Debut Author Interview: Felicia Grossman

Meet Felicia Grossman, author of the historical romance Appetites & Vices, which releases today from Carina Press

Felicia Grossman wanted to write stories ever since her father read her Treasure Island when she was four years old. The Delaware native never lost her love of words, earning both an English degree and a law degree. Felicia now lives in the northern part of the country with her spouse, children, and dogs. When not writing, she can be found eating pastries or belting showtunes in her living room.

Welcome, Felicia!

Tell us about your book.

Appetites & Vices tells the story of Ursula Nunes, the least popular Jewish heiress in 1840s Delaware, and Jay Truitt, a recovering opium addict hiding behind his rich playboy persona. What starts as a faux engagement to help Ursula’s social standing turns into actual love. The novel follows Jay’s struggle build a new life and Ursula’s struggles to fit into both Jewish and Gentile society, while discovering that everything is a little easier with a partner. The book explores of the difficulties of American Jewish identity, addiction, and interfaith romance.

Where did you get the idea?
Appetites is a faux engagement story and I love that trope (romance is all about the tropes). And I really, really, really wanted to write a heroine in a historical romance that could’ve been my ancestor (there’s no British nobility in my blood, I promise), who got to have a really big character arc because why should the heroes have all the fun screwing things up?

Tell us about your favorite character. 
Let’s be real, I usually put a little bit of myself in all my characters, especially my heroines, but there’s a TON of younger me in Urs. A lot of embarrassing things that I look back on and cringe, and a lot of the good stuff as well. Urs is spoiled, indignant, high-tempered, impetuous, pushy, bossy, and socially-awkward, but she’s smart, loyal, brave, determined, and ultimately very kind. She values fairness and justice and may say the wrong thing, but would never “punch” (or throw) down.

How long did you take to write this book?
I started writing Appetites in August of 2017. My heroine was originally a grandmother in a book I was querying so I gave her a backstory for fun. I finished editing around November of 2017 and did some initial test queries/pitching in December #pitmad. I really queried in February of 2018 and got an agent through a #kisspitch like. Appetites sold in July of 2018 so it’s been really fast.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
It’s historical so a ton of research. It’s set in my area of the country (Delaware and Philadelphia)—where I grew-up—just a few centuries earlier—so I kind of knew where to go, i.e., Rebecca Gratz’s letters and writings as well as Winterthur Museum and Gardens, etc.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why? 
I love editing, especially big edits. It feels like spring cleaning and because you are finally molding your clay. Drafting is throwing the clay down on the wheel, editing is where the fun begins.

Can you share your writing routine? 
I’m a mom and I have a full-time day job so I write whenever I can. In hallways, when the kids go to bed, anywhere and everywhere.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You only grow and change if you learn and you can’t learn what you don’t know.

Which book influenced you the most?
One? I have to pick just one? I always I’m historical romance with a bit of a Jewish humorous women’s fiction voice. Like Joanna Shupe, Alyssa Cole, Beverly Jenkins, and Elizabeth Hoyt have been huge romance influences, while Nora Ephron, Susan Isaacs, and Jennifer Weiner have been huge voice inspirations. I read Heartburn when I was like ten and it was totally inappropriate but it also changed my life because I understood the tone, the humor, and the dynamics.

What are you working on right now?
Appetites & Vices has a sequel called Dalliances & Devotion coming out in August, so there are edits there. I’m also drafting something entirely new, but still American now, and there’s a Regency I’m editing.

Thanks for chatting, Felicia! We wish you success with your debut!

Debut Author Interview: Megan Collins

Meet Megan Collins
Megan Collins holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is the managing editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Off the CoastSpillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.

Megan is the author of The Winter Sister, out today!

The Winter Sister opens sixteen years ago, when Sylvie’s sister Persephone didn’t come home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden from seeing, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and all these years later, her murder remains unsolved. Now, in the present day, Sylvie reluctantly returns home to care for her estranged, alcoholic mother undergoing cancer treatment, and finally begins to uncover the truth behind what happened to Persephone.

Here’s the first paragraph:
“When they found my sister’s body, the flyers we’d hung around town were still crisp against the telephone poles. The search party still had land to scour; the batteries in their flashlights still held a charge. Persephone had been missing for less than seventy-two hours when a jogger caught a glimpse of her red coat through the snow, but by then, my mother had already become a stranger to me.”

Let’s get to know Megan and her debut novel!

Where did you get the idea for The Winter Sister?
The Winter Sister is inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter, which has always been my favorite myth because of the many ways in which it can be read—as a story of motherhood, a story of what happens when we refuse to let go of grief, or a story about the effects of trauma. The idea for this book came to me when I wondered what would have happened if Demeter had had another daughter, if Persephone had had a sister, who was left to navigate her childhood in the wake of her mother’s neglect and rage and unending grief over Persephone’s disappearance. Sylvie, the narrator of The Winter Sister, is my answer to that question.

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
Art plays a big role in this book. After her sister is murdered, Sylvie spends all of her free time painting, almost to the point of obsession, and by the time we meet her as an adult, she’s working as a tattoo artist. But art is not therapeutic to her; instead, it’s tied to a pivotal experience from her past, one that continues to cripple her with guilt and shame.

Tell us about your favorite character.
For me, Sylvie’s mother Annie is the most compelling. In a lot of ways, she’s a terrible mother, having basically abandoned that role altogether after Persephone was murdered. But deep in her core is a lot of love and guilt that have essentially left her paralyzed, unable to move on. And though I would never want to be like her, I sympathize with the trauma she’s endured. I understand how easy it can be to lose yourself to that pain.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
I would take Sylvie out on a self-care day because she’s gone through so much and definitely needs it. We’d eat giant cinnamon buns for breakfast, go see a funny movie, get massages, order some delicious takeout, and then binge-watch a riveting TV series for the rest of the day, pausing only to cuddle with my golden retriever Maisy (who clearly has to come, too).

Are your character based on real people or do they come from your imagination?
While none of my characters are based directly on anyone real, I’m certain that each one has qualities borrowed from people I’ve known. It’s impossible to write in a vacuum, so real life always slips in, whether it’s through a character’s background, a gesture, or a particular way of speaking.

How long did you take to write this book?
It was about two years from the initial outlining of this book to the final revision I made with my agent before it was sent out on submission. But during that time, I took nearly a year-long break, as I got stuck for a while and chose to focus on revising another project instead.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
In a way, I feel like I’ve been researching this book for half my life, ever since I first heard the myth of Persephone, and in all the years since, whenever I’ve re-read it, taught it, or devoured any reimagining or adaptation of it I could find.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m definitely a plotter. In my non-writing life, I like to plan things out and know as much about what’s coming as possible, so it makes sense that when it comes time for me to draft a novel, I want detailed outlines to help me find my way.

What is your favorite part of your writing process?
My favorite part of the writing process is the physical feeling I get in my body when the lines and sentences are flowing particularly well. It’s something I feel in my arms, in my legs—a sensation in my veins, as if my blood is sparkling. It sounds a little crazy when I say it like that, but I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of other writers who know exactly what I mean.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process?
The most challenging part of the process is when you know there’s a problem in what you’ve written—a consistency issue, a lack of clarity, a need for a better transition, etc.—but the solution eludes you. It can be incredibly frustrating to keep staring at the section that’s giving you trouble, believing that you’ll never write your way out of it. On a positive note, though, once you do find the answer to the problem, it’s incredibly rewarding and you get to feel like a superhero for a second.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
I have a rule for myself that I’m not always great at following: when you’re going through writer’s block, be kind to yourself. Writer’s block happens, and it’s not because you’re a bad writer; it’s because your brain needs to recharge. Take writer’s block as an opportunity to read voraciously, so that when you do come back to the blank page, your mind is stimulated and, hopefully, churning with fresh ideas.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
“You WILL write a novel. You WILL get published. Stop worrying so much about what might NOT happen for you before you even get the words on the page. Write that story. Write those poems. And just enjoy the process.”

Do you have any writing quirks?
I’m a huge over-user of em-dashes—and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. In addition to being elegant, they offer a sense of pause that’s far superior, in my mind, to the comma, semi-colon, and ellipsis.

Tell us about yourself.
I have the immense privilege of teaching creative writing to high school students at an arts magnet school in Hartford, Connecticut. I’m also the managing editor of the literary journal 3Elements Review. When I’m not writing, reading, or teaching, I’m hanging out with my husband, Marc, and our golden retriever, Maisy.

How did you get into writing?
I caught the writing bug when I was six years old and wrote my very first story, “The Bad Cats.” From that day on, I knew there was no other path my life could take; I was going to be an author.

Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
Over the past ten years, I’ve divided my time between writing novels and writing poetry. In fact, my MFA is in poetry, and I’ve published a number of poems in literary journals since graduating from Boston University’s creative writing program in 2008. I love fiction and poetry equally, and I don’t think I would be the writer I am today without the training I received in each.

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
I’m obsessed with tiny things. I have a collection of miniature items, including a mini typewriter, mini bookshelf, and mini books! Some other favorites from my collection are my tiny cash register, shopping cart, and banker’s lamp.

Which book influenced you the most?
The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath. Before I first read Sylvia Plath in my early teens, I was writing pretty terrible poems filled with a lot of abstracts and clichés, but as soon as I saw how Plath crafted images and made universal emotions or experiences feel completely new, I was changed forever. I didn’t have the opportunity to take any creative writing classes until I was in college, so as a teenager, Sylvia Plath was my teacher.

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a new novel. Like The Winter Sister, it’s about a woman haunted by her past who has to navigate some dysfunctional familial dynamics in search of a long-buried truth—but the similarities end there.

Where can we find you?
Website: www.megancollins.com
Facebook: facebook.com/megancollinswriter
Twitter: @ImMeganCollins
Instagram: @megancollinswriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18280418.Megan_Collins

Debut Author Interview: Danielle Haas

Meet Danielle Haas, author of the romantic suspense novel Bound by Danger, which releases today from Entangled

Danielle Haas grew up with a love of reading, partly due to her namesake—Danielle Steele. It seemed as though she was born to write out the same love stories she devoured while growing up.

She attended Bowling Green State University with a dream of studying creative writing, but the thought of sharing her work in front of a group of strangers was enough to make her change her major to Political Science.

After college she moved across the state of Ohio with her soon-to-be husband. Once they married and had babies, she decided to stay home and raise her children. Some days her sanity slipped further across the line to crazy town so she decided to brush off her rusty writing chops and see what happened.

Danielle now spends her days running kids around, playing with her beloved dog, and typing as fast as she can to get the stories in her head written down. She loves to write contemporary romance with relatable characters that make her readers’ hearts happy, as well as fast-paced romantic suspense that leaves them on the edge of their seats. Her story ideas are as varied and unpredictable as her everyday life.

Welcome, Danielle!

Tell us about your book.

Special Agent Graham Grassi is on a quest to stop a sex-trafficking ring from infiltrating Chicago. His path keeps crossing with sexy redhead, Mickey O’Shay. The stakes raise higher when Mickey’s goddaughter is taken, and her connections to the case leave Graham wondering if she’s just another victim in a sick game, or if she knows more than she’s letting on. Together, they race against time to unravel a web of deception before it’s too late.

Where did you get the idea?
My initial idea sprang from wondering what would happen if a flight attendant had a blind date with a man she’d already met…a man she’d just told to stop trying to join the mile high club on a flight she worked. Then I realized this wasn’t very heroic behavior, and I had to figure out what situation could he possibly be in to take him from sleazy to dreamy. Of course NONE of this made the final version, but it led me to a great story I never expected to tell.

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
Although Mickey and Graham are in a high-stakes emotional situation, they still have a lot of witty banter between them. Graham even serenades Mickey—with a horrible singing voice—to one of my favorite songs by Journey.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did a lot of research into sex-trafficking. It was horrific! But it opened my eyes to this dark world that exists everywhere and I now have a passion for advocating against. I even ran my first 5k in support of raising money to help victims of sex-trafficking.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
The most challenging part is just finding the time to sit down and write, and not feel guilty about doing so. I’m a stay-at-home mom and my son isn’t in school yet. It’s hard to balance.

Can you share your writing routine?
I normally write at my desk or at the island in my kitchen. I work better in the morning, so after I get my daughter on the school bus I give my son time to do his own thing (TV, Kindle, Puzzles, Play-doh) and I work on getting in my word count. My brain shuts off around 5:00 and it’s tough for me to get back into my writing at that point.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Be patient and find your writing tribe! The people in this community are amazing, and their support and advice have been life-changing. I wish I would have known they were out there sooner.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have three unpublished manuscripts that are all under contract. One will be out this year, the other two will follow shortly. I also have two unpublished/uncontracted manuscripts out on submission.

How did you get into writing?
I’ve always loved writing. When my son was 6 months old, I thought I was going to go stir crazy with only focusing on my children and husband. I decided to sit down and try to write a book based off my hometown and I fell in love with writing! That book, a small-town contemporary romance, will be published later this year!

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
I changed my major in college seven times! I started in creative writing, but the idea of having to read my work in front of other people scared me so bad I just keep changing majors and looking for something else I’d love to do.

What are you working on right now?
I just finished another romantic suspense, which is book two of a three book series. Each book focuses on a crime where a dating app is used by the villain/and or suspects in the novels.

What’s your favorite writing advice?
Keep writing, keep learning, and have an open mind. After I finished my first manuscript, I thought it was the best thing ever…until my paths crossed with my now critique partner who pointed out everything I did wrong! Instead of being defensive and offended, I listened to her wonderful advice and used it to improve my writing. I still do this daily!

Where can we find your book?
Amazon
Apple
Kobo
Nook

Where can we find you?
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest
Goodreads

Thanks for chatting, Danielle! We wish you success with your debut!

A New Short Story, an Interview, and Other Podcasty Things

You may know that I have a podcast, Your Face Is Crooked, that comes out each Monday morning. Those little episodes are concise looks at some of my formative experiences and the resulting neuroses that make me me.

What you may not know is that I have recently appeared in a couple long-form podcasts this month.

The first is as a part of season 2 of Clinch: A Podcast of Fiction and Not-Fiction. Last year, Clinch started as a way for my husband, Zach, who is also a writer, to deliver a brand new YA suspense novel in serial fashion (that’s the fiction part) and to explore what went right and what went wrong in his own publishing career thus far (the not-fiction part). If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer, I highly recommend starting the Clinch podcast from the beginning. It covers indie publishing, traditional publishing, dealing with tricky relationships and ego and expectations of yourself and so much more.

Near the end of the first season, Zach brought in other writers as guests for the not-fiction portion of the podcast, and they shared their own experiences and struggles in the form of interviews. For season 2, guest writers are doing both the fiction and not-fiction portions. And that’s where my episode comes in. For the fiction part, I share a brand new short story that takes place in the same world as my second book (out in September) which you can’t get anywhere else. In the not-fiction part, I talk about where I have found validation as a writer (and where I should find it). I hope you enjoy listening to it!

 

The second podcast you can find me on is Hear Us Roar, a podcast produced by the Women’s Fiction Writers Association to highlight debut authors. In that interview, host Maggie Smith (no, not that one) and I talk about We Hope for Better Things, history, photography, research, my writing process, why I chose to tell this story at this time, and more. Click on the graphic to check it out!

Debut Author Interview: B.P. Donigan

Starting today and running for….as long as it needs to, you’ll find a new feature on this humble blog: interviews with debut authors!

For the past year, I have found great camaraderie and help from my fellow 2019 debut authors. As we seek to support one another, some of us have offered to do interviews for our blogs. So every once in a while, you’re going to see one of them on here. Now, I haven’t read all of these books — some of them just aren’t in my wheelhouse, but that doesn’t mean they’re not in yours or in the wheelhouse of someone you know.

For the first, allow me to introduce you to B.P. Donigan.

B.P. Donigan was born and raised in Wasilla, Alaska (which she reminds us would later become famous thanks to one infamous politician who could see Russia from her house, but at the time was about as rural as you can get).

She attended college in rural Idaho earning a degree in Print Journalism, and then not-so-rural Utah earning a degree in Marketing, and finally moved to very-not-rural Boston where she lived and worked for ten years. After paying her dues to the Extreme Winters, she resides now in sunny California, with her two kids, two fish, two dogs, and one amazing husband. Like any good superhero she spends her days building her cover story behind a desk, and her nights saving the world (on paper, at least).

Donigan’s debut is Fate Forged.

Here’s the description:

Growing up on the streets of Boston, Maeve O’Neill learned to rely only on herself. Paying bills isn’t glamorous, but her life is on a better track—until she starts having agonizing visions of torture. Desperate to rid herself of the paralyzing episodes, she follows her visions to the scene of a murder. Instead of answers, she gets an unexpected gift from the victim: Magic.

With the unwanted power, Maeve becomes the access point to all of Earth’s untapped magic. Now, powerful enemies are after her and staying alive means striking a bargain with an untrustworthy ally with a long-shot plan. Maeve has to keep the magic in check until she can get rid of it, but her control is slipping and everything could go wrong. If the plan fails, her unlikely ally betrays her, or her enemies catch her, she’ll be handing over all of Earth’s magic…and her life.

Interest piqued? Let’s find out more:

What sparked the idea for Fate Forged?
Fate Forged started with a ‘what if’ questions. What if a woman inherited crazy magic powers, but had no idea how to control them?  From there, I let the questions lead me into a story. Who is she? Why doesn’t she know how to control the magic powers? Where do the powers come from? What if she doesn’t remember something critical about herself…

Did anything from your real life influence your book at all?
Definitely! I grew up in Alaska, which is where my characters go to search for a Fate who can remove the uncontrollable magic powers from my main character. They hike over a glacier and to the top of a mountain in a re-creation of a three-day hike I did when I was a teenager. (I wasn’t chased by demon dogs at the time, but otherwise it’s the same hike.) The locations, and even the hiker’s huts where they stop over, are all real places. Also, the book starts out in Boston where I lived for a decade after college, and I mention Davis Square and a fortune cookie factory, which are real places that are near and dear to my heart. I had a lot of fun putting my favorite places into my story.

Did you have to do any research for Fate Forged?
I researched everything! For the story itself, I had to map out the character’s road trip, and Google search weapons, how to realistically kill someone in hand-to-hand combat, and watch lots of videos online just to make a coherent fight scene. For a while there, I was pretty sure my internet searches were going to flag an FBI raid on my house.

How long did it take for you to write Fate Forged?
I first sat down to write a novel four years before Fate Forged was published. The first year was all about learning how to write a novel. I’ve always been an avid reader, and I knew what I liked, but I had no idea how to plan, plot, or pace a novel. An entire second year was spent editing my work in progress and then getting beta readers and critique partners.

Did anything change significantly in your book during the writing or editing process?
Yes! Many of the characters’ names changed, and the title used to be The Lost Sect, which I liked, but the publisher didn’t think had enough depth. After some soul searching, I decided “Fate” was a thread that will reach across the entire series, and then I attempted to find a title with the word Fate that didn’t sound like a romance novel! To make it all cohesive, I ended up coming up with titles for the first three books (as well as the series title) so the extra effort was worth it.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Plotter all the way. I’m always looking for better ways to plan out the plot, the characters, and pacing. For me, it’s so much easier to write creatively if I know the bones of the story are solid.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I have a full-time job, two kids, two dogs, and a husband. All that keeps me busy! When I have spare time, I love to dabble in home improvement projects and arts and crafts. I love trying new things, but honestly I have a hard time finishing up the projects I start.

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on book two in the Bound Magic Series, which is tentatively titled Fate Changed. Although the main characters overcome a lot of challenges in Fate Forged, there are still some people who need to be stopped, and the fate of Earth’s magic hangs in the balance in a new way.

Where can we find the book?
You can buy the book on Amazon | Kobo | Red Adept Publishing | B&N | GooglePlay

Where can we find you?
Website www.bpdonigan.com

Facebook (@BPDonigan)

Instagram (bpdonigan_author)

Twitter (@BPDonigan)

Goodreads

Join B.P. Donigan’s Newsletter

 

We Hope for Better Things on Urban Book Reviews

I’m excited to share both a review of We Hope for Better Things and an interview with me on Urban Book Reviews. Here’s a little taste of both:

The Review

“We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels is a one astounding read. This literary debut novel holds so much intensity. I felt the pain, loss, love, and hope. It was like a fresh battle wound that would not fade. A constant reminder of what never died. Still wounds like these exist, today.”

Read more here.

The Interview

We Hope for Better Things blends family drama, mystery, and romance into one intriguing story. How did you come up with the plot for your debut novel?
It started with the idea of the photographer—the invisible presence whenever we look at a photo. From there, the story grew . . . a lot. Once it was clear that race relations was going to be part of Nora’s story, I began to think about how quickly a family’s legacy might change. How long would it take to go from brotherhood to bigotry and back again? How long does it take a wound to heal?

With so many great elements, who would you say is your target audience?
My target audience is thoughtful readers who are troubled by the times we live in and are looking for sense in what seems like chaos. People who want to know they’re not the only ones who yearn for meaning in the midst of what often feels like an incomprehensible world.

Read more here.

 

We’re now just nine weeks away from the release date! It’s hard to believe after working on this for so long, it will actually finally be out in the world for people to read!

If you want to pre-order a copy, the buy links are on my Books page.

Hear Me Bloviate on Publishing!

You may or may not know that my husband, also a writer, is a podcast fiend, both as a listener and as a podcaster himself. He is currently hosting three podcasts (The Gut Check Podcast, Clinch: A Podcast of Fiction and Not-Fiction, and These Go to Eleven) and his sermons are available online as well.

I’ve appeared here and there on the Gut Check Podcast, mostly as a bystander or an interrupter-of-proceedings, though occasionally I am asked direct questions or serve as a reader for Gut Check Literacy Month (which has lasted, oh, I’d say maybe two years). And I bet you can hear my laugh in some of those sermon recordings. But this week Zach actually interviewed me for the not-fiction portion of Clinch.

If you’re curious about what I do in publishing, how annoying I think I will be as an author to the people on my publishing team, or you just want to listen to us talk about Zach getting lost in the woods outside of Owosso, actor Kevin Sorbo, and whether or not we should have closed the drapes to keep our dog from barking during the recording, you should definitely give it a listen.

Also, you should go back to episode one and binge it, both for the fiction portion, where Zach reads his current work in serial fashion, and the not-fiction portion, which gives you an inside look into the highs and lows of publishing, both traditionally and independently, from Zach’s own rollercoaster experience and interviews with other authors. It’s one of the most honest assessments you’ll get of what it’s like to be a writer trying to make a mark in the book world today.

The Worst Writing Advice I Ever Received…and More

I’m over on the Capital City Writers blog today talking about what I’m working on right now, the worst writing advice I ever received, and more. Here’s a taste…

1. What is your favorite part about writing? The most challenging part?

 

It’s hard to say what I enjoy most because I do enjoy all the different parts of the process for different reasons. I love the idea phase when anything is possible, the drafting phase when I am speaking worlds into existence, the revising phase when I am making this lump of words more closely resemble the perfect vision in my head. There are two contexts in which I feel more elementally me than any other: when I am silently and deliberately exploring the natural world and when I am writing.

 

The most challenging part is …

 

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

And tomorrow night I’ll be at Schuler Books & Music in the Eastwood Towne Center leading a free workshop called Empathy over Experience: Writing Convincingly from Someone Else’s Shoes.

The fun starts at 7pm. If you’re a relatively local writer, I hope to see you there!

When it feels like the end, that’s only the beginning

Counting down the days until Write on the Red Cedar 2016, which starts this Friday in East Lansing. This will be my third year attending (it’s only three years old) and second year presenting. Earlier this month I was on the WOTRC blog answering some questions about success, failure, the books I’ve read the most, and more. Click here to read it.

Beyond WOTRC, I have articles to work on for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association before the month is up, and I’m still finishing up the renovations in our chapel at church. Just have window treatments and a little touch-up painting to go. When I looked ahead to January back at the end of last year and saw the commitments I had already made, I decided that February 1st was going to be my new year, my fresh start. That’s the month I plan to bring back some good habits I’ve had in the past, namely getting up earlier and using the quiet morning time alone to read, write, pray, and journal.

On the bedtime story front, the boy and I are smack dab in the middle of Watership Down and things are looking bleak. Holly’s team has just come back from Efrafa with many injuries but no does, and Hazel’s been shot after the raid at Nuthanger Farm. As I closed the book Saturday night, Calvin’s voice wavered as he wondered what would happen now. “Don’t worry,” I said. “This is just the beginning of the most exciting part of the story.” It’s a cliché that things are always darkest before the dawn, but that is often how the story goes, isn’t it?

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US. Race relations have taken a serious hit in the past five years. Or perhaps the wider culture is just now noticing how bad things still are despite the work of Dr. King and countless other people who devoted their lives to seeking justice and equality in this country. The national mood must seem a lot like it did fifty or sixty years ago. Indeed, things look strikingly similar. Racial unrest, a long military conflict overseas from which we cannot seem to extricate ourselves, prominent political figures calling for the profiling and restriction of those with differing beliefs. I find it difficult to be optimistic.

Yet, what can make us rise to the occasion like opposition?

The rabbits of Watership Down will have to use all of their courage and cunning to save their warren. They cannot give way to fear, or they’re through. There’s only one way forward, and it’s down the most treacherous road. There are no guarantees of success. But to not go down the road at all means certain failure.

Don’t those make the best stories? When there is no choice but to walk through the fire?

There is nothing like a hard winter to make the spring all the more glorious.

Once in a Great City

Click below for a lovely little interview with David Maraniss about his book, Once in a Great City. It touches on several of the themes (and even a couple events) found in my novel, The Bone Garden, which will be going out on submission later this month. Though it’s not my hometown, I love Detroit. It’s my parents’ hometown, my extended family’s hometown, a city that looms large in my imagination and to which I feel an intrinsic connection. I can’t wait to read Maraniss’s book.

NPR

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/463010089/463010090