July 27th, 2014

from the Hunting Happiness Project

This poster was posted on Facebook by the “Hunting Happiness Project.” It reminded me of an important message in my latest book We Are Strong! and I’d like to share it with you here.

Our influence for good is enormous. The words we speak to our children can become their inner voice. If we can contribute to thoughts that build self-esteem, we can change the world for our children.

Jolyn tells what a powerful impact two women had on her life. “Growing up, I was lucky to have two beautiful influences in my life. One was my own mother. The other was my paternal grandma, Louise Webb McDowell. She was known as Grandma Mac to all the grandchildren, but a few years before she died, she was my Grandma Scoots.

“Grandma was always a strong spiritual influence in my life. Every birthday when I got a card from her, it always contained a spiritual message. Each year I looked forward to those and as I grew older, I eagerly sought out her wisdom as I struggled to find out who I was. I continued to seek out her council and wisdom as a newlywed and then a mother.

“When we went camping or random times growing up, she would sing ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ Because of her, that song has always had a tender place in my heart. As I became a mother myself, it has been the one song that I always sing to my children. To me it holds a deeper meaning than just a cute little song. It’s something I want my children to always feel and to always know they are my sunshine. They are what bring me happiness during the cloudy days life has to offer.”

We may know what we want for our children, but we cannot accurately project forward what their realities will be. However, if they know of their immense worth, when peers tease or antagonize them, when the media tells them they are not up to par—not good enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough—they will remember what we said. And because of our loving treatment, there will be no question in their minds of their value.




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July 26th, 2014


First off, let me tell you this is not my chosen genre. However, I have a number of grandchildren who love this genre and, frankly, this book is amazing. I give it a five-star rating, both from the writing and from the narrating.

5-star rating

How on earth does anyone have an imagination that can conjure up this kind of story, with its complex characters and relationships? Not me. Never. But, wow, how captivating and compelling. I got a lot of great background messages from this script. In some ways those messages reminded me of Star Wars. They teach without preaching. They “show” with the action of words.

I’m a visual person so I think I would enjoy the printed book even more. But don’t misunderstand me. The narration was done extremely well.

The only warning to the reader I would mention is to note this book does not end. It is book two of a series and not one that has a conclusion of its own.

I interviewed the author, Mikey Brooks, and the narrator, Anthony Bianco. I think you will find their answers to my questions fascinating.

Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of the best-selling middle-grade series The Dream Keeper Chronicles, The Stone of Valhalla, and The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full-room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works fulltime as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to “writing stories on the hearts of children.” You can find more about Mikey and his books at www.insidemikeysworld.com.



Mikey, when you write, do you “see” your story, like a moving picture? Or is there something else that drives your imagination in your writing?
I always see the scenes play out in my mind like I am watching a film. Sometimes it’s more vivid than others. If I ever get stuck (in my mind the book gets put on pause), I then try different things to get the movie going again—draw out the scene I was working on, or reread what I was writing to see it more clearly.

Since you “see” your story, what is the predominate color in the scenes?
I have a very photorealistic mind. So when I am envisioning a scene in my mind it’s like I am watching a Hollywood movie. It’s all in Technicolor. If it’s a scene at night, there are more blues. If it’s a scene in the day, it’s more yellow. I think it helps that when I write, I actually don’t stare at the screen and read what I am typing. I stare at my desk, which has a black top. I can still make out the key board, but other than that I just see black. I think that helps me to focus more on the images playing out in my mind.

Was there an event(s) in your life that encouraged your desire to be a writer?
When I was a tween, I lived in rural Missouri on a farm surrounded by trees. Our nearest neighbor was a mile down the dirt road so you can imagine I didn’t have many friends. The woods became my Wonderland. During that time I started reading The Oz series and I would dream of going there. Oz seemed like a place where there was an abundance of friends just waiting for me. It was then that I first put words on paper. It was about the pond in the middle of the woods where I had my fort. The pond was a portal to another world like our own, just one without color. One day I might revisit that story and make it into something magical.

You are a visually creative person. Did you enjoy art as a child?
Yes, I did. I was always doodling on something—paper, my shoes, even my skin. I learned to draw from my grandmother who worked for a while for Walt Disney as an artist. I have never had any formal training besides my grandma. She taught me watercolors and oil paints and told me just to have fun with art. I’ve carried that motto into adulthood and try to find fun in my art, whether it be illustrating or writing.


Dragon drawn by Mikey at age 17

The Dreamstone is a series. Do the books also stand alone? Is there more to come after book 2?
The first book could stand on its own if you don’t read the last page. It ends on quite the cliff hanger and leads right into the next book. The second book picks up right where the other leaves off. The Dream Keeper Chronicles was imaged as a trilogy. The story starts with The Dream Keeper (book 1) and will end with The Dream Makers (book 3). However, book 2, The Dreamstone, brings out some fantastic information that readers have asked me to write about one of the characters. So there might be a possible prequel after the final installment.

What do you hope to accomplish with this series?
I think there is an underlining theme that goes with the series—be true to yourself no matter the cost. I hope that readers, especially kids, learn that we are not all created equally. We’re all different and supposed to be different. So often we are expected to fit in some kind of social norm. And sometimes to “fit in” we choose to hide who we truly are. I hope that kids can learn they can be themselves and still “fit in.”

Anthony Bianco is a professional actor living and working in Denver, Colorado. He is a native Oregonian and has been acting and storytelling for the past eighteen years. He received a BFA in Acting with a minor in Shakespeare Studies at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. Anthony then went on to receive his MFA in Acting from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Anthony moved to Denver five years ago and has worked for three seasons with the Denver Center Theatre Company, one season at Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and most recently appeared as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.



Anthony, did you choose The Dreamstone to narrate, or did the author (Mikey Brooks) of The Dreamstone choose you?
In a way it was mutual. When I was looking through auditions on ACX.com I came across The Dream Keeper and read the bit Mikey had posted for the audition, which was a section of the first chapter. I recorded it and submitted it, and Mikey got back to me pretty quickly with a very positive response offering me the opportunity for my first gig as a narrator. I needed a first book, and after talking with Mikey and reading the rest of the book, I knew it would be a positive experience. So, long story short, I chose to audition and Mikey chose to offer me the job.

How do you manage to smoothly accentuate the “voice” of the different characters?
Breathe, breathe, breathe. You can’t transition from voice to voice without the proper breath support to fuel the instrument. If it sounds smooth, it is a combination of quality editing and quality vocal control by the narrator.

How did you become a book narrator? Did anything specific prompt you to undertake this career?
A friend encouraged me to pursue it. He made the transition from actor to narrator full time and thought I would also be good at it. So, he gave me the initial push. I haven’t been able to make that transition fully, though. I am still working and auditioning for gigs in both careers as well as working at a coffee shop and doing odd work as a ranch hand and landscaper to make ends meet. I am still at the beginning of my narrating career, but what has prompted me to continue to pursue it is the flexibility to create my own hours, work from home, and the complete artistic control of the storytelling.


Synopsis for book 2: The Dreamstone
When Parker’s mom is dreamnapped by the wicked Mab, it is up to him and Kaelyn to save her. When they return to Dreams, they discover Mab isn’t their only problem. Gladamyr has lost his powers and the only way to get them back is to become what he fears the most—a nightmare.

The Dreamstone (book 2 of The Dream Keeper Chronicles)
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Dreamstone-Dream-Keeper-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B00GP33YZO
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dreamstone-mikey-brooks/1117435078
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-dreamstone

Audible: http://www.audible.com/pd/Kids/The-Dreamstone-Audiobook/B00LADIKEY
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dreamstone-Dream-Keeper-Chronicles/dp/B00LCBNXJ6
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/audiobook/dreamstone-dream-keeper-chronicles/id895627885

Paperback book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dreamstone-Dream-Keeper-Chronicles-Volume/dp/1939993237


Synopsis for book 1: The Dream Keeper
When an evil shifter takes over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it falls to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him. Their only hope lies with Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but can they trust a Nightmare to save their world?

The Dream Keeper (book 1 of The Dream Keeper Chronicles)
Kindle: http://ASIN.cc/aZzmF0
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dream-keeper-mikey-brooks/1115262781
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-dream-keeper
Audible: http://www.audible.com/pd/Kids/The-Dream-Keeper-Audiobook/B00H9L66XS
Amazon: http://ASIN.cc/oYMMCA
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/audiobook/dream-keeper-dream-keeper/id783517494
Paperback book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dream-Keeper-Chronicles-Volume/dp/1939993032




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July 25th, 2014

Today my fiction book was spotlighted on Marsha Ward’s blog “Writer in the Pines.” This is the book that will be featured in an online magazine in September. I love this book.



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July 24th, 2014

Today, in the Latter-day Saint culture, is Pioneer Day. July 24th we celebrate the love, devotion, and great dedication of our pioneer ancestors. I grew up in Arizona. When I was young, there would be parades and rodeos on July 24th. I live in Utah now, and here the celebrations are gigantic. They allow neighborhood fireworks. There is a HUGE parade that people actually camp out on the sidewalk the night before to get a good place to watch. There are family parties and great campouts and cookouts.

I used to think I would have made a good pioneer because I love to camp and (sometimes) make do. But I’ve lived enough years now to realize that’s not what it’s all about. Being a pioneer is about standing up for what you know to be right, keeping your faith and trust in God, and relying on Him to see you through the hardships you encounter in life. And that makes us all pioneers of a sort, no matter what year in time we are living.

This is a 1957 picture of my two sisters, dressed in pioneer clothing, ready to walk in the 24th-of-July parade in Pine, Arizona.

1957 July 24th, Diana and Jean before the parade in Pine, AZ

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July 19th, 2014

Today in the Deseret News an article was published as a follow-up to the death of Lori Hacking. I co-authored a book titled Shattered: Six Steps from Betrayal to Recovery. It was released shortly after Lori’s death and had heavy national endorsement. Thelma Soares, Lori’s mother, wrote the Foreword. I felt for Thelma then, and I feel for her still today.


Thelma Soares 7-19-14 Deseret News

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July 19th, 2014

This morning I received a wonderful email from a woman I do not know. She wrote, thanking me for one of the books I’ve written, A Woman’s Power. I get these every once in a while because of one book or another that I have written. I know assuredly that my Heavenly Father had a HUGE part in writing my books. I’m so grateful for the amazing experiences I’ve had with my writing.

I am grateful today this woman took her time to write a personal note to me.

If you have an author who has impacted you, please do take the time to write. It truly could make the difference of rather that author feels her or his time and effort was of worth.


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July 12th, 2014


I’ve been thinking about life, the lessons we’ve been reading from the Bible, and my parents. I’m blessed to have amazing parents who have chosen to be steadfast in their faith, and who continue to teach me by their example. My mother is 93 years old. My father will be 96 next month. I want to be like them. I hope to be like them. I pray to be like them . . .

“And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

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July 8th, 2014

We have concluded our wonderful Family Slumber Party. I am incredibly blessed with a saintly husband and a marvelous family. Ten of our twelve children and their families came. Yes, that was a HUGE number of people, but that meant there was someone there (hopefully) for everyone to have fun with.

I made embroidered pillowcases for every grandchild who attended (I made 34). I was grateful for every smile of appreciation.


We did a Family Cutthroat Kitchen. If you’ve never watched that show on television, give it a try. We had a great time with that. We had flour sock dodge ball, good food, amazing fireworks (we were up above the BYU stadium so saw their display totally light up the sky as well as fireworks all over the valley), peaceful night’s sleep under the stars, and heart-warming family time.

Several years ago I made a family flag. We display it every time we have a major family gathering. Each of our children chose the colors they wanted. Larry and I are in the center. I love it when that flag is up because it signifies we are together.


Now to put my life and house back in order :)

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July 2nd, 2014

At times I sincerely fear we are losing moral ground in America. In some categories, I feel we are falling off a cliff in that regard. Nonetheless, I truly appreciate being an American and the great freedoms we have. I hope God will have reason to continue to bless this land and its people.

Flag string

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June 30th, 2014

Tomorrow starts the NewLDSFiction Summer Book Trek. You win books by reading books, and you can get an extra 10 points for reading my book I Am Strong! I Am Smart! because I’m an official sponsor on this trek. So I hope you’ll look into it and enjoy the reading challenge.



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