Monday, August 29, 2016


In this beautifully written and powerful debut novel, Ella Joy Olsen traces the stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same historic home over the course of a century—braided stories of love, heartbreak and courage connect the women, even across generations.
Ivy Baygren has two great loves in her life: her husband, Adam, and the bungalow they buy together in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the moment she and Adam lay eyes on the home, Ivy is captivated by its quaint details—the old porch swing, ornate tiles, and especially an heirloom rose bush bursting with snowy white blossoms. Called the Emmeline Rose for the home’s original owner, it seems yet another sign that this place will be Ivy’s happily-ever-after…Until her dreams are shattered by Adam’s unexpected death.
Striving to be strong for her two children, Ivy decides to tackle the home-improvement projects she and Adam once planned. Day by day, as she attempts to rebuild her house and her resolve, she uncovers clues about previous inhabitants, from a half-embroidered sampler to buried wine bottles. And as Ivy learns about the women who came before her—the young Mormon torn between her heart and anti-polygamist beliefs, the Greek immigrant during World War II, a troubled single mother in the 1960s—she begins to uncover the lessons of her own journey. For every story has its sadness, but there is also the possibility of blooming again, even stronger and more resilient than before…

Some Q & A with Ella:

1.  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m the mom of three teens: A boy who leaves for college a week before my book hits the shelves, one sixteen-year-old girl who is a teen cliché (but we still love her madly), one who barely became a teen and would like to find at least one armpit hair (nothing yet). I have a super supportive husband who also works from home, so we wear matching bathrobes all day long and meet in the kitchen at noon for frozen burritos. I also have two dogs who, I swear, smile at me every time I look at them (more than I can say for the teens).

I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and I based my first two books in my neighborhood which is full of old houses and history. I’ve always loved imagining scenes from the past when exploring an ancient place (you can only imagine how long pondered the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris), so when we searched for our home, I insisted we buy one which spoke to the passage of time. My husband groaned about the old wiring and I squealed about the porch swing. Guess who won?

2.    What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love to travel (see above – I have an obsession with historic locations). I spend as much time in the mountains near my home as I can. And I adore all things summer (outdoor concerts, al fresco dining, art festivals, family reunions, farmers markets, cold drinks with a kick). And I read, like crazy.

3.    Can you tell us how you started writing and your challenges in getting your first book published?

I was one of those nose-in-book kids. Of course, I tried to write back in the day. I would complete one opening chapter, exactly like the book I was currently reading (names and location changed). Then I would stop writing, as I realized how hard it was, and I would pick up another book. Throughout junior high and high school I scripted angsty-teen poetry and diary entries full of broken hearts and 1980’s pop-culture. As an adult, I wrote hundreds of two-page analyses on the financial stability of publically held companies – and died a little every day.

After my youngest kiddo started first grade, I decided to teach myself how to write a novel. Not so easy. It was slow going at first, maybe three hours a week. When I finally typed THE END I didn’t realize I was actually at the beginning.

Years of rewrites, querying and rejection followed. I developed a thick skin, likely rewrote the entire book several times, and sent hundreds of query letters. It took me almost eight years from conception to publication.

4.    What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a “sister” book, publishing September 2017. The title is: WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS. It’s not a sequel but a linked book, sharing a couple common characters. Here’s the elevator pitch:

Though she has a loving husband, Emma Hazelton is adrift, struggling to rebuild her life after a tragedy. But one day, a simple question and an old black-and-white photograph prompt Emma to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. Where the Sweet Bird Sings explores the meaning of family and identity. What connects us to another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Or is it love?

5.    Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?

Oh, don’t get me started. Root, Petal, Thorn takes place in a hundred-year-old bungalow and traces the stories of five women who lived in the home over a century. The location is based on my own home, in my own neighborhood.
Some unknown family inhabited my beloved home when the Titanic sunk, on V-E day, when JFK was assassinated, when the Beatles performed on Ed Sullivan – and all the years in between. So I started imagining. Then I started writing. And a story was born. The characters, by the way, are entirely fictional. Their lives are much more interesting than mine.

6.    Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The easiest advice to give and the hardest advice to follow is: Just Keep Writing. If you give up, the book you want to write will never be written. There are oodles of times you’ll want to quit: after someone insists your main character is unlikeable, after a red-pen session with a beta reader, after you read a gorgeously written book and realize yours is nothing like it, after your hundredth query rejection, after you celebrate selling your book to a publisher then realize you’ve been paid essentially $.07 per hour for your hard word, after you realize you must spend most of said advance to promote your own book, after your first bad review…

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

Please read my book! Too desperate. Read it, love it, and write a fantastic review! Too direct. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy! Better. I’d love to connect!

Twitter: @ellajoyolsen


Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?

Some Q & A with Camille:

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.  
I was the kid who went to the library at recess, and by age twelve I knew that I wanted to be an author.  I wrote a few short stories as a teen, and some blog posts as an adult.  But, I decide to really go for it a few years ago, and start a novel.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
First, I'm a reader, which fuels the writing.  Second, I'm a traveler.  I'm a bit addicted to travel.  I've been to four continents and most of the states, and my bucket list is endless.  I enjoy farmers markets, local artisan crafts, and anything with chocolate.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
My husband and I have been in real estate for seventeen years, originally as property managers and then as Realtors.  We've recently brought on a few buyer's agents so that it can free me up for more writing time.  I also homeschool our four children.

Where do you get your ideas?
I am most inspired to write when I'm traveling, but inspiration can come from just being a good observer of life.  Once I'm working on a story, I'm pretty focused, but if something crosses my mind that would be great i a book, I keep a list of notes and observations to draw from in the future.  

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?  
Here's the long answer.  I was most blown away by a debut novel called Olivia and Jai by Rebecca Ryman.  In my opinion, it's perfect in every way.  It made me want to write.  I have also been intrigued by the British classics for years, particularly Jane Eyre.  I love its bittersweet ending, and made me love books that are not always perfectly happy.  Finally, I was greatly influenced by the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Not so much the books, but the author's process. She wrote them while she was at swim team practice with her kids, and I thought, "If she can do it, I can do it"!  She also wrote scenes as she was inspired to do so, and did not write chronologically.  I thought that was fascinating, and used that technique myself. 

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I queried my first draft, just so excited that I had written a whole manuscript.  I knew very little about the craft of writing, and I had tons of rejections.  But, I did have a goal to be traditionally published, so I went to conferences and took classes and learned how to make it better and better.  When I felt (years later) that it was finally ready, I queried six agents, and two were interested in it!  The lesson in that is to keep editing until you get your yes.  

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?
This is the kind of answer that we can all give in hindsight, but I don't want to change anything because it got me to where I am.  It was not easy, and I would not look back and wish that it had been easy - there is no growth in that.

How do you market your work?
My publisher is a marketing dynamo, and their philosophy is that writers should write.  However, I do love interacting with readers, so I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and various reading sites.  That is certainly good for some sales, but I really enjoy those for the relationships.

What are you working on now?
I am turning in my second novel, BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS, to my editor this week, so in the time before I get that back, I'm plotting my third book.  It will be set in New York City between 1900 and 1960, and follow a very interesting part of the city's history.  I can't wait to dig in to it.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
There are a few tidbits that came from my life - squeezing hands three times to say "I love you" silently, baking cinnamon rolls, and a few other things.  But, the plot and characters are not.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
My favorite scene is one in which my main character, Julianne, gets in to a heated argument with her father.  There are many deceptions and hypocrisies that are revealed, and I feel that it's my most authentic dialogue.  When I read that scene, I forget that I wrote it. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Be humble.  I understand that this is our art, and that a piece of us is put in to these book babies.  But if you want to be a successful, paid author, you have to be humble enough to admit a few things:  1.  This will ultimately be the work of many people - you, your editors, your cover artist, your publicist, etc.  2.  Those in the business have been it longer than you have - listen to their wisdom.  3. Brainstorming is your friend - others may see a possibility in the story that you don't - be open to suggestions! 

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
I wouldn't call this a downfall, but I would say that writing the second book on a deadline was a different experience than writing the first book, when it was only for me.  It definitely gave it a sense of urgency that the first one didn't.  The best part is that I feel like I'm doing what I was meant to do - I've found my vocational purpose.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support.  It means a great deal to keep in touch through social media, and I'm appreciative of the reviews.  The reader/author relationship is one I value greatly - both as a reader and an author!

Camille Di Maio - Author


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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A GIRL LIKE YOU, by author, Michelle Cox

Henrietta Von Harmon works as a 26 girl at a corner bar, Poor Pete’s, on Chicago’s northwest side.  It’s 1935, but things still aren’t looking up since the big crash and her father’s subsequent suicide.  Left to care for her antagonistic mother and younger siblings, Henrietta is persuaded to take a job as a taxi dancer at a local dance hall.  Henrietta is just beginning to enjoy herself, dancing with men for ten cents a dance, when the floor matron suddenly turns up murdered.  The aloof Inspector Clive Howard then appears on the scene, and Henrietta unwittingly finds herself involved in unraveling the mystery when she agrees to go undercover for him.

Even as Henrietta is plunged into Chicago’s grittier underworld, she struggles to still play mother “hen” to her younger siblings and even to the pesky neighborhood boy, Stanley, who believes himself in love with her and continues to pop up in the most unlikely places, determined, ironically, to keep Henrietta safe, even from the Inspector if needs be.  Despite his efforts, however, and his penchant for messing up the Inspector’s investigation, the lovely Henrietta and the impenetrable Inspector find themselves drawn to each other in most unsuitable ways.

A Girl Like You has received two starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist and placed as a Finalist in Romance in the 2016 Next Gen Awards.  It has also been listed as a top spring read by Your Tango, Popsugar, Culturist, and Buzzfeed and is currently enjoying its second print run.  Book two of the series, A Ring Of Truth, will be released Spring 2017.

Some Q & A with Michelle:

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
I was always trying to write stories as a kid, but they never seemed to pan out.  My favorite thing to do was to try to imitate Louisa May Alcott, but nothing lived up to my expectation, so I decided to try to illustrate her stories instead.   I guess I could endure bad art better than bad writing! 
Seriously, though, I spent my high school years wanting to be a writer, but never thought I was good enough, so I pursued science instead.  It wasn’t until I was two years into college that I decided to be true to myself and got a literature degree.  Then I got married and had kids, and writing took a back seat again.  Only recently, really, in 2012 did I decide that the time was now, that I was finally ready to devote a small portion (little did I know that it would grow into a HUGE portion) of my time to try my hand at writing. 
I’d like to think that I was merely following the advice of one of my lit professors who instructed us not to even attempt to write a novel until we were at least forty; however, that’s not exactly true, that’s just how it happened.   

What are some things you enjoy when not writing? 
You mean before the books took over my life?  Well, of course I love reading, but I also enjoy gardening, baking and board games, especially long strategy games.  I also love craft beer!

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
My “day job” is being a full-time mom of three kids, though the youngest is ten now, so it’s getting easier.  Now I try to make writing be my day job, and the house/kid manager thing more my evening job.  I start writing/editing/promotional work when they get on the bus at 6:50 am and stop when they get home at 2:20.  Not a lot of time, so I have to make every second count!

Where do you get your ideas?
I used to work in a nursing home about 25 years ago, and I have a huge collection of stories from my time there.  They are the basis of my blog, “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” which is dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. 
There was one woman I met there in particular, however, that I used as the basis for Henrietta, the heroine of A Girl Like You.  She was such a lively, spirited person and had such a fascinating story that I took some of the details of her life and wove them into the novel.  

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
My favorite books have always been the classics, which I’ve been reading since I was about ten.  Dickens and Trollope are my ultimate favorites.  It’s funny because rather than inspiring me to write, they actually inspired me NOT to write.  I knew I could never write anything as good as that, so I didn’t bother trying.  It wasn’t until I was about 40-something and I had just had my third child when my brain suddenly fried—as it does—and I decided I needed something lighter to read, something modern.  So after exploring contemporary fiction a bit, I decided that I could probably give it a shot and be half decent!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Well, in the style of the great classic authors, my first foray into the publishing world was to write a gigantic novel called Love’s Labor Found, which clocked in at 224,000 words.  Imagine my surprise when not one agent out of the 200 I queried was the slightest bit interested!  Rather than split up my baby into thirds, I decided to write something, well, shorter and more marketable.  And voila—A Girl Like You was born. 
Rather than submit this one to agents or the Big 5, both of which I was kind of soured on now, I decided to go down a different path.  I submitted it to a hybrid/indie press, She Writes, and they took it!

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?
Not really.  I’ve had a great experience with She Writes Press so far.  It is a wonderful community of women who offer a lot of education about the industry and support.  The creative control that the authors have over their work is amazing; it truly is a partnership.   I’ve enjoyed the relationship so much that I just signed the contract with them for Book 2 of the series, A Ring of Truth.

How do you market your work?
I work with a publicist, Crystal Patriarche of Booksparks.  They’ve done fabulous job, I think, in getting my book and my name out there.

What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on the edits for A Ring of Truth—the second in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series, which is due out next April.  I’ve already written Book 3, and I’d like to start writing Book 4 soon; I just need to find some time!  Maybe this Fall I’ll free up a little.  That’s the plan, anyway.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
Well, as I’ve said above, I did base a lot of Henrietta’s story on an 81-year-old woman I met in a nursing home.  Obviously, the book is fictional, especially since it’s a murder mystery, but I used several details from this woman’s life to build the framework of the story. 
For example, this woman used to like to follow me around the nursing home and tell me that “once upon a time,” she had had “a man-stopping body and a personality to go with it!”  That cracked me up every time, and I just knew I had to put it into the novel—hence Henrietta’s stunning beauty.  There were other elements as well that I “borrowed,” such as Henrietta’s family history, the burlesque club, and even the side character of Stanley, in a roundabout way.  There’s more, but I don’t want to give too much away!

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
I’d have to say that one of my favorite chapters is probably Chapter 7 because it includes all of the key elements:  suspense, humor, romance, intrigue.  Also, several of the plot lines converge here, so it’s very fun and exciting. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t do it!  No, just kidding.  The only thing I can say is to try to write something that you – not the rest of the world – would enjoy sitting down and reading.  That’s when I think you write the best – as your truest self.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
I hope you stay with the series.  In my opinion, each book gets better and better.  My favorite—so far!—is Book 3.  So hang in there!


Michelle Cox holds a B.A. in English literature from Mundelein College, Chicago, and is the author of the award-winning, A Girl Like You, the first in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series.  She is known for her wildly popular blog, “How to Get Your Book Published in 7,000 Easy Steps—A Practical Guide” as well as her charming “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” a blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents.  Michelle lives with her husband and three children in the Chicago suburbs.


Twitter: @michellecox33