Monday, August 28, 2017


Ella Joy Olsen, author of Root, Petal, Thorn is back with a powerful story of resilience, hope, and the secrets that, no matter how deeply hidden, can shape and ultimately unite a family. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Is it DNA? Or is it love?

People respond to tragedy in different ways. Some try to move on. Some don't move at all. A year after her young son's death due to a rare genetic disease, Emma Hazelton is still frozen by grief, unable and unwilling to consider her husband Noah's suggestion that they try to have another child.

As the future Emma once imagined crumbles, her family's past comes into sharp relief. Searching for the roots of her son's disease, Emma tries to fit together the pieces in her genealogical puzzle.
Hidden within an old wedding photograph of her great-grandparents is an unusual truth Emma never guessed at--a window into all the ways that love can be surprising, generous, and fiercely brave . . . and a discovery that may help her find her own way forward at last.

"With clearly drawn, authentic, and endearing characters and a well-crafted plot filled with subtle tension, Olsen’s latest is a meaningful read. Her thought-provoking storytelling is filled with beautiful language and stark with honest, heartfelt emotion, and delicately navigates the world of Emma and Noah as they deal with the aftermath of loss and struggle through their marriage. A wonderfully tender story, readers will not be able to put this one down.”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

Some Q & A with Ella~

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
Hi my name is Ella and I’m a reader. That’s how I started writing. I started reading at age four and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in the middle of at least one book (usually more). After my youngest kiddo started first-grade and full-time work loomed in the near future, I suddenly had this desire to write. My husband was amenable to the delay in gainful employment, so I blindly and blissfully started. I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect from the process. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I long for those halcyon days.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
Reading. Did I already say that? I also love to travel, and plan travel, and dream about traveling. I like to hike with my dogs. I enjoy dinner and drinks al fresco with my husband (and friends). These days I like spending time with my three teens more than they like spending time with me.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences? 
I think most authors draw textural detail and truth from their real lives, even if they write science fiction or fantasy. In WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS, my main character, Emma Hazelton, has a close relationship with her Grandpa Joe. To write many of their scenes, I drew heavily on my relationship with my grandpa, Ralph Reese. Like Emma’s grandpa, mine played hours of Solitaire while on-call. My grandpa was on call for the Union Pacific Railroad and Emma’s was an OB/GYN, but the click of playing cards against the kitchen table was the same. My grandpa was also a smoker who told me daily about the dangers of his addiction. Like my character Grandpa Joe, my grandpa hid the smell with Butter Rum Lifesavers.

What are you working on now? 
I’ve been toying with a historical fiction set in Gilded Age New York City. During those prosperous years the American Museum of Natural History was at the forefront of scientific discovery, sending expeditions all around the world in search of unknown truths. The character Indiana Jones was actually based on one such museum employee. I wanted to spend some time in this age of optimism and discovery, but as I was researching I learned that in the quest for naming rights or fame, and especially because of religious conviction, some of the discoveries were forged, changing the course of scientific understanding for decades. Ah, conflict…the basis for a good story. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 
I recently started teaching a Continuing Education class at the University of Utah called Remaking the Past (how to write historical fiction). I’m teaching how to find primary and secondary sources, about researching just enough to give the story an authentic and historical feel, but not so much that you’re tempted to dump everything you know onto the page. We’re discussing story question, character arc, and dialogue. But in the end, the one thing an aspiring writer must do is write. There’s nothing to analyze, to edit, to fix…unless words are on the page. You can’t tell if your dialogue is clunky until you write a scene or two and read it out loud.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans? 
Thank you for reading my work. I’m still amazed that people actually lay eyes on my words. Thank you for contacting me to tell me about scenes that have moved you. And thank you for leaving reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Reviews mean so much to the author. 

To connect with Ella on social media:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Women's Fiction Writer's Association ~ general category finalists for Star Award

I’m Laura Drake, the Star Award Contest Chair for Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA).
We began this contest to recognize outstanding published Women’s Fiction. The Star Award only has two categories-General and Debut. It’s open to all WF novels from contemporary to historical, commercial to literary, with romance or without, as long as the focus is on the main character’s emotional journey.

I know you usually have one book per post, but you’re in for a treat today, because I have THREE to tell you about! They are the finalists in the General Category. The books are out for final judging, and the winner will be announced at our annual retreat in Albuquerque on September 23.

Here are our finalists (in no particular order):

Carla Damron – The Stone Necklace

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Clawing chest pains and a fiery car crash take one life and change the destiny of four others. The Stone Necklace braids together the stories of a grieving widow, a struggling nurse, a young mother, and a troubled homeless man, reminding us of the empowering and surprising ways our lives touch one another and how, together, we can recover from even the greatest of losses.

Carla Damron weaves the stories of four people in Columbia, South Carolina, whose seemingly disparate existences intersect through tragedies realized and tragedies averted. Lena Hastings survived breast cancer and marital infidelity but now faces an uncertain future and crises with her teenaged daughter Becca without the support of the one person she has always counted on. Intensive care nurse Sandy Albright, newly released from drug rehab, confronts temptations from her past and false accusations threatening her career, leaving her to wonder if a drug-free life is really living. Tonya Ladson, a mother whose child is injured in the wreck, must decide if her domineering husband is right and a lawsuit will solve their financial problems. Joe Booker, a homeless man who sleeps in a graveyard, loses his gentle benefactor and must either succumb to the real and imagined evils of his world or find the heretofore-untapped courage to care for himself and for others as a stranger once cared for him. Weighted down by their respective pasts, the characters must make life-altering choices that reverberate into the fates of the others, ultimately bringing them together in unexpected but healing acts of compassion, forgiveness, and redemption.

The Stone Necklace includes a foreword from novelist Patti Callahan Henry.

Amy Impellizzeri – The Secrets of Worry Dolls

Published by: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

According to Mayan tradition, if you whisper your troubles to the Worry Dolls, they will do the worrying instead of you--therefore, it follows that Worry Dolls are the keepers of a great many secrets . . .

On the eve of the end of the world--according to the Mayan calendar--Mari Guarez Roselli's secrets are being unraveled by her daughter, Lu.

Lu's worry dolls are at-capacity as she tries to outrun the ghosts from her past--including loved ones stolen on 9/11--by traveling through her mother's homeland of Guatemala, to discover the painful reasons behind her own dysfunctional childhood, and why she must trust in the magic of the legend.

Barbara Claypole White – Echoes of Family

Published by: Lake Union Publishing

Sometimes the only way through darkness is to return to where it began.
Marianne Stokes fled England at seventeen, spiraling into the manic depression that would become her shadow. She left behind secrets, memories, and tragedy: one teen dead, and her first love, Gabriel, badly injured. Three decades later she’s finally found peace in the North Carolina recording studio she runs with her husband, Darius, and her almost-daughter, Jade…until another fatality propels her back across the ocean to confront the long-buried past.
In her picturesque childhood village, the first person she meets is the last person she wants to see again: Gabriel. Now the village vicar, he takes her in without question, and ripples of what if reverberate through both their hearts. As Marianne’s mind unravels, Jade and Darius track her down. Tempers clash when everyone tries to help, but only by finding the courage to face her illness can Marianne heal herself and her offbeat family.
If you like Women’s Fiction, or even if you’ve never read the genre, you can’t go wrong, reading these!