Thursday, February 22, 2018

LDS Beta Reader Author Spotlight: Julie L. Spencer, Clarissa Kae, and Laura Beers

Welcome to our author spotlight! This week we are spotlighting authors Julie L. Spencer, Clarissa Kae, and Laura Beers. We hope you enjoy this sneak peek into their lives. 
  
Julie L. Spencer

Why do you write?

Because my imaginary friends won’t stop telling me their stories and demanding that I write them down.

What is your experience in the publishing world?

I have six independently published books, plus I am featured in two anthologies of short stories.

What goals and dreams do you still have in the writing field?

I’d love to be able to make enough money from my writing that my husband could retire early. I’m not sure I’ll ever retire from my job. I’m too passionate about the work we do with soil and water conservation.

Favorite author? Favorite Book?

Stephenie Meyer, Twilight series

Julie L. Spencer lives in the central Michigan area with her husband and teenage children. She has a very full life managing a conservation district office and writing grant proposals, newsletters, articles, and book reviews. Julie has been writing since she was in junior high, but prior to publishing her first novel, The Cove, her only published work was her master’s thesis. She loves to read and write new adult clean contemporary fiction, is author of the Buxton Peak series, The Cove, The Man in the Yellow Jaguar, and has several more novels and non-fiction projects in the works.


In the beginning, it was all about the music… until that wasn’t enough. Child Prodigy and devoted musician, Ian Taylor, forms a rock band with his three best friends, helping them rocket to stardom and all the spoils that come with it. But Ian’s heart is torn between the teachings of his youth and the temptations of music and the stage.

When Ian disappears for two years, Buxton Peak falls apart. Returning to center stages brings its own challenges, and life as a rock star is not as easy as it once was. The guys have grown up, and the original dynamic of the band is lost in the distractions of substance abuse and women.

Can they pull their lives, and their music, back together? Can Ian learn forgiveness as he fights to become the man God wants him to be? See where it all began…



Clarissa Kae

What is your experience in the publishing world?

I am the critique coordinator (read: head cheerleader) for Writers of Kern, the local branch of California Writers Club. I travel up and down California to help writers group establish critique groups and improve sustainability.

What advice do you have for young writers?

Read and reach out. Always and forever do both.

How do you maximize your writing time?

Scheduling—and being sly about your time. Some well-intentioned friends and family don’t understand that you physically must sit down and type/edit. It’s a lot like being a stay at home mom, everyone appreciates the product, but no one really acknowledges the work behind it.

What regrets do you have in your writing career if any?

Not defending my time/schedule earlier

What goals and dreams do you still have in the writing field?

To write something that resonates, that someone will close the book and take a few minutes to soak in, to have that minute of mourning that the story is over.

Favorite author? Favorite Book?

Oh wow... in all honestly, the original French Beauty and the Beast

Where did you grow up?

Visalia, California (the land of cows, fruits, and nuts)

How did your childhood have an influence on your writing?

My father designs jewelry, and I grew up in the back of his store—being exposed to and watching creativity shaped my foundation.

What are your other favorite pastimes?

Horseback riding (I competed at BYU many moons ago) and running (Ragnar, half and full marathons...)

What genre do you write and why?

Women’s Fiction speaks to me. It’s versatile to encompass love from all angles and society.

Clarissa is the Critique Group Coordinator (otherwise known as Head Cheerleader) for her local branch of the California Writers Club.

She graduated from the Animal and Veterinary Science College of Brigham Young University. She’s now raising a herd of daughters in the Central Valley of California.

Running marathons, writing novels and teaching three daughters are her daily pursuits.


Once and Future Wife

Five centuries.
Seven lives.
One love.

Brash and beautiful, Lady Isla Belle defies a king and marries her childhood love, the servant Rhys Glyndwr, in an ancient sealing ceremony. Isla Belle is killed moments later. She’s reborn again and again, returning to an unageing Rhys. Each time her memory fades while Rhys wrestles with a growing madness from his immortality and continual grief.


Rhys is trapped in a crippled mind while Isla Belle is chained forever to a broken man. Neither can bear the burden of another life. To break the bond, they each must pay a price—when loss is inevitable, is love worth the risk?


Laura Beers

Why do you write?
I love writing and sharing a worthwhile story. It is a creative outlet for me. 
What is your experience in the publishing world?
Very positive. I am with Phase Publishing and they have been extremely supportive in my journey as a writer.
What advice do you have for young writers?
Write! Even if you don't feel like you can pull it off... just keep writing.
How do you maximize your writing time?
My first draft of my book is just getting the storyline onto the computer. After that, I go back and add more details. I have to take advantage of the quiet times when my kids are at school, because they aren't too supportive of me writing once they are home.
What goals and dreams do you still have in the writing field?
My dream is for people to read and enjoy my books.
Favorite author? Favorite Book?
Jennifer Moore/ Lady Lockwood
Where did you grow up?
San Diego
How did your childhood have an influence on your writing?
I have always been an avid reader. When I was younger I devoured every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Book. I always have been fascinated with spies!
What are your other favorite pastimes?
Golfer, Runner, Advanced Tube Dancer (this is when you dance on a tube when it is being pulled behind a boat)
What genre do you write and why?
Regency Romance. I love the time period. I would also love to be a daughter of a duke and a spy. 
Laura Beers spent most of her childhood with a nose stuck in a book, dreaming of becoming an author. She attended Brigham Young University, eventually earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management.
Many years later, and with loving encouragement from her family, Laura decided to start writing again. Besides being a full-time homemaker to her three kids, she loves waterskiing, hiking, and drinking Dr. Pepper. Currently, Laura Beers resides in South Carolina.
Saving Shadow
Born with a perfect memory, Lady Elizabeth Beckett has become one of the world’s most notorious spies, despite being the daughter of a duke. She is shielded only by her code name: Shadow. When young ladies of High Society begin disappearing from London, Eliza has no doubt who is orchestrating these crimes; a heinous man she has been investigating for years. Vowing to save them before they are sold to the highest bidder, she must risk everything to stop him.
Lord Sinclair was perfectly content being the second son of a marquess, but when his brother is murdered, he is thrust into a position he has not been prepared for and does not desire. As an agent for the Crown, he is expected to retire now that he is the heir, but he’s been granted special permission for one more mission... to obtain justice for his murdered brother.
Used to keeping secrets, Lady Eliza and Lord Sinclair must learn to open up to each other when they are assigned as partners to bring down the same ruthless man and his brutal empire of abduction and slavery. As Eliza’s tainted past becomes too much for her to bear alone, can she learn to trust her new partner with her secrets, her life, and possibly her heart?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ten Things to Avoid in Your First Chapter Unless You Want to Look Like a Rookie*

by Whitney Hemsath

*Disclaimer 1—There are exceptions to every rule. Plenty of them. Each of the following could be used well in a story. But usually it will be by someone who knows what they are doing, does it on purpose, and didn’t just assume off the bat that they were the exception to the rule. (Successful instances may also often result from subverting a trope or making fun of a cliché.) Also, these aren’t “rules.” They are more a general set of guidelines. Ultimately, there is really only one rule you can’t break as a writer, and that is to bore the reader or lose their trust. If your reader is staying engaged and entertained, just keep doing what you’re doing.*

*Disclaimer 2—When writing your first draft, don’t stress about any of these “rules.” Write whatever comes out naturally. Rough drafts are meant to be rookie drafts by nature. Once written, they can be edited and polished using tips from lists like these, and made to contend in the big leagues.*

Enough disclaimers, let’s get to that list already.

1. Dream Sequences
You want to have a dream sequence somewhere in your story? Fine. But please don’t start your story that way. It’s a let-down for readers. We don’t know your world or your characters yet. We trust you as an author to introduce us to them from the get go, so we believe whatever you’ve told us is real. When it’s revealed that it was all just a dream, and here is the real reality, we feel cheated. It feels like you hooked us with a lie, and it was a cheap shot. So don’t do it.


2. Rise and Shine
Don’t start your story with your character waking up. Honestly, it’s probably best avoided all together for the beginning of any chapter. The reasoning behind it is that we want to cut straight to the action. Reading that someone woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast, chatted with their family, got stuck in traffic, and then showed up late to work is boring. If showing up late to work is where the action starts, (because if they’re late one more time, they’re fired), then start right before the action. Start in the middle of traffic, and what the character is going to do to try and get rid of their late-to-work/about-to-be-fired problem.

3. No Clearly Defined Goals
Watching a character go throughout their day, just for the sake of showing us a typical day in their life, is boring. Yes, your first chapter should establish the status quo for your main character, but think about your own life. You still have goals and objectives for each day, right? Get your work done early so you can beat rush hour traffic? Flirting with that cute guy at the coffee shop because you’re pretty sure he likes you and just needs some encouragement? Reading as many writing blogs as possible because you really want to publish your novel? They don’t have to be massive save-the-world goals, but every character, in every scene and every chapter, needs to have some kind of a goal. Even your first chapter. No, especially your first chapter. Characters without purpose bore us; they confuse us. When something happens to them, we don’t always know if it was good or bad, if they wanted it to happen or not, because we don’t know if it helps or hurts their goal, because we don’t know what their goal was.

4. Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
One of the most cliché mistakes you can make is to have your character look at their reflection in a mirror and describe themselves. It screams, “I want to you know what my character looks like but don’t want to weave it into the story naturally, so I’m just going to put them in front of the mirror and list it all off for you real quick.” When was the last time you looked at your own reflection and mentally listed off your own height, weight, body type, hair color, eye color, distinguishing birthmarks or tattoos, etc. You might notice a new pimple, or bags under your eyes, or your roots starting to show, but that’s about it. Don’t have your character list off their physical attributes while staring in a mirror (or just staring down at their own outfit for that matter). Not in the first chapter. Not anywhere else. Just don’t do it.


5. Meet Mary Sue
Another cliché you want to avoid are Mary Sue characters. (Or for male characters, Gary Stu). The cliché goes like this: the character is practically perfect, and if they have any “flaws,” they never face the consequences of them. Everybody is attracted to this character, wants to be this character, and things just inexplicably always turn out alright for this character. Never fired a gun before? That’s okay. Mary Sue just so happens to be a sharp shooter with less than five minutes practice. Work long hours in the office and spend every spare moment writing his novel leaving no time for exercise? That’s okay. Middle-aged Gary Stu still has the same surfer body he had back in high school.

These characters are unrealistic, difficult to relate to, and usually lack any meaningful character arc. If you want to see if your character counts as a Mary Sue or Gary Stu, check out this litmus test here:
http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.html

6. Flashbacks
This one kind of goes with dream sequences. There may be room in your story for a flash back later, but don’t put one in your first chapter. If you need to get that backstory in, find a way to weave it in naturally through dialogue with other characters or internal dialogue. Just make sure it makes sense for the characters to be talking about that event or thinking about that thing at that moment.

That’s not to say that your story has to be strictly linear in nature. There are plenty of good books that jump around their time line. I just finished reading “All The Light We Can Not See” by Anthony Doerr, and he bounces back and forth through time masterfully. But none of those time jumps comes across as flashbacks.

7. Death, loss, and other massive tragedies**
The advice is always to start your story with a hook, to start with the action, to really pull your reader in. All too often, however, new writers will take that advice too far, and throw in a car accident where the best friend dies, or start with the character coming home from the funeral of their grandmother, completely distraught. The problem with putting such massive moments in your first chapter, however, is that we as the reader never knew the best friend or the grandmother. Heck, we barely know the main character. We know we probably should feel bad for the main character because they’re going through something horrific, but we don’t really feel it deep down. How could we? We haven’t had a chance to learn about and care for these characters yet. Having the main character feel these huge emotions that we don’t connect with makes us feel like outsiders. Save the big tragedies for later in the story once we can feel that loss right along with the character.


**Please note that for crime or mystery genres, starting a story out with a tragedy or murder is often expected. But in those cases, the death itself isn’t expected to carry any emotional weight to it. It is merely the stepping stone of the plot, the thing that sets the game afoot so to speak.

8. It was a dark and stormy night…
Back in the old days, authors often opened their stories with lengthy descriptions of the setting and the weather in order to set the stage. It worked back then. There was no video streaming onto everyone’s phone, flooding them with instant images at all hours of the day. Today’s readers aren’t as patient. They will get bored.

Even short descriptions of the location or weather can be troublesome though, if there is no character reaction to, or involvement with, the description. So by all means, set the stage for us; we need to know where we are, so describe the setting and the environment. But do it through the lens of the character, and use that description as a tool to convey the character’s emotions about his setting and environment. For more information on this, see my blog post: https://whitneyhemsath.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/show-dont-tell

9. The Clown-Car Approach
Sometimes new writers feel like they have to introduce every character, even the minor ones, right from the get-go. The result is a first chapter that feels like a clown car—the doors open and more and more characters keep spilling out, leaving the reader confused as they struggle to keep track of them all. Generally, characters we meet in the first chapter are ones we assume are going to be the most important. Help your reader keep track of who is a main character and who is a minor one by saving minor characters and sub plots for later in the book. Now, obviously, if it makes sense according to the story for your main character to interact with a minor character in the first chapter, go for it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t put any minor characters in the first chapter. Just don’t try and cram them all in. Not everything has to be planted in the first chapter.

10. Info-dumping
This is probably the most universal mistake of all new writers, or even seasoned writers cranking out a first draft, and is something that should be avoided throughout your whole manuscript, not just the first chapter.

An info dump is any piece of information tucked into the narration or dialogue that doesn’t make sense to be there. For example, a girl telling her best friend, “My boyfriend Johnny who plays drums in a band asked me to be his groupie.” If it really is her best friend, she would already know the boyfriend’s name is Johnny and that he plays the drums. How the line would have gone is, “Johnny asked me to be his groupie.” Adding in that extra information wasn’t natural for the characters, it was only for the reader’s benefit, and thus pulls the reader out of the story by making them aware of the author and how the author is trying to spoon-feed them this information.

The mark of a seasoned writer is one who can weave in the extra information somewhere that feels natural. That’s the key. It has to come across as natural for the characters and the situation.

Example: Two siblings close in age are walking along to school. The younger one starts thinking about how they aren’t close anymore like they used to be, and wondering if it will ever be the same.

The internal dialogue of the younger one will feel like an info dump if it is presented out of the blue like that. It won’t feel natural. But if they are walking to school and there’s a moment of silence, the younger one breaks it by trying to spark up a game of “I spy” and the older one ignores them and runs up ahead to walk with his friends instead, now it feels natural for the younger sibling to think about how they aren’t close like they used to be and wonder if it will ever be the same as before.

If there is background information about the world, the culture, the character, or anything else, give your characters a motivation in the current action of the scene to talk or think about that back story. If you’re having a hard time fitting that information into a scene, there’s a good chance the reader doesn’t need that information yet. Just like you don’t have to introduce all the characters at once, you don’t have to give the reader all the details of the world or back story of the characters in one go. Let that information build naturally and gradually.

So there you have it. Ten things that are often red flags for editors and agents, signaling you as a rookie writer. There are plenty more, but that’s a good start. If you have others you’d like to add to the list, feel free to drop them in the comments below. And if you have any of these in your first chapter and find yourself saying, “But, Whitney...” go back and read disclaimer #1. Happy Writing!


Whitney Hemsath has a B.A. in Screenwriting, three lively sons, and will do just about anything for a good back scratch. She loves brownies a la mode, song parodies, doing improv comedy, and Zumba. On the weekends, she can be found neglecting laundry and dishes in favor of binge watching Netflix with her husband. She has two short stories slated for publication in 2018, and you can learn more about her writing at www.whitneyhemsath.wordpress.com.

Connect with Whitney on social media
Twitter: @WhitneyHemsath
Instagram: @WhitneyHemsath

Thursday, February 8, 2018

LDS Beta Reader Author Spotlight: Linda Strader, Jenny Flake Rabe, and Yoxani Bastidas

Welcome to our author spotlight! This week we are spotlighting authors Linda Strader, Jenny Flake Rabe, and Yoxani Bastidas. We hope you enjoy this sneak peek into their lives.

Linda Strader

What is your experience in the publishing world?

I decided I wanted to publish traditionally, and am fortunate to have signed on with a small publisher for my first book.

What advice do you have for young writers?

Try not to get discouraged. Writing is not easy, but is something you can learn to master provided you are willing to make many revisions until you get the story right.

What genre do you write and why?

I prefer memoir... I’m terrible at making stuff up!

Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ms. Strader moved to Prescott, Arizona with her family in 1972. In 1976, she became one of the first women on a U.S. Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.

Her publishing history includes many web articles on her expertise of landscaping with desert plants. A local newspaper, the Green Valley News, printed an article about her firefighting adventures, the magazine, Wildfire Today, later published an excerpt. The article generated interest in her speaking on this topic to several clubs, including the American Association of University Women. Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage is her first book, scheduled for publication on May 1st, 2018 by Bedazzled Ink Publishing. She is currently working on a prequel.

In addition to writing, Ms. Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She currently lives in the same area where her Forest Service career began.

Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage

Linda Strader is one of the first women hired on a fire crew with the U.S. Forest Service. A naïve twenty-year-old in the mid-1970s, she discovers fighting wildfires is challenging—but in a man’s world, they became only one of the challenges she would face. Battling fire is exhilarating, yet exhausting; the discrimination real and sometimes in her face. Told with snappy dialog, Summers of Fire is an Arizona to Alaska adventure story that honestly recounts the seven years she ventures into the heart of fires that scorch the land, vibrant friendships that fire the soul, and deep love that ends in devastating heartbreak.



Jenny Flake Rabe

Why do you write?

I think it branches from the fact that I like to talk a lot and writing is a way to process all the voices in my head.

What is your experience in the publishing world?

I have self-published one novel and helped edit three anthologies with two stories highlighted in two of them. I eventually would like to cross over into a hybrid writer, with some of my projects accepted into traditional means of publishing. For now I have been satisfied with self-publishing.

What advice do you have for young writers?

Listening and learning from others’ writing is important, but so is finding your own voice. It’s hard to do that when you’re constantly studying the works of others. That’s why it’s so important to take time to write each day, to develop that writing voice. 

What regrets do you have in your writing career if any?

I regret that I didn’t start writing sooner. :) I wish I had started studying writing earlier on so I could be further along.

What goals and dreams do you still have in the writing field?

I would love to one day be an inspirational writer and speaker, sharing with others how writing can heal and how it helps in future careers.

Favorite author? Favorite Book?

My favorite author is Cynthia Voight. Her Homecoming series is one of my favorite go-to books. It’s about a girl who is abandoned in the mall with her brothers. She has to travel with her family to her Gram’s house, who she’s never met, in hopes of finding a new home for her family.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Thomaston, Georgia, a tiny town south of Atlanta. Life was slower paced, everyone knew each other and had deep southern accents, and I was one of the only Mormons in my school. I loved climbing trees and playing in the river. So I stuck out like a big, old sore thumb.

What are your other favorite pastimes?

I love dancing, especially ballroom dancing.

Jenny is an honest-to-goodness southern girl at heart. Other than her love for her husband, two boys, and her feline, writing, ballroom dancing, and public speaking are some of her favorite pastimes. She’s an avid across-the-state traveler and spends her spare time running a beta-reading group online and serving her fellow authors.


Playground Treasures

School’s out for the summer, but 11-year-old Kendall plans to camp out on the playground until he finds a permanent place to hide from his crazy-mean adopted parents. He meets Lorelei, a girl his age, and together they find out not all treasure can be bought.

When his adopted parents show up at the playground and Kendall disappears, Lorelei has to decide whether to break her promise and tell her mom that he’s homeless or risk losing her best friend forever.




Yoxani Bastidas

How do you maximize your writing time?
As a busy mom, I have learn that maximizing time is quite tricky at times. What works for me is a combination of different strategies, such as going to bed early and getting up in the morning at least a couple of hours before the kids. Also, I write whenever I have a chance, 15 minutes here, 10 there. I try my best to limit my writing time to Monday to Friday only. I spend time with my family on weekends when kids and hubby are home all day. That way I feel refreshed and ready to hit the keyboard early Monday morning.

How did your childhood have an influence on your writing?

My childhood and my culture is the basis of my writing, I write what I know.

What genre do you write and why?

I write clean historical romance with a Spanish flair. The genre is simply enchanting to me. I love to explore the relationship between a man and a woman, to see them grow, change and discover how powerful they can become when they work together.

Yoxani Bastidas grew up in the countryside of northern Mexico. She had a very happy childhood without many of the conveniences of modern life, like color TV or a refrigerator. She’s always been fascinated by antiques and the old ways of life they represent. Writing historical romance has given her the chance to explore her country’s past and tell its stories.

She lives with her husband, children, and an overly affectionate cat named Guayaba.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Serving in a Writerly Way

 by Rebecca Charlton

Mahayana Ghandi wrote that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service.” However, as writers, advice to write every day, read, and challenge ourselves creatively, may push out other pursuits. Especially if we are balancing the needs of a family and/or full time employment.

But service is vital to the soul and our mental health. The things we give away, with no hope of reward, grow our capacity for empathy, which is a vital skill for character development.

My breakthrough in balancing all the demands of creativity and life happened one Sunday as I was stressing over how to complete all the items on the next week’s list. Feeling overwhelmed, I decided to take a break. Being the diligent writer that I am, I pulled out a novel in my genre and started making annotations. My stress tripled. Then I received a text from a writer friend asking if I could look over a contest submission. No, I thought, but quickly relented.

As I opened the doc, my stress started to fall away. I’d stopped thinking of myself and what I needed to achieve. I called my friend, and we worked through some issues so that she could feel confident with her submission. The stress reduction I experienced as I served my friend helped me to find joy in my own writing.

That may seem elementary, but I’ve noticed that as writers become more successful and busy, the basic things they did in service slip away. I have challenged myself not to let that happen. Here are three simple ways you can make certain service doesn’t get crowded out of your life while you work on your writing skills.

1. Dedicate a writing session

Once a week, use the time you dedicate for writing to serve others. My family reserves three hours each Sunday afternoon for service. We make visits, create cards and gifts, and use my writing skills to help friends our family. Because this is a ritual, it doesn’t get crowded out by other demands. The time is reserved and marked on the calendar.

Sunday may not be the right day, but you can earmark one writing session per week. Maybe that’s only one hour, but it’s an hour spent rejuvenating your spirit and creativity by helping someone.

2. Use your talents

Service doesn’t have to be daunting, but it should cause you to step outside your normal. There are ways to help without getting out of your pajamas and while still developing your writing skills.

Beta read for other writers
Help a newbie writer with questions
Review books online (especially for indie authors)
Join an online support group and give mainly positive feedback and encouragement
Use your social media to promote an author or work for someone outside your social circle
Host a meet up for newcomers in your writing community


3. Reach out

The world beyond the writing community needs you too. Nonprofits, volunteer organizations, and political action groups often lack the resources to hire professional writers. You can serve at-risk groups by lending your time and talent to help them serve others.

Write opinion articles to support local nonprofit agencies or groups
Create manuals and other materials for use inside the organization
Create social media posts for the group
Write news articles that provide insight into issues
Create a support newsletter for those impacted by the organization
Join online support groups to share positive, well-written messages
Write a memoir or biography for someone you find inspirational or whose story needs to be told

My service involves writing for a refugee organization, beta reading, reviewing novels for unknown writers, and providing loving support to LGBTQ youth at risk of suicide. These experiences have helped me to grow add a person and a writer.

As you begin to offer your services, you’ll find it’s hard to contain the benefits. Opportunities often follow our kindness. Let service become a vital piece of your writing journey.


Becca McCulloch is a wife, mother, professor, and writer but rarely in that order (if in any order at all). At night, she transitions from mild-mannered educator into mild-mannered artist, writing about LDS (Mormon) issues in a modern and complex world. In 2016, she won the Storymakers' First Chapter Contest/General Fiction category. Becca resides in Utah with her husband, 2 children, Great Dane, two cats, and a pesky, yet friendly raccoon that won't leave the outdoor shed. Her short story, A Fae One, was published in the 2017 LDS Beta Readers anthology: Mind Games.

Twitter: @WriterMcCulloch
Instagram: @WriterMcCulloch

Thursday, January 25, 2018

LDS Beta Reader Author Spotlight: Christie Valentine Powell and Joel Matthew Rees

Welcome to our author spotlight! This week we are spotlighting authors Christie Valentine Powell and Joel Matthew Rees. We hope you enjoy this sneak peek into their lives.


Christie Valentine Powell

Why do you write?

Deep inside each of us is yearning to connect with others. Writers take a look at their own soul, paste it across a page, and send it into the world. We want people to see who we are. We want to show them how we see the world. We offer our souls so that others can see themselves in us and know that they are not alone. That is why we send a piece of our heart into the world, knowing that rejection and criticism will follow. That is why I write.

What is your experience in the publishing world?

I published my first book, The Spectra Unearthed, in 2015. It’s a YA fantasy and the first in what will be a six book series. Two more are also available. At first I went with a small independent publisher (booklocker), but I soon switched to Createspace.

What genre do you write and why?

I write in fantasy, both adult and YA. I enjoy the freedom to create my own world and explore how different things would affect the world. I still do research, but it’s more to get interesting ideas and details than to find definite answers.

Christie Valentine Powell wrote her first story in second grade, and she has been writing ever since. Her YA fantasy book The Spectra Unearthed came out in 2015. Her other hobbies include making toys, hobby farming, and eating at Asian buffets. She lives near the sunniest city in the world with her husband, four children, and farm critters.


The Spectra Unearthed

Keita thought being a princess nothing but trouble even before the power-hungry Stygians took over the Spectra kingdoms. Standing up to the Stygians means confronting Jasper Smelt, a former friend who insists he wants to keep her safe. His pitch-black dungeon and fiery threats suggest otherwise.

With help from her friends, Keita escapes, but there is no safe place for former princesses. Banding together despite their different cultures, the girls find themselves in the middle of a conflict between the Stygians and a small rebel group. Keita wants to help, but how can she face Jasper, someone with abilities she couldn’t begin to fight, someone constantly seeking her out, someone who fears everything… except her?



Joel Matthew Rees

Why do you write?

I started writing because I thought I had something to say. I keep writing because it helps me organize my thoughts, and sometimes I really do have something to say. My goal is to say something that helps other people.

What is your experience in the publishing world?

At this point, only in my bogs.

What advice do you have for young writers?

Write in your journal, and then go back and read it. Blog, but try to make it meaningful. Don’t be afraid to write too much, and don’t be afraid to write too little. Finally, grammar and style are important, but it’s more important to communicate.

What goals and dreams do you still have in the writing field?

Yeah. I want to write a bestseller. But it’s not good enough to just write a bestseller, it must be a bestseller that promotes moral behavior.

Favorite author? Favorite Book?

I think my favorite books are now the books I am beta reading in the LDS Beta Readers group.

Where did you grow up?

Odess, Texas. My second growing up was with missionaries in the area between Tokyo and Niigata. Then I spent another childhood at BYU and in South Salt Lake City. I think I’m in my fifth or sixth childhood now. Still trying to grow up.

How did your childhood have an influence on your writing?

I hated writing. I learned how in self-defense.

What are your other favorite pastimes?

Computer programming, studying Japanese. Oh, and dance, of course.

I was always that guy that never quite fit in, and no one could understand why. Studying was easy. Figuring out what teachers wanted was no problem. Figuring out what managers and customers want is still something I have a hard time with.

Took early entry calculus at Odessa College for fun. Worked at Texas Instruments fixing calculators before my mission. Got lost in computer programming at Odessa College after my mission. Tried to escape from information science at BYU, but I locked horns with physics and biology professors and ended up back in computer science.

Dropped out of school to trying to fix all the problems in the computer industry in the mid-1980s.

Met my wife when I was helping my aunt with Personal Ancestral File on MS Windows 3. My wife motivated me to finish my bachelors, and then we moved to Japan, figuring I could teach English for a couple of years. Worked in computers for ten years before switching to be a glorified teaching assistant for another ten or so years. Found out too late I was too old to be certified as a real teacher in Japan.

Now it’s write or die. Too old to do anything else.


Economics 101, a Novel

Economics starts with two good people on a desert island.