Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Loyalty's Web


There has been a lot written about Illuminations of the Heart, but many don't know that it was based on some minor characters from her first novel, Loyalty's Web. With the release of Illuminations of the Heart, Loyalty's Web is once again back in the news. Here is a recent review of Loyalty's Web from Marthasbookself.

This is a superbly written, action packed, “classic” medieval romance! I say “classic” as I see this in the tradition of the top historical romances I have read – rich in authentic details, descriptions, characters and plot!

I love Heléne’s character! She is smart, brave, humble, resourceful, and caring without being hysterically emotional. . . . The romance is sweet and balanced well with the action elements of the book. This book is a page turner that keeps you anxious to know what happens, but then I was sorry to come to the end!! I will definitely be looking forward to more wonderful books from Ms. DiPastena! Thanks for a great read!


from MarthaE


If you liked, or loved, Illuminations and haven't read Loyalty's Web, you should.

And here is a new Illuminations review from Bella Online


I am not a romance reader. I'd like to say "Never have been, never will be." But that wouldn't be true. When I was in junior high . . . I devoured them. Hundreds. All. (At the time.) But it's been decades since I've desired to read another one. . . .

I couldn't put [
Illuminations] book down.

I admit it. Me. A non-romance-novel-lover.

Call me silly for not liking romances, but there you have it. Yet Joyce's book I could not put down. Not because it was a romance, but because simply . . . well, it just was so well crafted in the art of storytelling
.

C.S. Bezas

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mormons Made Simple

If you haven't checked out MormonsMadeSimple.com, you should. This site provides simple two-or-three minute videos on different subjects and are are really great to share with people who don't know anything about the Church. Below is the most recent video on temples.

Haunts Haven


Haunts Haven
By Joan Sowards


BACK COVER COPY

Haunts Haven
grabs your attention from the first page and holds it into the wee hours. . . . Joan Sowards combines the supernatural with mystery, romance, and suspense—and does it amazingly well!

I started reading Haunts Haven for its charm, was soon hooked on the love story, and found myself perched on the edge of my seat as the suspense kept me delightfully up past midnight.

A love story you will never forget in a tale of suspense you will want to read again and again!

--Kerry Blair, best-selling LDS author

When Callie Wilford inherits a century-old inn in southern Arizona, locals tell her of a ghost who “guards” the inn. But Callie doesn’t believe in ghosts, and she plans to turn the inn into a bed and breakfast. Then things start to happen—strange, spooky things—and she begins to wonder if there is some truth to the ghost stories. If that weren’t bad enough, Callie discovers a mysterious grave in the cellar. As she confronts the inn’s tragic secrets, she also faces her lonely past and learns to embrace her heritage. But it takes a handsome cowboy and a charming rancher to prove that Callie’s long-guarded heart can love again.

FIRST CHAPTER

Callie wilford peered past the wrought-iron bars into the boarded-up window of the old hacienda-style hotel. She saw nothing but darkness.

Stepping back, she checked the time on her cell phone, then looked down the sun-beaten gravel driveway to the road that ran through the tiny southern Arizona town of Cassady Springs. Where was the town manager, a Mr.—Callie looked at the name on the wrinkled paper in her hand—Bob Collier? She had already waited fifteen minutes for him, walking once around the cat’s-claw-covered structure to pass the time.

Although it was over one hundred years old, the building looked mostly sound. In a few places the plaster had crumbled, exposing the adobe brick beneath, and to Callie it appeared as though a forgotten past was peeking out at the present.

She impatiently wiggled the large, ornate doorknob one more time, then looked at the paper again, took out her cell phone, and dialed the number below the name. Busy.

“Howdy, ma’am.” She heard a voice behind her and spun to look into the face of a tall, twenty-something man, impeccably dressed in a cowboy hat and boots, western shirt, and boot-cut pants. He was one of the most striking men she had ever seen.

Could this rugged young man be the town manager?

“Bob Collier?” Callie asked, catching her breath and putting the phone back into her purse. When the young man smiled, her heart accelerated.

“No, I’m not Collier, but he’s on his way. He got a call from a niece in distress. She’s having man trouble.” He let out a short laugh. “I was curious about the new owner of the hotel, so I dropped by.” His teeth were white and perfectly straight.

Callie tried not to stare. “Hi. I’m Callie Wilford.” It seemed only proper to offer to shake his hand.

“Just call me James,” he said, but didn’t take her hand. “I assume you are the grandniece of Carl Wilford.”

“Yes.” She lifted her ignored hand and pretended to return a strand of hair to its place behind her ear. Feeling her cheeks glow with embarrassment, she forced herself to look up at the wide
balcony of the inn. “His only living heir,” she added quietly, then hoped James hadn’t heard her.

“Are you planning to stay a while in Cassady Springs?”

“Yes.” Callie tightened the stretchy band that held her long, dark hair into a ponytail. Self-conscious, she suspected that she looked as much the old-maid schoolteacher as she felt, dressed in jeans and a plain, lime green t-shirt. I would’ve dressed better, she assured herself, if I’d known I'd meet Mr. Perfect. “I’ve taught school for five years, and I’m ready for a change,” she explained.

“I decided to come down here to live, you know, for a new start. My mother inherited this place years ago but was never well enough to come.”

“Good luck making it livable,” James said. “You’ll need more than luck now that scorpions and termites have moved into those adobe walls. Just the other day I saw a tarantula traipsing across
the patio.”

Callie smiled, though the thought made her cringe. “Do you come here often?” she asked.

“I’ve taken an interest in the place.” James turned as if to leave, then faced her again. “So, Callie, where have you been living?”

“Phoenix.”

He looked relieved. “Then the wildlife won’t surprise you.”

“Well, I . . .”

“I assume you’re Mormon,” James continued, “as was Mr. Wilford. My family is too.”

She raised an eyebrow. “But not you?”

He thought a moment, then smiled wryly. “I am, in a way. Baptized.” He looked toward the road. “I hear Collier coming, so I’ll be moving on.” James tipped his felt hat. “Nice meeting you.”

“Nice to meet you too. Come again—soon.”

Darn! Callie thought. I probably sounded too eager. As good looking as he is, women probably throw themselves at him.

When James stepped off the end of the porch and disappeared around the side of the building, Callie sighed. Guys only break hearts, so don’t even think about liking him, advised the little
voice in her head. “Well, it won’t hurt to notice how attractive he is,” she mumbled, glancing to the end of the porch where she had last seen him.

Just then an old, green pick-up truck rattled around the circular gravel drive and stopped before the front porch of the hotel. A middle-aged gentleman, dressed in a worn suit and narrow tie,
climbed from the truck. He slammed the door, and the truck shook as if it would fall apart.

“Hello,” he called as he puffed his way toward Callie. Long strands of faded red hair had been combed over the top of his head to hide his obvious balding, and they fluttered in the breeze.
“I’m sorry I’m so late. My niece Elizabeth called just as I was leaving and—”

Mr. Collier was a short man with a busy walk and a nononsense air about him. He pulled a large skeleton key from his suit pocket as he finished his apology and squinted at its dangling tag. “This is the one,” he declared, then inserted the key into the lock and looked at Callie. His nose twitched as he looked at her more closely. “I was expecting someone older. I assume you are
Miss Wilford.”

Callie nodded, and as Mr. Collier turned the key, her knees felt weak and her heart thumped. “I’ve looked forward to seeing this place all my life,” she croaked, surprised at her own emotion.

“I’ve always wanted to take a look inside too,” Mr. Collier said, pushing on the door. Callie stepped closer.

“This grand old hacienda has stood empty too long,” he commented as the door opened wide and finally stopped with a thud against the wall. They both stood peering into the darkness for a moment. Particles of loose dust filtered through the sunlight that illuminated the silt-covered Spanish-tile floor. “Yep, empty for well over fifty years—ever since 1955 when the mines around
these parts started closing down. Other businesses failed, and everybody moved out except the ranchers. That’s when your uncle boarded up this place and went to Utah to retire. He’s long
dead, I figure.”

“He died when I was ten,” Callie answered, still staring into the dark lobby. “He lived to be a hundred, though.”

Collier whistled. “Just goes to show you.” He glanced cautiously over his shoulder, then almost whispered, “Did he tell you stories about this place?”

“Stories? No. He had dementia by the time I met him, but the one time we visited him he found his memory long enough to remind my mother to take care of his hotel. She didn’t have the heart to tell him that she’d never come to look at it.”

“I see you brought a flashlight.” Mr. Collier motioned toward the one Callie had left by her purse near the door. “Sorry I didn’t get the electricity turned on. The power company said a worker
would be here Friday to do that.”

“But today is only Wednesday!” Callie protested, thinking that three days without electricity wouldn’t be pleasant. She picked up her purse, slid the strap over her shoulder, and turned on the flashlight.

Despite the fact that it was late summer, a cold gust of musty air rushed past them, causing Callie to shudder. She noticed Mr. Collier’s eyes widen as he took a step backward. “Anything
wrong?” she asked.

“No, I—”

Callie brushed it off and peered inside again, then took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway. On the other side of the room, a light glowed, but when Callie looked more closely,
she realized it wasn’t a light but rather the reflection of the open door in a dusty mirror behind a saloon-style bar. Above it hung a chandelier. “It’s beautiful!” she gasped as her eyes cut to the right where the darkness dispersed enough to reveal an ornate grand staircase.

“Wow!” Callie took a few steps into the room. “Even covered in cobwebs, this place is gorgeous.”

Mr. Collier followed her inside and looked around. “Yes, and to think that Wilford just boarded it up and left the key at the office.” He stepped back into the sunlight. “The whole thing
has been a mystery, but I figure he didn’t want to spend money renovating the place.”

“Why didn’t he just sell it?”

Mr. Collier coughed on the dust in the air.

“Well,” Callie said finally, “maybe for me it is a good thing he didn’t sell. I’ve dreamed of opening my own bed and breakfast. This looks like the perfect place for it.”

“This house has been neglected for so long that it might not be worth the money to restore it,” Mr. Collier said.

“No, no. I think it has been boarded up long enough. It is time to bring it to life again.”

“I admire your courage, Miss Wilford. Something needs to be done with the house and about . . .”

Callie waited for him to finish but he didn’t. “About what?”

“No, no, never mind. Didn’t mean a thing by that.” Collier chuckled nervously and handed Callie the keys. “It’s all yours. I’d walk through it with you, but my niece is pretty upset. The young man she thought she was going to marry just jilted her and she needs a shoulder to cry on. She’s waiting for me to call back and solve her problem.” He gave a short laugh. “That poor girl.
Since her parents are away on one of those Mormon missions, I’m supposed to look after her.”

The way he had said “one of those” led Callie to believe the man himself was not a member of the LDS Church, but she didn’t ask. Instead she said, “I’ll be fine,” and held up the oversized
flashlight as evidence.

He smiled. “You’re a brave young woman, Miss Wilford.” He took a few steps away. “I think I need to warn you. There is— well, I don’t believe it for a moment, but they say there is a ghost
in there. You know how people embellish perfectly explainable happenings.”

“Ghost?” Callie laughed. “I think I can handle a ghost.”

He hesitated. “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Good day, Miss Wilford.” With that, Mr. Collier turned and headed back toward his truck.

Callie left the door open and took another step inside the inn as the truck’s motor rumbled and the vehicle rattled toward the main road. “Ghosts. Humph!” she muttered. Then a chill ran through her and goose bumps rose on her arms. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” she said loudly to muster her courage.
Malicious haunters in old mansions? Nonsense! “There’s no such thing as a ghost,” she declared firmly.

If the ghost heard her, it didn’t answer.

The only footprints in the dust on the floor were hers and Mr. Collier’s. How strange, she thought, that no one had touched this place in fifty years, not even vandals. Perhaps she should be grateful that people thought it was haunted.

Despite herself, Callie felt her hand tremble as she directed the beam from the flashlight around the room. She tightened her grip on the torch. Everything was perfectly still except the sunlit specks of dust drifting through the air. Small, round tables and bentwood chairs had been pushed against the wall near the bar, with red tablecloths still covering the tables. Clearly, Callie
surmised, this had been a café or saloon. She shined the beam across the room. Between the bar and the staircase was a reception desk, and on the wall behind it were cubbyholes. In each hole
was a dust-covered lump. Keys, probably.

Callie moved the beam of light toward the staircase. The steps were carpeted in turquoise, and balusters of ornate brass held handrails that appeared to be rich, smooth wood under the thick
layer of dust.

At first glance, she thought she saw someone standing on the landing. Her heart took a leap and she directed the beam toward the top of the stairs, but she saw no one. You’re all alone, she
assured herself, breathing deeply. No ghosts here. As she took a step toward the stairway, another cold chill went through her, but she ignored it and crossed the floor to the banister. She ran her hand along it and got a handful of dust, so she shook most of the fine powder off and wiped the rest on her jeans.

Just then, Callie felt something rush past her, and the chandelier above her began swaying slightly. Cold fear ran through her, and she turned and headed toward the door with the feeling that something was at her heels. She burst through the door into the sunlight, and then turned to see nothing behind her but the silent old inn. She walked quickly to her car and stood beside it for a few minutes, waiting for her heart to stop pounding.

Chicken! Callie scolded herself. She took several deep breaths to calm her nerves, and then opened the trunk of her Prius. She glanced over her shoulder before pulling out a box of cleansers, a bag of rags, and another bag filled with an assortment of paper goods. “Courage,” she repeated under her breath while taking the boxes to the entrance of the inn and placing them just inside the door. The chandelier still swayed, but she saw no one.

Callie returned to the car and after rummaging in the trunk again, she took out a crowbar. Even though she didn’t believe in ghosts, she would keep the thing nearby at all times.

Friday was still two days away, and if she was going to get any work done on the inn before then, she’d better get started while the sun was shining. She would start by removing the boards from
the large window by the front door. First, she cautiously pulled away the clinging vines. Then she pushed the crowbar through the wrought iron, and was surprised at how easily she could pry
the old, splintered plywood from the window frame.

She dropped a board on the porch, then shrieked when a large scorpion scurried out from under it. Jumping away from the poisonous insect, she felt as if her skin were crawling. Ghosts
and bugs! Was James right? Just how many more surprises hid in the crevices of this old place?

At last Callie went back inside, this time keeping her eyes alert for scorpions—and nearly transparent figures. She took a cloth from the bag and looked up the stairs, then reminded herself that she didn’t believe in ghosts. And even if they did exist, she had never seen one, and she didn’t plan to!

With the crowbar and rag in one hand and the flashlight in the other, Callie shined the beam toward the top step and listened. Dead quiet. She put the rag on the handrail and took the first step, then the second. Each step squeaked under her foot, but she fixed her eye at the top of the curving staircase and kept climbing. At the top she shined the beam down the dark hallway. No ghosts there either.

One, two, three . . . . She counted seven doors, one of which stood open, letting in a steady beam of light at the end of the hall.

“Hello!”

Callie caught her breath, then whirled toward the voice and saw the silhouette of a man standing in the front doorway. She stared several seconds until she recognized him. Overcome with
relief, Callie sank onto the landing to catch her breath. James came to the stairs—looking even more handsome than he had earlier—and pushed his hat farther back, revealing a full head of dark hair.

He smiled as if laughing at her. “Having fun exploring?”

She felt her cheeks burn. “I guess I let my imagination get the best of me. Mr. Collier said there were stories of ghosts haunting this place.”

He put one foot on the first stair and looked up at her. “Did he tell you any of those stories?”
“No, but he did say that he doesn’t believe them either. I guess any building that stands empty for decades is apt to gather a few ghost stories in its dust.”

“They’re all true,” James said. “Every one of them.” Despite his words, his deep laugh calmed Callie’s nerves.

“You’re probably the one who’s spreading the stories,” she chided.

James nodded toward the crowbar in her hand. “Are you planning to clobber a ghost with that?”
She lifted it. “It’s better than nothing.”

“A crowbar is no defense against a spirit.”

Callie held tight to it anyway.

He stepped on the next stair. “Do you want me to walk through the upstairs with you? There is safety in numbers.”

She looked at him doubtfully. “Are you trustworthy? How do I know you’re not a serial killer or something?”

James chuckled. “Do I look like a killer? I’m just a nosy neighbor.” At her doubtful look he added, “I promise to stay several feet away from you if it will make you feel better.”

Callie stood and brushed the dirt from her jeans. “All right.”

He was technically a stranger, yet for some reason, she felt she could trust him, but she would keep that information to herself.

“You go first,” James said. “I’m right behind you.”

Aiming the flashlight down the hallway, Callie went to the first door and turned the knob, hoping James didn’t notice that her hand trembled. The door creaked as it swung open, and enough
light filtered through the boarded-up French doors on the other side to reveal an empty room with peeling yellow wallpaper.

“This room is big enough for my entire collection of furniture.”

She thought of adding that her longtime friend, Adam, would come in a few days, bringing her furniture and kitchen supplies in a rental truck, but she didn’t. After all, she didn’t want James
to think she was taken.

She walked across the wood floor to the French doors, then tucked the flashlight under her arm so she could turn the knob. It was locked.

“Funny. French doors in a Spanish hacienda,” James commented from the doorway. Even in the dim light, his eyes twinkled.

Callie looked away, feeling her heart flutter, and wondered if what she felt with this stranger was love at first sight. She had never been in love and had never allowed even a crush to flourish. Her warning voice said, Don’t you start thinking you can trust him!

She wiped the dust from her hand onto the rag. “It will take some work to get rid of all this honest-to-goodness American dust.” Then she stepped past James into the hallway, went to the
next door, and pushed it open. Like the first room, this room had boarded-up French doors that led to a balcony, and a bare bed stood in the center of the room.

“Beautiful!” Callie walked over to touch the brass headboard. “This is probably worth a pretty penny.” Her fingers were now covered with dust, so she wiped them on her jeans. “I’ll probably
be covered with this stuff by the end of the day.”

“From dust to dust,” James quipped.

She turned to look at him. “What do you mean by that?” He only shrugged, so she let it go and left the room. “Why do you think treasure hunters haven’t robbed this place?” she asked as
James followed her into the hallway.

“The ghost has done his job well,” James answered matterof-factly.

“Uh-huh. If there were such a thing,” Callie said with a half smile. “But there isn’t, so there’s got to be a logical explanation.”

She opened the door to the last bedroom that faced the front of the house. In the dim light, she saw a large wardrobe standing against the far wall. She aimed the beam of light toward the piece.

“How pretty!”

“It’s been waiting for you,” James said lightly.

Callie leaned the crowbar against the wall and opened the mahogany chest’s double doors. “To think it’s been here all these years.” She ran her hand over the inlay work and brass knobs. She turned to find James right behind her. Her stomach leapt into her chest and she slowly turned her gaze toward the crowbar.

Seemingly unaware of her flustered state, James pointed out, “You still have three more rooms to explore.”

“Oh, are you in a hurry?” Callie laughed nervously, trying to keep her composure as she retrieved the crowbar. “Because if you are, I could finish looking around alone. I’ll be fine.” She gripped the bar in front of her with both hands.

“I’ve got a few more minutes,” he said with a big smile.

Her knees went weak. How could she be so infatuated with a man she’d just met—a stranger that she should be afraid of? Once he left, she decided, she’d be able to think this through logically. But that didn’t necessarily mean she wanted him to go.

James led the way out of the room. Callie followed with the crowbar. The door across the hallway stood partially open, and James stood back as she pushed it open wider. Here the window
shade had fallen and lay in a dusty heap on the floor next to a bare bed frame identical to the first. The wallpaper was streaked with water stains.

James walked over to examine the damaged ceiling. “Looks like you’ve got a leak in the roof.”

“Yeah,” Callie sighed, “and just the thought of pulling down all this peeling wallpaper wears me out.” She went to the window and looked out. “There’s a nice view of the cliffs from here.”

Keeping his distance, James looked out the window. “There is, and you have a great view of my family’s homestead.”

“Really?” She looked again and noticed the green fields. “How long has your family lived in this area?”

“About a hundred and twenty years.”

Callie turned from the window as he led the way out of the room.

“We’re still ranching and still not getting rich,” he said. “The soil is poor and full of rocks, and the wind exhausts even the cattle.”

She stopped, crossed her arms, and scrutinized his fine cowboy clothes. “You don’t look poor to me.”

James chuckled and stepped aside to allow her to open the next door. “And now behind door number 5,” he said in a deep, rich voice.

“Hey, you’re good. Maybe you could moonlight as an announcer.” She wanted to add, You’re good looking enough to be in movies, too, but decided against it.

In this room, a chest of drawers stood in the corner. Callie put down the crowbar and tried to open the window shade, but when she pulled on it gently, it fell. She gasped, jumped aside,
and turned her back on the billowing dust as the shade crashed to the floor.

“Old as the days.” James stepped out of the dust’s path. “What do you plan to do with this old place anyway?”

Callie coughed and waved away the flying particles. “I’m going to live here.” It had come across with forced confidence, and before she had turned her attention to the dresser, she caught
the amusement that danced in James’s eyes.

As she opened the top drawer, Callie held her breath, waiting for James to oppose the idea, but he said only, “This piece has seen better days. It’s ready for the fireplace.”

The drawer collapsed in her hand and fell to the floor. Holding only the front panel, she asked,
“Oh? How can you tell?” She dropped the piece to the floor with the rest and brushed her palms
together.

“Making this place livable will take a lot of work. Are you up to it?”

“I think so,” Callie said. For a brief moment, his dark blue eyes seemed to look right through her. She felt uncomfortable under his gaze and feigned another cough. “Let’s get away from
this dust.”

He held out his hand toward the door. “Lead the way.”

“You are such a gentleman. It’s always ladies first.”

“My mama taught me well.”

She went to the next door, turned the knob, and pushed the door open. The room was furnished with a bed and mattress, a dresser, and a smaller wardrobe. The window was dressed with
white lace curtains and a drawn shade.

“Another closet. And to think I own such beautiful antiques!” She went to the window. “Do I dare open the shade?”

James cocked his head to one side. “Try it.”

Callie carefully tugged on the shade, which recoiled easily but then fell, brackets and all, to the floor. A puff of dust rose from the heap, and Callie turned away and coughed, then stepped to
the door to get a breath. “I’ll have to buy shades next time I’m in
Phoenix.”

“Or order them on the Internet. We get UPS delivery here.”

Callie’s jaw dropped. “Really? Way out here?”

“We may be far from civilization, but it figured out a way to find us anyway.” He chuckled. “You can use the Internet at the courthouse until you get your own service.”

“Great. With these gas prices I should order everything I need to fix up this place.”

James raised an eyebrow. “I take it you struck it rich teaching school.”

“No. Well, yes. My Uncle Carl had no children and left everything to my mother. But she died, so naturally I inherited it.”

“Sorry you lost your mother.”

“Thank you,” Callie said, suddenly melancholy. “She’s been gone two years. I—I hardly knew my dad.”

“He died too?” James’s voice had taken on a serious tone.

Her throat tightened, but she finally said, “No. He abandoned us.” As Callie walked out of the room ahead of James, she wondered why this stranger could bring out feelings she had stuffed away long ago. He solemnly followed her into the hall, and the little voice in Callie’s head practically shouted, Don’t tell him too much. You’re setting yourself up to get hurt. So, she laughed and said lightly, “I guess that now makes me a bona fide orphan.”

“Yes. I think Uncle Carl felt responsible for the way his brother’s only son, my father, had treated her. Uncle Carl also left a sizable bank account. What’s left of it will pay to fix up this house.”

“How lucky. But is this rundown place worth it?”

“Why not? It looks sturdy enough.”

They had come full circle and stood again at the top of the stairs. Hanging crooked on the last door was a hand-painted sign that read BATH. Callie opened the door and it squeaked. “I
suspect oiling hinges will be one of the easier jobs.”

The bath had a toilet, a sink, and a fancy, footed tub. “Guests will have to share this bathroom, I guess” Callie said, shining her beam of light around the room.

“Isn’t that the way it works with older bed-and-breakfast establishments?” James asked.
“And this one is older.” Without thinking, she stepped up to the sink and turned on the faucet. No water. “I can imagine what the pipes are like after all these years.”

James smiled. “Hope for the best.”

After leading him back into the hall, Callie paused at the top of the stairs. “Thank you for going with me through the rooms. I felt much better knowing that I didn’t have to meet the ghosts all by myself. I already met one of those scorpions you told me about.”

Callie started down the stairs and James followed. “Believe me, you’ll find them everywhere—hiding under the carpet, in the crevices, around corners.”

“Just like the ghosts?”

He picked up his hat. “That’s a given.” James led her out the front door, then turned to face her. “If ever there was a ghost, it’s the one who lives here. Too many people have seen him to
dispute it.”

“Him?” Callie stopped in her tracks. “It’s only one?”

“That’s what the stories claim. Do you need me to stick around and defend you from him?”

Though she liked the idea, a fuzzy memory flashed in her mind. It was the last time she saw her father waving from an open door. She had loved him dearly, as every toddler loves her father. She had lifted her tiny hand to wave, but he hadn’t seen and had promptly closed the door behind him. It was years before she gave up hope that the door would open and her father would
be standing there.

Pushing aside the memory, Callie kept her composure and lifted her chin. “No, I’ll be fine. I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“Ghosts are real to those who fear them,” James said, placing his hat on his head.

“I have plenty to do to keep my mind off ghosts. I’ve got to call the phone company for service and get the water running and . . .”

“I’ll be by tomorrow to see how you’re doing.” James looked past the front yard to the few buildings that made up the town.

“You’ll be fine here, but since you don’t have running water yet, or electricity, you might find that staying in the motel will be more comfortable than this dust box.”

Callie looked at the buildings across the street. There weren’t many, but the sight of a long building with uniform windows and a sign that read MOTEL was a big relief.

“I left my horse grazing down by the gully.” James grinned, then tipped his hat. “By the way, you left your crowbar upstairs.”

Callie laughed. “You’re right.”

“Good day, ma’am. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He never looked back as he stepped off the porch and headed around the side of the house.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Girl in a Whirl by "Dr.Sue"


The Girl in a Whirl by "Dr. Sue," & Other Things that Women Do
By Victoria Gunther with foreword by Merrilee Boyack


BACK COVER COPY:

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with life? Is your to-do list long enough to reach to the moon and back? Do you think you REALLY have to be the perfect daughter-friend-sister-wife-mother in this life? If so, this book is just the break you need. It’s full of humorous insights about being an LDS woman, family stuff, and this & that about life. And it’s not just funny—it’s encouraging too, so you won’t feel like sitting in front of the TV and watching old re-runs of Gilligan’s Island until your eyes glaze over . . .

READER COMMENTS:
Reading The Girl in Whirl is like making your way through a gift box of dark chocolates. You’re having so much fun enjoying it that you forget that it’s also good for you. Delightful witty poems,
humorous artwork, and helpful advice make this a real treat for any LDS woman.
—Jack Weyland

LDS women everywhere need The Girl in a Whirl to help us remember that we do not have to be perfect right now. The main thing we DO need is the gospel of Jesus Christ to help keep us on track. Victoria has given us a humorous look at life and taught us how to laugh at the stress that inevitably keeps knocking at our door.
—Sheila Windley Staley

There are so many pearls of wisdom and simple yet important truths taught here with love and great humor. . . . Along with the joy of humor, this book will also touch your heart as it moves you from tears of laughter to tears of understanding. I give The Girl in a Whirl two thumbs up! Well, my hubby loved it too, so that’s FOUR thumbs up!! --Merrilee Boyack (from foreword)

I LOVED this amazing book! Victoria sounds like someone who I would love to have as my next door neighbor and friend. So down to earth, so funny, so on target with gospel principals, and such a testimony! This book made me weep, it made me laugh and it set me to pondering my life. Most of all, it made me want to do a better job at being a daughter of our Heavenly Father. --Judi

You've never read a book like this. It will make you laugh out loud, give you idea after idea to jot down, and will elevate your spirit and send you on your way singing. You'll want to share it with everyone you know, and keep it on your nightstand for a daily jolt of joy. I wish I lived next door to Victoria Gunther!
--Joni Hilton


This is a book that every woman can relate to, with a message that everyone needs to hear. Victoria's writings are humorous, sensitive, and insightful, intermingled with deep, spiritual conviction. The Savior’s love is deeply felt within the pages of this book.
--Heather Denhalter


A delightful book that leaves you wanting more. The writer uses her personal experiences and wit to take you on your own trip down memory lane. We each have had experiences with day to day tasks that leave us at times wondering if it is all worth it. Victoria Gunther teaches that it is worth it and why. There were tears and laughter as I read this book but as I came to the end I was left with the feeling that I can do it! The journey through this book is time invested in becoming a better you.
--Lori Gilbertson


Vickie has an uncanny ability to combine her delightful sense of humor with wisdom and truth. Readers will likely see themselves throughout this book. But Vickie not only takes an amusing look at our foibles, she helps us to “higher ground” by providing guidance from the scriptures and modern-day prophets.
--Carolyn J. Rasmus


Like an LDS Erma Bombeck in rhyme, Vickie cuts straight to the truth in a humorous and loving way. There are great lessons contained in her poetry! Also, "Kid Gloves" makes me laugh so hard I *snort* every time I read it.
--Whitney Larson


I really loved this book. I love the pictures. They go so well with the stories and poems, which are great too. I can see myself in them and they make me laugh. . . . I will suggest this book to all the women in my Stake. It is a great book. I really could feel the Spirit as I read it. I didn't want to put this book down once I started reading it. Thanks Victoria for a wonderful, terrific, great and awesome book. I really loved it.
--Sandra Stone


EXCERPT:
The Girl in a Whirl
by “Dr. Sue”

“Look at me, look at me, look at me now!
You could do what I do if you only knew how.

I study the scriptures one hour each day.
I bake and I garden. I scrub and I pray.

I always keep all the commandments completely.

I speak to my little ones gently and sweetly.
I help in their classrooms! I sew all they wear!
I drive them to practice! I cut all their hair!


I memorize talks by the General Authorities.

I focus on things to be done by priorities.
I keep our home organized, clean, and attractive.

I drop by with goodies and see the less active.

I play the piano! I bless with my talents!
My toilets all sparkle! My checkbooks all balance!

Each week every child gets a one-on-one date.

I attend all my meetings (on time! Never late!)

I’m taking a class on the teachings of Paul,
But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all . . .


I track my bad habits ’til each is abolished.
I floss every day! And my toenails are polished!
Our family home evenings are always delightful.

The lessons I give are both fun and insightful.

I do genealogy faithfully, too.

It’s easy to do all the things that I do!

I rise each day early, refreshed, and awake.

I’ve learned all the names of the youth in my stake!

I read to my children! I help all my neighbors!

I bless the community, too, with my labors.
I write in my journal! I sing in the choir!
Each day, I write “thank you’s” to those I admire.


I exercise and I cook menus gourmet.

My visiting teaching is done the first day!

(I also go do it for someone who missed hers.
I love filling in for my cherished ward sisters.)

I chart resolutions and check off each goal.
I seek each “lost lamb” on my Primary roll.

I bottle our produce each summer and fall.
But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all . . .


I went back to school to update my degree.

My studying earned me a new Ph.D.

I split with the sisters who cover our ward

To spread the glad truth that the gospel’s restored.


I go to the temple at least once a week.

I make my girls’ prom dresses—modest, yet chic.
My sons were all Eagles when they were fourteen!
My kids get straight A’s! And their bedrooms are clean!


I have my own business to help earn some money.

I always look beautifully groomed for my honey.

I grind my own wheat and I bake all our bread.

I plan our nutritious meals six months ahead.


I make sure I rotate our two-year’s supply.
My shopping for Christmas is done by July!
(It’s out of the way early on for a reason.

I then can prepare for the real Christmas season.)

These things are not hard. It is good if you do them.

You can if you try! Set goals and pursue them!
It’s easy to do all the things that I do!

If you plan and work smart, you can do them all too!


It’s easy!” she said.
And then . . .

. . . she dropped dead.


Yep. Sadly, she kicked the bucket. Well, she probably kicked the mop bucket. I guess we can’t say she bit the dust, because you know that wherever she’s been, there wouldn’t be one single speck
of dust left for her to bite, right? But whether she kicked or bit or what, she’s gone. And you know why? Because it’s impossible for anyone to do all those things at one time, and that includes the Girl in a Whirl!

We just think it probably should be possible. And even though we aren’t quite able to do all that yet, deep down, we seem to believe that somewhere out there, other women somehow are. Well, I have an important news flash for you: Any woman like the Girl in a Whirl ONLY exists on the unreality TV shows of the Pamela Perfect Utopia Channel. I know you’ve probably heard highly reliable rumors of a not-too-distant ward where she actually lives and breathes, working organizational miracles on a daily basis. But the woman is just a myth, despite your firsthand
knowledge that your visiting teacher’s sister-in-law’s manicurist knows her well, and can vouch for her ongoing perfectitude.

Okay, hopefully, that takes care of her, then. But here’s the real question. Oh, sisters, why do we feel like we need to be like that, anyway? Why do we feel guilty, or second-rate, or like we’re just
not good enough despite what we do, because of everything we don’t manage to do? It’s like we have this demented little alarm system in the back of our brains screaming, “In order to be good enough, I need to do and be everything that anyone might possibly expect of me, plus work on every single one of life’s vitally important issues and purposes—all TODAY!”

Well, I have another news flash for you, and it’s a real one this time. In fact, it’s the good news—the best news in all of eternity. Because of our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness (isn’t it so sweet how Alma calls it that?), and what our Savior did for us, He can make sure we are definitely good enough. Perfect, in fact. Sounds hard to believe, doesn’t it? But that IS what it says right here in Moroni 10:32:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

When we break this down, it’s an invitation for us to come to Christ and let His grace make us PERFECT in Him, which, by the way, is way different than the kind of “perfect” some of us
think of when we hear the word. This one is something we can actually do! When we really look at the things Moroni talks about there, we realize that they’re so completely doable—nothing like
all the crazy stuff that goes on in our heads about what all we think we supposedly have to be and do.

Okay, so here’s what Moroni counsels us to do:
1. Come to Christ: Not hard. Just learning about what He’s truly like is enough to make you want to do that anyway.

2. Deny yourself of all ungodliness: Well, that might take a little bit of trying, depending on
the circumstances. But who wants all that crud, anyway? Really, once you start to pull away from
things that are ungodly, unholy, unclean, and all, it feels soooooo much better. It’s sort of like you were having what you thought was a nice, little swim, but when someone helps you out and you look back, you see that you were actually swimming in the sewer. Eeew! Once you’ve climbed out and are far enough away to really see it, you recognize that it’s nothing worth going back to.

3. Love God: This one is easy. Heavenly Father is kind, good, merciful, just, powerful, loves you
more than anything, and is Someone you can trust completely, since He will make all things
work together for your good. (And no, that doesn’t mean nothing hard or “bad” ever happens. It just means He will use it to bless your life in one way or another.)

4. Number 4? What’s number 4? Is there SUPPOSED to be a number 4? Oh. I guess not.
Well, that’s it then. Just three little items on the list and that’s all!

Now, here’s the point I’d like to make about all this. It’s that you can stop worrying or being stressed or depressed or demotivated or fearful or whatever it is you get, over how much you can’t do. You can come to Christ. He is so loving and kind. He just wants you to start right where you are and come, as it says so simply in this part of one of my favorite scriptures: “Whosoever will come, may come” (Alma 42:27; emphasis added). You don’t need to worry about whether or not He’ll accept you. He will. The only question is if you will go to Him.

Once you do, He’ll even help you work on the next part, which is denying yourself of all ungodliness. That’s also something you can do. And you’ll be so glad once you do! That will open up all kinds of possibilities to you that you don’t have now, mainly through the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. And if that doesn’t sound very exciting, that’s okay, because just wait until you try out how it feels. Incredible. The best thing ever. Seriously. And one day pretty soon here, you’re going to think back on this and say, “Wow! That was really the truth! I had no idea this was so amazing.” So yes, you can deny yourself all ungodliness and you will want to.

If you need help understanding what any ungodliness in your life might be, you could check out some simple standards in For the Strength of Youth. Although it is written for the youth, in our stake, our leaders spent a year discussing it with the stake. They called it For the Strength of YOU, meaning all of us, since it contains basic standards for those who desire to be pure in heart and in action. If you need more help, or maybe even better help, ask your Heavenly Father. If you really want to know what you should do about your life right now and where you should start, He’s the best one to ask. He not only knows you perfectly, but He’s so wonderful to
work with. He won’t overwhelm you with 387 things you need to do right now. Typically, if you ask Him that question, you will most likely feel a gentle “pressing” within your heart or have a
thought that will make you consider something you should stop doing, that you already knew anyway, at which point, you will say, “So, how do I know this isn’t just me?” Well, it probably isn’t just you, because when you ask Heavenly Father sincerely, He is glad that you want to repent, and He is happy to answer you. However, sometimes when you already clearly know something, that is the answer, and you really do need to start working on that. You know
it and He knows it. So start there and stick with it. It will be so worth it! You can do this!

Lastly, loving God is also something we can do. One way we show Him that is by doing our best to live His commandments (see John 14:15). And by the way, when we say we are “keeping
His commandments,” that doesn’t mean we are perfectly and completely doing every single thing He has ever asked us to do. I believe, though, that it does mean we won’t weigh out whether or not we want to do something the Lord has asked of us, and deliberately decide to break that particular commandment just because we really want to.

Other ways we can show our love for God include being kind, loving, and helpful to others, and learning about Him through the things He’s given us to do that, like the scriptures and the
testimonies and counsel of living prophets. We also show Him by telling Him we love Him when we pray, and by spending time with Him as we pray. The thing is, when we do any of these things, He blesses us and usually makes us feel good to let us know we’re doing good. And it helps us want to do good even more.

So does all this sound hard? It really isn’t. Truthfully, though, sometimes some things about our lives will be hard, because that’s just part of the process. Something our Father in Heaven wants
us to learn is that regardless of how things look, we can still trust Him—trust that He knows what He’s doing with our lives, and that He knows how we need to grow to become who we’re meant to be. We need to come to the point where we have so much faith in Him, that we will always choose Him, so matter what. So if something really hard happens in our lives, will we still love God and choose Him, or not? Will we still love Him even if—well, even if anything? What He wants is for us to give Him our hearts. He’ll still want them even if they’re broken, you know. Actually, especially if they’re broken. But the good thing is, He’ll fix them for us, too—and not because we’ll be mad at Him if He doesn’t do it quick enough, or if it looks like He might not do it at all, but because we’ll love Him forever, whether He does it or not, and come what may. Oh, but don’t worry. He will eventually heal your heart. That’s one of His specialties!

But those three little steps back there to becoming perfect in Christ? They really aren’t that hard, especially not with everything we receive in exchange. The most marvelous thing of all is that
after you’ve done that for a while, heaven itself is going to tell you that you’re doing a great job, and that you are loved. And then you’re probably going to look around at everything you didn’t get done, or could have done, or at least maybe should have done and say, “Is this being addressed to me? How could it be? I’m trying, but in my opinion, I just barely get by. I’m nowhere near good enough!”

Yet, somehow, through the beautiful plan of happiness, if you’ve come to the Savior and repented and given Him your heart, if you love your Heavenly Father and love and bless His children, and if you are pure in heart because you have denied yourself all ungodliness, you really and truly are good enough for “his grace [to be] sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in
Christ” (Moroni 10:32).

Suddenly, you will actually feel good enough (in a humble sort of way, of course), because in a bigger way than anything that’s ever happened to you before, you will know and feel how loved
you are. That will make you want to treat everyone else the way this incredible love inside you makes you feel. That’s what charity is. It’s the love Heavenly Father gives to all those who are true followers of His Son (see Moroni 7:48). And once you feel that tremendous, incredible love from Him, then you have it inside you to give to others. Plus, you will know how, and you will want to.

Then you just stick with it. As you do, you’ll find that living the gospel and loving people is much easier than it used to be. You’ll have changed so much that you’ll be more like Christ, because
that’s just what being His faithful follower does to a person. Plus, you’ll have the companionship of the Holy Ghost—that incredible feeling of warmth and comfort—on an ongoing basis. That will be your reward for sticking with it. Of course, there will always be things to deal with of one kind or another. That’s life. But knowing how loved you are, and having the Holy Ghost with you makes life very sweet. It is worth it! And it is something we actually CAN do (unlike all that overwhelming, depressing, unrealistic stuff we sometimes think we have to do). So, let’s all do this! Let’s all come unto Christ, and have all this good stuff happen to us. What a great plan!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gosepl Insights for Everyday Living


Gospel Insights for Everyday Living
by Sherrie Mills Johnson


Back cover copy:

Many people view the gospel as a burden or something extra they have to do, but the gospel—the “good news”—is actually meant to make life easier. In this book, Sherrie Mills Johnson, Ph.D., explains gospel topics in simple yet thought-provoking ways. Best of all, each “chapter” is brief enough to read in just a few minutes.
This book is a fascinating read that encourages Latter-day Saints to love and live the gospel.

Topics include:

• Children of God
• Be Still and Know
• That Which Edifies
• Good Courage
• Redeemed!
• Good News
• The Law of Justice
• The Gift of the Sabbath
• Truth and Revelation
• Love Thy Neighbor
• Nurtured by Good
• The Power of Never
• God’s Righteousness
• Tending the Vineyard
• Life’s GPS
• The Pure Love of Christ
• Enmity
• Gird Up Your Loins
• Gratitude
• Rejoice!

Excerpt:

It’s All in the Perspective
For now we see through a glass, darkly;
but then face to face: now I know in part; but
then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Look at everything through the lens of eternity. If you will do this, life will take on a different perspective. James E. Faust, “Instruments in the Hands of God,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 114

There are some moments in life that change you forever. One of those happened to me many years ago during a Relief Society lesson. I don’t remember what the lesson was about, but somehow it had turned into a discussion of husbands’ faults. One after another of the sisters began to complain about her husband’s lack of responsiveness or his failure to help out
around the house, etc. You’ve all been in a situation like that and know how contagious negative feelings are.

At the time, my husband was bishop and our ward was very large. He was gone almost every night, leaving me to care for our five children under the age of eight. In short, I felt overwhelmed
and alone, so as I listened to the other women complain, my husband’s faults and failings kept popping into my head. With every new comment from the group, another fault of his would
come to mind and I’d think, “Yea, my husband does that too!” or “That isn’t half as bad as what Carl does (or doesn’t) do!”

The Relief Society instructor failed to get the class back on track, and as the comments got more negative so did the feelings within me. I didn’t vocalize them, but I certainly was thinking them, and those thoughts were generating all kinds of hot, negative feelings within me.

But then something happened that changed me. A woman in the back of the room began to rave about how her husband made a mess in the entryway every time he came home from work. He worked construction and he’d take off his dirty boots as soon as he entered the house, drop them near the door, walk into the family room, plop down to watch the evening news, and pull off his stinky socks, dropping them beside the couch for her to pick up later. “It’s disgusting,” she said, and several women nodded in agreement.

But at that point the elderly woman sitting in front of me, who had been a widow for 23 years, turned to her gray-haired friend sitting next to her, a widow of 19 years, and whispered, “I
wish I had socks on my floor.”

I’m sure that besides the friend, I am the only person in the room that heard those words—words that pierced my heart and instantly erased all my negative thoughts and feelings. In that moment, my perspective shifted from that of victim of my husband’s thoughtlessness to that of grateful wife. I had someone to pick up after—what a blessing!

That day the words “I wish I had socks on my floor” sunk deep into my soul, never to be forgotten. They come to mind often, especially when I am tempted to re-catalog my husband’s
faults. And I learned that perspective is everything. In the realm of spiritual things, these kinds of shifts in thinking are what life is all about. As we learn and grow in gospel precepts, the Spirit whispers the exact thing we need to hear at the exact moment we need to hear it. Line upon line,
precept upon precept, we then change our attitudes and become new creatures. The negative, carnal, and sensual is burned from us, and as we become pure and holy, we see life differently. Our perspective of who we are, who others are, what situations mean in our life—and a myriad of other things—changes.

An ant perceives a hill to be a very different thing than what a bird perceives it to be. As children of God, however, our view is not determined by altitude but by attitude. We realize that perspective changes depending upon the mental position we see things from, and we more fully appreciate the fact that a loving Heavenly Father not only has a better perspective, but a perfect perspective. Elder Russell M. Nelson declared, “I know that an all-wise Heavenly Father’s perspective is much broader than is ours. While we know of our mortal problems and pain, He knows of our immortal progress and potential. If we pray to know His will and submit
ourselves to it with patience and courage, heavenly healing can take place in His own way and time” (Russell M. Nelson, “Jesus Christ—the Master Healer,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 85).

Analyzing and being open minded about our own perspective is life changing, and fully recognizing that God’s perspective is perfect is healing. Both help us to let go of worries and concerns and to trust more fully in Him.

Reader Comments:
Sherrie Johnson shares her insights on the Good News of the Gospel with a fresh, hope-filled perspective. You will be inspired and uplifted as you read the scripture passages, quotes from the General Authorities, and examples from her own life that combine beautifully to teach in a simple, yet profound way. This book is very readable--you can easily read a chapter in a few minutes. But you'll be tempted to read the whole book in one sitting! The principles that she shares will bless and change your life for the better. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand and apply the Gospel in their every day life. -Wendi Jagerson

New titles

We've been so busy getting new books to press, that I haven't updated the blog. And as we have published some wonderful new titles, it's a shame that I haven't done so. But don't worry-over the next couple of days that will be rectified.

Friday, September 18, 2009

After six great weeks, we've reached the end of the blog tour for Illuminations of the Heart.
If you haven't entered the contest yet for your chance to wing GREAT prizes, you still have time. Any comments left on this post, or any of the posts before until Sept. 20 at midnight MST will be put into the drawing. So start commenting away!

Mormon Hermit Mom Book Habit

Set in the Middle Ages, there are roving bandits, palace intriques, court politics and rare chivalry aplenty. The plot twists had me wondering how Siriol was going to manage avoiding marrying the churlish knaves calling themselves knights or how she could persuade the brooding Triston to let go of his past and to see her for herself and not as the ghost of his late wife. It was hard to put the book down.

Amesbury Reads

I was so excited to get my hands on Joyce DiPastena's second novel, Illuminations of the Heart. I throughly enjoyed reading her first, Loyalty's Web, and had high expectations that not only did she match, but exceeded. The first line "Donna Siri, cover your head" drew me in and I found myself just devouring the pages. What originally started out as an hour before bedtime read turned into a "I have to finish this before I can sleep read." Somewhere in the early morning I did, only to begin it the next day. I will only read books I love a second time. In fact I would put this book in the top ten of books I've read this year.

Heather Justesen

I love a good historical romance. I love them even better when I don't have to worry about steamy bedroom scenes. Joyce Di Pastena's second historical Illuminations of the Heart has it all: fevered kisses, sword fights, betrayal, kidnapping, rescues, death-defying feats and bandits. . . . Joyce's writing is vivid, her characters likeable and realistic, her dialogue fresh, and her descriptions make the scenes breathe.

Rachelle's Writing Spot

Joyce definitely knows how to write a good romance to keep you on the edge of your seat. . . . If the book would’ve been 200 pages longer, I would’ve kept reading—yes it was that good.

Cami's Books

I don't remember the last time I've enjoyed a book so much. . . . From the first scene I was sucked in and cheering for the heroine, Siri. Siri is one of those heroines who you'd want for a best friend. She's warm, beautiful, and loyal. And she's not afraid to pull a knife and force a man to back off. Loving the tough girl! . . . Speaking of the plot, it was extremely well-done. I loved all the twists. I never wanted to put the book down. . . . I would definitely recommend Illuminations of the Heart to anyone who enjoys clean romance, riveting suspense, and a story that will touch your heart.

Jewel's World

Searching for a great historical fictional romance? I've got just the book for you. Joyce DiPastena's book Illumination of the Heart is the perfect blend of mystery, action, and above all, romance. I totally loved this book. The cover is absolutely beautiful and portrayed the heroine perfectly. . . . This story definitely left me with a sigh:-)

Of Writerly Things

First, can I say, Joyce DiPastena knows her medieval stuff. She majored in it in college no less, receiving a degree from the University of Arizona. She is true to the time frame throughout her story, introducing the reader to terms like "crenellated," "portcullis," and "primogeniture." You may have thought "mail" was something that showed up in a box outside your home or on your computer, as in You've got it but no, it's "a flexible armor made of small, overlapping metal rings." (I got that from a glossary in the back of the book.) . . . I highly recommend it.

Frespa Fan

DePastena weaves a thrilling tale of swashbuckling sword fights, sweet love scenes, and political intrigue. An understanding that could have been a satisfying ending occurs a hundred or more pages before Triston and Siri finally battle their way through several challenging complications to more complete fruition. . . . This is a very good read, to which I give my highest praise of five stars.

Of Good Report

I do love a good romance, and I mean a good romance novel. Illuminations of the Heart is clean . . . What makes it even better is that it is a historical romance novel which, in my opinion, is the best kind. . . . Through many twists and turns and thrilling chase scenes and, of course, romantic scenes, the book ends in an exciting and unexpected way. Appropriate for adults and teens, I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good romantic novel!

Rachel Rager

If you love a good romance book, this book is clean and beautifully written. The characters come alive on the page as the vivid images of the summer 1179 are brought to life. Joyce has done a stunning job at weaving a masterful tale and sharing it with the world. . . . If you loved Loyalty's Web, you will love this too!

Musing from an LDS Writing Mom

Joyce has a way of bringing the locations to life with her descriptions and deep research. . . . The characters draw you into the story and make you want to read to the end so that you can figure out how everyone gets out of this impossible situation. grin. I don't want to give it all away...but you got to read it. Especially if historical romance is your cup of tea. Really!

Queen of the Clan

My very, very favorite part of Joyce's new book, is the romance. OK - I know you were all waiting for me to say that! . . . Joyce weaves a wonderful story, creates an attraction and tension between Triston and Siri, and never once do I have to skip sentences or flip pages. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that I can read such a powerful romance book and never cringe. I can safely keep reading and enjoy every single one of those melt-my-knees kisses without worry it's going to lead somewhere my eyes, mind, and imagination don't want to go. I have so many friends and teenagers who raid my library of books and am so grateful I don't have to give any "disclaimers" before lending out of Joyce's books. THANK YOU, JOYCE! I highly, highly, highly (I can add about a dozen of those!) recommend both of Joyce's books for the romance addict in your life.

Write Bravely

This story is filled with rich characters and setting. As Tristan learns to cope with his anger and his guilt, the depth of his personality shines through. Siri was likeable and I found myself rooting for her. What really impressed me was the complexity of the plot and how there would always be one more twist even when I Thought everything had been figured out. . . . I couldn't put the book down. If you love clean romance with lots of excitement read this book.

Dreams of Quill and Ink

Illuminations of the Heart is a historical romance set during the middle ages. Lest you think it’s all swooning and kisses, let me illuminate (pun intended) some things I particularly enjoyed about this book. The story is woven seamlessly with the time period. It is so organically done that one almost doesn’t notice—though the attention to detail and fact is there. I learned things about history that I didn’t know but in such a way that it didn’t feel like it intruded on the story. As if that wasn’t enough, this romance is blended with mystery, suspense, and action. The plot doesn’t just move forward, it propels. I couldn’t stop reading. The characterization is rich and satisfying. The characters live and breath from the page. Their histories, individual stories, and interactions blend in such a way that one would not be surprised to discover that they actually lived long ago.

Trisiti's Takes

Joyce DiPastenahas a vast amount of knowledge about all things medieval and she paints pictures in the minds of her readers. You see the clothes, you imagine yourself walking along the stone corridors, and you can smell the feasts that are offered up in the kitchens. You feel as though you have truly stepped into her story. If you're looking for a really romantic, truly authentic medieval tale of love, treachery, and intrigue, well - what are you waiting for?

Vicissitudes
Rating: A+
I didn't pass it on to my teen (he wasn't interested), but I did pass it on to my mother and sisters who also loved it. It was my pleasure to be drawn in by ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART and once I started Siri's journey, I couldn't put it down until I reached the last page . . . and then I still wanted more. While this is an adult title, I believe it's appropriate for teens as well.

Tangled Words and Dreams
Well, what can I say? Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena is one amazing book. . . . I couldn’t get enough of it. . . . you’ll find plenty of excellent smoochies, damsels in distress, trickery, and sword fighting, to satisfy just about any historical romance reader.


Random-ish by Nichole

This one is definitely worth the read!! Once again, Joyce DiPastena has outdone herself. I absolutely loved her first book, Loyalty’s Web, and wondered how she would ever write another one with so much depth, so many plot twists and turns, and let’s not forget the heart-melting love story (the kind that doesn’t make you cringe). But how could I have thought such a thing? Of course, Illuminations was up to par! I absolutely loved it. Okay, first I have to warn you. I’m a sucker for a good romance. Really. But I’m also extremely picky about what I read, especially since I started writing myself. Other than Loyalty’s Web, it’s been quite a while since I found a sweet romance that I just couldn’t put down. But this one was definitely packed full of heart-pounding romance. The downside is that I’m going to have to wait for probably a year or more to read another book by Joyce. (Frown. That’s a long time!) The point is, Illuminations of the Heart

Lu Ann's Book Review

Okay, I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a well-written romance. Throw in the fact that it's a well-researched and historically accurate romance and it makes me even happier. But, give me a well-written, historically accurate romance that remains clean, yet maintains just the right balance of romantic tension between the characters, and I am thrilled. This is exactly how I felt with Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena.

Reading for Sanity

You are pulled into Illuminations of the Heart in the first few pages by an attempted kidnapping and . . . are not let go until the end of the book. I found the story of Siri (Siriol di Calendri) and Triston to be a sweet, tender romance. . . . Siri was young, vibrant and beautiful. She was also of the same moral character as Triston, so their relationship was not something I was embarrassed to read about.The action in Illuminatons just kept coming and coming. There was plenty of sword and fist fighting, racing off on horses, and falling down stairs to keep anybody reading. -Chris

if you are in the mood for a scorchingly romantic (yet fairly clean) book with a lot of twists and turns rescues and then even more twists and turns rescues, then you will likely find happiness within the pages of this book.
-Mindy

Taffy's Candy


Joyce delivers another great romance set in an entirely different time period from. And you know what? I learn new words from those time periods every time I read her books! In this book, the reader will learn what an 'illuminator' is and no, it's not someone who lights fires. I enjoyed this story from the beginning, especially Siri; she's feisty and smart. I rooted for her through the book and really wanted her to get her man. And dang it Triston! I can't say any more about that person... Joyce's book is smart and full of 'clean' romance, sword fights, bad guys, mystery and castles.

The Write Blocks

Her characters in her recently released, medieval romance, "Illuminations of the Heart" are fully "rounded" and maintain clear motivations.

Check out her interview with Illuminations heroin, Siri.

Why Not? Because I Said So! and LDSWomensBookReview

has sealed the deal. I’m a fan for life!I enjoy reading Joyce DiPastena's books. They are known for being "clean" romances. Now days, the idea of a clean romance is a very rare thing. This is not to say that you won't be swept away in the growing romance between Triston and Siri and the heat felt between them. They are clearly attracted to each other and their shared kisses made me yearn for a "Triston" in my life. You can safely read this book, as well as your teen-age daughter, and know that no sex will be spattered throughout the pages. . . . This sweet romance from Joyce is 425 pages long. It is well worth your time to read it. Hide away in a room, pull out the chocolate or popcorn, get comfortable and escape to the medieval times. I enjoyed getting lost in the romance and suspense that is interwoven in Illuminations of the Heart.

Ink Splasher

For me to really recommend a historical romance like Illuminations, it absolutely must meet certain criteria:
  • A believable, self-assured, strong-spirited heroine, who is likely to take matters into her own hands—Siri definitely fits the bill.
  • A hero/love interest that is compelling for reasons other than his good looks—it took a while for me to warm up to Triston, but he won me over.
  • A plot line that is more than just falling in love—there's some mystery, mistaken identity, some politics. Plenty more than just two people trying to get together.
  • Well-written, well-researched and historically accurate—this was amazing. I felt like I was actually there.
  • Some twists and turns that I didn't see coming-- it was great to be surprised.
  • I must get lost in the story and forget what time it is in my real-life—uhm, yes. I was late for a doctor's appointment because of this book.
  • Clean—no details from the bedroom—I could recommend this to my mother and my daughters with no hesitation.
Illuminations of the Heart met all my criteria—and more.

Romance Old School

Illuminations of the Heart is an exciting tale of love and political intrigue. . . . The characters, I felt, were believable, likable, and well-developed. We got a sense of Triston's feelings of guilt, his regret and his frustration. Siri's personality was strong without being the overbearing female so many authors seem to think a strong woman should be. She knew what she wanted almost from the start and when faced with opposition, she did what most people do: she made rash decisions. I found her to be quite realistically portrayed. . . . Overall, I think this book was entertaining, well-researched, and a definite keeper. I am particularly pleased that the love scenes are not detailed and the main characters do not hop into bed together at the first opportunity. In fact, if you are looking for a book with sex, this is not the book for you. Everyone who enjoys the romance for the romance, give Joyce's books a chance. She does not disappoint.

Blog the Day Away

I really, really like this book. It’s set back in the day when people still lived in castles and knights were the coveted profession of the day. . . . Twists and turns and more twists and turns. Illuminations is a really exciting read. Just when you think you’ve got things figured out you get pulled in another exciting direction. All of it plausible and a whole lot of fun. . . . I highly recommend Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena. A really fun read.
-Alisa

I was hooked by the second chapter. It’s a fun, simple, enjoyable read. It’s definitely a romance, full of sexual tension and forbidden love. But there’s also friendship, knighthood, thieves, and a little bit of mystery. . . . I couldn’t put the book down. I would definitely recommend it.
--Elaine

Weren't those great reviews?

One thing I've enjoyed about his blog tour, besides reading the wonderful reviews, has been to read the great author interviews as I felt I've come to know Joyce better because of them. Joyce has been gracious enough to answer some get to know you questions as well as talk about her experiences with the blog tour.

WSP:
What was something you learned from doing a blog tour?

Joyce: That it's a lot of hard work to put one of these things together, and I'm very grateful to the marketing department of Walnut Springs Press for arranging the tour on my book's behalf.

WSP: How have your advertised both your book and blog tour?

Joyce:I've posted links to the daily blog reviews on my JDP NEWS blog (http://jdp-news.blogspot.com), as well as listing each new review link daily on Facebook and Twitter. At the suggestion of my marketing department, I began a "Medieval Word of the Day" feature on both my JDP NEWS blog and my Medieval Research with Joyce blog (http://medievalresearch.blogspot.com). For each day of the tour, I posted a medieval word from the glossary included with Illuminations of the Heart, along with its definition on my blogs, and included a link to that day's review on the blog tour. For some of the words, I found free clip art illustrations to help the reader visualize what the medieval term meant. This has proved to be a highly popular feature on my blogs--much more so than I anticipated--so I will likely keep it up at least for awhile, after the tour comes to an end. (Until I run out of words from my glossary, anyway.)

WSP: Your book had so many positive responses, why do you think it resonated
with so many people?

Joyce: One of the recurring comments that reviewers have made is that they have appreciated finding a "clean romance" to read. "Clean" or "sweet" romances are increasingly difficult for readers to find these days, unless the romances are "inspirational" (which includes "LDS"). And while many readers enjoy inspirational/LDS romances, they sometimes tend to exclude a certain segment of the reading public who would like to read a clean romance without the religious overtones. I've formed a group for just such readers called "Clean Romances" on Goodreads.com, and at last count, we numbered 119 members. (We held a book giveaway party when we hit 100 members.) The group includes readers of both inspirational and secular romances. My titles fall in the latter category, and I believe that helps them appeal to a wider readership audience. Although Illuminations of the Heart did carry in it a theme of forgiveness, that's because the theme fit the particular characters in this particular story, not because I was trying to write something "inspirational". I believe that just providing a reader with a story that doesn't leave them uncomfortable over morality or profanity can, in itself, leave a reader feeling uplifted, even "inspired", because we still feel "clean" after we've read it, whether it falls in the "secular" or "inspirational" genre.

Another thing that readers seemed to enjoy about Illuminations of the Heart was that it was more than just a romance. It had some mystery, some suspense, some twists and turns to keep the reader guessing about what was going to happen next, so that it seemed to appeal to both romance and non-romance readers alike.

WSP: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Joyce: I didn't start out intending Illuminations of the Heart to have a "message", but it turned out to have one, simply because of the nature of the characters and the situations they found themselves in. That message is the need to forgive yourself for past mistakes, as well as forgiving those who may have wronged you. But if a reader just takes away from the story an entertaining read, I'll be happy with that, too. :-)

WSP: Have you ever thought about writing a book not set in the middle ages?

Joyce: Well, every time I re-read The Three Musketeers, I'm tempted to do something to "play" with their characters, or maybe attempt a "next generation" kind of thing. (Hey, if authors can do it with Jane Austen/Pride and Prejudice, why not The Three Musketeers?) I've also toyed with rewriting some of the Greek myths, but for now, I'm happy in the Middle Ages. You never know, though. We'll see how long I live.

WSP:
What is the best part of being a writer? The worst?

Joyce: The best part of being a writer is when your characters do something completely unexpected. I love it when they surprise me! The worst? When your characters are being stubborn and just don't seem to want to come in to work that day. Sitting there staring at the computer screen and feeling at a total loss, or when it feels like pulling teeth to type out a mere handful of words. Those days when I walk away from my computer shaking my head and saying, "Me, a writer? What was I thinking? Those two books with my name on them are obviously flukes!"

WSP:
If you could invite one of your characters to dinner, who would it be and why?

Joyce: Ah, actually, it would the hero of the very first medieval novel I ever wrote, that one from my college years that has never been published. Of all the heroes I've written since, he's the one I'm still most in love with. He was born a villein (or serf) in England, became a minstrel, fell in love with a noblewoman, and ultimately was knighted by none other than the Earl of Gunthar (from Loyalty's Web) so that he could marry her. Except that it wasn't quite the fairy tale romance that this description makes it sound. His story (which actually took two books to tell) became very complicated and I really rung him through the coals before I let him be happy. He's still my favorite, and I'd invite him to dinner, just to spend time with him again.


WSP: Where do your get ideas for your writing?

Joyce: Almost all my "adult" writing can be traced back to that college novel as my point of origin. In college, I wanted to write a story about a minstrel because, well, you know, minstrels are very romantic when you're college age. And out of that story came a cast of characters that included Heléne and Gunthar. So I decided to write about them when they were young, which turned into Loyalty's Web. And in the course of writing about them, I created Triston, fell in love with him, and decided to write his story in Illuminations of the Heart. Then I had so much fun with one of the characters I created for Illuminations, that I decided to make him the hero of my next book. And I have another character from Loyalty's Web tucked away for a story that kind of tags my current WIP(work in progress) in the time line. So as long as characters keep popping up who intrigue me, I guess I'll just keep writing their stories.


WSP: What do you think makes a good story?

Joyce: For me personally, what makes a good story is character and plot. I want characters that I can care about, but I also want them to be doing something. I'm not too much for the "reflective" novel, where the characters just sit around and think about things or other people. I want some action! And I love good dialogue. Dialogue is a kind of "action" for me. I don't enjoy heavily narrative books, no matter how beautifully they're written. But if I don't care about the characters, then the action and dialogue won't carry me through by themselves. It's got to be a good mix of the three. But that's just me. I have a friend who's reading tastes are the very opposite of mine, and hey, that's okay. If we all liked the same things, it would be a pretty boring world.


WSP:
What book are you reading right now?

Joyce: Right now I'm finishing up
The Sister Pact, by Cami Checketts.


WSP: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Joyce: I wanted to be a teacher. I actually started out in Education in college, before I switched my major to History. I won't go into the why's and wherefore's of that just now, but even though I never got my teaching degree, I've done plenty of teaching as an adult, between numerous teaching positions in my church and teaching piano lessons for over 20 years.

WSP: Who is your hero?

Joyce: Historically? Henry II of England. (If you want to know why, you can read my interview with Jaimey Grant at Romance, Old School http://romanceoldschool.blogspot.com/2009/09/blog-tour-review-of-illuminations-of.html). Personally? I'd have to say, my mom.

WSP: What is your favorite food?

Joyce: Chocolate chip cookies. (Without nuts. Nuts belong in brownies, not chocolate chip cookies.)


WSP: What was your favorite class you've ever taken?

Joyce: Well, since you asked about classes, not teachers, I'd have to say "History of the English Language". I loved that class! The professor taught us phonemes, which I practiced diligently in my dorm room and drove my roommate nuts. I learned to read Chaucer in Middle English and all about the Great Vowel Shift. It was cool stuff! I wish I remembered a tenth of it now. I kept the text book, though, so maybe I'll pull it out one day and try to refresh my memory.