Oct 17, 2009

My Thoughts are with you . . .

I was shocked when I heard that a friend of ours, Naki Maile, had passed away unexpectedly. He was only 32 years old and leaves behind his beloved wife, Abby, and six beautiful girls.

Have you ever seen a family that just seems to have it all--an amazing marriage, darling children, a burning testimony of the gospel? Well, that's the Mailes. They live their life quietly, not realizing the impact they have on those around them, yet it's there all the same. The evidence of their deep love for one another, the beautiful music they create, the family traditions they share, and their sweet tenderness with their children, among many other things are an inspiring example to all.

Abby and Naki and their sweet family have made an indelible impact on my life that will not ever be forgotten.

A bank account has been set up for much needed donations for the Maile family. You can go to any Wells Fargo and donate to the account under the "Naki Maile Family." A website where you can donate through paypal has also been set up: http://www.nakifamily.com/.

My thoughts are with you, Abby.

Oct 15, 2009

Blog Tour: Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story by Mark Shurtleff

I was very excited when I found out I’d have the opportunity to review an advanced reader’s copy of Utah Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff’s new book, Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story. Valor Publishing has done a fabulous job of promoting this book and I wanted to see if all the hype and excitement about it was warranted.

About the book:

An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.

As a writer myself, knowing how hard it is to get published, I wondered if Mark Shurtleff was just getting a book published because of who he was, rather than because he was a talented writer. I was pleasantly surprised.

Shurtleff draws the reader into the lives of his characters from the beginning pages of the book. I felt as if I were standing on the street observing the heart-wrenching scene when Dred Scott finds out he is no longer a free man. The setting of the book feels very authentic due to Shurtleff’s remarkable use of the vernacular of the time period. As I read, this made the characters come alive, as if I could hear their voices in my head.

This book is a heart-wrenching story about one of the most famous legal battles in U.S. History. It recounts the life of Dred Scott, a slave who sued for his freedom. The result was the Dred Scott vs. Stanford decision where the Supreme Court ruled that people of African descent were not considered to be U.S. Citizens under the Constitution. However, the story is about much more than a legal case. It details the journey of Scott’s longing to become a free man.

Am I not a Man? The Dred Scott Story, is not a light read. It’s definitely not just a fluffy story to escape reality for a few moments. In fact, this book made my own reality and difficulties seem small in comparison. It opened my eyes to the hardship and suffering that human beings in our, so-called, free nation had to suffer because of the color of their skin.

I highly recommend this book. Any time you can find a book that is entertaining, inspiring, and educational at the same time, it is definitely worth reading. Shurtleff’s book is being released November 3rd. Valor has planned an amazing launch party that evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the following location:

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
The Gateway
6 North Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

You can purchase a copy of the book online at Amazon.

Price: $24.95
Publisher: Valor Publishing Group, LLC (November 3, 2009)
Fiction: Historical Novel
Binding: Hardbound
Pages: 534
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1-935546-00-9

Oct 4, 2009

Author Interview - Rachel Rager

I recently had the opportunity to interview Rachel Rager, author of By Love or By Sea. She's a very talented writer and it was fun to get to know her better.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
~Oh, let’s see. Probably a couple years after I started writing, and I’ve now been writing for nearly seven years. I’ve never had any formal training in writing and I feel weird bragging about myself. But I think I can almost comfortably now say that I’m a writer. However, I don’t know that I really consider myself an author yet. Although my daughter does and tells everyone she knows!

Is your book based on a personal experience?
~Not really. I was writing my second story and was in the shower one day when I came up with the idea for By Love or By Sea. (By Love or By Sea is the third story I wrote. The first and second are prequels to By Love or By Sea.)I wrote down some notes and when I was done with the one I was working on, I began By Love or By Sea. It wasn’t until I was partway done that I decided to use piracy. Of course, then I sat in front of the computer every day for an entire month trying to figure out a way to solve the problem I’d created! All lot of research came into play!

I guess I should fess up to one little secret. Caleb Newman was inspired by my little brother. Though my brother is quite different than Caleb, he has a similar build and attitude. My brother once dropped a plant in his bedroom, spilling soil all over the carpet while he was talking on the phone to a girl he didn’t particularly care for. And, not wanting my mother to hang him for making a mess on the carpet, but not knowing how to get off the phone with the girl, he decided to vacuum up the mess while on the phone! That made me laugh so hard and it just felt like something Caleb would do (if he lived in today’s world!) So, there you have it!

How long did it take you to write the book?
~I think it took me six months to write By Love or by Sea. Of course, that doesn’t include the editing!

What books or authors have most influenced your writing?
~There were a couple authors growing up that I loved! But the author who has influenced my writing the most is Marcia Lynn McClure. Shortly after my first daughter was born, my mother-in-law gave me A Heavenly Surrender by Marcia Lynn McClure to read. I loved it and eagerly searched out more of Marcia’s books. At the time, she only had three in print, but I devoured them!Then one night I had a dream and when I woke up, I decided to try and write it down. Did I imagine anything might come of it? Of course not. I didn’t even know if I’d have the patience to sit and write all those words! Still, I eagerly wrote down an outline and then timidly told my husband. I will always remember the doubtful look on his face as he said, “Well…I guess if you really want to.” I told no one else! Instead I wrote. After a month of typing during my daughter’s naps and while my husband was in classes, I finished. And it was terrible! But I had done what I set out to do. So I edited and submitted it. (Only then did I tell my mother, who was floored by my revelation.)Needless to say, my first attempt was rejected, but I persisted. I kept rewriting, editing, and even began writing another book. I also broadened my horizons and read tons of books. With each rewrite or book I read, I learned more and more. Finally, after five years, I had written five stories. I submitted my third story and finally got a contract with Cedar Fort, Inc. Six years (almost to the month) after I started writing, I accomplished another goal and held a copy of my book in my hands.

What can we look for next? What current projects are you working on?
~ I’m polishing up one with a working title of A Dress to the Heart. Ivy Lewis is both provider and nurturer for her seven younger siblings. Plain and poor, she works as an apprentice to a seamstress, yearning for scholastic knowledge and finding her true love. Her social standing places her as an outcast among many, namely the arrogant Eleanora Key, who can’t seem to torture Ivy enough. And like Miss Key, Ivy has her eye set on Lord Sterling Bennett; the contrast lying in that she can never hope to capture his attention, let alone aspire to gain his admiration.

When Ivy meets a mysterious man on the road, Mr. Alan, her entire world shifts. She is no longer invisible to the world. Amid trying to care for her ill mother and her siblings, she finds herself kidnapped, courted by two wealthy men, and demoralized by Eleanora Key. Through it all, she learns her worth as a woman and the importance of maintaining the values she’s always believed in. But she must discover the secrets of Mr. Alan before it is too late.

I’m also doing some rewrites on The Tiger, Unleashed, and A Cold Heart which is a historical romance based at Platte Bridge Station just outside of Casper, Wyoming. I’m also considering writing a book about Betsy Winter’s journey. I have heard so many things about her. Everyone just loves her! So, I’m thinking about that. I have probably a dozen stories in my head and no time to put them on paper. So I hope that you will see many more books from me in the future!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
~I have never been able spell. Thank goodness for spell-check! Also, I have a real hard time showing the action instead of telling about it. But I like to think that I’m getting better!

Do you have any advice for other authors?
~Don’t give up! This is not an easy thing to do. If you truly want to be an author, keep at it. Read all that you can and learn from it. If you write in a certain genre, read all about that genre and lots of stories that are in that genre. Then use what you learn in your writing. Talk with other authors. Get a support system and don’t give up! Don’t let rejection get you down. And make sure you make it fun!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
~I mostly like to read! Since I feel I owe my start to Marcia Lynn McClure, it’s obvious I love anything by her. I thoroughly enjoy books by Jaimey Grant and Joyce DiPastena, along with just about any clean romance novel. I don’t get into science fiction or fantasy much but I love Maria V. Snyder’s books who wrote Poison Study. (She’s somewhere in the middle of those two while being completely separate.) But one of my all time favorites is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. That was the only book I read in high school or junior high and it remains one of my all time favorites.

Any last words you want the reader to know?
~Cake tastes better straight out of the pan with a fork! Oh, wait. I mean… Hmm. I love hearing from people who enjoy my work! And I love being a mom!

Oct 1, 2009

Blog Tour: By Love or By Sea -- Rachel Rager

Today I am reviewing "By Love or By Sea", the newest romance novel by Rachel Rager.

From the back cover of the book:

Alice Lind Frank never forgot the boy she loved when she was just six years old, even after he was lost at sea. Now a young woman, Alice has found happiness in living and working with her grandparents, and in the affections of Clarence Hielott, the wealthy shipyard owner who intends to make Alice his bride.

When a ragged sailor appears in town, Alice is reminded of the young boy who once held her heart. Upon learning that the sailor is in fact her childhood love, Caleb, she finds herself falling for him again.

But Clarence refuses to let this ghost from the past destroy his plans for the future. He exposes the secrets of Caleb's past, and Alice realizes that the boy she once knew is a man with a dark history. Soon Caleb and Clarence are locked in a fierce competition for Alice's heart.

A critical eye:

"By Love or By Sea" is a fun, light read. It's the kind of book I enjoy reading when I want an evening to myself to escape reality. The plot was well-paced, flowed smoothly, and had a gratifying ending.

As a writer myself, I always read things from a writers perspective. Because I am always learning more about the writing craft, I tend to notice things in books that I am working on myself.

Rachel Rager is a very talented author. Her characterization is unique, and her descriptions very vivid. Early in the book I felt as if I knew the main characters and it was easy to place myself in the setting of the story.

However, I felt the book was somewhat hard to get into, but after a few chapters, it definitely held my attention. At first, I was unsure how old the main characters were or what time period the story took place.

Overall, "By Love or By Sea" was an entertaining read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in clean, sweet romances. I look forward to future books by Rachel. If you'd like to know more about Rachel, visit her blog or website. I'll also be posting an interview with her in the next couple of days. Her book can be purchased from Cedar Fort, or online from Amazon.

For more reviews, see other blogs participating in this tour:

September 28 - Jaimey Grant
September 29 - Kaylee Baldwin
September 30 - Cindy Beck
October 2 - Alison Palmer
October 3 - Joann Arnold
October 5 - Rebecca Talley
October 6 - Anna Arnett
October 7 - Heather Justensen
October 8 - Rachelle Christensen
October 9 - Joyce DiPastena

Title: By Love or By Sea
Author: Rachel Rager
Website: http://www.rachelrager.com/
Blog: http://rachelrager.blogspot.com/
Genre: Fiction/Romance/Historical
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc
ISBN: 978-1-59955-221-7
Format: Trade Paperback, 206 pages
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