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To order from Amazon, click here. or from Cedar Fort, click here. or from B&N, click here.

To read the first 15 pages, click here.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Awesome Authors: J Lloyd Morgan

The New Year is about to dawn, and I wish all you happy readers out there an incredible new year!

If you're looking for a good book to snuggle up with at night, try "The Hidden Sun" by J Lloyd Morgan.  It will keep you on the edge of your seat.

He has one heck-of-a website with a cool book trailer that you can view at this link.: click here!

or right here:

He's our latest awesome author.

Read more about the man himself who is also an award-winning TV director!!
And if that weren't enough, he's also met the one and only Debbie Gibson!

Pretty impressive, huh?

Now get ready for your close-up, Mr. DeMille!

Welcome J Lloyd Morgan, author of the Hidden Sun.  Jason, can you tell us a little about your book?

It's a young adult novel set in medieval times, though the reason it is considered "young adult" is because there isn't any swearing or sex scenes--and only mild violence. I've found that adults have enjoyed the book as much, if not more, than teenagers. 

The basic premise is that a new leader is soon to be selected for the Kingdom of Bariwon. The heir to the throne, Princess Eliana, is forced to marry whoever wins a contest of sorts. However, she has fallen in love with her personal guardian, and wants to renounce her title to be with him. 

Malevolent Governor Abrecan is favored to win the contest, which would put his easily manipulated son, Daimh, on the throne. A plan is hatched so that Eliana can marry her true love, while at the same time becoming queen. The events that follow are full of twists, turns and interconnecting sub-plots that keep the reader engaged and wondering what will happen next. 
I understand The Hidden Sun is set in a medieval world, but you chose not to include typical fantasy tropes like magic.  Can you tell us why?

I get asked this often. The heart of the story is really about people, the choices they make, and the consequences of those actions. There are many moments in the book that have the reader asking themselves, "How are they going to get out of this mess?" 

Too often I've read books or seen movies where the hero "saves the day" by using some sort of magic power that neither they, nor the audience, knew they had. It feels like cheating to me. 

By removing magic, and basically all forms of technology, people are left to their own devices to resolve their issues. I believe the readers get more involved in the story because they are trying to figure out how the characters are going to resolve the challenges they face using the same abilities a normal person would have.

What was the most challenging part of writing the book?

This may sound strange, but it was coming up with the title. I had a pretty good idea about the plot, characters and setting going in. In the end, I wanted a title that was unique, and relevant to the story. It's not until most people finish the book that they understand what the title means. 

What are some of your favorite responses you've gotten from readers?

I get a kick out of how many people really dislike the villain of the book. And what's not to dislike? People have mentioned how awful of a person he is.

I've also had many people get mad at me while reading the book, only to forgive me at the end. Why do they get mad? Because they get emotionally attached to the characters and when things go bad, they want someone to blame. 

However, the story does have a happy ending, so like I stated, all is forgiven at the conclusion. Lastly, the book is non-traditional in several ways. One reviewer said something along the lines of "J. Lloyd Morgan didn't re-write popular stories, he created his own."

Can you describe your writing process?

It all starts with a spark of an idea. From there, I'll imagine the setting and the characters with a basic plot outline. Then the real fun begins. 

As I'm writing, the characters take on a life of their own and lead me in directions I'm not always expecting. I've often finished a chapter with the thought, "Wow, that was interesting. I wonder what they will do next?" It may sound odd, but it's what works for me.

You're also an award-winning television director.  Can you tells us a little about your experience in TV?

An award winning TV director sounds impressive, eh? For full disclosure, they types of shows I directed were primarily live newscasts, interview shows and public events. I've lived all over the USA in that career. I ended up in the #1 market in the USA as Director / Operations Manager

I got to meet all sorts of interesting people from politicians to celebrates. When I lived in Connecticut, it was almost surreal that I had congressmen, mayors and the governors that knew and called me by my first name. I even directed a "town meeting" where then President Bush was the keynote speaker. 

Who were some of the people (celebrities and politicians) you got to meet while you were a director?

I got to meet all the major mayors and congressmen in Connecticut, including Joe Lieberman, Christopher Shays, Chris Dodd, Governor Jodi Rell. In addition, meeting Mayor Rudy Giuliani was pretty darn cool.

 As for celebrities, boy there was a ton. I think my favorite was Debbie Gibbson, simply because I had such a crush on her in High School.

[Editor's note: Mr. Morgan refused to divulge if he ever sang 'Electric Youth' in the mirror] 

Why do you think so many actors say they want to direct?

It's about control. As the director, you are in control, and ultimately responsible for what ends up on the screen. Often actors believe (some rightfully so) that they can do better than the directors they have worked with.

What do you like about directing?

For me, it was always about the rush and thrill of being a human multi-tasker in the face of an ever changing environment. It's extremely challenging, but when you pull it off, it is quite an amazing feeling.

How does your experience as a director affect your writing?

I believe it has given me greater insight into various types of people and their actions. I've drawn on this time and again as inspiration for my characters--which is why I believe that many people have told me my characters are very engaging. In addition, as a director, you need to have an incredible sense of timing. I believe that has helped me be successful in keeping the pacing of my books moving.

I love the trailer you've created for your book. View it here.

How did you come up with it and who are the people in the video?

I didn't have a budget, so I used my old beat up cam-corder and some desktop editing software to put together a "testimonial" video. The people in the video are my family and their friends. There is actually a lot of humor in The Hidden Sun, and I wanted to have people see that side of me. 

In addition, I got a kick out of twisting many popular quotes you read about books into silly examples. It was a lot of fun.  Oh! And here is an inside scoop never before revealed: The music at the beginning and end are original compositions by me--OK, granted it is me playing like three notes on a music keyboard, but still . . .

On a personal note, I notice you're the only male in your family, which consists of a beautiful wife and four lovely daughters.  What's it like being the only guy in the house?

Honestly, I love it. My wife and daughters are the best. I'm actually very spoiled in that regard. I get asked time and again, "Are you going to keep trying until you get a boy?" I respond, "We tried 4 times, and we got all girls. After that, I waved the white flag."

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I'm an avid reader--it helps me develop my talent and voice as a writer. I'm a big Atlanta Braves baseball fan, which is about all the sports my wife can handle. I'm active in my church and volunteer time to help others. I also enjoy progressive rock. 

In addition, I'm a fan of a musician named Chris De Burgh. On one of his recent albums is a song called "The Mirror of the Soul." A dream of mine would be to write a full novel based on the song. It's amazing. 

Have you or your family made any New Years resolutions?

On the writing front, my goal is to get the sequel to The Hidden Sun released. It is much more of an adventure novel and I'm very excited about it. I learned a ton from writing my first book, and I believe it has helped make the second one that much better. In addition, I've started on the third book and plan on having the first draft done by year end.

What does 2011 hold for J Lloyd Morgan?

Hopefully more people discovering and enjoying The Hidden Sun. As for anything else, I always try to live today just a bit better than I did yesterday. Life is too short to do otherwise.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Yes!  Thank you so much for allowing me to answer these questions. It's been fun. As I noted before, I'm an avid reader. I finished an excellent book not long ago called Who's at the door?  (Maybe you've heard of it) I'd highly recommend it!

[Editor's note:Talk about good taste!] 

Best of luck to Mr. Morgan and his family for 2011! 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Reviews!

The reviews have poured in this week:

First up, I got a review at the Writing Fortress blog.  Rebecca Talley author of  numerous LDS books including "Altared Plans" and "The Upside of Down" said:

"I wasn't sure if I'd like this book, I'm not a big memoir reader, but it pulled me right in. I found myself thinking about it and hoping for a particular ending. This isn't a conversion story, it's about Harrington's spiritual journey and I liked his candor.  He didn't sugarcoat anything..."

To read her full review, click here.

* * *

Consumer Avenger/Media Reviewer & former LDS Missionary Jen Head Jen said on her site:

"It was interesting to get a view of how non-Mormons view Mormons. What was refreshing was that I didn't feel the need to defend myself while reading, and that Dan gave the missionaries - and their message - the benefit of the doubt at every turn...

Overall, I very much enjoyed the book, and finished the bulk of it in one sitting...A very thought-provoking..." For the full review click here:

She even rated it as 5 Mint Oreo Cookies.  That's one tasty rating!


Danyelle Ferguson, author of "Mormon Mishaps & Mischief" also praised the book on her site as "heartwarming, funny, and insightful:

"Who's at the Door is an excellent example of looking past the names on the signs in front of your local churches and instead respecting and supporting each other. I will always remember that wise phrase: There's room for everyone at God's table."

She actually picked out one of my favorite scenes in the book as one of her favorite moments as well.  You can read the full review here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thecla: little known woman with a great big story

Christmas night I wound up watching the History Channel's special "Banned from the Bible II."

The part I watched had to do with St. Thecla, a person I only vaguely remembered hearing about in school.

According to some fragmentary second century historical texts, she was a companion of Paul who stressed celibacy over marriage.

This type of thinking perhaps originates in the Bible where Paul writes:

"Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." 
1 Corinthians 7:8-9

Needless to say, this is one of those passages that historians show more interest in than the churches. It is, in all practicality, the exact opposite of what Joseph Smith believed about plural marriage. 

Thecla's story reminded me of Ann Lee, the 18th Century founder of the Shaker faith, who also said that God calls ardent believers to a chaste life.

Ann stressed that marriage created a unique relationship between individuals that prevented people from loving everyone equally.  I wonder what Thecla would have thought of that argument.

Like most beautiful young women, Thecla's life was spent dodging unwelcome suitors.  The most famous part of her story is perhaps how one of them had Thecla thrown into a Lion's Den.

As the story goes, a female lion protected Thecla from the others, and Thecla is often portrayed with a female Lion.  She might have been a major role-model in Christianity if not for her radical act of baptizing herself.

Check out more about Thecla here:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's my first Christmas as an author, and this year God has been so good to me.

But I also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no matter what I achieve, the most important thing in my life is to recognize, honor, and love the one we celebrate on December 25.

John 1: 10-12 & 17-18
"He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God...  

God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.  

18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart.

 He has revealed God to us."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another Book Review/a cause to ponder

I got another book review over at Mind-Muffins blog. Hooray!

You can read it here:

This is a thoughtful review for sure, but it made me feel a tinge of guilt for not being more direct with one thought in particular.

The author mentions a few subjects which, I agree, could have been better explored, but my biggest surprise was this comment  because it shows that I did not hit the intended nail on the head:

"In the epilogue to the book Harrington writes: 'I don’t think too many conversions hinge on how accurate the Book of Mormon may or may not be. People want a place to be accepted, a place to hear about God, a place where they feel God hears them. Simply put, most people aren’t theologians. Neither am I. That’s what we have in common.' That, for me, was the most telling passage of the entire book

...So ultimately this book tells us a lot about Dan Harrington’s view and experiences in exploring the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but offers very little that can be generalized to investigators as a group."

Maybe I wasn't forceful enough, but the thought I was trying to drive home is that people are usually more taken by the "idea or place of being accepted" than by doctrine.

I did spend some time with other investigators, but I did not mention this in the book.  This mostly came about when the elders needed a third party to visit a single female and ward members were not available.  (Their rules dictate that they must have a third party present when alone with a woman.)  I was often their go-to guy for rides, food, or help in general.  A role I happily accepted.

Perhaps I should have written about what I witnessed from those investigators.  I just didn't feel like it was my place to spill other people's beans.

But as an observer who--admittedly--wasn't privy to the entire experience of others, it seemed that some people were joining because they wanted to be accepted, and quite frankly, liked it when speakers talked about them at sacrament meeting.

The conversations I heard from other investigators were less of "I believe Joseph Smith is a prophet" and more of "Do you think the Church will give me a Christmas tree if I wait until after the holidays to join?" (I'm obviously recalling one incident in particular)

Another man testified to knowing the LDS Church was true because of the Holy Spirit, but he would also go out to smoke after sacrament meeting, knowing full well that was against Church teaching.  He was also rude to my elders in general, challenging them in the Gospel Principles class and even calling them "stupid" in his home.  That irked me quite a bit.  Yet he somehow, passed a baptismal interview in another area of the state a few weeks before moving to my hometown.

Other investigators agreed with the missionaries in declaring the Book of Mormon is true, but they hadn't read more than a page or two of it.

These incidents did worry me, and my worry is that this particular aspect of the missionary program happens more often than I expect.  From this review, I see that I should have been more forthright with this thought because the hint I gave clearly didn't do the job.

I also realize that the elders are in between a rock and a hard place.  No one should be a doctrinal expert to join the Church, but how can you really know what a person's motivations are?  I've even seen this discussion on message boards between LDS members who wonder the same thing.

As to my personal experience, which is the focus of the book, I think one reason the elders and I spent so much time together is because we accepted each other, despite our differences.  That's what causes heated arguments, really, because people refuse to accept each other.

In the end, I accepted the elders for who they were--warts and all--, and they, despite my hesitation about joining the church, accepted me into their lives as well..warts and all.

(Not that we have warts.  That's just a metaphor)


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Awesome Authors: David J West

My awesome authors series continues with David J West author of "Heroes of the Fallen." I first became aware of David while researching Utah publishers for my own book and came across his blog, Nephite Blood, Spartan Heart.

You can view it at this link: David J West.

He was the first blogger who grabbed my attention for his mix of humor and writing insight. Additionally, his work branches out from traditional LDS topics and feels more inspired by great works of Epic fantasy.

It was also nice to see a blog devoid of frills and girlie romance covers. Sometimes when I visit his blog, it's like heading over to a "man cave" on the web.

I've had the pleasure of chatting with David and was happy he agreed to be featured. Please welcome Mr. David J West!  

Your first book "Heroes of the Fallen" came out with Wido Publishing earlier this year. Can you tell us a little about the book?

"Heroes of the Fallen" is the first in a series of ancient American historicals that are laced with all the speculative weirdness and action I can muster. It reads like an epic fantasy, though I would argue anything within [the book] IS within the realm of the possible.

What motivated you to write "Heroes of the Fallen?"

A big motivation for writing the entire series, is that no one had ever done a Book of Mormon historical the way I wanted to read them. The romances didn't do it for me, nor did the adaptions which had very little creativity in prose or expansion of possibilities.

As a kid (and still today) my favorite parts were the wars, the action, the heroics. No one would tackle the incredible potential for the kind of stories I wanted to read. So I did.

Using perhaps more familiar Biblical historicals, think of the movies- 10 Commandments, Ben Hur, The Robe, King David and the novel Curse of Jezebel by Frank Slaughter.

I wanted to read an epic series so I wrote an epic series.

[Editor's note: Great cover.  I'm pretty sure that's David on the left about to kick some butt.]

How do you think your book is different from others in the Utah/LDS market? 

I would say the one thing I keep hearing back is either it is very graphic compared to what the LDS market standard is, OR I liked it despite it being an LDS book. I suppose I'll take both as a compliment.

I set out to write a very different book, and it was a fear of mine that it would be rejected by the LDS community. Thankfully it wasn't.

How far along are you with your next book?

[It's] very nearly done. Originally book 1 and 2 were one massive tome,but the market being what it is, I decided to split the book in half. This has caused new problems. I have to reintroduce some things to book 2 and expand on somethings added in book 1 rewrites.

I expect to get BLOOD OF OUR FATHERS to my editor any day now.

You're a publishing machine! Besides your books, I noticed you are a prolific short story writer. Can you tell us a little about your upcoming anthologies? 

I have several anthologies coming up. Except for a Book of Mormon short story anthology (which I am headlining) the rest of the anthologies are fantasy's.

Roar of the Crowd-will have my story "Whispers of the Goddess," a heroic account of the sack of Constantinople in the 4th Crusade. Whats not to love about Crusaders, Vikings and the Holy Grail to boot?

Shadows & Light 2 contains my desert fantasy tale of honor-"The Hand of Fate" The Challenge: Discovery-has "The Serpent's Root" a rollicking yarn starring a female thief named Saphir.

I have several other tales I am waiting to hear confirmations on.

How do you tackle writing a short story vs writing a novel? 

Its kinda weird, I started out writing short stories, then linking them all together to make a novel-filling in spaces at times-so that when I decided to try writing some shorts it was really hard to go back to keeping a low wordcount.

My first shorts were all longer. Whispers of the Goddess is 12K, Hand of Fate was 11K.

In fact I had to stop a couple of shorts because it became obvious they needed to become novels-I couldn't limit those stories. But with practice and craft, I am finding the way to strip things down and get to the meat of an incident and leave that at 5K or less. I have a couple shorts now that aren't over 3K.

Tell us a little about your background? I heard you were into martial arts. 

I was really into martial arts before I got married.  I took some Karate, Tae-kwon do, Akido, and my personal favorite Wu Ji Chyuan Fa, a no-nonsense Chinese amalgamation of styles.

I hear you collect swords. Can you tell us about your collection and how you got interested in it?

I have always liked swords-just that boyish barbarian fascination I suppose. I have a large number of decorative swords, but also several 'battle ready' weapons.

How many do you have? 

I think I have 17 swords, a pair of spears and three ax's. Oh and a war-hammer that is a lot of fun.

Any favorite one?

My favorite sword would be the Grosse Messer, which is what I base Amaron, the main character in Heroes, sword on.

Why do you think readers, male readers in particular, enjoy action and battle scenes?

Probably much the same reason they like sports-whether watching or playing there is that release for the natural aggressions that come up in life.

I believe it is something we are hardwired with,BUT I would also hope that in my writing of such blood, I display consequences as well as action.  I don't write blood and guts without a thought behind it.

I love your blog titled "Nephite Blood/Spartan Heart." What link do you see between these two groups? 

Great question.  I wanted as original a name as possible for the blog and something that would brand me and my future writings.

I have a novel BLESS THE CHILD about an exiled Spartan mercenary set during the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar (I'm still tweaking it) and combining my thoughts on that with HEROES, which had just been contracted-gave me the title for the blog. It was also a play on Morrissey's song-Irish Blood, English Heart.

With the Christmas season upon us, do you have a favorite Christmas memory?

I love the feeling of being with family-the warmth, the hot cocoa, watching the moonlight hit the sparkling snow.

How does your family celebrate the season? 

We are in the midst of starting our own new traditions.  My family used to open presents on Christmas Eve and re-enact the Nativity. My wifes family did the standard Christmas Morn thing-so we are blending the two.

What was your favorite Christmas present as a kid? 

Probably anything G.I. Joe.

What do you want for Christmas this year? 

Books, lots and lots of books. It's what excites me the most.
[Editor's comment: Books and swords. A cool combination!] 

You've been to several writing conferences in the Utah area. Do you have a favorite memory of those?

Heh-yeah. As mentioned above, in early 2009 I was still unsure if anyone in the LDS community would like my style-BUT I won first place in the first chapters general fiction category for my weird western, DANCE THE GHOST WITH ME - (my mom is still after me to finish that one!) It was a great validation that other people liked my stuff.

It's often said that women buy more books than men. Any thoughts on why that is and how we can increase male readership? 

That's a real tough one. I ought to ask that myself on the blog and get more feedback, but I think women are more willing to throw themselves into the world of a book.

Too many people in general think they have to get something out of reading, like it has to teach them something concrete.

Think of all the self-help books out there.

They are missing how much literature does teach us,even subtly, how much it does make us think.

This is why the classic works have survived as long as they have--great literature makes us a great people.

I also believe in the sheer enjoyment of reading. I read for enjoyment almost every day BUT I don't do lots of other things people take for granted.

I never play video games for example. It might be perfectly enjoyable, but I don't see it edifying anyone, and I don't have time for that.

What advice do you have for other writers? 

Always, always, always keep notes. I have a river of ideas flowing to me constantly, and you have to keep notes, because you will forget.

What do you know about the publishing industry now that you didn't know before your novel? 

Networking is key. It always pays to know people and have friends within the community. Writing can be solitary, but I don't believe success is.

What's 2011 hold for David West? 

I will have BLOOD OF OUR FATHERS released. I will have half a dozen short stories in anthologies (at the least) and potentially a couple other novels out riding the waves of fortune.

Thanks for sharing your experience, David.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Sunday Song, "Hope is Born This Night"

In keeping with the season, here's one of my favorite Christmas songs:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blog Tour Review

With the help of the incredible Tristi Pinkston, I am currently doing a blog tour, and the first review of "Who's at the Door?" is available on Anne Bradshaw's site.

Here's an excerpt of her review:

"the book is about one man's (Dan's) experience with the missionaries, but told in such a unique and fascinating way that it drew me right in and I found myself eagerly turning the pages with almost the same anxiety I feel when reading a suspense novel!"

Wow, I never expected a comparison like that, but I'll take it.

You can read the full review on Anne's Blog here: (Go there! Read it!) = )

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Awesome Authors: Michael Young

I'm starting a new feature on the blog, an occasional series called Awesome Authors where I interview fellow writers.

We kick off the series with Michael Young who is not only the author of "The Canticle Kingdom" but also a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I don't know about you, but I am thoroughly impressed.

One of the first bloggers I ever chatted with was Mike. He's a great guy and very friendly. He's currently holding a contest over at his blog where you can win a copy of his book.

Check it out at

Now on to the Awesome Author himself!  

Mike, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is world famous.  Please tell us how you joined such a respected organization.

Joining the choir was something I’ve sought to do since I was a child. However, you cannot try out until you reach age 25, and so I knew growing up that I had a long time to practice. I did everything I could to get ready, including singing in every choir I could, and taking private voice lessons.

Then when I turned 25, I thought it was time to give it a try.  The process is a very long one, with three rounds, including a taped audition, a two-hour theory test and a live audition. After that, you have to sing in a training choir for four months.  If you get through that okay, you are made a full member.  I started the process in July 2009 and was made a full member in May 2010.

What does being a member of the choir entail?

The biggest thing is the weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast, which has been going on every Sunday for 82 years.  We usually practice on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings for two hours apiece.

We do a number of other big concerts during the year, including Christmas and Easter, and have a recording project or two.  We also sing for the General Conference of the LDS Church every April and October. Every other Summer, we also go on tour for a week or two. All in all, a very busy schedule.

What are some aspects of being in the choir that most people aren't aware of?

For one, not everybody sings at every event.  There are about 360 members of the choir and we are expected to have an 80% attendance record.

I also people don’t realize how many behind-the-scenes volunteers it takes to keep the choir running. There are people who serve in the wardrobe, the music library, seating and many other capacities.  Oh, and there’s an English Handbell Choir that’s part of the choir as well.

What's your favorite memory of the choir experience so far?

That’s a hard one. Probably helping to make a recording of the Choir for my first time. It features just the men of the choir with some great music.  Another one that stands out is singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus six times in a row for a recording.  

What's your favorite Christmas song to sing in the choir and/or on your own?

  The choir sings this amazing version of “The First Noel” that I love.  Alone, I love stuff with good tenor notes like “O Holy Night” and ones that aren’t sung as often like “Lo How A Rose E’re Blooming.”  

You're also the author The Canticle Kingdom.  Please share the premise of your book.

It is about of kingdom of people who live inside of a music box, but do not know that yet. There is one family however, who knows the nature of their world and is tasked with playing the music from the box to affect people in our world.

For example, when their queen in old and a new queen needs to be appointed, they play the box and a woman who hears the music from it is drawn into this kingdom and made the new queen.  This needs to happen at the beginning of the story, but the family has forgotten their duties and the box has fallen into disrepair.  

How did you come up with the idea for a magic kingdom inside a music box?

That's a good question.  This one just popped into my head while I was working at Target during my first year at college.  Most of my ideas enter at strange times when I'm not really looking for them.

How long did it take you to write the book?

About a year for the first draft.  I was attending college at the time and so I could only write here and there. I could probably churn out a first draft much more quickly now.  

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

Drawing all the story threads together effectively in a way that does not confuse the reader.  

Can you describe your writing process?

I start out developing a general outline with “mile markers” of things that I want to happen. Then I just get going on the first draft.  I set a weekly goal for myself about how many words I want to write and then break that up into my daily portion. I write everywhere, even when I don’t have a computer to fill in those little times.    

What advice do you have for other writers?

Slow and steady pays off.  You will get to be a better writer by doing it just a little every day and brainstorming new ideas while you are doing menial things like waiting in line at the grocery store, or doing the dishes.  I’ve had some of my greatest lightbulb moments while doing menial tasks.  

On a personal note, congratulations on the birth of your new son! Tell us a little about your family.

My wife Jen and I have been married about five years and have two sons, Jarem who is two and a half and little Bryson who came to us on November 1st.  We are all very musical and love good books.  (I guess the jury is still out on Bryson, but at least Jarem does.)

The doctor’s let us know that Bryson has Down’s Syndrome, which was surprising to us, but we’re excited to get to know this sweet little boy.  

In the spirit of the season, can you share one of your favorite Christmas memories?

  That would have to be spending Christmas Eve with a little German family in a tiny village. They only sing “Silent Night” or “Stille Nacht” on Christmas Eve and then give out all their presents.  It was so simple and sacred that it has always stuck with me.  

How did you wind up spending Christmas in a tiny village with a German family?

  I was an LDS missionary at the time and they were a family from our congregation who invited us to their house to spend Christmas Eve. It was especially nice because I was so far away from home.   

When your two sons are grown, what do you want them to remember about their childhood Christmases with Dad?

I hope that they remember the fun Christmas music and traditions we made together, and the thoughtful gifts I made them. I always take time and make homemade gifts that I think mean a little more.  

What kind of homemade gifts do you make for your sons?

 I did a painting for a son of Winnie the Pooh that now hangs in his room.  For my sister this year, I made a compilation of piano music that I had written and wrote a new song for her.  She always said how much she liked listening to me play my songs.  I think it will be easier to make stuff for them once they grow up a little more and their interests become more apparent.

What was your favorite Christmas present as a boy? 

I'll have to admit it was a Super Nintendo. My brothers and I spent many a bonding moment over Mario and Zelda.  I think playing video games expanded my imagination a bit. (Though I usually did it in moderation)   

[Editors Note: Mike may not have been aware that the Sega Genesis was the superior console at the time due to its X-Men, Streets of Rage and Pirates of Dark Water games.  Please forgive him]

What do you want for Christmas this year?

What I’d really like is for another one of my manuscripts to be picked up.  I’ve got a few out there, so it could happen.    

What's in the future for Michael Young?

Many creative things.  I’ve planned out a number of book projects as well as projects for the stage that I’d like to see get out there. Lots of good times with my wife raising my two boys and many great performances with the Tabernacle Choir.    

Is there anything else you'd like to mention?

I would just encourage those who want to pursue a hobby that the time is now to get started.  If you invest the time, you can create things that will uplift others. That’s the best feeling.

Thanks for being my first awesome author, Mike!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sunday Song, "O Come All Ye Faithful"

In keeping with the season, please enjoy this beautiful rendition of a Christmas classic.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Party Pics

The book party was 5 days ago, but I'm still grinning about it.  I got a few pictures of the event that I wanted to share.

A local florist donated this wreath as a prize for the event.

Here I am at the signing table.  
It's still a shock that people got in line and waited up to an hour for my signature.

By the end up the night, nearly 100 people showed up. Woo Hoo! 


A harpist played music for the people in line between their brownie and baklava munchies.  
Only the best, baby!

One thing I learned is that dealing with musicians can be a pain.  After speaking with nearly a dozen of them, this lady stepped up to the plate.  She specializes in medieval music, hence the dress.

It was such a blessing to have so many people support me.  I am still grateful for such a wonderful event.  You can buy brownies.  You can buy baklava, but you can't buy the support I received that night (unless you're a millionaire), and I'm so glad to have the latter.  The only thing that would have made the day better is if the missionaries in the book had been able to attend.  Alas, we can't have everything we want.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Awesome Book Party/Amazing Week

This week was so awesome for me.  After months of preparation, I had my book launch party at Barnes and Noble in Maine. 

Around 100 people attended the event, and we sold every last copy the store had. That's right, my first signing event was SOLD OUT! I just realized how much I like that phrase.  It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

The manager said that's never happened at any of her other book signing events.  She even had to start a list for customers to order more because a handful of people missed out.  It was incredible, and I have to thank my family for all the prep work with getting the word out and all my friends for showing up, some driving an hour just to attend.

I thought I'd have more time to mingle, but soon a line formed halfway through the store for people waiting to get their book signed.  I made sure to have nice, but short, chats with each of them.  It took an hour and a half for me to sign every book. 

After that, we had a drawing for a decorated balsam wreath that a local florist donated.  The last book sold along with the wreath, and some distant relatives even decided not to purchase copies until later so there would be enough for other customers. 

After haggling with too many musicians, I found a very affordable harpist to play at the event, and several people commented on the beautiful music and unique instrument.

I saw so many friends from my past and present, old co-workers, teachers, and even several readers who enjoy my work in the local media.  The last two guests who showed up were the two most recent missionaries in the area.  Just as I did many times in the book, I sent them home with a plate of food.

The one problem I had didn't happen until the next day when several friends who couldn't make it complained that both Barnes and Noble and Amazon are out of stock with the book.  I have no idea how normal that is.

The only version that seems available today is the Kindle edition, which, I suspect, can't be sold out.  I guess this is a good problem to have.

I've spent decades dreaming about my first book, and now it's finally here!  I still can't believe it.  Even Norris thinks it's cool (Well, he would if he actually knew about it.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Titles? Titles? Who's got the title?

Titles aren't normally my strong suit as a writer. Back when I first started doing freelance work, I would wrack my brain and agonize over inventing the perfect title. This turmoil was usually wasted because the editor often erased mine and put their own in anyway.

It's why I often slap a ramshackle place holder above my stories these days.

Of all the titles, I've created very few have ever been kept, so it was quite a surprise that my publisher kept the title of my book Who's at the Door? A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries. My original working title was The Young Elders, but that was very early in the process when I envisioned a more academic work rather than a human interest story.

When I came up with Who's a the Door?, I tested it with several people, and much to my surprise, they all had a physical reaction to it. Instead of a mere "Oh, that's nice," people smiled or chuckled. Right then, I knew it was a winner. I wasn't sure the publisher would agree, but they obviously did.

To emphasize the humor in the book, some co-workers of mine suggested alternate titles such as Who the HELL is at the Door? To this I added, Oh no, they're at the Door! or Hide! They're at the Door!

No matter how you slice it, I knew the missionaries were associated with an unexpected knock. Even those of us who let them into our lives know that the  process usually begins at the door, where we make the split-decision to open it or slam it shut.

It's the same decision readers will make when they see the book. 

Do we put it back on the shelf, or do we buy it?  Let's hope enough people choose the latter.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010


Author David J West recently advised me to "push" my book in the first month of its release.  I'm definitely in the middle of doing that now.

Push! Push! Push!

I feel like a crazed father running around the hospital during his wife's pregnancy.  In the last month, I've become a November sponsor for the LDS Publishing blog, arranged a book launch party at Barnes and Noble, scored a door prize for the event from a local florist who is donating a decorated balsam wreath, printed invitations, and told everyone I know about the party.

The problem with pushing is that I sometimes feel like I can work all day on promotion without  resulting in a sale. Keep your fingers crossed that some of this "push" pays off.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to lick the envelops for my party invitations.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Book Came Today!!!

After nearly a year of waiting, I finally got to see the book in its final format today.

I can't believe it. I'm officially an author.

Not only that, but I can't believe what my book is about. When I was a kid, I was sure my first book would be an epic fantasy in the tradition of my favorite author David Eddings. I wanted to write about wizards, gods, warriors and the mortals mixed up in between.

Instead, my first book is a fairly personal account of my own life.

That's so far from what I expected. Telling a true story comes with its own special challenges that not every author can appreciate. I hope everyone mentioned in the book, especially the missionaries who became my friends, are happy with their depictions.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I haven't even seen my book yet, but it's being offered as a prize this month at the LDS Publisher blog. 

You can see it here:
That's some great exposure.  I visited the site quite often while doing research about where to send the manuscript. When I explained the premise of the book to the site creator, she agreed to make it part of her monthly giveaway, even though the book doesn't strictly follow all her giveaway rules.

The book is set to be in stores next week, and I haven't seen the finished product yet.  I'm a little nervous because the book deals with real people, and I hope they are all happy with their depictions.

Right now, this is how I feel about my book.

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's almost book time/How it happened

Ever since I signed my publishing contract last February, I've been waiting for this month.  Now it's here!

My book is being released with Cedar Fort in about a week, and I can hardly believe it.
The story centers on my true experience of letting Latter-Day Saint elders into my home and getting to know these guys as people.  It's a personal account of our friendship as I explore the LDS faith. 

This concept has garnered a variety of reactions over the months.  Some people are cautiously optimistic, others are happy to see me succeed, while others express great concern over these "bothersome" Mormons.

In any case, people are having strong reactions to the story--from the synopsis alone.  Maybe that's why I found a publisher so fast.

Let's be clear.  Part of me is still reeling from how quickly I found a publisher.  I finished the book last December, edited it for a month, and then decided that I could start sending it out.  The standard wisdom is that it takes forever and a day to get a publishing contract; I assumed that's how it would be with me too.  While I thought the manuscript was decent, my goal was to improve it over the months as the rejections poured in. 

Only they didn't.

I chose four LDS publishing houses where I could submit my manuscript.  They were my top four choices, and I figured they would reject me first.  During the interim months, I'd sculpt the manuscript more, remove any jagged edges and submit the story to a second batch of publishers I had chosen.

Everything was progressing nicely when I got my first rejection in an e-mail.  Then another one, from a literary agent I had contacted.  These two things happened pretty quickly.

Then, one night, when I got home from my day job, the unthinkable happened.  My answering machine had a message on it from Cedar Fort asking me to call the acquisitions editor back.  I was stunned.

Five weeks after sending my manuscript out, it found a home with one of the biggest LDS publishing houses on the map.  I've been on screech every since.

This month my dream will collide with reality.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  To read the first 15 pages of the manuscript, you can read the preview here:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Treat or Treat

What's wrong with kids these days?

It's 9pm on Halloween night and trick or treating is over.  In fact, it's been over for a while now.  I had my last costumed kid come to the door over an hour ago.  I can't believe it.

Back when I was a kid, I stayed out until at least 9pm and tried to hit every house in the city.  Time was precious, and I stretched it out to the max.  My family would drive me from neighborhood to neighborhood hording candy.  I wouldn't stop until every last light was out.  Only then, would I begrudgingly  return home.

This year, I saw several kids turn back from homes they deemed were "too far" to walk to.  My own niece and nephew said they were tired and wanted to go home by 7pm.  I was in shock.

Trick or treating was an annual event I loved--one I looked forward to all year.  I savored every minute of it, and now kids actually ask to go home early.  I think it's a sign of the apocalypse.

This new trend of heading home early is the scariest part of this year's Halloween.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scrooge Hits Halloween

If you thought people only said ba-hum bug at Christmas, think again. According to, some cities in America are writing age-limit laws against trick or treating.

The story can be read here:

Some people don't want to give candy to children over 12 and apparently they want their opinion written into the law.  Talk about strict.

Trick-or-Treating is one of the most harmless activities anyone can participate in. I did it until I was 16.  That year I thought I was far too old and mature until a friend in the neighborhood, who was about two years younger than I was, talked me into going with her one last time. 

Secretly, I was dying to go, but I had to put up a brave front calling it "kid stuff" long enough to convince her that I wasn't dying for some free Baby Ruths too.

And you know what? We had fun.  We had fun, and no one was hurt.  Not even a tooth ache.  I think it's pretty Grinchy for people to deny older kids candy.  What are they going to do with the extra sugar anyway? 

As long as a kid is in costume and says the magic words "trick or treat," I don't mind handing out a bite-sized Snicker Bar.

If age is being considered, why not ban the wee ones too? I've seen many young parents cart their babies out for candy as well.  And who do you really think the candy is going to when the tot doesn't have teeth?

I say, lighten up or be ready for a trick!  That's the Halloween way!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Goodbye Mr. Cunningham

I've heard people say time goes by faster the older you get.

But I think it goes by faster after you start a blog.

It feels like I posted a video yesterday, but time has already swallowed most of the week, and I need to write something clever again. (Not that I was ever clever to begin with!)

We lost two TV icons recently with both Tom Bosley from "Happy Days" and Barbara Billingsley from "Leave It to Beaver." For decades, they represented the old-fashioned ideals of the American family: the homemaker mom who could do it all, and the understanding but firm father.

The death of these terrific actors gave me pause and made me ponder how the ideals they represented are dying too. Fathers are largely absent from the family, and most women no longer stay home to raise their children.

Somewhere along the line, we gave up the idea of an old-fashioned family, but I'm still not certain how Americans have replaced it.  Is it always necessary for both parents to work?  How did two incomes become the new standard?  And why do I have the sneaking suspicion that fathers are viewed as a bonus rather than an essential.

I thought of this today while watching a few minutes of Dr. Phil where two parents fought over custody of their children. All I saw on stage was anger, remorse, and regret.

It made me thankful to have the parents I have. They weren't perfect, but they knew how to value commitment. It's something more people should value too.  Maybe that's the glue that held the old-fashioned family together.  Maybe that's exactly what we've lost.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Praise for Pinkston

I took part in Tristi Pinkston's "Making Friends Monday" series this week, and I want to thank Tristi for helping to expose my strange, little corner of the blog-o-sphere to others.

Both Tristi and Mormon Times columnist Becky Thomas were gracious enough to provide blurbs for the back of my book, and I appreciate that immensely.

Here's some more info about Tristi.

Tristi Pinkston has been blogging since 2006. On her main blog, ( she covers everything from writing tips and the life of a published author to kid funnies, spiritual thoughts, and embarrassing moments. She also has a weight loss blog, one for writing challenges, another for her fictional characters … and she lost count of how many others she has. You can find the links for them on her sidebar.

Tristi is the author of five published novels and a whole kit ‘n caboodle of unpublished novels. Right now she’s focusing on cozy mysteries, although she has written historical fiction in the past and plans to write more in that genre. She works as a freelance editor and a virtual book tour coordinator. She loves taking long naps, being charmingly annoying, and watching good movies. She’s a Mormon, a homeschooler, a Cubmaster, and most of the time, a headless chicken.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sunday Song Casting Crowns "Praise You in this Storm"

Every Sunday, I plan to post one of my favorite Christian songs. I love this performance from Casting Crowns.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Tip from Tess Gerritsen

I went to a presentation that New York Times Bestselling Author Tess Gerritsen gave today.  I interviewed her a few months ago for the paper; her books are the basis for a new drama on TNT called "Rizzoli and Isles."

She's a very intelligent woman, and the audience couldn't get enough of her.  Tess explained that when she's writing a story, she always asks herself, "What would surprise me most about this scene?"

The answers help construct the plot. It's an interesting technique that might help people avoid cliches.

Tess gave an example from one of her books about a scene that involved someone waking up in the morgue right before their own autopsy.  Tess asked herself, "What would surprise me most about this scene?"


As a result, she wrote that the person who came out of the body bag immediately grabbed a nearby gun and held the people in the morgue hostage.  The audience gasped at her suggestion.  Surprises like that keep readers interested.

She allowed plenty of time for questions, and it was then that I sensed a few kindred spirits among the crowd.

Would-be authors dreaming about their first books, desperate for the golden secret of how to score a  publishing contract.

At the beginning of the year, that was me.  Now my book is set to be published in early November, and I can't wait.

I'm a little nervous too.

With fiction, you can hide behind a screen of imagination. After all, the story is about some other character, in some other situation, dealing with some other issue.  "That's not me," you can always say, "That's just my imagination at play."

But I wrote a memoir, so that rule doesn't apply.  If people think the protagonist is a dope, they'll be talking about me.  Parts of my life will be on display for the world to see.

That fact didn't really hit me until just this month.  I should have realized it a long time ago, but I was so busy trying to make the story work that it didn't occur to me. I'm a little slow, huh?

But we're at the point of no return, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well.

I spoke to Tess after the event, and she remembered me from our interview, which was nice.  And as I left, I realized one thing.  Never again would I be that guy in the room, hoping for a chance to break into publishing, hoping for my first book deal.  Those things have already come to pass, and according to Tess, the next hurdle is to make sure my book stands out among the crowd.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sunday Song Matthew West "My Own Little World."

This is one of those rare songs that I liked the first time I heard it.  I hope it's the same with you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The wind stole my homework

I've never liked deadlines. 

Now that my freelance work has picked up, I've got deadlines up the ying-yang.  My most recent one demanded that I attend an event, write a story, and submit it in an hour and a half.  Talk about pressure! I thought my head might pop.

On the positive side, deadlines like that help me get the job done. They give me the kick in the pants I need to get energized.  Otherwise, I procrastinate.  It's too bad procrastination isn't a super-power because my sloth-like abilities could rival the strength of Superman.

My worst case of procrastination happened back in 4th grade.  I hated doing my math homework.  Ms. Clark used to makes us do too many long division problems. One, two, or three were never enough.

Oh, no.  She was never satisfied until we had done 20 or 30 each night.  It always felt like she assigned me a million.  Doing that putrid long division was torture, and I hated every second of it.  I'd put it off each night by making silent deals with myself.

They went something like this:

I'll do my homework after I watch my favorite cartoons. 

I'll do it right after dinner.

No, I'll do it right before I go to bed.

Hey, maybe if I wake up extra early, I can do it in the morning.

Yeah, right.

I once procrastinated so badly that I found myself doing my math problems during a morning recess.  It happened to be very windy that day, and when some kids on the playground distracted me, that wild air snatched the homework out of my hands and down into a nearby construction site.

Ms. Clark was plenty skeptical when I told her, "I don't have my homework because it blew away."

Thankfully several kids saw it happen and vouched for me.  That's the biggest memory I have of missing a deadline, and somehow it's sweet.

It's strange how some of our mistakes are far more memorable than our mundane successes.  I did that dreaded math homework for years for numerous teachers.

But none of those times is half as memorable as that one, wild occasion when the wind stole my homework. 

Maybe it hated math too.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sunday Songs

I'm planning to share a video of a Christian song I like every Sunday.

First up is Jason Lavik's version of "Come Thou Fount."  I never cared for this song before, but I love the contemporary feel Jason adds to this old hymn.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Technical Difficulties

It's been more than a week since I started this blog, and I have yet to master blogger.  Imagine that!

When I log on via my home computer, I see a beautiful water marked blog with an old word map tinged in brown in the background.

However, when I check the blog from elsewhere, all I see is a plain brown background that's about as interesting as a paper bag.

I have no idea why the blog looks one way at home and another way somewhere else.

Oh well,  I've long been told to stop being a perfectionist, and this is as good a place as any to start.  = )

Friday, September 17, 2010

One Worry Down

Back in 2007 when I first started writing for a local paper, one question haunted me.

What if I ran out of stories?

After all, the paper never ends.  It's a story-chomping machine whose hunger is eternal.  Every time I was published, I was certain it might be the last time I was published.

What if I didn't have any more ideas that my editor liked?  What if I ran out of ideas altogether?

Well, those days are long dead.  I now have two newspapers giving me assignments and not enough time in the day to get to all of them.  My day-job just takes up too much of my well... day!  Too bad being a freelance writer doesn't cover my bills & offer health insurance.  If it did, I'd have more time to do what I want to do--write!

As soon as I get home from being an office desk jockey, I usually have an interview scheduled, notes to go over, or someone to call. At times it can be stressful because I just want to relax.

That's when I have to remind myself of how I felt in 2007. 
Three years later, with more than 120 stories under my belt and a book on the way, the anxiety I had about running out of good ideas has subsided.  At least for now....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Icons & Me

I've been writing a series for Village Soup since April called the Icons of Maine.  It's been a terrific, though time-consuming, experience to interview so many famous people from my home state.

I've gotten to interview people like NY Times Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen, actress Victoria Rowell, former WWE Pro-wrestler Scotty Too Hotty and numerous others.

This week I interviewed UFC Fighter Marcus Davis.  What a great guy.  He was very humble and willing to talk to me as long as I wanted.  We spent about 1.5 hours on the phone.  He had a tough childhood, but thanks to some local police officers who befriended him as a teen, he turned his life around.

One thing I didn't mention in the article, due to time constraints, was how often he had been to the hospital after fights.  Anyone who saw his bout against Nate Diaz at UFC 118 knows that Davis' face was pretty messed up after the match.  Davis shrugged off his injuries and said it was "all part of the job" and felt that receiving the "Fight of the Night" award made it all worth it.  Despite that, he has been to the hospital nearly 80 times due to cuts above his eye.

Ouch! Talk about dedication.  You can check out my story with him at the following link:

Marcus Davis: UFC Fighter & Maine Icon

Monday, September 13, 2010

When it rains...

I've been reading everything I can about how to launch a successful book party.  I have a venue tentatively set, and I'm extremely excited.  I've never planned a big party before! From invitations to food, I've got a lot on my mind.

Just when I thought I couldn't think about anything else, the KJ called to offer me two assignments.  Why are the days so short, and why is my day job so long?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Blog Cometh

My first book is being published with Cedar Fort this November, so I'm looking into new ways to expand my readership.  Hence, this blog.

We'll see how it develops, but I hope to join the wonderful author community in cyberspace.

With this blog entry, I break new ground!  Maybe just a spoonful of ground, but it's still something, right?