Tag Archives: literary fiction

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer…pub date April 14, 2020

Believing she is a bad mother, Beth does not address her postpartum depression. After she and her siblings move their father into a care facility due to his deepening dementia, she volunteers to clean out their family home. Behind the padlocked door to their childhood playroom, Beth discovers her father’s mysterious paintings that seem to correspond to notes left by her mother, unlocking a family secret that may provide a connection with her mother and become her saving grace. Rimmer presents a complex family dynamic to which many could relate, and then explodes it with a secret so horrifying, it remained hidden for decades. Anyone who has discovered their family secret will definitely identify with the feelings of betrayal and questioning their identity. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the publisher Graydon House through NetGalley.

PROLOGUE

Grace

September 14, 1957

I am alone in a crowded family these days, and that’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. Until these past few years, I had no idea that lone­liness is worse than sadness. I’ve come to realize that’s because loneliness, by its very definition, cannot be shared.

Tonight there are four other souls in this house, but I am unreachably far from any of them, even as I’m far too close to guarantee their safety. Patrick said he’d be home by nine tonight, and I clung on to that prom­ise all day.

He’ll be home at nine, I tell myself. You won’t do anything crazy if Patrick is here, so just hold on until nine.

I should have known better than to rely on that man by now. It’s 11:55 p.m., and I have no idea where he is.

Beth will be wanting a feed soon and I’m just so tired, I’m already bracing myself—as if the sound of her cry will be the thing that undoes me, instead of something I should be used to after four children. I feel the fear of that cry in my very bones—a kind of whole-body tension I can’t quite make sense of. When was the last time I had more than a few hours’ sleep? Twenty-four hours a day I am fixated on the terror that I will snap and hurt someone: Tim, Ruth, Jeremy, Beth…or myself. I am a threat to my children’s safety, but at the same time, their only protection from that very same threat.

I have learned a hard lesson these past few years; the more difficult life is, the louder your feelings become. On an ordinary day, I trust facts more than feelings, but when the world feels like it’s ending, it’s hard to dis­tinguish where my thoughts are even coming from. Is this fear grounded in reality, or is my mind playing tricks on me again? There’s no way for me to be sure. Even the line between imagination and reality has worn down and it’s now too thin to delineate.

Sometimes I think I will walk away before something bad happens, as if removing myself from the equation would keep them all safe. But then Tim will skin his knee and come running to me, as if a simple hug could take all the world’s pain away. Or Jeremy will plant one of those sloppy kisses on my cheek, and I am reminded that for better or worse, I am his world. Ruth will slip my handbag over her shoulder as she follows me around the house, trying to walk in my footsteps, because to her, I seem like someone worth imitating. Or Beth will look up at me with that gummy grin when I try to feed her, and my heart contracts with a love that really does know no bounds.

Those moments remind me that everything changes, and that this cloud has come and gone twice now, so if I just hang on, it will pass again. I don’t feel hope yet, but I should know hope, because I’ve walked this path before and even when the mountains and valleys seemed insur­mountable, I survived them.

I’m constantly trying to talk myself around to calm, and sometimes, for brief and beautiful moments, I do. But the hard, cold truth is that every time the night comes, it seems blacker than it did before.

Tonight I’m teetering on the edge of something horrific.

Tonight the sound of my baby’s cry might just be the thing that breaks me altogether.

I’m scared of so many things these days, but most of all now, I fear myself.

Excerpted from Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer, Copyright © 2020 by Lantana Management Pty Ltd. Published by Graydon House Books.

This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagán

Annie has had it with people, declaring that she is accepting no new people into her life after her fiance moved to Paris to find himself, her career stalled due to a sexual harassment incident, and her closest friends have become “concerned.” Told in epistolary style through Annie’s journal and email correspondence, Dear Reader is privy to Annie’s private thoughts—her frustrations and confusions—as she stumbles into new friendships despite her declaration. Pagán infuses humor into the story as Annie faces challenging decisions. Fans of Ann Garvin and Sonali Dev will appreciate Pagán’s delightfully flawed characters and realistic storyline which offers no clear-cut answers to life’s hard questions. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this wonderful novel by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley for an honest review.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Teenager Cussy Carter becomes a traveling librarian, delivering reading material to folks beyond means of travel other than four-legged. Nicknamed Bluet as the last female of the Blue People of Kentucky, she bravely faces dangerous trails to support literacy in her part of the world, and connect with her neighbors, often as the only other face they see. As bigotry causes cataclysmic shifts in her own life, she maintains her route, offering more than books to her customers. Richardson presents a compelling portrait of an isolated people, especially the family who suffers more severe hardships for their indigo skin, in the hollers of Appalachia. Combining that history with the librarians who traversed ignorance as much as menacing terrain provides a unique character in Cussy Carter. I was fortunate to receive this wonderfully written story from the publisher Sourcebooks Landmark through NetGalley.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

On the night Cassie Hanwell received the Austin Fire Department’s Valor Award—the youngest and first female—for saving children from a sinking school bus, the unexpected presenter takes her back to the night that formed her opinion of love and family. Her award night again changes her life drastically, returning her reluctantly to family and more than one potential disaster. Center’s skills draw readers into the lives of her complex and deeply flawed characters, causing at least this reviewer to gasp out loud multiple times at wondrous and astonishing events. She brings tears with realistic emotional turmoil and unforeseen joy. Fans of Ann Garvin, Camille Pagan, and Liane Moriarty will appreciate Center’s writing style, sense of humor, and credible, relatable characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Kelly Harms—Novelist

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.

Calling what I do a process makes it sound far more organized than it actually is. What I really do that creates success for me is a two step process: I meditate, and I write a small amount every day. Reality means I’m usually writing a lot most days, but the trick is I promise myself I can quit any time after the first, say, five hundred words. I never want to quit after five hundred words.

As for environment, I used to be finicky and say it had to be a certain level of quiet or comfort, or there had to be this and that to write. Now I write wherever I am, so long as there’s no one talking to me. I can edit with a room full of children cavorting around me and begging for bananas on toast, but for the writing itself, I still need to be left alone.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.

I don’t have a final draft. I have the best I can do in the time I have, and that is what goes to the publisher, and that is what they copyedit and proof and eventually print. But I am still editing in my mind for all eternity. When I read aloud from my work at events, I edit it as I go. So readers are hearing the best version of the book for that day in that moment. I guess I could never be my own audio narrator!

As for marketing, I try to be very flexible about this. My real job is writing and that’s how I prioritize, but I am proud of my work and want to share it. As such, I spend most of my “marketing” time chatting with excellent and active readers. I try to be open about my successes and my foibles in the world with anyone who asks, and I talk about my favorite books in the moment so that the readers who follow me never run out of good books.

Describe your support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders—and how did you become a Tall Poppy?

When I talk about authorial support (outside my immediate family and dear friends who support me because they love me, books or no,) I am talking almost exclusively about the Tall Poppies. This is a marketing collective in the main, but the side effect is a network of professional colleagues who believe in the same principles as I do. Namely, we all believe, with grace and gratitude, that there is room at the top, and we mean to get everyone there together. We only see each other in real life once a year, so the rest of the time, we are connecting virtually, and I think that is probably one of the only reasons I don’t throw my phone off a cliff.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa?

They are inextricable. This is the difference between my job and most other professions. I cannot leave my writing behind when I “come home” from work, and I do not pretend that what is happening in my life doesn’t shape my writing. When I have a problem to work out, or a question about life, or a hearts desire, I write it into a book. That said, I don’t write about people I know. Even if I tried, my characters wouldn’t stand for it. They are utterly themselves.

What do you love most about your creativity?

While I’m very very grateful to be able to write books for a living, I do not quite understand how it came to pass that the creative life won out over my pragmatism. I did well in my physics and calc classes in college and probably would have been just as happy in any creative problem solving profession. The thought of a vested retirement plan makes my heart sing. Also, I always thought it would be great to be a mail carrier.

But here I am writing away, and my favorite thing about it is that even though I am a comic writer, according to my reviews, I have no concept of what it is that I write that is so funny. I just write the most emotionally honest stories I can manage, and then my editors come back to me with all these LOL comments and I think, oh, ok, great. In real life this is very weird because when I say something that comes out funny, I get really excited and say stuff like, “Oh! That was funny!” or laugh at my own jokes.

That anyone hangs out with me at all is the real comedy.

Connect with Kelly:

Website: http://kellyharms.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkellyharms

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6539545.Kelly_Harms

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kelly.harms/

Erica Bauermeister—Novelist

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.

My writing process has changed over the years. When my kids were younger and I had a full-time job, writing happened during whatever moments I could give to it. Now that my kids are fledged, my writing day starts at 7:30, when I go down to my writing shed, an 8by8 studio we built a few years back. There’s no internet, no email, no social media. Just me and the words for 3 solid hours, and often more.

If I get stuck, I’ve learned not to force the characters just to hit a word count. The characters just go quiet then and I’m really in trouble. So I go for a walk, or a swim. I’ll even clean the house. Repetitive physical exercise tends to shake the ideas lose.

As for inspiration, it almost always starts with an image, and often of a character in a situation. For The Scent Keeper it was the image of a young girl in an isolated cabin. All the walls were lined with drawers, and inside each drawer was a scent. Who was she? Why was she there? Who would she be when she grew up? Those questions kept me working on the novel for 6 years.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.

My agent has an in-house editor who goes over everything I write, even before it gets to my publisher—and this is after early readers, my writing group, and some of my family have all read early drafts, which can number in the dozens. Once the publisher has the manuscript, it can go through one to several revisions, depending on the input of the editor. After content editing comes copyediting, then lay-out and cover design (it’s part of my contract that I get consult, if not veto power). Then sales and marketing take over and get the book into the sales channel and start the drumbeat of reviews and early giveaways to get the word out.

About 4 months before the book comes out is when I kick in. I don’t use Twitter, but I’m on Facebook and Instagram. I do my own giveaways, encourage book clubs (I’ve talked with over 150 of them by phone or Skype). For The Scent Keeper I’ve even got a virtual book club (https://www.facebook.com/groups/261527751453539/). I write essays for on-line and print publications. I send out email newsletters to everyone on my email lists. I make sure all my favorite bookstores have an early copy of the book and I set up bookstore events (if the publicist has not already done this). Anything I can do to work as a team member and help the process, I do.

For those who want more detailed suggestions, I recommend MJ Rose and Randy Sue Meyers’ book What To Do Before Your Book Launch.

Describe your support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

Booksellers. Readers. Book Clubs. It’s the community that makes a book.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa?

I never write about my life specifically, but I often find that in writing I answer personal questions I didn’t know I had. For example, The Scent Keeper began as the image of the young girl, and the question of what it might be like to be raised with smell as your predominant sense. I explored those things, but in the end, I also explored the development of a person’s relationship with their parents, and the growth we need to go through in order to see them as human beings, separate from us.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love the feeling of sinking into a character. It feels like the best part of being pregnant, living with this other. nascent being, helping to grow them into real life.

I love losing track of the real world and entering into an imaginary one. The islands of The Scent Keeper and the restaurant of The School of Essential Ingredients became some of my favorite places to live in my imagination, and time spent there was always joyous.

I love the way it keeps me alive to the real world. When I visit a new place, my mind is always searching for new scenes to describe, but also new insights into how people interact. When I’m somewhere I already know, looking at it through a writer’s eyes can make it fresh.

And I’d like to say to all the aspiring writers that THIS is what makes you a writer. It’s not whether or not you are published. It’s how you see the world. You own that, no matter how many books you might have on a bookstore’s shelves. That’s what’s important.

Connect with Erica:

Website: http://www.ericabauermeister.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EricaBauermeisterAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericabauermeisterauthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/702360.Erica_Bauermeister

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Barbara Taylor Sissel—Novelist

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.

I almost always write first thing. The to-do list, errands, even gardening, which is also a passion, waits until I get pages done. I think routine and persistence are my strategies. Where I write is a gift, a special place. It’s also my potting shed. I designed it, and my son and a few others built it using a lot of salvage. It overlooks my garden and down a kind of meadow. My garden is a big source of inspiration to me, along with reading.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.

With Lake Union, when I finish a draft, I send it to my editor who does a read-through and then returns it with suggestions. Once I’ve gone through and made changes, I send it to a developmental editor to whom the book has been assigned. We go through anywhere from 2-4 rounds of extensive edits. I think here is where the book is really made, if that makes sense. I both love and hate the process, but I’m always pretty thrilled with the result. Next the draft goes to the copy editors, possibly as many as three different ones, for final polishing. After all their changes are incorporated into the manuscript, the book goes into production.

As for marketing, I have a street team of early reviewers who are kind enough to read and review advance copies of my books. I also have a website and a Facebook author page where I try and post news regularly. I run regular Amazon and Goodreads giveaways of my books and publish a quarterly newsletter too. Marketing doesn’t come easy for me, so compared to other authors, what I do is pretty minimal!

Describe your support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

I have a few author friends with whom I chat back and forth, and then there are my street team members, some of whom have been readers of my books since I self published my first one back in 2011. Along with my two sons, who are terrific supporters, these are the folks who keep me going!

In your bio on your website, you share how your background laid the foundation for your writing career. I’m interested in how your life and work intertwine today.

I still draw on my experience of life past and present, and on the experiences of others as well, even total strangers. I’ll find myself listening (sometimes it’s hard not to!), standing in the grocery line or sitting in a restaurant, to others telling stories, talking to each other or to their children. Snippets of conversation can set my imagination off. I’m a total ID TV addict, so crime and how it affects families remains an interest … one I’ve had since I lived on prison grounds. Story is just a huge part of my life … how I work things out or work things through, you know? Writing stories is contemplative and thoughtful for me, which is kind of how my life is, so it’s all sort of this one fluid thing, like a long rippling wave with a little foam at the curl.

What do you love most about your creativity?

Oh, what a wonderful question. That I have it? Is that an answer? It’s what pops into my mind. That it’s a gift I’ve been given, one that’s different every day. One that keeps on surprising me and that leads me to places I’ve never been, or would think to go if it weren’t for that spark of interest, of desire. It’s just a source of fascination to me and a delight.

Connect with Barbara:

Website: http://barbarataylorsissel.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraTaylorSissel?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/barbarasissel

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/584581.Barbara_Taylor_Sissel

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/barbarasissel/

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The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

About the Book:

Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives. 

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them.  As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

Lael’s Review:

In Emmeline’s childhood, mermaids brought supplies to their island cabin, and scents of faraway places lived in beautiful bottles covering the back wall. Made with a mysterious machine, these scents inspire her father’s tales of Queen Emmeline and Jack, the Scent Hunter. Tragedy thrusts her into the mainstream world, where secrets are revealed and Emmeline must redefine family. Bauermeister portrays a magical land of enchantment from a child’s perspective, and the demise of innocence so well that dear reader’s heart breaks for Emmeline. I was fortunate to receive this beautiful story of never giving up on your dream, and unintended consequences, from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

About the Author:

Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

Indie Bound

Powell’s

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

At her local drugstore, Amy Byler runs into her husband, who went on a business trip to Hong Kong and stayed for three years. He’s returned to make things right and be the father his children deserve. School Librarian Amy signs up to present her reading program at a conference in NYC, where she plans to reconnect with her college roommate, during the kids’ week with their father. She meets a hot librarian, makes a new friend, and starts a movement. Harms cleverly uses the modern-day epistolary of email and texting in this humorous exploration of a single mom becoming her own woman. Fans of Ann Garvin, Katherine Center, and Kerry Anne King will appreciate Harms’ voice. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from Lake Union through NetGalley.

Indiebound Pre-order Link

Amazon Pre-order Link

What happens when an overworked, underappreciated single mother of two gets an opportunity to spend a week away from reality in NYC? What happens when that week turns into an entire summer? And, what happens when this rare gift of personal freedom, self-reflection, and fun comes to an end?

These are the questions at the heart of former editor and literary agent Kelly Harms’ delightful and empowering new novel, THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER (Lake Union Publishing; May 1, 2019; hardcover), about a middle-aged woman’s much-needed Momspringa.* Full of wit, heart, bookish-references, and romance, THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER is next year’s feel-good read!

*Momspringa (n.): A period of time when moms are given time away from the demands of daily life, including their children, so they can recharge and reconnect with themselves as human women. Inspired by the Amish term Rumspringa.

Therese Walsh—Author of Novels and Non-Fiction

Describe your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, and inspirations tangible and abstract.

I’m a creature of habit, so when I’m writing well, I’m writing every day. When I’m not writing, I may find it difficult to reconnect with the habit, which almost always leaves me feeling anxious and unfulfilled. So while I know I don’t have to write, I also know I’m my best self when I am writing. Knowing that, you may not be surprised to learn that when I’m writing, I tend to dedicate many hours a day to the page. I have an office with a regular desk, but I also have a treadmill desk in our family room; you might find me in either of those places, or even in the kitchen writing and watching the birds. (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a big bird-watcher and amateur photographer.) When I feel stuck–whether or not I’d call it writer’s block–it’s usually because I’ve made a mistake somewhere. This might mean a character behaved unnaturally, or I forced a plot point, or (name your infraction)! Sometimes it takes a few days to figure out where I’ve erred, but other times it’s a longer process. It’s always frustrating for me, and I can’t seem to move beyond the problem scene until I’ve figured it out.

Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including publishing team and marketing expectations of yourself as the author.

Is any draft a “final draft” when you’re traditionally published? Eventually, yes, but once you submit your polished “final” draft to your editor, you are bound to see that draft again—and probably change it again, too. That draft goes to your copy editor, who’ll return the draft to you with scads of notes and questions, which you’ll need to turn around with a “stet” (leave that word or phrase as originally written) or with a change that makes your story more concise or clearer/better in some way. After, your manuscript will be presented to you with those changes in the style of the actual book but with loose pages. At this stage—and through second- and sometimes third-pass pages—it’s important that you don’t make significant changes to the story. But sometimes you or your editor will catch errors/inconsistencies, or have a last-minute inspiration, and you’ll work something into the manuscript. Meanwhile, meetings with marketing and publicity may begin, in person or by phone, or even a combination of the two. That’s when you’ll hear the team’s plan for your book, and have the opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions.

For my part, I try to supplement whatever in-house initiatives are ongoing, usually by reaching out to bloggers, by sending myself on a tour (real and/or online), and especially by making inroads with my local arts community. I make sure my local bookstore(s) know when my book will be releasing, and I work in conjunction with my publisher to plan some events. It’s important that you try not to burn out once you move into full-time publicity mode, because it can be exhausting. But it can also be exhilarating, once your book arrives and is in your hands—first in the form of advance reader copies (ARCs) and later as early copies of your truly final draft, bound and covered and reader-ready. Always take time to appreciate this milestone. Personally, I like to throw a release-day party, usually to follow my first book signing.

Tell me about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My husband is my biggest cheerleader, followed by my kids and extended family. But I also see a lot of support behind the scenes from several author friends—people I trust with my early scenes and chapters, who know I need fuel and encouragement but will tell me if there are issues with the story. I also see a lot of support through the community of writers at Writer Unboxed; some of my most potent fuel comes from them.

How does writing influence your life and vice versa?

Writer Unboxed, which I co-founded with Kathleen Bolton thirteen years ago, has had a tremendous influence on my life as a writer. It has kept me tethered to writing during tough times, when I might otherwise have given up. In a broader way, my life informs my writing, because I tend to process ideas through my writing. And my writing influences my life because, on the other side of “The End,” I have a clearer understanding about an idea or a problem, or even my own human capabilities and limits.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love the way it can surprise me, whether it’s a mid-scene revelation or a way of tying up a scene that springs up seemingly out of nowhere. Times like that, I feel like there’s a ghost over my shoulder, typing in those words, because it feels more than a little otherworldly and outside of myself. That’s when I feel luckiest to be a writer.

Connect with Therese:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Goodreads

BookBub

WriterUnboxed