Pages

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A Woman Embarking On An Unexpected Journey

Namrata Patel

In June, The Candid Life of Meena Dave will release.

Namrata Patel's reviews have been excellent.


“A thoroughly entertaining rendition of one woman’s search for belonging.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Full of lively characters who will win readers’ hearts and keep them thinking long after the book is finished, this book is a genuine, charming debut. Long-buried secrets and a journey of self-discovery will keep the pages turning.” —Booklist

“Namrata Patel’s debut is a delightful exploration of identity, community, and growth. I was drawn into Meena Dave’s captivating journey from the first pages and was rooting for her until the end. This poignant and witty story is perfect for book clubs!” —Saumya Dave, author of Well-Behaved Indian Women


Her book, The Candid Life of Meena Dave is about A woman embarking on an unexpected journey into her past in an engrossing novel about identity, family secrets, and rediscovering the need to belong.



Meena Dave is a photojournalist and a nomad. She has no family, no permanent address, and no long-term attachments, preferring to observe the world at a distance through the lens of her camera. But Meena’s solitary life is turned upside down when she unexpectedly inherits an apartment in a Victorian brownstone in historic Back Bay, Boston.

Though Meena’s impulse is to sell it and keep moving, she decides to use her journalistic instinct to follow the story that landed her in the home of a stranger. It’s a mystery that comes with a series of hidden clues, a trio of meddling Indian aunties, and a handsome next-door neighbor. For Meena it’s a chance for newfound friendships, community, and culture she never thought possible. And a window into her past she never expected.

Now as everything
unknown to Meena comes into focus, she must reconcile who she wants to be with who she really is.


Namrata Patel is an Indian American writer who resides in Boston. Her writing examines diaspora and dual-cultural identity among Indian Americans and explores this dynamic while also touching on the families we’re born with and those we choose. Namrata has lived in India, New Jersey, Spokane, London, and New York City and has been writing most of her adult life. For more information visit www.nampatel.com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

She Was A Voracious Reader Growing Up!

Karen White

I grew up being a voracious reader and it was a natural step to turn my interest to writing. I have published 28 award-winning and bestselling novels including my latest release, THE CHRISTMAS SPIRITS ON TRADD STREET, published by Penguin Random House in October, 2019. This is the 6th book in the Tradd Street series, and was followed by the final book, THE ATTIC ON QUEEN STREET,  published on November 2, 2021. THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDON, was published on April 20, 2021.

I write what others have termed "grit-lit"—southern women's fiction, as well as a contemporary paranormal mystery series (The House on Tradd Street is the 1st book in the series) set in Charleston, South Carolina.

I have also written three collaborations with bestselling authors Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams.  ALL THE WAYS WE SAID GOODBYE, was published my William Morrow in January, 2012. We are hard at work on book #4, scheduled for publication in September, 2022.

This March my book The Shop on Royal Street was published. It's about Nola Trenholm who is hopeful for a fresh start in the Big Easy but must deal with ghosts from her past—as well as new ones— this is the first book in a spin-off series.

After a difficult detour on her road to adulthood, Nola Trenholm is looking to begin anew in New Orleans, and what better way to start her future than with her first house? But the historic fixer-upper she buys comes with even more work than she anticipated when the house’s previous occupants don’t seem to be ready to depart.

Although she can’t communicate with ghosts like her stepmother can, luckily Nola knows someone in New Orleans who is able to—even if he’s the last person on earth she wants anything to do with ever again. Beau Ryan comes with his own dark past—a past that involves the disappearance of his sister and parents during Hurricane Katrina—and he’s connected to the unsolved murder of a woman who once lived in the old Creole cottage Nola is determined to make her own...whether the resident restless spirits agree or not.


Karen White has two grown children (one of whom appears in several of her books under the alias of Meghan Black), and lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two cute Havanese dogs, Quincy and Sophie Belle. Readers may recognize Quincy as General Lee in the Tradd Street series.


Visit Karen's website at www.karen-white.com or connect on social media: Facebook: Facebook.com/karenwhiteauthor, Twitter: @KarenWhiteWrite 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Where'd My Giggle Go? Helping kids

Max Lucado



A whimsical picture book from New York Times bestselling author Max Lucado, Where'd My Giggle Go? helps your kids process their emotions in a fun, healthy way so they can transform from grumpy to laugh-out-loud happy.

"I felt kind of cranky. I felt kind of sad. I can't tell you why, but I even felt mad." For every child who sometimes feels out of sorts and doesn't know why, Where'd My Giggle Go? helps normalize and dissipate negative emotions in a delightful way.

A perfect read-aloud, Where'd My Giggle Go? provides:A natural way for you to talk with your kids about how we all get sad sometimes. 

A reminder that we can help others find their happiness

With colorful illustrations from Sarah Jennings, this book is:

  • Great for ages 4-8
  • Brilliant for classroom discussions about processing feelings and emotions.
  • A resource to help parents discuss being sad, grumpy, anxious, or unhappy.

Where'd My Giggle Go? follows a boy who looks all over--from the circus to the bakery to his own pocket--for his giggle. After all, "No-giggle's no fun. No fun, no sirree. No-giggle is not the best way to be." Then he realizes that bringing happiness to others is the best way to find it himself. As he offers smiles and hugs, helps his mom wash the dishes, plays with a friend, and gives the dog a good tickle, he feels something deep, deep within start to wiggle. And before you know it, the boy starts to giggle!

A charming but powerful message reminding each of us that getting over the grumpies is just a giggle away.

This book won a Christian Book Award.


From all accounts, Max Lucado is not a man consumed by sales, awards, and achievements. He often turns down media interviews since they impede on family and ministry commitments. He spends the bulk of his week serving as senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. And he is truly surprised by his own success--more impressed by his one-in-a-million wife and three amazing daughters than by his successful writing career.

Friday, May 13, 2022

What Miracles Do We Miss?

What miracles do we miss when we close
 our eyes to the wonder of everyday moments?


In this busy, jaded world of ours, we often take for granted what we see every day. We may set aside time to spend with God in a quiet room, but we struggle to see his hand in a traffic jam or while walking the dog. But for Karen Wingate, sight itself is something extraordinary, and what our eyes can reveal is even more astounding.

Karen lived most of her life with severely limited sight due to a cluster of disorders stemming from a genetic defect. But through the chance outcome of a surgery, she regained sight in one eye that doubled her visual acuity--and allowed her to see things she had never seen before. And as she discovered a more detailed world for the first time, she also began to see God in every new discovery--from the prosaic numbers of a bathroom scale to the glory of sunsets.

With Fresh Eyes invites readers not only to celebrate the gift of their own sight but to reawaken to the wonder of what they observe in creation--great and small--and how God is working in everyday moments. In each of her sixty meditations, Karen's humor and whimsy draw a connection between physical sight and spiritual understanding that will leave readers with a renewed joy and delight in what is good and beautiful, and will reassure them that God still works in the lives of his people.


Karen Wingate loves to give readers a fresh look of wonder at life, the world, and God through her speaking and writing. A long-time devotional writer, Karen shares the personal details of her gift of new eyesight in the middle years of her life in her latest book With Fresh Eyes. After living for years in the Midwest, Karen and her husband Jack now reside In Tucson, Arizona to be closer to family.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

What Did You Think You Would Do Growing UP?

Sara M. Robinson



Taking some notes and thoughts from the accomplished writer, Edward Hirsch, I now ask the question: Are we born to write? I also would ask, are we born to write poetry? How do we know poetry is what we want?


I bet that when most of us were growing up we didn’t give much thought to a future writing career. I know I certainly didn’t. I was too busy riding my bicycle, hanging out with friends, reading comic books, and mostly being a kid. Some of my friends kept diaries and sometimes they would share little rhyming poems they penned. Most of these were little ditties about pretend boyfriends and pets.


At some point, we became writers. Many found it early in life, and many, like me, found writing much later. That’s not so unique. Frank McCord didn’t write his inaugural novel Angela’s Ashes until he was sixty-nine. Does that mean we have to wait until we are well passed middle-age before we can write? For some of us, the right side of the brain did not kick in until later in life. For others, it may mean that we were so busy either doing other types of art or we were simply busy with life. John Lennon once said something like: “Life happens while you are making other plans.” I had an artist friend, who in her late 80s published her first book of poetry. It was a tour de force. Extraordinary effort.


This brings me up to a characteristic that is essential to the education. Ambition. A strong desire to achieve something. We must want to write poetry as much as anything else. Why is this so important? Because it is the “driver” of this car we call poetry (See an earlier column titled When We Wrap Works Up & Move On). We look for the impetus that gets us up and then gets it done. Ambition will keep us wanting not to fail. And remember, failure is in your perception. No one is judging you or your poetry output. Your writing is not under any intense scrutiny. Your ambition is yours and yours alone. You give yourself permission to define your desire and how much education you want to put into your writing. I love to read poetry, poetry criticism, and pretty much anything that involves poetry.


My personal education is ongoing but that’s how I am. You may have a totally different approach and that is great.


Poetry is individual and so is the education of a poet. A last thought: Keep writing!



Until next time…


Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, and Poetica. She is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).


https://saramrobinson.com/

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Has Fate Bound You?




It is much better to love and risk hurt along the way, than to live a life without love! sr.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Book That Won The Christian Book Award!

 

The Christian Book of the Year


The Christian Book Award (R) honors the "best of the year" book: Prayer in the Night written by Tish Harrison-Warren.

The Christian Book Award® program honors the "best of the year" in 12 categories. 

Each year they recognize the highest quality in Christian books and Bibles and is among the oldest and most prestigious awards program in the religious publishing industry.

One title is chosen as the Christian Book of the Year® to represent the year’s best book or Bible for its literary merit and extraordinary impact. 

Prayer in the Night is written is For Those Who Work, or Watch or Weep.

Tish Harrison-Warren poses the question "How can we trust God in the dark?"
Framed around a nighttime prayer of Compline (means Night Prayer, or the Prayers at the End of the Day), Tish, author of Liturgy of the Ordinary, explores themes of human vulnerability, suffering, and God's seeming absence. When she navigated a time of doubt and loss, the prayer was grounding for her. She writes that practices of prayer "gave words to my anxiety and grief and allowed me to reencounter the doctrines of the church not as tidy little antidotes for pain, but as a light in darkness, as good news."

Where do we find comfort when we lie awake worrying or weeping in the night? This book offers a prayerful and frank approach to the difficulties in our ordinary lives at work, at home, and in a world filled with uncertainty.




Tish Harrison Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. After eight years with InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries at Vanderbilt and The University of Texas at Austin, she currently serves as Co-Associate Rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA. She writes regularly for The Well, CT Women, and Christianity Today. Her work has also appeared in Comment Magazine, Christ and Pop Culture, Art House America, Anglicanpastor.com, and elsewhere. She is author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (IVP). She is from Austin, TX, and now lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two young daughters in a house chock full of books with no matching forks or matching socks anywhere to be found.

Monday, May 9, 2022

A Sprint or a Marathon?



Octavia Butler said, “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”


Octavia Estelle Butler was an American science fiction author and a multiple recipient of the Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, Butler became the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.



Born in Pasadena, California, Butler was raised by her widowed mother. Extremely shy as a child, Butler found an outlet at the library reading fantasy, and in writing. She began writing science fiction as a teenager. She attended community college during the Black Power movement, and while participating in a local writer's workshop, was encouraged to attend the Clarion Workshop, which focused on science fiction.

She soon sold her first stories and by the late 1970s had become sufficiently successful as an author that she was able to pursue writing full-time. Her books and short stories drew the favorable attention of the public and awards soon followed. She also taught writer's workshops, and eventually relocated to Washington. Butler died of a stroke at the age of 58. Her papers are held in the research collection of the Huntington Library.

Her book Kindred is considered her most popular novel. Kindred follows a young Black woman named Dana.


It tells the story of a modern black woman who is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

It is wonderful to put words on paper that have been forming in your head and see them those words in black and white. I find some people when they start writing, don’t know that writing takes effort. Writing can be fun, and writing can be tedious. There are days you don’t want to write and then there are days you don’t want to stop. But the more you write, the better you become. Like Octavia Butler said, we must be persistent.

Writing is also not a sprint. It is more like a marathon.

Susan Reichert, author of Listen Close, Between Me and You, God’s Prayer Power and Storms in Life. Published numerous magazine articles and stories in 9 anthology books. Speaker at writing conferences, seminars, and libraries.

She is the founder of Southern Author Services, and Editor of Suite T. She is the retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. Reichert has a passion for writing about God in devotionals, prayers, and inspirational works.

She and her husband live in Tennessee. They have four grown daughters with families of their own. Susan is a member of the DAR and a member of the First Families of Mississippi

Visit Susan at: https://www.susanlreichert.com/











Friday, May 6, 2022

The Story Behind The Sweet Life

 

Suzanne Woods Fisher


A reader sent me an email after reading the first chapter of The Sweet Life. “I can’t imagine any mother,” she wrote, “having surgery for breast cancer without telling her daughter.”

Uh, well, that would be me.

After a routine mammogram discovered breast cancer, I made a decision to not tell my family until after the surgery. Hold your judgment! I had good reasons.

First of all, I found out I had cancer on Christmas Eve (such a bummer!), my mother-in-law had just passed away, my youngest son was bringing his sweetheart home for Christmas, and it was clear an engagement was pending, my youngest daughter’s mother-in-law was undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. Too much! It was all too much.

So, I chose to keep my news to myself. I did leave a “just in case something goes wrong” note for my four adult children. About a week after the surgery, I told them. Yes, they were mad at me. More mad than worried.

But that was okay. I hadn’t wanted anyone to worry about me. After all, I had a book to write! And thank God I did, because “The Sweet Life” became a wonderful escape during six long weeks of radiation. Cathartic, too. I wove the whole experience into Marnie Dixon’s story—though breast cancer wasn’t a major plot line. Still, what you’ll read came from firsthand experience. It’s a very personal story for me.

The Sweet Life is a novel about Marnie and her daughter, Dawn, both in need of a fresh start. Dawn’s fiancĂ©, Kevin, has just called off the wedding. And Marnie…well, you already know about her back story. The two women end up on Cape Cod and Marnie, being a smidge impulsive, makes a low ball offer on a rundown ice cream shop. To her surprise, and Dawn’s horror, the offer was accepted. Suddenly, they’re in the ice cream business. And Marnie has never made ice cream before. Not once.

To circle back to my story…I’m doing great! That’s the thing about cancer, especially the all-too-common diagnosis of breast cancer—catch it early! It’s so curable. A note to all women who might be reading this post: please schedule your annual mammogram. Keep that appointment. And if, like me, you do end up with a diagnosis you hadn’t expected, please feel free to email me for encouragement. suzanne@suzannewoodsfisher.com


Suzanne Woods Fisher, with over 1.5 million copies sold, is a bestselling author of over 39 books, ranging from novels to children’s books to non-fiction. She is a Christy Award finalist, a winner of Carol and Selah awards, and a two-time finalist for ECPA Book of the Year. She writes stories that take you to places you’ve never visited—one with characters that seem like old friends. But most of all, her books give you something to think about long after you’ve finished reading them. Suzanne lives with her very big family in northern California.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Quality: What Is Its Worth?



Sara M. Robinson


I have been reading an old paperback from the past, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I venture to guess there are many readers who remember this book from some fifty years ago. All of my friends read it, but I was so left-brain that I missed it. Until this year. Now that I am a proud right-brain, this book is so timely for me. It’s not so much about taking care of a cycle, as it is a journey to find what matters. I love this because it speaks to me of my journey with Poetry Matters.


In the book, the narrator ponders on the definition of Quality and why a definition is important. In all the previous columns, I’ve likely danced around topics that lead to a successful poem, or at least a satisfying writing experience. I had not written about Quality. So, maybe it is something we should address. How would you define Quality?


Is Quality a description of an attribute? What was the first known “Quality something?” Seems to me there had to be a comparison to start with. But that is not satisfying as it is so subjective.


This conflict brings me to poetry. How would we describe a “Quality poem?” Is that description necessary? Today we often find so many things attached to the word Quality that I think it may have lost its original definition. Webster’s definition: “that which makes something what it is.”


A basic nature or attribute completes the definition.


Poetry is that something and each poem is what it is. Quality for poetry is a validation that means with each poem we write we can say it has Quality. This is an important statement because we can take pride in that our words created lines which led to a poem. When you complete your poem, you have created a Quality entity. Sure, this piece may need some further work or revision, but those are improvements or modifications and only work to enhance the Quality.


Your poems exist. Your poetry is relevant. Your poems would not exist or perhaps even disappear if Quality was subtracted. All literature would be in peril if Quality was to disappear.


As beautiful and as mysterious Quality is, so is poetry.


Think about your writing and what your work brings to you. Hint: When you write something, you put a part of yourself out there. That’s your Quality.


Amazing, isn’t it?



Until next time…



Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, and Poetica. She is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).


https://saramrobinson.com/

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

What Sparks a Story?



Ann H. Gabhart


Inspiration for story ideas can come in many ways. When the Meadow Blooms is my thirty-seventh published book. That is a garden full of ideas and a river flowing full of words. Sometimes I find it hard to go back to the initial idea that sets me off down a story road. It might be a historical event I’ve stumbled across or a special setting or a memory. But whatever that first story spark is, characters are what stir the creative fires.



That is certainly true for When the Meadow Blooms. After I finish one book, then I start thinking about what I might want to write next. I look for that special something to beckon me down a new writing trail. That was when two young girls began walking around in my imagination and sharing the troubles that had caused them to end up in an orphanage in the early 1900’s. I loved these two sisters even before I knew their names. I did know they were not happy at the orphanage. From my research, I discovered that many orphanages at that time were very structured and quick to punish those children who struggled to learn and abide by the rules.



Calla, at fourteen, does all right, but nine-year-old Sienna is different. Sienna loves anything in the natural world and has a way of forgetting to listen to those in charge while she admires some gift of nature. That might be something as common as a spider weaving a web, a bug crawling up a wall, or the sound of a bird singing outside a window. Nature is food and drink for her. Her inattention and daydreaming cause her to be in continual trouble. The first line in the chapter that introduces Calla and Sienna to readers is “Sienna was in trouble again.”



Of course, if my sisters are in an orphanage, something has gone wrong in their lives to make that so. That’s when I began to explore their family background. Their father died in the 1918 flu epidemic and their mother, Rose, is being treated for tuberculosis at a sanatorium. Tuberculosis is a disease that has been around forever, but in the 19th century tuberculosis went on a rampage, a tide of death known at the time as The White Plague. Many children did lose their parents to tuberculosis and other diseases and were taken to orphanages.



Now I had my sisters at the orphanage and the mother at the sanatorium. They needed someone to rescue them. So, another character came to life for this story. Dirk Meadows, the brother of the girls’ father, turns out to be their only hope of escaping the orphanage. Dirk has his own problems, both physical scars from almost dying in a barn fire and emotional scars from losing the love of his life. Much is unknown about the disappearance of that young woman, Anneliese, but her memory still haunts Dirk, especially in the spring since they had made promises to one another for when the meadows bloomed.



Due to the dreadful scars on Dirk’s face and his bitterness about life in general, he lives a reclusive life and rarely goes away from his farm called Meadowland, both for the name of its owner and for the beautiful meadows. He is the last man anyone would expect to invite three females into his life. Since he and his brother were estranged due to a disagreement over the farm, he has never met Calla and Sienna. He does know his brother died, but assumes his widow would have remarried.



Other characters step in and out of the story pages, but Rose, Calla, Sienna and Dirk are the four the story is built around.



Once I had my characters alive in my imagination, I began to think about the lovely Meadowland Farm setting as being a place where they all might find healing. I grew up on a farm and love country life. That made it a pleasure to imagine Meadowland with its river bottom fields and the sweet little river that borders it on one side. That river turned out to be a focal place for many of the scenes in the story.



I also love flowers and butterflies and like Sienna, making discoveries in the beautiful world around us. I had a great time stepping into Sienna’s character to see what we both could discover. While Sienna is ready to pet any animal from mice to snakes to crows, in real life I am more like Calla and happy chasing after butterflies and leaving those spiders and snakes alone.



But even in the most beautiful places, troubles can come along to derail dreams and hopes. My young characters do so want a forever home, but secrets from the past threaten to spoil the promise of their future. Will all my characters learn to trust the Lord to turn their burdens into something beautiful?



Ann H. Gabhart, bestselling author of more than thirty-five novels, writes stories using Kentucky history and locations. She writes about family life, love, and mystery (as A.H. Gabhart) in small towns like the little Kentucky town where she grew up. Her popular Shaker novels are set in her fictional Harmony Hill Shaker village and recently she has shared stories set in the Appalachian region of Kentucky such as her recent Selah Award finalist, Along a Storied Trail. Her new release, When the Meadow Blooms, is set on a farm along the Salt River. Ann and her husband enjoy country life in rural Kentucky where Ann enjoys discovering the everyday wonders of nature while hiking in her farm’s fields and woods with her grandchildren and her dogs, Frankie and Marley. Learn more about Ann and her books at www.annhgabhart.com.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

All That Fills Us



Autumn Lytle



The idea for All That Fills Us came to me around 4am one morning when I was making my way to the bathroom. 



I still have the note I jotted down on my phone after than fateful bathroom trip. It starts out, “An anorexic girl whose family has left her (died? Moved aboard?) is hospitalized for her condition. While she’s there, she sees a vision of the West Coast and an important person telling her to come…”



I didn’t go back to sleep after that, I just kept typing. As the glow from my phone mixed with the early morning light, I threw on a sports bra, tied my running shoes, and headed out for a long and thoughtful run. When I came back, full of endorphins and my brain flooded with ideas, I felt like I was really onto something.



All I needed now was a destination, inspiration, and plenty of help for my character along the way.



It wasn’t hard for me to pick a destination for Mel’s (The protagonist in All That Fills Us) thru-hike. My husband and I had taken our own cross-country trek (albeit, by car) to Mt. Rainier National Park the year before. I know it sounds a little lame to say the experience was transformative, but it totally was. I had never seen mountains like that, never seen water that shade of emerald, never felt so okay with feeling so small beneath towering trees. My character Mel is a lot like me a few years back when I was battling my own disorders, so I knew exactly what she needed. She needed to find restoration. She needed somewhere she could follow like a beacon, somewhere where she could feel overwhelmed by God’s beauty and somewhere that would make it nearly impossible not to recognize that same beauty in herself. So, off to Mt. Rainier she went.



Now, most people would say that setting out for a 2,000-mile journey on foot isn’t the safest thing for a young woman to do alone. Add in the fact that she’s anorexic and you may have some questions regarding her sanity, or perhaps the sanity of the author. But I knew the world of literature was severely lacking when it came to giving an honest portrayal of what living with an eating disorder looked like. Based on my personal experience with eating disorders and exercise obsessions, I felt like it wasn’t unreasonable for me to accept the challenge of filling that literary gap.



I think one of the biggest problems with portraying mental health disorders in literature is that most characters struggling with these issues lack the energy and the stamina for any sort of plot to develop. They are so wrapped up in their own darkness that they can’t always engage in the ongoing drama and character development happening around them. I didn’t want that for my character. I wanted my readers to have some physical representation of her journey towards healing. By having Mel set out on this enormous task, readers can see that even with her missteps and wrong turns, she’s still moving towards a greater goal. The journey towards healing is long and winding, so I hope readers get a sense of that while walking alongside Mel.



When I was cycling through all the different obstacles Mel could run into on her journey, I was careful to keep in mind the fact that in this story, Mel is her own worst enemy. Her dark thoughts, her eroded self-confidence, her obsessions that drain her life away… Those are the things she needs to fear most and those are what she needs to overcome. For that reason, I decided to gift her helpers along the way instead of adversaries. I wanted to remind her and the reader that this journey can’t be completed alone. I couldn’t hope to tell an honest story about healing without paying tribute to all those who helped me find my own way back to health. The number of times a loved one reached down to pull me out of the darkness of my own making is one I’ll never know.



I think people often want healing to look heroic. They want it to have a tidy start and finish line. They want big moments of realization and fireworks and motivational music playing in the background. They want to show the world they can get themselves out of this mess and stand victorious on the other side, ready to share all the life lessons they learned along the way. But at least in my experience, healing doesn’t work like that. It’s incredibly messy (no matter how often I’ve examined my life I can’t find anything close to a clear-cut reason that I stopped eating and started doing thousands of jumping jacks in secret). There are plenty of moments of startling realization, but that’s only because I always seemed to forget the epiphany entirely within the next few minutes and would have to relearn the lesson a dozen more times that week. I would try time and time again to crawl to that vague finish line of healing all by myself, always to fail unless someone swooped in right before my collapse and let me lean against their shoulder.



So, after a summer of frantically scribbling down notes of inspiration, a year of writing, and a year and a half or waiting and refining and rewriting, All That Fills Us looks a little different than what I first pieced together that morning so long ago, but the heart of it beats strong and beautifully. Life’s struggles don’t always produce tangible good, but sometimes we are blessed with seeing meaning of these events in this lifetime. And I hope it doesn’t sound too audacious to say my hope is that All That Fills Us can turn the darkest period of my life into light for even just a few others.



And that’s my greatest hope for All That Fills Us- That it makes those of us on the road to recovery and the ones walking alongside us feel seen and a little less alone.



Autumn Lytle identifies with a strange group of humans who enjoy running long distances and writing even longer books. Along with being a forever-recovering anorexic and exercise addict, she is a weirdly good checkers player and finder of four-leaf clovers. 

She spends her days thinking up stories and trying to figure out this whole parenting thing with her son. She can often be found out exploring her hometown of Seattle, Washington, with her family in tow. 

Learn more at www.AutumnLytle.com.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Natalie Walters Answers The "What If?"




Natalie Walters



The plot for Fatal Code came about, I think, like most stories do when an author comes across a bit of information that makes them ask, “What if?”



That exact moment happened to me while visiting a family member who lived in Los Alamos, New Mexico. If you’re not familiar with Los Alamos that’s the location where the atomic bomb was developed and created. It’s also the location of the Los Alamos National Laboratory—a top secret, government facility that continues to design projects in the fields of science, technology, and engineering.



I had the opportunity to visit the museum and learn about the history of the laboratory, the contributions made by the scientists, engineers, and developers, and how seriously they protect the work happening there. Working at the labs requires top secret security clearances and if a scientists leaves, they (and their home) are thoroughly investigated to make sure no secret leaves with them.



And this was my moment! What if a scientist was working on a project that never fully became developed. It was left unfinished but the parts…the plan was still there? How could I make this happen? Through research I did discover that there have been a few cases in which top secret plans have been stolen from the labs and so with that as my guide I began brainstorming my plot.



With the plot in mind, I knew the next thing I needed to figure out was, were there characters who would be smart enough to figure out what they stumbled upon when they discovered the unfinished project. Enter, Kekoa Young, a former Navy Cryptologist and cyber-genius (according to him and his team) who grew up cracking codes as a junior sleuth and Elinor Mitchell, an inquisitive aerospace engineer who was raised by her physicist grandfather.



When I began creating Kekoa’s character, he started out as this fun, no-worries, kind of character who didn’t take life too seriously. I needed him to take this plot seriously, the fate of the world was at hand…okay, a bit dramatic but also kind of true. I had to figure out why Kekoa was the way he was and soon discovered that his boisterous confidence happens behind the safety of his computer. Put him in a position of having to protect someone and he is reliving his worst nightmare. Make him lie about it, well now I’ve put him on a ledge.



Especially if the person he’s lying to already struggles with trusting others. I knew I needed my heroine to struggle with trust and what better (or awful) way than to give her two parents who willingly dropped her off with her grandfather because they had more important jobs to do than raise her. This abandonment causes Elinor to question what she did or why she wasn’t good enough for her parents to stick around and leaves her to guard herself against relationships for fear of driving them away too.



In writing Fatal Code, the story that started out as plot-driven, quickly became character-driven as I weaved the insecurities of both characters into a plot that would force both of them to confront their flaws and then decide how to overcome it. It’s that conquering moment, when the characters defeat the lies that hold them back that make me as a reader and writer happiest.



Natalie Walters is the author of Lights Out, as well as the Harbored Secrets series. A military wife, she currently resides in Texas with her soldier husband and is the proud mom of three. She loves traveling, spending time with her family, and connecting with readers on Instagram and Facebook. Learn more at www.NatalieWaltersWriter.com.