Review: Awakening Avery, by Laurie Lewis

I cried today. But not for the reasons you might expect. I did so upon finishing Laurie Lewis’ newest book, Awakening Avery.

I didn’t cry because of the plot points, the characters’ angst, or any part of the story itself. I cried because after reading the book, I realized I have thrown away so much of my life.

Let me explain. I lived just barely north of the main setting of the book (Sarasota, Florida) for 12 years. Do you know I only went to the beach three times during that decade-long-plus era of my life? And it was in this realization that the impact of this book has made itself known in my life.

The main protagonist in the story, Avery Thompson, will forever live on in my life as the inspiration for complete change. I now choose to stop living my life in fear. I choose to stop avoiding life’s experiences. I choose to visit “the beaches” in my life by simply enmeshing myself in the sand they offer and enjoying the experience.

All too often I think we as mortals keep ourselves tightly encased in glass cases, afraid to experience pain. This was what Avery was doing in the story during the first year after her husband’s death. As I watched her evolution, I realized that in many ways throughout my whole life, I’ve mirrored her fear.

No longer. And I count myself fortunate to have read this story. A few typos, sure. A few tweaks, sure. But what book doesn’t have that? This is a book I will remember having read years from now, and I pray that my choice today to “go to the beach” and stop fearing the sands of life will reap beautiful memories of a life well lived when my life is done. Thank you, Laurie, for Awakening Avery. Thank you, Laurie, for awakening me.

Here’s how you, the reader, can get your own copy! I think it will change you in ways you’ll forever celebrate.

Awakening Avery

You can learn more about Awakening Avery and Laurie Lewis on her website: and her blog: A View From the Other Side of the Hill.

A Blog Tour for Author Laurie Lewis!

Summer’s here and what better way to kick it off than with a blog tour for
Awakening Avery by Laurie Lewis as Awakening Avery
is the perfect poolside read.

Avery can’t cope with the death of her husband and is finally convinced by
her son to return to the family’s Anna Maria Island vacation spot. With the
help from some new-found friends, Avery swaps her house with a widower
named Gabriel. As Avery and Gabriel step into each others lives, they begin
a correspondence that leads to spiritual and emotional awakening for each
of them.

We’re giving away 3 fabulous prizes.
Two readers will win their own copy of Awakening Avery! Yeah. There will be one lucky grand prize winner who will win the beautiful necklace above. The contest opens June 2 and will close June 13 at midnight MST.

June 1 Sheila Stayley
Why Not? Because I
Said So!
LDS Women’s Book Review

June 2 Alison Palmer
Tangled Words and Dreams

June 3 Kimberly Jobs
Scribbled Scraps

June 4 Nichole Giles
Random-ish by Nichole

June 7 Deanne Blackhurst
The Book of Deanne

June 8 Tristi Pinkston
*Tristi Pinkston, LDS

June 9 C.S. Bezas
For the Love of the Written Word

June 10 Joan Sowards
Joan Sowards

June 11 Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
The Write Blocks

Entering the contest is easy–all you have to do is blog, tweet, follow, or
comment and then fill out this little form HERE.

1. Follow our reviewers blogs.
(1 entry for each blog you follow.)

2. Leave a comment on a
(1 entry for each review you comment on.)

2. Blog about Awakening Avery, the contest, or a review. (3 entries
for each blog post.)

3. Follow us on twitter. (1 entry
for each person you follow.)

C.S. Bezas (little ol’ me)

Walnut Springs Press

Nichole Giles

LDS Women’s Book Review

Sheila Stayley

Kimberly Job

Joan Sowards

4. Tweet about the contest. (2
entries for each tweet.)

5. Post about the contest on your
(2 entries for each facebook post or status update
about the contest.)

6. Become a fan of Walnut Springs Press on Facebook. (1 entry for becoming a fan.)

7. Anything else you can think of that
will spread the word.
(3 entries for every social media site you post
on.) If you mention it on goodreads, shelfari,google buzz, make it your
status on gmail chat, or yahoo messenger let us know. We’ll reward your
creativity with entries.

Here is the beautiful necklace being awarded as the grand prize!

Interview with David P. Vandagriff

I received a complimentary copy of David P. Vandagriff’s new book, I Need Thee Every Hour: Applying the Atonement in Everyday Life, in the past month.

Here is the information from the inside flap:

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important event that ever has 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 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.”

I Need Thee Every Hour is a beautiful book, the exterior artwork matching the depth of thought inside. A particular chapter, “‘Abide With Me’ – Prayer and the Atonement”, struck me deeply. I read of the author’s confusion why he could receive answers so swiftly as a Bishop and yet not as an individual. It was only when he realized he was approaching prayer differently as an individual that he received an insight that changed all future personal-prayer experiences.

I was eager to talk with David more regarding this work, one that seeks to help confused individuals – who suffer from any number of difficulties – to find peace.

He agree to an interview and I’ll be sharing his thoughts over the next couple of weeks, in periodic installments.

C.S.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
DAVID:   I remember reading a newspaper article that said 81% of all Americans think they have a good idea for a book and should write one.  As for myself, I have to admit a couple of half-hearted efforts at novels that didn’t go anywhere, but never really thought about writing a real book. 
While I was practicing law, a legal publisher asked me to write a book on “Document Assembly” – a riveting topic only if you were a techie lawyer in 1990 – but I never could find the time to produce more than a lot of magazine articles and a few book chapters in publications for attorneys.
I think my current book began in 2008, when I co-authored Deliverance from Depression – Finding Hope and Healing Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, with my wonderful and hard-driving wife, G.G., and my son, Greg.  To be frank, G.G. provided the impetus for that book, but it opened the possibility that I might be able to write non-fiction that someone besides a lawyer might want to read.  Even more motivating was the experience G.G. and I had during book signings of talking to good Latter-day Saints who were suffering from depression or who had someone in their family who was afflicted with this difficult disease.
While I was bishop of a BYU singles ward, I asked that every talk and every lesson in the ward be explicitly tied to the Atonement of Christ.  When I gave a talk, I held myself to the same standard, so I started collecting scriptures and quotes on this most important of subjects.  This idea – connecting the Atonement to everything important – changed my life in ways I only began to comprehend while I was still serving on campus.
After I was released, I worked to understand what I had learned and started to write my thoughts and feelings.  The more I pondered the Atonement, the more clearly I understood the Savior’s influence on my life over many, many years, stretching back even before I became a member of the Church.
I honestly can’t say exactly when writing for myself became the possibility for a book.  It was probably G.G.’s idea, since she is the source of so many good ideas in my life.  As I looked through the prism of the Atonement, I could see its influence helping me 20-30 years before I ever set foot on campus.  Some parts of my book are taken verbatim from talks I gave when I was a very young bishop many, many years ago, but the central organizing principle, the Atonement of Jesus Christ as the center of revealed religion, only became clear when I really focused on understanding this vital truth.
C.S.: What was the pathway like to get your first book published?
DAVID:  G.G. and I had developed good relationships with Covenant Communications, the publishers of Deliverance from Depression, so I submitted the manuscript for I Need Thee Every Hour to Covenant.
Some people at Covenant had questions about how my book differed from the many other excellent books that have been written about the Atonement in recent years.  My response was that the other books I had read dealt with the doctrine and theory of the Atonement while mine dealt with the application of the Atonement, how it applied not just on Sunday, but on every day and in every circumstance of our lives.
I had an excellent editor, Samantha Van Walraven, who worked hard to overcome one of my major faults as a writer (and one that drives G.G. crazy), repeating myself too many times.  Perhaps it’s my nature or maybe it’s the result of years spent explaining complex legal matters to hillbilly clients, but I have a tendency to explain, then explain again, then say the same thing in a slightly different way two or three more times.  Sam whacked away the verbal undergrowth so basic principles and lessons are expressed well one time, not five times.
Here is the link to read more about his new book, I Need Thee Every Hour: Applying the Atonement in Everyday Life, and to get your own copy. Know that this is not a light read. But if you are ready to ponder on new facets of the atonement of Jesus Christ, this would be a book you would want on your shelves.

Interview with Kathi Oram Peterson

I love, love, love people who use their talents to bless the lives of others. Kathi Oram Peterson is just such a person. She also has a new book out and was kind enough to spend some time chatting with me about her book and her background as a writer. You will love getting to know Kathi and you will especially want to pick up a copy of her newest book, An Angel on Main Street. I received a copy to review and couldn’t wait to interview Kathi about it!

Here is a bit about Kathi first, taken from her website:

Kathi Oram Peterson was born in the small town of Rigby, Idaho. Since childhood, she has loved reading and writing stories. After winning the Heart of the West (1994) and Golden Pen (1995) contests, she put her writing on hold to finish her English degree. Upon graduation, she worked for a curriculum publisher writing and editing concept and biography books for children. She now devotes her time writing inspirational fiction.

And now for the fun! Here’s my interview with Kathi…

C.S.: Kathi, you have a new book out. Tell us a bit about it.

KATHI: This story has been a work in progress for many, many years. I even wrote it into a screenplay, which took 4th place in a national contest. An Angel on Main Street is set in the 1950s and is about eleven-year-old Micah Connors. He’s been in and out of trouble since he learned of his father’s death in the Korean War. But as the book opens he’s trying to do better. 
Micah has promised his mother that in the new town of Bolton, Idaho, he would stay out of mischief. His mom has enough to worry about being a widow with two children, and her daughter, Annie, ill. As hard as he tries, Micah finds the trouble he promised to avoid. As the sheriff escorts him home they come upon a ramshackle stable. Someone is building a Nativity for the town, but no one knows who. While the sheriff and Micah’s mother are talking, Micah’s sister tells him she believes angels are building the Nativity and when baby Jesus comes, He’ll make her better. Worried that his sister might die before Christmas, Micah sets out on a quest to find the baby Jesus. But as he gets nearer to finding the Nativity builder, he learns that angels are closer than he ever believed. 
I loved writing this story. Though it is only 99 pages long I worked on it year after year, always at Christmastime, tweaking it here and there until finally it sold. I can’t tell you how very happy I am that it is finally in print. 

C.S.: Everyone who has read it remarks how touching it is. What was your purpose in writing it? And what was its genesis?

KATHI: I love Christmas and it only made sense to write a story about the holiday. I also wanted to write about growing up in a small town in the 50s. I was traveling to Colorado with a group of other writers. We were going to a conference. Everyone was listening to a speaker on tape. I was in the back seat and couldn’t really hear so I started thinking of stories I could write. I knew I wanted a time element counting down to Christmas. I wanted the story to focus around the Nativity. The story took off from there. It’s gone through many revisions, but the main thrust of the story is still the same as I thought of on that trip to Colorado.

C.S.: When did you first think about writing? As a kid? Later on? Why?

KATHI: I liked to write as a teenager. But I didn’t really set my mind to it until after my first child was born. My mother had given me some novels to read. The great ones by Phyllis Whitney, Nora Lofts, Mary Stewart. Jane Austin. I loved those books. One day as Mom and I were discussing the stories, she turned to me and told me that I should try to write a book. She encouraged me. So did my father. He loved to write. I soooo wish they were alive today to see my books published.

C.S.: That would be wonderful in deed. What are some of the ways you approach writing?

KATHI: I have to write to feel my life has purpose. There have been stretches when I haven’t written. During those times I become depressed, things just don’t go right. Knowing this about myself, I’ve tried to write something every day. When I’m working on a book, I try to give myself goals for each day such as a chapter a day or ten pages a day. I’m one of those writers who has to get the story out first, so my first draft is pretty rough. Then I read through it several times correcting punctuation, grammar and pumping up motivation.

C.S.: What are your purposes when you write? Is it part escapist? Is it to share feelings? Or something else?

KATHI: My main purpose is to tell a good story. I hope my readers can escape into my stories as they read them. Feelings play a huge part of my writing. Not mine but my characters (Though I must admit that sometimes I cry with my characters. Don’t tell anyone.). I work hard to show my main character’s inner turmoil, how he/she grows and learns through the course of the story. As the years have gone by my main goal is to write inspirational stories that people can relate to and gain hope from.  

C.S.: What was one of the most enjoyable parts about writing this Christmas book?

KATHI: I mainly wrote on this book during the Christmas season. Working on Micah’s story helped me view the holiday through a child’s point of view. Actually, I don’t think I’ll ever grow up completely so it wasn’t that difficult. I love the wonder and awe of Christmas, the snow, the lights, the feeling of love, and mostly celebrating the Savor’s birth. I really enjoyed these aspects in writing this book. I hope I’ve portrayed that in the story. 

C.S.: What was one of the hardest parts?
KATHI: The hardest parts were thinking of the fear that must run through a child’s heart at the loss of a parent and the possible loss of a sibling. When I was a little girl, my mother suffered a heart attack while shampooing my hair for a dance recital. I remember how scared I was. We lived in an apartment over my father’s store, and many times I’d stand at the window looking down on Main Street wondering if she would be all right. She nearly died. When she came home she told us of a very spiritual experience she had. Through her experience I learned that death, while horrible for those left behind, is something not to fear.

C.S.: What are your thoughts on “writer’s block”? Have you experienced it? If so, what do you do?

KATHI: The only times I’ve had writer’s block was when I was trying to make a character do something they didn’t want to do or when I’ve deviated from the story. For instance, in one story I came upon some fascinating information about a historical person. As I wrote the story that character began to take over the story. I became blocked and couldn’t move forward. As soon as I realized what I’d done I had to throw out a couple of chapters, but it was worth it because once again things were clicking as they should.

C.S.: Have you ever been discouraged as a writer? Felt like quitting? What did you do?

KATHI: We don’t have enough time to talk about how often I have felt like quitting. But as I said before, writing gives me purpose, so even though I may become discouraged from a bad review or a severe critique I muscle through it and learn what I can from the experience. I might take a day or two to rethink, and then I’m back at it.

C.S.: What was your path to having this book published?

KATHI: It was a long, twisty path that had its ups and downs. Many times I felt like giving up, but then my friends would encourage me to work on it again. Every year a dear writing friend would ask me, “What are you going to do about Micah’s story?” And I would pull it out again. She can’t say that this year. Well, I guess she could in that I need to revamp the screenplay. Hmm…something else to work on.

C.S.: What words of encouragement do you have for those who are experiencing setbacks or trials at this time of year?

KATHI: It’s cliche, but true…never give up. If you think you have what it takes keep at it. Don’t let someone else’s opinion discourage you. I have a friend that quits writing whenever someone critiques her. You have to develop a thick writer’s skin to survive in this business, because if you can’t take the criticism before you’re published, what are you going to do when people critique your published book? Could be sad times. Believe in yourself. Always be open to learn new techinques that will strength your work and keep at it.

C.S.: Is there a scripture that is particularly meaningful to you?

KATHI: I love the scriptures. For my book, The Forgotten Warrior, I studied chapters 24 and 56 of Alma and their verses gained a place in my heart for the story they tell . For An Angel on Main Street it would be Luke chapters 1 and 2. I don’t have one particular scripture that stands out because at different times in my life they all do.

C.S.: What new project(s) are you working on now?

KATHI: I have several books I’m working on: another YA time travel, a picture book, a YA paranormal, and possibly a romantic suspense. Oh and a screenplay.
C.S.: Any final words for our readers?

KATHI: I appreciate those who read my books. In this day and age there are so many demands on our time and that they would steal away enough time to devote to reading my book I feel is an honor. Thank you!  

C.S.: An Angel on Main Street makes a perfect, inspirational Christmas gift. Where can readers go to find it?

KATHI: My books can be found at Seagull Book and Deseret Book Stores and at their websites. They are also for sale at

Interview with Linda Garner

Sometimes abuse happens. To children. And when it does, it breaks the heart of those who love the child most.

There is a new book that helps parents teach small children how to protect themselves. It is a book you’ll want to find and get, if you have any small children in your home (or if you are a grandparent). The book is called, Some Secrets Hurt, and it was written by Linda Garner.

Linda spent a little bit of time with me, helping me understand more about her process in writing this book. I appreciate her time!

C.S.: Tell us a little bit about yourself (favorite flavor ice cream, vacation, etc). Or perhaps something no one knows yet.

LINDA: Favorite ice cream?  I had to give up ice cream and such when I found out I had diabetes.  Fortunately I love soups and salads and all kinds of fruits and vegetables.  I walk every day, usually 3 miles.  I am very much into health.  

I am a people person.  I think people are the greatest.  I love spending time with lots of different people.  I am very family oriented, and love spending time with my family.  I have twenty grandchildren and two great grandchildren.  Yes, it’s true, I have two great grandchildren.  I really am too young to have great grandchildren, but I do.  It’s a long story, so I’ll save it for another time, but if you ever want to hear it, I’ll tell.

My husband of 37 years is my best friend.  He is so good to me.  I hope you all have a best friend like mine. Years ago my mother coined the title Friend-Husband for my dad.  I always loved that title and now that Mom is gone and not using it anymore, I’m borrowing it.  I hope she doesn’t mind.

I like change and a touch of adventure.  I love music.  I sing and play the piano.  I like to do almost everything and wish I had could find time for all the things I love.  I can’t not write.  Writing makes me feel complete.  I love words.  I love the sound and the feel of words.  I love picture books and that is what I write most.
I really love children.  I think children are wonderful.  I guess that’s why I had seven of them.  I really enjoy teaching.  Since I love music and children and teaching, I found that teaching piano was a nice mix.  I have taught Suzuki Piano Lessons for about 26 years. 

C.S.: You’ve led a busy life. What kind of little girl were you? Did you enjoy books?

LINDA: I was pretty ordinary.  I liked school.  I took piano lessons and dance.  I had friends.  Books were the best.  I always had my nose in a book.  Every book was like a new friend. I adored the library.  We moved when I was in 4th grade and our new school had a library right in the school.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

C.S.: What was school like for you growing up? Shy? Outgoing?

LINDA:  I can remember both.  I can remember feeling shy and also being outgoing.  Mostly, I think, outgoing.  School was delightful for me.  I have always loved to learn and I have never been afraid to try new things. 

C.S.: When did you first think of being a writer?

LINDA: I used to make up stories in bed at night with my big sister.  She was a great storyteller and I learned from her to enjoy creating a story.  I wrote a poem in second grade that impressed my teacher.  She asked if anyone had helped me.  I answered yes, because I had trouble with one rhyme and Mom had supplied the word I needed.  The teacher looked disappointed.  I’m sure she was thinking that the poem wasn’t really my work, but it was.  Sometimes I still need help with rhymes, only now instead of Mom I use a rhyming dictionary.

In sixth grade we studied Romeo and Juliet.  That’s when I really decided to be a writer.  I was fascinated with Shakespeare, and I wanted to rewrite it in modern English with a modern setting. My mother discouraged me from taking on such a big project, so it never happened, but the seeds were planted, waiting for a chance to grow.

C.S.: Tell us about your new book. Who is it for? Why did you write it?

LINDA: My book is called Some Secrets Hurt and it is for everyone.The first question people usually ask about my book is “What age is it written for?”  My answer is always the same.  “What age is it not written for?”  This surprises most people because my book is a picture book and it is simple enough to be read aloud to young children.  

Indeed I hope that every young child has someone who will read it to them. However, Some Secrets Hurt is a story about sexual abuse and the message is so important and so powerful that everyone needs to read it.  Adults need this message.  Teenagers need this message. This message is for boys as well as girls. Every home needs a copy.

C.S.: What was the process like for you writing this? How did you go about it? 

LINDA: I had just watched a talk show on sexual abuse.  It was the Jane Pauley Show and she had interviewed two girls who had been sexually abused over a prolonged period of time.  I was troubled by their stories and I knew that many children experience this kind of abuse.  I was angry and I wanted to make a difference.  I picked up my pen and started to write.

C.S.: What kind of research did you need to do?

LINDA:  First, I just wrote from my heart.  I created a little girl named Maggie and let her tell her own story of abuse and healing.  Later I did some research to help me write the parents’ guide which is included in the book.  I also did some research on statistics and that sort of thing.  This was important so that I could talk intelligently about sexual abuse.

C.S.: Were there ever spots where you felt blocked while writing it? Or did it all just come in a rush?

LINDA:  It came in a rush.  I wrote the original story in an afternoon and I made very few changes as time went on.  This isn’t because of my great talent, but because the story came so clearly.  I knew it was inspired, and I knew it was a story that had to be told. 

C.S.: For those new to writing, will you share with us your revision process? What are your thoughts on the importance of polishing a manuscript before sending it to a publisher?

LINDA:  Since I write for children, I am always looking for a way to economize on words.  Of course I absolutely love words, but the fewer the better.  If I can find a shorter way to say something, that is the ideal.  If I can replace a word with a better one, I am happy.  If I can replace two words with one, or three words with one, then I am ecstatic.

When I write a picture book, I don’t have a whole chapter to set the stage.  I have to set the stage on page one. 

I always try my stories out on others.  My critique group is fabulous.  They give me great feedback.  If the story doesn’t resonate with them, I have to figure out what’s wrong.  I also love trying out my stories on my grandkids.  They love me, and they are always kind, but I can tell right away if something isn’t working.

Editors are very busy.  They are only going to give your manuscript one chance to impress them.  It would be silly to send off a manuscript that isn’t your very best work.

C.S.:  What did it feel like for you to finally hold this book in your hands?

LINDA:  It is amazing to hold this book in my hands and to know that it will soon be in the hands of parents, teachers, and children, making a difference.  I am honored to have the opportunity of representing children in a meaningful way.   It is a privilege to speak out on a topic that most people avoid and to create a tool that will empower children to take control of their own bodies. 

C.S.: The illustrations for the book are very touching. Tell us about this.

LINDA: When you write a picture book the pictures carry tremendous weight, so having the right illustrator is crucial.  A picture book writer is almost never involved in the selection of the illustrator.  Publishers have artists that they work with, and they choose the illustrator.  In most cases the author and publisher never meet and never collaborate. 

Soon after I wrote the text for Some Secrets Hurt, I met Brandilyn Speth, and discovered that she was an artist.  Though I had never seen her work, I knew that she was the right illustrator for my book.  I felt that we had been brought together for a reason.  I knew that having the book already illustrated would limit the publishers who would work with us, but it felt right.

Brandilyn was the right illustrator for my book.  She had a vision.  She has a love for this work.  When you read Some Secrets Hurt you will be drawn to the illustrations. They are sensitive and meaningful. Each page is a work of art and came from somewhere deep inside Brandilyn’s heart.   I am so thankful for Brandilyn and for the clarity she brought to Some Secrets Hurt.

C.S.: Has there ever been a point where you felt discouraged about this book? What did you do?

LINDA: Discouraged?  Who hasn’t been discouraged?  I have been discouraged often, but I have never been discouraged about this book.  I wrote the book quickly, but the process of having it illustrated and published was not quick.  However, I believed in Some Secrets Hurt and I trusted the process.  I believed that it would all come together when the time was right.

Discouragement is a part of life.  It helps us to make changes and to move forward.  It helps us recognize what is not working for us.  When I am discouraged I turn to my faith.  I have strong religious roots.  I recognize my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as my strength and my inspiration.  They are the center of my life.  When things get tough, I trust them to see me through.

C.S.: For your readers, what is one word of advice you’d like them to have?

LINDA:  I would ask them to stand up for kids.  I would ask them to become part of a caring community that works together to keep kids safe.  I would invite all adults to talk to the kids in their care about sexual abuse.  I would ask them to bring this topic out of the shadows and into the light, so that we can empower kids to take control of their own bodies.

C.S.: Thank you so much, Linda, for those words. Any other final thoughts of encouragement?

LINDA: Together, we can make a difference. 

C.S.: Thank you for your time, Linda. You have brought about a very important project and it has been a privilege to talk with you about it!

Linda Garner’s, Some Secrets Hurt, can be found at most Deseret Books, Seagull Books, and even the BYU Bookstore. You can order it online at,, and  Or if you want the book right away, you can also order online at my publisher,

Lisa Mangum’s Debut Novel is Now Out!

I have loved getting to know Lisa Mangum better, both through our recent interview series over at (here and here) and at a recent writers’ conference. I have been extremely impressed with her as a person. Could you meet a kinder, sweeter individual? I think not. No wonder so many that know her love her.

But being sweet and kind will not necessarily feed or create a can’t-put-it-down novel. Lisa’s new book, The Hourglass Door, is a work of delightful creativity that stays with you long after finishing it. I had a hard time putting it down. And for all Twilight fans out there, I have news . . . I think Lisa’s novel offers more.

In the past two portions of my interview with debut novelist, Lisa Mangum, we learned how The Hourglass Door evolved and the process she used to write it. In this final installment, she shares her future plans and insider information about the publishing industry.

C.S.: Lisa, what other books do you have planned?

LISA: The story of Abby and Dante is a trilogy, so right now I’m working on book two. But I’m also working on an adult fantasy novel that’s about halfway finished. And I have a whole file of ideas on the computer and in my writing notebook just waiting for me to tend to it.

C.S.: How long did it take to hear back the good news for The Hourglass Door? For those perhaps unfamiliar with the process, what was this like?

LISA: Having been in the publishing business for more than a decade, I can promise you that no two authors take the same road to publication. And whether it takes two weeks, two months, or two years, each acceptance is as individual as the author itself. My path to publication was shortened by the fact that I work directly with the people making the decisions. But even then, I knew it wasn’t a given that Shadow Mountain would pick up my book. Publishing is a business, after all, and I knew Chris Schoebinger (our Product Director over YA fiction) wouldn’t say yes to a book unless he knew it was a good business decision—no matter who wrote it. So like every other author, I waited anxiously for his decision and fretted and worried and second-guessed my work. And, like so many other authors, I felt that wonderful wave of relief and joy and excitement when I sat in his office and he said, yes, he wanted to publish my book for real.

C.S.: What is critical that other writers should know about the submission process to a publisher?

LISA: How many pages do you have? J Maybe I can boil it down to these three things: One, submit your work to the right publisher. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your novel is if the publisher you send it to doesn’t publish fiction. Two, have patience. I know everybody hates to wait, especially to hear back about a manuscript, but more often than not the old adage is true: no news is good news. It’s easy to say no to bad manuscripts and send them back; if a publisher is hanging on to a manuscript, generally it’s because there is something there that they don’t want to lose. Three, rejections aren’t personal. There are a gazillion different reasons why a publisher decides to pass on a project—and none of them are because they don’t like you as a person. So keep writing and keep submitting your work.

C.S.: What is your favorite part about being a writer?

LISA: I love that moment when a phrase or a scene or an emotion grabs hold of you and won’t let go. And when you get it down on paper, it’s like you’ve turned a key and the floodgates open. It’s those moments when I feel like the story is telling itself and I just hope I can do it justice by writing it down.

C.S.: What is the most frustrating part?

LISA: For me, it’s been learning how to turn off the editor part of my brain and just write. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to tell myself, “Don’t worry about it. Fix it later,” because part of me wants to stop and look up a grammar rule or check the spelling of a word.

C.S.: Did you ever experience writer’s block in the process of writing The Hourglass Door? What would you recommend to other writers if they experience obstacles to their story and/or world-building?

LISA: There were a few times when I sat down to write and nothing happened. On days when that happened, I found that if I told myself, “Just write something; you can delete it later,” I felt free to play around, make my characters do crazy things, and wander into uncharted plot territory. And while I often did delete a whole hour’s worth of work, there were times I would find something worth keeping or worth rewriting another day when I could look at the scene with fresh eyes. Another thing that helped when I ran into a block was to skip it and write something else. I’d just leave myself a note—“finish chapter,” “add transition,” “add something cool here”—and then jump ahead to another part of the story. For example, if a scene with Abby and Valerie was stagnating, then I’d say to myself, “Well, I know I need a scene with Abby and Zo where they talk about this-and-such” and I’d insert a page break and move on.

C.S.: Who have you been most inspired by in your life? What encourages you on difficult days? Or do you never have discouraging moments? :0)

LISA: There are two people who inspire me the most: my mom and my husband, Tracy. Mom is a writer too (she’s LaRene Gaunt, Assistant Managing Editor at the Ensign magazine) and we are like two peas in a pod when it comes to loving the minutiae of a story. She really was the one who set me on the path of being a lifelong reader and lover of words. And she was the one who helped me achieve my dream of being an editor. Tracy is my number-one fan. He always seems to know just when to jump in with the perfect bit of encouragement, or when to stand back and let me find my own way. On difficult days, I know I can always turn to my family and they’ll pull me through.

C.S.: Who are your favorite authors?

LISA: A loaded question, to be sure. Currently, or of all-time? Fiction or non-fiction? Which genre—fantasy, romance, mystery, historical fiction? Since I’ve been reading since I was three years old, and since I’ll read just about anything I can get my hands on, I have a long list of favorite authors and books. I’m dying waiting for the new Patrick Rothfuss novel. And the new George R.R. Martin novel. I’ll read anything Tad Williams writes. Watchmen blew my mind. So did Neal Stephenson’s epic Anatham, which made me wish I’d paid more attention to both science and philosophy in college. I loved Neil Gaimen’s Newberry-winner The Graveyard Book. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is high on my list of all-time favorite books. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is brilliant, as is Lisey’s Story and The Stand. I had the privilege of attending a reading of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake—I got chills listening to her talk about that book. But ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably have an entirely different list . . . J

C.S.: What have you seen as some of the most damaging choices an author might make to his or her career ?

LISA: The author-editor relationship is so important and, speaking as an editor, it’s hard when an author fights you on every edit, every change, every suggestion. Having said that, though, there are times when an author needs to fight for their story and their voice. I think the ideal lies somewhere in between—where an author and an editor can build a professional and respectful relationship and understand that everything they do is in the service of the story and for the good of the reader. Editors are here to help—if you’ll let us.

The author-publisher relationship is equally important. Publishing is a business, so you have to have some business-savvy to survive, but still balance it with that creative spark and passion that made you want to write in the first place.

C.S.: Do you have other works in progress? If so, will your path to complete them follow a similar pattern as The Hourglass Door, or will you adjust how you write your next book?

LISA: Writing book two — working title, The Golden Spiral — is following the same path as The Hourglass Door, and I’m happy to report that things are going great. I’m excited by the story and I think some great things are emerging.

C.S.: What words of encouragement would you give other writers?

LISA: Tracy and I love to go to Disneyland on vacation, and one year when we were there, we passed a wall that had a collection of inspirational quotes from Walt Disney and some Imagineers. I fell in love with one them: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. Don’t quit.” Don’t hurry your talent—cherish it, develop it. Don’t worry if you make a mistake—rewriting is not a sign of failure, it’s the mark of a great writer. Don’t quit—persistence, persistence, persistence.

C.S.: How do you maintain balance? You lead a busy life!

LISA: It’s about prioritizing and multi-tasking. It’s about making choices. I’m also a big fan of checklists—I love that rush of endorphins when I can check something off my list. Long ago I decided to not bring work home with me. I do what I can to complete my tasks at work, and then I go home. If that means building in more editing time for a project, or asking for help, or figuring out ways to work faster or smarter or harder, so be it. But that way, when I’m home, I’m home: I can spend time with my family, I can work on my stories, I can play on the weekends and not feel guilty about missing a deadline at work.

C.S.: What is your philosophy about life, writing, living?

LISA: My friend at work has a quote in her office that says, “Don’t place a period where God has placed a comma.” I think that holds true in life and in writing. You can’t ever stop reaching for your dream, developing your talent, becoming a better person, because you never know when what you think is a end is really the beginning of something new. I hope that I can always keep going and keep growing.

C.S.: And for those who love trivia, what is your favorite color, food, and music group?

LISA: Green. Chocolate. Rush.

C.S.: Any final words on how our readers can find you and your book signings when The Hourglass Door releases? Do you have a newsletter they can join to hear the latest on The Hourglass Door and future works?

LISA: I’m building my web site where I plan on hosting my blog and all the latest, greatest information about me and all my books—current and future. Shadow Mountain will also have to market and advertise all three books about Abby and Dante. I’m excited to do some book signings and getting out there to tell people about my book.
I’d like to thank Lisa for the time she’s taken with us today, especially in light of her busy schedule. And the best part? The wait is over. The Hourglass Door is an excellent read when you need a little pick me up.You now can get your own copy at stores and online here!

Interview with author, Stacy Anderson

Feeling like life is tough? Tired of trying? Well, here’s a book you may want to pick up at your local bookstore or online at Life is Tough – I Doubt I’ll Make It Out Alive. And the author is one of the nicest, most humble people you could ever meet. Life is Tough – I Doubt I’ll Make It Out Alive has been called “A great funny journey called motherhood!” I promise you that when you read all 28 mini-chapters it will have been well worth your time. Enjoy getting to know Stacy Anderson, mother of four sons and author of The Santa Letters.

C.S.: Stacy, tell us a little bit about yourself.

STACY: Oh I’m your average run-of-the-mill supermom who descales showers with a single sponge, slows speeding teens with the nod of a finger and stops bedwetting with the use of training pants. I have four boys, am OCD when it comes to a clean house, I hate to iron and love wash and wear. I also do the best I can with what I’ve been given on any single day and if I can be used as an instrument in the hand’s of the Lord for blessing the lives of others, that is my icing on life’s cake!

C.S.: You’ve said it best right there when you said, “I…do the best I can with what I’ve been given.” Your book, The Santa Letters, was a huge hit, but now you have a new book that has come out. Describe it a bit for us.

STACY: In a nutshell, it is life’s lessons learned though laughter. If I hadn’t learned how to laugh and temper the tears, I’d be toast by now. Each chapter is a life lesson followed by a funny story that illustrates that lesson.

C.S.: When did the kernel of the idea for this book first come to you?

STACY: I really began it when my father was diagnosed with cancer at age 59. He was a man whose life had always been centered around service and he felt very useless when he was tied to tubes during his chemo and radiation treatments.

He’d always taught us how to learn much, laugh hard and love well. I wanted him to know that he’d done a good job with us and reached his objective so I captured all of the lessons I’d learned and our family stories, write them up and take them up to him to edit. He would laugh and share the stories to help others laugh which helped them all get through those treatments.

I never intended on it being published, but before he died, he made me promise I’d seek publication telling me that in today’s world, people needed to remember how to laugh. Five years to the day fo his passing, it came out.

C.S.: That’s very touching, Stacy. You’ve taken something very difficult and turned it into something to bless others. Tell me, though, why do you write?

STACY: I write because my patriarchal blessing tells me to develop the talents given to me so that I may bless the lives of my family and benefit the world around me. When I write honestly and openly, people connect with those words and come to find hope, inspiration and sometimes a bit of laughter while understanding they are not alone.

C.S.: Thus you were told to develop talents. When did you first discover the desire to write, expanding that talent?

STACY: Having always had a rather soft voice, I got drowned out by the noise of my brothers and others who were more boisterous. My desire to write was kindled when I was in grade school and a teacher entered one of my pieces in a literary contest. When I won, I truly understood the power of the pen and words and that is how I found my voice – the voice that could be heard.

C.S.: That is beautiful, Stacy. What kind of schedule do you follow? You are a busy women, yet you’ve had two books come out within one year of each other! And both quite different from each other.

STACY: I get my family off in the mornings, get myself together and then head for my office. I am usually down there until the kids come home from school. I do take intermediate breaks for housecleaning, laundry and other stuff when I need to mull a scene, plotline or get into a character’s head.

C.S.: What do you hope people gain from Life is Tough – I Hope I Make It Out Alive?

STACY: That although life is Tough, it is full of priceless moments that add up to the trip of a lifetime!!!

C.S.: What project or manuscript are you working on currently?

STACY: Once I get done promoting this one, I have another Christmas book coming out this fall (The Legend of the Star) so I will have a bit of time to finish up The Inamte Letters – the companion book to The Santa Letters – before having to do promotions on that one.

C.S.: What words of advice do you have for those who are discouraged and are struggling to stay on top of things?

STACY: Don’t insist on perfectionism, or insanity will become your new best friend. Besides there is only one person who walked the face of the Earth who was perfect and He gladly paved the way so we could happily (and in my case – most gratefully) stumble behind.

C.S: Any final thoughts?

STACY: I think my dad said it best when he admonished us to learn much, laugh often and love VERY well! And mix it all with a generous helping of gratitude…

C.S.: Where can readers go to find your books, especially Life is Tough – I Doubt I’ll Make It Out Alive?

STACY: It’s on, at Barnes and Noble, Seagull, Borders, and Deseret Book.

I’d like to thank Stacy for taking the time to chat with us about her life, her latest book Life is Tough – I Doubt I’ll Make It Out Alive, and her future projects. I love people who seek to bless the lives of others. Stacy is definitely one of those. You would do well to visit her website, learn more about her efforts, and add her books to your family’s library.