Monthly Archives: August 2014

Gender Equality Still an Issue in Fiction.

I bought RIVAL because I was blown away by BULLY and UNTIL YOU. I’ve reviewed both those books here as examples of what’s fabulous about New Adult fiction. Madoc was a side character in these novels and amusing enough that I was interested in learning more about him. Though I enjoyed the book, the gender stereotyping was off putting.

Rival (Fall Away, #2)

Rival

Madoc and Fallon are step-siblings. They hate each other. Except, they don’t. Two years ago they came together with devastating consequences, especially for Fallon. Now she’s back–and not with a heart overflowing with goodwill. She’s pissed and she’s going to make Madoc and some other key members of their family pay for what’s she’s gone through. For his part, Madoc is torn between anger and attraction. Eventually, both of them realize that they’ve been victimized by their screwed up parents. The questions becomes whether they can get over the past and do what needs to be done to be together.

Fallon is a great character. She’s equal parts wounded girl and spitfire woman, and these conflicting aspects of her personality create a lot of emotional and sexual tension. Madoc isn’t as successful for me. There’s an immaturity at his core. This may be by design. Fallon was forced to mature over the past two years in ways that Madoc was not. But the differences in their experience are not enough to justify the degree of gender stereotyping the author indulges in. Maddoc is player…even after he and Fallon have initially reconnected. He gets angry and he’ll screw anything with lady parts. Fallon is made a martyr to their past. She doesn’t even go out on a date with another guy. Also, Fallon is written as some “gold-digger’s kid,” who should be grateful she’s allowed into her step-father’s fancy house. But Fallon’s own father is also wealthy…by unsavory means, certainly, but he’s got major bucks and more real power than Madoc’s father will wield in a lifetime.

I also take issue with the author’s uneven portrayal of Madoc’s father and Fallon’s mother. Neither of them deserve a parent-of-the-year award, but Douglas makes Fallon’s mom an over-the-top monster. Imagine the most stereo-typical Cougar you can and then put her on bad estrogen replacement therapy. As a result, she’s a daytime soap cliche rather than a character, whereas Madoc’s father (a serial adulterer) gets his own happily ever after with his mistress. Douglas redeems herself a bit with Fallon’s father. He’s fabulous. He loves his daughter fiercely but without sentimentality, which is exactly what she needs to survive.

The chemistry between Fallon and Madoc is scorching. Their relationship is emotional and highly erotic. Douglas also has a good handle on dialog–the exchanges crackle with tension and humor. And she creates an interesting social world around her protagonists. This supporting cast is as engaging and realistic as the leading couple.

RIVAL is not as riveting a novel as BULLY or UNTIL YOU, and I have to wonder whether Penelope Douglas slept through key portions of the women’s movement, but it is a good book and worth reading.

Big Ugly Love

In Angelisa Stone’s Can’t Go Without, two troubled people struggle to come together despite their ugly shared past.

Can't Go Without (Oasis Waterfall, #2)

Can’t Go Without

Tristan is as big a player as you’ve ever met–angry, self-centered, entitled. Leah, trapped in a loop of grief and self-loathing, isn’t much nicer. These two–whose relationship was snuffed before it began–are now out for blood. Or so it seems.

Stone’s characters are raw and compelling. Tristan and Leah want to be better, but they don’t believe there’s a way back. All they can do is inch toward the light (and toward each other) redemptive deed by redemptive deed. Shedding their shells isn’t easy or pretty. They have to own up to some terrible truths about themselves and those closest to them.

I did wish for more variation in speech among characters. Nearly the entire cast has the same harsh, locker-room diction (“I’m not down with that shit.”) even though they have advanced degrees and run successful businesses. Also, while Stone does a great job expanding and developing the character of Tristan’s father, who turns out to be even more awful than we thought, Tristan’s mother’s transformation comes a bit late and with little set up. I would have liked her to make an appearance mid-way through and offer a tantalizing hint about her new direction.

My quibbles with dialog and Mrs. O’Donnell aside, Can’t Go Without is a read-in-one-sitting-no-bathroom-breaks book. Angelisa Stone drops her characters into a deep, dark hole and has them claw their way to redemption. By the end, the couple’s transformation is absolutely convincing and demonstrates how, as big as the tendency to err is, it’s nothing to our capacity to forgive.

The Uses of Enchantment

In THE FOURTH WALL, Elizabeth Maria Naranjo gives readers a touching and creative meditation on the nature of grief and emotional healing.

The Fourth Wall

The Fourth Wall

Marin has always had a unique dream life. She has the gift of lucid dreaming, meaning she is fully aware as she dreams and able to take action. After a car accident takes her mother’s life and leaves her family in tatters, her dreams offer solace and sanctuary. This is fine until the unexpected intervention of a school psychologist–and contact with peers who are each damaged in his or her own way–makes Marin consider that maybe, just maybe, there’s something for her back in the real world, though it means dealing with her pain and confusion. Only by now, her dream world has become a reality in its own right, and it won’t set her free easily.

Naranjo’s characters are rich and real, with a psychological complexity usual in YA fiction. There’s a lyrical quality to her writing that echoes Marin’s dreams. Reality and fantasy co-exist flawlessly. The ending is a huge surprise, yet there’s so much raw emotional truth in Marin’s experience, this resolution is both believable and satisfying.

There is nothing generic about this paranormal YA novel. It is a young adult’s story told with depth and compassion. Naranjo’s fantasy throws reality into stark relief so that, through the whirl and tumble of Marin’s dreams, we more fully understand her and ourselves.

Ice is Nice, but a Personal Perspective is Precious.

Don’t mistake me. I’m thrilled that the current Ice Bucket Challenge rage has raised millions for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research. Anything that gets people together and working toward a common goal is wonderful in my book. So, fill those buckets and get wet. But afterward, when you’ve changed into dry clothes and are kicking back with a cup of coffee, think about digging a little deeper, learning a little more about the devastating neurological condition you’ve just raised money for.

I know a great place to start.

Until I Say Goodbye by Susan Spencer-Wendel is a first-person account of living (and laughing) with ALS. Susan recently left us, but don’t let that stop you from reading her honest, surprisingly joyful memoir. I read and reviewed the book on Amazon and Goodreads back in June.  I’m posting it here now in hopes that it will get some of you to take a closer look at what all the press coverage and YOUTUBE videos are really about. People. Real people who don’t have a chance unless we find a cure for ALS. People like Susan.

Until I Say Goodbye: A Book about Living

Until I Say Goodbye: A Book about Living

I hate reviews that start “I loved (or hated) this book.”

But I did. I loved it.

I saw the Susan Spencer-Wendel and her husband on a nightly news show–can’t remember which one–and found it odd that the author was, well, alive. Usually, end-of-life memoirs come out posthumously or are written by a surviving family member, the whole point being that time has given them perspective on the events and allowed them to draw some universal conclusions from the experience. Yet, I was intrigued enough to sit on my library’s hold list for two months. And, once I read the book, in a single laughter-and-tears marathon session, I toyed with never giving it back.

Spender-Wendel’s memoir as all about perspective, all about finding meaning and forging connections…and doing so while an invisible but ever louder clock counts down the final moments of her life.

Terminal illness is never easy, but there’s something about ALS, the way it kills its victims muscle fiber by muscle fiber, robbing them of movement, speech, and eventually even the ability to breathe unassisted, that seems especially cruel. But ALS is Spender-Wendel’s reality. Her only choice is how she will approach her remaining days–sad and terrified or with a joyful fire. The author chooses fire, and thanks to her fearlessness and determination to consume every moment left to her, she’s created something true and beautiful.

I’ll say it again. I loved this book. And you will, too.

How to Give Your Dream a Do-Over

Mid-life reinvention is possible if you’re willing to draw up a realistic plan and stick to it.

Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way)

Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention

NEVER TOO LATE: YOUR ROADMAP TO REINVENTION is Claire Cook’s memoir/how-to hybrid about how she achieved her long-delayed dream of becoming a writer. Cook has over a dozen novels to her credit. One, MUST LOVE DOGS, was adapted into a popular feature film.

The narrative thread of this book is a reinvention conference Cook spoke at in Mexico. As readers attend the conference with her, she offers anecdotes about her own initial journey away from her writing dream, the obstacles she faced reclaiming it, and how she balances it with the rest of life on a day-to-day basis. Cook’s style is warm and friendly. Her personal stories are both humorous and revealing. She does an excellent job of showing readers how to personalize their goals and create a step-by-step system to reach them. Additional encouragement is offered via Cook’s website, Facebook page, and a newsletter. Readers also have access to a free downloadable workbook to help them plot and manage their own reinvention.

One aspect of the book that I found interesting is how Cooke’s vibrant “connect with me” message bumps up against a quieter effort to maintain clear boundaries. At times she seems caught between her honest desire to be a virtual/literary cheerleader for her readers (follow me on Twitter and I’ll follow you) and her concern over reader expectations for one-on-one personal interaction. I doubt Cook intended readers to sense her dilemma, but it is a real one. Being approachable and supportive while avoiding a flood of personal requests is a challenge for successful writers–especially those working independently. There’s no publisher, agent, or PR professional to act as gatekeeper between author and audience. Cook works hard to maintain a balance, and she’s mostly successful.

I’d recommend NEVER TOO LATE to anyone who fears her dream may have passed its expiration date. On top of offering realistic advice, the book is entertaining and incredibly human.

Love and Lies in Charleston, SC: review of CAN’T GO HOME by Angelisa Denise Stone

A young man running from his past is sidetracked by his attraction for a spirited young woman.

Can't Go Home (Oasis Waterfall, #1)

Can’t Go Home

On the surface it seems like the standard contemporary/NA romance, but, as you read, Stone deviates from the expected in some interesting ways. She gives readers lively and highly convincing characters. Dre is appealing and annoying in equal measure. We know he’s up to no good when he begins pursuing Kathryn, but there’s something about him that whispers to us (as it does to her) not to dismiss him too soon. Kathryn is also not quite the standard romantic heroine. She’s self-assured and sarcastic. Stone also does a good job with most of her minor characters. Kathryn’s best friend (Sydney) is probably the most surprising of the bunch. I won’t give away her line of work, but Stone really goes out on a limb here busting stereotypes and it works.

The Charleston, South Carolina setting is well described and made integral to the action. I had almost as much fun hanging around on the beach and traveling around town with the characters as I did reading about their relationships.

There are a few bumps on the way to HEA. Dre, hiding a huge secret, can come off a bit juvenile for his age. He’s supposed to be 28 and, as we discover, quite well educated. But at certain times his speech/actions seems to be that of an eighteen-year-old kid. Stone also drags the revelation of his “secret” out too long. This creates a slight pacing issue about 2/3 into the book. A draggy chapter or two where Kathryn wheedles the truth of his living situation out of Dre. Then the action/drama shifts into overdrive as an emergency has her accompanying him home and an even bigger secret is revealed.

Dre’s family, when we finally meet them, is over-the-top awful. Here I think Stone needed to pull back a little. She really crosses the line from unsympathetic to unrealistically villainous. Yes, the family has a lot to hide (so they believe), but their treatment of Dre and the language they descend to when speaking to/about him (and Kathryn) doesn’t reflect the station in life Stone has given them.

Despite the bumps, CAN’T GO HOME is a good book. Stone keeps the twists coming until the very end.

Guest Post: Author Lisa Vogel on What Makes for Believable Fiction.

Lisa Vogel and her cat

Author Lisa Vogel and feline friend.

It’s a good thing writers are different because readers certainly are. If you want to see some evidence, go onto Amazon or any other website which allows readers to review books. You’ll soon have no doubt in your mind that there are an awful lot of opinions about what constitutes good writing, and many of those opinions contradict. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows! The bottom-line is that what readers want differs. This is good news because it means there is a lot more leeway for writers than many of us might have originally thought. Of course, you should definitely be the best writer you can be. What constitutes being the best? That’s the part that varies. So, there is hope your individual style will connect with some (although definitely not all) readers.

Nowhere is this more the case than in relation to characterization. There isn’t a right answer. There is only personal taste. And, since I, as both a reader and a writer, tend to like books that delve deeply into negative attributes, that’s what I’m going to address. I’ll use two books to illustrate what I mean. Both We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III contain a plethora of deeply flawed characters and, ultimately, a bad ending for just about everyone. One book I found completely realistic. The other book left me feeling that the author had gone too far.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin

In We Need To Talk About Kevin, the main characters are all part of one family (Mom, Dad, one daughter, one son), and everyone has personality issues. Kevin, the older child, is clearly the most flawed of the bunch, and Shriver never really says what’s wrong with him. Rather, she expertly leaves it to readers to interpret for themselves. What do you call a teenage loner who has murdered his fellow classmates? At the very least, he is extremely troubled. I didn’t personally relate to him (that’s probably a good thing), but I did completely relate to the manner in which the other characters were affected by him. And, as I know there are young people who have murdered others, I understood that his personality type, although rare, does exist.

On the other hand, I was easily able to relate to the other characters, especially Kevin’s mother Eva. I could feel within myself her struggles, her need to withdraw, her inabilities as well as her strengths. The same was the case with Eva’s indecisive husband Franklin and emotionally pale daughter Celia. All the characters were flawed but, other than Kevin, they seemed to me to be not so different from my friends, my neighbors and, well, myself. The problem for them was that they were tied to the railroad tracks of their lives and were therefore unable to get away from that out-of-control locomotive that was Kevin. Because Kevin was the only character that, of his own accord, went truly over the edge, it allowed me to believe in both the entire characterization of the novel as a whole and what I interpret to be a somewhat open ending.

House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog, which also has characters murdered and in prison by the end, is a novel I had a lot more trouble relating to. No one is quite as troubled as Kevin in We Need To Talk About Kevin, but the three main characters in House of Sand and Fog are far more troubled than I am. And isn’t that how we all judge things in the end? I could believe that someone would be as troubled and oblivious as Kathy. I could believe that someone would make as many critical errors in judgment as Lester. I could believe that someone would be as controlling and stubborn as Behrani. But, although I could feel myself in Eva, Franklin, and Celia, I couldn’t quite feel myself as Kathy, Lester, or Behrani, just as I couldn’t feel myself as Kevin. While one hard to digest character can make for excellent fiction, three in one book is too much for me. It just didn’t seem realistic.

And then, too, are how the books end. In my opinion, given the nature of Kevin (as well as the other characters) everything in We Need To Talk About Kevin happened in a logical progression. True, a number of characters die, but it happens due to a worst-case scenario based on the actions of ONE character. In House of Sand and Fog the ending requires that a worse case scenario occur in the lives of all three main characters separately. It’s like a perfect storm of misery converging into one humongous pile of poo. Though it was masterfully done, I still didn’t quite buy it.

There are, of course, many readers who feel differently. As of August 14, 2014, there are 275 five star reviews for House of Sand and Fog (out of 836). No doubt those reviews represent readers who did not feel the book’s conclusion was over the top. We Need To Talk About Kevin has 441 five star reviews (out of 828). Both books were made into motion pictures. Whatever you think of them, you can’t say they were commercial failures.

So, what is the message that writers might walk away with from these two novels? I think it’s to not be afraid to write hard to sympathize with characters. If the novel justifies it, some readers will go there with you. On the other hand, don’t make things dark unnecessarily. Take a look at what feels true to you and write that. No book is for everyone but, if the way your plot unfolds is based on what you perceive to be realistic characterization, it will be a real plus for some readers no matter how bleak that road is. But even more than that, the larger lesson is this: write what feels true to you. Readers don’t all want the same thing. Don’t let yourself be talked into someone else’s idea of what sells.

LISA VOGEL lives and writes in Cascabel, Arizona.

Never Too Much of a Good Thing, SENSE & SENSIBILITY: A LATTER-DAY TALE by Rebecca H. Jamison

In this retelling of the Jane Austen Classic, sisters Elly and Maren Goodwin cope with life and love after their father’s death leaves the family business destroyed and them penniless.

Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale

Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale

I love that the author doesn’t twist and stretch her story to exactly fit the original. Elly and Maren aren’t Regency Misses dressed up in jeans and high heels. Jamison takes great trouble give them psychological depth–Maren’s battle with depression, her little sister Grace’s autism are both portrayed with sensitivity as well as sometimes stark realism. Jamison’s contemporary settings–the computer industry of California and an organic dairy in Maryland–are just as convincing as her characters and offer interesting opportunities for the plot to unwind.

The plot takes a little time to get off the ground, with the first third feeling much slower than the rest of the book. But this deliberation and gravity is in keeping with the original, one of Austen’s darker works, in which she deals with complicated themes of marriage and family obligation in an age when economic class equaled identity and a woman without means, even from a good family, faced an uncertain future.

Also paralleling the original, Jamison’s female characters outshine the males. Ethan Ferrero, especially, comes off as weak and indecisive. In his case, the contemporary setting works against him. He has none of the family or class constraints of Austen’s hero, so the big obstacle between him and Elly (at least his evasiveness about it) seems somewhat contrived.

Unlike Jamison’s previous Austen retellings, the LDS aspect of this novel remains largely in the background. We’re aware of the characters’ faith, and we witness it in their actions/reactions, but day-to-day Ward life isn’t quite as integral to the plot as in Jamison’s EMMA and PERSUASION. I can see why this might have been necessary–there’s so much going on with each character personally and professionally–but that broad window into a worldview so different from my own was one of my favorite parts of the first two novels. Even so,Sense and sensibility: A Latter-day Tale is a solid work that rises well above the standards of the usual contemporary romance. I hope Jamison continues on her journey through Jane Austen.

Interview with Brooke Williams, author of SOMEONE ALWAYS LOVED YOU

 

Today I’m visiting with award-winning author and freelance writer Brooke Williams. Brooke’s fiction spans genres but all of her books feature ordinary people facing challenges with courage and grace. Today Brooke talks to us about her writing process and how she manages to write novel after novel AND maintain an active freelance career while caring for two very young children.

Be sure to read on after our chat for my review of Brooke’s Someone Always Loved You.

 

Author Brooke Williams

Author Brooke Williams

Someone Always Loved You, the book featured today, is a family drama, but the subject matter of your novels varies a great deal—from romantic comedies like Taxi Delivery to your suspense novel Beyond the Bars. How do you decide what to write and what, if any, themes do you find uniting your various books?

I think what I write is decided for me! The ideas come to me and I only write them when they bug me so much that I simply cannot NOT write them. Someone Always Loved You is the first book I ever wrote and it is the one I was most inspired to write. I always wanted to write a book that featured someone in a coma. My grandma was in a coma on two occasions, and I wondered what she thought, if she could hear, things like that. Once I came up with the prologue for the book, I HAD to write it down. And once I did that, I desperately wanted to see what would happen. When it comes to writing, I will get a basic idea for a book and then, once I get the first scene in my head, the rest happens as I write it. I don’t plot and scheme outside of my computer time. There are characteristics that are similar in characters throughout my books, I think. Probably because of who I am. Otherwise, I think my overall themes are similar too in the underlying spiritual contexts. But like you said, I’ve written a bit of it all. I’ve had recent success in romantic comedy and that’s where I’m sticking for the time being. But who knows what idea will hit me next!

You’re married and the mother of two young girls. You also undertake quite a bit of freelance (non-fiction) writing. How do you make time for your fiction?

It’s certainly not easy and it’s not something I get time to do everyday. My girls come first, hands down. They are 5 and 18 months old and I’ve been a bit of a stickler when it comes to naps. When I figured out how to get them to nap at the same time, I was able to carve writing time out each day. My oldest doesn’t really nap anymore, but she has fun playing alone in her room for an hour or so while the little one naps. I have to prioritize my freelance writing at times and make sure I hit deadlines with clients. They pay, after all. The fiction doesn’t! At least not right away! Though I have several books under contract, so when I have editing deadlines, I put those items first. I have a lot on my plate and only 1-2 hours a day, tops, in which to do things. The good news is that I work really fast and seem to be able to fit it all in. I can only imagine what I’ll be able to get done in a few years once my youngest is in school and I’m all alone for big chunks of the day!

Your books demonstrate a strong faith in God and in a way that enhances and supports the work without overpowering it. Are you conscious of your audience as you write? How do you strike a balance between remaining true to your beliefs and being entertaining to readers who may have more secular points of view?

I don’t really think of the audience when I write. I think, for me, that part comes later in editing. I just think of the story, the characters, where things are going, how to make happen what the story and characters say should happen. I think my faith blends itself into my writing as it does my life. I’m not an overpowering in your face person of faith in real life so I am not in my writing either. And yet my faith is always there and is a huge part of my life. I think it just comes through in my writing as part of who I am. Even when I am writing a character that seems nothing like me, there are little bits of me in them. I have a novella coming out December 9th called Wrong Place, Right Time and I had intended to make that a Christian romance. Due to the plot line and the circumstance surrounding the piece, it became more of a romantic comedy. It’s clean comedy, it has some spiritual elements, but there is no hard hitting faith message. And it works better that way in this instance. I was trying to push it to be something it shouldn’t have been and that’s the last thing I want to do.

Some writers are quite protective of their work—they won’t show it to anyone until it’s as polished as possible. Others seek feedback early and often. At what point do you invite an outside eye into your process? Do you have a beta reader? And, when you get advice on revising your work, how likely are you to take it?

I’m protective in some ways and not in others. I’m protective over Someone Always Loved You and do not want to hand that book over to a publisher. I just can’t let it go. But I appreciate people reading my work in any stage. I recently wrote another romantic comedy entitled Mamarazzi (due to be released in August 2015) and I enlisted the help of several beta readers on that one. I wasn’t looking for spelling and grammar help because I know that will come with an editor. But I wanted overall feedback. Did the story make sense? Was I missing any plot holes? So on and so forth. I sent it to beta readers right after I completed it. I hadn’t edited ANYTHING at all myself yet. They pointed out a few things and I really appreciated the help. I went back through and did my own self-editing and changed what they suggested. I then sent it to my publisher and received a contract thanks to their help! So I’m very open to ideas from others. That being said, everyone has an opinion and sometimes those opinions clash with my own. I was once told that I should completely trash Someone Always Loved You and re-write it from scratch. That came from someone who hadn’t read it, so (…) I ignored that advice and many people have greatly enjoyed the book as it is.

There’s a semi-serious saying: what publishing needs are fewer writers and more readers. So many of us come to writing through a passion for reading. But then the writing sort of pushes out the reading. Have you experienced this? How do you make time for reading?

I don’t spend nearly as much time reading as I could if I weren’t writing, that much is true. If I didn’t have my freelance writing and author career, I would probably spend a lot of the time I spend writing reading instead. I write because I love to read! However, since I love to read and always have, it’s not something I am willing to give up. Actually, right now, I am “reading” an audio book. I have a book on my kindle on my phone. And I have a paperback. I read little chunks here and there throughout the day. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t read. And like writing, I read fast. I used to read a book a week or more back when I was in radio. Today I’m slower, but I still have to read. I want to support other authors and I just plain love it. It’s as much a part of my life as writing. Now that I think of it, I actually DO spend more time reading than writing if you count the endless children’s books I read to my daughters! I’m starting them on the reading addiction early.

What do you enjoy reading? Do you find your reading influences your writing—either in style or content? Of the books you’ve read and loved, which one made you stop and think: Gee, I wish I’d written this one!

Like with my writing, my reading tastes are varied. I like romantic comedy and clean romance, but I also like James Patterson Thrillers and others like his. I love Karen Kingsbury and I really enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife. Lately, I have been blown away by Heather Gudenkauf and wish that I had written her books. She’s from Iowa and I grew up there so I feel like success for a Midwestern author is possible. Plus her books are just amazing! I also enjoy Dan Walsh, though (there are) historical aspects in his books, and I know I don’t have the knowledge to do that or the patience for heavy research. And I have liked Richard Paul Evans for a long time as well. I started my book God in the Kitchen with his style in mind though it didn’t turn out like his books at all as I continued with it!

What are you working on now? How did you come up with the project?

I started a new romantic comedy called Love is a Roller Coaster, but I only got three chapters in when other writing projects took over. When I’m writing a novel, I like to write the novel. Period. I like to put all other jobs on hold and write. But with Wrong Place, Right Time coming out December 9th, I have editing and promotional work to do there. Accept this Dandelion, another romantic comedy inspired by the Bachelor TV show, is due to come out Feb 2015 and will be in the editing phase soon. Couple that with my freelance jobs and I haven’t been able to concentrate on a new story. But I came up with the idea for Love is a Roller Coaster after visiting the Adventureland theme park with my daughter this summer.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you being doing (professionally) with your life?

Gosh, I’m not sure! I was in radio for 12 years, but I left that career to stay home with my daughters. When I left radio, I knew I wanted to do some sort of “work” from home. I knew any job I had would have to be a home-based thing. I’ve always loved to write so I figured looking into writing jobs would be a good idea. When I left radio, I didn’t know what I was going to do. But research and time and a little go-and-get-it attitude created a career in freelance writing which then led me back to fiction. I liked many aspects of radio, but honestly, if I’d known writing was an option in terms of a viable career, I would have left years before I did. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I feel like I am where I was meant to be…doing what I love to do. I can’t believe people actually pay me to make things up! And I look forward to having more time to do so in the future. If I could no longer be a writer, maybe I’d go back into TV news. I was a traffic reporter for 5 months once. This is where we insert the sarcasm because I was pretty bad.  Read Wrong Place, Right Time when it comes out December 9th. The main character is a TV traffic reporter and she emulates my experience! In reality, if I wasn’t a writer, I think I’d stick with being a mom for now and try to get back into another career once my girls are in school in a few years. I don’t really know what, but with any luck I won’t have to find out!

Brooke Williams

Brooke Williams is an award-winning author and freelance writer. She began her career in radio, both on the air and behind the scenes. She did a brief stint in TV news and then took on her most challenging job as a stay at home mom. During the few quiet hours in her day, Brooke writes articles for a number of clients as well as fiction creations such as Someone Always Loved You. Brooke has also written Beyond the Bars, a thriller, God in the Kitchen, a Christian novel, and Taxi Delivery, a Christian Romance. Brooke looks forward to the December 9th release of Wrong Place, Right Time, a romantic comedy and the February 2015 release of Accept this Dandelion inspired by the Bachelor TV show. Brooke has been married to her husband Sean since 2002 and has two daughters, Kaelyn and Sadie.

(Scroll down for my review of Someone Always Loved You)

Brooke’s Links:

Website:
http://www.authorbrookewilliams.com/

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

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/151184.Brooke_Williams

Someone Always Loved You amazon link:
http://amzn.com/1300204559

Email:
authorbrookewilliams@gmail.com

 

salycover

Someone Always Loved You

Ambulance driver Jay has a really bad first day on the job when he speeds toward the ER and accidentally hits a woman hurrying to see her ill husband. Overcome by guilt, he sits by Jordan’s bedside and gets to know her husband, all the while unaware of how his own past is intertwined with theirs.

Author Brooke Williams moves between past and present to tell a story of young love and difficult choices and the fine line between chance and fate. It’s a quiet book that deals with big human and spiritual questions. Simple cause and effect, action and consequence, play out against a grander spiritual design that nudges things along behind the scenes.

With so much back story, the pacing gets a bit slow in places. There’s a lot of co-incidence driving the plot twists but, as there’s a strong spiritual element to this novel, this doesn’t undermine the reading experience to any great degree. It’s easy to like Williams’s believably flawed characters, and the reader wants to follow them to the end of their story. Dr. Evan Rodriguez shined the most for me. His single-mindedness, his loyalty to a promise from his childhood really moved me. I wanted to know more about him. He seemed to have no life–romantic or otherwise–outside of his work and his private vow.

SOMEONE ALWAYS LOVED YOU is a touching family drama with enough emotion and compassion to make up for any minor plot issues.

The Story Behind the Story– Adventures in Culinary School– Part I

There’s an old saying that within every story lives at least a grain of truth. This is usually the case in my short stories and novels. While I believe in a solid line between memoir and fiction, I do draw upon personal experience to enrich my plots and develop realistic characters. Molly Price, the protagonist of my contemporary romance Knife Skillsis a newly hatched chef about to start her first job at a restaurant on her family’s Long Island vineyard. I grew up on Long Island and, from December 2001 until August 2002, I attended culinary school, ending the program as a pastry intern at a hotel-golf resort. My career in the food industry didn’t last long, but I did keep detailed journals, which became an invaluable resource as I transformed Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park into a modern tale of a young chef’s search for identity and a second chance at love.

This post is the first in a series presenting entries from my journals alongside snippets from the novel to demonstrate how life experience and imagination work together to create the heightened reality that readers count on when they seek to lose themselves in a good book.

Me in my chef's coat and puffy hat. Looking back, that coat needed  alterations. Short girls and rolled up sleeves make for some serious kitchen messes!

Me in my chef’s coat and puffy hat. Looking back, that coat needed alterations. Short girls and rolled up sleeves make for some serious kitchen messes!

12/13/2001–Cooking School, Day Four

Walking into the practice kitchen this morning…smelling herbs, tasting oils, taking in all the gleaming stainless steel…I felt at home. It stayed with me all day and carried me through the physical rigors, which were pretty torturous at times. Sore feet. Aching back. It’s the part they don’t show you on the Food Network!

From Knife Skills:

As usual Molly was the first to finish the written portion of the exam, and she enjoyed a surge of excitement as she proceeded to the kitchen and surveyed the cool stainless steel surfaces with pans in half a dozen sizes dangling from overhead racks. Thankful for a few moments of solitude, she took the opportunity to catch up with herself. The accident still bothered her. One thing she didn’t need was an increase in her insurance rate. And then there were the continuing problems with Antonio. Where was she supposed to get the money for her share of this latest bill? She needed help just making her rent each month.

Unless there’s a whiff of sensationalism, like a celebrity in trouble, or a political figure caught in wrong doing, “real events” aren’t dramatic enough to sustain reader interest over the long haul. Keeping a reader with you for two hundred pages or more takes major literary manipulation–attention to pacing and the ebb and flow of tension. Yet, used carefully, personal experience can provide key physical details and a hint of emotional honesty that bring a spark of realism to fictional characters and scenes.

Knife Skills

 

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It’s all burners on high for Chef Molly Price, about to start her first restaurant job on her aunt and uncle’s Long Island vineyard. They took Molly in as a child, and she’s determined not to let them down. 

But it’s hard to focus on the perfect bread pudding with a no-good ex who won’t leave her alone and a best guy friend who’s as cranky as he is kissable. 

Love, family, and career all come to a boil when tragedy forces Molly to reconnect with her troubled parents and she must step in to save her five-year-old sister. Molly soon learns that, though her sauces never break, the same can’t be said for her heart.