spots. Temporary Bridesmaid, Carny, and Ebenezer are on my summer vacation agenda for revision or completion.

And who knows what else I might write or resurrect between now and the end of the year.

Nothing is set in stone as to which one comes next, so if you have a preference shout it out so I can see what I can do to make your request available soon.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, and a HUGE thank you to those of you who also take the time to leave reviews at Amazon and GoodReads. Word-of-mouth is the best advertizing when it comes to discovering and sharing books. As a former English teacher and now school librarian, I’ve seen kids pick up books and read them just because someone they respected told them it was good. I hope that some of my readers will feel inclined to do the same thing, and whenever possible, I’ll return the favor for you.

Leave a response on the blog, send me a tweet, or a message on my Facebook wall, and I’d be happy to recommend a book to you.