Tuesday, April 6, 2021

THE SOUND BETWEEN THE NOTES, by author BARBARA LINN PROBST

What if you had a second chance at the very thing you thought you’d renounced forever? How steep a price would you be willing to pay?

Susannah’s career as a pianist has been on hold for nearly sixteen years, ever since her son was born. An adoptee who’s never forgiven her birth mother for not putting her first, Susannah vowed to put her own child first, no matter what. And she did.

But now, suddenly, she has a chance to vault into that elite tier of “chosen” musicians. There’s just one problem: somewhere along the way, she lost the power and the magic that used to be hers at the keyboard. She needs to get them back. Now.

Her quest—what her husband calls her obsession—turns out to have a cost Susannah couldn’t have anticipated. Even her hand betrays her, as Susannah learns that she has a progressive hereditary disease that’s making her fingers cramp and curl—a curse waiting in her genes, legacy of a birth family that gave her little else. As her now-or-never concert draws near, Susannah is catapulted back to memories she’s never been able to purge—and forward, to choices she never thought she would have to make.

Told through the unique perspective of a musician, The Sound Between the Notes draws the reader deeper and deeper into the question Susannah can no longer silence: Who am I, and where do I belong?

Praise for The Sound Between the Notes:

“The climax, on the night of her performance, is a tour de force steeped in suspense, and Susannah’s subsequent revelations are satisfying and authentic. A sensitive, astute exploration of artistic passion, family, and perseverance.”
Kirkus Reviews

The Sound Between the Notes is so beautiful, so lyrical, so musical that it was hard to put down. . . . This is a wonderful story from a skillful writer, one that appeals strongly to the heart. It features awesome characters, a twisty plot, and gorgeous writing.”
Readers’ Favorite 5-star review

“In her second novel, Barbara Linn Probst delivers yet another powerful story, balancing lyrical language with a skillfully paced plot to build a sensory-rich world that will delight those who loved Queen of the Owlsand win countless new readers. Offering a deep exploration of the search for identity and connection, The Sound Between Notes reminds us to embrace everything we are—and everything that’s made us who we are.”
—Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY best-selling author of Perennials

“Beautifully told, The Sound Between the Notes, is the story of tragedy and triumph, of the push and pull of family, of the responsibility we feel to ourselves and those we love. Once I started the book, I couldn't put it down until I reached the last, gorgeously written note.”
—Loretta Nyhan, author of The Other Family and Amazon best-seller Digging In

Q & A with Barbara ~

We loved hearing about Queen of the Owls last year, and congratulations on all the awards it won!  In a nutshell, what’s your new book about?

Thank you!  The two books share the theme of a woman’s search for self, framed around art. In Queen of the Owls, painting and photography framed the story. In The Sound Between the Notes, it’s music—the piano.

The Sound Between the Notes is about what happens when a woman who’s always struggled with identity is given an unexpected chance to restore the self she thought she’d lost.

Susannah, the book’s protagonist, is a pianist. Her career has been on hold for sixteen years, ever since her son was born. But now, suddenly, she has a second chance. There’s just one problem: somewhere along the way, she lost the power and the magic. She needs to get them back. Now.

As her now-or-never concert draws near, Susannah is catapulted back to memories she’s never been able to purge—and forward, to choices she never thought she’d have to make as she struggles to do right by those she loves and to fulfill, through music, her deep longing for identity and a place in the world.

How did you get the idea for the book?

I can actually remember the specific moment that the idea took hold!  I had gone back to studying piano a few years earlier, after abandoning my studies for over twenty years when my own son was born.  I’m nowhere near the level of Susannah, of course—I’m what’s called a “serious amateur, which means that I study for the love of it, not professionally.  

I had just switched to a much more rigorous teacher and a whole new level of playing, a whole new possibility, was opening up for me—and there I was, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, reaching into the cabinet, when I felt an odd stiffness in my left hand. And I thought, “No! Not now, of all times!”  That was the moment when the story idea took hold. A new possibility, and a new threat.

What do your characters have to overcome? What challenge do you set before them?

Susannah is struggling with so many things! At the most obvious level, it’s time itself—the looming concert date that will make-or-break the career she never thought would still be possible, and the disease that proceeds in stages whose pace can’t be predicted. She’s also struggling with her need to balance doing right by those she cares about—husband, father, son—and doing right by herself. 

Susannah also has to overcome her doubt and misbelief that she’s not good enough to be “chosen.” It’s a common theme for adoptees, all the more so because of her adoptive mother’s insistence on a “chosen baby” story that always felt, to Susannah, as if it sanitized her struggle and swept it under the rug.

The other characters have struggles, too.  Her husband Aaron has to grapple with his need to be the one who knows what to do and fixes problems, and his feeling of being brushed aside in Susannah’s quest for a kind of fulfillment that he can’t provide.

The challenge that threads through the journeys of many of the characters in The Sound Between the Notes —Susannah’s birth mother, her adoptive mother, her grandmother—is the quest to understand what it means to be a mother and a daughter.

It sounds as if the story has two intertwined themes. One is Susannah’s quest to restore her “lost magic” at the piano, and the other is her quest for her birth family, her roots.  You’ve mentioned that you play the piano. What is your own relationship to adoption? 

I’m a mother by adoption—twice—and have been able to be an intimate participant in my daughter’s complicated journey to understand where her birth family fits into her life. Through that journey, I’ve been able to understand that adoption is complex, profound, and different for different people.

My own training as a clinical social worker also helped me to understand the perspective of each person in what’s known as the adoption triangle, including members of the birth mother’s family. For example, when I wrote the character of Beryl, the birth grandmother in The Sound Between the Notes, and had her express dismay that Corinne was “giving away my first grandbaby,” I drew directly on my own experience.  

However, the story itself is entirely fictitious. The characters “came to me” easily, but none of them are real people.

Did the book pose any special challenges for you?

Every book has its challenges, but The Sound Between the Notes posed two, in particular.  One was the task of navigating dual timelines, because each transition to the past—the supporting timeline—had to be natural and necessary, with something in the front story to serve as a portal. I tried to structure it in different ways, in my early drafts—for example, labeling each chapter by place or date or a tag like “sixteen years earlier.” Eventually, I settled on Then and Now.

Another challenge was the protagonist’s character and motivation.  In early drafts of the book, Susannah was much too angry. It took me a long time to understand her in a deeper, more nuanced way. You could say that I needed to find the love and kindness in her—and that really had to do with my own journey as a pianist. I had to understand music more deeply before I could depict Susannah as she needed to be depicted. I had to see, through music, that there was no way that a person who loved the piano could be as bitter and self-absorbed as I’d written her! You could say that I had to be a better pianist before I could be a better writer—though I had no idea of that when I started out.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

The Sound Between the Notes is about embracing everything we are—and everything that’s made us who we are. The message it offers is about integrating all the influences we’ve received, all the experiences, and all the parts of ourselves—nature and nurture, self and others, individual identity and a sense of family and connection.

Was there something you deleted from the book?

In an earlier draft, the book had two extra scenes at the end—one from the point of view of Dana, Susannah’s adoptive mother, and one from the point of view of Corinne, her biological one.  Ultimately, I decided to delete them and let Susannah have the ending to herself.

Was there a special piece of research you had to do for the book?

I actually got to talk with Misha Dichter, the world-famous pianist mentioned several times in the book, who had the same hand ailment that threatens Susannah’s playing. I wrote to his agent, explained my request, and was stunned when my phone rang and it was Dichter himself calling me!  He couldn’t have been kinder.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I actually wrote my first “book” when I was seven years old, ten chapters, complete with illustrations!  Seriously, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, although I did other kinds of writing for many years before returning to fiction. The first novel I wrote as an adult—which, fortunately, will never be seen by anyone but me—was my way to work through certain events in my own life.  I think it’s that way for a lot of novelists. You have to get that out of your system before you can create a truly fictional world.

Can you tell us a few surprising things about yourself that we never would have guessed?

Here are five: 1.    I’ve lived in a former jail cell, a former sauna, a former firehouse, and a cabin in the redwoods without heat. 2.   I’ve been a therapist, researcher, college professor, advocate, director of a nonprofit organization, elementary school teacher, and fulltime mom. 3.     In the course of my travels I’ve been inside a glacier, a lava tube, a monastery, and a mosque. I’ve seen the Whirling Dervishes, the Mona Lisa, the rain forest, the Outer Hebrides, the Venetian canals, and the Egyptian Sphinx. 4.     My eyes change color, depending on my mood. 5.     My best writing ideas come to me in the shower.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned, as a writer?

What I’ve learned, over the course of two books, is that I need to love my characters much more generously than I thought. I need to listen to them, feel their humanity, and find the thing in each of them that’s worthy of love and respect. And that goes for secondary characters too!

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

There is so much advice out there, but I think there are three essential principles that span genre, temperament, and the whole notion of “plotter-versus-pantser” (I do both).  Here are my three essential bits of advice:

First, have a really good story that you are burning to tell. Let the story lead. Listen to the characters, rather than worrying about how to please agents and publishers, or conform to any of the writing templates out there.

Second (and this is the essential complement to the first principle), find a couple of really smart people whom you trust, and listen well to what they have to tell you about your work. Be open, not defensive.

Third, read up. Read books that are really well written to see how the authors did it. Write books that you would love to read.

Where can we find you?

Website:         https://www.barbaralinnprobst.com/

Facebook:       https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011410511548

Instagram:       https://www.instagram.com/barbara_linn_probst/

 

 



 

Monday, February 22, 2021

THE FAMILY SHIP, by author SONJA YOERG (debuts February 23rd!)

From the Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestselling author of True Places comes a disarming and emotional novel about a family in distress and a daughter’s mission to keep it from going under.

Chesapeake Bay, 1980. Eighteen-year-old Verity Vergennes is the captain of the USS Nepenthe, and her seven younger siblings are her crew. The ship—an oyster boat transformed into a make-believe destroyer—is the heart of the Vergennes family, a place both to play and to learn responsibility. But Verity’s had it with being tied to the ship and secretly applies to a distant college. If only her parents could bear to let her go.

Maeve and Arthur Vergennes already suffered one loss when, five years earlier, their eldest son, Jude, stormed out and never returned. Now Maeve is pregnant again and something’s amiss. Verity yearns to follow her dreams, but how can she jump ship now? The problem, and perhaps the answer, lies with Jude.

When disaster strikes and the family unravels, Verity must rally her sibling crew to keep the Nepentheand all it symbolizes afloat. Sailing away from home, she discovers, is never easy—not if you ever hope to find your way back.


Reviews~

“This richly-drawn and insightful story demonstrates an exceptionally deep understanding of family relationships.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Families, like ships at sea, sometimes founder on hidden rocks and begin to break apart. Which is exactly what happens to the Vergennes family in Sonja Yoerg’s luminous The Family Ship. Only a heart of stone would be immune to the charm of the Vergennes children, all nine of them. Yoerg offers this large, disparate crew to the reader with the wisdom and compassion of a consummate storyteller. And she tops off the tale with one of the most exciting finales I’ve read in years. I recommend this book with my whole heart.” —William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author of This Tender Land

“With both wit and wonder, Sonja Yoerg navigates The Family Ship through choppy waters. This novel is completely immersive and highlights the enduring power of story in both our lives and our families. Yoerg’s prose and imagination are the strong currents that bring this fabulous tale to life.” —Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis

“Sonja Yoerg’s The Family Ship is a fearless, timeless story of a family in crisis. Join the Vergennes family on the shores of the Chesapeake and you’ll be rewarded with an emotionally charged page-turner of a story, but also with a cast of beautifully rendered characters who each will find a different way into your heart. Rising tides of grief, hope, and loyalty will sweep you away!” —Kelly Harms, Washington Post bestselling author of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler 


Q & A with Sonja

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

First, huge thanks to Jill for inviting me to chat! It’s always a pleasure to meet new readers,especially if they are friends of Jill.

My first career was an animal behaviorist. I studied learning in blue jays, kangaroo rats, and hyenas, among other creatures. Writing had always come easily for me and immediately after I left academia, I wrote a non-fiction book about animal intelligence, Clever As a Fox. Years later, I became a novelist almost by accident, having put aside a memoir I was working on and literally googling “How to Write a Novel.” I wrote my debut, House Broken, in five months, then spent longer than that finding an agent, who sold it pretty quickly to Penguin Random House. In the subsequent six years, I’ve published six novels. What a ride!

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

If you take a look at my Instagram account, you’ll see that my love for books is completely overshadowed by my obsession with growing food and cooking it. When we moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia several years ago, I could finally have a garden as large as I pleased, and it is very large indeed! My other obsession is traveling—when there is not a pandemic raging. My husband and I share an adventurous spirit and love nothing more than to hike the world. I guess you could say I’m a nomadic homebody.

Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?

My husband. He’s an avid reader and is unfailingly enthusiastic about my projects. Luckily for our marriage, he is also largely complimentary. I usually get feedback on my fresh manuscript from two or three trusted writers before sending it to my editor, but for The Family Ship, I skipped the critique partners. With six POVs, it was a complex and lengthy undertaking, and I just wanted to get it off my desk. It was risky, but it worked out just fine. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that every book is different.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

My favorite scenes tend to be ensemble pieces, usually later in the book. Most of the main characters are present, and the tensions are high. The way the dialogue and the action ricochets around is exciting for me, and those scenes tend to write themselves, as if everything I know about the characters and the story is there on the head of a pin.

Because The Family Ship is about a family of eleven, there are many ensemble scenes. It was a real challenge to orchestrate those scenes without overcomplicating them.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans? The last year has packed a wallop, but there is nevertheless so much to be grateful for. We still have books, which means we still value stories, and lives, and each other. It’s something to hold onto, and to cherish. Thanks for reading my stories, and for sharing them. 

 To connect with Sonja ~  

To purchase this book: bit.ly/thefamilyship 

Social Media:

Link for Goodreads (100 e-book giveaway - all of February: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/enter_kindle_giveaway/316944-the-family-ship  

 






Monday, February 15, 2021

JOYOUS LIES, by author, MARGARET ANN SPENCE

Maelle, a botanist, believes plants communicate and nurture their young. Raised on her grandparents’ commune, Joyous Woods, after her mother died, she imbibed the commune’s utopian beliefs of love for all.  

Maelle meets Zachary, the first man she’s cared for. But when Zachary tells her their parents perished together in his father’s medical research laboratory, Maelle is devastated.

Searching for answers just as a filmmaker arrives to make a movie about the last of the hippies, probing the commune’s secrets, Maelle must pierce a wall of silence to find the truth. What really happened in that lab – its role in her mother’s violent death and the commune’s possible complicity – challenges all she’s been led to believe, forces her to find strength she never knew she had, and to ask the question, if plants can protect their young, why can’t humans do the same?

Review:

Joyous Lies is a wonderfully written, heartfelt exposition of the way in which families will often bend the truth or outright lie to protect reputations or to soften the blow of mistakes for those who follow behind. Author Margaret Ann Spence has touched an exposed nerve with this story.

—Grant Leishman, Readers’ Favorite

Q and A with Margaret ~ 

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

Jill, I am delighted to be here on your blog. I love the way women writers support one another. I am particularly thrilled to talk to you today because my novel, Joyous Lies, launches today!

I did not get off to a good start. The first day of kindergarten, Miss Reid gave each child a scrabble rack with our names spelled out in the little wooden squares, a piece of paper and a crayon. She asked us to write our names, copying the tiles. I scrambled mine up. My friend Margie, who had exactly the same name, Margaret Ann, looked sideways at me and said, “You’re supposed to write them in a straight line.” I replied bossily, “No, you can put them any way you like.”

But gently corrected by Miss Reid, I soon got the hang of it. I always wanted to work with words. My first job was with Penguin Books (Australia) as a sales rep and over-the-transom reader. A few years later I earned a master’s in journalism from Boston University and worked in public relations, then did freelance reporting while my kids were small. At the time I didn’t read much fiction (no time!) let alone think I could write it. It is only now, looking back on a lifetime of experience, that I feel confident enough to draw on it to create fictional stories.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love to travel, but when I’m home, really get into it. Cooking, baking, crafting and gardening feature in my novels, too, as do different locations I’ve lived in and traveled to.

Where do you get your ideas?

I loved writing my first book, Lipstick on the Strawberry, imagining the life of a frazzled caterer. I loved even more writing Joyous Lies, especially learning about the latest scientific research on plant biology. Trees do communicate! Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire, about the amazing power of plants, sent me on a quest to learn more. Richard Powers’ The Overstory made me think about how we carelessly destroy forests, which, emitting oxygen, we need to breathe. 

All kinds of thoughts bounced around in my head about idealists who want to make a better world, and the cost of doing so. And thus my book was born. My first viewpoint character is Maelle, a young botanist, and the other is her grandmother, Johanna, an old hippie, actually the driving force that turned a commune into a working organic farm. The story is set in Northern California. I researched that through some wonderful road trips.

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

Like many authors, I have a first novel in a computer file and am thankful it never saw the light of day. However, I learned to pitch that novel, and subsequent ones, at the San Francisco Writers Conference in 2013. I submitted to agents, and while waiting for the call that never came on that first book, started writing what became Lipstick on the Strawberry. I’m pleased to say this manuscript won a novel contest in 2015 which surely helped me land my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. I do strongly recommend attending writing conferences, if you can. They usually offer pitching opportunities to agents and publishers. I never did get an agent. I’m an older writer, and agents are young. I decided that I would rather submit to a small but reputable publisher than wait years for an agent to (a) offer representation and then (b) try to sell the book. There’s no guarantee of that. I’ve been happy with my decision.

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?

Only that I wish I’d had the courage to start when I was younger. Then again, I do have fragments of writing from earlier days and they sometimes make their way into my current work. I’ve kept an intermittent journal over the years, and that helped clarify my thoughts. As far as the process of getting it published is concerned, each person’s experience is unique, and we can’t learn except by going through that experience. I feel grateful I didn’t have to go the self-publishing route. That would be hard and lonely, I feel. My experience at Penguin Books showed me that publishing a book is like an inverted funnel. But hats off to anyone who actually completes a book and has the courage to show their work to the world!

What are you working on now?

Each novel I write is different (and I have another percolating away) but the basic theme always seems to be, “family ties, family lies.” Don’t ask me where that came from. It’s not autobiographical! But the difference between private thoughts and actions and the public fa├žade is a rich vein of human behavior to explore, don’t you think?

Is anything in Joyous Lies based on real-life experiences?

When I moved to Phoenix, I took the master gardener course offered by the University of Arizona Maricopa Extension to learn to garden in the arid desert. It offered wonderful classes on botany, about which I knew nothing when I started. I met so many dedicated gardeners who loved the challenge of producing food in the desert, and I learned about organic farming and perma-culture.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

One of the truths that came to me as I researched and wrote this book is that life will go on, despite what we as humans might do to straitjacket it to our own ends or to destroy it. In the first chapter, Maelle meets Zachary, and, as a habitual loner, is startled by her attraction to him.

She twirled her fork in the salad bowl. A piece of radish and a vibrant red beet nestled amongst the arugula under goat cheese and a dusting of nuts. Nature’s vibrant colors, created to attract pollinators. The libidinous plants, sluttishly exposing themselves for fertilization by any passing bee. Good grief, what a thought to strike her. How embarrassing.

Do you have a favorite character?

As I started writing Maelle, I needed to know how she became like she is. Since she had lived on the commune, Joyous Woods, since the age of ten when her mother died, the commune’s visionary, counter-cultural beliefs were drummed into her. But what is the cost of Utopia? So, the character of Maelle’s grandmother, Johanna, came to me. Johanna had left Berkeley with her boyfriend Neil when his draft number was called in 1970, and ever since they and their friends had lived a hard-scrabble life up in the far reaches of Northern California. Johanna’s idealism, her strength and also her blindness unfold through the story.

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

The first thing my editor at The Wild Rose Press asked me was for verification of the scientific research behind the botanical claims made in the story. I am no scientist, but thanks to the internet, I had volumes of material. The Authors’ Guild, to which I belong, offers members a discounted membership to JStor, an online reference library for academic researchers.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Keep going and don’t give up! Then again don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t succeed when you set yourself an artificial deadline. Persistence, which means both writing every day and submitting through rejection after rejection, is the key. This is a very competitive business. Keep your day job. 

It will stimulate you and get you out of your own head, as well as pay the bills. Also remember that while writing is a solitary activity, it doesn’t have to be a lonely business. I have been blessed to be a member of a critique group for about ten years, and belong to several writing groups, local and national, including the wonderful Women Fiction Writers Association. Their encouragement has been invaluable.

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

If I tried to write novels to earn a fortune, I would be sadly disappointed. On the other hand, I get to do what I most love to do, each and every day. I write to know what I think, I write because if I don’t I feel frustrated. It’s sort of like hunger, it needs to be satisfied.

Bio:

Margaret Ann Spence is an award-winning essayist and writer of Women’s Fiction. Her debut novel, Lipstick on the Strawberry, published by the Wild Rose Press, won the Romantic Elements Category in the First Coast Romance Writers 2015 Beacon Contest. It was a finalist for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Book Award and in the 2019 Next Generation Indie Awards. Joyous Lies, her second novel, also published by The Wild Rose Press, released on February 15, 2021.

After working in publishing, as a journalist, as a consular officer and as a real estate agent, Margaret found that writing fiction was much more fun. Born in Australia, she's lived on three continents and both coasts of the United States. These places find their way into her fiction. Though she loves to travel, the theme of home is central to her fiction, and when she is not at her desk, she tends an unruly garden, cooks up a storm in the kitchen, and cherishes time with her family. A believer in the sisterhood, Margaret reviews books by women on her blog and elsewhere, and when inspired, sends a favorite recipe to her subscribers.

To connect with Margaret:

https://www.margaretannspence.com

https://www.facebook.com/margaretannspence

https://www.twitter.com/margannspence

https://goodreads.com/margaretannspence

https://www.amazon.com/author/margaretannspence

To Purchase Joyous Lies:

https://books2read.com/u/me7RoR

                                                         





 

 

 

Monday, February 8, 2021

THE REUNIONS (book #3 in Tammy Mellows series) by author TINA HOGAN GRANT

Would time be on their side? A mother’s wish. A daughter’s determination. Which one, if any, would be fulfilled first?

Tammy, Donna, and Jenny were separated by divorce and divided by an ocean for decades. Their mother, Rose, had one wish—to see her girls together one more time.

For Tammy, it would have to wait. She’s living out her dream as a commercial fisherwoman on the Pacific Ocean. But when a fishing trip goes wrong, she questions her future with the fleet.

After two devastating deaths in the family, and when Tammy finds herself fighting for her own life not once but twice; the family takes center stage. She wants to make her mother’s wish come true.

But did the sisters wait too long? Their mother’s health suddenly takes a turn for the worse. Will she get to see her girls together one more time?

Q & A with Tina ~ 

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

I am originally from England and moved to the States in the late 70s. After living all over California I now reside in a small mountain community at 5000 ft elevation where we get plenty of snow most years. 

I’ve always loved to write. Many years ago I used to keep journals. I think that is where my joy for writing began. My father was also a huge influence who was a successful science fiction author. When I had a message for other women my writing hobby took a turn and I began to treat it more like a career. 

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I am a tomboy at heart and love the outdoors. When I’m not writing I’m outside reading on the grass or hiking with my two dogs, a Britney named Tess and Miss Elie our Jack Rusell with an Attitude. I also enjoy kayaking at the nearby lake or discovering the many trails that we are surrounded by on my quad. Other interests include, fishing, growing my own vegetables, and camping when time allows.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I spend most of my time writing and marketing my books which is a full-time job in itself lol. I also do professional organizing and help my husband with his falconry business. No I don’t  fly the six falcons that we have - I help with their care and  the care of the hundred plus pigeons we have. 

Where do you get your ideas?

My debut novel, Reckless Beginnings was supposed to be just the one book and is based on my life. It is now a three book series titled The Tammy Mellows Series. Each  book holds a strong message for women from lessons I have learned from some poor decisions I have made on this journey we call life. 

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

I love anything Jodi Picoult has written. I love her style of writing and how raw she writes. She writes about delicate social issues from both sides and touches every emotion. It’s how I wrote Reckless Beginnings. Raw, emotional, honest with no fluff.

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

Oh my where do I begin. The easiest part was writing the book but that took twenty-five years, but when I finally sat down to write the story it just flowed.  I am now a self-published author but my first book was published through a publisher and took over a year to bring it to life on the book shelves. I was mortified when I discovered I had no control over the book and any slight changes took up to six weeks. I knew my next book would be published by me and the last 4 have been.

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?

Yes I would not have gone through a publisher and I would have begun promoting it much sooner than I did. I think I began talking about it just a few months before it was published.

How do you market your work?

Anyway I can LOL - Facebook is great for marketing, I have a great reader’s group with over 1700 members and they are fantastic people. I do takeovers in other groups,

Facebook and Amazon ads, Newsletter swaps , live book signings and group book promotions with other authors. But they say the best way to promote a book is with a new book so I keep writing. 

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

All three books in The Tammy Mellows Series are based on my life. Names and places have changed.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

Each book has scenes  that I really enjoyed writing and then there are some that were hard to write because they were of times when I was struggling in my life. I think one of my favorite scenes is in the second book Better Endings which is the challenges I faced when I became a commercial fisherwoman. One chapter describes an ocean crossing back to the mainland and we sudden;y find ourselves in a terrifying storm that puts our lives at risk.

Do you have a favorite character?

In Better Endings, Dwayne is based on my husband. It was fun to put my thoughts on paper and have him read how I saw him and describe his moods, personality and habits. Things he wasn’t aware about. He read the book and approved everything I wrote.

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

Commercial fishing was my dream job before I began to write. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It was exhilarating, adventurous and no two days were ever alike.

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

I wrote about what I had experienced and knew so not much research was needed except to pull out all those memories buried in my head,  whether they were good or bad.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I always tell aspiring writers to read, read and read some more and write every day. Learn from the best. Don’t just read a story, read it like you wrote it. Stop and reread paragraphs that you enjoyed. Ask yourself why you liked it. Study the story, did it pull you in right away. Did it keep you fully engaged? How did the author accomplish that? Write everyday and never give up. Make your next work better than the last.

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

Writing will constantly have it’s ups and downs. Words may not flow, books may not sell or a poor review will question your ability to write. What matters is that you push through these downfalls and keep writing. Believe in yourself and own your work. My downfall was My dad passing a year before Reckless Beginnings was published and my mom sick with dementia so neither got to see my first book published. The best part was seeing my name on the book of a cover and readers telling me how much they loved it. Priceless.

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

I’m a country girl who loves country music, Luke Bryan and Chris Young are at the top of my list. Favorite movie and I don’t know why is Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood. We went to Alacatraz last year. Such a fascinating place. 

Place you’d like to travel?

My favorite TV show is deadliest Catch - and I would love to see the boats from the show and visit Dutch Harbor where they are docked.

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

It is the readers and their kind words about my books that keep me writing. I appreciate every single one of them and without them I would not have gone on and written four more books after Reckless Beginnings. So thank you . 

To connect with Tina:

(links listed in this website):   https://linktr.ee/tinahogangrant









Tuesday, January 26, 2021

WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG, by author JULIE CARRICK DALTON

A startling and timely debut, Julie Carrick Dalton's Waiting for the Night Song is a moving, brilliant novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed.

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie’s memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals. 

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise. 

Amazon.com Editors' pick: 
This debut novel, which tackles issues as broad as climate change and racism, will rightly be compared to Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing. Waiting for the Night Song has the lyricism of a poem and the pacing of a thriller. Dalton is a writer to watch."—Sarah Gelman, Amazon Editor

Reviews

"Julie Carrick Dalton's deftly constructed, urgent yet slow-burning debut novel reads like a warning from the frontlines of our rapidly deteriorating natural world." --Omar El Akkad, American War

"Both a timely and timeless literary mystery, Waiting for the Night Song is as seductive as it is smart, blending the allure of Julie Dalton's beloved rural New Hampshire setting with the dark undercurrents of a community's racial divisions and betrayals. This is a story of love, of home, of friendship and family, of a childhood's innocence and an adult's comeuppance, all of which are in the line of fire in this beauty of a page turner." --Michelle Hoover, award-winning author of Bottomland and The Quickening.

"Human nature clashes with Mother Nature in this riveting and heartbreaking coming of age story - - gorgeously written, and wonderfully told . With its combination of powerful themes and intensely immersive setting, fans of Delia Owens will swoon to find their new favorite author. A phenomenal debut!" --Hank Phillippi Ryan, award-winning author of The First to Lie

Q & A with Julie ~ 

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

I’ve always written stories and poetry as a hobby. I used to write puppet show scripts and fan fiction scripts of Wonder Woman and Mork and Mindy TV shows as a kid. But I also really loved science and chose Biochemistry as my major when I went to college. Sophomore year, I stumbled into a journalism class and changed course. I continued dabbling in fiction on the side while working as a newspaper and magazine journalist for more than a decade. 

I earned a Master’s in Creative Writing in 2005 and that’s when I started taking fiction seriously. I got involved with several writers’ groups and committed to writing a novel. Once I made that mental commitment, I never considered giving up. I think I’ve always been an author. I just didn’t realize it until later in life. Now, I run a small farm and I just finished a certificate program in sustainable agriculture. My love of science and writing finally found a way to coexist and the result is Waiting for the Night Song.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love to grow things! I own a small farm in rural New Hampshire, which happens to be the setting for Waiting for the Night Song. I grow apples, peaches, berries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and tons of other veggies. I love watching the plants grow. Every single year it seems like a miracle.

Where do you get your ideas?

Most of my ideas grow out of small things I notice in nature. I like to look at the tiny elements most people might not notice and imagine all the ways they could have big, unexpected impacts.

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

I’m a huge Barbara Kingsolver fan. I love her novels, especially Flight Behavior and The Poisonwood Bible. Her memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle also had a huge impact on me. It tells the story of her family living on their farm and growing their own food for a year. I read it right before I built my own farm. I found inspiration in her personal story as well as in her fiction.

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

I built my farm and raised four kids during the same years I was writing Waiting for the Night Song. All of those major life events are tangled up in my memory. There are parts of the book that were inspired by my children when they were younger, and parts of the story that grew out of phenomenon I observed on my farm. Doing all of that at the same time certainly slowed down my writing process. I had so little time. But, It wouldn’t have been the same book if I hadn’t been knee-deep in parenting and farming. As much as they hindered my writing, they also made it possible.

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?

To be completely honest, I wouldn’t change a thing. It took me a long time to write and publish that first book, but everything I learned and every person I met along the way made it completely worth it. I found an amazing writing community. I signed with my dream agent, and, although it took a long, painful year to sell my book, I landed with the perfect editor who shared my vision for my book and helped me shape it into a better version of the story it was meant to be. No regrets. None.

What are you working on now?

I have another book coming out in 2022 called THE LAST BEEKEEPER. It’s another stand-alone novel with themes related to nature and climate change. I’m still revising the manuscript, but so far I’m pretty excited about how it’s coming along.

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

When my four kids were younger, I used to take them canoeing and we would pick blueberries from wide swaths of open shoreline. As the kids got older they started asking whose land it was and if we were stealing the berries. The truth was, I had no idea who owned the land. There were no houses nearby, and I didn’t think anyone would mind some children taking a few handfuls of berries from a canoe. But my kids pressed me on it and I found myself inventing excuses to justify why it was okay to take the berries. Don’t take all the berries from any one bush. Don’t pick berries from a bush with a birds nest. Taking a few handfuls of blueberries on wide open shoreline was a benign action. No one else would have picked those berries. No one would have miss them. But was I teaching my kids it was okay to rely on manufactured rules to justify behavior that was not justifiable, even if it seemed benign? Those rules I invented became the basis for The Poachers’ Code, a code of ethics the characters in my book create to shield themselves from their own questionable actions. I pushed my characters to an extreme limit and forced them to tackle the ethical questions I wrestled with while picking berries with my kids – but with life-and-death stakes.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

I’m really attached to the opening of Chapter Two where we meet my main character Cadie as a young girl. She sneaks out of her house early in the morning and jumps off the pier into the lake to rescue a drifting rowboat. This is the scene that sets everything else – the good and the bad – in motion. It’s the moment Cadie will always look back on and wonder: What if I had never jumped in the water? I like this scene because it reminds me of the fearlessness I had as a kid. This was one of the very first scenes I wrote. As I was writing it, I had no idea what Cadie was going to find in that boat. It was a mystery to me too.

Do you have a favorite character?

I do! I love Sal, the daughter of Cadie’s childhood best friend. In the book, Sal is thirteen. She is bold, fearless, outspoken, and has an enormous heart. I absolutely adore her.

Place you’d like to travel?

I love to travel! I have a long bucket list of places I’d like to visit. The top four are: 1) My husband and I plan to walk El Camino in Spain together in the near future. 2) I want to see the Northern Lights. I’m not sure where we will go to see them, but I’m thinking about The Lapland region in Norway. 3) Patagonia! I want to see everything in Patagonia. I want to ski, visit vineyards, and hike. 4) Morocco. So much I want to do! Spice markets, desert tours, and the fabrics! I think I’ll probably come home with suitcases full of fabric.

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

Just thank you! I spent thirteen years writing this book. It still feels a bit surreal that it’s finally out in the world. Every single time a reader reaches out to share a picture of my book or tell me they enjoyed it, I get a rush of gratitude. It means so much to me that readers are willing to invest their time and money to read my story. It’s an incredible honor.

BIO  ~   Julie Carrick Dalton’s debut novel WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG has been named to Most Anticipated 2021 book lists by several platforms including CNN, Newsweek, USA Today, Parade, and Buzzfeed, and is an Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best Books of the Month in January. As a journalist, Julie has published more than a thousand articles in publications including The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, The Chicago Review of Books, and Electric Literature. A Tin House alum, and graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator, Julie holds a master’s in literature and creative writing from Harvard Extension School. She is the winner of the William Faulkner Literary Competition and a finalist for the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature and the Caledonia Novel Award. She is a member of the Climate Fiction Writers League and is a frequent speaker and workshop leader on the topic of Fiction in the Age of Climate Crisis. Mom to four kids and two dogs, Julie also loves to ski, kayak, and hike.

To connect with Julie ~ 

Twitter: @juliecardalt

IG @juliecdalton

FB @juliecarrickdalton

Website: Juliecarrickdalton.com






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.