Joan Sowards, Author

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Welcome SUMMER BOOK TREK Participants!

All the month of July, anyone can participate in the Summer Book Trek. BUT before you leave to do so, please subscribe to my newsletter. (link on sidebar.) I hope you enter to win a copy of my historical romance, Shadows of Montsegur, A Tale of the Cathars that is featured on the Trek Facebook game page on July 14. To purchase Shadows of Montsegur as either Kindle or softcover, visit Amazon.

Shadows of Montsegur, A Tale of the Cathars

Thank you!  

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Are Records Always Right?

I am a family history buff and have been going through my deceased aunt's ancient files to make sure every name and date is on FamilySearch. I ran across a 1956 letter from cousin Bessie Young where she reports her frustration that many family dates conflict with each other. To emphasize the point, she included what a local talk show hostess had said:

 "I am celebrating two birthdays this year. I had always celebrated the fourth of February until I received my birth certificate and found my birthday was the fifth!"

A few days later, a lady from Monet (MO) wrote the hostess and said, "Well I have thought all these years I was a female, but when I received my birth certificate, I learned I was a male."

Ha, ha! Records can be wrong. Headstones are notoriously in error. So don't think what you think is the dead truth is set in stone.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Resurgam. Charlotte Bronte used the word in Jane Eyre, and I like it. It means: I shall rise again.

Since publishing my medieval historical novel, Shadows of Montsegur, A Tale of the Cathars, a lot of life has happened. Of the six novels I've offered to the world, Shadows is the most significant--it's story, its message, its value to literature. I researched and wrote for seven years, and Dennis and I visited the location in France where the story actually happened. I felt good in publishing when I did. Our society has so much controversy about freedom, so the novel's message is timely.

Before I published Shadows of Montsegur, my traditional publisher was showing signs of financially struggling; not paying their authors was the obvious sign. My critique group and other writer friends told me to try self-publishing. They had taken that route and found success.  After much deliberation, I took the plunge, hired a professional book cover designer and also the best editor I knew, and became an indie author.

Then we threw the most fun book launch party(here is the cast of characters), shouted my book on all the social sites on the list, did an Amazon promo, etc. My novel was doing well. 

But only two months into it, I was diagnosed with lung cancer--no pain, no symptoms, and I'd never smoked a cigarette in my life! I can't blame my carcinoid tumor for my plummeting book sales, but there is something about the C word that downs your spirit. All optimism that my novel would make a big bang in the historical fiction world flew out the window, and all I wanted to do was hide in my house (snuggled on my comfy couch) until the whole cancer thing was over. Who could feel exuberant about book promoting? This too would pass, I'd tell myself, and then I'd get back to my novel.

But when I had recovered from surgery, I could do very little, and it wasn't the physical that restrained me. I was one of the fortunate who, by removing an obnoxious tumor, removed the cancer and it was gone. I didn't need radiation or chemo. I should have been enthusiastic and bouncing on the gym floor. But I couldn't muster any desire to bounce, or to promote. And I had no confidence to do so, no confidence to put myself out there as the author of a fantastic story. Had my confidence (I know I've used the word 3 times now) been removed along with the lung I now missed? I might have gotten as far as setting up a promo, and yet could not get myself to click the "submit" or "post" button. The air had gone out of my balloon. I was as wimpy as my protagonist on the first page of her story. I felt doomed.

My husband took me back to Montsegur, France. It was what I needed--to be reminded of why I had written Shadows, its message, and what the Cathars had gone through because they would not denounce their beliefs. 

Then life took a turn. We volunteered to spend the summer of 2019 in central Wyoming at a historical site called Martin's Cove. It filled my need to hide (in the middle of nowhere) while we served six months with 39 other couples who lived high standards and were fun to be with. We hosted at the visitors center and assisted youth groups who came to reenact pioneer treks wearing pioneer clothing and pulling handcarts across the valley in the never-ceasing Wyoming wind. It was rejuvenating, but I hardly did any book promoting.
Reenactment of pioneer treks

After six months, we returned. It is time to procrastinate no longer.

If you have read Shadows of Montsegur, A Tale of the Cathars, THANK YOU, and please leave a review or comment on Amazon. Reviews mean everything to authors. 

If you enjoy learning about our history, I encourage you to read Shadows of Montsegur, A Tale of the Cathars. It recounts a tragic event in history, but will leave you uplifted, with a better understanding of what mankind has gone through.

Has something in your life ever put your plans on hold? Share in the comments below.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

On this day, March 16, in 1244 over 200 Cathar believers were burned at the stake by the hand of the Inquisition in southern France at the fortress known as Montsegur. Their story is told in my novel Shadows of Montsegur--with a touch of romance.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Shadows of Montsegur, A Tale of the Cathars, book trailer

Andreva's story tells of a tragic event in medieval history. It reflects our time with freedoms and lives in jeopardy. 

Andreva de Beringer is joyful upon her uncle’s summons to leave the abbey in Toulouse to care for her grandmother. She arrives in Lavelanet to find a village gripped by the terror of the Inquisition and a growing army surrounding the Cathar fortress known as Montsegur. While Andreva strives to hold on to her family, her faith, and the young farmer she loves, all around her, Good Men (Cathars) must fight for their religion and life itself. 
In the right place, but at a dreadfully wrong time, and under the wrath of the Inquisition, might this faith-filled but naïve girl be forced to witness the massacre and burning of every Cathar man, woman, and child, and also lose the young farmer she loves?
The venturesome reader, students of history, and those who cheer for the rights of mankind can learn from this seldom-told tale of medieval history at its darkest.

What do you know about the Albigensian Crusade, the Cathars, or their extermination?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Historyplex is a great site that explains more about the Albigensian Crusade, the time setting for Shadows of Montsegur.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Shadows of Montsegur, A Tale of the Cathars

A religious people are pursecuted for their belief, driven from their homes, and must run from an extermination order issued by those who fear them.

Sounds all too familiar. 

There is truth in the saying that history repeats itself.

The year is 1144. Andreva de Beringer is joyful upon her uncle’s summons to leave the abbey in Toulouse, where she is novice, to care for her grandmother, but she arrives in Lavelanet to find a village gripped by the turmoil and terror of the Inquisition. While Andreva strives to hold on to her family, her faith, and her love, all around her Good Men (believers in the Cathar religion) must fight for the same—as well as for life itself.

In the right place, but at a dreadfully wrong time, and under the wrath of the Inquisition, might this faith-filled but naïve girl be forced to witness the massacre and burning of every Cathar man, woman, and child, and also lose the young farmer she loves?

The venturesome reader, students of history, and those who cheer for the rights of mankind can learn from this seldom-told tale of medieval history at its darkest.

Is this so different from what is happening to our religious freedom today?

Available at Amazon and your favorite digial ebook sites.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Salem Witch Haunt by Theresa Sneed

I cho
I chose to read Salem Witch Haunt to learn more about my ancestress who was hung during these infamous trials in Salem. Author Theresa Sneed gave life to these historical events and explained how the revengeful "circle girls" made up the accusations toward these older women. I was amazed at how their community could believe these awful lies, and actually condemned these women to death. It must have been a scary time and place in which to live!

Living in Salem, Massachusetts amidst the legends and annual re-enactments of the 1692 Salem witch trials, Bess Martin, a Danvers high-schooler, gets caught in a strange storm and finds herself back in 1692. She is taken in by kind people, including Hezekiah who is the ancestor of her best friend, Trent. Bess witnesses the pandemonium and events building up to these famous trials and hangings, including those of her own 11th great-grandmother, Susannah Martin. Though the story witnesses these sad events, it has a delightful twist at the end, and leaves us with possibilities of sequels.

The story portrays Bess' interesting experiences adjusting to the time period, witnessing events of the times, and her developing romance with Hezekiah.  My only complaint was that I wanted to see and learn more about Susanna North Martin, whom the author and I share as a common ancestor. I felt, as a reader, that I could only observe her, and I wished so much to get into her life and her thoughts. But I guess I need a book that focuses on her. Theresa? Nevertheless, I found Salem Witch Haunt worth the read, and I appreciate Sneed's thorough research of Salem, 1692. 

As my tradition, here is a quote from the novel. Hubby chose a random number, page 16:

"Come on, Seth. It's getting dark."

A loud wail left his throat. She [Bess] jumped back, a little irritated. "Come on. Now!" She grabbed for his hand, but her fingers slipped past his. "Come on!" Again she tried, but her hand passed through his. "What's going on?" She placed a hand on his shoulder, but it passed straight through him. She fell back, aghast. "Seth?" Her voice broke. He is dead! Her knees buckled beneath her, and she slipped to the ground and wept.

Theresa Sneed has several books published—traditionally and professionally self-published, with many more to come. Included is her No Angel series, Earth Angel series, The Sons of Elderberry series, and Escape series. 

Her website

Read more about Salem Witch Haunt at Amazon.

Leave a comment and be eligible to win a copy of Clairvoyance!

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Triple Date Dare by Lauraine Henderson

Triple Date Dare is Lauraine Henderson's debut novel, and a great story for being her first! The author lives in Oregon, and I met her round about way. My son called and asked if I could go several miles to pick up his friend and her bicycle (in my little Prius) and bring them to the Mesa Arts Center for a concert they were producing. We jammed the bike into the car, and then had a lovely discussion on the way to Mesa. Amy told me her mother had written a novel and asked if I would like to read it. I'm glad I did!

Laura Nelson is a cute and quirky young mystery writer, working on her second novel. She goes to an Oregon beach house, owned by her sister-in-law's parents, for peace and quiet and lots of writing time. She finds everything but.

The village of Sunset Bay has a lot of interesting characters, and Laura keeps up with all of them, especially the handsome police officer, David Harrington, who she continually keeps off-balance.

Triple Date Dare is a contemporary, inspirational tale of redemption and romance. Laura's past life comes back to haunt her as she tries to leave it all behind and make a better life for herself.

Officer David Harrington has a dark past of his own. He's sworn off women to keep his privacy. Any girls who might hint she would like to date him, he accepts, but he has a devious "triple date dare" plan that, up until Laura Nelson moves to Sunset Bay, has been successful in scaring them off. But for some reason, spunky Laura is tough enough to endure through his rigorous dates, confusing him, and leaving him falling for her.
The Triple Date Dare is fun, clean, and romantic. It made me long for ocean waves and beach villages. So, as my tradition, here is an excerpt from page 20. The police have come to investigate why the lights are on in a closed-up summer home.

[The police officer] stepped closer, and Laura caught a whiff of his musky cologne.

“Go get the ID, and put on some clothes. I’m taking you down to thestation for questioning.”

“I have clothes on!” she countered as she looked down at her pajamas.

“Well, at least enough for what I was doing,” she muttered quietly
as she put her foot on the first step to go upstairs.

Having a temper tantrum probably wasn’t the way to handle this,
she thought. He made her feel like a little kid, except when she got a whiff of his cologne. Then she felt all woman.

“You can tell us all about it down at the station. Get going.”

Suddenly Laura turned to face David again. “This is ridiculous. I

have permission to be here!”

Buy Triple Date Dare on Amazon

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Secret Obituary Writer by Amy Martinsen

What if obituaries told the truth?

The Secret Obituary Writer is a fun story about Lizzy Langston, a young woman who writes obituaries--not the glorified ones which the family submits to the newspaper, but the stories behind what made people who they were.

Lizzy had started out as a paper deliverer, and on her own, wrote stories about the recently-deceased. including anonymous tips submitted from others, and inserted them into the paper. Readers loved them! After Mr. Jonas, the newspaper owner, discovered who was writing these bonus epitaphs, he hired Lizzy to continue composing them for the paper itself.

After the old farmer, Amos, died, apparently from a heart attack while driving his tractor, cryptic messages begin appearing in Lizzy's email box, claiming that the man died in a more mysterious way. She and an assigned detective, Jackson Clark, begin on a journey to discover the truth, and also find romance amid the shrouds of mystery?

I thoroughly enjoyed Martinsen's characters, the plot, and the premise of revealing the good in people after they've passed on. Secret Obituary Writer is a fun, light read, and I would recommend it to all who enjoy clean romance and a quirky story. 
The only thing I found amiss was justification for Lizzy and Jackson's trip to Germany, but as the story panned out, it made sense in the end.

This story is fun all the way through. To prove this, I asked my hubby for a random number and was given 106. So here is an excerpt from page 106.

I tried to muffle a laugh. “I heard that, Lizzy,” Mr.Jonas said.

“Now if you’ll take your shirt off, I’ll tape these wires to your chest and put the pin on your shirt.” Jackson sounded so professional.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Mr. Jonas muttered.

To give him some privacy I faced forward again, but never having seen a person get wired, I couldn’t resist a peek in the rearview mirror. I should have resisted, though. Who knew Mr. Jonas was so hairy?

Amy Martinsen
Congrats to Amy Martinsen for another fun novel! Her first novel is Changing Worlds, also available at Deseret Book.

Buy The Secret Obituary Writer at Deseret Book and Amazon

Leave a comment and your name will go into a drawing to win a copy of The Secret Obituary Writer or Clairvoyance!