"Defensive Tactics" by Steve Westover – Review

“Defensive Tactics” proved to me that an “LDS Thriller” can be done right.  It combined elements of a redemptive story in the character of Jimmy, and provided a suspenseful chase as FBI agents try to close in on the corrupt Judge Craven. 

I found the characters both well-drawn and likeable.  Especially enjoyable were the antics and witty banter of Jimmy, who can’t seem to hold down a steady job or take life seriously.   He filled in the details of the characters in quite imaginative ways.  (For example, Jimmy gets fired from a fast food job because he was sneaking meatballs and keeping them in his pockets.  The image made me chuckle)
The well-executed characterization makes it so that you really care about the characters’ plight as they all get entangled in a web of a corrupt judge and his cronies.  I found the plot interesting without becoming confusing. Best of all, it feels like a well-balanced story with a variety of elements of action, romance, suspense, and redemption.  

Paul Stephens has it all–a wonderful job at the FBI, a new girlfriend, and a great apartment. Even when Jimmy, a friend from his past, unexpectedly ends up on his couch, Paul has no worries. But when arresting a corrupt judge puts his girlfriend’s life in danger, Paul and Jimmy will do anything to save her. How far will Paul go to protect the ones he love? Filled with suspense and action, Defensive Tactics shows just how much the bonds of friendship can endure. 

Pick up a copy just in time for the Holidays.  You’ll be glad you did.  

"Defensive Tactics" by Steve Westover – Author Interview

  1. What influenced you to want to become an author? Curiosity. I’ve always enjoyed writing and even took a creative writing class at BYU once, but I had never considered writing a novel. Then one morning a couple of years ago I woke up with three characters in my head and I thought, “That would be a cool book. I wonder if I could do it.” So I started writing as an experiment because I was curious to see if I could write a novel and Defensive Tactics was the result.
  1. In “Defensive Tactics” you talk a lot about the FBI. Do you have any work-related experience with the FBI, or did you have to do any research?
I’m a boring banker so I can relate to Paul’s work in the FBI with financial analysis but that’s it. Wait…I also researched endless hours, watching X-Files, Numbers and thousands of other TV shows throughout my life. Does that count?
  1. Are characters or elements of characters ever inspired by people you know? Is this a good idea?
My wife says she can see a little bit of me in all of my characters but I did not model any character after people I know. My characters are amalgams of characteristics and personalities. I think it’s dangerous to link fictional characters too closely to real people as offense could be taken. Besides, I want to give my character room to breath and grow without chaining him/her to someone I know.
  1. What plans do you have for your writing future? Are there other genres you would like to write in?
Right now I am in the most frustrating part of the writing process—looking for a publisher/agent. I recently finished a youth Fantasy/Adventure called Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island. I think the story is a lot of fun, but now I’ve got to convince a publisher.
I’m also working on a second episode with some of the same characters from Defensive Tactics.
  1. What was the hardest part for you of completing a novel?
I’m usually a huge planner. I create checklists and write goals but with Defensive Tactics I just figured out the plot and characters as I went, hoping that things would work out in the end. It was actually a great experience to see how characters come alive and direct the events and outcome of the story. But the hardest part is the patience that is required. Writing…editing…editing…editing…shopping for a publisher…waiting…rejection…resubmit…waiting…waiting…editing…waiting…editing…waiting…then finally it is released and then publicize…publicize…publicize and hope for the best.
  1. What’s the nicest compliment you have ever received about your writing?
A couple of my siblings read the book and were amazed, “Wow, that was like a real book.” They know I’m not much of a reader so they were shocked that I could write. “Yes, it is like a real book.”
  1. How do you combat discouragement when working on such a large project?
Great question…next.
Fine, I’ll answer. I keep the discouragement, criticism and rejection in perspective. I know that some people won’t like my book. I expect that I will experience failure and I consider any success as a gift. If I can internalize these truths, I will be fine and the rejections and criticisms will motivate me to keep trying. I’m confident in who I am and recognize that my value as a person is not tied to my success in writing.
  1. If you could meet any other author, living or dead, who would it be?
Honestly I don’t read much, therefore I don’t really have a favorite. Reading has always been a challenge for me because I read so slowly but I’m thrilled others can pick up my reading slack.
But if I could meet 1 author I think I would choose Hitler so I could smack him around a bit.
  1. Is there anything you would like to say to your adoring fans?
Absolutely—Defensive Tactics makes a great Christmas gift. Its shameless I know, but true. Honestly, I am thrilled that people read my book and enjoy it. It is an amazing feeling. Thank you!
Thanks Steve!  You can visit Steve online at http://stevewestover.com/Home.html.  My book review of Defensive Tactics will be posted in a few days.  

Take a Bow: “The Road Show”

Debut author Braden Bell has put together a richly-woven story that highlights how people can change for the better.  Each character in his cast struggles with a personal Goliath – from chronic illness, to depression, to being socially backward, to a crippling addition to pornography.  All of these things overshadow these people’s lives, until a “road show” brings them together.  For the uninitiated, a “road show” is a 10-15 minute theatrical production put on members of an LDS congregation.  Through putting together show, each of the characters are given experiences that allow them to start changing their lives for the better and allow the wounds of the past to heal.
That author did a wonderful job of drawing together a number of stories into a cohesive story.  I was also impressed at the kind of issues he decided to tackle.  It is interesting that he selected problems that I am sure many people struggle with, but are too embarrassed to get help about, or don’t know how.  I’m sure I’ve known people with these types of problems, but I was oblivious to their pain.  The book awoke in me a great sense of empathy for my fellow men and women and uplifted me greatly.  Any book that can do that is worth a read. 

Please support this budding talent and pick up a copy of “The Road Show.”  You’ll be glad you did.  

Author Spotlight: Braden Bell

MY: Congratulations on your first book! How early in your life did you get started with writing?

BB: Thanks, Michael–and thanks for having me on your website. I remember writing (or starting to write) books as early as 3rd or 4th grade. I wanted to be an author and set up a special office during the summer so I could do it full-time. That didn’t last too long, but it was the first glimmer.
MY:  Do you have any others authors who influenced you?
BB:  I read voraciously, so I imagine that a lot of authors have influenced me without my being aware of it. But I am not consciously influenced by anyone that I can think of.

MY: What’s your favorite genre to  read? Why?

BB: I’ve always enjoyed YA fantasy. I like the genre because it has fantasy elements but tends to be clean and void of objectionable material. I love biographies, though, and historical fiction, military history and the classics. Dickens is a particular favorite.
MY: What has been the biggest surprise to you in the publishing process?

BB: I don’t think I had any idea how involved the promotional and sales process would be.

MY: What’s your writing style? Do you do lots of outlining, or do you just go with the flow?

BB:  I usually have a scene or two, or a character that is really clearly in my head. I write that and then write and go wherever the characters seems to take me. Once I have it all down, I go back and look at
 structure and organization.

MY: Do have a favorite time and place to write?

BB:  Given my family, work, and church responsibilities, about the only time I can write is late at night. I usually work on my laptop in bed. It’s become a treasured time for me.

MY: Have you ever been a road show  yourself? Are the experiences in the book based on any of your personal experiences?

BB:  I was in several when I was growing up. Then, about eight years ago, I was called to direct one. There is nothing in the book that is specifically based on that experience. However, while I was directing, a series of “what if” questions came into my mind: “What if the leading lady had depression, what if the director had a secret?”

MY:  What advice would you give to young people who want to be published?

BB: Keep trying! I have a lot of rejection letters–far more than I have acceptance letters. As I’ve come to know other authors, I have found that’s pretty universal.

MY: What are your plans for the future? Do you have any other projects in the works?

BB: The main thing I’m working on is a middle-grade suburban fantasy novel that takes place in a small private school, like the one where I  teach. I’m trying to get the manuscript into shape this summer.

MY: Is there anything else you’d like to tell your adoring fans?

BB:  I am sincerely grateful for all the support and kindness I’ve encountered. People have really been wonderful!

MY: Thanks, Braden for being on my blog.  I’m reading, “The Road Show” right now, and should have a review up soon.  

The Fourth Nephite: Time Travel Minus the Tennis Shoes


I have always been a fan of literature that transports the reader into past.  I grew up listening to Chris Heimerdinger on family road trips and liked the idea of having modern characters put in ancient settings and vice versa.  It is simply fun to see how the characters react to their strange surroundings.  “The Fourth Nephite” takes the reader back to Palmyra, New York in the early 1800s around some of the events that happened to Joseph Smith and his family. 

The author did several things that made this especially enjoyable.  First, he included a number of historical instances, places, names, people, etc, which are probably much more than the average reader would have come knowing about.  Secondly, he includes a reader’s guide at the end so that the reader can enjoy and learn from these historical elements.
I also appreciate that the historical figures were portrayed tastefully.  In the case of Joseph Smith, much of his dialogue was taken from actual accounts of words that he spoke, sprinkled in with enough artistic license to keep it from sounding wooden. 

The author manages to tell an inspiring tale, without getting too preachy and the characters are likeable and the plot quick.  The author leaves quite a bit unexplained, pointing to the fact that he is going to draw the story out into a series.  If they are put together like the first one, it should be an adventure to look forward to.