Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Excerpt from "An Epiphany Gift for Robin" in Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season

Here's just a short excerpt from my medieval short story, "An Epiphany Gift for Robin", included in the new Christmas anthology, Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season. I have to keep it short, since it's from a short story. Too many words and I'd give the whole story away! :-)


    The food was long gone now, along with the merry games played by the villagers to keep warm in the winter snows. The ivy and holly so gleefully gathered and hung by the children to brighten their tiny thatched cottage had grown dry and crisp, crackling off their garlands and crushed by shoes to form a fine, fragrant dust on the earth-beaten floor. Today, Epiphany, the day the Magi had presented their gifts to the Christ child, was the last day of respite her family would have from the backbreaking work in the baron’s fields.
     “What foolish thing have you done?” Marriot demanded of her husband. Gifts were only given to small children on Epiphany, especially among the poor. 
     Her husband’s dark eyes danced with that mischievous gleam that had won her heart ten years ago. “Sometimes a bit of foolishness is just what a man needs to bestow on the woman he loves.”
     She heard a trio of high-pitched giggles from the children.
     “Open it, Ma, open it!” little four-year-old Lottie trilled.
     “Aye, Ma. Da’s been ready to bust for days, waiting for you to see it,” said Robin.
     Marriot cast a suspicious gaze at her middle child. He bounced excitedly on the balls of his feet, the exact image of his father at the same age with his black hair and bright dark eyes.
     “Do you know what this is, Robin?”
     Robin smiled slyly, but neither shook nor nodded his head.

Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season is now available at the following sites in the following formats:

Hard copies from CreateSpace and Amazon.com
E-copy formats from Smashwords

Saturday, November 21, 2009


So I picked up my sister at the airport yesterday for Thanksgiving. We stopped by Tempe Marketplace to grab a bite for lunch. While we were there, we decided to step inside here:

While there, I checked out this section:

And look what I found!

I had to take pictures, because I knew I'd wake up this morning and think I'd dreamed the whole thing. For years I've wandered through stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders, dreaming of seeing my books on the shelves, but somehow never quite believing it would ever actually happen. But here I am at last! Being in Costco is cool, but being in Barnes & Noble...NOW I feel like a real author!

(For the record, Illuminations of the Heart is also at the Barnes & Noble at Dana Park on Val Vista off US 60. Those are all the B&N's I had time to check out yesterday. :-) )


Which is not to say we're not "real authors" if we don't have a book in a brick and mortar bookstore. We are! It was just the fulfillment of a dream to see my book there. Of course, now I hope they don't just sit on the shelf, but that they actually sell!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Book Review of "The Ball's In Her Court", by Heather Justesen

Back Cover Blurb:

She's got a great job, a loving group of family and friends, and basketball skills like you wouldn't believe, but Denise DeWalt's life is far from perfect, and she's about to come face-to-face with a past she hoped to leave behind forever.

Twenty-six-year-old Denise thinks she's come to terms with her childhood in the foster care system, but when her old nightmares return, Denise realizes that she must deal with her past once and for all if she ever wants to move on to a brighter future with Rich, the only man who can see past her former life. As Denise's search leads her closer and closer to the one person she hoped she'd never have to face again, she begins to realize that her future depends on just one person--herself.

This emotional and inspirational love story proves that life is full of unexpected twists and turns--especially when it comes to facing your demons, fighting for love, and finding happiness for the future.

Heather Justesen really knows how to write a scene! I finished this book a week ago, and I can still hear the popping of the oil in the frying pan, smell the sautéed oinions, and feel my mouth watering for the homemade, garlic-rich tomato sauce just waiting to be poured over the pasta her heroine, Denise, has just cooked up with her would-be-suitor, Rich. Heather has definitely got that whole “show, don’t tell” writing technique down pat! The Ball’s In Her Court is filled with such vivid writing, as well as a compelling heroine in search of the truth of her past.

Denise DeWalt is one of the lucky ones…a foster care child who found a loving, adoptive home. But Denise still bears the scars, both physical and emotional, of her previous life with her abusive mother. Much as she loves her adoptive family, she feels increasingly driven to try to find out where she came from. What has become of her abusive birth mother? Who was her father? And might there be other birth relatives she has never met? Each layer of discovery leads to a new mystery to be solved. Will the answers lead to healing or greater heartache for Denise? And how will her search affect her still somewhat halting faith in the Lord?

To find the answers, you’ll have to read The Ball’s In Her Court, by Heather Justesen!

The Ball’s In Her Court falls into the category of Christian/Inspirational fiction. While it includes a strong romantic subplot, the real heart of the story for me was Denise’s search for her birth family. The author writes with great authenticity and compassion on this subject, having foster-parented fifteen children herself.

The Ball’s In Her Court is available in Deseret Bookstores and at CedarFort.com and Amazon.com. And you can check out Heather Justesen’s blog for more review links along The Ball’s In Her Court’s book blog tour!

You can read the first chapter of The Ball’s In Her Court here.

For a limited time, you can order an autographed copy of The Ball’s In Her Court here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"An Epiphany Gift for Robin" (and other splendid Christmas short stories) is now available for order!

The new Christmas anthology, Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season (one of those other stories being my own medieval Christmas story, "An Epiphany Gift for Robin") is now available for order. If you just can't wait for my contest, or if you'd like to order extra copies to share with your family and friends (and let's be honest, why wouldn't you?), this link will take you directly to the order page.

Here's a reminder of what you'll get when you order copies of Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season:

Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season

By Lds Publisher, Roger Bonner, Don Carey, Laura Craner, Joyce DiPastena, Sarah M. Eden, L. T. Elliot, Gussie Fick, Melanie Goldmund, M. Gray, Taegyn Hutchinson, Angie Lofthouse, Lori Nawyn, Tristi Pinkston, Brian C. Ricks, Sandra Sorenson, Janice Sperry, Christine Thackeray

What happens when you're so poor you have to steal your Christmas presents? Have you ever taken a punch in the face as your Christmas gift to the girl you love? Or saved Christmas while hunting were-weevils?

These award-winning Christmas stories are the best of the best from the LDS Publisher Christmas Story Contests. From Christmases past, to present, to future; from sweet and inspirational, to zany and delightful-there's a story for everyone in this eclectic collection.

Seventeen stories to celebrate the season, from Sarah M. Eden, Tristi Pinkston, Joyce DiPastena, Christine Thackeray, Don Carey, and more.

They'll make great Christmas gifts! But Christmas is coming up fast, so order your copies now!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Costco Week 4

Thanks to my friend, Marjean, for these pictures from my latest Costco book signing!

Winner of "Melissa and the Wild West" and "Stolen Christmas" Contest

Congratulations to Danyelle Ferguson of Kansas! She has won an autographed copy of Linda Weaver Clarke's sweet historical romance, Melinda and the Wild West.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

And don't forget, I have a brand new contest up and running for TWO copies of the Christmas anthology, Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season. Stolen Christmas includes a short medieval Christmas story, "An Epiphany Gift for Robin", written by myself. :-) Here's a description of Stolen Christmas:

What happens when you’re so poor you have to steal your Christmas presents? Have you ever taken a punch in the face as your Christmas gift to the girl you love? Or saved Christmas while hunting were-weevils?

These award-winning Christmas stories are the best of the best from the LDS Publisher Christmas Story Contests. From Christmases past, to present, to future; from sweet and inspirational, to zany and delightful—there’s a story for everyone in this eclectic collection.

Featuring authors:
  • Roger Bonner
  • Don Carey
  • Laura Craner
  • Joyce DiPastena
  • Sarah M. Eden
  • L.T. Elliot
  • Gussie Fick
  • Melanie Goldmund
  • M. Gray
  • Taegyn Hutchinson
  • Angie Lofthouse
  • Lori Nawyn
  • Tristi Pinkston
  • Brian C. Ricks
  • Sandra Sorenson
  • Janice Sperry
  • Christine Thackeray

Stolen Christmas will be available for order through Amazon.com on November 21st or you may pre-order copies through LDS Publisher now. Pre-orders are expected to ship on or before November 28th.

For details on how you can enter to win a copy of this book, click here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let's Celebrate the Season with a Contest!

Does anyone else feel like November is whizzing by? December will be here soon, and we all know what December means...Christmas! And this year, I have the honor of having one of my short stories included in a Christmas Short Story Compilation, called Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season

In the spirit of complete disclosure, even though the subtitle lists these as "award winning stories", my selection, "An Epiphany Gift for Robin", didn't actually win an award. I just entered it in a contest, and the publisher liked it so much that she decided to include it in her Christmas compilation anyway. That's still cool, right?

I'm excited, especially since I'm usually incapable of writing any piece of fiction in under 120,000 words, so to have a short story, of all things, find its way into a published book is almost a greater accomplishment for me than writing a novel. (Almost. Okay, maybe they're neck and neck.)

So I've decided to celebrate this lucky aberration on my part by giving away not one, but TWO copies of Stolen Christmas. One will be an e-book copy, the other a hard copy. If you have a preference, please note it in your entry, otherwise the first name I draw will win the e-book, and the second name I draw will win the hard copy.

Okay, this is how you can enter for a chance to win.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is "Good King Wenceslas". Why? Because I love medieval things, and even though it's not a medieval song, it talks about a medieval king. So go to http://www.carols.org.uk/good_king_wenceslas.htm and answer one, two, or all three of the following questions:

(1) During which century did Good King Wenceslas live?

(2) Good King Wenceslas is now the patron saint of which modern country?

(3) What lesson does the carol, "Good King Wenceslas", try to teach us?

Send the answer to one, two, or all three of these questions to me at jdipastena@yahoo.com. Please email me each answer SEPARATELY and include your name and mailing address! Type JDP NEWS followed by the question number in the subject heading. Example: JDP NEWS Question 1; JDP NEWS Question 2; JDP NEWS Question 3.

Each answer will count as one entry. Answer all three for THREE chances to win a prize! Deadline for entries will be midnight PST, December 6th, with the winners announced on December 7th.

Good luck! And may all your Christmas wishes come true!


Addendum 11/14/09: In the event both winners prefer a hard copy of Stolen Christmas, two hard copy prizes will be provided.

Monday, November 9, 2009


There, now that Heroes is over...do you like this turkey better?

Time for a Change!

Oh my gosh, what are those skeletons doing still dancing across the top of my page?!! Time to switch to something more Thanksgivingish. But first, I have to go watch The O'Reilly Factor and Heroes!

Blog Tour for "The Ball's In Her Court", by Heather Justesen

Today kicks off the blog tour for The Ball's in Her Court, by debut author Heather Justesen! Read reviews of her book and interviews with Heather from November 9 - December 4, and watch for fun giveaways along the way! I will be reviewing The Ball's In Her Court on November 20, so be sure to check back here  on that day.

Follow along with Heather's blog for new review updates each day!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Week 3 at Costco

Well, some of you have said you want another update, but this one will be short, since I can’t say this was one of my better sales weeks.

Thursday, November 5:

Signing at Tempe Costco. Slowest sales day yet, but then it was also the slowest foot-traffic day I have yet experienced. I kept telling myself, “I’ve got to step it up and hand out more bookmarks.” Then I’d look around and think, “But how can I hand out bookmarks if there are literally no people walking past me?” I’m not kidding…it was SLOW that day! I only managed to sign/sell 11 books in four hours, including one copy to a girl who looked like she couldn’t be more than 9 or 10 years old. I didn’t even see her pick up a copy, but happened to turn around and saw her holding one and reading the first page. And older man, who I presumed was her grandfather, asked her if she wanted to buy it, and she said, “Yes.” I was a little doubtful, but who was I to quibble with a sale? And who knows…maybe she’s a reading prodigy! Oh, her grandfather said that if she liked it, she would do a book report on it for school. If she does, she’ll be my youngest fan so far!

Friday, November 6:

My first signing at the Mesa Costco. The shopping traffic was much heavier, but I only managed to sign 22 books. (And one woman picked up a copy, tossed it in her basket, and walked away before I could offer to autograph it, so I guess my sales total was actually 23.)

On the bright side, the Mesa store was extremely hospitable, both to me and my book. They had a table set up, with a nice table cloth and copies of my book “artfully” arranged on the table before I even got there. (Most of the stores don’t even go looking for a table until I arrive.) Mesa also has the most eye catching display of my books. Gilbert and Chandler both have copies stacked on the end of the book shelf, while Tempe has them stacked in the middle of the rest of their stacks of books. But Mesa had my book stacked in four tiers, with a copy standing up facing outwards at the top of each of the tiers. My book actually looked important there! Of course, I have no idea whether the display leads to more sales, but I must say, the author found it very cool to see. J

A dear friend and former visiting teacher, Kristine John, stopped by with her beautiful family to support me at my first visit to Mesa, and even bought a copy of Illuminations of the Heart. (She also helped me critique it prior to publication. You can find her service heartily thanked in the Acknowledgments section of my book. J ) Another friend from my college days, Cathy Galloway, also came to support me, even though she was suffering from a stress fracture in her foot. Now there’s a friend for you!

Two surprises: One woman who bought a copy of Illuminations of the Heart saw my bookmark for Loyalty’s Web and said that she’d seen it in a Christian bookstore, though she couldn’t remember the name of the store. So she figured Illuminations was “safe” and bought a copy. (I wish I knew what Christian store she saw Loyalty’s Web at, and no, it wasn't at Deseret Book.) Another woman said she recognized Illuminations from a website that listed “clean” romances (she didn’t remember the web/blog’s name, alas). She not only bought a copy, but she gave me a big hug, and said, “Bless you!” and thanked me for writing clean romances. I must say, if I had sold only one book, that would have made my day!

Oh, while most people didn’t seem to be in a book buying mood that day, I did manage to hand out 149 bookmarks (I’d only taken 150 along with me…I’ve never needed that many before), so I’m hoping at least a few of the people who took them might come back later and buy copies or pass the bookmarks on to friends who like to read romances. (One can always hope!)

Saturday, November 7:

Signing at Chandler Costco. Even though I’d called ahead to remind them I was coming, this seemed the least organized of the stores I’ve signed at so far, and by the time they found me a table and table cloth (even though I arrived early) and I got set up, I was a good 10 minutes late in starting to pitch my book. The traffic was heavier than Tempe, but nothing like the traffic in Mesa. I’d call it “medium slow”. (Or andante to adagio, if you’re a musician. Tempe was more like largo!) Books sold slowly, though I did manage to squeeze out 20 signings before I left, and I think two sold off the shelf behind me when I wasn’t looking. Aside from a visit by my friend, Marjean (who’s mother bought a copy of Illuminations from me, and brought two copies of Loyalty’s Web for me to sign J ), nothing particularly memorable happened at this location. Mostly a lot of standing around until I thought my feet were going to burn off. Those concrete stores in Costco are HARD, let me tell you! I’m learning to take a break after two hours to go sit down in the food court for 5-10 minutes. (Since when they do give me a chair, I have to use it to prop up one of my posters for my book.) That way, I'm able to keep my energy level up better through the last half-hour of the day.

So there you have it. No special insights to share from last week. We’ll see what this week brings!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Further Adventures at Costco

Does anyone really want to hear any more about my Costco book signings? I wasn’t going to type any more because I wasn’t sure I had anything newly significant to say, but someone suggested that I do another blog, so here it is.

Let me start right off by saying that after reading someone else’s blog about their own Costco book signing, I feel a bit like a failure. This guy apparently sells, like, between 50-80 books per signing! My sales pale in comparison to that. However, in case you turn out to be a lower-sales author like me, I may as well share my experience with you so if it happens to you, at least you won’t feel alone, right?

Friday, October 30:

Signing at Tempe, Arizona. This time I called the day ahead to remind them I was coming since last week they’d neglected to read their email and weren’t expecting me. When I arrived this time, they already had a table set up for me with 27 copies of my book stacked on it. That was the total number of books they had stocked in the store that day. (If they had any tucked away in a storage room somewhere, nobody told me.) I had learned from my editor to ask for a black tablecloth, which they very kindly brought me. Sadly, this week they didn’t offer me (1) a bottle of water, (2) any vases to decorate the table, or (3) a cushy executive chair to sit in. They did provide me with a hard plastic chair, but I used that to prop up one of my larger posters. (They did post my large “Author Signing” poster on an easel at the front of the store.)

I arranged the books into four stacks, and lacking any vases with live flowers, sprinkled some red fake rose petals that I’d bought at Walmart around my books. The red stood out nicely against the black tablecloth. Since, as an unknown author, I find it easier to attract attention to my table standing up than sitting down, I didn’t miss having a chair too much, since the first day of the week that I do a signing, my feet don’t complain too much about the 4 hour stand. (By day 2 or 3, they’re protesting much more loudly.)

To be honest, I was quite worried about a second Tempe signing, since it was my worst signing, numbers-wise, last week. (Only sold 15 books.) However, to my surprise and pleasure, the traffic was quite a bit higher in the store this week and I matched my prior 15 sales within the first two hours. One woman stopped by to tell me she’d bought my book during the week, had just finished reading it, and loved it. That was a very nice boost to my confidence! A little while later, another woman came by and told me she’d also bought a copy of Illuminations of the Heart during the week, and was very disappointed, not in my book (which she hadn’t read yet), but because she didn’t know I’d be doing a signing at the store and would have waited to get her book autographed if she had known. A store worker overheard her and told her to go ahead and buy another book and have me sign it and just bring back the copy she bought earlier that week. So she did! J

But my greatest coup of the day was selling a copy of my medieval romance to a somewhat gruff-looking middle-aged man (I really ought to be careful about saying that, since I’m now middle-aged myself!), who had a suspense novel in his basket but seemed to be interested in the fact that there was an author in the store signing books. (That would be me. J) He asked me what my book was about, said, “I don’t read romances”, then picked up a copy of my book and started browsing through it. He browsed so long that I started handing out bookmarks to other customers (see my prior bookmark strategy). Occasionally I would glance at him and see him kind of smiling. Needless to say, I was worried that he was thinking my romance was simply a lot of mush. But to my surprise, he finally closed the book and said, “I don’t read romances, but I really like your dialogue, so here, sign a copy for me.” So I signed a copy to “Jim”. Then he took one of my business cards with my email address on it, and said, “I’ll read it and send you a critique.” LOL! Some people I’ve told this story to have said I must be a great salesman to have sold him a book, but the truth is, I simply left him alone to browse my book and make his own decision. It was simply luck (or hopefully, a knack for dialogue?) that made that sale for me!

Thanks to Jim and the helpful Costco saleswoman and the increased foot traffic in the store that day, I sold out all 27 copies of my book 10 minutes short of the end of my shift. Which I was feeling very pleased about until I read the blog about the man who sells 50-80 copies during his Costco shifts. Ah, well. It still felt pretty darn good at the time!

Saturday, October 31

Signing at the Costco store in Gilbert, Arizona. Although they were also expecting me, they had not set up my table ahead of time. Fortunately, I arrived about 15 minutes early, plenty of time to get set up, right? They brought me a table, black tablecloth, and another hard chair (to prop my large poster on) and set me up right next to my books in their book section. Unlike the meager 27 books I was given to sell at Tempe, the Gilbert store had set out 134 copies of Illuminations of the Heart in their book section. Oh, right, no pressure! The store was MOBBED with people…I’d expected everyone to be home getting ready for Halloween parties between 1-5 PM, so was stunned by the crowd. Before I could even pull any books off the shelf to set out on my table, four women rushed over to buy autographed copies. Not a bad start. J After that, I set out my stacks and sprinkled my rose petals, and set to work handing out bookmarks. I had one more “mobbing” during the day, when another 4-5 women all wanted to buy copies at once (that almost made me feel like “someone”!), but otherwise my sales were spread out and somewhat steady, but nothing to really brag about. I lost one sale because a woman wanted to buy a romance for her friend, but her friend liked “steamy romances”. However, I made at least two sales because the buyers saw “Deseret Book” on my bookmarks and said, “If they sell your books in Deseret Book, then they must be clean romances”. Which, I’m happy to say, they are. J Another woman didn’t know anything about Deseret Book, but was looking for a clean romance for her teenage daughter to read and bought a copy from me. So I look at it as, lost one, sold three. Guess those odds aren’t bad. J

Three wonderful writing friends…Deirdra Eden Coppel, Julia Griffin, and Cindy R. Williams (author of Chase McKay Didn’t Get Up Today) all stopped in to see me. Cindy was very sneaky, and when she ran into a friend of hers in the store, pretended like she didn’t know me personally but knew my books and convinced her friend to come over and buy a copy. Only afterwards did Cindy tell me that that friend was the younger sister of Danny Ainge, of the Boston Celtics! Alas, I had a brush with fame and didn’t know it in time to get my picture taken with her! (Sure hope she likes my book! Her brother could spread it all over national TV if she tells him it’s a dud!)

That was all the good news. The bad news is my energy took a major nose dive the last 45 minutes to an hour, and I simply didn’t have the umph! to round my book sales up to at least 30 books. I came in at 29 sales that day. So far, my “personal best,” but yes, alas, far fewer than 50 to 80. I must say, I hope my publisher isn’t reading that other fellow’s blog about his book signings in Utah!

Final observation: People don’t necessarily realize you’re the author of the book you’re signing until you say something like, “Would you like a free bookmark? I’m signing copies of this book until 5 PM today.” That’s when their faces light up (the ones who bother to pause long enough to hear you say that much) and they exclaim, “Oh, you’re the author?” And that’s when most of them will wander close enough to your table to actually pick up a copy of your book to look through and listen to you “pitch” a description of your book to them. As my friend Cindy suggested, and as I’d been thinking as this discovery was repeatedly driven home to me on Saturday, I think I need some way of distinguishing myself as the author vs simply a Costco worker trying to sell some random books. I think I’ll look into making a pin (perhaps on Zazzle) that says simply, “AUTHOR” to pin to my shirt when I do my book signings. Can’t hurt to try it and see whether or not more people stop by my table or not!