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Thursday, August 18, 2022

America's Overdose Crisis by Beth Macy

Beth Macy



Nearly a decade into the second wave of America's overdose crisis, pharmaceutical companies have yet to answer for the harms they created. As pending court battles against opioid makers, distributors, and retailers drag on, addiction rates have soared to record-breaking levels during the COVID pandemic, illustrating the critical need for leadership, urgency, and change. Meanwhile, there is scant consensus between law enforcement and medical leaders, nor an understanding of how to truly scale the programs that are out there, working at the ragged edge of capacity and actually saving lives.

Distilling this massive, unprecedented national health crisis down to its character-driven emotional core as only she can, Beth Macy takes us into the country’s hardest hit places to witness the devastating personal costs that one-third of America's families are now being forced to shoulder. Here we meet the ordinary people fighting for the least of us with the fewest resources, from harm reductionists risking arrest to bring lifesaving care to the homeless and addicted to the activists and bereaved families pushing to hold Purdue and the Sackler family accountable. These heroes come from all walks of life; what they have in common is an up-close and personal understanding of addiction that refuses to stigmatize—and therefore abandon—people who use drugs, as big pharma execs and many politicians are all too ready to do.

Like the treatment innovators she profiles, Beth Macy meets the opioid crisis where it is—not where we think it should be or wish it was. Bearing witness with clear eyes, intrepid curiosity, and unfailing empathy, she brings us the crucial next installment in the story of the defining disaster of our era, one that touches every single one of us, whether directly or indirectly. A complex story of public health, big pharma, dark money, politics, race, and class that is by turns harrowing and heartening, infuriating and inspiring, Raising Lazarus is a must-read for all Americans.


Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America's Overdose Crisis


A “deeply reported, deeply moving” (Patrick Radden Keefe) account of everyday heroes fighting on the front lines of the overdose crisis.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Dopesick (inspiration for the Peabody Award-winning Hulu limited series) and Factory Man.

Beth Macy is a journalist who writes about outsiders and underdogs. Her writing has won more than two dozen national journalism awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard, a J. Anthony Lukas Prize for "Factory Man,” and an L.A. Times Book Prize for “Dopesick,” which was made into a Peabody Award-winning series for Hulu starring Michael Keaton. All three of her books, including her second book, “Truevine,” were instant New York Times bestsellers.

Her fourth book with Little, Brown and Co., “Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis,” publishes in August 2022. It is the essential follow-up to “Dopesick”: an account of the activists and ordinary people working to fight the crisis by saving lives, erasing the stigma of addiction, and holding those in power—from drugmakers to lawmakers—responsible.

She lives in Roanoke, Virginia, with her husband, Tom, and Mavis, their rescue mutt.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

One of the Most Influential Books of the Decade

Bryan Stevenson


Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.


Bryan was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.




Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction • Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction • Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award • Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize • Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize • An American Library Association Notable Book


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING MICHAEL B. JORDAN AND JAMIE FOXX •

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.


“Every bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so . . . a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields.”—David Cole, The New York Review of Books
“Searing, moving . . . Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America’s Mandela.”—Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

“You don’t have to read too long to start cheering for this man. . . . The message of this book . . . is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful.”—Ted Conover, The New York Times Book Review

“Inspiring . . . a work of style, substance and clarity . . . Stevenson is not only a great lawyer, he’s also a gifted writer and storyteller.”—The Washington Post


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Better for the Soul!

 

Jennifer L. Wright



has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home.

She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, one grumpy old dachshund, and her newest obsession—a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup.


For fans of WWII fiction comes a powerful novel by Jennifer L. Wright, Come Down Somewhere about two young women coming of age during the Trinity nuclear bomb test in 1945. Sixteen-year-old Olive Alexander has lived on a ranch in the Jornada del Muerto region of southern New Mexico her entire life. But when World War II begins, the government seizes her family’s land for the construction of a new, top secret Army post. While her mother remains behind, Olive is forced to live in nearby Alamogordo with her grandmother and find a place in a new school. When Jo Hawthorne crosses her path, Olive sees a chance for friendship—until she learns that Jo’s father is the Army sergeant who now occupies her beloved ranch. Already angry about her new reality, Olive pushes Jo away. But as she struggles to make sense of her grandmother’s lapses into the past and increasingly unsettling hints about what’s happening at the ranch, she slowly warms to Jo’s winsome faith and steady attempts at friendship . . . until one devastating day when the sky explodes around them and their lives are torn apart. Seven years later, Jo returns to Alamogordo, still angry and wounded by the betrayals of that fateful day. Determined to put the past behind her once and for all, Jo hunts for answers and begins to realize the truth may be far more complicated than she believed, leading her on a desperate search to find her friend before it’s too late.


She is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers Association), and can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and sometimes (but very rarely) on Twitter.

Her debut novel, “If It Rains,” was nominated for a Kipp Award in the Historical Fiction Category.

Come Down Somewhere,” her second novel, will be released on September 6, 2022 and is now available for pre-order.

Follow her on https://jennwrightwrites.com/ , Goodreads, BookBub, and Amazon for the latest updates on book releases, events, and more!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Key Ingredients for Top-Notch Split-Time



Amanda Wen


Whether you call it split-time, time slip, or dual timeline, books containing multiple timelines are gaining in popularity. And recent runaway bestsellers like Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing and Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours show the genre has the potential for some serious staying power. If you’re interested in trying your hand at writing split-time, here are a few key ingredients for a successful split-time story.


Two (or more) historical eras. Typically, one timeline is in the here and now, whereas the other is set sometime in the past. When should you set your past timeline? Whenever you want! Melanie Dobson and Kristy Cambron have written stories focusing on World War II-era past timelines, while Ashley Clark visits the Civil War era in her most recent release (Where the Last Rose Blooms) and Amanda Dykes will take us to 1800s Venice in her next book (All the Lost Places, releasing in December 2022). Jaime Jo Wright’s The Souls of Lost Lake takes us to the 1930s, Rachel Hauck and I have both set past stories in the 1950s, and Amanda Cox’s past timelines tend to be very recent, even as recent as the 1990s!


Linking Object. Most split-time stories involve some tangible object that links the past storyline with the present. Frequently the present-day characters encounter the object in some way and endeavor to learn about its past. The sky’s the limit when it comes to something like this, and I’ve seen lots of creative linking objects including a ring (Heidi Chiavaroli’s award-winning debut, Freedom’s Ring), a violin (Kristy Cambron’s The Butterfly and The Violin), a love letter (Pepper Basham’s Hope Between the Pages), and a steamboat (Rachel Scott McDaniel’s Undercurrent of Secrets).


I used a farmhouse in my debut, Roots of Wood and Stone, and in its sequel, The Songs That Could Have Been, an Alzheimer’s-stricken grandma served to link the two stories. Perhaps my favorite use of a linking object was a scarf in Susan Meissner’s A Fall of Marigolds; this scarf was actually missing for a good chunk of the story, so instead of searching for information about it, the characters searched for the scarf itself!


Common Theme. Many split-time stories contain similar—though not identical—themes for the present and past stories, although it can vary from author to author and even book to book. In Roots of Wood and Stone, both the contemporary heroine, Sloane, and the past heroine, Annabelle, experienced parental abandonment. How they reacted to and learned from this abandonment shaped both their character arcs.


Other books explore similar issues against the backdrop of different historical contexts. Heidi Chiavaroli’s The Orchard House explores spousal abuse in both storylines, while in Erin Bartels’ debut, We Hope For Better Things, all three (yes, three!) timelines feature interracial relationships. Setting the same situation in different eras proves fascinating for both reader and author!


Once you’ve got these ingredients assembled, mix thoroughly. This mixing is critical to split-time success. If, say, you can lift your past timeline out of the story and the present one doesn’t change at all, you might be better served fleshing out both and turning them into two separate stories! The best split-times are those where the past timeline is framework on which the present timeline is built. Neither story would be complete without the other. This is, I think, what presents the biggest challenge and greatest reward of these types of stories, and why despite having to do double the work (two eras to research, two story arcs to get right, figuring out just how and when to switch timelines to keep the plot moving), I love this genre and don’t plan to quit writing it anytime soon!


If you’d like to dive deeper into the craft of split-time writing, Melanie Dobson and Morgan Tarpley Smith have written a book on exactly that. A Split In Time: How to Write Dual Timeline, Time Slip, and Split-Time Fiction will help you navigate all the nuts and bolts of this challenging, but rewarding genre! And if you’re a fan of all things split-time, be sure to join our Facebook group, A Split In Time, where we share news about upcoming releases, reviews of books we’ve read, and the general joy of reading stories with multiple timelines.


Amanda Wen’s debut novel, Roots of Wood and Stone, released to both reader and critical acclaim. The book was named a 2021 Foreword INDIES Gold Award winner and was a finalist in both the Christy and Carol Awards. In addition to her writing, Amanda is an accomplished professional cellist and pianist who frequently performs with orchestras, chamber groups, and her church’s worship team, as well as serving as a choral accompanist. A lifelong denizen of the flatlands, Amanda currently lives in Kansas with her patient, loving, and hilarious husband, their three adorable Wenlets, and a snuggly Siamese cat. She loves to connect with readers through her newsletter and share book recommendations on BookBub. 


Friday, August 12, 2022

Writing by Faith, Not by Sight

 

Carolyn Miller


G’day from Australia! 

As an Aussie author I love to connect with readers from around the world, so it’s great to “see” you today. It’s been an exciting journey over the past few years, and I’m proud that with my newest historical release, Midnight’s Budding Morrow, I’ve now got over twenty published books. But it wasn’t an easy start. Especially for someone from “Down Under,” with limited opportunities to meet US agents or publishers at conferences, which is the usual way traditionally published authors gain representation.



The way I found my agent, and ultimately my US publisher, was through entering writing contests. Lots and lots of writing contests. And eventually, after applying the feedback given, it led to my writing improving, which ultimately led to becoming a contest finalist. So, then I started finaling, in lots and lots of contests (but never winning). It got to a point when I said to God that this would be the last contest I entered, because I didn’t have the heart to continue spending money on contest entry fees only to meet with yet more rejection. So, I entered one last contest. Then, in the new year, discovered I’d won.



That win led to an agent’s interest, but then the process began anew. This publisher was interested, then they weren’t. Another publisher was interested, but never responded to my agent. It got to a point where I kept writing, with close to ten books stashed in my computer, both historical and contemporary, wondering if a publisher would ever take the leap of faith one day on an unknown author from Australia. I completed a NaNoWriMo challenge, and as part of my win had the opportunity to self-publish my book. I loaded it up, all ready to go, when I felt this internal nudge say “don’t.” It was the last day I could take advantage of this great offer, but I heeded the internal hesitation and refrained. The next day I got an amazing offer from a publisher who took that first single book and soon offered me a three-book series. That series did so well they offered another series. Then another. These books have gone throughout the world, been translated and more, reaching people I never would have expected when that story idea first bloomed here in my little town in Australia.



I look back now and wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t said listened to that nudge (I think it was God). I’m so grateful that I did heed that warning, and for the opportunities I’ve had since then. It’s given me the confidence to step into other genres and to see some of those initial books released to the world at long last.



I think we shouldn’t be scared to investigate opportunities when they arise. After nine historicals I stepped into writing contemporaries (which is where I’d originally begun), and now have a readership of both. I couldn’t have done that at the start of my writing career, so I’m grateful for the advice to stay focused on one genre. But now I’ve had more experience, I’m glad I don’t need to limit myself to one style of writing, that the stories I feel God imprinted on my heart can be shared with others around the world.



Sometimes an author writes by faith, not by sight. We don’t know what opportunities await us, but if we keep writing, keep learning and improving our craft, keep trying, we’ll be ready when those opportunities pass our way.



One of the very first books I ever wrote was a contemporary romance called Love on Ice, after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, when I saw an Aussie female athlete holding hands with a US male athlete and wondered what their story was. I finally saw a much rewritten and edited version of this book published just in time for the Winter Olympics this year. It might’ve taken twelve years but writing and publishing experience and a LOT of hard work over the years finally saw this dream come true.



My recent Gothic-flavored historical Midnight’s Budding Morrow has a heroine who steps into a new role when opportunity presents itself. It proves very challenging for her, but Sarah is not afraid of hard work, and her new role sees her ultimately blessing many others, something that wouldn’t have happened if she’d stayed content with the status quo and hadn’t obeyed that God-prompted internal nudge. Who knows who will be blessed on the other side of our obedience?



We don’t know what the future holds, but seeing our lives are but a short dash between our birth and death it makes sense to set ourselves up to be ready for when opportunity arises. So maybe that means writing the story of your heart. Maybe that means saying yes to something new or different, that doesn’t fit the status quo or what other people expect of you. Maybe that means working hard now so you can take that dream vacation and switch off for ten days on a tropical island. Whatever it is, I pray that we won’t be people who shrink back, but press on, into all that God has for us, so we can experience the ‘life to the full’ that Jesus offers his followers.



So, keep trying, keep hoping, keep believing that your ‘one day’ will happen. Keep trusting God has good plans for you and take a step believing for the exceedingly abundant life of more. That’s living by faith, and this life is for living, no matter where we are in the world.





Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years and worked as a public high school English teacher. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and LM Montgomery, Carolyn loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her contemporary romance series includes the Original Six hockey romance series, and the Independence Islands series, and her historical series include the Regency Brides and Regency Wallflowers series.

Connect with her:

website | newsletter| facebook | pinterest | twitter | instagram | amazon | bookbub



Thursday, August 11, 2022

Using Your Pain to Enhance Your Novel Writing

 Janyre Tromp


Write what you know.

The oft heard adage isn’t necessarily a charge to write your memoir or a requirement to only write characters that have the same occupation as you. It’s an encouragement to take the emotions, experiences, and stories you know and weave them into your writing. It’s an opportunity to give powerful, compelling depth to your characters—things that sell books and get people talking.

So, when I started writing a story sparked by my grandparents’ experience post-WWII, I infused my own childhood trauma into a story dealing with PTSD (Shadows in the Mind’s Eye). But when my daughter became deathly ill, the terrifying experiences gave me an entirely different level of fear and hurt and anger.

I wanted all the pain to mean something. I wanted to find a way through to the other side, to use what I’d learned in a way that made my story even more authentic and the journey for the reader that much more arresting.

But how does one go about using the pain of the past in their writing?

1.      1. It ain’t about you.

Books are meant to benefit the reader. While writing can be cathartic, sometimes it takes several years for your mind and body to settle enough to write directly about trauma in a way that invites the reader into the story. Until that point, you’re still living the story, sorting emotions, and healing. You have to complete the journey yourself before you can draw a map to the words “The End.”

2.      2. Journal in the moment.

That said, journal your feelings, discoveries, and research. It’s amazing what details you’ll forget a few years down the road. I didn’t want to forget what it feels like to wake up from a nightmare and momentarily not know if we’re in the hospital again or not because that feeling is exactly what my hero, Sam, felt in my book when his PTSD blurs the lines between reality and nightmare.

3.      3. Give your experience breadth.

Just because you haven’t experienced a specific kind of pain doesn’t mean that your feelings and experiences don’t transfer. For me I don’t have battlefield PTSD like Sam, but I could take the helpless feelings and panic I know all too well and combine that with extensive research to create a realistic world for Sam who, it seems “the war had got hold of like a terrier and wouldn’t let go.” And sometimes writing about a similar emotion in a different setting (not writing directly about the pain) is not only cathartic, but effective. A friend of mine was struggling with her kids not sleeping and wrote a RomCom that brought in some of the frustration, but in a way that made everyone laugh.

4.       4. Make delving into a group activity.

Writing in isolation . . . especially writing about painful topics can send an author in a downward spiral. If you plan to write a character with deep emotional wounds, you’ll be putting yourself in their world. You will feel the dark moment of the soul and it will remind you of your own. Without friends, family, or maybe even a professional, you could easily get stuck there.

5.       5. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel.

They say a writer who cries over her keyboard will create readers who cry over their books. And that’s a good thing . . . except when it’s not. There were times I just couldn’t. So, I made notes to myself in the manuscript about scenes I needed to go back to.

    There was a scene about Sam & Annie’s daughter that took me some time to be     able to write, but I wrote it, and I love it now. Another thing I struggled with was         how to wrap up a book that was about mental health struggles. For many of us,     we don’t just get over it and things don’t go back to “normal.” I wanted a realistic     ending. One that shows the hope I have, and that light can sneak through the         broken places, but it isn’t without struggle. No matter what experience you have,      it’s a valid and necessary discussion.

Whatever your experience and whatever your genre, using your own past experiences and pain can take your book to another level. What other suggestions would you give to writers working to enhance their writing with their own real-life experience?



Janyre Tromp is a developmental editor by day and writer of historical novels with a dose of suspense at night. And that all happens from her kitchen table when she’s not hanging out with her husband, two kids, two troublesome cats, and slightly eccentric Shetland Sheepdog.



Twitter: www.twitter.com/JanyreTromp

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JanyreTromp

Instagram: www.instagram/JanyreTromp



http://JanyreTromp.com

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

How to Prepare Your Writing Contest Entry



Erica Vetsch


It’s writing contest season! Know how I know? Because it’s Writing Contest Judging Season!

I’m a judge in several writing contests each year, and I love it. I see a wide variety of entries in these contests, and a few that would have scored higher if the writer had followed a few simple tips. These tips, if followed, can mean the difference between winning and not.

1. Maximize the Easy Points! – This means reading and following all the contest guidelines. Everything from proper formatting to entering your work in the correct category. Every year I see people lose guaranteed points because they didn’t follow the directions. Contests often dictate the spacing, margins, length of (or whether you need) a synopsis, etc. Don’t throw away points on something that is TOTALLY under your control.

2. Get Help! – If you’re a grammar maven, you have a leg up on a lot of novelists. Frequently, one of the judged areas is: Does the entrant have a good grasp of grammar and punctuation? Sadly, the answer to this is often, no. Hire an editor, swap critiques with a punctuation ninja writer friend, find your old English teacher and offer her flowers and chocolates if she’ll look over and correct your work. Lots of points are lost because of grammar and punctuation mistakes.

3. Check for Balance! – Do you have pages and pages of narrative with no dialogue? Or snappy, on the nose dialogue that reads like a ping-pong match, but no setting or description? Print your entry, spread it on the floor, and stand back. Is it covered in white space, or is there no white space at all? A good story needs a balance of both dialogue and narrative, and if your story is heavy on one or the other, it will lose valuable points in the judging.

4. Know the Basics! – If you don’t understand showing vs. telling or point of view, resisting the urge to explain or the hallmarks of the genre you’re trying to write, your ms isn’t going to fare too well. Find a critique partner or two, take some classes, learn the basics before you waste entry money on a contest, only to hemorrhage points.

I would encourage you to study the guidelines and goals of the writing contests you hope to enter and see if they align with your own. What do you hope to get out of a writing contest? Validation that you’re on the right track? A trophy and bragging rights? Honest feedback that will help you grow as a writer? Each writer has a different reason for entering a writing contest, and if you manage your expectations, and take the time to ensure your content is the best it can be, you will be one step closer to achieving your writing goals. I hope to see your sparkling, shiny, brilliant work in a contest soon!



Erica Vetsch, Best-selling, award-winning author, loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she married her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at


where she spends way too much time!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Why Should I Read Poetry?

Sara M. Robinson


Recently I came across an old article, “The Importance of Reading Poetry.” This made me stop and think more about what I’ve shared with others about this importance. I have known poets who have told me they don’t read other poets’ works. When I asked why, the usual response was, “I’m too busy writing my own poems.” What?


If we are not reading other poets, we are missing out on a lot of great literature. There are so many great poets out there now that I can’t keep up. How can anyone ignore Wendell Berry?


Billy Collins? The late Mary Oliver? The rest of this column could be a list. But I want to take this space to give some suggestions and maybe some insight. I will draw on others who have responded to this question as well. Here’s a starting list:


1. Reading other poetry will increase your vocabulary and expand language.

2. Imitating other poets is a great way to learn to write poetry.

3. Pick up an anthology, such as The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, 2nd edition.(Edited by J.D.McClatchy). 1990.

4. Reading a variety of poems will train you to look for special forms, such as rhymes and flow.

5. Get outside your comfort zone and read everything you can. Even twice. Just don’t hurry.

6. Don’t live in a literary vacuum. Share your poetry unless you have decided that no one else will ever see it.

7. If you want others to read your poetry, then you must read what others are writing.


Think of reading poetry as the same as attending a symphony. Pick out parts you like and listen to the parts you don’t. Read some bad poetry and use this as a personal measuring stick for your writing. Also read translations and explore regional poetry, such as those from inner cities.


Lastly, unleash enthusiasm for poetry. Yours included. Don’t think of other poets as competitors. Remember, a rising tide floats all ships.



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/

Monday, August 8, 2022

Making Wonderful Friendships

 


INTERVIEW 

with

Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall

Authors of Yesterday’s Gone



CINDY WOODSMALL is a New York Times and CBA bestselling author of twenty-five works of fiction and one nonfiction book. Coverage of Cindy’s writing has been featured on ABC’s Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She lives in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains with her husband, just a short distance from two of her three sons and her six grandchildren.




ERIN WOODSMALL is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of four. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. More recently she and Cindy have coauthored five books, one of which was a winner of the prestigious Christy award.



What inspired you to write Yesterday’s Gone?

Erin experienced the same kind of loss as our beloved character Eliza in Yesterday’s Gone. When we experience a hard loss, our root system to God, to ourselves, to close family members, to friends often sustains trauma. When roots sustain trauma, our family tree may or may not survive it. I thought our family was incredibly strong, but at one point in the grieving process, I wasn’t sure we’d make it out whole. Why? How on earth is that even possible? It didn’t make logical sense. Through a fictional story, Erin and I dared to explore the strengths and fragilities of our closest relationships.

How do you expect the novel to resonate with your audience? What are you most excited for your readers to experience through this story?

I think that like us, they’ll cry, laugh, be encouraged, and feel the joy of surprise. Our readers are very much rooted in using a portion of their time regularly to add to their whole being, and I think this story can be a fulfilling part of that journey. What are you most excited for your readers to experience through reading this story? I have to make a confession. I’ve spent entirely too much of my life longing to go back and make different decisions. Some of that kind of thinking can give us perspective, but too much of it is us using our limited energy and valuable time on beating a dead horse or crying over spilled milk. How do we learn to forgive ourselves and accept life for what it is? I’m most excited that while readers are enjoying the journey in Yesterday’s Gone, they will soak in new ways of viewing acceptance, new ways of using their energy on what can be changed.

Please describe your writing process.

I like to spend a lot of time, often years, to mull over a story idea, nurturing it from a tiny seed to a grove of trees. That process stirs my creative soul and my excitement builds until I’m ready to give that story my all. Erin and I talked of this story idea for five years before we began to write it. Still, we only outline the first five to seven chapters so creativity has the final say in where the story takes us. When those chapters are written and we’ve honed them well, then we do the same for the next five to seven chapters. We repeat that process until the end of the book. We don’t decide up front who is writing what chapters or characters. We listen to our hearts.

What role does faith play in this story?
Faith is everything, and it plays a huge role, even when the struggle for a character is a lack of faith or anger with the seeming results of their faith. A huge question in life is Where is a person’s faith? Is it in themselves? In their loved ones? In God? In the medical field? In a system (school, political, religion)? If we’re honest with ourselves, faith is usually found in a combination of those things. But if our faith gets unbalanced, we can end up walking by opinion rather than walking by faith.

What lessons or truths do you hope people take away from Yesterday’s Gone?

In certain difficult circumstances, we can’t stop grief and pain, and if we try too hard to change what is, we simply end up doling out the pain differently rather than erasing it.


Can you give us a sneak peek into the main characters in the novel, Eliza Bontrager and Jesse Ebersol?

Eliza is a powerhouse of energy and skill, but she can’t see it. She sees her place as an Amish woman, and her overwhelming desire is to please her husband, to give him his dream life. Jesse Ebersol is also a powerhouse of energy and skill, and his dream is to break the poverty of his people in the Appalachian Mountains. He sees Eliza’s worth. She doesn’t. Loss hits them, and the tug-of-war is on!

As authors, what did you particularly enjoy about writing this story? What was hard about writing it?

My greatest joy was taking a step back from our personal experiences with this topic and in so doing, seeing how life events have a life all their own, ones we often miss when we’re in the throes of a storm. The hardest aspect was something readers won’t see and that’s the copious notes and the zigzag mess of keeping the chapter-by-chapter timeline accurate no matter what time the characters were in.

You say it took time and healing to be able to tell this story. Can you explain why?

Because the loss—a daughter for Erin and a granddaughter for me—was so personal and difficult, it took a few years before we were able to talk about it without getting emotional, much less to be able to deal with these topics in fiction. But even when the loss wasn’t fresh, we could see the connections between reality and fiction. We write Amish and us having a one-in-a-million genetic disease that’s a slight variation of one that’s common to the Amish community hit a deep place in our hearts.

What is one thing you learned about yourselves through writing this book?

During the deep spiritual dive that writing this book required, we had to face and answer some difficult questions. For example, regarding self-esteem: What determines a person’s worth? The answer that we thought we knew grew new and deeper roots: We’re all worthy only by the grace of God and we’re all equal despite our circumstances, which can include genetics, income level, place of birth, color of skin, and more. We learned new and deeper ways to own the pain without the pain owning us.

What will fans of your writing find surprising about this story?

We explore the concept of chaos theory, which is the study of how when you’re dealing with a complex system, small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences. We explore this concept using a familiar framing device: one similar to the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Eliza feels like Jesse would be better without her, but she can’t grasp all the vast consequences of what feels like should be a small change.

We also feel they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the budding romance between Eliza’s sister Ruth and her boyfriend, Andrew. It’s a journey with numerous twists and enjoyable outcomes.

 Yesterday's Gone releases August 30, 2022.


If you'd like more information  contact her, you can go to her website: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/authorcindywoodsmall





 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Elizabeth Goddard Talks About Critical Alliance

Elizabeth Goddard



Critical Alliance is the last installment of my Rocky Mountain Courage series, so I’d already put a lot of elements in place. My series is set in a fictional county in southwest Montana. I chose Montana because the state would make a stunning backdrop for my action-adventure stories, and well, setting inspires me. Southwest Montana is the west gate of Yellowstone National Park, one of my favorite places in the world. My Uncommon Justice series was set in the Jackson Hole region near Grand Teton National Park, which is close to Yellowstone in Wyoming. Okay, I’ll admit—I kind of wanted to stay in the area with my Rocky Mountain Courage series because I love it so much!



My husband is from Montana and my love of the region is all his fault! I dedicated Critical Alliance to him.



For the characters, many of them were already in place from the previous books, but I still needed to flesh out my Diplomatic Security Services special agent Alex Knight. Alex was a character from the first two books who would become the hero in Critical Alliance. Of course, then I had to add his romantic interest—Mackenzie Hanson—and I didn’t know her.



For the proposal to my publisher, I created a blurb for the story. I usually have ideas for storylines and characters floating around in my head along with random plots points. I pull from that and start the creative process. The short summary I send to my publisher will change quite a bit during the writing process. In Critical Alliance, my characters’ names changed along with a lot of the details, but the main plot of the story remained the same regarding the high-tech company in Montana, a mysterious death, and a cyber security expert. My character, Mackenzie Hanson, was hiding information and she needed to hack into the company’s system.



I started figuring out the story by pairing my DS special agent with a cyber security specialist. The Diplomatic Security Services is a largely unknown federal agency under the State Department. Agents are responsible for protecting diplomats and embassies around the world, but they also combat visa and passport fraud, investigate counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cybersecurity. . . well, you get the idea. Because of Alex’s background I decided to increase the stakes by making Mackenzie a former illegal hacker. I had to dig deep into the cybercriminal world, and I worked with a cyber-security expert to learn what Mackenzie could do and what crimes were possible for a hacker to commit. The information I learned was somewhat terrifying, but I had an arsenal available to throw at my characters—which I did!



Once the setting and the characters were in place along with a general plot, then I needed to discover what kinds of things could happen to them in Montana. This is where the setting really plays a big role and can become a character too. I love adventure stories, but I try to pull in larger issues to create a high-stakes plot. I loved the characters, the setting and writing Critical Alliance. I’m going to miss Montana, but at least in my new series set in Alaska, I’ll get to spend time with one of my characters from Critical Alliance.



Elizabeth Goddard is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty novels, including Present Danger and the Uncommon Justice series. Her books have sold over
one million copies. She is a Carol Award winner and a Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her family, traveling to find inspiration for her next book, and serving with her husband in ministry. For more information about her books. visit her website at www.ElizabethGoddard.com.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

She Fell In Love

Liz Johnson said, “I fell in love with Prince Edward Island. [It] captured my heart and inspired my imagination, and I’ve always known I had more PEI stories to tell.”

 

Tell us about your new novel, The Last Way Home?

When disgraced former NHL player Eli Ross returns to Prince Edward Island after eleven years, he discovers the broken family he left behind may be easier to win over than his mom’s business partner. Local artist Violet Donaghy isn’t eager to forgive the man who broke his mom’s heart. But when her pottery studio nearly burns to the ground, they’ll work together to rebuild—and more than the studio is on the line when secrets come out and they begin to open their hearts.

 

What is the connecting element for all three books in the Prince Edward Island Shores series?

The Prince Edward Island Shores series shares the stories of the three Ross brothers from Victoria by the Sea. Eleven years ago, their father walked out on the family, and now each brother must come to terms with the way they responded—with anger, running away, and pulling back from the rest of the world—especially if they want to win the hearts of the women in their lives.

 

Why did you choose to set your book in Victoria by the Sea, which is on the south shore of Prince Edward Island?

I was hooked on Victoria by the Sea after my first visit. It’s such a beautiful community filled with artists, theater, and lots of lobster fishing. I wanted to feature each of those areas in this series.

 

Why did you choose a hockey profession?

I love to ice skate! When I was twenty-five, I moved to Colorado and decided to pick up a winter sport. I took figure-skating lessons through the city, and I fell in love with the ice. While I wrote this book, I spent almost every weekend at a rink in Phoenix, marveling at the skilled hockey players—young and old—practicing on the ice. I loved watching the youth hockey players in their games and spent hours figuring out how to incorporate that into this book.

 

Both of the main characters in your book, Eli Ross and Violet Donaghy, have secrets that come to light within the pages of your novel. Without giving away any spoilers, can you provide some insight on how these secrets might impact their lives and the lives of the Ross family?

Like many people with secrets, Eli and Violet both hide behind carefully constructed facades. Violet chooses to overlook the rumors that run rampant about her history rather than face the truth of her past. Eli fears that his secret will shatter whatever relationship he’s restoring with his family. When Eli and Violet realize that the other is a safe harbor to share, they realize that they’re not so different after all. Telling the truth to one person may open the floodgates, and it will affect the entire Ross family and could ruin their budding romance.

 

What do you hope readers will gain from reading The Last Way Home?

I hope readers will be reminded that forgiveness isn’t something we earn—even when it’s hard to accept. And we forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

 

What do you love most about writing novels in the contemporary romance genre?

I love writing romances that provide an escape, fill readers with warmth, and remind them of the hope we have, even in hard times.



Liz Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including Beyond the Tides, the Georgia Coast Romance series, and the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, as well as a New York Times bestselling novella and a handful of short stories. She works in marketing and makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.

 Learn more at www.lizjohnsonbooks.com.

 


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Interview with Lynette Eason

 



I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Lynette one year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I was delighted to meet her. She is one of my favorite authors. I love her writing style and have enjoyed each series through the years.

When we met, I was reading her Blue Justice series. Each book was full of suspense and intrigue. I could not put one down until I finished it. Good thing I am a fast reader! Right after that I started reading her Danger Never Sleeps series.
Again, I was hooked.

Lynette started writing for publication around 1998.  
She has over over fifty books published.

I am thrilled to bring you this interview with Lynette Eason.


Who are two of your favorite authors?

  Dee Henderson and Terri Blackstock, if I can only pick just two. 


Do you feel they influenced you and if so, in what way?

  They influenced me for sure. Dee was my mentor, and I just loved the way they wrote a story that I could get lost in while being on the edge of my seat. LOL.


What point in your writing career did you feel like you had gone from amateur to pro?

  Probably when I got the call that someone wanted to actually pay me to write.


What do you look for in choosing a setting for your book?

  Usually, a place that I’m familiar with or that is easily researched.


What steps, if any, are involved in research for your book?

  I don’t have a set process. I usually just start writing and when I come to a place that I need more information then I start researching. I’ve got so many contacts and resources that all I have to do is send an email most of the time.



In writing your new book, Crossfire, what do you feel makes it stand out?

  I feel like people are just in love with the whole law enforcement story world, so being able to give those readers a new story in that genre is an honor and a blessing.


In Crossfire, what would you like the reader to feel and walk away with?

  I’d love the reader to walk away feeling like they’d just been on a roller coaster ride—in the very best way possible! LOL.


What is the best writing advice you have received so far?

  Write something. You can always fix it. You can’t fix a blank page.


What is the worst?

  You must write every day to be considered a real writer.


Between plotting, character development, dialogue, and scenes, which is easiest for you, and which takes a lot of effort?

  Character development is hands down the easiest. Plotting makes me kick things in frustration.


What is your schedule for writing?

  Whenever I can make the time. It’s my only job, so mostly in the mornings, sometimes in the afternoons, and every so often late at night if I can stay awake.


What do you do if you get stumped?

  I take a walk, work on something else, email brainstorming buddies, pray, cry, wonder why I ever thought I could be a writer, then go back to the project and make it work. Ha.


Did you or do you make any sacrifices to be a writer?

  I feel like I absolutely did. Every so often, I had to spend time writing when friends were out socializing. Inevitably, I have a deadline at the end of December or sometime in January, which means writing over holidays. Over the years, I’ve had to say no to other opportunities in order to fulfill the commitments I already had. It’s definitely a sacrifice.


Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?

  I feel like it chose me. It was the one I was drawn to even as a child reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie and so on.


What is the best way you found to market your book?

  Social media can be a powerful tool, but I haven’t landed on just one way. I think it takes a combination of things to get the word out there.
  

Did you actively build a network of readers and if so, how?

  I don’t know about actively. I simply wrote the best stories I could write, and the readers came. 


Are you on the Social Media Highway and if so, do you schedule times to post?

  I am on the highway. I post when I need to or when I feel like or when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store.


What advice would you like to give new authors that would help them?

  Invest in your writing. Go to a conference and get involved in networking with other authors in your genre and world. It’s a great place to be!

Lynette Eason's new book, Crossfire, offers a heart-pounding story that will have readers up all night as they race toward the explosive finish. You don't want to miss this electrifying new book in her new Extreme Measure series

Eason is the bestselling author of Life Flight and the 
Danger Never Sleeps, Blue Justice, Women of Justice, Deadly Reunions, Hidden Identity, and Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of three ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the
Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, among others. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and has a master’s degree in education from Converse College. Eason lives in South Carolina with her husband and two children. 

Learn more at

Monday, August 1, 2022

Patricia Bradley Talks About Deception



Patricia Bradley



When I turned in the manuscript for Deception, one of the comments my editor made was: Deception is the perfect title for this one. No one is who they seem to be.



Knowing it was the last book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series made writing it bittersweet. I really didn’t want to leave Natchez behind. I have grown to love the town with beautiful old mansions and sweet people. And the Trace. I’ll miss the Spanish moss hanging like wisps of lace from three-hundred-year-old trees, and the original sections of the Trace where so many trod hundreds of years ago as they made their way from Natchez to Nashville.



And the food. My characters ate at places like Fat Mama’s Tamales, Jughead’s, Mammy’s Cupboard, The Camp Restaurant, The Grand, Kings Tavern…they’re all real and if you’re ever in Natchez, be sure to eat at one of them.



When I started the story, I knew I wanted an ISB ranger as the heroine. In case you don’t know, ISB stands for Investigative Services Branch—they are the FBI of the National Park Service. There are only thirty-three of them, and they don’t have the fancy equipment that the FBI does. But they do have the advantage of working a case from beginning to end, usually all by themselves.



ISB Ranger Madison Thorn is unusual in that she investigates white-collar crime, but that wasn’t the case when I started the book. She was a tough, violent crimes investigator, and I intended her to keep on doing that. However, by the end of the first chapter, it all changed when the FBI agent she’d fallen in love with went rogue and tried to kill her. That was a total surprise.



When I tell people that, they usually look at me like I’m crazy, and say something like, “But you’re the author—you tell your characters what to do.” Ha! Maybe some authors can get away with that, but not this one. If I try to make my characters do something they don’t want to do, they quit talking to me. And if your character won’t talk to you, you don’t have a story. So, I tend to listen to my characters and go along with what they want. It makes writing the book so much easier.



And then there was Clayton Bradshaw, a swoon-worthy hero. Madison had it in her head that he had bullied her when she was a child visiting her grandfather, and no amount of me telling her otherwise did any good. So, I had to figure a way out of that because my hero couldn’t ever be a bully, even as a child. You’ll have to read the book to find out how I resolved that one.



Besides, Clayton had enough problems without being labeled at bully. He was a recovering gambler, and very short on patience. Plus, it was very hard on him when Madison refused to let him protect her. Her I-can-take-care-of-myself attitude drove him up the wall, especially since she had someone trying to kill her.



I did a lot of research for the Natchez books. Like looking for places to hide bodies. Once, I stopped at the ranger station at Mount Locust to ask the ranger on duty if there was a way to get to the backside of Mount Locust. You see, I’d found the perfect place to put a body, but I didn’t know how to get it there. It was simple, he said, and I did as he told me, then looked for the road he’d told me to take to get back on the Trace…never did find that road. The one I was on turned from a gravel to sand to dirt. Oh, and did I tell you was one lane?



Ten miles later (it could’ve been five and just seemed like ten) on that one-lane road with bayous and alligators and creepy Spanish Moss with nowhere to turn around, I’m asking myself if I’m crazy. Here I am, a lone woman without a gun on a dirt road that didn’t seem to be going anywhere—is it any wonder that I heard the banjos from the movie Deliverance playing? I did finally find a place to turn around. And I found the road I was supposed to turn on—a quarter of a mile from the Trace.



Like I said at the beginning, I’ll miss my wonderful times in Natchez and my adventures on the Natchez Trace. Writing Deception, Book Four in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series was fun to write. I can’t say that about every book.



Patricia Bradley: 
I’ve been writing since I was thirty-five, and I won’t tell you how long ago that was. I will tell you that Woman’s World published the very first fiction I ever wrote. But that was a God-thing, because, by all rights, the editor should have stuffed the story into the SASE and mailed it back to me since I’d sent her 4,500 words when the limit was 2,500. After that I was certain I would have a novel published within the year. Not. It was many years of studying the craft of writing before that happened. But it did happen back in 2014. Since then, I’ve written fifteen books and three stories for anthologies, two that debuted on the USA Today Best Seller List. I thank God every day for letting me live my dream.

I live in Northeast Mississippi with my two rescue kitties, and when I have time, I like to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.



Patricia Bradley is the author of Standoff, Obsession, and Crosshairs, as well as the Memphis Cold Case novels and Logan Point series. Bradley won an Inspirational Reader’s
Choice Award in Romantic Suspense, a Daphne du Maurier Award, and a Touched by Love Award; she was a Carol Award finalist; and three of her books were included in anthologies
that debuted on the USA Today bestseller list. She is cofounder of Aiming for Healthy Families, Inc., and she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime. Bradley makes her home in Mississippi. 

Learn more at www.PTBradley.com.