Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Winner of the Latter-day Stripling Warrior Contest

Since the release of my book, The Forgotten Warrior, I've been holding the Latter-day Stripling Warrior Contest. Youth were nominated between the ages of eight to eighteen on entry forms found at my website or signings. On the form I asked what deed or deeds of kindness the nominee had performed. I received forms from Idaho and Utah. The deadline was April 15th.

The date came and went. I've read and re-read the nominations. We have some awesome youth doing deeds of kindness all around us. I'd like to share some with you.

A Latter-day Stripling Warrior in Morgan, Utah is a strong support for his friends, always choosing the right. A Warrior in Kuna, Idaho always finds ways to serve others and focuses on the little things. He fights for the right and is about to earn his Eagle award. He always thinks of others. One Warrior in Rigby, Idaho made a special effort to include a friend at school. This changed the friend's life and made him feel part of the crowd. A Warrior from Hyde Park, Utah has a great love for his family and helps his grandma whenever she needs him. From Odgen, Utah a Warrior has a sweet personality and gives service to those she sees in need. In Syracuse, Utah a Warrior helped her mother when she was expecting a baby. After the baby arrived she helped her mother by cooking, cleaning and doing whatever she could to help out...she even changed the baby's diapers. From Tooele, Utah a Latter-day Stripling Warrior is the oldest of six and helps care for her younger siblings while serving on the student council of her junior high. She even teaches violin and sews her own clothes.
These are but a few of the wonderful nominees I've read. Little acts of kindness go a long way in this world.

Four entries especially stood out, and I'd like to share their stories.

1) This Latter-day Stripling Warrior consistently makes righteous choices and sets an example for the family of how to follow Christ. One day when at the store the Warrior saw a little girl near a vending machine. She didn't have any money, so the Warrior gave a quarter to the girl. The look on the little one's face was priceless.

2) Another Latter-day Stripling Warrior organized a Sub for Santa. Choosing two families in need, this Warrior got the ward to donate gifts. After wrapping all the presents, the Warrior anonymously delivered the gifts on Christmas Eve.

3) This Latter-day Stripling Warrior is not only a peacemaker in the home, but strives daily to live and share the gospel. A noble service this particular Warrior performs is babysitting for free at 5:30 a.m. for a neighbor, who is a marathon runner. This neighbor's husband is serving in Iraq. In an effort to help, this Warrior sits the neighbor's children so the mom can keep up with her training.

4) Even small acts of kindess can touch the heart as this Latter-day Stripling Warrior did. In this warrior's stake is a nursing home. Each month one ward in the stake takes turns helping with the sacrament meeting. The person who nominated this warrior happened to be a speaker and so witnessed first-hand what happened during the passing of the sacrament ....Many of the people there are old and have a hard time in the meeting. This one little lady there was in a wheelchair with her head bent. When John passed the bread to her, at first she did not respond. Then John gently tapped her and she looked up and tried to take the bread. She could not lift the bread to her mouth. John took her arm, ever so gently, and lifted it up so she could eat the bread. John did the same with the water. This was so touching to me; it brought tears to my eyes. There were people that worked there that could have come and helped, but John did not wait. He showed the dear lady such compassion....

How can I choose between all these wonderful entries? But choose I must.

The winner of The Latter-day Stripling Warrior contest is Brian Harris. He receives a $50.00 gift certificate from

All nominess will receive a Latter-day Stripling Warrior certificate signed by me and three of the characters in The Forgotten Warrior. They are Sydney Morgan, the protagonist; Tarik, a stripling warrior; and Ximon, the Great Dane who traveled back in time with Sydney.

Thanks to every one who sent in an entry!

Please post a comment about Latter-day Stripling Warriors you know. I'd love to hear their stories.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kathi Oram Peterson's Wow Weekend

Weekends are usually filled with grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and getting ready for Sunday, but last weekend was one of those wow weekends.

It started with attending the LDStorymakers conference, segued into an unexpected moment with a writer and movie producer, and ended with attending my nephew's homecoming. Plus along the way I was able to meet a fan of my book! Doesn't get much better than that.

(In this picture: me, Stacy Gooch-Anderson, Gayle Sears, Anne Bradshaw, Carole Thayne, Shirley Bahlmann, and C.S. Bezas.)

The LDStorymakers conference was terrific! In my writing life I've attended many conferences in far away cities: a mystery writers conference in Omaha and romance writers conferences in St. Louis, New York City, and Dallas. All were wonderful, and I learned more about my craft at each. This weekend I traveled to the far off land of Provo, Utah for the LDStorymaker's conference. Oh what fun! I met many of the wonderful people who reviewed my book, The Forgotten Warrior on my virtual blog tour. It was like meeting old friends, though I've never met them in person. I also rubbed shoulders with incredible authors. I hestitate to list them all for there were many, and I don't want to leave anyone out, but wow, I was more than a little star-struck.

(In this picture: Stacy Gooch-Anderson, me, and Michele Ashman Bell. We bunked together Friday night, stayed up too late gabbing and talking about what else...our next writing projects.)
Because I had to leave Saturday afternoon before the conference ended to travel to Idaho, I was asked to take the keynote speaker, Dean Lorey, to the airport. He is not only the author of the children's book trilogy Nightmare Academy, but also a screenwriter and producer of movies and T.V. shows such as Happy Gilmore, Arrested Development, and 'Til Death. When we left Provo it was raining--not cats and dogs--more like horses and cows. I've never seen so much water on the freeway, but Mr. Lorey put me at ease and we talked shop all the way to the airport.
(In this picture looking forward: Dean Lorey and James Dashner. Back of heads: Lu Ann Staheli and me.)

Once I arrived home, I repacked my bags and then--with my husband and daughter--headed to Rigby, Idaho. My nephew, Craig, was to report on his mission Sunday morning. He served an LDS mission in the Ukraine.
(In the picture from left to right: my two brothers, Bill and Steve; my husband, Bruce; and my nephew, Craig (as you can see he returned from his mission in one piece).)
Before Sunday's meeting I was able to get together with Melissa Sparks, a fan of The Forgotten Warrior, and sign her copy of my book. With her were her four beautiful children.

After church the family met at my brother's house for dinner.
(In this picture: my brother, Steve (Craig's dad); me; my sister, Jo; and my brother, Bill. The only sibling missing was my brother, Bud, who lives in Las Vegas.)

Sooo, yes it was a wow weekend. Have you ever had weekends that tumbled from one wonderful event into another? Post a comment and share your wow weekends with me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Interview with Michele Ashman Bell

I've known Michele Ashman Bell for many years, even before she was published.
She is very talented and has a long list of published books to her name. When I became published she was one of the first people I called. She has become my mentor in the LDS publishing world, and I don't know what I would have done without her wisdom to guide me.

I'm thrilled to finally interview her!

Oh and something very important...since this interview she has had another book accepted for publication!!!

What compelled you to write your first book?
First of all, don’t confuse my first “written” book with my first “published” book. I wrote my first book because I had been bitten by the writing bug and came up with a story idea that I thought, at the time, was totally brilliant. I look back at it now and realize how far I’ve come as a writer. It was horrible!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t always believe that I could be a writer, but back in high school I often said I would love to write books. Wanting to be one and believing I could be one was the difference between wishing and putting that dream into action.

Tell us a little bit about your book/s. What are their titles, which are your favorite if you have more than one, and what they are about?
That is a seriously loaded question and I could devote the rest of the week to answering it. I will try and give you the shortened version. To find out about all of my books it probably would be best to visit my web-site where they are listed. My most recent book, “A Modest Proposal” is one of my most favorite books. I loved the combination of overcoming obstacles, making dreams come true, believing in oneself, and fashion! My first book, “An Unexpected Love” is special to me because it is my first book and I put a lot of my heart into that story. It’s a conversion story and I felt it really captured the essence of a person searching for truth and trying to feel the spirit working in their life. However . . . my truly favorite story is “Without A Flaw” because I loved the growth the main character went through in this story and the strength she possessed at the end!

What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
I don’t really know. I asked myself this question for ten years before I got published. Why am I doing this? I guess it’s because I can’t not write. I love creating, I love imagination, I love stories and I love books. I would still be writing even if I weren’t published because that’s how my mind works. It’s kind of a scary thought, but it keeps the voices in my head quiet when I write.

What about your family? Do you have children, married, siblings, parents? Has your family been supportive of your writing?
I have four children and one grandbaby. I am super, duper, extremely busy with them and it is a grand balancing act to keep everyone happy. My goal as a mom, a wife and a writer, is to never put my writing before my family. I have always been able to do so and feel like it has paid off. I never want my family to resent me for my writing and the time it takes me away from them. They are amazing and very supportive so I’m very blessed.

The main characters of your stories - do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
I’m sure I put some of myself into all my characters, because I write from my heart and that’s how it seems to happen. But I am really good at borrowing emotion and internal conflict from other people, so I don’t have to infuse myself into my characters much. I tell people to be careful what they tell me because it may show up in a book.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your own writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
Not really. I admire different authors for different elements but overall I have tried to carve out my own style and not emulate/copy anyone else. I try and reinvent myself with every book so I don’t really fit any specific mold.

When growing up, did you have a favorite author, book series, or book?
I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child. I devoured those books and read them over and over and over. As a teen I read LaVeryl Spencer books. I loved her stories. Funny, both of those authors write historical and I don’t. I also read Jack Weyland a lot. He was about the only contemporary LDS fiction writer I knew of. Then I discovered Dorothy Keddington and fell in love with Jayhawk.

What about now: who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?
I don’t really have a favorite author right now. I read what I’m in the mood for at the moment and of course, books that I review for my column on Meridian Magazine. My favorite books to read are biographies. I’m fascinated with people and finding out about them and why they do what they do. My father is a psychologist. I wonder if that has something to do with it.

When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your book/s and writing? What do you hope they will say about you?
I hope they say that I touched people’s live, gave them an escape from their problems, inspired them to have hope and helped them have strength and courage to face their challenges. I hope my obituary says I was a devoted wife and mother and that I served others.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? I grew up in southern Utah. I have used this setting in a couple of books and really love having that as a background and reference point. I now live in a suburb of Salt Lake and enjoy living close to a bigger city, but do not enjoy the snow! If I could live anywhere I would have a summer house in Salzburg, Austria and a winter house in Hawaii.

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting?
My writing room is a hole. It is in the basement with no windows. I can’t have distractions when I write so it is devoid of anything but my computer and my reference books. It is my haven though and my domain. I don’t like people in there. I’m weird, but it works for me.

Do you watch television? If so, what are your favorite shows? Does television influence of inspire your writing?
I most watch reality TV. I love American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars. I’m an Office fan too. I am thinking of using a reality show in my next book. I don’t think it influences my writing though really.

What about movies?
Same as above. LOVE movies! I really do. My dad ran the projector when I was growing up so I could see movies for free. I am an addict. I do get inspired to write, but not so much with ideas from the movies, just to make up my own stories. I have too many favorite shows to list. I love all genres. My list would be extensive.

Focusing on your most recent (or first) book, tell our readers what genre your book is and what popular author you think your writing style in this book is most like.
I think I am considered a romance writer, but I think of myself as a women’s fiction writer. My stories are based on relationships and women’s issues first. Romance is a natural part of growing up.

Is there anyone you'd like to specifically acknowledge who has inspired, motivated, encouraged or supported your writing?
I have relied up many friends and family members to help me along my journey, but I spent a lot of time on my knees to get strength to go on when I was getting rejection after rejection.

Thinking about your writing career, is there anything you'd go back and do differently now that you have been published?
I would have tried harder in English class and taken creative writing in college. I could have shaved off a few years had I done so, but other than that I wouldn’t change much. The journey was hard but so valuable.

How has having a book published changed your life?
Greatly in some ways and not at all in other ways. I appreciate having fans contact me and telling me that my stories have meant something to them and that they’ve enjoyed my books. I am still astonished that I actually get money for my writing. But, on the other hand, I still clean my own toilets and feel very much like a regular, average wife and mother. I wouldn’t change it. I have never been in this business for fame and fortune.

Many authors have said that naming their characters is a difficult process, almost like choosing a name for their own child. How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your book/s?
I don’t get too attached to names because I’ve had to change them during the editing process. Still, some are important to me and I love it when I can use a name that is special to me. I don’t think naming a character is quite that important to me. I do have a grip on reality still. I think.

Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
I will let you know what’s ahead as soon as I find out the status on my next release which I’ve just submitted. I will post updates regularly on my blog which you can find at and my web-site at Thanks so much Kathi, this has been a lot of fun!

Here are a couple of other books Michele has written, but go to her website where you can read sample chapters of her many books.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Army of Helaman

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interview with GG Vandagriff

At a signing a couple of weeks ago, I saw a new book titled, The Last Waltz. I read on the back of the book that it takes place during World War I. As many of you know I wrote a nonfiction childrens activity book about that great war, so I was more than a little intrigued. The author, GG Vandagriff, is on one of my internet loops so we've exchanged emails a couple of times. She's an amazing person and I wanted to do an interview with her so you could get to know her, too.

Thanks, GG for the wonderful interview!


What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?

I feel compelled to write about the redeeming power of love and how it can change the world. In LDS books I write about family and the atonement. In my non-LDS books I show love as a redemptive force. My favorite fictional heroine is Margaret Hale from Elizabeth Gaskill's North and South, who changes her whole town with her love and adherence to righteous principles. When my daughter was reading my Last Waltz, she paid me the ultimate compliment of telling me that my main character, Amalia, was like Margaret Hale.

What compelled you to write your first book?
My first and last book is The Last Waltz. I started writing it when I was 27 and knew it was way beyond my writing ability at the time. However, Austria was such a part of me after living and studying there, and her story is so compelling and untold in fiction, that I knew it had the makings of a great epic. I just had to go through my own fire before I could write about characters who went through one of the greatest challenges in history.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Since I was nine years old I have been scribbling stories about alternate realities.

Tell us a little bit about your current release.
The Last Waltz
In December 1913, the city of Vienna glitters with promises of the future for nineteen-year-old Amalia Faulhaber. Daughter of a prominent merchant, she is schooled in the fine art of flirtation by her aristocratic grandmother and in issues of conscience by her socialist uncle. Then, almost without warning, life takes a dramatic turn as simmering political unrest escalates into World War I, the most deadly war the world has yet known.
Amalia is devastated when the Prussian baron Eberhard von Waldburg breaks off their engagement to return to Germany and a commission in the army. But while Europe descends into darkness, Amalia is forced to confront even greater challenges. Disillusioned and heartbroken, she discovers a budding passion for democracy that sets her life on a new and unpredictable course.
Her family torn apart and impoverished by war, Amalia struggles to find her way in a changing world. Should she marry an idealistic young doctor who shares her political views or the wealthy Baron von Schoenenburg, who promises to provide safety and security in a violent, tumultuous time? Her growing political conscience sets her apart in the social circles of Vienna, but is it worth the personal cost to her and her family? And what can she do when her beloved Austria rushes headlong to embrace Hitler, threatening to destroy everything she loves?
In this gripping tale of love and war, a dazzling young socialite of the old world contends with deeply contradictory notions and personal crises to become a woman who would be extraordinary in any age.

What about your family? Do you have children, married, siblings, parents? Has your family been supportive of your writing.
I am married to a wonderful man who actually edits everything I write, as well as helping me out of tough spots, and co-creating my plots. He co-wrote the book on depression. In Arthurian Omen, he wrote all the poetry. He actually cleans, does laundry, and grocery shopping, so I can work, even though he has his own work. My oldest son is 31 and has his own company. He tells everyone about my books. My daughter was my main editor for The Last Waltz. She is twenty-eight and married to a wonderful man with one child—the joy of my heart—Jack, who is three years old. My father recently passed away but he encouraged my writing all my life. The Last Waltz is dedicated to his memory because he pushed me to publish it for 33 years. He loved the story and thought it was my best work. My mother is also deceased. My brother lives in Hawaii and is a writer and professor at BYU Hawaii. My sister and I are extremely close and she is one of my pre-submission readers. She has dubbed me the Drama Queen and loves to shop with me and choose dramatic clothes for me. (She is a Talbot's woman through and through, so she loves to dress me).

The main characters of your stories - do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
I put some of myself in all of my characters. The men as well as the women. Alex, from my genealogy mysteries, is most like me, although I don't know karate. I am quirky like Briggie, though I don't fish or hunt. I would like to think that some day when I grow up I could be as brave as Amalia in The Last Waltz.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your own writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I had a wonderful writing mentor before I was published. She really taught me to write through her edits. She had a way of making me dig down inside and write very close to the bone. Nowdays my favorite writer is Marisa de los Santos, author of Love Walked In. She is a real inspiration to me because she is a literary writer who writes about the power of love to effect change.

When growing up, did you have a favorite author, book series, or book?
I loved romantic suspense when I was young—Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Anya Seton. When I was in High School I discovered the Russians—Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I admire them tremendously. Tolstoy is my favorite all-time writer, and Anna Karenina my favorite book. When I was older I became captivated by the great 19th century writers: Austen, Bronte, Gaskill, Trollope, and Dickens. I feel much more at home in the 19th century literary world.

What about now: who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?
My favorite mystery writer is Earlene Fowler. She writes beautifully, her books are clean, and she has fabulous characters. You want to live in her world. I find myself returning again and again to EM Forster—Room With a View and Howard's End. As I mentioned above, I just discovered Marisa de los Santos. Right now, I am going through a literary phase and reading mostly classics and good modern lit, like Possession by A.S. Byatt.

When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your book/s and writing? What do you hope they will say about you.
I hope I will be known as a woman who loved. I hope my writing will have brought people into a world where love changed things. I hope I will have brought comfort and solace to as many people as possible.

Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be?
I grew up in Pasadena, California, attended Stanford in Palo Alto, California. I lived and studied in Austria near Vienna. I worked in Boston for two years, got my master's in Washington, D.C., met my husband in Chicago and lived there for a year. Then, six years in California, 16 years in a tiny farm community in Missouri (where there was nothing to do but raise children and write), four years in Oakwood, Ohio, and finally 10 years in Provo. This is the favorite place I've ever lived. If I could have my choice of anywhere to live, other than Provo, I would choose Oxford, England.

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like?
I am very fortunate to have my own office which I have recently painted cranberry. It looks out over the entire Utah Valley. It is lined with faux antique glass fronted book cases. On the walls are antique prints of Oxford, a plaque given me by my cousin—"Life is God's Novel. Let Him Write It." My husband recently framed all my book covers that hang above my cluttered computer desk. My desk is crowded with framed photos of my family, including a picture of my husband and me when we were dating, and my third great grandparents who were extraordinary people whom I try to live up to.

Do you watch television? If so, what are your favorite shows? Does television influence of inspire your writing?
I have recently started watching television to unwind. My favorite programs are NCIS, The Mentalist, Law and Order, and The Closer. But my favorite things to watch are movies made by the BBC of the classics. My favorite movie of all time is "North and South"—a BBC production with my favorite actor Richard Armitage. If I could have my wish, I would love for him to be in a production of The Last Waltz as Baron von Shoenenburg.

Is there anyone you'd like to specifically acknowledge who has inspired, motivated, encouraged or supported your writing?
My husband, my father, my friends—Kathy Petty, Sandra Whitaker, Rachel Nunnes, Rondi Peterson, Anna Stone, Dixie Barlow, to name a few, my sister, my daughter, and now the Storymakers. Oh, and of course my editor, Suzanne Brady, and my product manager, Jana Erickson.

How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your book/s?
Some of them are named after ancestors. In the Last Waltz, the main character is a many times great grandmother. I wrote a friend in Austria who supplied me with the names for all the different classes of people I wrote about in the book. Briggie is named after my great grandmother "Johanna Brighamina Poulson, who hunted and fished.

Do you have book signings scheduled? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
Blog is Websites are:,, and I am doing three signings at the Orem Barnes and Noble—the first on 23 Apr, then mid July, then Mid-August. I am doing a signing tour, probably in June where I will visit Barnes and Nobles in Southern California, the Central Valley, Northern California, Seattle, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. I always sign at DB on Ladies' Night and at Seagull whenever I'm asked.

Below are other books of GG's.

Deliverance from Depression:Finding Hope and Healing through the Atonement of Jesus Christ
Clinical depression brings turmoil, despair, and pain that can crush the well-being of its victims and their loved ones. But the merciful power of the Atonement can lift even this heavy burden.
This inspiring guide portrays the experience of the Vandagriff family, which struggled under depression for more than twenty-five years before relief came through the grace of Jesus Christ. G.G. Vandagriff and her son, Gregory, suffered the physical and emotional effects of depression, while David Vandagriff endured the deep difficulty of trying to support his wife and son during the turbulent years of their illness. Yet in the midst of great strife, the family saw the hand of God revealed in the form of inspired physicians, effective medications, and, most importantly, the direct influence of the Spirit.
Written in turns by mother, son, and father, this poignant and uplifting account shows how to rely on the Spirit during times of adversity and draw on the Savior's blessings of peace, hope, and healing.
Click Here to Read an Excerpt from Deliverance from Depression

Poisoned Pedigree
Is there such a thing as “bad blood?” Take a rifle-toting grandmother and a recently engaged young widow, combine with a passion for genealogy, and you have RootSearch, Inc, dedicated to unraveling complicated family trees. The most recent client of Alexandra Campbell and her associate, Briggie, is a famous singer who at the age of thirty-seven wants to marry and have a family but is terrified by childhood memories of whispers of a family curse and “bad blood.” The investigation leads to a remote Ozarks town and a strange woman known as the Keeper, who holds secrets that turn out to be deadly. Her sudden murder leaves Alex and Briggie no alternative but to piece together the mystery of a 150-year old scrapbook and tombstones in the local cemetery with cryptic references to a lynching. It takes all of Alex and Briggie’s ingenuity to discover the source of the “bad blood” and escape death deep in the Missouri woods.
Click Here to Read an Excerpt from Poisoned Pedigree

The Arthurian Omen I
n the tradition of Mary Higgins Clark, The Arthurian Omen takes Maren Southcott to Wales on a hunt for an ancient manuscript that precipitated her sister's murder. Her own life in peril, she is also dodging a stalker/psychopath who is fomenting a Welsh revolution. Darting from castle to monastery in search of this relic that could prove the identity of King Arthur, she is unprepared for tragedy to strike at the heart of her family, impelling her to find the manuscript before MI5, Scotland Yard, her former husband, and a Celtic professor with extraordinary eyes.
Click here to read an excerpt from The Arthurian Omen

Tangled Roots
Accompany Alex on her attempt to unravel a family tree that proves to have more branches than she bargained for, not to mention a murderer, a misappropriated fortune, and a family secret someone is willing to kill for! As she grapples with this unwieldy job, she is also trying to learn to get to know her mother, whom tragedy separated from her as a teenager. A recent convert to the Church, she is still trying to trust God and discover the true essence of forgiveness. On top of all these issues, she also has serious conflicts in matters of the heart. Should she marry the charming Englishman Charles, who courts her so exquisitely, or the down-to-earth Daniel who knows her better than anyone?
Click here to read excerpt from Tangled Roots.

Of Deadly Descent
Alex and Briggie go to France and then to Oxford, on the track of cousins Alex discovered in Cankered Roots who will possibly disinherit her. They scarcely arrive in Oxford before one of her cousins is killed. Was it murder? Did it have anything to do with their search? If so, who even knew they were coming? While trying to answer these questions, they uncover among her relatives a number of secrets someone would kill for. In the midst of her sleuthing, Alex attracts the attention of Charles Lamb, an impossibly handsome bachelor who is used to having women fall at his feet.

Cankered Roots
Because I am a genealogy enthusiast, my mysteries naturally feature genealogy sleuths—Alexandra Campbell and Brighamina Poulson. Alex reunites with her parents for the first time in eighteen years, and the result is murder! In order to solve it, she and Briggie have to uncover the secrets in her own family tree, discovering in the process why she was sent away to Paris at age eighteen. A recent convert to the LDS church, she is still grieving over the death of her husband, but is powerfully attracted to Daniel Grinnell, a psychotherapist who knows just a little too much about her for comfort.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Captain Helaman's Heritage and You

Over the past few months we’ve discussed ten stripling warrior character traits you can apply to your life, but what about the character traits of their great leader? What do you know about Chief Captain Helaman? And what lessons can you learn from him?

A little family history on Helaman will help. He was the son of Alma. In the Book of Mormon there are two very notable men named Alma. This could become confusing so for the sake of clarity we’ll call the older one just plain Alma and his son we’ll call Alma the younger, which is how he is referred to in many places in the Book of Mormon. Let’s start with Helaman’s grandfather.

Alma was a descendent of Nephi and one of King Noah’s priests. When the prophet Abinadi was brought before the king, Alma heard this mighty man declare his belief in God. Alma was touched by Abinadi’s words and bravery. He pleaded with the king to spare Abinadi’s life. This made the king very angry and he cast Alma out. And then he sent his men to kill him. Fortunately Alma was able to hide. He put his time to good use and recorded all of Abinadi’s words. Alma brought many people into the gospel, but his son, Alma the younger, was rebellious.

Alma the younger and the four sons of Mosiah set out to destroy the church. Imagine the sorrow in Alma's heart that his son--his namesake--would turn against his teachings and the church. Many prayers were said for these rebellious young men. God sent an angel to stop them. They were struck helpless and dumb. Alma the younger was taken to his father. When his father heard what happened he rejoiced. After two days and nights, Alma the younger was able to tell his father about the angel. He repented of his past ways and dedicated his life to preaching the word of God. Alma the younger was Helaman’s father.

Captain Helaman had a very rich heritage from his grandfather and his father. How does Helaman’s heritage apply to you and me? There are many ways to answer that question, but as I read these stories again, it struck me how very important our words are and how we never know how our words might affect other people:

----The words of Abinadi converted Alma. And if you read that story you learn how King Noah’s words were his undoing and eventually caused his death.
----The words of Alma the younger, before his conversion, were leading people astray. An angel saved him. The words of an angel brought humility to his heart and converted him to the truth.

We are not prophets or angels, but our words affect others. What we say may some day count for or against us.
What do you think?
I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Book Review: Life is Tough: I Doubt I’ll Make It Out Alive by Stacy Gooch-Anderson

I don’t know why, but I don’t naturally gravitate to humor books. It’s not that I don’t enjoy laughing, but I have found for a book to make me laugh it has to be darn good. I much prefer fiction. Always have. I love going into a fictional world, seeing new sights through the protagonist’s eyes, and watching how the hero grows.

My first experience with Stacy’s writing came last fall with the release of her bestselling book The Santa Letters. Her novel had two things that naturally attracted me: it was a work of fiction and it was about a holiday that is near and dear to my heart. I immediately bought it. What a wonderful read!

So this spring when I heard of Stacy’s new book, Life is Tough: I Doubt I’ll Make It out Alive, I hate to admit it, but I was reluctant to read it. However, I am so glad I did! This is a book that boldly lays out the author’s life: the good times and the bad. Stacy has an uncanny knack of seeing humor where others see humiliation. What a wonderful talent!

In reading this book you learn of her life lessons, how she has humorously dealt with disappointment only to find true happiness. You laugh with her and not at her as you are privy to her thoughts about dating, marriage, and children. And, guess what? I found myself laughing out loud many times. Surprisingly, I also cried at some very touching scenes. Scenes we all can relate to for many of us have experienced similar situations. None of us will make it out of this life alive, but Stacy’s book might help you look at your life a little differently and smile.
I'm part of the Stayin' Alive with Stacy Virtual Tour and Life Saver Challenge. The Life Saver gem of wisdom I enjoyed was Chapter 25. It has to do with her deciding to become a writer. The sub-heading for this chapter reads: Walt Disney once said, "All your dreams come true if you have the courage to pursue them." It's good advice from a guy who succeeded by living most of his life in a fantasy land with a six-foot mouse and a duck who never wore pants.

Here’s the opening paragraph of the book, just to give you a tease:

© Stacy Gooch-Anderson

I was at a family gathering when my sister brought up the subject of raising children. More specifically, it was noted that those who willingly choose to raise a bunch of kids might outwardly be expressing that not only do humans enjoy the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness but also the ability to fulfill sado-masochistic tendencies as well.

You can find Stacy's book at these fine stores and websites:

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Sons of Helaman

This last weekend I received an email from a friend that I'd like to share with you.

Me and my neighbor are having a conflict over the Forgotten Worrior so my neighbor thinks Helemn is actully Tariks father but I say he is like a father to tarik thats why he calls him father can you tell us who is right? --Mckell.

First of all, it's a thrill to hear from those who have read The Forgotten Warrior. And second, I'm delighted that people are talking about Helaman and the stripling warriors.

Now let's discuss the disagreement, for I can easily see how confusing it could be. In the Book of Mormon in Alma chapter 56 Helaman wrote to Captain Moroni to report on the war in his region. The love he felt for these brave young men was reflected in his words. In verse ten we read: "And I did join my two thousand sons, (for they were worthy to be called sons)..." Helaman indeed called the stripling warriors his sons, though they were not of his flesh and blood. Many may ask what was the deal with their fathers, and why did they send their boys to battle?

Several years before this time, the Stripling Warriors' fathers had made a covenant with God to never kill again. They were so earnest that they buried their weapons. When attacked by a mighty Lamanite army, instead of fighting they prostrated themselves before their enemy. Over a thousand were killed. Their fathers were men of great faith and devotion to God. Many might say it's one thing to put yourself in danger, but your children? Surely God would understand if covenants were broken in this case. And...their fathers would have broken their covenants if it weren't for Helaman, pleading with them to keep their word. Though the boys' fathers chose not to go to war, they worried for their children. In verse 27 we read: "...there was brought unto us many provisions from the fathers of those my two thousand sons." The Stripling Warriors' fathers had placed their trust and faith not only in their God, but also in a man whom they believed would watch over their boys. Helaman did not take his job lightly. The mantle of leadership and guardianship weighed heavily upon him.

In Helaman's report to Moroni, he described the battle for Judea and how bravely the stripling warriors fought. "And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay not amongst all the Nephites. For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus. Now they never had fought yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it." Alma 56: 45-48.

In these few verses we learn so very much about the striplings warriors. They were:
  • very young
  • Helaman called them his sons
  • the warriors called Helaman, Father
  • they loved and honored their fathers and were willing to die for them
  • they were taught to have faith in God by their mothers.
What noble young men they were! I believe they called Helaman father out of deep respect and love. They had witnessed how Helaman had told their fathers that he would rather lose the war than have them break their convenant with God. Helaman was a great hero to the Ammonite people.
So to answer your question, Mckell, in my book The Forgotten Warrior, Tarik--a stripling warrior and second-in-command to Helaman--is not Helaman's biological son. Rather Tarik earned the title "son" from Helaman by fighting in his father's stead with courage, valor and faith in God.

Thank you for asking and giving me the opportunity to explain.

I know we have valient young men and young women amoung us today. In the entries I've received for The Latter-day Stripling Warrior Contest I have read many touching stories. The youth today face a different battle than that of the stripling warriors, nontheless I believe many share the same courage, valor and faith in God as did Helaman's sons. If you know of a youth who should be nominated to be a Latter-day Stripling Warrior, please go to my website, click on "events" and fill out the entry form. Every youth (young man or young woman between 8 and 18) nominated will receive a certificate stating
"-----is a Latter-day Stripling Warrior."
It will be signed by me, Tarik, Sydney and Ximon (3 of the characters in my book). Please print the form and mail it to: The Latter-day Stripling Warrior Contest, P. O. Box 8594, Midvale, Utah 84047. The deadline is April 15th. The winner will receive a $50.00 gift certificate for

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Birds

Several weeks ago, I heard birds pecking on the house near my office window. It didn't bother me too much. For years, birds have flocked to our back deck. In fact, when our old watchdog was still alive the birds used to steal his food. However, they would always leave the yellow bits, which was very curious. Anyway, I enjoyed watching the birds, so it was no big deal.

My office is above my son's bedroom and bathroom, oh and also the laundry room (very important). He said he'd heard the birds as well and they sounded as if they were crawling inside the house above his bedroom ceiling. My husband, Bruce, scoffed and told us there was no way birds could get in the house because the outside vents were all covered.

Still we kept hearing the birds.

Monday, as I was working away, I heard them again. This time they were louder. It sounded as if they were having a party in my son's room. However, believing what my husband said was true and there was no way birds could get in the house, I ignored the noise. By afternoon I needed to stretch my legs, so I ran downstairs to change a load of laundry in the washer. Opening the door to the basement, I was met by a frightened little blackbird flying around in the family room (door to laundry room was opened into family room). Okay, I know it was only a bird, but it scared me (I've watched Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds far too many times).

Yet determined to face my fear, I dodged the flying predator and sneaked over to the patio door to open it, hoping the poor little thing would fly out. Instead the bird flew back into the laundry room and disappeared. Great! My husband was due home in about an hour, so I decided to leave the poor bird alone until I had help, plus I now had proof that, yes, the birds were getting in the house.

When Bruce came home, we were able shoo the directionally, dysfunctional critter out the patio door. We thought all was well.
When my son came home, he went straight to his room, which was his usual routine and then he usually comes upstairs to see what's for dinner. However, this time he took forever coming up. When he finally appeared, I told him a bird had visited me today. He started to laugh and said, "That explains it. There's bird droppings all over my bed and my things have been knocked over." We both looked at my husband.

"Okay," Bruce said, "I'll check the vents again."

Turned out a vent from my son's bathroom was stuck open allowing access to every room in the basement.
The moral of this story: bird droppings on bed, check the vents. :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Immigration to America

As I researched information for my nonfiction children's immigration book, They Came From Around the World: A Nation of Immigrants, questions continually popped into my mind such as:
  • How would I feel if my family had to move from place to place just to find food when the season changed?
  • How would I feel if my father and mother could not find jobs for months on end and the landlord raised our rent, the government raised our taxes, so…for our family to survive we decided to move to a completely different country?
  • How would I feel if in the middle of the night my parents awakened me and told me to quickly get dressed because our country had been overrun by people who were coming to hurt me?
Did you know everyone living in America are descendants of people who had to answer such tough questions as these with actions in order to survive? America was founded by courageous people, who came to our country for a better life. They came to America from Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Russia, Germany, Canada, Ireland, China, Viet Nam, Greece, Poland, Japan, Cuba and the list goes on and on. They came filled with hope in their hearts.

Right now our country has so many problems that seem too huge to solve. I know I don't have the answers, but maybe if we looked back at some of the obstacles our ancestors struggled with and shared a little of our family histories, we might see how those who went before us overcame their problems and learned from them. Isn't it worth a shot? Isn't there a saying that goes something like this... if you don't learn from your history you are doomed to repeat it...?

I'll kick off this discussion with a little history of my ancestors and see which of the three questions I began this blog with fits their situation. My great, great, great grandparents Michael Beus and Marianne Combe emigrated from Piedmont, Italy in 1855. Their life in Italy seemed ideal. They lived high in the Alpin Mountains. Michael had served in the Italian military for twelve years. He later became a coal miner. He and his wife, Marianne, had eleven children. They converted to the Mormon church and were baptized in 1851. Because of their new belief they, and many other converts, were discriminated against. In fact, conditions became so bad that they feared for their lives and had to flee their homes and all their possessions to go to France. Of course, it was in the winter, so this was quite the journey filled with danger. They continued on to London where they were able to board a boat heading for America and freedom. They passed through the gates at Castle Garden, then traveled by rail to St. Louis, Missouri. From there they went to Florence, Nebraska where they stayed for several months while Michael worked to earn enough to take his family West. In July 1856 they joined the Edmund Ellisworth Handcart Company and headed for Zion. This journey, too, was frought with trials and heartache. On September 26, 1856 they traveled through Emmigration Canyon and found the Salt Lake Valley before them.
Which of the three questions I started with fits their story? Number three: they were awakened in the middle of the night and told to dress quickly because people were coming to hurt them.

In my research of immigration I found many other religious groups who had to flee their homelands: the Huguenots, the Jewish people of the Russian Pale, the Irish Catholics and so on and so forth. People also came for other reasons besides religion: to escape dictators, poverty, and etc.
I'd love to hear your ancestors' stories.


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