Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Meet Brian C. Ricks

Brian C. Ricks is the author of Third Strike Christmas. He also has a story in the first LDS Publisher Christmas collection, Stolen Christmas. 

LDSP: Hi, Brian. Welcome to the blog! Tell us about yourself.

Brian: I’m a PhD student at BYU in the 22nd grade. When I’m done I’ll have spent almost as long at BYU as elementary school, junior high, and high school combined.

LDSP: The 22nd grade! I love that. With all that studying, do you have any time left over for hobbies?

Brian: I am juggler with the secret ambition to juggle flaming torches before a spellbound crowd.

LDSP: Juggling. I tried that once. It wasn't pretty. I stick to writing and words now. And speaking of writing, have you ever entered a writing contest before? Won anything?

Brian: I’ve entered and placed in at least half a dozen of BYU fiction, non-fiction, and essay contests. BYU provides many opportunities to write all year long.

LDSP: That's great. What inspired you to write Third Strike Christmas?

Brian: My story is about a wife who always knows what her Christmas gift will be. Yeah, I have some experience with that…

LDSP: They always say, "Write what you know." It seems to have worked for you. Aside from this story, do you have other published stories or books?

Brian: I’m published in the anthology  Sing We Now of Christmas: An Advent Anthology and LDS Publisher’s previous Christmas anthology, Stolen Christmas.

LDSP: That's right! R. Edwin Dugert. That was a funny one. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Brian: Taking advantage of writing contests at school really has helped me have the deadlines and motivation to write.

LDSP: That's why I do the annual Christmas story contest. To let writers practice. What is your favorite Christmas memory from your childhood?

Brian: My grandmother was Swedish and she opened presents in the Swedish tradition on Christmas Eve. Every year, Santa would come by on his “trial run” and drop my grandmother’s gifts to us at our door on Christmas Eve. It took years before I realized my Dad always had to “go do something in the bedroom” just before we heard Santa at our door.

LDSP: Dads can be pretty sneaky! What about Christmas now?

Brian: My wife Jennifer (who is also featured in Checkin’ It Twice) still wakes up at 5:30 Christmas morning because she is so excited to open her stocking. She really does still believe in Santa Claus.☺

LDSP: That's funny. We'll be interviewing her soon. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you can surprise Jennifer this year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Meet Lee Ann Setzer

Lee Ann Setzer is the author of Christmas Bus. She also has several published novels, including Gathered: A Novel of Ruth and the Sariah McDuff series.

LDSP: Hi, Lee Ann. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Lee Ann: My parents moved from upstate New York to the Mojave Desert in southern California before I was born, to get away from all the gloom and rain and snow. So of course they raised children who pined for clouds, and rain, and snow. Also houses with stairs. We thought those were cool, because we lived in earthquake country.

LDSP: Mojave Desert! I bet you don't have many white Christmases there!

Lee Ann: We get snow some years—and it was always a snow day when we did. But more often, people built “snowmen” out of tumbleweeds.

LDSP: Funny! I'd love to see a photo of that. Are you a big reader? What are your favorite books?

Lee Ann: I loved Ellen Raskin as a kid, so it’s fun to see my own daughter enjoying The Westing Game. I discovered fantasy when I checked out The Horse and His Boy, book 5 in The Chronicles of Narnia, because I thought it was a horse book. Well, OK, it was, kind of, but really it was a magical world, and talking horses were just part of it.

LDSP: Hmmm. Maybe C.S. Lewis was on to something there...use the title to broaden your reading audience. Who are your current favorite authors?

Lee Ann: Orson Scott Card, Patricia McKillip, Connie Willis, and Lois McMaster Bujold. I’ve obviously never recovered from the science fiction/fantasy bug!

LDSP: Me, neither! I love fantasy. What is the best book you've read this year?

Lee Ann: The Five Books of Jesus, by James Goldberg.

LDSP: I'm not familiar with that one. I'll have to check it out. When you're not writing or reading, what do you do for fun?

Lee Ann: We kind of follow the kids’ interests. We run a model railroad out in the backyard—big trains, but not big enough to ride on. My daughter’s currently into ice skating, so we go together once a week. Fortunately, my son won’t let me on his longboard, so I don’t have to find out whether I’m into skate boarding!

LDSP: Wow! I'm impressed! If I ever make it down your way, I may have to drop in for a visit and see that railroad. Any hobbies or talents you want to develop after your kids grow up?

Lee Ann: Someday, I will learn to play the banjo.

LDSP: Cool! It's good to plan ahead. Are you doing anything special for Christmas this year?

Lee Ann: For this year’s family Christmas newsletter, I am collecting good names for rock bands, and tongue twisters. “Sith Kittens” is the one entry so far that counts for both.

LDSP: Sith Kittens! Love that. What inspired you to write Christmas Bus?

Lee Ann: I’ve made it a Christmas tradition to write a story for LDSP’s contest…but heart-warming isn’t exactly my default writing style, so they always come out bizarre. There’s the Wal-Mart hired killer story, the mental hospital story, the vomit story. I’m excited and grateful the flophouse hotel story gets to see the light of day!

LDSP: Well, you know I'll be having another contest soon. I'd love to see some of those others! Aside from twisted Christmas stories, do you have other published stories or books? 

Lee Ann: Gathered: A Novel of Ruth retells the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Old Testament. At Christmastime, I love thinking of their story of sacrifice and redemption, which also took place in the little town of Bethlehem. My Sariah McDuff chapter book series served as cheap therapy when my kids were small: I picked up those stories off the living room floor.

LDSP: One of your Sariah McDuff books is about a Christmas Detective, isn't it? 

Lee Ann: Yes, it is. There's also one about a Primary Program Diva, a Valentine's Day Scrooge.  

LDSP: That's quite a line-up. What are you working on now?

Lee Ann: Young adult and middle grade fantasy. There’s the ostrich on a fantasy quest, the Thimble of Doom story, and, currently, the story about an arcane plot to steal Abraham Lincoln’s finger bones during his Chicago funeral. Hmm…I guess bizarre isn’t just for Christmas anymore!

LDSP: Those all sound fun! Be sure to let me know when they come out. Tell us about your favorite Christmas.

Lee Ann: The first year we were married, my husband and I couldn’t agree about real vs. artificial Christmas tree: he’d grown up with fake trees, and I’d grown up going shopping as a family for the perfect real tree every year. After weeks of discussion, I finally agreed that probably his way made more sense…then came home that afternoon to a beautiful real tree in the living room! That year, I also told him that for Christmas, I wanted a wooden spoon and a rubber spatula. He got me a wooden spoon, a rubber spatula, and a gold necklace. He’s definitely a keeper ☺

LDSP: Definitely. Keep that many happy!

Lee Ann: I have a least favorite Christmas, too.

LDSP: Tell me about that one!

Lee Ann: I was three months pregnant, and somehow Christmas songs got mixed up together with morning sickness. It took a decade before I could hear “Silent Night” without wanting to throw up.

LDSP: Ha! I guess I shouldn't laugh, but you have to admit, it's funny. What’s your favorite part of Christmas now? I'm guessing it's not Christmas carols?

Lee Ann: I love to sit in a room that’s quiet and dark, except for the lit-up tree. Preferably, it’s snowing outside (but desert girls can make do without). It smells like pine and gingerbread, and somehow also like excitement, and anticipation, and peace—all bundled together.

LDSP: That sounds wonderful. Thanks for stopping by and I'm wishing you a white Christmas this year! Hope you get it. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Meet Angie Lofthouse

Angie Lofthouse wrote the short story, Broken Things. She also has a story, Shepherds and Kings, in the first collection, Stolen Christmas. Her first novel, Defenders of the Covenant, came out this year.

LDSP: I hear Christmas stories are a specialty of yours. Tell us about that.

Angie: When my husband was still in school we had no money for buying presents. My family members were always giving me handmade crafts and I thought, why couldn't I use my talents to create a gift for them? I wrote my first Christmas story, "Shepherds and Kings," (which appeared in the Stolen Christmas anthology) and gave it to my family that Christmas. A tradition was born. This year I wrote my seventeenth Christmas story.

LDSP: Wow! You have enough to publish your own anthology. I'll expect to see that next year. What is your favorite part of Christmas?

Angie: I like everything about Christmas, even shopping and wrapping! But my very favorite part is the music. I could listen to it all year round. (Confession: I DO listen to it all year round!)

LDSP: When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

Angie: Lets see. I was twelve and I wanted a first edition handmade Cabbage Patch Doll, which my parents absolutely could not afford. But on Christmas morning, there she was under the tree. That's when I learned that Santa is truly amazing! (I still have that doll, by the way.)

LDSP: What inspired you to write "Broken Things"?

Angie: I think we tend to beat ourselves up too much over the mistakes that we've made—at least, I do. I wanted to remind everyone that one of the main purposes of the Atonement is to make us happy! And isn't Christmas really a celebration of Christ's Atonement?

LDSP: Definitely! Do you have any other published stories or books?

Angie: Yes! My first novel, Defenders of the Covenant, came out in March. It's an LDS science fiction adventure about Mormon kids trying to save the world from an alien invasion. I also have a dozen published short stories in various print and online magazines (you can read most of them on my website), and three novella prequels to Defenders—RefugeRenegadeConsecrated—which I put out as e-books this summer.

LDSP: I just skipped over to Amazon and those stories look amazing! I'll have to give them a read. Thanks for the interview, Angie, and have a Merry Christmas!

Meet Amie Borst

Amie Borst is the author of the story, A Soldier's Christmas, and co-author of Cinderskella, scheduled for release in 2013.

LDSP: Welcome, Amie. I’m looking out my window right now and seeing snow clouds. What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods? Got any snow yet?

Amie: Its nearly 85 degrees with blue skies! The only sign of autumn is the vivid display of color on the trees.

LDSP: Hmmm. I hate you just a little bit right now, but I do love the colors of changing leaves! Where did you grow up? 

Amie: I grew up in upstate New York, in the heart of the beautiful Catskill Mountains. Many people relate this area to classic tales such as Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. It’s easy to get lost and sleepy there in the summer heat and the lull of trees in the breeze.

LDSP: I’ve actually visited that general area. It’s lovely. When I was there, it was pretty stormy and windy. Do you get much bad weather there? 

Amie: Last summer (August 2011) this lovely and historic place was devastated by Hurricane Irene.

LDSP: I remember that. It was horrible hearing about it from the other side of the country, and wishing I could help. 

Amie: I drove nearly eight hours, by myself, from my home in Virginia to dedicate a week of my time to clean up efforts in many of the small towns. It was truly a rewarding experience!

 LDSP: I bet it was! Other than disaster relief, what are some of your hobbies? 

Amie: Anyone who visits my blog/website will know that I’m passionate about two things: Advocating for children with learning disabilities and cake decorating. Yes, I’m aware that these two things don’t normally go hand in hand, but they have in my life! I love assisting parents and helping them navigate the educational system for their children. It’s been a long road helping my own daughter reach her potential and showing her that there is no obstacle she cannot overcome. And the cake decorating, well, who doesn’t like cake? I believe in life it is possible to have your cake and eat it too! My most popular blog post to date is my Spiral Staircase Cake

LDSP: Oh, my daughters would have loved a cake like that! I’ve been to your blog. It’s very attractive. That’s a big plus for a new author. And I liked reading some of your posts. When did you first consider yourself a writer? 

Amie: I’m a writer? Yikes! Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? I’m always the last to know!

LDSP: Funny! Why did you decide to enter the LDS Publisher story contest? 

Amie: I guess because I had a story I wanted others to hear. There’s always a hope that maybe in sharing a story, a piece of our soul is revealed. That’s also what makes writing so hard—we’re so vulnerable.

LDSP: Have you ever entered a contest before? Won anything? 

Amie: If there are 50/50 odds, I’ll always lose. So yeah, I pretty much never win anything.

LDSP: Well, you certainly impressed my readers enough to win the Readers Choice award. Yay, you! What inspired you to write A Soldier’s Christmas

Amie: My husband is prior Air Force, and during his days of service, there was a part of me that feared the worst. Thankfully, my husband was safe during his days of service and for that I’m grateful. But so many others sacrifice selflessly on our behalf and I wanted to show my gratitude to them for all they do. I just hope that I was able to give them the credit and thanks they so fully deserve.

LDSP: Aside from A Soldier’s Christmas, do you have other published stories or books? 

Amie: My first book, Cinderskella (part of the Scary Tales series), co-authored by my 12 year old daughter, Bethanie, will be published October 26th, 2013 by Jolly Fish Press. We’ll have three books in the series and are so excited to share these fun, silly and twisted stories with the world!

LDSP: I love twisted stories! I’m looking forward to reading it. You and Bethany also have a story in your publishers Halloween story contest, right? 

Amie: Yes! Our story is called The Tale of Annabelle Craven. We had loads of fun writing it and we hope you enjoy reading it! There are several stories in the contest and if you go vote for one, you’re entered to win a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card. You can vote through October 31st.

LDSP: I’m headed over there to vote as soon as we’re done with this interview. What are you working on now? 

Amie: I’m currently working on Little Dead Riding Hood with my co-author. It’s a re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood (obviously), with a twist. You may see some vampires in this story—but don’t worry, they don’t sparkle. ;)

LDSP: LOL! Do you see writing as a career? 

Amie: A career? Ack! That really puts the pressure on!

LDSP: I’ll take that as a yes. Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Amie: Don’t. Give. Up. Ever.

LDSP: Great advice. And the fact that you have been accepted for publication shows you take your own advice seriously. As the Christmas season approaches, I like to reminisce about the past—traditions, gifts. What was your favorite Christmas gift? 

Amie: My favorite Christmas memory is one that lingers with me still. I was 16 and a huge fan of Broadway musicals. I admit to being only slightly obsessed with Phantom of the Opera. My parents had given us a very nice Christmas around the tree, something I know at the time was a big sacrifice. There were loads of toys for the younger kids and clothes for me. We opened our stockings last, as was tradition in our family (and still is to this day with my own family). I never expected much in my stocking. It was for little things like socks and hair clips, maybe a piece of jewelry. I remember unwrapping a few items from my stocking and then the last, which was an envelope. I expected a card and nothing more. But inside this card were three tickets to Phantom of the Opera on Broadway! I jumped, I screamed, and I may even have cried. It was a dream come true! As a teen it meant the world that my parents knew me, knew my interests, and sacrificed in order to give me a gift —and a memory—that would be cherished forever. I still remember the shock, awe and surprise I felt that day. Now, whenever I hear one of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s haunting melodies, I can’t help but recall that wonderful Christmas and the day I spent with my parents in NYC.

LDSP: Oh, how wonderful! And I’m more than a little bit jealous right now. Have you started any fun traditions with your children? 

Amie: I’m the queen of traditions! We bake Christmas cookies and set them out for Santa. We act as a Secret Santa for a family in need. We give gifts to neighbors and friends. We sip hot cocoa by the fire and watch Christmas movies. And every year I purchase a special book for each child and it is given as the last gift of Christmas. I try to choose one that reflects a special activity that we enjoyed or highlights a quality I love about them. I write a note inside the book, dedicated to that child, so they know just how I feel, and how special they are. Later we read the inscription and the book together, snuggled up in bed at the close of a lovely Christmas day.

LDSP: Ahh. That is sweet. I’m a big book giver at Christmas time. I especially like to give Christmas themed picture books. I inscribe them as well, but we’ve never done the snuggle part. Maybe I’ll try that this year. What are your Christmas favorites: Song? Tradition? Food? Game? Etc. 

Amie: Our favorite tradition of all comes on Christmas Eve. We have a family devotional where we write our promise to the Savior, wrap it up and place it under the tree. We strive all year to live by the promise we made. Then the following Christmas we review our gift and discuss how our actions and deeds reflected our promise to Him. Should I ever forget this most precious of all traditions, my children quickly remind me that we still need to give our gift to the Savior!

LDSP: Just a few more questions. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? 

Amie: I’ve always loved Edgar Allen Poe. His dark stories make me think about human nature and the psyche, about love and loss and about life and death. He is by far the most influential writer of all time. I think if Poe were still alive, we’d have a grand time plotting a story together! Also, an interesting tidbit of information: through some genealogy research I found a family tie to Poe! My husband’s great uncle, Arthur Ostrander, was the assistant to Professor George Poe who invented the artificial respiration machine. Professor Poe was a cousin to Edgar Allen Poe. Now that’s what we call a small world! 

LDSP: I love those six degrees of separation. Now, if you could only connect yourself to Kevin Bacon… What was the best book you’ve read this year? 

Amie: I loved The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand. What a creepy middle-grade story!

LDSP: That’s one that’s been on my “To Read” list for awhile. Maybe I’ll get to it soon. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing all your wonderful Christmas tradition ideas.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Meet Weston Elliott

Weston Elliott is the author of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

LDSP: Hi, Weston. What a unique name? Did you parents give that to you? Or is it a pen name? 

Weston: I was born with the name Weston, but it’s not my given name. It’s my maiden name. There are two men I’ve loved most in this world, one was my father and the other is my wonderful husband. Each of them shared his last name with me. Those are the two names I am proudest to wear, and those are the names I want the world to know.

LDSP: What a cool story. I'm glad I asked about it. Tell us more about yourself. Where did you grow up? 

Weston: I grew up in Oregon. We moved several times, but the one place I consider my home town is Cottage Grove.

LDSP: What a great name. I’d love to live somewhere with such a charming name! 

Weston: It's kind of a podunk place, but I love it. We used to run over to the coast for the day, play in the sand, splash in the ocean. I love the ocean. When I'm there I feel like I'm more connected to the universe, somehow.

LDSP: Reminds me of the lyrics to that song, I Hope You Dance. The ocean has a way of grounding us to the earth, doesn’t it? Are you still in Oregon? 

Weston: No. My husband and I moved to Utah a year after we got married, and I wasn't very happy about it. I told my husband I would stay for five years for him to build his career, then I was going back with or without him. That was fifteen years ago. Utah grows on you.

LDSP: Yes, it does. ☺ What were your favorite books as a child and teen? 

Weston: My mom used to bring books home for me, and I don't know how she chose them, but her taste in literature is amazing! She brought me all the ones that became my favorites when I was a kid. They are still my favorites today. Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson is an absolute favorite. I pull it off the shelf every couple of years and read it again.

LDSP: That’s a classic. The movie was good, but the book is amazing. What else do you like? 

Weston: The Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey are also fantastic books. I love them because they are about a young woman who makes her own way in the world, but she's not cocky about it. She's just doing what she knows needs to be done. I love that.

LDSP: I’m a McCaffrey fan as well. Love that trilogy! 

Weston: I am absolutely in love with the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, all seven of them! (Well, actually six out of the seven, because I can't read the last one. It makes me angry and a little sick to read because it deals with the end of the world.) I think of myself as Lucy, and always have. If I could find the wardrobe to let me into Narnia, I would be a happy girl! I love them most because, when you're a kid and you read them, they're just a great adventure. But when you read them as a grown up, you start finding all these lessons that you didn't know were there before. It's not just an adventure, it's a parable of life. We learn about our Savior by coming to love Aslan. We learn about repentance from Eustace Clarence Scrubb. And the list goes on. That, to me, is a treasure.

LDSP: Agreed. Your story in the Checkin’ It Twice anthology is Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. What inspired you to write this particular Christmas story? 

Weston: There is a park in downtown Salt Lake City that is a main hangout for the homeless people here. That park was the basis for this story. You see the homeless whenever you go downtown, and wonder why they're there. Did they choose that life for themselves or are they victims of some tragedy? I know a lot of people who think that the homeless are that way because they want to be, and for some that is true. But they are still our brothers and sisters in this world, and God still loves them. He gave His son for them, too. I set out to write a corny, gorpy story about a no-good bum, but the story took off without me. I learned something from it myself as I wrote it, as it turned out to be this beautiful story of goodness and forgiveness, the things Christmas is really about.

LDSP: I was particularly touched by your reluctant hero. You did a good job letting us into his mind and heart. Do you have a favorite Christmas memory from your childhood? 

Weston: I love Christmas, I love everything about Christmas! (Except snow. I hate snow.) It's hard to choose just one memory as a favorite. When I was a kid, we lived up in the woods. One year, snow fell so hard on Christmas night that it went from two inches to four feet overnight.

LDSP: Wow! Seriously? 

Weston: Yes! We had to leave our home and stay with a family in the valley—it was either that or be snowed in for months. When we finally went home, I think it was the next June, our Christmas tree was still standing, decorated and green as ever, in the living room. It was like Christmas had waited for us all those months we were away.

LDSP: Wow. Now, that could be the basis for a story for this year’s contest! Aside from Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, do you have other published stories or books? 

Weston: Not yet, but I will!

LDSP: If your short story is any indication, I’m sure you will! When and why did you begin writing? 

Weston: My husband and I had been married about three years when we found out we would probably never have children. It broke our hearts. As a woman, when you don't have children or a career, it leaves you at a bit of a loose end. I felt like I had nothing to offer. I started writing to do something good in the world. I thought, if I wasn't raising children then maybe I could influence the world for the better by writing good, wholesome literature. It was my way to leave my mark on the world, I suppose. Then—surprise!—my son came along. He came with troubles, so for three years I stopped writing completely so that I could concentrate totally on what my little boy needed. It was a hard three years, but worth it. Now he's in school all day, and I have time for me again. So I'm getting back in the swing of it. Winning the contest that put my story in this book was just what I needed to light the fire under me. I'm writing full time again!

LDSP: Wonderful! That’s the purpose of my story contests. To get people excited about writing again. What are you working on now? 

Weston: I'm working on a chick-lit, excuse me —women's literature— novel. If I'm not careful it's likely to head toward romance, but I refuse as a matter of course to be a 'romance novelist'. It's about a divorced mom and a cowboy. That's all I'll say about that. For now.

LDSP: Well, good luck. And personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the lable, chick-lit. ☺ One last question for you. Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Weston: For years I went to every writing workshop, conference, writers group meeting—everything I could get to. And the one thing I learned the most is this: You can talk about it, you can study it, you can go to classes to learn how to do it right, but you're never going to be a writer until you sit down and actually put words on paper (or screen). Someone said once: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." And talking about writing fits in there, too. It's one of those things that you'll never really, fully understand until you DO it. And the more you do it, the better it gets. So do it!

LDSP: Great advice! Thank you for coming by for a chat. Have a great holiday season with your family.

Meet Michael Young

Michael Young is the author of our lead story, Checkin' It Twice. He also released his own Christmas anthology, Sing We Now of Christmas, this year. In addition, he is the author of  two novels, The Canticle Kingdom and The Last Archangel, and several short stories.

LDSP: Hey, Michael. You’re the first male author I’ve had the opportunity to interview this week. The women outnumber the men, 5 to 1, in this anthology. What do you think about that?

Michael: I’m honored to be in such good company.

LDSP: Oooh. Smooth. When I interview people, I like to get a little biographical information first. Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up?

Michael: I grew up all over the place—my dad was a pilot in the US Air Force. We moved every few years and even got to live in Japan for a while.

LDSP: Wow, Japan! What was the weirdest thing you ever ate there?

Michael: You know, the candy was actually really weird. I remember eating a piece of candy with edible wrapping that melted in your mouth. I was pretty young, so I don’t remember eating too many weird things.

LDSP: And now that you’re all grown up, what do you do for a living?

Michael: I am looking for full-time work in teaching or instructional design, but getting a lot of writing done in the meantime. I’m trying to land a literary agent, and having a great time with all sorts of fiction and non-fiction projects.

LDSP: I wish you the best of luck in that job hunt, and also in your writing. What do you do in your spare time?

Michael: I love music, both writing it and performing it. Right now I’m living my dream as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

LDSP: You sing! That’s great. And I know about your Christmas book involving music. Tell us about that.

Michael: Sing We Now of Christmas: An Advent Anthology includes 25 days’ worth of  stories based on Christmas carols that can be used as an advent calendar. All the proceeds are going to the National Down Syndrome Society in honor of my son, Bryson, who has Down Syndrome.

LDSP: That’s great—and it’s a charity dear to my heart, as well. I’ll be buying a copy as soon as we finish this interview. And I totally don’t hold it against you that we’re in direct competition for Christmas spending.

Michael: Thank you for that.
LDSP: Your story, Checkin’ It Twice, is the lead story in my anthology. Congratulations on that, by the way.  What inspired you to write this particular Christmas story?

Michael: I wrote this story in response to my growing realization that Christmas needs to be more about strengthening relationships and less about coming away with an enviable stack of presents. I like Santa stories and stories that speak to the true meaning of Christmas, which is why the story I wrote for this anthology has a little of both. As long as you don’t lose sight of the reason for the season, I think you should have as much humor and fun with Christmas as possible.

LDSP: I agree and that’s what I liked about your story, too. It certainly made me laugh a few times and I really liked that Santa wants to follow the example of Christ. Aside from this story, do you have other published stories or books?

Michael: Yes, I’ve got quite a few. The novels The CanticleKingdom and the The Last Archangel, and I have two stories in Parables forToday. I also wrote the pamphlet Portrait of a Mother and compiled the anthology Sing We Now of Christmas: An Advent Anthology. I’ve had stories and articles in magazines such as Mindflights, Allegory, The New Era and Ensign.

LDSP: You are one busy writer! What are you working on now?

Michael: I’m working on a morning-study guide for missionaries, my second Christmas anthology, a science fiction novel, and a handbook for church choir directors…among other things.

LDSP: Do you see writing as a career?

Michael: I sure hope so. I work hard at it every day, and am determined to keep working at it until I break through.

LDSP: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Michael: Persistence pays off. Don’t back down at the first rejection nor stop after your first project. Be patient and let your writing grow over time.

LDSP: Patience is a good attribute for a writer. It’s also something we get to practice during the Christmas season as we wait for Christmas morning, right? Have you started any fun traditions with your children to help them wait patiently?

Michael: Because I lived in Germany for a few years, we have adopted the German tradition of St. Nicolas Day, which is December 6th. The kids leave out their shoes the night before to find them filled with toys and candy.

LDSP: What a great idea! What’s your favorite part of Christmas?

Michael: My favorite part about Christmas is the music. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir always brings incredible guests to its Christmas concert, and I’m walking on air the whole week.

LDSP: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Michael: I would say David Wolverton/Farland. I read his “Daily Kick” all the time and have been to many of his panels and workshops.

LDSP: How do you stay motivated to keep writing?

Michael: I find that goal setting and keeping tracking of your progress really helps and that you need to have people with whom you talk about your writing and cheer you on.

LDSP: Where can readers learn more about your writing?

Michael: The best place is to go to www.writermike.com

LDSP: And, that’s a wrap! Thanks so much for stopping by, Michael, and have a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Meet Brenda Anderson

Brenda Anderson is the author of the short story, Milkshakes & Mittens. She is also the author of Abish: Faith Among the Lamanites.

LDSP: Hi, Brenda. Hope your day is going well. In my family, it’s common to ask, “Whatcha’ know that’s new or different?” How would you answer that question today? 

Brenda: According to my three-year old, “Glue makes me clean.”

LDSP: Funny! So tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? 

Brenda: Tolleson, Phoenix, and Avondale, Arizona—all without moving.

LDSP: How did you manage that?? 

Brenda: The different cities must have really liked (or disliked) our house; they kept changing their boundaries around us!

LDSP: Sort of like ward boundaries, huh? So do you still live in the same area? 

Brenda: I live 2.2 miles from my childhood home with my husband and seven children—five boys and two girls. My husband works hard at a warehouse loading trucks so I can stay home with the kiddos, but he says no one could pay him enough to do my job. Although some days, I’d gladly take his…

LDSP: Seven kids?! Wow! Do you even have time for hobbies? 

Brenda: Yes. I like to do jigsaw puzzles, volleyball, and go to Arizona Diamondbacks games. (I’d prefer seeing the Detroit Tigers, but it’s a bit of a drive from here.)

LDSP: I’m not a big sports fan, but I do like jigsaw puzzles. My daughter and I had a tradition of doing a huge puzzle every Christmas. But then she grew up and got married, so I don’t do that much anymore. I got hooked on puzzles in kindergarten. How about you? 

Brenda: When I was two, almost three, I insisted that my mom let me do a 200-piece jigsaw puzzle. After I begged, and pleaded (and probably whined and cried) she decided to let me, thinking that I would get bored after a few minutes. I sat on our kitchen floor for hours until I had completed the puzzle. I still have it in my closet, minus a few pieces.

LDSP: That is amazing! You could be a professional puzzle-doer. (Is there such a thing, I wonder?) What got you interested in writing? 

Brenda: My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hill, had us turn a squiggly line into a picture each week and write a story about it. I found that I really enjoyed the writing part of the assignment; the drawing, not so much.

LDSP: What inspired you to write Milkshakes & Mittens? 

Brenda: When I was a young bride living 900 miles from home in a small town of strangers, a woman in our ward had a pair of beautiful gray suede boots that I thought were absolutely beautiful. I didn’t know her very well, but on the Sunday before Christmas she gave me a wrapped gift. When I opened the box on Christmas morning, one of the few gifts under our sparsely decorated tree, I found the boots. I’ve always wanted to share that story somehow.

LDSP: Sometimes the Lord blesses us through others, doesn’t He? I love those little hugs from heaven. Aside from this story, do you have other published stories or books? 

Brenda: I have one book, Abish: Faith among the Lamanites.

LDSP: I actually knew that. Gorgeous cover. In fact, it won my 2009 Best Historical Cover. What inspired you to write about Abish? 

Brenda: Alma 19:16. Whenever I read that verse, I wondered who Abish was and what kind of vision her father had that convinced them to believe in the Nephite religion.

LDSP: Writers can find inspiration everywhere, can’t they? What are you working on now? 

Brenda: A trilogy that follows some of the characters from my first book and covers a lot of the history of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, or People of Ammon.

LDSP: That sounds interesting. Good luck on that project. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to work on it before the holidays hit. I can’t imagine what it must be like to plan a Christmas for seven children. Do they still believe in Santa? 

Brenda: Four of them still do. My husband broke the news to the older kids when they turned 12.

LDSP: Well, don't let those younger ones read this blog then. When and how did you discover the truth about Santa? 

Brenda: My older brother told me when I was five as we sat outside on my parents’ steps. I was so crushed, I turned around and told my three-year old sister. Scarred her for life, so she claims!

LDSP: Hmmm. My younger sister makes the same claim. Have you started any fun traditions with your children? 

Brenda: On the Monday before Christmas, we like to have a Jerusalem dinner. We have fish, breads, cheeses and fruit, with no light except flickering candles and reverent Christmas music playing in the background. We also have pumpkin cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning.

LDSP: Pumpkin cinnamon rolls? Yum! What’s your favorite part of Christmas? 

Brenda: The quiet, late night hours spent with my husband on Christmas Eve as we assemble Santa’s gifts and stuff our kids’ stockings.

LDSP: What books have most influenced your life most? 

Brenda: Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time books. Even though I haven’t read any of the books for years, I can still remember the first line from A Wind in the Door: “There are dragons in the twins’ vegetable garden.” What a great beginning.

LDSP: Yes! I love that one! What book are you reading now? 

Brenda: Septimus Heap Book Six: Darke by Angie Sage, but I’m anxiously waiting for my husband to finish reading Amber House by Kelly Moore so I can get my hands on it!

LDSP: Both books sound good (I looked them up on Amazon). I’ll add them to my reading list. Thanks for the interview and have a great Christmas!

Meet Teresa Osgood

Teresa Osgood is the author of "Foreign Exchange" in Checkin' It Twice. She also has a story in Sing We Now of Christmas.

LDSP: Hi, Teresa. Welcome to your official author interview! How does that feel? Does it make you nervous?

Teresa: (bites lip and adjusts hat) Umm, does that mean I’m an official author? Wow.

LDSP: Yes, you are officially an author. Bow while I dub thee... Okay. You can get up now and tell me a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?

Teresa: I grew up in Maryland, the oldest of three girls. My parents are smart and creative, and encouraged us to be likewise. We listened to international folk tales, sewed our own doll clothes, and walked to the library every other day during the summer. “Eschew” was a household word.

LDSP: Eschew—I love that! I can certainly tell by your author photo that you fully embraced your parents’ example to be creative. Do you still live in Maryland?

Teresa: No. Now I live on the other side of the continent. My smart and creative husband and I have four sons. The atmosphere is a little wilder than what I experienced growing up. But the boys love reading, invent their own games, and frequently use words like “sweltering” and “squandering.” We must be doing a good job.

LDSP: I agree. I give you an A+ in creative parenting. ☺ So while your boys are playing their invented games, what do you do with your time?

Teresa: I like music, gardening, sewing, crocheting, and cooking interesting food. And then I have to go running.

LDSP: Did you crochet that hat you’re wearing in your photo? 
Close-up of hat

Teresa: Yes, I did!

LDSP: Cute! When did you start writing?

Teresa: I’ve enjoyed reading and writing since I was a child, but I’ve been spending more time writing in the last couple of years. I was persuaded to blog by a friend who has since abandoned the practice. Out in the blogosphere, I ran across a series of writing prompts that really sparked my imagination, along with a community of supportive writers. So, thanks, friend! Look what you started!

 LDSP: I have a few friends like that too. Always getting me into trouble and then abandoning me… but that’s a story for another day. Or maybe never. Why did you decide to enter the LDS Publisher story contest?

 Teresa: When I saw the 2010 contest announced, I entered a silly story that I’d written for my son several years before. It received some nice comments, and I continued writing other things. The contest rolled around earlier in 2011, and caught me unprepared. I didn’t expect to enter anything. But I kept thinking about a memorably uncomfortable Christmas Eve I’d experienced. I took that setting (yes, it’s all true), replaced my family with a fictional one, and suddenly I had a story. I typed furiously as the deadline loomed, and submitted the story without even having my husband go over it. Winning was a shock, but a pleasant one!

LDSP: It sounds like you’re getting into the Christmas story groove. What kinds of Christmas stories do you like best?

Teresa: I like a combination of humor and truth—which is what I wrote in this story. Go figure.

LDSP: I think you accomplished both with Foreign Exchange. It gave us a great look into cultural differences and how confusing they can be—but when boiled down to the meanings behind them, Christmas is all about the Savior. And I loved the voice of your main character. Funny and clever. Have you published any other stories or books?

Teresa: I wrote another Christmas story after this contest was over, and Michael Young accepted it for his collection, Sing We Now of Christmas. I’m excited to make a double debut this season!

LDSP: Congratulations! That’s wonderful. Christmas is such an inspiring time of year. I love it. What’s your favorite part of Christmas?

Teresa: I really enjoy creating gifts for my loved ones. I feel like I put a bit of myself into things I make, and it’s a thrill when they actually like and use my gifts. And if they don’t, at least I didn’t waste time and money at the mall.

 LDSP: What types of fun holiday traditions do you keep with your children?

Teresa: We’ve continued my parents’ tradition of caroling to friends. No one else seems to do that around here, so it surprises people when we add them to the list. I think our boys enjoy the tradition even more than I do.

 LDSP: I’m glad you do the caroling. I love it when we get carolers at our house. Let’s move on to books in general. Who is your favorite author?

Teresa: I can’t pick one—can you? But I’ll mention two. One of my old favorites is P.G. Wodehouse. His plots are silly, and fairly predictable once you’ve read a few stories. But he tells them in such a charming way that I’m willing to read his stories over and over. A new favorite is Frances Hardinge. Her plots are more Byzantine, her characters a little less loveable than Wodehouse’s bumbling society boys, but her language is absolutely delectable.

LDSP: No, I can’t usually pick just one favorite author either. I can only narrow it down to my top 10 in a particular genre. But I can usually pick my favorite book of the year. What is the best book you’ve read this year?

Teresa: I’ve really enjoyed The Sea of Trolls and its sequels, by Nancy Farmer. She weaves myths together into compelling stories with characters that feel real.

LDSP: I don’t think I’ve read that one. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for coming by for a visit and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Meet Janice Sperry

LDS Publisher interviews Janice Sperry, author of the short story, Slushballs. Janice also had a story in the first Christmas anthology, Stolen Christmas & Other Stories of the Season.

LDSP:  Hi there, Janice. Thanks for stopping by the blog here. Tell me a little about yourself.

Janice: I am a mother, a wife, and a writer.  

LDSP:  Surely there’s a little more to you than that. Where do you hail from?

Janice: I live in West Jordan.

LDSP: Ah, home of the famous Gardner Village. I love that place—especially their Witchfest which is going on now! (*free plug for Witchfest.) So besides watching for witches, what are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do?

Janice: I love making crafts with my kids. We recently made ghost masks out of Plaster of Paris for Halloween decorations. I also like to experiment with chocolate.  It's hard to go wrong when chocolate is the main ingredient.

LDSP:  Agreed. Chocolate makes so many things taste better! Your story, Slushballs, is in this anthology. I loved it. You had a short story published in my first collection too, didn’t you?

Janice: Yes. It was called “Too Old for Christmas.”

LDSP: I remember that one. Cute take. It won the Readers Choice Award in the 2008 story contest, didn’t it?

Janice: Yes, it did. I like writing Christmas stories. In fact, just this month I had a Christmas booklet published by Cedar Fort called The Candy Cane Queen. It is available online and in stores.

LDSP: That’s right! And it’s going to sponsor my blog in November, so readers can enter to win a copy. Thanks for sponsoring, by the way.

Janice: Glad to do it.

LDSP: So do you write anything other than Christmas stories?

Janice: Yes. I’m working on books in other genres, but haven’t had any published yet.

LDSP: What genres do you like to write in?

Janice: I write horror and fantasy.

LDSP: I'm not a big horror fan but I love a good fantasy. Hope to see something in that genre from you soon. What inspired you to enter contest?

Janice: An idea popped into my head. I wrote it in one day and submitted it the next. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but I liked it because it was different.

LDSP: I liked it too. That’s why it won Publisher’s Choice.

Janice: You have fabulous taste.

LDSP: I know. We’re about done here. Any questions for me?

Janice: Any chance you could reveal your secret identity?

LDSP: Nope.

Janice: Dang.

LDSP: Well, that’s all the time we have.  Thank you for coming.

Janice: It was a pleasure.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meet Kasey Eyre

Over the next week or so, LDS Publisher will be interviewing authors who have stories in the upcoming anthology, Checkin' It Twice. Today's guest is Kasey Eyre, author of the story, Gifts from Jesus.

LDSP: Hi, Kasey. How are you doing today?

Kasey: Great, thanks!

LDSP: Then let's just jump right in with the interview. Where did you grow up?

Kasey: I am a native to Las Vegas. My dad was born and raised here and so was my grandma. I love it here and love raising my family here.

LDSP: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Kasey: I'm a wife, married 11 years. I'm a mom to three boys, ages nine, seven, and four. I like to go help in my boys' classes at school and I do preschool at home for my 4 year old.

LDSP: Got any pictures?

Kasey: Sure. Here is our latest family photo.

LDSP: I bet those boys keep you hopping. No need for you to exercise, right?

Kasey: I don't like to exercise, but if I do it while watching TV it's not so bad.

LDSP:  That's a good idea. I might try that. What else do you do to keep busy?

Kasey: Typical stay-at-home-mom stuff like laundry, cleaning, running errands. I like to cook and bake, trying new recipes. My kids tell me I'm the second best cook ever—their grandma is #1. Of course, reading and writing. I like taking my kids to the park so I can hang out with the other moms. Sometimes you just need adult conversation, you know?

LDSP: I hear you. What else do you like to do to take a break from motherhood?

Kasey: Some times I sneak off to Target or the library. Those are my favorite places to go when I need a little alone time.

LDSP: I love the library, too! Some times I wish I could rent a room there. Or at IKEA. Especially in the fall. Nothing like curling up with a good book in the fall. What was your favorite book as a child?

Kasey: Don't laugh. My favorite books were the Baby Sitters Club series.

LDSP: You're kidding me! My daughter loved those but they made my brain melt. Of course, I wasn't the target audience, she was. And you're about her age, so... I'll let you slide on that one.

Kasey: Thanks for the pass. But seriously, I had every book. The funny thing is I hated babysitting. I also read tons of Nancy Drew and when I went to the library I picked the books that had the best looking covers.

LDSP: Did your taste in books improve as you got older?

Kasey: I guess that depends on your personal taste. When I was a sophomore in high school we were reading Lord of the Flies and I thought it was SO BORING. But I noticed on the chalkboard that a different class was reading the book Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan, so I went to the library and got that book to read instead. I loved it and started reading more of her books. My junior year I read The Great Gatsby and that book was magical to me. I loved the language, the descriptions, the way I could see what was happening. That was when I decided I wanted to teach American Lit someday. And I did.

LDSP: Killing Mr. Griffin was pretty good. I liked it too. So, why did you decide to enter the LDS Publisher story contest?

Kasey: I'm great at starting stories, but not very good at finishing them. When I saw the post about the Christmas short story contest I thought it would be a great way to finally finish something, to have a goal, a deadline. I also have a hard time letting people read what I write so I thought this would be a good way to get over that fear. It's been a great experience and got me to take my writing more seriously and to learn more about writing. Since the contest, I've sold a story to the Friend magazine, I started a writer's group with a friend, and I have an outline for a novel all ready to go for NaNo!

LDSP: Wonderful! Getting people excited about finishing a story is exactly why I started the contest. What inspired you to write this particular Christmas story?

Kasey: I live in Las Vegas and things have been so bad here with the economy and the housing market. My husband is in the construction business and we have seen how hard it's been for families who have gone from having a good job and a home to live in, to getting pay cuts, losing homes, worrying about how to afford to take care of their families. It's hard around the holidays to be in that situation and sometimes we forget that it's not about having money to buy gifts, it's about trying harder to be like Christ. I wanted to write something that another family could relate to, or to inspire a family to look for ways to give to someone who has less than they do. Every Christmas our family tries to do something for someone else. We try and remind our kids what Christmas really is about and that it's not about getting something, but giving something.

LDSP: What is your favorite Christmas memory from your childhood?

Kasey: My dad is the oldest of 7 children and every Christmas Eve we would have a big family dinner at my grandma's house. My grandma is Catholic, so after dinner she would take some of the kids with her to church. I loved going with her and seeing how her church did their worship service. We sang songs and held hands and there was always a Christmas message. To me, that made the night better. I love Santa and the magic of Christmas, but I love keeping Christ at the center of it all.

LDSP: What books are you reading now? What books do you like to read to your kids?

Kasey: I'm reading a Magic Tree House book to my 7 year old and Fablehaven to my 9 year old. Next on MY list is Son by Lois Lowry and The Kill Order by James Dashner. Over the summer I read The Wizard of Oz to my kids and then we watched the movie (it's my favorite movie ever!). My son read Crash by Jerry Spinelli in his 4th grade class so I read it at home so we could talk about it. My kids LOVE Wonkenstein. We got to meet Obert Skye when he came to their school last year for Reading Week. We're looking forward to getting Potterwookiee which will probably be a Christmas gift. We love giving the boys books for Christmas.

LDSP: I love giving books as Christmas gifts too. Guess what all my friends and family are getting this year?

Kasey: Ummm, Checkin' It Twice?

LDSP: Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! One last question—and I always love to hear the answer to this one—which books have influenced your life most?

Kasey: I love reading and have read so many different books but the ones that have really influenced me have to be Anne of Green Gables. I was a huge fan of the movies growing up but didn't read the books until I was in my 20's. My friend was cutting my hair and we were talking about it and she was appalled that I had not read the books. So she gave me her set to read. I just love Anne Shirley. She's my favorite literary heroine ever. I became an English teacher because she was and wanted to be a writer like her. What girl does not want to be like Anne? I also just recruited 2 of my favorite friends to go on a trip to Prince Edward Island with me.

LDSP: Oh, how fun! You'll have to let me know how your trip goes. Well, thanks again for stopping by and good luck with NaNo.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Facebook Covers

Feel free to grab one of the facebook covers below and use it on your profile or page.

To use images, right click on the image. Select "View Image" to bring up the full-size image. Right-click on that image and select "Save Image As..." Save to your computer, then upload to your site.

 Naughty or Nice

Checkin' It Twice Book (Title)

Happy Holidays Trees

More Christmas covers coming soon... 



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Checkin' It Twice Book Cover Images

These images are protected under a Creative Commons license (see sidebar). You are free to share them on any blog, website, or social media as long as it is for promotion of the book Checkin' It Twice & Other Heartwarming Holiday Tales.

You must link back to this blog or to the Amazon book page. You may not create derivative works using these images, nor use them for commercial purposes.

To use images, right click on the image. Select "View Image" to bring up the full-size image. Right-click on that image and select "Save Image As..." Save to your computer, then upload to your site.

125 px (small sidebar)

 220 px (standard sidebar)

 250 px (medium post)

400 px (large post)

1000px (ginormous!)