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