Thursday, December 18, 2008

Welcome to The Twelve Days of Christmas Contest, Medieval Style!

During the Middle Ages, the Twelve Days of Christmas did not refer to the twelve days preceding Christmas day, as it does now. Rather it began on Christmas Day and continued through the following twelve days, ending on January 5, the eve of Epiphany which was traditionally considered the day that the three Magi presented their gifts to the Christ Child.

So a few friends and I decided to put a bit of a spin on our Twelve Days of Christmas Contest, and run it “Medieval Style”. Beginning on Christmas Day, we will be giving away a gift a day for 12 days, running through January 5th. There should be something for everyone…an inspirational book, five historical romance novels, two children’s picture books, one YA time travel, even a ghost story! And if that isn’t enough, you can also win a gift certificate to a wonderful new sensory experience called Scentsy, and a handmade, hand decorated, personalized mailbox.


You can send in an entry for each day’s prize, or only for those prizes that strike your fancy. The rules are simple:

(1) Go to the website or blog indicated for each day, find the answer to the question for that day, then email the answer with your name and mailing address to

(2) Please send a separate entry for each day and type the day you are entering in the subject line. (Such as: 12 Days of Christmas, Day 1; 12 Days of Christmas, Day 2, etc).

(3) Deadline for each day: Midnight PST

(4) The winner will be contacted and announced on the day following the deadline.

You do not have to wait until the designated day to enter. You can start sending in your entries right now, or begin entering at any point along the way. And check back here each day between Dec 26-Jan 6 to read the names of the winners.

If you have any questions, feel free to email Joyce DiPastena at

And now…let the games begin!

Day 1 – December 25
Sponsor: Kerry Blair
Prize: Inspirational Book: Counting Blessings: Wit and Wisdom for Women, autographed copy
Website address:
Website question: Name one of the two books -- e-versions -- that Kerry offers for free on her site. (Hint: Check out “Fun Stuff” tab)
WINNER: Debra Erfert of Arizona

Day 2 – December 28
Sponsor: Donna Hatch
Prize: Regency Romance, The Stranger She Married: e-book download
Website address:
Website question: What is Cole accused of doing? (Hint: Read excerpt of The Stranger She Married under “Bookshelf” tab)
WINNER: Gayle Oreluk of Illinois

Day 3 – December 27
Sponsor: Marsha Ward
Prize: Book: Post-Civil War action/adventure romance, The Man from Shenandoah, autographed copy
Website address:
Website question: Where is the Bates family living? (Don’t confuse with the Owen family! Hint: Click on excerpt from The Man from Shenandoah under “Novels” on websites’s left hand tool bar.)
WINNER: Anna Carpenter of Arizona

Day 4 – December 28
Sponsor: Joan Sowards
Prize: ebook Haunts Haven by LizAnne Bayh
Website address:
Website question: What is the title of Joan’s 2008 Christmas song? (Hint: Look under “Christmas” tab for 2008 song)
WINNER: Christa Johnson of Arizona

Day 5 – December 29
Sponsor: Heidi Ashworth
Prize: $20 Amazon gift certificate towards purchase of her Regency Romance, Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind
Blog address:
Blog question: What is the last name of the hero in the novel Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind?
WINNER: Ilona Fenton of Wales, UK

Day 6 – December 30
Sponsor: Kellydawn Zollinger
Prize: $25 Scentsy Gift Certificate
Website address:
Website question: How many room sprays come in the “Scentsy Sampler” Multi Pack offered in the current catalog? (Hint: Scroll through the “catalog” tab to find answer. Or download catalogue to PDF for easier reading.)
WINNER: Jobie Marshall of Oregon

Day 7 – December 31
Sponsor: Joyce DiPastena
Prize: Book: Medieval Romance, Loyalty’s Web, autographed copy
Website address:
Website question: How is Gunthar received almost the moment he sets foot in Poitou? (Hint: check out “Books and Bio” tab)
WINNER: Ronda Hinrichsen of Utah

Day 8 – January 1
Sponsor: Cindy Williams
Prize: Children’s Book: Chase McKay Didn’t Get Up Today, autographed copy
Website address:
Website question: What is the name of the fantasy book about dragons that Cindy is writing? (Hint: check out “Home” page or “Books” Tab)
WINNER: Judy Cox of Louisiana

Day 9 – January 2
Sponsor: Liz Adair/Cecily Markland
Prize: Autographed copy of Counting the Cost, new novel by best-selling author, Liz Adair
Website address:
Website question: What is the title of the workshop Liz Adair presents for writers and family history buffs? (Hint: It's the same title as the 28-page booklet by Liz that Inglestone Publishing also published. Check out the Bookstore tab.)
WINNER: Kristina Stiltner of Virginia

Day 10 – January 3
Sponsor: Lori Conger
Prize: Children’s Picture Book: My Squishy Pants, autographed copy
Website address:
Website question: Why doesn’t Jonah want to wear his pants to school? (Hint: This one’s on the “Home” page)
WINNER: Patricia Andreasky of Arizona

Day 11 – January 4
Sponsor: Kathi O. Peterson
Prize: YA Time-travel: The Forgotten Warrior, autographed copy
Website address:
Website question: What attribute has Sydney Morgan never had? (Hint: This one again is on the “Home” page)
WINNER: Kerri Waldo of Alabama

Day 12 – January 5
Sponsor: Teri Rodeman
Prize: Personalized mailbox
Blog address:
Blog question: How many years has Teri Rodeman been owner of the LDSForeverFriends Google Group? (Hint: Check out the right hand side of the page)
WINNER: Mary Walker of Arizona

Good luck and Merry Christmas to you all!


Congratulations to the winners of my latest Loyalty's Web-site Drawing: Lexee Toste of California, Karen Hillis of Florida, and Debra Guyette of Connecticut! Each of these women won an Amazon $10 e-gift certificate to apply towards the purchase of a copy of Loyalty's Web. Thank you to everyone who entered!


Believe it or not, I've finally updated my Medieval Vignettes blog with a short story entitled: An Epiphany Gift for Robin. I entered a shorter version of this story in the LDS Publisher Christmas Story Contest. If you enjoy Christmas short stories, check out LDS Publisher and cast a vote for the one you like best!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Contest Reminder and Treasure Hunt!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah! Whatever you're celebrating this time of year, I hope you are all staying healthy, happy and warm.

I just wanted to alert you to a cool new contest going on over at The prize is an Amazon Kindle! You have to go on a bit of a treasure hunt to win it, though. You can check out the treasure map (so to speak) by clicking on the banner below.

How cool is that? Winner to be announced January 1st.

And while you're checking out that contest, don't forget about the contest currently going on on the News & Contests page of my website. Three gift certificates are waiting as prizes for three lucky people who enter. Deadline: December 16th.

Is this a great time for gift giving, or what? Let the games begin! (Or in the case of my own contest, continue. :-) )

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Drawing and Writing Contest

Who's ready for Thanksgiving? Raise your hand! Notice that mine did not go up in the air. Like many of you, I'm expecting family for the holidays. And probably like many of you, I'm scrambling to straighten, clean, declutter, etc, to find room for the guests I'm looking forward to enjoying. I cleared off a nice shelf in a closet and offered it to my sister, but for reasons I don't quite comprehend, she says she'd much rather sleep in a bed. Go figure. So bed tackling will be the order of the coming week.

But that doesn't mean I've forgotten about you wonderful guests who visit this blog and my website! So to show my appreciation to you all, I've launched a brand new website drawing. Again, there will be THREE lucky winners. All you have to do is visit my website, and follow the instructions on my News & Contests page. I hope you'll visit there soon!

2008 CHRISTMAS STORY CONTEST (scroll down)

Christmas Graphics

For any writers out there, I'd like to let you know about a fun Christmas short story contest going on. The prizes are small (think "books"), but it's a nice way to stretch your writing wings during this busy holiday season. Stories can be written in any genre, "should be positive and family friendly". Word length: 2000 words or less. Deadline: December 13th. Full details can be found by clicking here. (And no, your story does not need to be "religious".)

I'm thinking about entering. I'd love to see some of you there, too!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

And the winners are...

Congratulations to the three winners of my latest Loyalty's Web-site drawings:

Judy Cox
Laura Miller (aka, Jaimey Grant--
check out herRegency romances) and
Deidre Durance

These three ladies have each won a $10 e-gift certificate to to order a copy of Loyalty's Web!

And congratulations to Mina Gerhart, who won a free download of the Regency e-book, The Stranger She Married, by debut author, Donna Hatch.

Happy reading to all of them! And thank you to all who entered my drawings!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Drawings Drawing to a Close--Final Reminder!

My two website drawings are drawing to a close THIS WEDNESDAY, November 5th, so if you've procrastinated entering, procrastinate no longer!

On November 5th, I will be drawing THREE winners to each receive a $10 e-gift certificate to Deseret Book to order or purchase a copy of Leatherwood Press's newly released edition of my medieval romance, Loyalty's Web.

I'm also hosting a drawing for Regency author, Donna Hatch, for a free copy of her just released e-book, The Stranger She Married. Deadline: also November 5th. (Winners of both contests will be announced on November 6th.)

To see how to enter either or (better yet) both drawings, visit my website and click on the "News & Contests" tab.

Don't let the clock run out!

(What do you mean Halloween is over? I still have candy!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Prizes, Prizes, Prizes!

The Leatherwood Press edition of my medieval romance, Loyalty’s Web, is at the printer and will be available in Deseret Bookstores in November. If you just can't wait, or don't live near a Deseret Book, it can be pre-ordered now on To celebrate, I am offering three—count them, THREE—$10 e-gift certificates to Deseret Book for three lucky winners to use to order copies of Loyalty’s Web! That’s like getting a $16.95 book for only $6.95. (Actually, that’s exactly what the winners will be getting!)

To read the rules for entering, go to the News & Contest page of my website . Deadline for entries: November 5, 2008.

I’m also hosting a drawing for an exciting new Regency Romance author. Debut romance author Donna Hatch is offering a free copy of her new e-book, The Stranger She Married, to some lucky winner who visits my website and follows the directions I’ve posted there.

To borrow the description from Donna’s website:

“Do you long to dance with Mr. Darcy or flirt with Mr. Ferrar? Do you fantasize of regency bad boys like rakes, highwaymen, and pirates? Do you swoon at the sight of a man on horseback or engaging in a duel?

“Welcome to the magical and mysterious Regency world where men were civilized and cultured, educated in dance, art and literature, and yet engaged in manly pursuits like hunting, fencing and the steeplechase. Imagine yourself in the glittering world of dukes and duchesses, libertines and lovers. Wear beautiful gowns, waltz with a viscount, outwit a killer, and fall in love.

The Stranger She Married is a sweet, yet sensual regency romance with adventure, intrigue, a love triangle, and a terrible secret. When her parents and only brother die within weeks of each other, Alicia and her younger sister are left in the hands of an uncle who has brought them all to financial and social ruin. Desperate to save her family from debtor's prison, Alicia vows to marry the first wealthy man to propose. She meets the dashing Lord Amesbury, and her heart whispers that this is the man she is destined to love, but his tainted past may forever stand in their way. Her choices in potential husbands narrow to either a scarred cripple with the heart of a poet, or a handsome rake with a deadly secret. Cole Amesbury is tormented by his own ghosts, and believes he is beyond redemption, yet he cannot deny his attraction for the girl whose genuine goodness touches the heart he'd thought long dead. He fears the scars in his soul cut so deeply that he may never be able to offer Alicia a love that is true. When yet another bizarre mishap threatens her life, Alicia suspects the seemingly unrelated accidents that have plagued her loved ones are actually a killer's attempt to exterminate every member of her family. Despite the threat looming over her, learning to love the stranger she married may pose the greatest danger to her heart.”

Entry deadline is also November 5, 2008, so be sure to visit the News & Contest page on my website to learn how you can enter my drawing to win a copy of this book!

I’ll be announcing a lot of winners on November 6th!


I was recently interviewed about Loyalty’s Web and my interest in medieval history by Sarah Albrecht on her Family for WREAL blog. Click HERE to read the interview.

I also updated my medieval research with joyce blog with a post on “Norman Conquest Day”. I hope you’ll visit my post there, too. If you forgot to celebrate on Tuesday, feel free to buy a cake (or at least, a cupcake!) and celebrate a day or two late!


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Loyalty's Web Available for Pre-Order

Loyalty’s Web is now available for pre-order on If you’ve been waiting for an opportunity to purchase a copy of the Leatherwood Press version of this “sweet” medieval romance, this is your chance to jump on board! Loyalty’s Web has been re-edited, very slightly rewritten, AND is selling for $2.00 less than the original iUniverse version. You could wait until Loyalty’s Web appears in bookstores, but why when you could have it arrive directly on your doorstep as soon as it becomes available? Christmas is coming up fast, and what better gift for that reader among your family and friends (or yourself, for that matter!) than a nice, cozy historical romance to read while curled up next to a crackling fire?

Loyalty’s Web, by Joyce DiPastena

This book was a 2007 Whitney Award Finalist in the Best Romance/Women's Fiction category.

The year is 1176, and the Earl of Gunthar and his knights have been sent to France by King Henry II of England to enforce a peace treaty. The rakish earl falls in love with Heléne de Laurant, the younger, spirited sister of the beauty he is supposed to wed in an arranged marriage designed to unite the two countries. But when Heléne and her family are accused of plotting against the king, Heléne is torn: should she betray the man who could send her family to the gallows, or should she follow her heart and risk her safety to save him?


5 stars

Lovely visit to a world of long ago and wonderful story of choices and love.
Cindy, UTAH - September 24, 2008

Joyce DiPastena is a welcome fresh voice in historical romance. Her writing style is a real gift. Her characters come to life. I walked the time period through her detailed descriptions and found it fascinating and so visual. I was captivated by the story and the characters. Thank you Joyce for sharing this wonderfully clean historical romance with the world.


Friday, September 19, 2008

JDP NEWS Updates

From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

Patience: the capacity, habit, or fact of being patient.”

Patient: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.”

I am currently undergoing yet another lesson in patience. I returned from my trip to Pennsylvania to learn that, due to printing problems at Leatherwood Press, Loyalty’s Web (which was supposed to be re-published in June, then July, then August), probably will not hit the shelves until October. So I’m taking deep breaths and endeavoring to endure this “trial calmly and without complaint.” My mother would be proud of me! (Assuming I succeed in not breaking down and stamping my foot in frustration.)

Someone who will no longer have to exercise patience, however, is the winner of my website drawing, Debby Creager of Arkansas! Debby has won a signed copy of one of my Medieval Vignettes, “Picking Herbs”. Congratulations, Debby, and thank you to everyone who entered!


I recently posted a blog about one of my experiences during my trip to Pennsylvania. It’s a reflection on that state’s founder, William Penn, entitled Why Don’t We Know More About Our Pre-Founding Fathers? I hope you'll check it out.


And if you’d like to see some photos from my trip to Pennsylvania, I’ve posted a sampling (a mere 57 out of 192) on my website. Click on (what else?) the "My Albums" tab when you get there. Hope you enjoy a vicarious trip through my vacation!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Summer Book Trek Wrap-Up

As a participant in this summer's 2008 Summer Book Trek, I've been asked to post and respond to the following as the book trek draws to a close. Forgive me for not typing in more detail, but I'm on a trip to Philadelphia with my sister, borrowing my sister's work computer to post this, and her keyboard is driving me nuts! More about my trip when I get back to Arizona. In the mean time, on with my Summer Book Trek Wrap-Up!

LDS PUBLISHER: The Summer Book Trek ended on Sunday, August 31st. We have a few days to finish up what we're reading and to post and link our final reviews. This has been fun for me and, I hope, fun for you too. I read several LDS authors during this time, but not the ones on my list. Life works out that way, sometimes.If you've already finished your reading list, you can go ahead and post your wrap-up/summary post. Please consider answering these questions:



2. Did you read more than you would have read if you hadn't participated in this book trek? YES

3. Did the reviews posted by other participants influence which titles you read? How? NOT REALLY.

4. Did the Whitney awards influence which titles you read? How? NO, I JUST PICKED TITLES THAT SOUNDED INTERESTING TO ME, ALL PUBLISHED PRIOR TO 2008 (EXCEPT FOR ONE)

5. Did the many, many virtual blog tours that happened this summer influence which titles you read? How? NO

6. Did you finish all the books you had planned to read? If not, why? YES, PLUS TWO NOT ON MY LIST

7. Did you discover any new authors whom you now love? NOT REALLY, BUT I DID ENJOY READING BOOKS I WOULD NOT ORDINARILY HAVE TRIED

8. Did you nominate any of the books you read for Whitney awards? NO, BECAUSE MOST WERE NOT 2008 BOOKS, AND THE ONE THAT WAS ELIGIBLE I DIDN'T LIKE WELL ENOUGH TO NOMINATE

9. Would you be interested in another LDS themed reading challenge either this winter, or next summer? NEXT SUMMER. I'M READY TO READ SOME NON-LDS FICTION FOR AWHILE NOW.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Caught in the Headlights winner and Blog update

Congratulations to Margaret L Turley, winner of my Virtual Book Tour: Caught in the Headlights drawing! Thanks to the author's generosity, Margaret will be receiving an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Caught in the Headlights, directly from Barry K. Phillips.

Thank you to everyone who entered. Giving away books is fun. I'll have to do it again sometime. :-)


I have updated my medieval research with joyce blog with a post on the research book, Life in a Medieval Castle, by Joseph and Frances Gies. If you're interested in medieval research and research tips, check it out!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

JDP NEWS Updates

Hey, all! Good news for those of you who have (or are considering) entering my drawing for a copy of Caught in the Headlights, reviewed in my last post. The author, Barry K. Phillips, has most generously offered to AUTOGRAPH my prize copy directly to the winner! That may mean an extra day or two till you receive the prize, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. Thank you, Barry!

If you haven’t entered my drawing, there’s still time…not a lot of time, but still time. Entries must be in to me by midnight Sunday, August 17th. For details on how to enter, click here. (And have I mentioned what beautiful voices all the entrants have demonstrated so far? But you don’t have to be a great singer to win. Promise!)

That was good news for you. Now here’s some good news for me. Not only is my new book cover finished, but I finally have permission to share it with you! So for those of you who haven’t already seen it on my website or elsewhere, here it is, the unveiling of Loyalty’s Web’s new cover art:

And here’s the old version:

Which do you like best? I’m leaning towards the new version, but I may be prejudiced.

Loyalty’s Web’s release date has been pushed back just a little bit again, to September, but I think the wait will be worth it.

In the meantime, while you’re waiting for the new, improved version of Loyalty’s Web to appear at a bookstore near you (or on a weblink near you…maybe even better!), I’m offering some lucky winner a chance to get to know my heroine, Heléne, just a little better before Loyallty’s Web comes out. I’ve got a new drawing going on my website at Click on “News & Contests" when you get there for details on how to enter.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Virtual Book Tour: Caught in the Headlights

[Once again, I'm posting this just shy of my Monday morning schedule, because odds of me getting it posted by the Monday 8 AM deadline are slim to none. Hope nobody minds my early jump on the review!]

Book Review of Caught in the Headlights: 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way, by Barry K. Phillips

From the back cover blurb:

Have you ever gotten what you wished for, only to discover that it's not really what you wanted after all? We've all had those deer in the headlights moments when we realize we've been chasing after the wrong things. Caught in the Headlights is a frank, insightful look at 10 key goals most of us think we want - only to discover our eyes are on the wrong prize. Barry Phillips not only entertains but also examines common values and enlightens us to the goals we should seek, and what to do differently now that we know better. From goals such as happiness, self-esteem, protecting our pride, or the perfect physique, Phillips takes a closer look at those aims prized by society and explores how we can pursue higher goals. A thoughtful, funny, and at times profound look into the real reasons we all have for the things we do, this book will entertain, enlighten, and inspire.

Caught in the Headlights takes us through a tour of ten currently vaunted and often sought after “virtues”, only to turn them on their heads with a spin that leaves us weighing the questions: (1) are they actually the “virtues” we thought they were, and (2) if not, what “virtues” should we be seeking in their place?

Warning: Caught in the Headlights is not a “politically correct” book. If you are easily offended by opinions that differ from your own (or the PC police), read this book at your own risk. The most hot-button chapter of this book will be the one on Tolerance, not because Phillips’ argument isn’t valid, but because of some of the examples he uses. Reading this chapter might actually be a test of just how “tolerant” you really are! Is Phillips allowed to have an opinion that might differ from yours? Only you, the reader, will be able to answer that.

Whether you can see past the “hot button” to Phillips’ real point in the Tolerance chapter or not, don’t put this book down in a huff. If you do, you will miss the very valuable lesson he is weaving throughout the course of the book. Do you want happiness in life? Or would you rather have inner peace? Personally, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I think what Phillips is talking about when he talks about “happiness”, is seeking after an “outward” kind of happiness, the kind that is endlessly elusive, as opposed to that sweet inner happiness and peace that I believe go hand in hand. Caught in the Headlights will not only explain the difference between the two, it will tell you what you can actually do to achieve the latter. And it will do so with humor (his writing won more than a few chuckles out of me) and poetry—yes, poetry!—which, regardless of how good it may or may not be, often drives home his point with even greater clarity than the narration that precedes it. (Not that his narration isn’t good—it is! The poetry just carries an extra punch.)

My favorite line in the entire book is also the one that sums the book’s theme up most completely: “…selfishness is the anti-peace”.

Who can argue with that? Who would even want to? Read Caught in the Headlights and give its “So what do I do about it?” suggestions a try. You’ll be glad you did.
Caught in the Headlights can be purchased from Amazon.

You can learn more about Barry K. Phillips on his website or visit his blog.


Would you like to win a copy of Caught in the Headlights of your very own? (Unsigned. Sorry!) If so, type “Me-me-me-meee!!! while singing those words to the first 4 notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (you're on your honor here), along with your name and email address in the comments section of this post. A winner will be drawn and announced on Monday, August 18th, so be sure to check back then!


And the winner of last week’s Virtual Book Tour Room for Two drawing is…Valerie Ipson! Congratulations, Valerie. A copy of Room for Two will be on its way to you, as soon as I confirm your mailing address. Thank you to all who entered!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Another Virtual Book Tour Feature: Room for Two


Review of Room for Two, by Abel Keogh:

From the back cover blurb:

"Sweetie, I'm home." I tried to put as much kindness into my voice as possible. I didn't want to have another argument - at least not right away. Silence. "Sweetheart?" A gunshot echoed from our bedroom, followed by the sound of a bullet casing skipping along a wall. Everything slowed down.

When a life is destroyed, when guilt says you played a role in its destruction, how do you face the days ahead? Twenty-six-year-old Abel Keogh chooses to ignore the promptings he receives concerning his wife's mental illness, and now he feels he is to blame for her choices. If only he had listened . . .

At some point in our lives, each of us face devastating afflictions and must eventually cope with loss. Regardless of how it happens, the outcome is still the same - we are left isolated, alone, wondering what we could have done differently, and where we can turn for peace. This is Abel's story in his own words. His search for peace and the miracle that follows is proof that love and hope can endure, despite the struggles and tragedies that shape each of our lives.

Please take this, not as a criticism, but as a mere comment about this book: If you are a “sensitive” reader, you might find the first three chapters of Room for Two a bit disturbing. Admittedly, I did myself (because I’m a “sensitive reader”).

That is by no means to say that there is not much of great value in Abel Keogh’s retelling of his journey to understand the reasons for his wife’s suicide, his struggles to forgive both her and himself for opportunities missed, and his difficult journey to find healing, peace and eventually, new love.

Because Keogh chooses to tell his story almost in novel fashion, rather than narrative, it is sometimes easy to forget that one is reading a “true story” and not a work of fiction. Swept along by the story, I frequently had to pause and remind myself that the experiences “Abel” was going through had happened to an actual, living, breathing person, and not to a character of fiction. The reminder is important, because that realization gives the book a whole different impact. In fact, the very incidents that disturbed me in the first three chapters, disturbed me because I knew they were “real” as opposed to “fictional”. A certain level of detachment usually comes with reading fiction. With that detachment stripped away, much of the opening became much more difficult for me, personally, to read.

Another difference: novels often tend to try to tie up difficult questions with easy answers. “Real life” is much more messy, and sometimes, there are questions that, quite simply, can never be answered. Keogh ultimately faces the “unanswerable” with honesty and faith.

This book should give readers new insights into an often overlooked segment of society. Divorces are so common, we are often quick to empathize with one side or the other. But a young widower of twenty-six? Keogh addresses the subject of awkward, well-meaning friends and family members seeking to help him “move on”, or, perhaps worse in all too many cases, to “hold back”. He also faces the challenge of a potential new love who finds herself struggling to overcome the “ghost” of the woman he lost, not by choice (as too often happens in a divorce), but by an unexpected death. A woman he was still deeply in love with when the tragedy happened.

Eventually, Keogh learns how to make “room for two” in his heart, and puts at rest his new love’s fears.

The struggles he goes through should open all our eyes to anyone working their way through a similar experience, and make us more compassionate, less judgmental, and more understanding of how we can be supportive (rather than awkward) towards someone facing this kind of suffering.

In the end, however, Room for Two is not about suffering, but about hope. I recommend this book for the new insights you will gain while reading it. But if you’re a “sensitive reader”, you might want to gloss through the first three chapters, and dive in around Chapter 4.

About the Author:

Abel Keogh is a columnist and editor of and host of the radio talk show The Abel Hour. He has been a website programmer and technical writer. Aside from writing, Abel enjoys running and lifting weights. He has a bachelor's degree from Weber State University. He and his wife, Julianna, are the parents of two boys and a girl.

Room for Two can be purchased on Amazon.

You can read more about Abel Keogh on his website, or visit his blog.

Abel Keogh can be contacted via email at



If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Room for Two (sorry, not autographed), leave a comment on this post with your name, email address, and the words: "Me me me! I want a copy of Room for Two!" (If you'd rather not post your email address here, you can send it to me at I'll hold a blind drawing on August 11th. So don't delay!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Latest Drawing Winner

Congratulations to Amy Smith of California, winner of my website "Leave a Comment, Win a Prize" drawing! Amy is the winner of a $15 gift certificate for Amazon.

Thank you to all who entered, and especially to those who shared comments about my website. I will be using many of your suggestions to improve my website soon!

Check out AuthorIsland for the winners of the 2nd Birthday Bash winners of the two Amazon Kindles!

Coming next week: The unveiling of the new cover art for Loyalty's Web. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NOW What Is Joyce Up To?

This week, Joyce—I mean, I am participating in a virtual book tour for the very first time. What is a virtual book tour? It’s where a number of blog hosts agree to read, then review the same book, each on a different day to help generate publicity for authors and their works.

Although I am generally a fiction reader, and definitely a fiction writer, I have agreed to read/review three non-fiction books for this virtual tour:

TODAY: Preparedness Principles, by Barbara Salsbury and Sandi Simmons
AUGUST 4: Room for Two, by Abel Keogh
AUGUST 11: Caught in the Headlights, by Barry K. Phillips

Preparedness Principles is subtitled, The Complete Personal Preparedness Resource Guide For Any Emergency Situation.

Here’s a description of the book from the back cover blurb:

News of calamity, disaster, and war got you down? Afraid of how you'll survive if you lose your job? Wondering what to do when the big one hits? Wonder no more. Personal preparedness expert Barbara Salsbury brings together years of research and experience, giving you the know-how to set up an organized, practical, personal preparedness program that will provide for most wants and needs in any emergency situation. Preparedness Principles, the most comprehensive preparedness guide ever published, offers exclusive details about: • Four new categories of preparedness • New bare-bones basics • The Pantry Principle • Storm shelters, safe rooms, and safe havens • And much more! If you're serious about a personalized preparedness action plan, this quintessential reference book is for you!

Now, I’m not one to promote the “panic principle”, trying to scare people with visions of potential disasters to frighten them into stocking their cellars with ten or twenty years’-worth of food, etc. Thankfully, this book is not about “panic”, but simply about “preparedness”. Preparedness for what? Do we really need to ask in this day and age? Let me sum it up with two words: Hurricane Katrina. Yes, many of us do not live anywhere near a hurricane zone. I live in a dessert (I mean, a desert—don’t I wish I could live “in a dessert”!). Droughts, fires, and yes, even floods are the natural threats most faced by my state. Each state in the Union has its own challenges to cope with. And natural disasters may not actually be the “threats” most of us need to worry about. Loss of employment and health setbacks surely make having at least a few months’ worth of supplies—both food and money—quite simply the “sensible” thing to do.

Preparedness Principles is designed to help us understand how to implement a sensible plan of approach to the unpredictable nature of life.

To be honest, the biggest mistake I made with this book was to sit down and attempt to read it straight through all at once. I found myself overwhelmed and discouraged in less time than I could say, “The monsoons just knocked the power out again!” (“Monsoons” are what we call our Arizona summer thunderstorms.) Unless you are already deeply involved with food storage, this is a book best read and incorporated in small bites. Don’t try to read it like a novel. Use it as a resource, which is exactly what it is!

Some of the suggestions will be beyond your immediate means to implement. That’s okay. One of my favorite quotes in the book is: “Preparedness is not an all-or-nothing thing. Something is much better than nothing, even if the something is just a little bit of something.” In other words, if assembling a year’s supply of food is overwhelming, then start with something smaller. Two weeks worth of food. A month’s worth. Three months’ worth.

One of my favorite sections of this book was the suggestion of building “mini-pantries” spread throughout your house, rather than throwing in the towel with the exclamation, “But I don’t have any room to store anything!” As Salsbury points out, a few fruit bottles stashed in the linen closet, a few cans of food under the bed, will eventually add up.

Another chapter that intrigued me had to do with indoor mini-gardens. Now, I can kill just about any plant you can throw at me, but I remember one summer when my green-thumbed dad grew the most delicious baby carrots in our backyard. I’ve often thought longingly of those carrots, but I’m not an outdoor gardener. Too many weeds, too many bugs. It never occurred to me that I might actually be able to grow small carrots right inside my house—weed and bug free! That’s an idea I might actually try, just to taste those baby carrots again! (Salsbury describes many more vegetables you can grow inside your house, but carrots will definitely be my first choice!)

Salsbury covers much, much more than mini-pantries and mini-gardens, of course. She has sections on provident living, dealing with disasters, emergency evacuations, and many helpful appendices. In this unpredictable day and age, this is a book that should be on everyone’s shelf. It is a book that should be studied before the “unexpected” happens. But do so in small bites.

About the author: Best-selling author Barbara Salsbury, a nationally recognized personal-preparedness expert, is one of America’s leading authorities on self-reliance. For more than twenty-five years, she has been teaching self-reliance and showing people how to get more for their money. In November 2002, Family Circle Magazine named her one of the “Top Five Penny-Pinchers in America.” She has produced two national newsletters and three videos. In addition, she is the author of seven books, including Just Add Water, Just in Case, and Plan, not Panic. Active in church and community, Barbara serves as a personal preparedness consultant for Sandy, Utah, and has served as assistant director for San Francisco Key Cities Area Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She and her husband, Larry, live in Sandy, Utah. They have two children, seven grandchildren, and two spoiled dogs.

Preparedness Principles is available at

Visit Barbara Salsbury’s website at and read her blog at

You can contact Barbara Salsbury at

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


It’s been a very busy couple of weeks for me! Last Tuesday through Thursday (July 15-17), I attended my first writers retreat in (surprisingly hot!) Pinetop, Arizona, and had the most wonderful and inspiring time! There were excellent workshops on how to improve our writing, delicious food (especially the “snacks” brought by all), and I even started work on a new Medieval Vignette, though I haven’t been able to get back to it since I returned home. I hope to do so and finish and post it soon, though! If you’d like to read some of my reflections about the retreat, you can do so on my latest post at ANWA Founder & Friends.

I’ve been a busy little blogger since I’ve been back. In addition to my post on the ANWA site, I have also written a book review for my Summer Book Trek 2008 reading challenge (scroll to entry below), and for those of you interested in medieval research, I posted an interview with G.G. Vandagriff, author of The Arthurian Omen, dealing with Welsh research, on my medieval research with joyce blog.

As for drawings, first let me remind you about my ongoing website drawing at You’ll find all the instructions you need on my Comments page, even though, sadly, you can’t actually leave me a comment there. But you can email it to me, with the answer to my drawing question, and if you do so before July 31, you’ll be in the running to receive a $15 gift certificate to Amazon!

Now, saving the best for last, here’s a REALLY BIG DRAWING for all of you to check out! As it’s being sponsored by, I’ll let AuthorIsland speak for itself: is turning TWO this month and to celebrate, forty three authors and one of our publisher members got together to offer up one heck of a prize!

They're giving away TWO - are you ready for this? - TWO AMAZON KINDLES!!!

But you're going to have to work for it, each of the forty four sponsors has a question for you to answer - the answers can be found somewhere on each of the author's websites. Once you have all the answers, email them to AuthorIsland at, numbered, along with your name and address, with AuthorIsland Kindle Contest in the subject line. TWO winners will be drawn on August 1st from all the correct entries to receive their very own - AMAZON KINDLE!!!

Head over to's Contests page and get started! Good luck!

Yes, I’m one of the 44 sponsors, and no, you don’t have to be an member to enter. You do, however, have to go on the AuthorIsland question/answer treasure hunt and send in your entry by July 31st, so don’t delay!

That’s it for this update. I’m off to see the new Batman movie tomorrow. And I should have more exciting news for you next week…the revealing of my new cover art for Loyalty’s Web!

See you then!

Review of The Great and the Terrible: The Second Sun, by Chris Stewart

My review of The Great and the Terrible: The Second Sun for my Summer Book Trek 2008 reading challenge:

From the back cover of The Great and the Terrible: The Second Sun:

A world poised at the brink of a disastrous war is unaware of the evil forces that will stop at nothing to achieve their aims. But in the midst of turmoil and impending doom, some of the Father's most valiant servants are in place--sons and daughters who may have the power to change the course of history. The third volume in The Great and Terrible series, The Second Sun, is a fast-paced, thrilling, action-packed story of war and intrigue by nationally bestselling author Chris Stewart.

For those who are unacquainted with The Great and the Terrible series, Chris Stewart has written a sort of Left Behind series with an LDS slant for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The subtitle, The Second Sun, is the third volume in what, so far, is a five volume yet-to-be-finished saga.

The first volume in the series, The Brothers, had a particularly unique twist in that the entire story (or prologue) was set in the Pre-Earth life. Whether or not you agreed with Stewart’s version of a period of our existence which none of us can remember, he certainly deserved credit for courage and imagination in sharing with his readers a fascinating vision of what it might have been like for us there. The novelty of the premise offset a slight bit of annoyance and confusion caused by what felt like indiscriminate head-hopping between the characters. However, since my Trek “assignment” is not to review the first book in the series, all I can say is, go find yourself a copy and read it for yourself, if you want to know more!

I had some difficulty with the second volume in the series, When Angels Fall, mostly because I personally found it quite jarring to go from the first book where the characters all formed one “family”, to the second book where the family, having received their mortal bodies and assignments on earth, became split up, along with a number of new characters I was suddenly expected to “bond with” (whether for good or bad), not knowing what role anyone was yet meant to play in this volume. Combined with the continued head-hopping, sticking with the second volume became a bit of a challenge for me. However, my Trek “assignment” is not to review the second book, either, so after you read The Brothers, check out When Angels Fall to see whether you have the same reaction as I, or if I was the only one who stumbled with it.

Now, my Trek “assignment” is to review the third book in the series, The Second Sun, which I just finished reading a few nights ago. This book ran much smoother for me, since I now had all the characters in place from the second book, and thankfully, Stewart considerably reined in his head-hopping style to allow the reader more time in one character’s head at a time. I have no objection to using multiple viewpoints in a book—I do it myself— but the more time I can spend in a single character’s head (for a chapter, or at least an entire scene), the more deeply I begin to identify with him/her, and the deeper I fall into the story.

Stewart’s “last days” take is certainly an intriguing one, though however “possible”, or even occasionally “plausible” certain plot points may be, I believe it’s important to remember that this series is, after all, a work of fiction and not a “prophecy” for the future. (Note to those who like to “preach” from this series over the pulpit sometimes on Sundays.)

Stewart clearly has a firm grasp of military lingo (having served as an Air Force pilot), and whenever he uses a military acronym, he always follows up by spelling out what the acronym stands for and what it actually means. (With memories of the undefined Italian of Dante’s Daughter still haunting me, all I can say is, “Thank you, Chris!”)

And speaking of “haunting”, some of the scenes I most enjoyed in The Second Sun were the ones of Lucifer and Balaam, particularly when they are whispering in people’s ears. Not that I mean to imply that I actually like Lucifer or Balaam. Only that something I’ve always “known” (i.e., that Lucifer/Satan and his angels are real and tempt us every day) has taken on a more “immediate” aspect by seeing the way Stewart actively portrays them in his series. It is as though Stewart has stripped away their masks and laid them open to the daylight for all around to see, if we will only open our eyes to do so.

Occasionally Stewart does have a tendency to “tell” or “explain” things to the reader, which stops the story in its tracks. And (warning: spoiler alert here!), I had a little difficulty accepting the part about the United Nations throwing the United States off the Security Council, without the U.S. being able to do anything about it. Considering that the U.N. has its headquarters in New York City, I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t have been a hue and cry to “throw the bums out!” of the U.S., in return. (At least, I know that’s what I would have been screaming. But maybe that’s just me?)

All in all, Stewart is weaving a very interesting last days “scenario”. Now I’m off to the fourth book in the series, Fury and Light, which I may or may not review for the book trek. (Since I also committed to review three non-fiction books for an upcoming virtual book tour, I may not finish book four of The Great and the Terrible by the end of the Summer Book Trek, so all things considered, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a review.

Monday, July 14, 2008

July Website Drawing and other news

My new website is finally up and running! Some of you helped me with a trial run with a mini-drawing on’s July 1st email chat. Now I’d like to celebrate my new site with everyone! And once again, how better to do so than with a new drawing?

To participate, go to, then click on my Comments page, where you will find all the details you need for entering under “Leave a Comment, Win a Prize”. The Prize? A $15 Amazon gift certificate. Deadline? July 31. Yes, this is a shorter drawing than most, but that just means an August drawing will be rolling around that much sooner!


MEDIEVAL RESEARCH WITH JOYCE: Nothing new yet (except for my “Medieval Kings Poll”—why don’t you skip on over there and cast a vote?), but coming soon…an interview with GG Vandagriff, author of The Arthurian Omen, focusing on medieval Welsh research. I’ll update you as soon as the interview appears online!

One more bit of news…. I’ve finally had a sneak peek at the new cover art for Loyalty’s Web, and I must say, I’m very, very pleased. I hope you will be too! As soon as I get the official “go ahead”, I’ll share it with all of you!

Now, I’m off to enjoy a few days of cool air and relaxation at the American Night Writers Association’s Writers Retreat in Pinetop, Arizona. This is my first writers retreat, so it should be an adventure! I hope to come back relaxed and reinvigorated to write-write-write!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Review of Dante’s Daughter, by Kimberley Heuston

My review of Dante's Daughter for my Summer Book Trek 2008 reading challenge:

Book jacket description of Dante's Daughter:

“When the adventure gets too strong, lean into it.” When political upheavals forces her family to flee and separate, Antonia takes her brother’s advice to heart as she journeys through Italy and France with her father, the poet Dante Alighieri. She becomes a pilgrim who also embraces interior journeys: she struggles with her difficult, inattentive father; with her heart’s desire to paint as her father writes; and with her first tastes of young love. All the while Antonia harbors dreams that others tell her women are not entitled to dream. Dante’s Daughter portrays a life in full, one that beautifully answers Antonia’s own questions: “Had my journey made me wise? Had my secret griefs made me strong?”

This highly imagined story—based on the few known facts of Antonia’s life—is set against the dramatic background of pre-Renaissance Europe, rendered in rich detail by storyteller and historian, Kimberly Heuston.

As someone who loves history and historical fiction and who was eager to learn more about the great poet, Dante, I find my feelings after reading this book, at best, ambivalent. The book description was certainly right about the author’s richly detailed rendering of the story of Antonia Alighieri. Stylistically, Heuston’s writing is beautifully artful and fluid, so fluid that, regrettably, I found myself jarred on more than one occasion when an un-artfully modernized phrase unexpectedly leapt off the page at me just when I was most entranced. She also had a tendency, particularly in the early chapters of the book, of scattering Italian words in the text without definition or even sufficient context to hazard a guess at their meaning. I found this a bit annoying and pretentious, but thankfully as the story wove on, this happened with a good deal less frequency and more sympathy for the reader in adding definitions and contexts.

Dante’s daughter, Antonia, tells the story of her life in a first person account. Despite the book cover’s description of Dante as an “inattentive, difficult father”, for me, the book glowed most sympathetically whenever Dante appeared on the scene. Though frequently forced away from his family by unwisely chosen political allegiances, he always came across to me as a man who loved his family, treating them all with great kindness and tolerance, more than I felt was reciprocated by his wife, sons, and daughter, Antonia. (Though his sons appear briefly in the book, they are never prominent enough to capture a reader’s attention in any true depth.) Admittedly, for much of the book, Antonia is a child and young woman who might be forgiven for being so focused on her own feelings that she only rarely seems able to reach beyond them to empathize in any form with a “difficult father” who nevertheless displayed touching instances of love, attention, and encouragement for her in return. If others tried to turn her from her heart’s desire to paint, Dante, in this book, was not one of them.

The amount of detailed research that went into this book, while to be admired, ultimately threatened to overwhelm the story for me. I felt the last few chapters particularly began to drag, as I began to wonder if we would ever reach the end of Antonia’s “life’s journey”. (And please, don’t even get me started on the touches of LDS doctrine that began to pop up at the end. I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on that in another forum. If interested, you can check out my blog for July 7th on ANWA Founder & Friends.)

A “life lived in full” became, for me, a life lived much too full, nearly to the point of unbelievability (and sadly, knocking on the door of boredom) to me by the end of the book. In my opinion, the story would have benefited by a less broad, and more focused, approach in the telling. And ultimately, I found small evidence that the answer to the questions posed by Antonia at the beginning: “Had my journey made me wise? Had my secret griefs made me strong?” were “Yes”.

To her credit, Heuston did successfully stir my interest to learn more about the “real” Dante. After reading a few of her chapters one night, I stayed up till 3 AM, researching him in some of my medieval encyclopedias. I suspect I will be buying a non-fiction biography of him soon.

Dante’s Daughter is billed as a Young Adult book for grades 10-12. As a way to acquaint high school readers with pre-Renaissance Europe, this would probably be less painful than a dry old school textbook. But for entertainment, it will take a serious young reader to read such a seriously earnest book all the way to the end.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Drawing winner and other news…

I’m on my way out of the house to attend a musical production of “1856: The Musical”, but before I go, I have a winner to announce!

The grand prize winner of my Loyalty’s Web: The Adventure Continues drawing, for a framed print of Edmund Blair Leighton’s “The Accolade”, is…(I think this one requires a drumroll, please)…Crystal Gracia of California!!! Congratulations, Crystal. I hope you have a prime spot picked out to hang this beauty in! It, too, will be on its way to you as soon as I can pop it into the mail this week.

Two items of news before I dash off…

I have a new poll posted on my medieval research with joyce blog. Check it out on the right side of the page, and vote for your favorite medieval king!

Now, I know I ordinarily have a new drawing waiting in the wings as soon as I finish the last one, but I will be changing website servers this next week, and there may be a brief (I hope it’s brief!) black out period while I transfer my domain name over. As soon as I get the new site online, I’ll celebrate with a new drawing, and I’ll send you all a notice so none of you miss out.

Have a happy Saturday, everyone! (The date stamp says Friday, but it's really Saturday!)

Monday, June 23, 2008

June 23, 2008

Final reminder: This Friday (June 27th) is the deadline for entering my website “Loyalty’s Web: The Adventure Continues” drawing, for a print of the Pre-Raphaelite painting, The Accolade. The winner will be announced on Saturday, so if you haven’t entered yet, time is running out!

Rebekah Elrod of Colorado was last Saturday’s winner of my medieval research with joyce drawing. Rebekah won a chapbook on A History of Feasting in the Middle Ages, With 25 Authentic Recipes. Congratulations, Rebekah!

Today, I posted a new essay on the ANWA Founder & Friends blog, about one of my favorite childhood poems, by Louise Townsend Nicholl:

God and the Fairies, be true, be true!
I am the child who waits for you…

(Does anyone else remember the little book of poetry, Silver Pennies?)

One last bit of news: I now know the name of the artist who is working on my new cover art for Loyalty’s Web. Her name is Casey Nelson, and she works for Disney. She has a blogsite showcasing some of her artwork, if you’d like to take a look: Casey Nelson's Stuff.

Okay, that’s it for this news update. I’ll be back on Saturday with “winning news” for someone!

Friday, June 20, 2008

More on Joyce's Summer Book Trek 2008: Book Reviews Link

I'm not the only one Summer Book Trekking along for the summer. Click on this link to read reviews by other Summer Book Trekkers!

LDS Fiction: Summer Book Trek 2008: Book Reviews

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review of The Arthurian Omen, by G.G. Vandagriff

My review of The Arthurian Omen for my Summer Book Trek 2008 Challenge:

From the back book cover of The Arthurian Omen:

Is the story of King Arthur history or myth? A Celtic scholar is brutally murdered wh she finds a clue to a priceless fifth-century manuscript that could prove the identity of King Arthur. Determined to find the ancient relic and avenge her sister's death, Maren Southcott begins a quest that immediately puts her own life in danger.

In the tradition of Mary Higgins Clark, The Arthurian Omen weaves a tale of mystery and suspense as pursuit of the manuscript winds through the medieval castles and monasteries of Wales. Stalked by a psychopath with delusions of a Welsh revolution, Maren is shaken to the core when a new crisis threatens to destroy the one person she loves most.

Can she find the manuscript before the murderer strikes again? Or is the manuscript--and the legend--better left buried in the past?

In spite of what I felt were a few glitches in plot, I found The Arthurian Omen curiously hard to put down. In fact, I was up till 1:30 AM riding the rollercoaster ending all the way to…well, the end.

As a medieval history buff who usually finds myself firmly on the side of the English, I enjoyed the mental stretch in exploring the “Welsh side” of events that took place during the 15th Century reign of King Henry V and his campaigns against Prince Owain Glyndwr in Wales. This proved the historical focus for the 21st Century characters, as much, if not more, than the actual saga of King Arthur. I thought the research was very well done, and the author is obviously very familiar with the history and terrain of Wales.

Plotwise, I only had a couple of quibbles. The chief inspector from Scotland Yard who is supposed to be protecting the heroine from a would-be murderer, inexplicably leaves her alone in the company of his two main suspects while he wanders off at one point to investigate another thread of the plot. Later, the heroine, who has previously had a very narrow escape from being strangled in her hotel room, decides to go for a midnight run all alone in the middle of Wales and…yes…has yet another frighteningly close brush with, this time, a gun toting thug. This incident in particular made it very hard for me to reconcile her with the highly intelligent professional attorney she supposedly was.

While I had some trouble with the heroine, I found the men of the story quite engaging, with the exception of the heroine’s slimy second husband, whom I was obviously expected to loathe, and did.

As a mystery, I had great fun trying to figure out who was guilty of which crimes as I wove my way through the book. Some of my guesses proved to be correct, though the red herrings were quite sufficient to make me grin with glee when my suspicions were confirmed. And to the author’s credit, when the identity of the modern “Owain Glyndwr” was revealed, my jaw dropped and I actually exclaimed out loud, “I never saw that coming!”

The suspense was so high at that point, that I literally could not put the book down until I’d read my way clear through the concluding epilogue.

However, in retrospect a day after finishing the book, one more quibble arose in my mind. The author accounted for all the possible suspects’ relationships to the heroine’s murdered sister, except for the man who was actually guilty of murdering her. Or did I merely miss it? If there are any other readers of The Arthurian Omen out there, please let me know…did the author slip up, or did my memory go faulty on me?

Would I recommend this book? Definitely! Despite the quibbles listed here, The Arthurian Omen is an engaging, fast moving mystery that will keep you reading into the wee hours of the night.

G.G. Vandagriff's website: