Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Weird answer to a prayer… you can call it coincidence if you want.

So I’m looking out the window at the steadily falling snow, and looking at the radar with its blue swath of snow bands inching its way across Michigan, and looking at the ‘Winter Storm Warning’ message across the top of the radar and stubbornly insisting, “I need to go to my office!”

I live twenty minutes away from my office with a north-south expressway between here and there where the usual traffic pattern is 75-80 miles per hour (except those jerks who fly past us ‘slow’ drivers at who-knows-how-fast). The prospect of driving down that highway in this snowstorm didn’t really sound appealing. And yet I kept insisting to myself, “I need to go to my office!”

But first I need to eat. I believe in routines. I always make myself exactly two eggs and sit down in the same spot each morning with my big ol’ set of scriptures and my study manual. I’ve been studying my way through the Old Testament for a long time, and yet still only half way through the manual (story for another day!).

When I pray before my morning meal to bless my food, I usually include the words, “Bless my mind and heart that they will be open to the words of Thy scriptures, that I might be able to apply them to my life, and go into the world this day to be of service in whatever way I’m needed.” (Or some variation of those words)

Today I included the words, “And help me to decide if I should drive to my office today, and if I should let my daughter drive to her school (15 minute drive in the other direction).”

Well… I glance down at the heading for today’s study lesson and it reads: “When Thou Shalt Have Eaten and Be Full; Then Beware.” Uh… coincidence, right?

I fluff it off and keep reading. The section is focusing on Deuteronomy 6:10-15, which according to my lesson manual is trying to teach me that the sad truth is that men forget God in times of peace and prosperity. So I thought, “See! It’s not even talking about road conditions or snowfall or anything like that!” I keep reading.

The words in Deuteronomy 6:14 jump up at me as if written in bold, flashing letters: THOU SHALT NOT GO (it’s actually talking about not going after other Gods because the Lord is a jealous God and wants us to worship only him). But that’s not the message I needed to hear today, is it?

I had prayed to know if I should go to my office, and the scriptures plainly told me, “Thou shalt not go.” I’m thinking, “But… I need to go to my office!” and what should the next verse read? Deuteronomy 6:16 says, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Okay, okay, I’ll stay home today. And I’ll call my daughter’s school and tell them that she won’t be coming to school, either. We will enjoy watching the snowfall from the comfort of our nice, warm home which the Lord has provided.

Answer to a prayer? Or coincidence? You decide. I’m going to think it’s an answer to my prayer. What’s your opinion? –Julie L. Spencer 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Conservation District Administrator by Day, Author by Moonlight

Julie Spencer has a very full life managing the Gratiot Conservation District, writing grant proposals, newsletters, articles, and watershed management plans. In the evenings she goes home and writes stories. She has now published her sixth book with more on the way.

Julie has been writing since she was in junior high, but prior to publishing her first novel, The Cove, her only published work was her master’s thesis, titled GIS Approach to Identifying Areas for Preservation in the Chippewa River Watershed.

The science Julie Spencer embraces so much in her job as the Administrator for the Gratiot Conservation District is a far cry from the rock stars and love stories she writes about in her books.

“I have a lot of stories in my head and characters who talk to me,” Julie said. “Some say I’m crazy, but people still love my books.”

Amazon reviewers agree… for the most part.

“I got my first one-star review after publishing my book, The Man in the Yellow Jaguar. It’s about a 25-year-old woman who falls in love with a man twice her age. The reviewer called it ‘awkward’. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.”

Julie’s books mostly earn four and five-star reviews and most reviewers seem to love that her stories usually contain a big twist they didn’t see coming. That, Julie says, is the best compliment she can get.

Writing has always been a passion, but Julie didn’t really take it seriously until people starting reading her stories and asking where they could purchase her books. Seeing no local bookstores within an hour drive, Julie made her stories available on Amazon as paperbacks and Kindle versions. She always carries a box of paperbacks in her car in case someone wants a signed copy.

The genre of Julie’s stories is a little unconventional and barely exists. She writes mostly New Adult Clean Contemporary fiction, but has several non-fiction projects in the works.

“Almost all my stories contain some sort of Christian slant, although they don’t fall into the traditional Christian fiction market. I don’t shy away from controversial topics like drug abuse and the sanctity of marital relationships. I write about rock stars touring the world, returned veterans struggling with PTSD, and a youth minister in an inner-city church in Nashville who also happens to play drums in a rock band. I’m a bit of a square peg in a round-hole publishing market.”

None of her fiction writing has anything to do with soil and water conservation. Julie’s education is in geography, environmental analysis, map making, earth science and land use planning. She has a Master’s of Science in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and loves writing grant proposals almost as much as writing stories.

Julie has also been doing some public speaking about her work here in central Michigan. She shared results of the Pine River septic study from last year at the State of the Bay Conference in Bay City in September, serves on an invasive species task force with the Saginaw Bay Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA), and was chosen to serve on an advisory council for a two year grant project in partnerships with the Great Lakes Commission (GLC), Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), Institute for Water Research (IWR), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Michigan State University.

“How I was selected to be on an advisory council for a project called Researching Effectiveness of Agricultural Programs (REAP), I have no idea. I think it all stems back to the pilot program we conducted over the past four years called the Bad River Watershed Sedimentation Reduction Program funded by GLC. I guess we were successful in our project if they are now implementing it at the regional level. The Great Lakes Basin is a pretty big watershed! I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve.”

What’s Julie’s favorite book? The prequel to her Buxton Peak trilogy, appropriately titled Buxton Peak: The Early Years.

“Most of the Buxton Peak series takes place when my rock stars are adults, but The Early Years starts when my main character, Ian Taylor, is only eight years old. He is identified as a child prodigy who can play any instrument and goes on to start a rock band at the age of fourteen with his three best friends. By the end of the series, they’ve traversed a lot of challenges. A recovering addict, a Mormon rock star, an atheist and an inner-city youth pastor… what could possibly go wrong?”

If you’d like to reach Julie Spencer for Gratiot Conservation District business, her email is and check out their website at

Want more information about her books, go to or

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Book Review of Sawdust and Mistletoe by Michelle Pennington

I was hooked on Sawdust and Mistletoe by Michelle Pennington from page one and couldn’t put it down. The main character, Ava has given up on Christmas. As an interior designer she decorates non-stop for months to make her clients’ homes perfect for the holidays, and she’s so sick of Christmas music she won’t even allow the radio on at her job sites.

Her new handyman, Hunter is determined to change her mind, and her heart. It’s not that Ava doesn’t want to date Hunter, she just doesn’t want to date a guy who won’t settle down. She’s naturally afraid to get her heart broken. But their chemistry is so strong they can’t stay away from each other.

Hunter finds ways to ‘work’ himself into her life, asking for her help decorating a dollhouse he’s building for his niece. The dollhouse becomes the smallest, but most important interior design project she’s ever done. It’s also a great distraction from the larger projects that seem to be falling apart around her. Nothing’s worse than watching your hard work destroyed before your eyes, except maybe falling in love with a guy who won’t commit.

It will take a Christmas miracle to pull it all together.

Michelle Pennington is one of my favorite authors. As one of her critique partners, I’ve had the chance to read her stories at various stages of completion. This one was so fun to watch her ‘build’. Pardon the puns, but come on. There’s sawdust and a hunky builder. What do you expect?

Michelle’s characters show heart and passion and determination and I just love them. I’ve been known to call myself President of the Michelle Pennington Fan Club (that’s a thing… right?).

I loved Sawdust and Mistletoe, and highly recommend it.

Other books I love by Michelle Pennington:

Book Review of The Start of Us by Rachel John

This is the second time I’ve tried to write a review of The Start of Us by Rachel John. I will not read Rachel’s book again, I will not read Rachel’s book again, I will not read Rachel’s book again.

Gal darnit Rachel John! Do I look like I have time to read your story twice? Do you know how many people are waiting for me to write book reviews for them? Including you!

All I wanted was a quick refresher on your new book, The Start of Us, before writing your review and now here I am a 3rd of the way into the book, again, because I can't put it down, again! This is all your fault!

Anyway, The Start of Us is a cute romance novel with a lot of heart, flirting, jealously, eating macaroni & cheese, and stepping back to take a back seat when it’s the right thing to do.

Obviously I liked it a lot if I read it twice. Yes, I’ve now finished it twice. My fight right now is to not pick it up again for the third time. I have work to do. No more reading. Seriously. Quit laughing. I can stop…

After reviewing The Start of Us, I had the opportunity to interview Rachel John and ask her a few questions about her writing. Read my interview here.

Other books by Rachel John:

Interview with the Author: Rachel John

After reviewing The Start of Us, I had the opportunity to interview Rachel John and ask her a few questions about her writing. Read my review here.

Rachel, thanks for joining us. Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

I’ve always wanted to be an author. I’ve been writing and reading since childhood, but didn’t get serious about it until about five years ago when I realized Amazon had a publishing platform and everyone was moving to eBooks. My first novel, TheTruth About Running, is an LDS novel about college students and dodging the perfect person because you’re scared. Since then, I’ve written three more contemporary romance novels.

Well, I’ve loved everything I’ve read of yours. How do you come up with your ideas for stories?

Usually the characters come first. I tend to relate to reluctant females with quirky friends and a very patient, but dreamy guy ready to break them out of their shell. I know some authors come up with ideas from dreams they’ve had, but that is so not me, unless you count daydreaming! My dreams tend to be super boring, even when scary and stressful.

I’m one of those authors who turn my dreams into novels. But my daydreams turn into novels as well, so we have that in common. Let’s talk more about your new release, The Start of Us. Tell the readers about it:

This book came from a story idea I’ve had for probably twenty years. When I was younger, I often told myself stories in my head. They’d play out like films and could last me a couple days. (I’m not saying it’s normal, just saying it happened, LOL) Now that I’m a mom, this particular story is a little more meaningful. I always knew the book would be about a loyal roommate and an estranged brother trying to figure out what to do with the child that’s been left in their care, I just didn’t realize how emotional and fulfilling the story would become.

I decided to make it a series, playing around with the theme of ‘A Change in Plans.’

Uh… yeah, so, you’re going to need to tell me more about your series sometime because I loved The Start of Us. For now, give us a Synopsis for the book:

When Corrie Windsor's roommate dies in a car accident, she leaves behind her four-year-old daughter, Ella. Corrie loves the little girl and hopes to adopt her, but instead, she’ll have to stand by while Ella’s uncle steps in to take custody. If things aren’t awkward enough, there’s a chemistry between them that neither wants to acknowledge.

Preston Ford can’t imagine instant parenthood, especially considering he just chickened out of proposing to his girlfriend. However, once he meets Ella, there’s no other choice. The time he spends with her and Corrie solidifies an alliance between the three of them, a plan to give Ella the stability she needs. But reality can sometimes turn the best of plans upside down.

With more than one heart hanging in the balance, how long can their platonic teamwork really last? Romance has never been this complicated.

Swoon. I loved the story. I’ve read it twice! I love your characters, but in your own words, tell the readers about your main characters:

The point of view shifts between Corrie and Preston, two people who want to work together, but also want to protect themselves from heartache. Corrie is very level-headed and calm. Preston tends to say and do the wrong thing under stress. It’s a fun combination.

Which is your favorite minor character and why?

I love to create side characters that can say outrageous things and Shaun is no exception. He’s the funny voice of reason when Preston is being stubborn and Shaun will become the main character in the next book in the series. I’m excited and nervous about that.

Okay, I was wondering about that. Shaun seems like he’s got a cool story to tell. He’s flirtatious and bold, but a loyal friend and I like that. Not to put too much pressure on you, but I’d very much like for you to finish writing Shaun’s story so I can read it! Do you write and read every single day?

If I’m not writing I’m reading. Besides exchanging manuscripts with other writers, I just love to read.

I knew there was a reason we got along so well! I love to read and write, also. When I’m tired from writing all day, I’ll take a few more minutes to read. When you’re ready to exchange manuscripts, I volunteer as tribute!

Anyway, thank you, Rachel for joining us today and for sharing your stories and your writing experience! -Julie L. Spencer

About Rachel John:

Rachel John lives in Arizona with her husband and four crazy kids. When she's not shuttling them to soccer or piano, she loves to read, work on family history, and draw. Rachel thinks the best kinds of books are filled with awkward humor, and enjoys mixing that with sigh-inducing romance.

Follow Rachel John on social media:

Website and/or Blog:

Other Books by Rachel John:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Unspoken Words Anthology LDS Beta Readers

Sometimes the most important words are unspoken.

This collection contains fourteen short-story romances featuring established and up-and-coming authors. There’s something for everyone to enjoy from historical to young adult, movie stars to bodyguards, work place romance to friendships deepening into more.

What happens when you find the courage to say what needs to be said?

I’m honored to have my short story, Buxton Peak: Silence from Nashville featured in the Unspoken Words anthology. Silence from Nashville is a spinoff from my Buxton Peak series and actually takes place during the time period in the middle of Buxton Peak Book Three: The End of the Beginning.

One of the supporting characters in the series, Ed Williams meets his girlfriend India on a blind date and they hit if off immediately. But now, a year later, he still has not confessed his love to her nor asked her to marry him.

As the story begins, Ed has just been asked by his best friend (and employer), Ian Taylor to move with him to Nashville. Ed is bodyguard for Ian and his rock band, Buxton Peak. If he doesn’t move with the band, he will lose his job. If he does move, he may lose his girlfriend.

Read Buxton Peak: Silence from Nashville in the new anthology, Unspoken Words, along with thirteen other authors’ short stories.

Also, join us Thursday, October 26, 2017 for our online Book Launch Party on Facebook. The fun starts at 5:00 Mountain Time (that’s 7:00 p.m. Eastern for those of us out here).

To learn more about the Buxton Peak series, and to check out some of my other books, head over to my Amazon Author page.

Connect with Julie L. Spencer on social media:

Twitter account: @juliespencer98

Buxton Peak Book: Two Center Stage

Center stage can’t last forever.

Even a rock band as talented as Buxton Peak can come crashing down.

Protecting his bride from cameras and scandals is the least of Ian’s worries. While he is blinded by love, his band is torn apart by distractions, temptations, and drug abuse.

Will Ian stand beside his mates, letting their problems become his problems? Can they pull together as a band? Or will the pressures of stardom rip them apart?

See where it all began in Buxton Peak: The Early Years

Read the first book in the Buxton Peak trilogy, Buxton Peak Book One: Who Is Ian Taylor?

Learn why center stage can't last forever in Buxton Peak Book Two: Center Stage

The end... is only the beginning, Buxton Peak Book Three: The End of the Beginning

Monday, October 9, 2017

Interview with the Author: Lindzee Armstrong

Have you ever gone to an author’s Amazon page and seen that every one of their books has 4.5 Stars or better? And hundreds of reviews? Yeah, me neither.

But Lindzee Armstrong comes darn close! One of her books has only 4.0 Star average. One. Out of how many? At least sixteen that I counted!

After reading her latest novel, Kiss Me in the Rain, I had the opportunity to interview Lindzee and ask her a few questions about her writing.

Lindzee, how long have you been writing?

Literally as long as I can remember! I started writing as soon as I knew how.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes. It’s been my “what do you want to be when you grow up?” answer since about first grade.

Do you have/Have you had any other careers besides writing?

I worked at a bookstore for five years while going to college. Not really a career, but a fun job!

What is your favorite music to listen to while writing?

Top 40 hits.

Have you ever named a character in honor of someone you know?

Yes! I have an accountability partner, and we slip each other into every book.

At what moment did you feel like you could say, “NOW, I'm an author?”

When my first book was published.

Do you write/read every single day?

I work every single day…I try to make sure that includes writing, but business stuff often overshadows it. I try to read every single day, and usually do. I listen to audiobooks every single day.

Lindzee, thank you for sharing some tidbits about yourself, your stories, and your writing experience! -Julie L. Spencer

About Lindzee:

Lindzee Armstrong is the USA Today bestselling author of the No Match for Love series, Kiss Me in the Rain series, and Sunset Plains Romance series. In case it wasn’t obvious, she’s always had a soft spot for love stories. In third grade, she started secretly reading romance novels, hiding the covers so no one would know (because hello, embarrassing!) and dreaming of her own Prince Charming.

Lindzee finally met her true love while at college, where she graduated with a bachelor’s in history education. They are now happily married and raising twin boys in the Rocky Mountains.

Like any true romantic, Lindzee loves chick flicks, ice cream, and chocolate. She believes in sigh-worthy kisses and happily ever afters, and loves expressing that through her writing.

Follow Lindzee Armstrong on social media:

Goodreads Profile: Lindzee_Armstrong

Books by Lindzee Armstrong:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Interview with the Author Lisa Rector

After reviewing SwitchingLives, I had the opportunity to interview Lisa Rector and ask her a few questions about her writing. (Read my book review of Switching Lives here)

How long have you been writing?

I started writing in February of 2013 and have four completed novels published on Createspace and Kindle in a series called The Emrys Chronicles. My books are about immortal beings, dragons, and the fight between light and dark inside each of us and around us.

My new release is a story about sisters (one of whom is a witch), called Switching Lives. I have several vampire stories in the works and even a few short stories. I go where my mind takes me. I love writing.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

On a whim, an idea came to me. I never even played with the idea to write before, but I spent plenty of time dreaming up fantasies once my head hit the pillow at night. It was time to write them down.

How do you come up with your ideas for stories?

Anything and everything inspires me. I take inspiration from the scriptures, TV shows, books I’ve read, and dreams I’ve had. When I started my books, I was on a LOTR marathon and received most of my inspiration from those movies. Many of my characters are based off LOTR.

Now that I’ve been writing for four years, the ideas keep coming and I cannot write fast enough. I hope that as my writing improves the process goes faster.

Do you have any other careers besides writing?

I used to be a labor and delivery nurse, so I’m able to draw on those experiences for my novels. Since my series involves multiple generations instead of staying with the same characters, the stories tend to always have someone pregnant or having a baby. Often the pregnancies or deliveries have to do with the plot, so I’m really grateful for my knowledge.

Let’s talk more about your new release, Switching Lives.

Give us a Synopsis for the book:

Sisters should love each other, not covet each other’s husband.

Lexi Dahl wants to smooth over issues with her husband, Derick, during a weekend vacation, but a blissful night of making up turns to disaster when Lexi wakes and life is upside down. Derick thinks he’s married to her sister, Abby, and Lexi’s poor girls somehow believe Abby is their mother. At least her brother-in-law, Ben, knows he’s Abby’s real husband.

While Lexi and Ben sort out the marriage mix-up, evidence points to the impossible—a spell was cast. Even though Ben is sick of Abby’s lies and can move on with his life, he helps Lexi patch up hers. She’s determined to break the spell, but as secrets unfold and she and Ben draw closer, Lexi’s heart is divided between her old life and new possibilities—because finding her true self and true love could be just a botched spell away.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

I honestly can’t remember where the idea came from. Pretty sure it started out as a hazy dream, and the story evolved from there.

Tell us about your main characters:

Lexi Dahl is a happily married mother of two. In her eyes, her husband Derick is the ideal husband. “Life is perfect in all its chaos, and that’s what it is with two- and four-year olds.”

Derick Dahl is a hard-working trauma surgeon. His little girls are his world. “Lexi takes great care of [the girls]. I know she’s given up a lot and lost herself in motherhood, but I love her all the more for it.”

Benjamin Lindsey designs office spaces for upscale clients. He and his wife of five years wish for children of their own so they can emulate the perfect family that their in-laws Derick and Lexi have. “I didn’t think it would be this hard. Abby is certain [starting our own family] will only be a matter of time.”

Abigail Lindsey is a former registered nurse at the renowned National Cancer Institute. “We just need to simplify our lives. A baby will come along before Ben and I know it.”
Which is your favorite minor character and why?

I particularly like Ben. He has a biting personality and doesn’t take crap.

Your character is at a bookstore. What book is in his/her hand right now?

For a while Lexi was reading everything she could on witches so she could break the spell on her family, but she favors Scottish romances.

Of all the books out there, why should readers choose this one? (What makes your book stand out from the rest?)

This story has a contemporary feel even though it is technically a paranormal romance. I just loved playing up the dynamics between the two main characters Lexi and Ben. They start out as brother- and sister-in-law, helping each other out after a spell has been cast on them. Some crappy things happen to them, and they learn to lean on each other. Despite the novel’s paranormal bit, the premise feels so real. It’s real life, with all the nit and gritty. Readers will be able to relate to Lexi’s and Ben’s issues, while enjoying a bit of the paranormal, without being in a crazy world of vampires and werewolves.

Let’s shift gears and talk more about your writing.

What is your favorite music to listen to while writing?

I don’t write to music, but I take breaks and listen to music in between scenes and depending on the mood and tone, it will influence my writing.

Have you ever named a character in honor of someone you know?

Not really in honor of someone, but I steal names from everywhere. Most of my names for my emrys series are taken from Welsh names. I wanted names that were unusual. A few of my friends harped on the pronunciations, but I prefer my readers to say the names how they feel. That’s what I do with novels I read.

At what moment did you feel as if you could say, “NOW, I'm an author?”

When I opened the box with my first proof copy. As soon as the physical book was in my hand, that made all the difference in the world.

What is one of your favorite/go-to writing resources?

I have copied and pasted so many documents and writing notes off the internet that I’ve made my own Writing Your Novel from the Beginning guide. It takes me step-by-step through the writing process.

What other project are you working on now?

My garden changes every year. I have raised veggie beds. So far, I’ve been able to keep a lemon and a lime tree alive for over three winters. I’ve already harvested some of the fruit!

I’m really involved with my church. I teach the women’s Sunday school lessons on occasion, and help new converts learn about my faith.

And the latest side project—I’m creating a version of the Game of Life based on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. It will be tragic. Let’s just say those with the least about of negative points will be the winner because this game of life has tons of disasters just like the show.

What book are you currently reading?

The Change (Unbounded Series Book 1) by Teyla Branton. Fantastic story and fantastic author.

Do you write/read every single day?

I have every intention. I write during the day and read at night.

Do you have any furry writing buddies? (Or scaled or feathered?)

I have gone through tons of cats, and right now, I am catless. They’re all buried on the mountain in, what my parents have, a thriving pet cemetery. The last cat I lost was the hardest, and because of my husband’s allergies, we can’t have anymore.

Lisa Rector, thank you for joining us today and for sharing your stories and your writing experience! –Julie L. Spencer

Author Bio:

Lisa Rector is a Maryland native and can’t imagine living anywhere else. And no, she doesn’t like crabs or Old Bay Seasoning. A mountain girl at heart, occasionally, every so often, she drifts down to the coast and floats away on the beachy breezes.

She married her high school sweetheart for time and all eternity in the Washington D.C. Temple after she fell in love with his endless sense of humor. She enjoyed a short stint as a labor and delivery nurse before becoming a stay-at-home mom for her two beautiful daughters. In addition to her newfound love of writing, her passions are gardening, yoga, and her faith in Jesus Christ. Her favorite delights are decadent homemade cakes, cookies, or brownies—never store-bought.

She has four published romantic fantasy novels. The Emrys Chronicles. Her novels are an ingenious look at the power of divine light inside immortals and humans, the ability to harness the energy, and the choices a person must make when darkness interferes.

Her newest release is a paranormal romance called Switching Lives.

Follow Lisa Rector on social media:

Twitter account: @lisarectoremrys
Website / Blog: Perpetual Indie Perspective
Amazon Author Page: Lisa-Rector
Goodreads Profile: Lisa_Rector
Google+ Profile: Lisa Rector
Facebook Author Page: AuthorLisaRector

Check out other books by Lisa Rector

Switching Lives

The Emrys Chronicles: