Book Review: Targets in Ties by Tristi Pinkston & Giveaway

Targets in Ties by Tristi Pinkston

 After two long years, Ren's mission is finally over, and it's time for Ida Mae, Arlette, and Tansy to travel to Mexico to pick him up. They have their itinerary all planned out visiting the ruins in the Yucatan, shopping, playing in the sand and surf and then they'll head to Ren's mission home and be reunited with that dear boy. But a wanted antiquities thief crosses their path, and soon the ladies find themselves tangled up in a web of lies, intrigue, and costly jewelry. Held hostage by men desperate for riches, they do what only they can do keep their heads about them, plan their escape, and discuss the proper making of tortillas. Will they survive their most harrowing adventure yet?

My Review

This is my favorite of the Secret Sisters mysteries so far. Can I just say that I feel bad for the villains who think they can outsmart Ida Mae? Those poor pitiful morons. They should know that with age comes respect, wisdom, and a whole lotta sass - at least in the case of Ida Mae, Tansy, and Arlette! And with as old as these chicks are, they've accumulated quite a bit of sass! A great read for cozy mystery lovers!

You can purchase Targets in Ties at any local book store or click below to order it from Amazon.


Leave a comment on this blog post, and go visit Tristi's blog at and become a follower.  You will then be entered to win this fun scrapbooking pack, including paper, tags, two decals, and metal tag frames. You have until midnight Mountain time on March 3rd to enter to win.

Read Across America Week

This week, our school is celebrating Read Across America. Each year, a different Dr. Seuss book is spotlighted at the theme. This year, it's the Lorax. And of course, the movie is scheduled to be release on March 2nd. Perfect timing, wouldn't you say?

Our principal has an awesome Dr. Seuss hat that she pulls out just for Read Across America week. She'll visit each classroom and read The Lorax to the kids and talk about the importance of reading.

In addition, special guests have been invited to each classroom to either read books or give book talks each day throughout the week. I'm doing both a reading and a book talk.

On Tuesday, I'll visit my daughter's 5th grade classroom and talk to those awesome wanna-be mature readers about books in all sorts of genres they would enjoy. Awesome stuff like:
  • The 13th Reality series by James Dashner
  • Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
  • The Gallagher Girls Academy series by Ally Carter
  • and more, more, MORE!
By the time I'm done with my 30 minutes, those kids are going to have quite the book request list for the school librarian! Mwahahaha!

Wednesday morning, I get to visit with my 2nd grader son's classroom. Now, this is the SILLIEST group of munchkins you're ever gonna meet. So I'm thinking I might take along Alice the Fairy & Too Many Toys! by David Shannon. I love, love, love his illustrations, funny prose, and characters. 

Why do I love Read Across America Week?

It's not just because I'm an author. It's because as a child, I loved nothing better than curling up somewhere - beside my mom, on a bench at my aunt's house, my bed; anywhere - with a book in my hand. Picture books, chapter books, novels . . . I adored them all. They were my friends, my escape, my entry into imagination. As a kid, reading was as important to me as loving my family.

I know that not everyone has a love of reading. In fact, my son with autism has a very difficult time reading. But he really enjoys graphic novels. Not graphic as in violent, but as in novels that are like expanded comic books. He enjoys the pictures, more complex story line, and simplistic, key wording. He also enjoy Calvin & Hobbes comic books (now, that's a love he gets from his Dad). 

My hope for Read Across America is that no matter what a kid's reading level or interest is, that he or she will find something to enjoy - and maybe even love.

Do your kids enjoy reading? Or do they struggle? What have you done to help encourage them to find books or genres to nurture their passion for reading?

Four Little Girls & A Teddy Bear Picnic

This year for Anna's 5th birthday, she asked to have a Teddy Bear Picnic. Such a fun idea!

Sadly, I'm not an awesomely creative party mom. But I chatted with some of my friends who are party queens, then found some gorgeous printable party downloads on LeeLou Blogs. So, here's the results . . .

 Four little girls and their favorite stuffed animals
Maia, Anna, Miah, and Easlynn

 We started the party off with some coloring while we waited for everyone to arrive.
I found free Care Bear coloring pages online and set them out with plastic cups filled with crayons.
This made it easy for everyone to share and to keep them tidy instead of rolling all over the table.

Once everyone arrived, we played a few games of Tic Tac Toe. 
This awesome template was part of LeeLou Blogs Valentines Day Templates
I used to remove the Valentines Day, added "Happy Birthday, Anna!" and the Care Bear images. The munchkins used Smarties to mark their spots & of course got to eat them up after each round.

And then it was time for the picnic!
All of these awesome printables came from LeeLou Blogs Fresh Start Birthday Pack.

Each bag had a matching circle set -
the top one with a celebration message, the bottom with a child's name.

 Each person RSVP's with their choice of Peanut Butter (creamy or crunchy) and favorite jam (Strawberry or Grape). Added to the lunch were snack size zip bags of Gold Fish, green grapes & carrots, a squeezable applesauce pouch, and a mini-water bottle. Nutritious and oh, so easy!
I spread a big blanket on the playroom floor & the munchkins all dived into their lunches.
The conversation was hilarious to listen to - bad jokes and silly stories galore!
When the first couple kids were finished, I read three picture books to the group to give the other kids time to finish their lunch. They all giggled as I read Alice the Fairy; Too Many Toys (both by David Shannon); and Twelve More Little Race Cars by Scott Pruett.

Sugar cookies, frosting, and sprinkles, oh my!
Dessert was a hands on activity and very delicious.

Clean up was super easy too - I just wrapped up the table cloth and tossed it all.
Then there was a flurry of wrapping and tissue paper as Anna opened her presents. 
Then we had a very short balloon-volleyball game while parents arrived to pick up their munchkins.

The party was a blast!
And surprisingly easy for mom, too.  =)

Anna the Birthday Girl!

I can't believe it! My baby girl is five years old today. I still remember the icy trip to the hospital and all the fun, sassy, sweet years since then. I thought it would be fun to post a few pictures, since I'm in a reminiscing mood.

Happy birthday, Anna Banana!

Book Reviews & Crater Lake eBook Giveaway

 I read some awesome books this past weekend. Get ready to add some books to your reading pile! 

Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island by Steve Westover

Blurb:  Wailing and thrashing for escape, Allie’s dad disappeared first, the dirt covering the crown of his head. Ethan and Jordan’s parents followed, gasping for breath before the dirt covered their faces and muffled their screams. Mercifully, they descended faster than Allie’s mom. She had been the appetizer, and the other three adults were the main course.

While visiting his crazy Uncle Bart at Crater Lake National Park, thirteen-year-old Ethan’s world collapses when all the adults disappear, including his parents. Now Ethan must rally his new friends and decipher the legends of the lake to find the key to rescuing his parents from their earthen prison before he’s captured too and their imprisonment becomes permanent.

My Review


Battle for Wizard Island is the first book of the Crater Lake series - and it was EXCELLENT! I was pulled right in from chapter one and only put the book down when my munchkins insisted they needed Mom.  =)  Steve Westover crafts a great mystery filled with suspense that will keep youth and adults on the edge of their seat. I loved the characters, their attitudes, and interactions as they try to unravel ancient stories and clues. I'm definitely purchasing a print copy of this book. I know my 11 year old daughter will love it! 

Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island will be released in March 2012. You can order a book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Enter to Win an eBook copy of Crater Lake!
One lucky person will win an advance issue of the Crater Lake e-book. Entering is simple:
  1. Follow my blog.
  2. Leave a comment on this post & tell me what books you've been reading. Please include your email address so we can contact you with the good news.
The winner will be announced on Friday, February 17th. Good luck, everyone!

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Blub: When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?

The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen's world. How could it not turn out right in the end?

My Review

I really enjoyed Midnight in Austenland. The first few chapters were really heavy on the Jane Austen-esque type languange. While that was an interesting beginning, it was so wordy I almost put the book down. But once Charlotte gets to Pembrook Park, the wording relaxes and the story becomes truly interesting. There's a murder mystery in this Austenland book. The last third of the book kept me guessing, as well as on the edge of my seat. Really great ending, too!

I hope there will be another Austenland book. I'd love to find out what happens to Miss Charming and Mrs. Wattlesbrook.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Blurb: Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

My Review

LOVED IT! Loved it! Loved it! Lola and the Boy Next Door is just as awesome as Anna and the French Kiss. I can't wait for more books by Stephanie Perkins to come out!  

Prank Wars Winner & The LDStorymakers Writers Conference

There's a Winner in the House

I love giveaways. It's so fun to get an email from someone titled, "You won ______!" and actually know it's not spam. Woot! One lucky reader is going to get an email from me today that says "You Won Prank Wars on Queen of the Clan!". And that lucky person is . . .

Wendy Swore! Congrats!!!

The Official Release date of Prank Wars is February 14th, 2012. BUT Stephanie let me in on a little secret. Come a little closer so I can whisper it to you . . . A little closer . . . Okay. Ready?

Prank Wars is available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. TODAY.  Happy early Valentine's Day! Check out Stephanie's website on Valentine's Day for purchase links to the printed version of the book. I know I'm definitely ordering one for my shelves.

LDStoryMakers Writers Conference

The StoryMakers Writers Conference is my absolute FAVORITE writers conference. This year's conference is May 3-5th, 2012 and . . . I've been asked to present TWO classes. Ooh baby, I'm a happy happy girl! I have a class each day. My first class kicks off in the first break out session and my last class is in the final break out session of the conference. I guess they wanted to be sure the conference started and ended with the same awesome writer. Ahem. *cough. cough*

My classes focus on non-fiction and copyrights. The rest of the conference is JAM PACKED full of awesome fiction classes. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or seasoned pro, you will find classes perfect for where you are in your writing journey.

My favorite part is all the hob nobbing. Socializing, people! Networking with other writers, publishers, editors and AGENTS! The Storymakers conference is the perfect size to meet all these fabulous people and actually have them remember who you are. Come prepared to chat up your WIP or the MS you're shopping around. Don't be shy! Agents and editors attend writers conferences so they can hear about what the attendees are coming up with. They would much rather meet someone in person, then fall in love with both the writer and the manuscript at the same time. And all those writers you meet and click with, they'll be the people who interview you on their blogs and review your debut (or 30th) novel.

Now, I know the writer in you is just dying to register. Let me tell you another little secret . . . there are less than 100 spots still open. So if you want to go, slide your mouse on over here and click to get registered.

Conference Tips & a few of my fave moments . . . 

 The Annual 1st Chapter Contest. 
In 2009, Heather Justesen & I won 1st place in the non-fiction category for a book we brainstormed together. Before we were published authors, we placed in the top three of the Romance Category each year we attended. (Note: The contest is only open to unpublished authors, or we'd still be kicking butt. LOL!)

 The Book Store
Bring LOTS of spending money. Awesome book deals & the authors are there to sign them personally. Fabulousness!

 LDS Women Book Review Interviews
I so totally love these ladies! They make the conference so fun and make attendees feel like rock stars as they catch them in the halls and interview them for their podcasts. In 2010, my co-author Lynn Parsons and I were interviewed just moments after our first face-to-face meeting.

What's better than hanging out with over 150+ of your closest writing buddies?
It's our annual AI Family Reunion. Not much can top that.
Have you attended the StoryMakers Conference before? If so, please share what you loved most. Direct blog links to past StoryMakers after-the-conference posts are welcome!

On Little Wings Winner & Food Storage Blog Spotlight

First up, let's have a big round of applause for Gayle, the winner of a signed copy of On Little Wings by Regina Sirois!

Don't forget about my current ebook giveaway - Prank Wars by Stephanie Fowers. It's awesome! You have until midnight on Tuesday to enter.

Building Food Storage and Using It

Now, there's a topic I'm not very good at - Food Storage. I try to build up the items we generally use in our home - jars of spaghetti sauce, extra bags of sugar and flour, lots of canned veggies and soups. These are all items I would use within a few months of purchasing. But long term food storage intimidates me. Add wheat grinders and water barrels to the conversation and I'm a goner. I have so much to learn about how to go from where I am to my goal of being prepared for a long-term emergency.

You may wonder why I'm even interested in building up food storage. Honestly, it's a life saver - and I don't just mean if a tornado were to rip through my town and blow out the electricity and other necessary stuff for a few weeks. Our family has already had a few experiences with illnesses that lasted 6-8 weeks & our couple of months of food storage was a major blessing. One less stress while my hubby couldn't work. So I know from first hand experience how important it is to be prepared for emergencies. I just can't figure out how to go from what I have to something longer term - and actually use the food, rather than seeing it sit for a few years and going to waste. 

Yesterday, I found this awesome blog: Food Storage & Using It. It's actually written by Diana, a lady from my church congregation, but I had never gone out to look at it. One reason (kind of a pathetic one) is when I think food storage blog, I don't go "Ooh! I have to go check that out!" Honestly, I've seen some pretty boring food storage blogs out there. So when I finally clicked my way over yesterday, I was SUPER HAPPY to see a bunch of yummy recipes accompanied by gorgeous pictures & lots of fabulous blog posts about how a real family works together to build their food storage. There are also great posts about how to save money on your grocery bill - another area I need some serious help with. So, if you're like food storage flunky like me, then I highly recommend checking out Diana's blog.

Now, my friends, tell me if you're food storage flunkies like me or are you a junky who knows lots of ins and outs? I hope all the junkies will share a few tips (and other awesome blog resources) with me and the rest of the QOTC readers!

A Gift, A Sassy Book, and an Ebook Giveaway!

A Gift

My fabulous friend, Jennifer, gave me a beautiful gift last weekend.

She made this gorgeous African Blood wood pen to celebrate my international magazine article that came out! Isn't she a sweetheart? Her thoughtfulness made my eyes go all watery (and still does). It's become one of my special pens. I have just a couple of pens that I pull out when I'm brainstorming and outlining new book ideas. There's gobs of notebooks filled with ideas, but only a few lucky pens make the cut for creating something from a little idea in my head. Those pens write, write, write out those thoughts, developing characters, filling out plot ideas, and getting down scene blurbs. Special, special pens. Thank you, Jennifer!

While I'm chatting about writing, I got an awesome phone call yesterday from the LDS Church Offices. I was asked to help with another disabilities related project their working on. I can't give any other details, but I'll let you know when it's published! It was both an exciting and humbling moment, all wrapped in together. How grateful I am to help with something so near and dear to me.

A Sassy Book

Stephanie Fowers has a new book coming out!!! I L.O.V.E. her books! I got a glimpse of Prank Wars a few years ago, and have bugged, bugged, bugged Stephanie about it ever since. Thank goodness it was a nice friendship type of bugging, and not an annoying "Get this woman away from me!" type of experience.  LOL!  Stephanie emailed me a few weeks ago and asked me if I'd like to do an advance review. Of course, I immediately responded with a good ol' Kansas "Heck yeah!".

Book Blurb:  All war. No love. Madeleine’s been hurt too many times in the dating scene to let Byron beat her in some huge prank war. They’ve had their deserters, their POW's, their casualties, but no one can risk losing the battle of the sexes.

Except now something strange is happening at the college...and it’s not just the students. Buried deep beneath the pranks is real danger and the only other person who suspects is Byron. Should Mad join sides with him or does that mean forfeiting her heart to the enemy?

My Review

Prank Wars is awesomely sassy, brilliantly sneaky, and spine tingly!

Mad Dog is one of the best female main characters ever! She and Byron totally embody the best of best in college prank competitions . . . that will either lead to a total I Hate You relationship or a Jump Off a Cliff and Straight into Love relationship. The pranks, banter, and twisted relationships in this book keeps you turning page after page after page until you hit The End. Your butt will be sore from sitting so long and your throat will be throbbing from laughing so hard! Even then, you'll want more, more, more!

Prank Wars will be released on Valentine's Day 2012. And it's THE BEST gift you can buy for yourself, a friend, or sweetheart.

An E-book Giveaway

One lucky person will win an advance issue of a Prank Wars e-book. Entering is simple:
  1. Follow my blog.
  2. Check out the Prank Wars book trailer & leave a comment.
  3. Leave a comment on this post & tell me what your favorite part of the trailer was! Please include your email address so we can contact you with the good news.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday, February 8th. Good luck, everyone!

Amazon Best-Selling Author Regina Sirois Spills the Beans PLUS Win a Signed Copy of Her Book!

I enjoyed a wonderful lunch last week with Amazon Best-Selling Author, Regina Sirois. Who, lucky for me, also happens to be a part of my writers group. Of course, with all those late night meetings, I had plenty to black mail convince her to do a blog interview. Regina shares her witty personality, brutal honesty, and also reveals who her "secret agent" is. Be sure to read through to the end and enter to win a signed copy of On Little Wings by Regina Sirois.

Your writing style is lyrical and beautiful, without being wordy and slow.  What inspires you to write that way? Did your college education help you develop your style or did you find it later? 

First of all, thank you. I am not sure how to answer this. I just write the way it sounds in my head.  My main training is in creative writing and poetry, so after years of daily critiques I became obsessed about cadence and word choice. When I write I am a little neurotic about the way the words flow off the tongue.

What books or authors do you absolutely love and read over and over? 

I read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. That might be why I have a complex and think I will never write well. No one writes well compared to her! But she makes me try so much harder. I have also read every word written by James Herriot, over and over. He taught me how to put humor and heart into everyday people. Jerry Spinelli taught me that a novel could be a sustained poem. He is amazing.

As a personal friend, I know how important family and motherhood are to you. How did being a mom help you be a better writer? 

Great question! You are right. Despite the interruptions, frustrations and limited time I could spend working each day, being a mother made this book possible. Whenever I needed to know Jennifer better I looked at my daughter and filled in the blanks.  I also wanted to quit - all the time!- and whenever that happened I told myself two things: Just write a story for your daughter. Just write this poem to your sister. If no one on Earth ever pays attention, they will. If no one cares that you tried, they will. Family finished this.

How long did it take you to write On Little Wings?  

Ummm, I have no idea. I collected the story and attempted writing it for over eight years. I have many failed attempts. The current version took me over two years. About nine months of writing, six months of editing/querying, one year of quitting and three months of rewrites.

Who did you choose to help give you feedback and why? Do you think writing groups are helpful? 

Why, I’m so glad you asked! I had an amazing, supportive, honest, talented writing group. Not only was it helpful, it was necessary. I never skipped a day writing. I brought my chapters every week. Being accountable is essential for me. I went to them to get my butt kicked. Then when I needed my ego stroked I went to my sister. She is an avid reader and always had nothing but kindness for me. Have a butt kicker and an ego stroker. It is a great combination if you give them equal consideration.

Ahem, I was the group butt kicker. (Thanks, Regina!) Which is why I always brought sweet treats to our meetings.

What was the query process like?

Hell. I mean Hades. Sorry. Heart pounding, nausea inducing, time consuming  Hades. That is, until after my Amazon success. Then I had a 30% response rate within days! Then it felt fun and exciting.

Were there moments when you just wanted to smash your laptop to pieces and give up? If so, how did you keep moving ahead? 

I thought I hid all the battered laptops! Honestly, I cried a lot of bitter tears in this process. My husband has observed that when I am writing I might not be my most cheerful self. I am plagued with self-doubt and criticism. Then I start questioning my whole existence. If I can’t write this one paragraph why am I even here? And other assorted ridiculousness. I really need to take big breaks from writing to stay sane. Sigh. Anyway, I moved ahead because I wanted to tell my daughter a story.

At what point did you decide to self-publish? Why did you choose to use Amazon? 

I don’t really consider what I did “self publishing.” Technically, I did, but in my mind I was just making it available to friends, family and whatever acquaintances heard about it and wanted a copy. That is why I gave it out for free. I had no plans of making money or being discovered or successful or anything else. I just wanted to share. I chose Amazon because they let you offer an ebook for free for five days and then at a low price.

What was it like to watch the design and layout of your book come together? Your cover was professionally done, right?  

My husband, a gifted artist and designer, did my cover. The picture was an accident. We were taking family pics one day and when we got home and pulled them up for processing, we both saw the same thing at the same time. “That’s the cover!” I told him my vision to add wings and the rest is history. I love that my daughter, who inspired Jennifer, is the golden girl on the cover. It felt wonderful.

When the magic moment came and you announced On Little Wings was available to purchase or download, what  thoughts and feelings went through your mind? What did you think would happen? 

 I was at a church activity the night before the launch and I kept feeling like I was going to throw up, I was so nervous. Most people don’t even know I write at all. I finally gathered my courage and decided I would tell them. These were my friends right? I said, “I have a little announcement to make.” And then everyone thought I was pregnant and after thinking I was about to produce a human, producing a book was anti-climactic, but they were excited anyway. I forced myself to tell people, even though it was hard. If I was going to do it, I was going to at least try to get it to a few people. I thought a couple hundred might grab it.

Then received over 10K downloads in a just a few days and hit #2 on Amazon. How crazy was that?

Breathless. Miraculous. Horrifying. Please remember I was bracing myself for the judgment of one or two hundred people. Not tens of thousands. I went into a tailspin of terror.

And now, you’ve signed with an awesome NY agent. Will you spill the beans and tell us her name? Or give us some more hints about who she may be? 

My agent is great! (I love saying “my agent!”) Her name is WendySherman of the Wendy Sherman agency. She is a former exec at Simon Schuster and Holt and has been a respected and successful agent for more than ten years. She is one of the few agents who comes with a score of Recommended. That is hard to find.

How do you feel at this moment in time? What are your hopes and dreams for your writing career? 

I am slowly learning to cope with the anxiety. I didn’t sleep for three weeks. I truly felt like an impostor. I wanted to tell people I didn’t mean for so many people to find me. I was scared everyone would be mad when they realized I was just a girl in Kansas telling her daughter a bedtime story. I am slowly, as reviews from strangers trickle in, realizing that what speaks to me, speaks to others. I am starting to feel calm again. I have never thought of writing as a career. I can’t imagine I ever will. I will keep writing and editing stories until the words are beautiful to me and hope that means they are beautiful to others. This has never been, will never be, about money. I hope this is a way to meet new and wonderful people and encourage them in their talents.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers out there, what would it be?  

Don’t dream of being famous or rich.  It will probably never happen. But dream of making something beautiful. When you have done your absolute best, expect more and try harder. Find something to fix. Even if it feels like cutting off pieces of you, trim out the words until all that is left is beauty. Essential, undeniable beauty. I’m not there yet, but I will die trying.

And just for kicks, what kind of socks are you wearing right now?  

Dang it! I wanted to say rainbow knee socks! I am, and always will be, barefoot. My toes are sort of free-range digits.

Thank you so much for sharing a slice of your story with my readers, Regina. I wish you the best of the best with the rest of your journey in the publication world! 

On Little Wings by Regina Sirois is available on and in the Kindle Store. 

Or you can enter to win it here! 
Entering is simple:
  1. Follow my blog.
  2. "Like" Regina's Facebook Page
  3. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your email address so we can contact you with the good news.
The winner will be announced on Monday, February 6th. Good luck, everyone!