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I’m a writer. Obviously.

I’m actually a lot of things: Wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, housekeeper, student, marketer, photographer, cover designer, historian, cook (not a good cook though–more like the kind at a fourth rate restaurant in a creepy back alley; don’t ever ask me to cook for you if you value our life). In spite of all the things I do and am, writer defines me. My first indication of being a writer was in second grade. The teacher asked us to write down what we did best and how we thought we could use it as a career. I put down write as my thing I did best and put writer as my career choice. So I’ve known for a long time that this is who I am.

I’ve worked at being a writer my whole life, from poetry to short stories to novels to screen plays to articles to ad slogans. If a thing can be put into words, I’ve tried to be the one to make the words.

But I don’t always succeed. I have more rejection letters than most people I know. I have nice letters, form letters, letters that feel they were written by the head of the department of ruination, letters that sing praises to my words and curses to the timing. I have acceptance letters too. And I’ve actually made a career out of this thing I said I could do back in the second grade.

While cleaning out my garage the other day, I found something that halted pretty much all work: a box of old things. Really old things. The kinds of things where the paper crackles with fragility. Newspaper articles from my long dead great grandmother. Her name was Dezi Irene Dunlap.

She was a writer.

I had some vague knowledge of this before but never had I realized the depth of our connection. My great grandma wasn’t just a dabbler-writer. She was serious about her craft. The first news article–the one that caught my attention as I moved the box from one shelf to another– announced on the society page in bold print

Feasting the Muse . . .

The article shares the details of an awards banquet for short stories. A picture of my great grandmother ties up a good portion of the left bottom corner of the newspaper and the caption declares her to be a “national magazine writer for the Saturday Evening Post and other slicks” My great grandmother! How cool is she? And I hadn’t really known the extent to how much she wrote, to how dedicated she was to the craft.

Inside this particular box I found several of her stories as they were published in national magazines including the Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping. I found rejection letters. I found signed contracts. I discovered she’d actually been the president of the League of Utah Writers at one point in her life.

And on April 16th, 1944, my grandma was featured in a newspaper article that  discussed how Salt Lake City would one day be a focal point of great creative writing. The article mentions how many Salt Lake writers were coming to the fore in ever increasing numbers, their names appearing in national magazines standing as a witness to their success.

It was interesting to me how seventy years later, Salt Lake could indeed be considered a focal point of great creative writing. With so many of my friends being on the New York Times list and so many more winning awards and signing movie contracts and myself achieving so many things in the literary world,  I can only smile. My great grandmother and I would have been great friends had we had the chance to know one another. She died just one year before I was born. We would have sat through banquets together, clapped and cheered for one another’s successes and maybe provided a thoughtful critique or two for each other. I am so glad I found this box and had a chance to connect to someone whose blood runs through my veins. Thanks, Grandma, for this connection to my past and congratulations on your successes, but more importantly . . . congratulations for sticking it out through the rejections and slush. That is an accomplishment to be truly proud of.

Grandma is the lady on the left

Grandma is the lady on the left

I wonder how long it took her to pin up her hair like that . . .

Cover Reveal

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Isn’t it cute?

It’s exciting to have a new work finished–especially right now when I feel overwhelmed with busy. Almost as exciting to completing a new project is completing it ON TIME. It’s the little things that make life great. And so I am happy to announce The Boardwalk Antiques Shop written by two of my favorite people and me. The book releases in January 2015 and is filled with sigh-worthy heroes and smart, sassy heroines. Lots of heart. Lots of fun!

In other news, I am heading to Southern California this weekend to sign books at the Disneyland hotel. If you’re in the area, come say hello.

Staying the Course


Stay the course” is a phrase used in the context of a war or battle meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles or criticism. There are a lot of areas in life where staying the course is exceptionally hard, where tossing the ticket and jumping the train seem like the better option.

If you’ve been through my blog posts over the years you will see lots of times where I was discouraged, frustrated, and about to jump from the train and take my chances with the ground. You will see all the times when I stood on the edge of the platform with the wind ripping through my hair and clothes, and the rails, tracks, and earth falling away behind me, and my toes hovering over the edge, my body leaning forward, my legs coiling and ready to spring.

But I never jumped off. You will see that too.

And I’m glad I didn’t.

Lots of good things have come from me staying the course as a writer. I have friends who I never would have met without writing–people I love so much it hurts. I’ve experienced some beautiful vistas: making best seller’s lists, winning awards, laughing all night during writing conference weekends, signing with my agent, having boxes of books mailed to my house by my publisher.

And I’ve also been through some nasty dark tunnels.

I am betting you have experienced the same. You have probably had tunnels so dark and long that you weren’t sure that you hadn’t been swallowed up entirely and light had turned into a thing of myth. You might be in one of those tunnels now.

But don’t jump.

You’ll be glad you didn’t. Because you never know where that last foot is before you break out into light again  and have a view of something magnificent. You simply don’t know. Wouldn’t it be tragic if you jumped too soon?

Stay the course, my friends, in whatever your endeavors are at this time. Something great is waiting on the other side of dark. Trust the engineer. I believe this.


Find Your Story

I once had a writing teacher bring an old, muddy, scuffed-up boot to class where she plopped it down on her desk and said, “There’s a story in there somewhere. Start writing.” She sat down at her desk, and we went to work.

It’s been a good twenty years since that classroom and that boot, but the lesson was learned. There are stories surrounding us every day, everywhere we go, in everything we see. There is a story in the nail technician with chipped, cracked fingernails on her own hands. There is a story in the woman wiping tears from her eyes as she moves forward through traffic in her car. There is a story in the man who pulls into the driveway of a house after a long and grueling day at work only to remember that he hasn’t lived there since the divorce. I see stories in everything: in a smile, in a glance, in a snippet of overheard conversation. The ones I go after and dig deeper to unearth are the ones that usually have the most character–like the muddy boot. I want a story that’s been through something and is going somewhere.

I want a story that can walk over difficult terrain and climb mountains.

Recently,  I’ve come across a letter from my great, great aunt to my great uncle. I need to write the story found within for several reasons:

It’s my family history. It’s heart achingly real. And the story has feet wearing incredibly worn and muddy boots.

When I do school visits and other presentations, I am almost always asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer is always the same: “There’s a story in there somewhere.” And by there “there” I mean everywhere.

So if you are in a creative slump, go out and find what kinds of stories you want to tell. What holds your interest? What makes you happy? What fills your creative well? Here are some exercises I do when it seems I can’t see the story through the mud.

  • Appreciate art. I am always inspired by someone else’s artwork. Kevin Wasden has been a tremendous resource and friend to my creativity over the years.
  • Find emotion. I need to have something that strikes an emotional chord. If I’m not feeling the love, neither is my reader.
  • Read. I get great ideas from reading, and usually those ideas have nothing to do with what I’m actually reading. It goes back to the art thing. I believe art begets art.
  • Listen. Everyone has a story–much like those old boots. Everyone has a past and a moment where they were either amazingly heroic or horrifically villainous. Listen to people. Besides, people are important and deserved to be listened to. My parents have excellent stories–some they would mind a great deal if I shared to my reading audience and others that they are happy to share. Tap your family resource (you know, without alienating that family).
  • Eavesdrop. This is a wee bit different from listening because you don’t want people to know you’re listening because it would maybe look creepy and stalker-ish.
  • Get back to work. Yes, work. Writing isn’t always fun, and sometimes you have to slug through the muddy words to get to the boot. Sometimes you have to look yourself in the eye in the mirror and say, “There’s a story in there somewhere.”

Because there *is* a story in you.

Comic Con 2014 report

Attending Comic Con 2014 turned out to be a marvelous investment of time. My kids have all wanted to go since last year’s event and have been pestering me to make sure it happened, so when I was given the opportunity to be a presenter, have a booth, AND attend, all my previous arguments over how Salt Lake is so far away melted, and we loaded up the car and went.

I asked my friends on Facebook if I should dress up in a costume or go as a serious, professional author. One of my friends, Bruce Eschler, said that I should dress up as Jane Austen. That way I could go in costume AND be a professional author.

Does it surprise anyone that I actually own a regency gown? No? And this is why I love you people. So I dressed up as Jane and took her on a tour of Comic Con. Jane had many experiences:

Being abducted by a mad man in a blue box would certainly be traumatizing enough for any upstanding British author, but then to be dropped into a sea of fifty thousand science fiction and fantasy fans? Let’s just say that poor Jane felt a tad bit overwhelmed.


But she made friends fast and managed to snag herself a badge so she didn’t get kicked out. She especially enjoyed the princess party with kindred spirits!


Things were going well enough until she ran into a little Troll Trouble.


She wanted to go home after that, and some kid in a contraption called a Delorean offered her a ride home, but she ended up in some place called Hill Valley where things felt as dangerous as they did with the troll. That will simply not do at all.



And then she met a cheeky little fellow who referred to her as his “precious.” Oh the mortification of it all!


She was able to speak on a few writing panels discussing things like creating strong women in fiction, writing for youth, and making time in life for creativity and art. She had to work with the very incredible distraction of the emergency alert telling everyone to exit the building  because some prankster pulled the fire alarm. But the distraction proved to be a wonderful real-life example of working through, and around, distractions. She loved the metaphor of it all. She met up with some lovely people, but ultimately decided she might be better off in her own time. The mad man in the blue box was too busy to give her a lift back to her home, but he introduced her to a lovely weeping angel who offered to send her back in time.


Comic Con was a blast. So many people had elaborate costumes that were simply stunning (such as the weeping angel). And it really was great to reconnect with so many of my friends and meet readers. My booth was great! I was able to do some magic tricks and sign a lot of books (which is always nice). And even better, my kids were able to have a FABULOUS time wandering the floor and seeing the sights. We had a blast, spent a lot, and went home exhausted. We are definitely going next year!

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Comic Con Fun


I am privileged to speak at Comic Con and am so excited!  The panels I will be speaking on are:


Writing & Illustrating Books and Comics for Kids. Friday, September 5th, 6:00 pm.


Making Your Female Character Strong Without Turning Her Into a Fighting Machine. Saturday, September 6th,11:00 am.


Structuring Life to Support Creativity. Saturday, September 6th, 5:00 pm.


I will also be signing Spell Check and Hazzardous Universe at the Artist’s Alley throughout the whole weekend so if you are planning on being at the con (and let’s be honest, most the cool people WILL be at Comic Con if they can help it), please come visit me and say hi! And if you aren’t going to be there, you should reconsider; a world where the Tardis, a frozen Han Solo, and Studio C are going to be hanging out is definitely the place you want to be!

I love Dr. Who. And yes, I will be watching the new season premiere with the new Doctor tonight at 8. I can also be considered a rabid fan of Once Upon a Time. Emma Swan is my hero. She’s one of those strong female characters who doesn’t have to be a fighting machine.

What’s your favorite nerdy love?

What Will You Do When the Buzzer Sounds?

So many of us have greatness in us, things that we can do and do well, areas where we shine. Yet so few of us are willing to step up on the stage and share our gifts and talents.

Because it’s terrifying to take that first shaky step. And it’s scary to take the second and third as well. And the real kick in the head is that it doesn’t get less frightening with every step. The hundredth and thousandth are as hard as the first.

While you contemplate the great things you can do, watch this video. it’s worth the watch, and I promise I’ll wait.

Simon pushed the reject button early. And did you see the look on the faces of those two dancers. They were horrified for a brief second and a little irritated to be interrupted, but the fire in their eyes was unmistakable. The gauntlet had been thrown; they accepted the challenge and KEPT DANCING.

I’m a writer. It feels like my entire world is riddled with the red buzzer of rejection. It was there when I was trying to be published for the first time, when I was tying to get an agent, whenever someone leaves a bludgeoning review on Goodreads. A lot of my friends are at various stages in their writing careers as well. Some are just beginning to pen words down on pages. Some are beginning to submit to agents and editors. Several others are New York Times bestsellers, and some have movies being made of their books.

No matter where any of my friends are at in their career, they are facing the minefield of red buzzers, terrified to take that first, second, or hundredth step for fear of one little, red buzzer blowing up their dreams. I’ve seen a lot of good writers startle at the sound of a buzzer–startle, freeze, and then walk away even as their music changes tempo and the exciting stuff is about to begin. I’ve been one of those who startled and froze (one time I froze for a whole year).

But the buzzer doesn’t change what we can do well. We don’t magically become less worthy with that horrible noise. We only become distracted. We only become doubtful. The best way to overcome the doubt and distraction is to Keep Dancing.

Or painting, or singing, or adding up incredible sums of numbers that when configured a certain way is the gateway to time travel. Or in my case . . . to Keep Writing. Whatever your super power is, remember that a buzzer can not define your worth–especially when the exciting bit is about to begin.

Because you never know when someone else is about to push the golden buzzer.

Free on the 4th of July

Spell Check Sale banner

So the Kindle version of my new book is free. GO BUY IT! What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than with something FREE? It’s really easy. Click the picture above and it will take you to Amazon’s Kindle. Click buy now with one click and then it will download to your device. It will cost you nothing, nada, zip, zilch, naught, zero,  nil, zippo, not a significant amount of funding. Seriously, this deal is awesome and should be acted on quickly since it is only available at this price for two days.

Also my rebooted book “Loved Like That” will be only 99 cents during this promotion period too! It’s a fun romantic comedy. THANKS!!”

Spell Check

Spell Check

Spell Check


When it rains, it pours. Yes, I do happen to have two books releasing today. What are the chances? Apparently, pretty high. Crazy, but exciting. Having two books celebrating birthdays must mean that I’ve been busy. Tying the Knot and Spell Check, welcome to the world!

These two books are so entirely opposite in tone and content that it makes them having the same birthday fun–kind of like fraternal twins. They have parents in common and birthdays in common, but all similarities end there. Tying the Knot is the last of the Newport Ladies Book Club series. From inception to completion, it’s been a five year journey. This is the book that gives the rest of the story for each woman. The title is appropriate because a lot of loose ends will find their way tied up. It is so much fun! Just wow that we’re here. I love the ladies I wrote this series with and am in awe of their talent and hard work. It’s been an honor to work with Josi Kilpack, Heather Moore, and Annette Lyon. To celebrate we have a fun contest going with GREAT giveaways. Sign up now!

My second release is Spell Check: a young adult fantasy/romance filled with magic and mayhem–spanning the world from the United States, to the Amazon jungle, to Sweden. Oddly, I started writing Spell Check at the same time Josi and I discussed the details of writing The Newport Ladies Book Club series. Yes, folks, it really does take five years for things to happen . . . apparently. I did an interview with Jessica Day George on her blog while writing Spell Check. If it weren’t for that interview I wouldn’t have remembered when this book was started. So nice that the internet keeps track of my life for me. It’s like a really big journal.  To celebrate Spell Check’s birthday along with the birthday of our great nation, This will be a FREEdom weekend. The Kindle version of Spell Check is free both Friday and Saturday on Amazon. Make sure to get it while it is at a deal that can’t be beat!

And now . . . presenting . . .


A skeleton is rattling its way out of the closet marked “FAMILY SECRET! KEEP OUT!”

Allyson Peterson believes that being hanged by the

Salem High Witches is the absolute worst thing that can happen. But when her powers, wrested from the trolls of ancient Sweden, manifest themselves, she realizes that a prank hanging by vindictive cheerleaders is the least of her worries.

Ally accidentally sends her parents to the jungle to fight anacondas, turns her brother into a mute, and curses the entire cheerleading team with an illness that has no cure, proving that her spells need a little checking. Her Swedish grandmother shows up to help her through the worst part of all—surviving the Troll Trials and saving the guy of her dreams from a vengeance that has festered through-out generations.

The power is in her, if she can just get the magic right.

Spell Check is an impossible-to-put-down, topsy-turvy adventure with fun, romance, and fabulous characters.”

–Heather B. Moore, USA Today bestselling author


Like a Girl

I am a huge fan of smart marketing. It might have something to do with the fact that my original career goal was to be a top ad exec making pivotal, culture-changing commercials for Coke and Nike. I ended up choosing a different career path, but the interest in advertising is still there, which might explain why I loved this ad so much:

I am a girl and have often been tossed to and fro in trying to figure out what being a girl means. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s been a problem since The Woman Question became a “thing” in Victorian-era England. Society is tough on little girls trying to figure out who they are. Strangely, the phrase, “You hit like a girl,” is used as an insult typically directed to boys. Society is a tough on little boys too. The phrase “man up” also comes to mind.

Here’s the thing, men and women are different. I’ve taken biology, and I’ve seen a man naked. I know what I’m talking about. But different does not have to mean something derogatory. Different does not mean less than. When I was little, my mom always used to say cheesy little things like, “I love you all the same.” I swore I would never say that to my kids, at least until I had kids and then I found myself parroting the phrase that had always grated on me as a child. The truth is that I don’t love them all the same. I can’t. They are all different–three kids who are totally independent, different people. I use this phrase because it’s the one they will understand. What I mean is, I love them all equally. I love McKenna for her strength and tenacity, Merrik for his humor and compassion, Chandler for his quiet steadiness and resolve. I love them all equally but differently. And that’s okay.

So back to being a girl and smart marketing. I love this ad because it gives a glimpse into what we, as girls, evolve into as we become women. Not all of us. Certainly not. But enough of us grow and lose that empowerment to land a solid kick, to fight for our dreams, to run without faltering. We give in to the idea that our physical traits are the ones that matter. This myth is perpetuated at every check stand counter littered with beauty magazines dedicated to losing weight and getting a guy. This ad is different. Sure, it’s marketing, and I am well aware that the advertisers are trying to peddle a product. I just love that they were smart about it! I love that they saw the problem in a woman’s self-image and figured out a way to market a product to girls without making the problem worse.

This ad is a nice reminder to remember the girl we were before we let others impose opinions on us. I love that they asked the girl toward the end if she would do it differently and she responded that, “I would run like myself.” There is power in being who we are without fear of censure. I’m glad they let her try again. Yeah. I’m a firm believer in second chances. It’s okay to need second chances and third and fourth chances too. Whoever you are . . . be you. Run like you. Fight like YOU.