Thursday, January 7, 2021

BLIND TURN by Cara Sue Achterberg

An examination of forgiveness in the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident.

Liz Johnson single-handedly raised an exemplary daughter—honor student, track star, and all-around good kid—despite the disapproval of her father and her small town. How could that same teenager be responsible for the death of the high school’s beloved football coach? This is Texas, where high school football ranks right up there with God, so while the legal battle wages, the public deals its own verdict.

Desperate for help, Liz turns to a lawyer whose affection she long ago rejected and attempts to play nice with her ex-husband, while her daughter struggles with guilt and her own demons as she faces the consequences of an accident she doesn’t remember.

Can one careless decision alter a lifetime? A tragic, emotional, ultimately uplifting story, BLIND TURN could be anyone’s story.

Reviews ~

One of the few books in recent memory I was completely unable to put down, yet still wished I could read more slowly so it would never end. Achterberg writes with a seamless combination of aching sensitivity and a page-turning urgency. Easily one of the best books of any genre I’ve read this entire year. -C.H. Armstrong, author of The Edge of Nowhere

From its life-shattering opening on, pages will seemingly turn themselves as you seek resolution for this novel’s imperfect yet courageous characters, and for one eye-opening reason: these events could have happened to any of us. An important story about how taking responsibility for our actions—even if accidental—can turn a nightmare into rays of hope. —Kathryn Craft, award-winning author of The Far End of Happy

When the unthinkable happens, mother and daughter are forced to look deep within themselves for the truth. Achterberg takes you for a ride that you won’t forget. I loved this book. - Barbara Conrey Author of Nowhere Near Goodbye

Q & A with Cara ~ 

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

My husband and I (and our menagerie) live on a small hillside farm in Pennsylvania, but hope to relocate to the mountains of Virginia very soon. Our nest is nearly empty (if not for the pandemic which brought all the chicks back home) except for our dogs, cats, chickens, horses, and a constant stream of foster dogs, and now—foster kittens!

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I recently discovered a journal from when I was eight years old and reading my angst at the death of our family beagle brought all of it back. That’s probably the best explanation for why I write—it brings meaning, memory, and depth to my life. Those are selfish reasons, but I also write because I want to touch other lives. There is no greater compliment then when someone tells me that my words made them think, laugh, cry, or wonder.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

My day job is being a shelter dog advocate. I am the co-founder of Who Will Let the Dogs Out, a nonprofit initiative whose mission is to raise awareness and resources for shelter dogs. I write freelance articles, two blogs, and have written two books about the plight of homeless animals in the southern United States. I’ve fostered over 180 animals and traveled to nearly fifty shelters, dog pounds, and rescues in seven states. The pandemic has made this work even more challenging, but it’s also highlighted that the problem is fixable if more people chose to rescue and adopt, as they did during the spring.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

Gosh, that’s a hard question. So many authors have influenced me—John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Kate Braestrup, Michael Perry, Anne Patchett, Anita Shreve, gosh, there are likely hundreds. The book that made me finally take the leap and start putting my writing out into the world, though, was The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. That book is so full of inspiration and motivation it literally compelled me to share my words.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)

They are the same challenges in getting every book published—getting someone to pay attention. We are all so inundated with media and stories and words, words, words. First the challenge was to get an agent to pay attention, then a publisher, and now, readers. It’s unending and only getting harder, but as I tell my creative writing students – it all comes down to how bad to you want it. Are you willing to eat the ‘s*#t sandwich’ (as Elizabeth Gilbert so delicately puts it) it takes to get published? If it were easy and all butterflies and unicorns, everyone would do it. I do think it was easier once upon a time, but we live now and not then.

This book, in particular, has had a long and winding road to publication. It’s the book that landed my agent and was written before any of my other books were published. It had so many almost-deals I began to believe it was cursed, but decided instead to believe it was following the path it was meant to take. I rewrote it at least four times – changing point of views, tenses, and even genres (once). But I believe in this story and its message and I love the characters. I had to see it out into the world, so I took a leap of faith and queried smaller publishers on my own without my agent (but with her blessing), and if finally found a publishing home with Black Rose.

How do you market your work?

Person by person. I don’t have a publicist for Blind Turn because it is coming out with an independent press, so as you know, the author has to be her own publicist. When I realized the publication date for Blind Turn was only five months after the date for my latest ‘dogoir’ (One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, Pegasus Books, 2020), I knew I needed a plan. I printed out a map of the US and began searching for at least one reviewer in every state. I color the states in as I find them. That’s just a visual to keep me going.

I’m also doing weekly LIVES on Facebook and giving away a book every week (a copy of another of my novels) to try re-engage with my fiction audience. I’ve networked with other authors for blurbs, early reviews, and advice. Beyond that, I’m searching for opportunities with bloggers, podcasters, and pretty much anyone with a platform, plus using Net Galley and Book Sirens. But I do believe it comes down to reaching readers one at a time with a compelling, well-told story.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually taking a little breather from books and working on a film project for Who Will Let the Dogs Out that will highlight the people, dogs, and conditions in the Tennessee dog pound system. I’m also working on building a new business with my husband. We are creating dog-friendly rental houses (and writing retreats!) in the mountains of Virginia. We have our first one up and running—Chateau Frankie in Bentonville, VA.

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

For my novel, Practicing Normal, I had to learn how to break into houses. I was amazed how easy it is to bypass security systems, pick locks, and how just paying attention can make it very easy to know how to get into someone’s house. I also had to do a lot of research about Asperger’s Syndrome for that book and that was simply fascinating. It made me believe that we are all ‘on the spectrum.’

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Try not to prove anything—just write straight from the heart and be brave. The more vulnerable and honest and raw and real you can be, the more you will touch the hearts of readers. And write what you believe, not what you think will sell books. Also, remember that other authors are not your competition, they are your peers, your teammates, and your best allies—treat them as such.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you for reading and for sharing the books you love. No very many authors are getting rich, so it’s the readers and their enthusiasm and support that keeps so many of us writing. Your review, your support, YOU matter more than you’ll even realize.

To connect with Cara:

Cara Sue Achterberg is the author of four novels, two memoirs, one work of non-fiction, and multiple blogs. She is the cofounder of Who Will Let the Dogs Out, a nonprofit initiative to raise awareness and resources for shelter dogs. Cara currently lives in New Freedom, Pennsylvania, and Bentonville, Virginia with her husband and far too many animals. 

For more information visit CaraWrites.com, or look her up on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.




Wednesday, December 16, 2020

WHEN ROBINS APPEAR by author DENSIE WEBB

With a lucrative freelance career and a loving family, Deborah Earle has a life many women would envy. But her daughter, Amanda, is heading to college soon, and Deborah worries about having an empty nest. She thinks another child might be the answer. Her husband, Richard, however, may not be willing to start over so late in life.

Amanda is excited about attending NYU next year, but she meets Graham, a handsome older boy, falls hard, and considers postponing her education to stay close to him. Her mother takes an instant dislike to Graham, but Amanda refuses to let her keep them apart.

As Deborah watches her daughter rush headlong toward heartache on an all-too-familiar path, the secrets lurking in Deborah’s past continue to echo in her present. When tragedy strikes, Deborah faces a future she could never have imagined.

Reviews:

A mother torn between the love for her family and secrets from her past. Heart-wrenching and engrossing, a family drama you can't put down.-- Marlene Adelstein, author of USA Today Bestseller, SOPHIE LAST SEEN       

A  heart-wrenching domestic drama of old secrets, new love, and paper-thin trust. Told through the eyes of a mother and daughter struggling with life-defining choices in the midst of a family crisis, When Robins Appear is a story that will haunt you long after you've turned the final page.--Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of THE PERFECT SON and THE PROMISE BETWEEN US

Full of richly drawn, compelling characters, this novel will have you hooked from the first page.--Emma Murray, author of TIME OUT

I stayed up late, furiously turning pages. This is one book you will definitely not want to put down. It is a beautifully written, layered story that I want to talk about - need to talk about. -Linda Rosen, author of THE DISHARMONY OF SILENCE

Some Q & A with Densie:

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Well, I’ve been a freelance writer/editor almost my entire working life, but my writing/editing has been focused on non-fiction, mainly health and nutrition topics. I have a PhD in nutrition/biochemistry and am a registered dietitian which has almost nothing to do with my fiction writing, except that I was used to stringing words together and used to being edited. I decided to try my hand at fiction about 7 years ago, with the encouragement of a lifelong friend, and I haven’t looked back.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I don’t really have any hobbies, like painting, knitting, or gardening. Reading, listening to Spotify, watching too much streaming, and thinking about writing take up all my “free time.” I literally dream stories. Of course, I never remember the specifics to write down when I wake up.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

While I’m still writing nutrition articles, I’m working on fewer than in the past and trying to shift my focus to writing fiction. So, I guess writing health and nutrition articles is still my day job.

Where do you get your ideas?

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. Everywhere, I guess, is the most honest answer. I get ideas from my past, from my kids, from lyrics of songs, from movies, from news stories. Once I get started on a story, it’s really hard for me to trace back where the original story came from. However, with When Robins Appear, I do remember where the kernel of the story originated. When my daughter was in high school, a classmate had a serious accident while skateboarding. And I thought the story would center on a skateboarding character. While skateboarders are in the story, they ended up not being the focus. The story just evolved as I was writing, which I think is true for most writers and most stories, and it ended up with a very different focus.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

This may sound like I’m avoiding the question, but I think I’m influenced by everything I read. Some of the books I’ve enjoyed the most are often written in a style that I could never even try. That may be why I like them so much. I think, “Wow, I would never have even thought of writing that.” But it’s always inspiring.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)

With When Robins Appear, I had queried agents and had submitted to a few publishers, including Red Adept Publishing, my current publisher. It had been 4 months since I had submitted to them and they were actually no longer on my radar. But, ironically, I was at a writers’ conference (Writer Unboxed Unconference) in Salem, MA, when I got “the call.” A dear friend was with me, which made it even more special. It was difficult to concentrate for the rest of the conference. The moral of the story is, it takes time, and you have to be patient. Publishing, as it’s typically depicted in movies and series, is more often than not, very misleading about the time it takes to write, to submit, and to be published. They often make it sound like it’s a matter of a few months. In reality, it’s usually more like a few years.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually working on 2 different projects. The first one is a rewrite of my first book. The rights revert back to me in January and I have big plans for that one. Can’t really go into details now, but I’m very excited about it. The other project is a new story that I love. It’s about a young Irish musician and an Austin college student and how their relationship alters their futures in bittersweet ways.

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

Definitely. It might be as simple as a bit of dialogue that I either overheard, that I said, or was said to me. Maybe places I’ve been to. There are a couple of bits that I pulled from my daughter when she was little. I believe every author pulls from real life, whether it’s a philosophy, an attitude, a voice, a relationship, or an actual event.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

The ending. I can’t give it away, but readers have said it was unexpected, yet “just right.” It’s emotional, but I’ve been told it hits the right notes.

Do you have a favorite character?

Deb, the mom. I injected a lot of my feelings about my daughter and our relationship into her, which made it very emotional for me to write.

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

I had to watch some videos of skateboarders and check out the lingo. I hung out for a while at a skate park in Santa Barbara, California. Not sure what those boys thought of my presence. And there are medical issues in the story, so I was able to get a specialist to speak with me. He didn’t know me before, so I felt really grateful that he took the time out of his busy schedule to talk with me.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Probably nothing that hasn’t been said before, but you have to have the patience of a saint, the skin of an armadillo, and the ability to curl up in a protective ball when it gets to be too much. You will face rejection and you will get discouraged. But the key is to stick with it. Getting published is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to accept that you’re in it for the long haul.

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

The downfalls, if you can call it that, are the time it takes to complete a book and accepting how difficult it is for your story to stand out among all the millions of books out there. The best part, for me, is the amazing community of writers and authors, who are so open and willing to share everything they know with the wider community. It’s truly a feeling of “we’re all in this together.” I’ve made some amazing friends, both online and in person.

Favorite band or music?  Favorite book and/or movie?

My playlist on Spotify is titled “Hodgepodge,” so that gives you an idea of my eclectic tastes in music. But I have a real soft spot for Hozier—not a band, but a singer. If you’re not familiar with him, check him out. His voice gives me chills, especially when he sings acappella. Favorite movie? That’s like asking me for my favorite book. Can’t be done. If you were to ask which movie I’ve watched the most, my guess would be “When Harry Met Sally.”

Place you’d like to travel?

When we’re able to travel again, I’d love to go to Budapest, Ireland, Sweden. I’m dying to spend the night in the Gladstone Library in the Welch village of Hawarden (population 1,887). Not only is it a historic library, there’s a section that serves as a “residential library”—sort of a book-themed bed and breakfast. My daughter and I have talked about going.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

If you read a book and enjoy it—any book, not just my book—leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. It helps authors so, so much. It’s easy to forget. I forget sometimes myself. But reviews make an author’s world go around!

To connect with Densie:

Websitedensiewebb.com
Twitter: @dlwebb
Instagram: densiewebbbooks
BookBub: @densiewebb





Wednesday, December 2, 2020

GOODBYE ORCHID, by author CAROL VAN DEN HENDE

Can love blossom after life changes in an instant? One July morning in Manhattan, handsome athlete and entrepreneur Phoenix Walker accompanies his love, half-Asian beauty Orchid, to the airport.

Neither believes today is goodbye. But after she leaves, disaster strikes. Phoenix wakes in the hospital, broken, forever changed. He longs for Orchid but remembers the tragedy in her past that makes her panic over images of trauma.

Now, he's faced with the hardest decision of his life. Does he burden the woman whose traumatic childhood makes him feel protective of her? Or does true love mean leaving her without explaining why?

Rising from ashes is hard. Giving up the one you love is harder.

Reviews:

"A richly detailed story of star-crossed lovers...all told with unforgettable heart and insight."
-Caroline LeavittNew York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You, Cruel Beautiful World and With or Without You

"A book full of soul and heart about love, loss and redefining oneself. I adored this modern, important take on the power of love."
-Karin Tanabe, author of A Hundred Suns

"Goodbye Orchid tugs at readers' heartstrings and takes us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through this serious romance, layered with trauma and lost love. The characters--including Phoenix's twin brother and friends--are richly drawn, and the themes are timeless. But it's the story that kept me turning those pages and hoping for a satisfying ending. Van Den Hende did not disappoint."
-Susan Cushman, author of Friends of the Library, and Cherry Bomb

Some Q & A with Carol ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Hi, I’m Carol Van Den Hende, which seems like a mouthful but is pronounced just the way it looks. Fun fact: if you meet me in person, you wouldn’t necessarily associate me with a Dutch last name (hint, I married into it!)

I’ve always been an imaginative person, and have been writing since I was a kid. True story: I wanted to be an English major in college but my traditional Chinese family persuaded me to use my math and science skills towards an engineering major. No regrets though, as I’ve loved my career path, and am thrilled to have come full circle back to writing now.

This article from Mensa shares my lessons from those diverse paths: https://pubs.royle.com/publication/?m=28885&i=674918&p=26

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Outside of being an author, I’m also a speaker, Climate Reality Leader, Board member, strategist at Mars Incorporated, and most importantly, a wife and mom of twins. The many hats at work and home keep me busy. The other activity I love is dance; I’m missing the gym a lot!

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I work full-time as a strategist for Mars, and have enjoyed careers there as a marketer and digital technologist. I’ve spent more than 20 years applying my MBA to brands like M&M’S®, TWIX®, 3MUSKETEERS, MILKY WAY®, DOVE® Chocolate and more. I like to say that there’s no “sweeter” job!

What are you working on now?

Readers have loved the characters in Goodbye, Orchid, saying they’re like “new friends,” so I’m working to extend that world into more books. For instance, Phoenix’s tattooed twin, Caleb, has unresolved tension with his ex-girlfriend, latex-wearing Sascha.

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

Goodbye, Orchid is well-researched. I’m thankful for the input from medical professionals, psychologists, and survivors who vetted early drafts of Goodbye, Orchid. The story is inspired by combat-wounded veterans, so I’m fortunate to have military heroes both shape the book, and love the finished story. Their endorsements have really touched me:

“As a combat decorated and wounded veteran, I was truly captivated by Carol's amazing storytelling. Goodbye Orchid transported me to my post-war self from fourteen years ago. Phoenix Walker captures the mindset, roller-coaster and daily heroics of my experience after being injured. I could relate from many levels, and even gained new insights from seeing the perspective of loved ones. All around excellence.” —Doc Jacobs, Bronze Star with Valor and Purple Heart-decorated Navy Corpsman, CEO Doc Jacobs Foundation, author There and Back Again

"In this most worthy novel, the protagonists’ lives are shattered and they re-emerge champions, showing a true test of character. Phoenix is fiercely independent and successful until something happens to break him. Everything he knew, everything he was, everything he dreamed of is thrown into chaos. He is all of us, unconquerable until we’re conquered. A tale of sacrifice and rebirth; heroism is in the details.” —SSGT Aaron Michael Grant, author of TAKING BAGHDAD: Victory in Iraq With the US Marines

I’m especially proud that a portion of profits is being donated to charities like USA Cares, to help military veterans and their families.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I really enjoy helping aspiring and established authors by speaking at writers’ conferences. In December, I’ll be teaching a class for the International Womens’ Writing Guild.  When I speak with writers, I often recommend starting with what you stand for (your personal brand), how that translates into your visual identity (design), and planning your objectives before jumping into tactics. Perseverance also helps!

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

As with many passions, it’s challenging to feel there’s enough time for everything I’d like to do – to capture the myriad story ideas, to reach and respond to so many lovely readers, to meet and support other wonderful authors.

But the lush world of my imagination, and the positive response from readers makes it all worth it!

Readers have touched me with their responses:

such an amazing story written with intricate details and emotional passages that took my heart and tore it to pieces… unputdownable from the first compelling page to the last touching words. Yes, Phoenix and Orchid expanded my heart.”

VanDenHende takes a love story and puts it through so many different emotions that will make you laugh and cry together! I highly recommend this heart wrenching novel but advise you have a box of tissues nearby!”

Could I put Goodbye Orchid down? Absolutely not. The story tore my heart out.”

It’s been especially gratifying to be recognized by multiple awards too, like the American Fiction, Pinnacle, Best Book and IAN awards.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

I love so many, and from talking with book clubs, I know that readers love everything from the inciting incident in Chapter 1, meeting the cast of characters, visiting Walter Reed, all the twists and turns, and especially the emotionally satisfying ending.

Do you have a favorite character?

I love them all, and of course, Phoenix is close to my heart. As reviewers have said, his and Orchid’s story is both “heart-breaking and heartwarming.”

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Brain research shows that the same areas light in readers’ brains when lost in a story as the writer’s brain while penning it, so thanks for connecting with writers in this way! When you love a book, please share the joy with other readers by leaving a review.

To connect with Carol ~ 

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/1721093782




Monday, November 23, 2020

THE STAR-CROSSED SISTERS FROM TUSCANY by Lori Nelson Spielman

A trio of second-born daughters set out to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside by New York Times bestseller Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.


Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.

Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse.

Praise for The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany ~ 

"A delicious modern fairytale...Bella!"—Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author of Tony's Wife

A gorgeous blend of family, friendship, and love.”—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of When We Left Cuba 

“A glorious journey through Italy, and the heart...Filled with humor and wisdom, this is a celebration of life, and love.”—Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Tiger, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

"There's magic within the pages of Lori Nelson Spielman's charming The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany."—Popsugar

"Mysterious family lore, a heartrending love story, and luminous descriptions of Italy all add up to an utterly captivating read!"—Meg Donohue, USA Today bestselling author of You, Me, and the Sea

“Long-simmering resentments and buried secrets permeate The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, a romantic, beautifully rendered, sweepingly complex family saga.”―Shelf Awareness

Q & A with Lori ~ 

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Hi Jill. Thanks so much for having me here today!

I’ve always loved writing, but never really dreamed I’d be a published author. I came from a working-class family, and I’d never met a single author. When I went off to college, my mom suggested I become a teacher or a nurse, both good choices for a working wife and mother. I chose teaching, which I loved. But around the time I turned forty, I started writing a YA book. I signed up for a writing class at a local community college. And suddenly, I’d found my passion. Four books and ten years later, I finally sold my first book, The Life List.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love music and being out in nature. I love to travel, read, and sail.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I wrote The Life List while working full-time, but have since retired from my teaching job. Strangely, I almost feel like I was a more productive writer while I was working!

Where do you get your ideas?

I’ve always had an active imagination and was a daydreamer from the get-go. When I see people at random, I often imagine what their lives might be. I prefer to listen rather than talk, and often find inspiration in other people’s lives. I guess the warning is, be careful what you say when you talk to me—it could end up in a book!

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

Every author inspires me, but in particular, Lolly Winston. I was listening to her audiobook, Good Grief, back in 2004. She wrote in first person, present tense, and I thought to myself, ‘I want to write like this!’. A few years ago, I wrote to Lolly, but I’m not sure she received my message. I wanted her to know what an influence she was on my writing.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)

As I mentioned, I’d written three other full-length novels that received nothing but rejection. It’s so hard to get back in the chair and begin again…and again…and again. Each time I received an agent’s rejection letter, I’d say, “Not this one.” Finally, after a thorough but unsuccessful search, I’d lovingly put my manuscript aside and say, “Not this one.” Soon thereafter, after licking my wounds, I’d get back to work.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new women’s fiction novel set in northern Michigan, about a down-on-her-luck woman who befriends a runaway girl.

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany is set in Italy, so of course, I HAD to travel to Venice, and Tuscany, and The Amalfi Coast. I felt I owed it to my readers! I HAD to eat lots of pasta, and drink my fill of local vino, all in the name of research. I’m beginning to think I should set every book in an exotic locale, just for the research experience! J

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I have a section on my website devoted to writers. My best piece of advice is often the opposite of what most writers receive. I don’t say, “Never give up.” I say, give your book a fair shot. Get impartial critiques. Revise, revise, revise!  Send it out to agents, far and wide. But at some point, if you’re only receiving rejection letters, set the project aside and start a new book. Like any endeavor, it takes years of practice. You will be amazed at how much you’ll improve with each book.

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

I said if I ever got published, I would never complain. Writing is a joy. Hearing from readers is thrilling. But…I’m really uncomfortable self-promoting, and it’s absolutely expected. I believe it was James Cagney who said, “They pay me for the waiting. I throw in the acting for free.” In my case, they pay me for the promoting, I throw in the writing for free!

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for welcoming my stories into your lives and onto your bookshelves. You have no idea how much I appreciate you!

And thank YOU, dear Jill. You are a gifted author, a champion of books, and bright light in this world!

 

To connect with Lori ~ 

FB: @Lorinelsonspielmanauthor

Twitter: @LNSpielman

Insta: @lorinelsonspielman

Website: Lorinelsonspielman.com






Tuesday, November 17, 2020

SNOW IN SUMMER by Laura Kemp

Publishing date ~ November 18th!

It’s been a year since Justin Cook defeated an immortal enemy that had hunted her family for generations. Settling into a peaceful life with her boyfriend in the small town of Lantern Creek, Michigan, she hopes to escape the events of the summer before. But the past won’t let go so easily.

When a woman named Amanda Bennett survives a fall from a cliff on Mackinac Island, it triggers a series of events that reawakens the past. Soon Justine and her brother Adam are pulled into a mystery that threatens to destroy the new life they have worked so hard to create. As people begin to die- people only Amanda Bennett can see- Justine must race against time to destroy a dark power she thought she had buried the summer before.

Reviews ~

In ‘Snow in Summer’ Laura Kemp weaves a fast-paced, captivating, and intricate story filled with romance, drama and adventure that’s all wrapped up in a hefty dose of the paranormal. With intrigue and secrets galore, readers will be pulled in from the opening pages, no doubt desperate to solve the multiple mysteries in their race to find out who will survive at the end to tell the tale.       -Hannah Mary McKinnon, Bestselling Author of Sister Dear

A delightfully creative follow up to the wildly popular Evening in the Yellow Wood, yet Snow in Summer stands its own in the hierarchy of memorable, edge-of-your-seat plot twisters, sealing author Laura Kemp’s standing among the authors to watch.     -Claire Fullerton, Award Winning Author of Little Tea and Mourning Dove

Laura Kemp draws you in from the breath-taking prologue, takes you on a mysterious and intriguing journey, and sets you down at the end, a little shaken, but thrilled. In this compelling follow-up to her genre-bending debut, Ms. Kemp has delivered another winner.     -Alison Ragsdale, Bestselling Author of The Art of Remembering 

Q & A with Laura:

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I have varied hobbies that include singing, musical theatre and anything to do with the outdoors. I do night hikes and teach about earth science at a camp near my home. I also enjoy riding horses and snowmobiling with my husband. 

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well? 

I am a middle school SPED parapro and I help kids with special needs in math, science, ELA and Social Studies.

Where do you get your ideas?

They kind of come to me if I’m daydreaming. A ‘what if’ scenario. My idea for EYW came to me from my experiences up north when I lived there for the summer. I just took the cool people I met and put a paranormal twist on everything!

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

I never had anyone inspire my decision to write because it has never felt like decision to me. I simply write because I can’t not write. Anita Shreve influenced my writing style. She was so poetic and beautiful and haunting. I hope I’m half as good as she was someday.

How do you market your work?

I market every day on Facebook and Instagram. It’s another full-time job-but one I love.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on Book 3 in the series. About half way done!

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

I love the action scenes where my MC’s strength is tested. I love watching her flip the ‘damsel in distress’ trope!

Do you have a favorite character?

I love them all, but Justine is probably my favorite. I relate to her and there is a lot of me in her persona. 

What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books?

Definitely a park ranger or something to do with teaching earth science.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. Take constructive criticism. Workshop your stuff. Don’t be afraid to get better. Don’t take rejection personally.

Favorite band or music?  Favorite book and/or movie?

I’m in a band so it’s my favorite! Si Bheag Si Mohr. We perform Celtic/Bluegrass.  Favorite book is ‘The Alienist’ by Caleb Carr and favorite movie?? Yikes! I love ‘Casablanca.’ I’m old school all the way.

Place you’d like to travel?

Wow! Everywhere! The Redwood Forest in California, Iceland, Norway, Africa. Anywhere I can find natural beauty.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Thanks for loving Woody! It makes my heart happy! 

To connect with Laura: 















Tuesday, November 3, 2020

REVIVING THE HAWTHORN SISTERS by author EMILY CARPENTER

The bestselling author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls returns to uncover a faith healer’s elusive and haunted past.

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…

Tuscaloosa, 1934: a wily young orphan escapes the psychiatric hospital where she was born. When she joins the itinerant inspirational duo the Hawthorn Sisters, the road ahead is one of stirring new possibilities. And with an obsessive predator on her trail, one of untold dangers. For a young girl to survive, desperate choices must be made.

Now, to protect her family, Eve will join forces with the investigative filmmaker and one of Dove’s friends, risking everything to unravel the truth behind the accusations against her grandmother. But will the truth set her free or set her world on fire?


Reviews ~ 


“Prepare to be up late with this one; Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is simply riveting. This is the kind of book where the past has a pulse—and teeth. It’s a page-turner for sure, with well-drawn, complicated characters whose choices linger long after the last page is turned.” —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Never Have I Ever

“Emily Carpenter is the reigning queen of Southern Gothic, and Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is a triumph. Moody, suspenseful, and gorgeously written, this novel takes readers into the seedy, sometimes savage world of Depression-era religious revivals, where believers make easy prey and grifters cloak themselves in the Word. Carpenter’s latest is a riveting tale of class, sex, spirituality, and the heavy burden of family history that lingers long after the final pages. I loved it.” —Julia Dahl, author of Invisible City

“Stretching from the 1930s to present day, Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is a wild romp through the deep South and the hearts of two women connected by blood, lies, and mystery. Emily Carpenter’s newest novel will hold you in its chilling grip from the eerie beginning to the stop-you-in-your-tracks ending. Carpenter fans will love this one!” —Lauren K. Denton, USA Today bestselling author

“A historical murder mystery, lost memories, and priceless, hidden relics: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is an atmospheric, unputdownable Southern Gothic masterpiece. Carpenter’s masterful narrative bounces between young Ruth in 1930s Alabama, her exciting escape from the mental institution that was her childhood home and prison, and her granddaughter searching for hidden truths after her death. This was a well-plotted mystery full of family secrets and Southern atmosphere, and I absolutely could not put it down.” —Wendy Heard, author of The Kill Club

“Stories don’t stop because we turn our backs on them but only an author as gifted and elegant as Emily Carpenter is able to call them back from the shadows. In the wistfully insightful Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters, Carpenter returns to her rich Southern Gothic roots to deliver a tour de force that is both a return to and a reckoning for her beloved Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. Beautiful, mesmerizing, and saturated with suspense.” —Amber Cowie, author of Loss Lake

“This captivating story is a perfect blend of historical fiction and southern gothic. Carpenter deftly weaves past and present story lines, filling both with dramatic tension, atmospheric settings and characters that leap off of the page. I recommend it highly!” —Jane Healey, bestselling author of The Beantown Girls

Q & A with Emily ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

I’ve always written but never believed I could be published. I thought maybe you had to live in New York or know people in the publishing industry personally, and I was just a girl from Alabama. By the time I got serious about writing a novel, I realized this wasn’t true in the least. 

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love being with my family...actually just kind of hanging around the house and cooking dinner and doing laundry and all those sorts of caretaking things. Not because I particularly like laundry or cooking (I don’t), but I like to be around when my kids breeze through and suddenly want to talk. Those times are really special, some of my most memorable. I also love horseback riding, going to movies, eating out at elegant restaurants, and sitting around a fire pit with wine and friends. 

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I don’t, actually. I’ve stayed home with my kids since they were born, which I felt like was both a lucky thing but could also be really challenging and confining too at times. Nothing’s perfect. 

Where do you get your ideas?

I have no idea where my ideas come from. They just appear in my head, in varying degrees of completeness and then I go with it.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

I think every book I ever loved contributed to my desire to write. All my favorite books and authors made me love stories and I just wanted to tell stories like them. Maybe the books I read in my adolescence contributed the most. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenwieler. The Grounding of Group Six. Flowers in the Attic. Down a Dark Hall. Lots of spooky books!


Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

 

It was actually the third book I’d written - the first book I wrote was rejected by 162 agents! Once I felt like this was the next book I should query, I edited it for a year and then queried agents for another year. When I found my agent at a writers conference, she and I edited it again for a year and a half, I think, to get it just right. 

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

Nothing at all. It was a fantastic growing, learning experience. 

How do you market your work?

I’ve hired publicists myself for three of my books and have had varying degrees of success with that. Nothing’s guaranteed but an experienced, dedicated publicist can really help focus the campaign for the launch. I also try to engage on Facebook where most of my readers seem to hang out - do some guest-hosting on various book pages and of course just let those interested know when a book has hit a list or gotten a really good review. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a book that involves a magic house. That’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to jinx it. I don’t talk a lot about what I’m writing! I’m superstitious that way. 

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

Maybe minor details, like eating at a particular BBQ restaurant. But no, not the real plot points. Those are pure fiction. 

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

Actually the very first chapter - the prologue, where we meet Dove again. 

Do you have a favorite character?

I love Dove and I really get a kick out of Ember, one of the characters in the present-day narrative. 


What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books?

 

I literally cannot do anything else other than write so I’d be in dire straights if I had to earn a living another way!

 

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

 

Definitely creating the app called Jax for UNTIL THE DAY I DIE was really a challenge. I got to talk with a developer who’s created some brilliant apps that have been super successful and it was so informative and fun. Especially because I am so tech-impaired. 


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

 

Read in the genre you want to write - and current books, so you can see what’s happening in the marketplace. Books are art but they’re also a commodity, so it’s always smart to see what readers are buying or what stories might be overdone. 

 

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

 

I miss the collaboration of theater - which has led me to want to write a play. But that is not so easy, so it’s slow going. The best parts? Living inside and creating a story that is purely your world. And getting to know the writing community. I’ve made some dear friends who are fellow writers. 

Is there any place you'd like to travel?

I went to Scotland right before the pandemic shut-down. And all i can think about is going back! It’s such a dreamy, poetic, wild, and beautiful place. 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

THANK YOU for allowing me to do what I love. When you buy books and review them, you give me such a gift. It’s my privilege to entertain you, and I hope to get to do it for a long time. 

To connect with Emily ~

FB: Emily Carpenter
Twitter: @EmilyDCarpenter
Instagram: @emily.d.c