Almost exactly ten years ago, a woman I had met but barely knew, Lu Ann Staheli, called me. I remember where I was during that call: sitting on the lid of the toilet as my two children took their baths. Lu Ann had found my name in the League of Utah Writers directory as living near her and wondered if I'd like to be part of a new critique group.
Heck, yes! But see, I was also 8 1/2 months pregnant and serving in the Young Women presidency. I couldn't, not right then. The presidency had been in almost 3 years, so I was pretty sure we'd be released soon, and I thought that when baby was a few months old, maybe I could swing it, so I asked if they'd hold me a spot. They did.
I joined up in January of 2000. It was terrifying, to say the least, but the group wasn't quite full. A dear friend mentioned an aspiring writer she knew, and we met at a League chapter meeting. She became the next member of our group.
To this day, Michele Paige Holmes seems surprised that I was so "generous" in inviting her to the group, because, according to her, she was a terrible writer. (Don't let her fool you; she was never, ever, a bad writer.)
But the truth was, none of us was great; we were all learning and hoping to some day be published. Eventually, we all were.
Week after week, Michele brought brilliant chapters to the group. It was hard not to be envious of her skill, especially when she'd say, "This is really rough; I just wrote it an hour ago." Then we'd read it, it was freaking brilliant, and I'd go home with my chapter dripping in red ink.
Michele is good at what she does. So it was hard to watch her struggle to publication and constant rejection. It was with true joy that I heard of the acceptance of her first book, Counting Stars, which won (most deservingly!) the Whitney Award for Best Romance in 2007.
I was lucky enough to be the one who read off her winning name the night of the awards gala, and I cried tears of joy for her.
The road between her first and second published books has been a longer one than her fans hoped for, but her next novel is now out, and the wait has been worth it. All the Stars in Heaven is now in stores.
It's what some people call a "spin-off" novel, in that it takes a minor character from Counting Stars and tells his story. But this book stands alone completely; there's no need to read the first one before picking this one up.
Counting Stars dealt with heavy issues and emotions and had me weeping and laughing, often on the same page.
This book is a bit different. It did have me crying and laughing, but it has an element of suspense and action; it has you on the edge of your seat as Jay and Sarah get pulled into (and need to escape from) a drug ring with their lives.
It's an exciting read, one I highly recommend.
I'm already excited for her next book. Since I'm in her critique group, I've gotten to read a few chapters, and I'm already laughing and giggling. It's gonna be good.
But you'll just have to wait for it.