Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Winner of Changing Worlds Drawing

Congratulations to Lisa who won a gently-read copy of Amy Martinson's debut novel Changing Worlds. Yeah! Be prepared to enter the danger zone of the Santini family and the mafia.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Changing Worlds by Amy Martinsen, Review, Author Interview, and Book Giveaway!

I'm giving away a gently read copy of Changing Worlds to a lucky reader. Leave a comment below or on Facebook under my post linking to this page, and you will be entered into the drawing! Deadline Sept 1st.

How does a nice Mormon girl get mixed up with the mafia? Easy—she falls in love with a gorgeous Italian hunk.

BYU student Anna Bennett takes a job with Kamp Keepers at Boughlynch, a girls camp in Kentucky, only to discover the camp is owned by a family of rednecks whose ways are strange and oppressive. She meets Daniel Santini, also a Kamp Keeper and a recent convert to the Church, who is from a powerful mafia family, but has repented of his past and is “laying low.”

After Anna escapes near death at the hand of the rednecks, Daniel takes her to meet his family in Chicago. Once again, she finds herself in an uncomfortable situation when his family not-so-subtly tries to get rid of her.

With great side characters such as Miss Ally, Fina, and of course the Boughlynches and staff, Changing Worlds is an enjoyable read full of romance and an overabundance of tender kisses. Anna and Daniel come from two different worlds, and this story will keep you guessing if their relationship can survive.


I'm happy to have author Amy Martinsen featured on my blog today. She so graciously answered these few questions:

How did a nice girl like you get mixed up with the Mafia? (or why did you choose to write about this Mafia family?)

Amy: I’ve always been fascinated by the Mafia and the Amish… not together, of course. We did all see that movie, right? [Witness] I have a fascination with very controlling families and lifestyles. 

Author Amy Martinsen
I’m also in awe at dramatic conversion stories: people who leave everything they know to join the church. This type of courageous faith is so inspiring to me…led me right to the Mafia’s front door.

What extent of research did you do to be able to write about the Mafia?

 Amy: I guess I’ve been doing research my whole life [reference answer above….ha!] I wanted to write from a place that made sense to the reader and didn’t want any “God Fathers” standing over my shoulder correcting me. So after reading several things that were true but didn’t make much sense—and were extremely frightening, I decided to go it alone.

 I had a powerful experience while writing the scene where Daniel leaves The Family. You don’t need much research to know you don’t just “leave” the Mafia; they kill you. I spent several weeks thinking about how Daniel would leave and finally wrote what made sense to me. A few days after I wrote this scene, I chanced upon Mario Facione’s book Mafia to Mormon.  Wondering how close I’d come to the truth, I stayed up late that night reading. About one in the morning I sat up in bed and screamed. Rick, my husband, about had a heart attack! 

The process that Facione went through to leave his Family was almost the same process Daniel went through. I still shake my head when I think about it.

What was your inspiration for Changing Worlds?

 Amy: I started writing CW while completing my Masters in English. At the time, I was so tired of writing academic papers and felt I needed a creative outlet. My daughter and her friend challenged me to write a book, so I took them up on it! In my mind I thought, “How hard can this be?” Little did I know it would be ten times harder than anything I’ve done academically. It’s one thing to pump out a twenty page paper where you’ve masked your voice behind a load of parenthetical documentations, but to take the mask off and write from your heart. That takes some guts.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Amy:  I don’t know if I ever really thought about being a writer. I’ve always worked very hard in school and have received a great deal of encouragement from professors, but it wasn’t until I actually sat down to create something from my imagination that I understood what it was to write and see myself as a writer.

What is your favorite part about being published?

Amy: Oh, hands down, walking into Deseret Book and seeing MY BOOK on the shelf! It is still very surreal to me.

Did you go to summer camp as a teen or have you ever been a camp counselor?

Amy: As a young girl I loved going to girl’s camp at Camp LoMia in Pine, Arizona. As an adult I’ve gone back to this same camp as a Young Women’s leader/counselor/cook… I’ve loved every minute of it! And those who are familiar with Camp LoMia will know that it was the inspiration for the girl’s camp in CW.

(Joan's note: I love Camp LoMia and went there to girls camp too!)

What is your next novel about? A sequel?

Amy: Many people have asked me if there will be a sequel to CW. I would love to write one and find out what would happen when Daniel and Anna start their family… and The Family finds out.

Right now, though, I’m working on a humorous novel that answers the question: What if obituaries told the truth?

If you could travel to anywhere in the world, or any period of time past, where would you choose?

Amy: It’s enticing to see 18th Century Scotland or Revolutionary New England or the Antebellum South… but my first choice would be to go to a small farm in west Texas and see my Great-Grandmother Johnson. 

I want to know her and understand some things about her. She had a passion for beautiful clothes. In the middle of miles and miles of dirt she always looked great. How did she pull that off? She made up a recipe for chocolate applesauce cake that is one of my favorites today. I want to be in her kitchen the day she decided to make a cake and didn’t have any eggs and came up with this gem. Who taught her to shoot a shot gun so well she could shoot the head off of a rattlesnake while hanging her laundry on the clothesline? 

And her husband, my Great-Grandfather Thomas Jefferson Johnson, was a train robber in his younger days. Did she know this when she married him? I would forego all my history travels to get to the bottom of this.

What is something most people don't know about you that you wouldn't mind sharing?

Amy: Well, there’s that whole “Mafia/Amish” thing I mentioned earlier…ha!

Thank you Amy for the interview. Your great-grandparents sound like an interesting couple--maybe the subject of another great novel! 

Read more about Amy Martinsen at her blog, Go Away I'm Reading
Buy Changing Worlds on Amazon and at Deseret Book

Thank you for visiting! Remember to leave a comment using your gmail account to be entered into the drawing to win a gently read copy of Changing Worlds! Deadline Sept 1st.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hot of the Press! Word Puzzles for Latter-day Saints


Word Puzzles for Latter-day Saints. While having fun, find out more about everything from LDS Church history to scripture characters through word searches, crossword puzzles and cryptograms.

This is a revised edition of my 2005 LDS Word Puzzles. Hours of entertainment. The perfect gift for the hard-to-buy for friend.

10th anniversary of the earlier edition--updated and in beautiful blue!

Available at Amazon and in Deseret Book stores.
Published by Walnut Springs Press.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Waking in Tombstone by Marilyn Brown --review and author interview

Waking in Tombstone

As an Arizona history sponge, I was delighted to find Marilyn Brown’s latest historical fiction novel, Waking in Tombstone. Read my review of the novel, and then read through the author interview with Marilyn.

Waking in Tombstone begins after the gunfight at the OK Corral. I wondered how a story about this legendary event could be told after the fact, but Brown pulls it off very effectively. If you’re looking for the particulars surrounding the deadly conflict between the Earp brothers, Doc Holiday, and several outlaw cowboys, you’ll find them all here, along with Tombstone’s history for the next six months.

Dressed in boy’s overalls, Libby Campbell escapes her oppressive employer in Kansas City—but his attorney, Mr. Grenville, is close on her trail. At the train station, she is fortunate enough to meet a preacher named Wendall Cotter, who becomes her protector and traveling companion.

On a whim, Libby tells Cotter she is going to Tombstone. It just so happens that is his destination—and Mr. Grenville’s. After a lengthy train ride and taking the last few miles by stagecoach, Libby peers out the window to see the booming mining town rise from the middle of a scorched desert.

Another passenger, a colorfully dressed woman named Marcella Baron, befriends Libby and offers her a room to board at what turns out to be a brothel. Over time, Libby comes to see the good in each of the girls there. Choosing not to work in their profession, she instead finds a job in a respectable saloon. She meets the Earps, witnesses the murder of Morgan Earp, and interacts with several other historical characters of the period.

Waking in Tombstone will captivate you until the end, give you a glimpse of the American Wild West, and keep you confused about who is the good guy. Since I’m a romantic, I appreciated the touch of romance in the story, though I would have liked to see the relationship blossom a little more. I guess that leaves Waking in Tombstone wide open for a sequel.

JOAN: Hi, Marilyn! Please tell us why you have chosen the genres you write.

MARILYN: Early in my life, a lover of reading, I saw a great need for INTERESTING stories that are ACCURATE about the LDS culture and the "untold West." Waking in Tombstone isn't about LDS culture. But I did get the Book of Mormon in there, and I was able to tell the story of the "Blue Lady." 

JOAN: Why did you choose to write about Tombstone? Have you been there?

MARILYN: Yes, I've been to Tombstone, (I love Arizona history!) and I looked for a "novel" and couldn't find an interesting one that would put me in the middle of that time. I loved Tombstone. It made me feel a part of the West. That's why I wrote this story. 

There is one more huge factor. When I discovered Endicott Peabody (Cotter) and found him to be such a good man, I knew I wanted to make him a hero. No one had focused on him before. I like true heroes of the West, which is why I mostly write about the Mormon pioneers. (Amazing.) Peabody is like our Mormon pioneers. I honor him for all he achieved. 

JOAN: What does "Waking" in the title mean to you?

MARILYN: By admiring "Cotter," Libby awoke to the goodness of his life and was able to begin a good life of her own.

JOAN: Do you have more novels coming out in the near future?

MARILYN: The Accidental Goodbye about the Mercur mining town comes out in November. My next novel is titled Black Canary and is about the coal mines in Carbon County, Utah. I also want to write about a young couple who survives World War II. 

JOAN:  What is something you don’t mind sharing with your readers that they might not know about you? 

MARILYN: My husband and I served an LDS mission doing computer records operations for indexers. In our last month there, I fell and broke three ribs. (Never had another broken bone and I'm almost 77!) So I guess I'm a klutz. (Ha!) I'm well now, though, so I don't have an excuse to loll around and get waited on.

JOAN:  So glad you recovered! What is your family like?--husband, cats, grandkids? 

MARILYN: After teaching English and achieving a BYU master's degree and a U of U MFA in creative writing, I settled down with a widower who had five children ages 1-12. It was a second marriage. My only biological daughter is in graphics design at Salem State University in Massachusetts. Almost all of these people we love have grown up. So we raised six kids, and now have sixteen grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

Bill Brown, my excellent real estate broker husband found seven acres in Hobble Creek Canyon where almost every day we see the deer who eat off of our apple tree. We also get to see our two cats, our ducks, muskrats, raccoons, an occasional bear and cougar, and  a beautiful crippled swan who came to eat the algae out of our pond. And at family reunion time the grandkids maneuver the kyaks in the pond and row across to say hello to the swan who doesn't mind at all. His name is Oscar.  

Please learn more about Marilyn Brown by visiting her blog.
Buy Waking in Tombstone at Amazon and Deseret Book.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Importance of Oral Histories

The central story of Bridges of the Heart takes place in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, and is partly based on the life of Coker Lisonbee.

Coker lived in Chesterfield, South Carolina, was born illegitimate in 1804  endowed with a strong will. His father died in a farming accident before Coker's birth. Living in the time of western expansion, his mother and her family raised him until he (and perhaps they) moved south to Alabama, and then to Mississippi where he met the Mormon missionaries.

The reason we know his story is because he passed an oral history to his children--the name of his father and mother  and when and where he was born. Oral histories, even though they are heresy and often expanded upon, are important to our family history. So many of our ancestors didn't read and write but told family stories to their children.

Coker Lisonbee has a large posterity throughout the west. In the novel I have changed the spelling back to the original Lisenby. There is a pocket of Lisonbees in Mississippi who are descendants of Coker's Uncle William whom Coker either came to Alabama with, or followed him there. And the rest of the Lisonbees are Coker's descendants.

All the surname spellings in Bridges of the Heart are changed from the originals. It is to remind the reader that the story is fiction even though it is based on real people. And Lucretia felt so much better with a fiction name since I made her out to be a unforgiving old woman. She felt uncomfortable about being portrayed so, and I knew it, fretted about it.  The publisher and I changed the spellings at the last minute, and then I felt Lucretia's peace.

Bridges of the Heart is available on Amazon and at Deseret Book

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Phineas & Ferb Live Action Tribute - Gitchee Gitchee Goo

Now that the last season of Phineas and Ferb has ended, my sons have finally made the video the producers initially asked them to make, but the deal fell through. This is really a lot of fun to watch and the song is cute. Proud mama moment!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reviews on Bridges of the Heart

It is always a happy time to get good reviews on your latest novel! Here are some posted on Amazon.

I like this first one better than the back-of-the-book blurb. Thank you Susan!

"Bridges of the Heart" ...takes the reader from the present to post-Revolutionary America where Rachel, who is running from the confusion of her own life, manages to become immediately tangled in events from her family history. From her awkward arrival when she offends a grieving widow to the time she finds herself arrested by the sheriff who looks exactly like the man she loves back in her own time, it begins to seem like nothing will ever work out for Rachel without creating a time paradox. (Like becoming the name sake for the child who will later become Rachel's name sake. yep.) "Bridges" tells the story of family that connects through generations, intertwining their adventures and heartaches. It will be enjoyed by those who feel a connection to the past or would like to reshape the future.

-Susan Daley, Author of Cold Pursuit, Hot Pursuit, and Redemption

Bridges of the Heart was a pleasure to read. Characters were well developed, the style flowed nicely, and the story line was engrossing. Plus, it was not marred by the ubiquitous grammar and punctuation errors that plague new books, making them herky-jerky to read. This was lovingly developed. My only complaint---I was enjoying reading it, then it was over, with a neat and tidy ending, but I wanted it to go on. . More please!! I really enjoyed this one, and look forward to more from the same author.
By Kindle Customer 

Thank you, Kindle Customer!

Kindle if you must, but "Bridges of the Heart" is one of those rare books you will want to hold in your hand, share with your family and friends, and keep on your "favorites" shelf to read again and again. (I finished it yesterday for the third -- or may 6th -- time and still cried when it was over.) Gifted author Joan Sowards has written several amazing books, but this one, I think, is her very best!

-Kerry Blair, author of The Heart Has Its Reasons, This Just In, Mummy's the Word, Digging up the Past

Bridges of the Heart by Joan Sowards provides the reader an intriguing contemporary romance as well as unique perspective of early the 19th century South. I've read this book three times and enjoyed it more each time.

-Rachel Anderson author of the Meet Your Match series and many more.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Love's Deception by Kelly Nelson

I enjoyed reading Kelly Nelson's newest novel, Love's Deception. It had a special magic to it--being set in rural Washington, the protagonist a beautiful widow, and a handsome rugged cowboy as the hero, I'm sure had something to do with it.

 And to celebrate the release of my novel Bridges of the Heart, I am featuring Kelly, a Walnut Springs Press author, as my guest today. After reading my review of Love's Deception, enjoy the question and answer spot with Kelly!

Catherine Lewis and her six-year-old son have made ends meet ever since the untimely Iraq war death of her husband. Boarding horses in rural Washington and taking care of her cancer-fighting mother have occupied their life.

When Cat meets Ty, a handsome farmer not of her LDS faith, who not only sells her hay but comes to her barn to help unload it, Cat’s life changes. Through his persistent attentions, she learns to care for Ty, only weeks later to discover he hasn’t been completely truthful with her. When he tries to set things straight and make amends, Cat refuses to forgive.

The story is told from Ty and Cat’s points of view. I appreciated seeing into Ty’s life—that he had lived the ways of the world, and then after meeting a girl like Cat, seeks to know what makes her different. How could he help from falling in love with her spunk and fortitude? She is hard worker, beautiful, a caring daughter and mother, and a sensitive person.

Joan: I loved reading Love's Deception. What was your inspiration for Cat's story?

I had the opportunity to meet Kelly Nelson at the
LDStorymaker's conference in Provo, in May.
She's the pretty one on the right.
Kelly: I had sent out several query letters for my time-travel, YA, adventure/romance manuscript. I noticed several publishers wanted to know my background in relation to the subject of the book, or what made me qualified to write the story in the genre of the book. So I decided to write a novel that would be easier to query and one where I had specific qualifications relating to the subject matter. I worked as a CPA. Ty is a CPA in the book. I board horses. Cat boards horses. I am LDS and so is Cat. I have a brother-in-law who served 6 tours in the Air Forces. Our family's sacrifice as well as all those who have lost loved ones to war inspired the events at the beginning of the book.

Joan: Love’s Deception has a great cover. Is there a story behind it?

Kelly: My sister does free-lance graphic design for my publisher Walnut Springs Press who published Love’s Deception. My youngest sister, Laura Johnston, who by the way is also a published author is the cover model. Tracy, Linda (my editor), and I all scoured the internet searching for the perfect Ty, and in the end this guy was the one.

Joan: Tracy also designed the cover for my novel Bridges of the Heart, and I love it!
And I agree, the man on your cover fits the description of Ty in the book. I found myself studying the cover several times while reading the novel.

Tell us about your other works. You have a series publish.

Kelly: Yes, I have a four book series titled The Keeper's Saga about a high school senior, Chase Harper, who finds a gold device buried in a cave. When he touches one of the buttons it takes him back to 1863. He rescues a girl back there, and then finds out that touching one of those buttons made him the keeper of the counter--meaning now it will only work for him as long as he is alive. Of course there are those who try and take it from him. Action, Adventure, time travel and romance!

Right now I am working on:
 The Lady with No Name: a romantic suspense novel set in Utah,
The Hidden Heir: a young adult adventure about twin boys. One raised by his father the king, the other raised a peasant by a blacksmith.

Joan: They both sound interesting. Good luck with their success. Tell us something most people don’t know about you that you would like to share.

Kelly: I lost my dad to a brain tumor in 2005. He will always be one of my best friends, so the emotions of losing a parent are never far from the surface. Each time I read Love's Deception I cried at the end. It didn't matter how many times I had read it before, it still got to me. 

Joan: Husband, children, horses—how is your life like Cat’s in the story?

Kelly: I live with my husband on a ten acre horse property closely resembling the property Cat and her mother own in the book. We have 5 horses, 4 cats, and 2 chickens. And I board 10 other horses as well, so it is busy around here at feeding time. I have four kids. My oldest was married last month. My son is serving a mission in Lubbock, Texas. And I have two daughters still at home. 

Thank you for the interview, Kelly!

You can buy Love's Deception in paperback and ebook at Amazon, in Deseret Book and other LDS bookstores, and at Deseret Book online.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bridges of the Heart in Bookstores

Bridges of the Heart is now available in Deseret Book and LDS Bookstores, on Amazon in paperback and ebook. It is not only an LDS romance, but also has merit as family history, time travel and is a historical fiction novel.

Though it is my fourth novel published, it is the first one I wrote and the story is dear to my heart. Through it, I learned I loved writing. The story is about Coker Lisonbee and his mother Mary Jane, and his father Jonathan Therrell and his [assumed] mother Lucretia. It is about love and forgiveness and eternal families.

Bridges of the Heart
College student, Rachel Lisenby finds life hard to cope with after her mother passes away. To add to Rachel’s confusion, her boyfriend Maxson proposes marriage on the evening of the funeral. She escapes to Utah to think and take time off from the relationship. Over the phone, she tells Maxson she is not ready for marriage, and suggests he starts dating other girls.

After returning to Arizona, Rachel finds Maxson in a relationship with Paige—her rival throughout high school. With time, Rachel convinces herself she is over him, but a strange Southern visitor named Jonathan tells her that she is meant to marry Maxson. Jonathan insists it is her responsibility to apologize to Maxson and set things straight, since she broke up with him. But Rachel refuses. Because of her stubbornness, she is whirled back in time to 1820 to learn that family ties reach into the past, as well as the future.

With a heart-warming, unique perspective of the early-nineteenth-century American South, Bridges of the Heart is a story about the power of love and forgiveness. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

May Release for Bridges of the Heart

The release of my novel Bridges of the Heart is getting closer! Walnut Springs Press editor Linda Prince is amazing and I am so thankful for her talents. The cover has been revised--losing the couple, and the scrub bush is replaced by the oak tree and rock wall which are landmarks in the story.  Romance and time travel make this novel come alive, along with all the fun characters--real characters from the past. 


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