The Christmas Bike Release!


Today is release day for my book,

The Christmas Bike!!!

Here are all of the buy links:


Barnes & Noble


Here is a synopsis: Christmas is already going to be tough for Marie and her family. When a series of events is set in motion long before a Christmas Eve tragedy, she is too occupied to notice God’s grace. An emergency letter to Santa sets her on a quest for a Christmas miracle. With time running out, she prays for the first time in a long time. A miracle does happen, but it is not what she expected.

Concrete Pumpkins: How-to

Fall is my favorite time of year!

And Halloween is my favorite holiday!


A while ago I made a couple dozen of these concrete pumpkins for a big Halloween party. I gave most of them away, but during our move this summer, I realized we had several left-over that I’d shoved in the basement. My husband complained and complained as to why, exactly, we were moving big clumps of concrete with us to our new house. I told him we weren’t and acted like I was getting rid of them. But I snuck them into the garden shed of the new house. It wasn’t until recently, because of the dang fall yard cleaning, that he realize I’d fibbed a bit.

“These things keep cropping up like they are from a nightmare or something!” he said.

But I couldn’t part with them because I love them. Anyway, I’m keeping two and getting rid of the rest.

Before I do, I wanted to post a how-to, because they were so easy, and cheap, and awesome!

Step One:

Go to the mountains and find some large branches.

Shove them in your car, then clean out the car before the husband gets home!


Oh, and if you happen upon a rope swing, while looking for said branches, by all means… IMG_2190.JPG

Step Two:

Next, buy those dollar store or Walmart plastic pumpkins.

Fill them with a mix of concrete (quikrete), perlite, and sphagnum moss. If you want the concrete to be smooth, then add straight concrete. But I wanted a worn, rustic look, so I added the other mix-ins. I mixed it in a big wheel barrel because I did so many. For small amounts, you could just use a big bucket for mixing. About 2/3 concrete to 1/3 mix of moss and perlite together. Scoop the mixture into the plastic pumpkins.


Step Three:

Tap the pumpkins to make sure the concrete settles and that there aren’t any air pockets. Then add in the branches. I added more sphagnum moss to the top of the concrete where the branches go into the concrete. Just cause I thought it would look cool.

Let the pumpkins cure and dry out for two or three days.


Step Four:

I spray painted all the branches a flat black. I should’ve done this when they were still in the plastic because I kept trying not to overspray onto the concrete. Then you get a razor, scissors, pliers, and pry off the plastic. They are glorious!

(Be careful that the razor doesn’t score into the concrete.)


Step Five:

Because this was for a big halloween party in a huge space, I wanted drama and height. So we wrapped webbing all around the branches and then hung Halloween decor from the branches. Like bugs and bones and ghosts, etc.


Step Six:

Once Halloween was over I cut off the branches for storage. I just kept a foot or so and tied an orange burlap bow around the wood sticking out. I also painted the eyes and mouth with black acrylic paint to make them stand out more.



I’ve loved having these on my front porch!

But my husband hasn’t loved tripping over them.

See, he doesn’t look too pleased, but he really is a happy guy.


See them on the railing? Beneath the hanging skull? ^^



Happy Halloween!!!

  • Tara

The Christmas Bike: pre-order!

I am excited to announce that my third novel,

The Christmas Bike,

is set for release on October 11, 2016 and available for pre-order! (click on link)


Here is a brief synopsis:

Christmas is already going to be tough for Marie and her family. When a series of events is set in motion long before a Christmas Eve tragedy, she is too occupied to notice God’s grace. An emergency letter to Santa sets her on a quest for a Christmas miracle. With time running out, she prays for the first time in a long time. A miracle does happen, but it is not what she expected.


This story is true and it happened to me. I wrote this little novella beside the fireplace and twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, while the rest of the house slept. The inspiration to write this story was because of another author who had a similar situation happen to her during the holiday season. I will write about that experience in a later post.


I also wrote The Christmas Bike as a Christmas gift to my mother and sisters.

I had no intention to seek publication because, to me, it wrote more like a journal entry and less like a structured book. My feelings were raw, my memories thick. It’s the kind of story that was written in a blur of magic.

I hope it feels like magic when you read it. I hope you in turn notice the little miracles in your life, connect the dots, and know that you are not alone.

My publisher and I have been collecting endorsements from people. But my favorite endorsements are personal ones that came from my sisters and mother who encouraged me/forced me to seek representation.

Here are a few professional endorsements:

The Christmas Bike is a tender and sometimes heartbreaking story, told with a rare authenticity; a real, behind the scenes view of motherhood, of struggle, and miracles. Sugar doesn’t fix everything.Angie Fenimore, NYT bestselling author of Beyond the Darkness.

The Christmas Bike broke my heart, then mended it. I love this book!
– Tonya Vistaunet. Owner of A Happy Vista and author of the Color Land series.

Charming narration and a heart-warming journey—I laughed, I cried, and then I went back and read it again.
Laura Rollins, author of Shadows of Angels

The Christmas Bike is more than just another Christmas story—it’s one of resilience, of hope, and of finding the grace we long for.
Emily Wing Smith, author of The Way He Lived and All Better Now.

You are welcome to follow more of my journey writing this novella by viewing my hashtag on Instagram #thechristmasbike.

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Thank you! I can’t wait to get this book into stores and into your hands! And with a price tag that costs less than a gourmet cup of hot cocoa, The Christmas Bike is a perfect read for a winter’s night.🙂

  • Tara

To view my other books you can click here.



Fairy Gardens & Writing: how they relate


Planting fairy gardens is one of my favorite things to do every spring. I do this for one of my jobs and on occasion, I teach how-to’s.

I’ve planted countless container pots over the seventeen years I’ve been doing this, but planting fairy gardens feels completely different and is always exciting to me.

Here’s why:

I escape into the mini world I am planting. Just like I escape into the worlds I create while writing.


The writing and planting connection didn’t come to me until recently, while teaching a customer how to plant a desert landscape fairy garden.

“That’s the fairies’ winter home,” I said to her. “They go there when the frost covers their forests.”

The woman looked up at me with big eyes. “Ohmygosh. Yes! I didn’t think of that, but yes!”

I twirled over to another customer. “Oooo,” I said. “I like how those stepping stones trail off beneath that maiden hair fern. Where is it leading to?”

The girl looked up at me and showed her toothy grin. “A waterfall.”

And that’s when years and years of why I love planting mini landscapes, clicked.

It all stems from creating a believable SETTING!

Now, there are rules to planting fairy gardens, just like there are rules to writing.


1- Scale: Nothing bugs me more than having a huge fairy, or dog, or bird bath right beside an iddy-biddy fairy house the same size. You need to have stepping stones in relation to the fairy house or have people bigger than animals. So, look for trinkets and decor that are to scale.

Scale in writing: This is called world-building. What are the rules, the magic system, the laws? Keep it consistent, and tight, and to scale. Don’t make the reader confused with things that don’t make sense.



2- Plants: To set your fairy garden up for success, the plants all need to be able to survive in one pot together. Don’t plant outdoor with indoor. Or succulents and cacti with ferns. Or sun plants with shade plants. I know this seems like common knowledge, but this is the #1 issue I’ve seen. People buy plants just because they are pretty and then wonder why the beautiful flowers aren’t blooming inside in a dark room.

Plants with writing: I could go on, and on, and on about setting. In fact I have, many times on this blog. Here’s an award winning article I wrote about setting, if interested. I am extremely picky of the plants I see in novels. If the author names a real plant, in my mind, it better be able to grow in that realistic setting. If it’s fantasy, well, go crazy.



3- Layers and texture: A woman I helped the other day was creating an herb fairy garden. She had rosemary, lavender, and curry all grouped together. She asked why it wasn’t working. I moved a few things around and added parsley, basil, and thyme between them. “It’s because all those plants have the same, slender leaves. See how they stand out now that they are next to other, cohesive plants with different texture?” I said. Think how a real forest grows with tall trees, shrubs, then ground cover. Add layers.

Layers and texture in writing: Resonance. Hints. Metaphor. What are you trying to say to the reader? What is the underlying theme? That’s the layers. – Voice. Substance. Emotion. How do you want it to make the reader feel? That’s your texture.



Now, the fun part about fairy gardens is the play time. It’s the escapism. I made this one of The Shire. The whole time I was planting it, I thought about how much I love Tolkien and the vibrant way he creates setting. A customer came in and bought it right as I put it on the table to sell. She was a huge Tolkien fan like me. We were kindred spirits right away and it was because of the playful, whimsical thing that I’d created. It was cool.

As authors, writing should be fun. Creating things are fun. You have the power to create a world that others can escape into. I watch kids, and adults, play with the gardens I create, just like people can read the books I create.

And giving people that escapism to another world, is pretty cool.

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Here are some of my Instagram photos. You’re welcome to follow me for other planting, art, or writing tips.

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Thanks for stopping by!

  • Tara



Award time!

Last week I won a writing award at UVU for my unpublished YA fantasy novel, Vagabond!!!
When I sat down after my speech and chapter reading, I realized I didn’t thank my mom, or my husband, or anyone, really. 😬
My Mom came to the banquet with me because my husband was out of town. Her and I share the same mind and the same interests. She’s written 5 books, yet has no desire to publish them. (But she should!) She’s painted her entire life, yet has no desire to sell them. (But she should!) My mom’s my hero.
Also, I’ve been blessed with an incredibly supportive husband. He puts up with these two crazy ladies in this photo, that alone makes him a saint. 😀


Ironically, last nights writing award banquet was also the night of the art show opening at the ‪Springville Museum of Art‬. You know, the show where I was rejected.
Lean in and I’ll whisper something to you… “I’d rather win a writing award than be in an art show.”
😀 🎉
You win some and lose some. Next year, how ’bout I try harder to do both.


Thanks for stopping by.


Job Shadow

One of my favorite recent experiences of being an author was when I had a few teenagers as job shadows. I spent an afternoon in my home with a few budding authors from Junior High.

They came prepared with samples of their work for feedback. I lugged out the huge white board and we discussed plot and character arcs. We even packed a lunch and half way through the job shadow, we went on a “writer’s-block-plot-walk” around a lake in my neighborhood. As I pointed out details and incorporating the senses, I told them how important it is to transport the reader.

I couldn’t believe their level of talent! Kids can be so determined when they’ve found their passion. Their excitement for writing rekindled mine.

It made me think how writing is cross generational. Some of my favorite authors are twice my age. Age is just a number and it’s weird to be that to someone else. I found myself really enjoying their company, their own stories, and their recommendations for books.

Words unite people. Stories and books unite people. I have no doubt that I will see these kids at some of the writing conferences I attend in years to come. They were excited to learn of the many wonderful youth opportunities within the local writing community.

Recently I opened thank you notes from them. I blushed and looked around thinking, “me? You think that about . . . me?” Among other things, they expressed how great the life of an author must be. I laughed and thought that maybe I’d done them a disservice by not informing them of the intense peaks and valleys authors traverse. (see my earlier post)

Still, their enthusiasm made me think that I should enjoy every stage of my writing career more fully. If you doubt your value, or talent as a writer, (or any profession, really) then share your experiences and knowledge with people who are just starting out and look at you with stars in their eyes. It’s kinda cool, kinda funny, and . . . kinda intimidating.

Now, here are a few of my favorite writing quotes.

Happy writing. Thanks for stopping by!



Author Life Month

February was Author Life Month over on Instagram and Twitter. I decided to post the photos—and captions about the photos—from my feed onto my blog. I didn’t post every day,  but I tried. My favorite day was “Challenge Overcome.” It made me realize that every person struggles to be creative. Everyone has the same doubts and the same insecurities, no matter where you are in your career.

Day one. Here was a breakdown of Author Life Month.


Day Two. Author photo.


Day Four. Work in Progress.


Day 5, 8, 9. Book cover comps, awesome moment, challenge overcome.


Day 10. Non-author photo.


Day 16. Where you write.


Day 17. Where I relax.


Day 22. Dedication Page.


Day 23. Bucket List item done.


Day 26. Favorite book outside of genre.


Day 27. Your signature.


Day 28. Favorite event accessory.


Another non-author photo of when I was in Hawaii a couple weeks ago. 


So there you have it. Find your tribe, it makes the highs and lows bearable.🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

  • Tara