Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (linked to Mailbox Monday)

The Miracles of Prato  What I Remember Most (kindle:audible)  chronically me (memoir)

Last week on Bookfan:

the bookseller (Mar3)   the traveling tea shop (Mar3)   One True Heart (blog tour 3:25)

Currently reading:

Finding Glory (May26)

#FitReaders Weekly Check-in

FitReaders2015

  • Sat:     13,270
  • Sun:   10,009
  • Mon:  13,643
  • Tue:    11,664
  • Wed:   11,691
  • Thu:     4,651
  • Fri:     10,443

My cold left last week and I felt more like getting some regular exercise. Still on the treadmill because temps haven’t been out of the 30s (F). We’re supposed to reach the 40s and 50s in the week ahead so I’m looking forward to walking outdoors and listening to an audiobook. Have a great week!

Treadmill reading:

Finding Glory (May26)

Blog Tour Guest Post/Review: One True Heart by Jodi Thomas

One True Heart (blog tour 3:25)

Welcome to ONE TRUE HEART. Like waiting for fine chocolate, this book is one you will not want to miss.  For me the story is always about the people and I loved writing this story.  This one started at a real place I know well, the Amarillo airport where one night a man and a woman meet by accident.  She’s exhausted and on crutches.  He offers her  a ride to Harmony.  She’s a trained soldier and sees this professor type in glasses as no threat.  Only, while she sleeps, he steals a kiss.

When he drops her off at Winter’s Inn, the bed and breakfast, the inn keeper thinks he’s staying the night.  For the first time in year’s Drew is tempted to get involved.

As books often do, this story didn’t come to me as a thread; it came to me as a ball of multi-color yarn.  All of us live lives that are intertwined with those we love or fear or even hate.  All of us are looking for one true heart.  Some of us settle for less or even give up on finding what we’re looking for, but the people we meet and love all add a depth to us.  In ONE TRUE HEART I wanted to show that sometimes loving can win out.

I have three heroes in my story.  Drew has risked his life once and almost lost it, shattering his dreams.  Johnny thinks his dreams are small and is shattered and angry that even his simple dreams can’t come true.  Beau, on the other hand, has always dreamed big, but somewhere in climbing the ladder to success he’s lost sight of love.

As the story opens all three are about to find a kind of love they never dreamed could happen.  The only hard part is going to be hanging onto it.

To all my friends and fans, make a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, curl up in your favorite chair and open ONE TRUE HEART.  I promise I’ll leave you smiling as you read.

Read on,

Jodi Thomas 

1028_jodibioJodi Thomas is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of 41 novels and 13 short story collections. A five-time RITA winner, Jodi currently serves as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.

 

 www.jodithomas.com

www.facebook.com/JodiThomasAuthor

www.twitter.com/jodithomas


 

  • One True Heart (blog tour 3:25)Title:  One True Heart
  • Series:  Harmony #8
  • Author:  Jodi Thomas
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  April 7, 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis: Millanie McAllen is always logical. But after returning to her childhood home, she learns that some things are beyond explanation—like her undeniable passion for Drew Cunningham…

After finding success as a singer on the road, Beau Yates returns to Harmony to make peace with his dying father—only to find the woman he’s been dreaming of for years. But the secrets they discover might be too much for him to bear…

When Johnny Wheeler is charged with his wife’s murder, he turns to the only person who believes he’s innocent. Fortune teller Kare Cunningham’s life has always danced around reality—but Johnny is able to ground her like no other…

As their paths cross in new, captivating directions, the townspeople of Harmony need to learn to love and let go in order to live together in their little slice of heaven.  (publisher)

My take:  If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog you know I love The Harmony Series by Jodi Thomas. She’s back with the eighth installment, One True Heart. The principal characters are all new to the series but there are a few cameos by some of Millanie McAllen’s relatives who’ve been featured in previous novels.

I loved the three storylines of One True Heart. Each character is working to get past a personal history they’d like to forget. Millanie and Drew have survived horrific events and just want to hide out in the Harmony area without details of their past being discovered. Neither expected to meet someone who could make them see a new future.

Beau and Lark knew each other in their teens but haven’t reconnected in years. He’s now a successful musician and she is a VP at a local bank. As these two find their way back to each other  they might find obstacles too much to overcome.

Johnny and Kare have been disappointed by people who were supposed to love them but instead they’ve been left licking their wounds. They’re not looking for love but it could be sneaking up on them. These two were sweet and added comic relief to the novel. I laughed a lot when reading their scenes.

As usual, Thomas’ characters are relatable, likable and easy to cheer on toward a happy ending. There’s drama, a mystery and, of course, romance. I’m always a bit sad when I finish one of these novels because I know I have to wait a while for another. Happily, at the end there’s a sneak peek of a Harmony novella that will be part of a new anthology due out in July.

Blog Tour/Review: The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones

  • the traveling tea shop (Mar3)Title:  The Traveling Tea Shop
  • Author:  Belinda Jones
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Laurie Davis has always followed her passion. After escaping family drama to start a new life in New York City, she’s up for whatever challenges life brings. So when an opportunity arises for her to use her travel industry expertise and serve as an assistant and tour guide for her idol, Pamela Lambert-Leigh, star of television’s Tea-Time with Pamela, she jumps at the chance.

But Laurie’s exciting adventure ends up entailing a lot more than scouting locations for the cake queen’s new cookbook when Pamela’s sassy mother and sulky, rebellious daughter tag along for the trip. As they cruise around bakeries in New England trading local delights like Red Velvet Cake and Whoopie Pies for British specialties such as Victoria Sponge and Bakewell Tarts, more secrets than recipes are revealed.

Now, in between rediscovering romance, learning to forgive family, and finding the best dessert on the East Coast, Laurie, Pamela, and the gang might find there’s nothing a nice cup of tea, a sweet treat, and a little bit of friendship can’t heal… (publisher)

My take:  Laurie couldn’t wait to set off on the tour with Pamela and her mother, Gracie and daughter, Ravenna. Almost immediately, though, she saw that things between the three women were tense. As the days go on Laurie learned the reasons for the strained relationships. She becomes involved in a secret that she’s not pleased to know and hopes it will be out in the open very soon. The other principals have their own thoughts on how the secret should be revealed.

I think my favorite characters of the book were Laurie, Gracie, Charles and Harvey. They seemed so genuine and honorable. You’ll have to read the novel to know about Charles and Harvey.

If you’ve ever wanted to go on a road trip in New England, and you like cake, this novel could be a guide. I’ve made note of a few places I’d like to visit. Belinda Jones’ story is about family, friendship, secrets, apologies and forgiveness. And food – dessert, to be precise. I enjoyed it and recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction and foodie fiction.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

  • the bookseller (Mar3)Title:  The Bookseller
  • Author:  Cynthia Swanson
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  March 2015 – Harper
  • Source:  Publisher

My take: The Bookseller is about Kitty, a thirty-something woman in 1960s Denver, CO who owns a book store with her best friend. Lately, Kitty has been having some vivid and strange dreams where she’s living a parallel life that is quite different from her real life. She is called Katharyn and has a husband and three children. In her dream life she finds herself daydreaming about her life as Kitty. She can’t figure out what’s going on until the dreams begin to jog some memories. As confusing as this might sound, I found it easy to follow.

Cynthia Swanson’s dual-storylines kept me turning the pages. It was apparent to me what was going on about midway through but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel. It made me think about the imperfections in life and how they can change our idea of what would make us happy or content. The natural order of life, as well as unexpected circumstances, can make our lives turn on a dime.

The Bookseller is Swanson’s debut novel. I think it would be a good selection for readers looking for something a little different.

#FitReaders Weekly Check-in

FitReaders2015

  • Sat:      7,464
  • Sun:    5,347
  • Mon:  9,288
  • Tue:    4,297
  • Wed:   4,511
  • Thu:  10,087
  • Fri:    10,804

I’ve been fighting a cold all week and my step numbers reflect it. Hoping next week will be better.

Treadmill reading:

second chances (Apr14)

This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak

  • This Heart of Mine (Mar31)Title:  This Heart of Mine
  • Series:  Whiskey Creek #8
  • Author:  Brenda Novak
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  March 31, 2015 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Phoenix Fuller grew up in the small town of Whiskey Creek, CA. Raised by a mother who was a hoarder, abandoned by her father and older brothers, she was an outcast at school. When she was befriended by Riley Stinson, her math tutor and classmate, she started to have hope for a normal life. They fell in love and were soon expecting a baby. As happens to many first loves, the two broke up. Riley started dating another girl while Phoenix felt her life going back to the way it was before Riley.  Phoenix was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of another classmate (Riley’s new girlfriend). Phoenix’s life changed at that moment and she went to prison for 17 years. Now released after serving her sentence she’s back in Whiskey Creek and hopes to form a relationship with her teen-aged son.

The family and friends of the girl who was killed are determined to make Phoenix’s life miserable. If their daughter and sister can’t be alive, her alleged killer should not live a happy life, much less in the town where they live.

Over the course of the Whiskey Creek series we’ve met several members of a tight-knit  group of friends who’ve faced challenges of their own. They show a willingness to support their friend Riley in the way he’s always supported them. That was gratifying for me as a reader. I enjoyed THIS HEART OF MINE. I’d wondered about Phoenix each time she was mentioned in previous books. I wasn’t sure how Brenda Novak would present her when she figured into the series as a major character. I thought she wrote a wonderful portrayal of a character I hadn’t expected to like.

If you’re a fan of Brenda Novak and the Whiskey Creek series I think you’ll enjoy the newest addition to the series as much as I did.

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Going Gypsy – Q&A with authors David & Veronica James

Going Gypsy
About the Book:
Almost every couple faces a “now what?” moment as their last kid moves out of the house. There’s a big empty nest looming over this new and uncertain stage in their lives.David and Veronica James chose to look at this next phase of life as a beginning instead of an ending. Rather than staying put and facing the constant reminders of empty bedrooms and backseats, a plan began to develop to sell the nest and hit the highway. But could a homebody helicopter mom learn to let go of her heartstrings and house keys all at once?Filled with a sense of adventure and humor, GOING GYPSY is the story of a life after raising kids that is a celebration of new experiences. Pulling the rip cord on the daily grind, David and Veronica throw caution to the wind, quit their jobs, sell their house, put on their vagabond shoes, and go gypsy in a beat-up old RV found on eBay.On a journey of over ten thousand miles along the back roads of America (and a hysterical, error-infused side trip into Italy), they conquer old fears, see new sights, reestablish bonds with family and friends, and transform their relationships with their three grown children from parent-child to adult-to-adult. Most importantly, they rediscover in themselves the fun-loving youngsters who fell in love three decades prior.
About the Authors, by the authors:
David James was born in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up on the prairie and in the mountains of Colorado. He made his way in the music business as a performer, recording artist, songwriter, and radio personality in Nashville, Tennessee, and St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. After parenting and sending three kids out into the big wide world, he currently lives with his bride of thirty years, Veronica, in a state of perpetual motion. The couple writes about their travels since becoming empty nesters on their popular website, GypsyNester.com.Veronica James was born and raised in Southern California and was like, totally, a Valley Girl. Against any sane person’s better judgment, she ran off with a musician at age eighteen.Afterprocreating, she became Earth Mama, then Helicopter Mom, hovering over every detail of her children’s lives. Veronica has held approximately thirty-three different jobs including writer. She is never bored.


Q&A with David & Veronica James

Authors of GOING GYPSY: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All.

GypsyNesterAuthors

Most people become empty nesters when their kids leave home, but you left home too. How did that come about?

David: We were living in the Virgin Islands and were a bit separated from all of our family and friends in the US. Once our youngest went off to college in the states, like his sisters before him, there was nothing keeping us in the Caribbean. So we decided to sell the house and take what we called a “victory lap,” celebrating a job well done—getting our kids raised and successfully out on their own.

Veronica: One of the reasons I had to resort to drastic measures was that I worked at the kids’ school. I was the quintessential “helicopter mom,” hovering over everything my kids did. The idea of going back to the school without the kids there was heartbreaking. So we whittled our belongings down to sixteen boxes and took off in a beat-up old RV we bought on eBay.

What was the process like from when you decided to take off to when you started your adventure?

David: That’s what Going Gypsy is all about. We cover the year when our son left for college and we hit the road. We did not have this big plan in our heads at the start to live a gypsy lifestyle. It organically grew as we went along. Initially, we got the motor home as a way to take some time to visit with family and friends and see the country without going broke. Once we were out on the road a while, we realized how much we liked it and wanted to figure out how we could keep going. It’s been over six years now.

Veronica: A big thing that jolted us into thinking about a new approach to our lives was when we Googled “empty nest” and a big ad for an Alzheimer’s patch popped up. We thought, “holy cr-moley!” We have a good third of our lives left and that’s too long a time to be sitting around doing nothing. We see our book as a kick in the butt to get folks going and hopefully think outside the box.

How did you dispense with a lifetime’s worth of belongings?

Veronica: The stress of a big move is huge no matter what the circumstances. We gave away or sold a lot of stuff, keeping only the things we knew we couldn’t live without (like photo albums and family heirlooms). Those we managed to fit into sixteen boxes that we put in storage. Now I find I’m more organized the less I have with me. If I have too many things and too much space to spread out in, I get really scattered and disorganized.

How did you adjust to having “no nest at all?”

David: We replaced our nest with one on wheels. The RV became our new home. It’s remarkable how homey it became and how quickly. It’s obviously very condensed, and we do travel light, but when you think about what you really need, we have the basics—a bed, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a table to sit at to eat and write.

Veronica: And the view out the window is different every day, which is fantastic!

How did your kids react to you leaving home?

Veronica: Our son was horrified at first. I remember him saying, “you’re going to live in your car?!” But I think they’re happy for us. My guess is that they are also happy that Mom has things to do besides constantly bugging them about who they are dating or when they might make us grandparents.

David: I imagine what they’re thinking is a mixture of relief and what the heck are they doing? But a big plus in this process has been developing a new relationship with our children as adults. We wanted to make an adult-to-adult connection and not be helicopter parents any longer.

Don’t you miss seeing your kids regularly?

David: We see the kids more than we would have if we’d stayed in St. Croix because we can route ourselves through wherever they are on our way from one adventure to the next.

Veronica: Our daughters live in Manhattan so they are easy to see often. Our son is in Alaska but he is a pilot and has the flying privileges that come with that, so it is usually easier for him to meet up with us.

How do you handle holidays?

David: Our oldest daughter took over the hostess role fairly quickly, as soon as we didn’t have the house any longer. She’s not one to miss out on the holiday treats and I guess she knew that it’s nearly impossible to shove a turkey into a motor home oven!

Veronica: She has done a remarkable job. New York City is an amazing place to spend the holidays. It’s very festive. So everyone is happy.

Was making this leap more exciting or scary?

David: I am a musician so I always traveled a lot and I love it. It was natural for me to explore. For Veronica it was more of a drastic change.

Veronica: The hardest part was the initial decision to make the leap. I was a homebody—I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. But I’m proactive, and a planner, so it was good for me to be able to throw myself into the planning phase. I did have to do quite a bit of fear conquering. I guess I just transferred the fear—now I’m more scared to stop moving than I was to start in the first place!

How many places have you visited?

David: We started in the RV by exploring the US, and then branched out to Mexico and Canada, following the weather like geese. As time went on, we broadened our horizons and added some traveling by air and sea. Now I think we’ve been to over 40 countries on five continents. Later this year we’re heading to Africa, making six out of seven, then our final continent will be Antarctica. We’ll get there!

Veronica: David has also been to all 50 states but I’ve only been to 48, so I need to cover my last two—Alaska and Hawaii. We’re very competitive so I can’t stand him being ahead of me.

What have been the highlights so far?

Veronica: There are so many amazing high points. But I think the Galapagos Islands were up there at the top. I love animals; I’m like a little kid around them. The islands have so many unique species, and they are completely unafraid of humans, so if you love animals put the Galapagos at the top of your bucket list.

David: I answer this question different each time it’s asked because I have so many favorites. Walking along the top of the Great Wall of China was a real highlight. But I could easily name dozens more.

What have been the low points?

Veronica: Yikes. Well, I locked myself inside a hotel room in Italy once. But a big one came when we had a blowout over our traveling styles. We had discussed the empty nest and all that it entailed, but forgot to discuss how we liked to travel. It ended up coming to a head in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Yellowstone National Park, in the middle of a herd of buffalo.

David: I have a go-go-go mindset. I always want to be moving forward. Veronica likes to really get a feel for a place and connect to it. In the end, I learned to adapt more to her style because it is a better way to see the world.

Veronica: I call him a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am traveler.

Have you inspired others to travel?

Veronica: I hope so. My favorite part of this journey so far has been hearing from folks who chose places because we said how much we loved them. But there are so many wonderful things people in our life phase can do if they aren’t interested in travel, you don’t have to be as crazy as we are to start going gypsy. Do that thing that inspires you, something that you’ve always wanted to explore. Write that book, volunteer in your community, go back to school. And don’t forget to reconnect with your partner, do new things together, and find that pre-kid couple who fell in love all those years ago. We are not self-help writers. We haven’t written a how-to guide. We just aspire to be the same kind of kick in the butt for our readers that we found when we first saw that ad for the Alzheimer’s patch.

David: We try to seek out the unexpected, and discover overlooked gems in our travels. Sometimes they are found in famous, bucket-list type destinations; often they are hiding well off the beaten path. Either way we enjoy relaying stories from out of the ordinary. Hopefully that inspires some people to venture down the road less traveled too.

How have you pushed yourselves?

Veronica: I made a decision to fear-conquer my butt off. As a mom I developed so many fears and it turned into a vicious cycle. I purposefully inserted myself into situations to overcome these fears. Just to name a few, I’ve paraglided off of the seacliffs in Lima, Peru, shot the rapids in Montana, and ziplined over a 300-foot waterfall in Newfoundland—I even went to roller derby camp; it took three days in bed to recover from that little escapade!

David: Veronica was all gung-ho about jumping out of an airplane in Australia. I see no need to abandon a functioning aircraft unless it is on fire. But once she threw down the gauntlet I accepted the challenge. Halfway up our attitudes had done a complete 180—she was looking pretty puny, scared to death, and I was excited at the prospect of freefalling from ten thousand feet.

Have you eaten any strange foods? 

David: Tons. We write about that a lot on our blog. I’m not sure if they were the strangest, but the worst by far was silkworms in China. For one thing, the smell made it nearly impossible to eat them. Oh, and the fact that they are bugs.

Veronica: A little clarification here, I ate silkworms, David spit his out. I won that one.

David: Let me just go on the record here: while I admit to spitting out the vile worm, I did eat a bug in Mexico, a cricket to be exact, and it was about a million times better than the silkworms.

Veronica: Yes, he did finally lose his bug virginity.

What’s next for the Gypsy Nesters?

Veronica: The more we travel the more we want to see; we’ve turned into very greedy travelers! We’d love to get to New Zealand. And we haven’t been to Scotland—we both have roots there—so we feel a huge pull to visit. I could name several dozen more… but you really don’t want me to pull out the whole list, do you?

David: When we started out we had a saying: the plan is no plans. We like to leave life open to reveal itself to us so we usually don’t know where we will be too far in advance. We have a river cruise coming up through Holland and Belgium, and we are going to Africa this summer, but beyond that we will see where the wind takes us. In the meantime, we are working on a second book that will cover our adventures after that first year of taking our initial leap into the life of Going Gypsy.


I think Going Gypsy sounds like a great memoir!

If you’d like to win a copy there’s a US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED

Going Gypsy

Sunday Post

Book arrivals (linked to Mailbox Monday)

happiness for beginners (vine Mar24) Redemption Bay (June30) One True Heart (blog tour 3:25) Finding Glory (May26)

Last week on Bookfan:

Swanson pic credit, Glenda Cebrian Photography  a small indiscretion  a touch of stardust (Feb17)

Currently reading:

One True Heart (blog tour 3:25)

#FitReaders Weekly Check-in

FitReaders2015

  • Sat:     8,192
  • Sun:  10,066
  • Mon:   7,509
  • Tue:    6,905
  • Wed:   5,792
  • Thu:    5,041
  • Fri:    10,208

Audiobooks – yes, I walked outdoors!! The week before last my husband and I visited my parents in Arizona. We came home to temps in the 50s and 60s. What a treat! If those temps hold for a week or so our snow should disappear. We’re ready for Spring :)

the moment of everything (audio)My take:  A breezy novel about a recently downsized young woman who discovers different priorities as her job path takes an unexpected turn at a used book store. It was a perfect vacation audiobook and I look forward to author Shelly King’s next book.  New-to-me narrator Kristen Sieh did a fine job. I enjoyed her performance.

 

A Touch of Stardust: A Novel by Kate Alcott

  • a touch of stardust (Feb17)Title:  A Touch of Stardust: A Novel
  • Author:  Kate Alcott
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2015 – Doubleday
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Julie Crawford, recent graduate of Smith College, didn’t want to go home, get married and live the life her parents intended for her. She wanted to follow her dream to Hollywood to become a screenplay writer. Her parents agreed to one year and then she had to come home. Julie landed an office job at Selznick International Pictures (SIP) which was starting production of Gone With The Wind. That job lasted one day – she was fired by Selznick himself. Not to worry, though. She landed a job as assistant to Carole Lombard, formerly of Fort Wayne, Indiana (Julie’s hometown), queen of screwball comedies, and soon-to-be wife of Clark Gable. Eventually Carole helped Julie make connections in the screenwriting world.

Julie met Andy Weinstein, an assistant producer, on her one day at SIP and was instantly attracted to him. Their relationship grew as filming of GWTW progressed and provided a parallel storyline that I enjoyed. Andy was under pressure to keep things going smoothly on the set while at the same time he felt pressure from the looming Nazi threat in Europe. He felt he should be doing something to help his relatives in Berlin instead of making movies in Hollywood.

I really enjoyed A Touch of Stardust. Reading it was like watching a movie from the ’40s.  I was immersed in many aspects of making GWTW. From casting to the actual filming to the premier in Atlanta – I felt like I had a front row seat to it all. I liked the Julie/Andy storyline but I thought the real star of the book was Carole Lombard. Alcott made her leap off the page every time she appeared. Her relationship with Clark Gable was so endearing and her unapologetic ways and colorful language made her larger than life.

If you’re a fan of Hollywood, Gone With The Wind, or stories about following a dream I think you’ll enjoy  A Touch of Stardust. I sure did!

Spotlight/US Giveaway: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

a small indiscretion

Description
A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past — the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.

A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love — the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.


 

Author Bio
Jan Ellison is a graduate of Stanford University and San Francisco State University’s MFA Program. She has published award-winning short fiction, and was the recipient of a 2007 O. Henry Prize for her first story to appear in print. Her work has also been shortlisted for The Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. A Small Indiscretion is her first book.

For more information please visit http://www.janellison.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter


 

Reviews
“This voice is alive. It knows something. It will take us somewhere. The magic is accomplished so fast, so subtly, that most readers hardly notice… A Small Indiscretion is rich with suspense…astonishing … Delectable elements of this terrific first novel abound: Its characters are round and real…Ellison gives us an achingly physical sense of family life … Lovely writing guides us through, driven by a quiet generosity … This voice knows something, and by the end of the novel, so do we.” – San Francisco Chronicle, A&E, by Joan Frank

“The literary equivalent of a day spa: sink in, tune out, turn page, turn page, turn page. Delicious, lazy-day reading…just don’t underestimate the writing.”– Oprah’s Book Club Editor’s Pick, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, by Leigh Newman

“An engrossing, believable, gracefully written family drama that reveals our past’s bare-knuckle grip on our present.”  – Emma DonoghueNew York Times bestselling author of Room

“A stunning debut by Jan Ellison . . . Like the photograph that arrives in the mail and sets in motion the plot of this gorgeous novel, A Small Indiscretion reminds us of the intensity of youthful desire and of the fragile nature of a marriage built on secrecy.” – Ann PackerNew York Times bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

“It might be convenient if our mistakes would fade with time rather than hunt us down complete with consequence, but that wouldn’t make for the kind of taut, hypnotic story Jan Ellison tells. The impact of narrator Annie Black’s ‘small’ indiscretion is anything but, and in a brilliantly paced unraveling, Ellison makes vivid the sometimes tragic interplay of choice and fate, lust and love, youth and adulthood — which can bring its own mistakes. Absorbing, chilling, and moving, A Small Indiscretion is the debut of an elegant writer who will be known and admired from the start.” – Robin Black, author of Life Drawing

“An emotional thriller of the Anita Shreve variety, with revelations that continue and relationships that evolve until the final pages . . . Connoisseurs of domestic suspense will finish this book in a few breathless sittings, then wait eagerly for Ellison’s next trick.”
– Kirkus Reviews

“[A] cleverly constructed debut . . . a deftly crafted, absorbing novel that peels back the layers of Annie’s character as it reveals the secrets of her past and present.”
– Booklist


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a small indiscretion

Published by Random House
Hardcover: 336 pages
January 20, 2015; $27.00 US/ $32.00 CAN; 9780812995442


Guest Post by Cynthia Swanson, author of The Bookseller

Today I’m pleased to welcome Cynthia Swanson whose debut novel The Bookseller was released last week by Harper. I hope you enjoy Cynthia’s topic as much as I did and if you’re a US reader you’ll be happy to see a Giveaway at the end of the post.


Swanson pic credit, Glenda Cebrian Photography

Tackling Your Creative Dream in Middle Age

By Cynthia Swanson

It was 10 o’clock on a Tuesday morning, and I was at the YMCA. As I pounded away on the StairMaster, I thought about how the only people at the Y at this time of day were like me – mostly moms of young kids, with perhaps the random retiree thrown in the mix.

How did this happen? Not so long ago, I was a childless, single woman in her mid-30s, with a successful freelance writing career and plenty of time to indulge in my passion for writing fiction. I lived alone in an adorable, historic bungalow in a trendy area of Denver. How had I gone from being that woman to being someone I barely recognized – 45 years old, married, and the mother of three? Instead of that cute bungalow, I now lived in a ranch house in a neighborhood chock-full of families. I squeezed in paid writing projects here and there, in a weak attempt to maintain some semblance of a career, while mostly volunteering, taking care of kids, gardening, and running a household.

Writing fiction felt like a thing of the past. Along with time to read, aimless drives just for something to do, last-minute movie dates with friends, and drinks after work, creativity had gone right out the window.

But had it? While the StairMaster took me higher and higher to nowhere, I considered the possibilities. How can life be transformed so quickly? How does one random, life-changing moment convert a woman from the person she thought she was into someone who – some days – she feels she barely knows?

And what are the repercussions if that life-changing moment doesn’t happen?

It was the seed of a story idea. Maybe, I thought, it was the seed of a novel.

***

Pre-kids, writing fiction was an enormous part of my identity. I had been writing stories for as long as I knew how to put pen to paper. In my 20s, I dreamed (who doesn’t, in their 20s?) of being famous for my creative work. I wrote short stories and hammered away at a novel. I high-fived myself when my short fiction was picked up by literary journals; I was ecstatic when one of my stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I had talent and ambition, I told myself – not to mention plenty of time to read, write, and dream. There was no reason I couldn’t make those dreams come true.

But life went on. I moved from Boston to Colorado. I published more stories; I ditched my first novel and began writing a new one. I changed career paths from marketing to technical writing, and eventually I started freelancing, which provided more flexibility for writing fiction.

Around the time I completed that novel and began querying agents, I met my husband-to-be. Before long, we had a bustling household with three kids – and the manuscript of my novel, for which I had received a few encouraging replies from agents (“Nice, but not for us.” “Keep writing! Good luck!”) but no offers to take me on, was tucked into a filing cabinet and rarely considered. There was a nagging part of me that wondered if I’d ever write fiction again.

So that day at the Y, as the StairMaster slowed into cool-down mode and I wiped the sweat from my brow, my excitement grew.

As with most of my fiction, the concept started with a bit of reality that could be transformed using invented circumstances and details. If I want my characters to seem like real people and not mannequins, then the emotion of the story has to be real – it has to be something I’ve experienced, or at the very least understand. On the flip side, to create a compelling narrative, I make up plenty of the finer points and most of the plot.

I reflected on this for few weeks, without writing a word. I just let the ideas stew. But eventually I began to write. I liked the concept of a character caught between a dream life and real life, with the two lives being vastly different because of some small variation in circumstance. I wanted to explore how quickly life can turn into something unexpected, just by the simplest change of conditions. It was, I realized, a Sliding Doors type of story.

But I needed this to happen to a specific person. Although I have never owned a bookstore, I’ve spent plenty of time hanging around in them – especially the independents, from hole-in-the-wall used bookshops in Cambridge, Massachusetts to the multi-leveled Tattered Cover here in Denver. I have a couple of bookselling relatives and friends, and their lifestyles have always fascinated me (and made me a tad envious). Selling books seemed the perfect career for Kitty Miller, my 38-year-old, single-gal protagonist. Thus The Bookseller was born.

I originally set the story in the present day. But because it revolves around this idea of chaos theory – one small incident that cascades into an entirely different outcome – I quickly realized that a 21st-century Kitty would approach the whole situation of living one life while dreaming of another in a completely different manner than would the Kitty of an earlier era. If this happened in the present day, I thought, Kitty would be quick to Google every aspect of her dream life. She’d probably be a bit cynical, and she’d be reluctant to go with the flow – something I needed her to do for the story to progress.

I’ve always had a fascination with the 1960s. When I started writing The Bookseller, I was also doing design and renovation work on our 1958 home, as well as giving suggestions to others who were remodeling their mid-century houses to be more modernized while remaining true to the era. Like writing, design has always been a passion of mine. Setting the story in 1962-63 was the perfect avenue to unite these interests.

With the lifestyle I now had, writing happened 15 minutes at a time. Yep, I wrote the first draft of this book in absurdly miniscule 15-minute increments. I could not write in the evening – my hat’s off to those who can be creative after a long day of obligations, but that’s not me. Instead, writing occurred in stolen daytime moments, sandwiched between other responsibilities. I learned that if I could find 15 minutes to write, I often could carve out 30 – or 60, or sometimes more. The house was messier and the dinners simpler. But it was all good.

Working on that first draft, I did little revising. My older children, twins who were six at the time, were learning to read. I gave them advice that teachers often give struggling new readers – when you come across a word you don’t know and can’t figure out, skip it. Keep going, and go back when you’re ready, because later context often clarifies that which previously stumped you.

The same counsel applies to writing – or any creative activity. If you’re stuck, make a note of the problem and move on. The resolution will be clear when the time is right.

After six months, I had a 50,000-word draft – approximately half the length the manuscript ultimately would be. That first draft was riddled with holes and questions. Much to my satisfaction, in subsequent drafts those holes filled in. Problems resolved themselves – sometimes by eliminating a minor character or side plot, sometimes by creating a new scene or dialogue, sometimes via research.

***

So, great, I finished it. Then what? Well. One of the benefits of being older when you embark on a creative project is that you likely have more resources at your fingertips. You know people – or if not, at least you are confident in your ability to find people.

I re-involved myself with the creative writing scene in Denver – a community I had been active in during my 30s but had become distanced from after having kids. In doing so, I discovered something unexpected, but very welcome: when it comes to writing, “older” does not equal “washed up.” Quite the contrary: attending readings and literary events, I noticed that while there were still hotshot young fiction writers getting lots of attention, most of them seem focused on YA and dystopia fiction. It was the older writers – the thirty- and forty- and even fiftysomething authors – who were putting out books about real, adult life. These were novels that readers bought – and remembered, and discussed in their book groups, and told their friends about.

Older writers – even first-time novelists who were well past their 20s when their first books came out – were garnering respect in the literary world. They were using their experience and wisdom to turn out great fiction.

After I deemed The Bookseller complete, I hired an editor – not for a line-by-line review, but rather to help me determine if the novel was marketable. She gave me great advice, and following on the heels of that, I found an agent and subsequently a publisher.

The Bookseller will hit bookstands on March 3, just a few weeks after my 50th birthday.

It’s not an easy process, nor a speedy one. But there is serenity that comes with creative endeavors at this age. While the outcome is astonishing, so was the process. I’m proud of the result, but I’m equally proud that I took it on in the first place – and that I finished the damn thing.

What I’ve learned is that in creative work – as in life – it’s not a heady, all-encompassing rush of perfection, but rather one step at a time that gets the job done.

BooksellerCover


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Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (Linked to Mailbox Monday)

the girls' guide to love and supper clubs  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]

Last week on Bookfan:

One Wish (Feb24)   new uses for old boyfriends (Feb26)

Currently reading:

the bookseller (Mar3)   This Heart of Mine (Mar31)

 

 I’m taking a Winter Break this week so it will be quiet here at Bookfan. I’ll be back visiting blogs and posting in a week or so.

#FitReaders Weekly Check-in

FitReaders2015

  • Sat:    7,570
  • Sun:  4,405
  • Mon: 4,673
  • Tue:  11,037
  • Wed: 11,373
  • Thu:   6,502
  • Fri:   10,268

Treadmill reading:

the traveling tea shop (Mar3)   This Heart of Mine (Mar31)

I dealt with a few aches and pains last week which accounts for some low fitbit stats. I’m hoping to get some good walks (outdoors!) while on a winter break this week.

Blog Tour: New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

  • new uses for old boyfriends (Feb26)Title:  New Uses for Old Boyfriends
  • Author:  Beth Kendrick
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Chick Lit
  • Published:  February 2015 – NAL Trade
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything…but she can barely take care of herself.

The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget…and a second chance has never felt so much like first love.  (publisher)

My take:  Lila Alders may have lived a sheltered life once upon a not so distant time ago but now she has to be the one in charge. She’ll have to be the one to get her life back on track. She recently came through a divorce that left her with a big SUV (or FUV as she refers to it) and her clothes. After pawning her wedding rings she heads to her hometown, Black Dog Bay, Delaware. That’s where she finds her recently widowed mother, Daphne, in complete denial about her finances. It seems Lila’s father left her with a lot of debt. The house needs to be sold to pay a mountain of bills.

The mother-daughter dynamic made for interesting scenes. Outspoken Daphne is not afraid to say anything about anything to her daughter. Lila is compelled to stand up to her mother and lead the way out of their money problems. The fashion fates smile on Lila and Daphne and they begin to crawl out from under their seemingly insurmountable challenges. There’s more than just furniture and memories under the roof of their gorgeous beachfront home and the two will find a way to make a go of a new venture.

This is a small town and most of the people will do anything for each other. They also gossip and stick their noses into other people’s business. That makes for comic relief and lots of interesting secondary characters. I liked the second chance relationship for Lila. Malcolm was perfect for her. Their repartee was fun as they got to know each other once again.

New Uses for Old Boyfriends is the perfect read for anyone who has the midwinter blahs. I enjoyed it and it made me long for a beach vacation. If you’re a fan of chick lit or contemporary fiction I recommend it!