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