Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Superb Coming of Age Mystery

All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota, sliced into pieces by a thousand tons of steel speeding across the prairie toward South Dakota. 

Thus begins Ordinary Grace, the first novel I am recommending here in I Like It, my new blog of books and other things I like. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger is probably the best faith-based novel I have read in a decade, possibly longer. The characters who people this story are not the stereotypical ones sometimes found in so-called Christian/inspirational novels. There was no happy ending here where “everyone gets saved,” and we sigh with relief as we shut the book, happy that it all worked out. 

No. Thirteen year old Frank, the story’s narrator, his minister father Nathan, mother Ruth, and brother and sister plus the other townspeople stayed with me long after I finished the last page. These were ordinary people dealing with real situations where God seems very absent. I think we’ve all been there.

I purchased Ordinary Grace and read it when it came out in 2013, and then a year later when it was my personal choice for the bookclub I belong to. I led the discussion on the morning it was my turn. A lot of these thoughts are from that gathering. 

This book represents my favorite kind of reading, well-written mysteries, literary whodunits on the order of Ruth Rendell, Dennis Lehane and others. I enjoy books where the language holds onto me as much as the story and in Ordinary Grace Krueger is a master. I could sink into each word of this book and never want to leave. 

Consider these stunning word pictures: 

I heard the water run in the sink and the clatter of plate and fork as my mother laid them there and I heard silence and I imagined her turning back to my father still sitting at the table… 


They continued to talk and I watched Jake and Lise in the garden and listened to Ariel clicking away on the typewriter in the study, and the world inside that picket fence seemed like a good place, a place in which all the damaged pieces somehow fit. 


Loss, once it’s become a certainty, it’s like a rock you hold in your hand. It has weight and dimension and texture. It’s solid and can be assessed and dealt with. You can use it to beat yourself or you can throw it away. 

The story is set during one summer in 1961, called the summer of dying. Even though I’ve never been in Minnesota for any length of time, I identified with it. Frank  was 13 during the summer of 1961. I was 11, and—this is foremost—I grew up in a minister’s home. In 1961 pastor’s kids were to “set the example.” I know well, that pressure on PKs (Preacher’s Kids). Back then a minister’s family had to be perfect. People were watching. People were always watching, but when we could, we escaped. We were kids, after all. And those were the years when parents never really paid attention to where children went, and of course, the woods were filled with monsters. I smiled at these kind of shared memories through the book. 

Minister Natham Drum is a good and honest man who simply seeks to do the best he can for his parishioners with the hand he’s been dealt - a couple of independent and curious sons, a fairly wayward, but musically talented daughter and a talented wife who doesn’t want to be part of the story at all.

When she married her husband, he was studying to be a lawyer. She never quite gets over his sudden decision to change gears and go into the ministry. She lets it be known that she never  “signed on” for this, and in her rebellious moments she smokes on the porch, a fact that does not go unnoticed by church people. 

Through the years I’ve known many pastor’s wives. Some have been my closest friends. His portrayal of Ruth is very real. My own mother was never allowed to have personal “friends” within the congregations my father pastored, fearing that would show favoritism. Thankfully, that little taboo is gone today. But it would have been there in some form or other in 1961. Ruth would have felt it.

I mentioned this was the best faith-based novel I have read in a decade or more. When I was writing Christian novels (I no longer do), I tried to make my novels as realistic as I could within the confines of my publisher. I feel I mostly succeeded, but when I couldn’t  any longer, when I couldn’t  say what I wanted to say, I decided I needed to leave the Christian publishing world altogether.  (Did Christian publishing change? Did I change? Maybe a little of both.) My goal, however, is to write this kind of “faith-based’ novel, the kind of faith I see in Ordinary Grace. Sometimes God does move away from us, and things get really, really sad. And sometimes they don’t get better for a long, long time. Krueger would call this the “awful grace of God,” a phrase he uses five times in the book (Ah, don’t you love the internal search functions eBooks have now!) 

The book begins: 

In the end maybe that’s what the summer was about. I was no older than Bobby and didn’t understand such things then. I’ve come four decades since but I’m not sure that even now I fully understand. I still spend a lot of time thinking about the events of that summer. About the terrible price of wisdom, the awful grace of God

The book ends: 

We turn, three men, bound by love, by history, by circumstance, and most certainly by the awful grace of God, and together we walk a narrow lane…” 

Krueger mentions that this phrase comes from Greek playwright Aeschylus, and according to that bastion of all knowledge, Wikipedia, he is considered the father of the tragedy.

Here’s what Aeschylus writes: 

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget 
falls drop by drop upon the heart until
in our own despair, against our will
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. 

In other words, we learn from tragedy. With deep tragedy, such as occurred during the summer of this book, comes great wisdom. The deeper the tragedy, the more wisdom. Hmm.

Here’s from one of Nathan’s, sermons, “God never promised us an easy life. He never promised that we wouldn’t suffer, that we wouldn’t feel despair and loneliness and confusion and desperation. What he did promise was that in our suffering we would never be alone. And though we may sometimes make ourselves blind and deaf to his presence, he is beside us and around us and within us always…” 

I’ve written so long here about the faith aspects of this book, the characters, my own journey, that I haven’t had time to talk much about the mystery in this book. And, yes, there is one. Fans of Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series will not be disappointed. But to forestall any spoilers, I will just say, read it to find out why 1961 was called the Summer of Dying. 

I know Kent Kruger a little bit—well, we’ve had a few conversations at mystery conferences, does that count? Would he remember me? I’d like to think yes, but the answer is probably no. We used to have the same agent, so we had a it of commonality for a while. He is a gracious man, friendly, and I understand he is now working on some sort of companion novel to Ordinary Grace. I will be looking for it. 

As an added bonus click here for a free Christmas story by Krueger.

Next time: Another “coming of age” novel - The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, another one of my bookclub choices. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Welcome to “I LIKE IT” my brand spanking new review blog. Yes, this is the place where my old blog used to be, but I've revamped it, re-worked it, and have turned it into a place where I will be reviewing mostly books.  Every other week I’ll be sharing with you a book I think you might like, but I may throw in a movie or two, or a TV show or piece of music or artist that I especially enjoy.

But, have no fear, all of my old posts are here - all my Summer on the Water blogs and all of the random thoughts about my "indie" journey. They're all still here. Just scroll down the right side until you come to "blog archive", then read to your heart's content.

For my entire life, books have been my constant friends. I really cannot think of a single moment in my history where I didn’t have a book “on the go.” Back before books became eBooks, I would feel at a loss if I finished a book one night and there were a few hours before I could get to the library! Now, I just cast around the Kobo site or our on-line Library and get myself another one.

This blog is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve often said to myself, “If I weren’t writing novels, I’d have a book blog.” Well, maybe it’s time I did just that – even while I continue to write my stories full time.

This page is called I Like It for a reason. This is not a site where I will give 1 and 2 stars to books that didn’t pique my fancy. This is not a place where I will trash things. (There’s too much of that going on in the world anyway, don't you think?) This blog is only for my 4 and 5 star rated items, and I’m a pretty tough customer as a reader. If a book doesn’t capture me in 20 pages, out it goes.

I will be reviewing all kinds of books here; novels of course, and lots of mysteries—since that is what I write—but it will be more than that. I also read nonfiction. I’m on a kind of spiritual journey, as we all are, and I’ve recently devoured some really good nonfiction. Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward and Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar. I'm currently reading Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. I will be reviewing all three of these books some time in the future.

Some of my recommendations will be books I have previously read and reviewed on other sites such as Goodreads or Amazon. Some will be new. The age of the book doesn’t matter to me. Old, new, if I like it, I will endorse it. For example, a month ago my book club read To Kill a Mockingbird. At some future point, that may become an “I Like It” endorsement. 

In my reviews I will be very careful not to give away any spoilers. As an author I know how maddening that is to have a reviewer give away the ending! But, if perchance, I decide that I need to include a few “spoilers”, I will have the ****SPOILER ALERT**** notice in big letters!

I also plan to make this blog a very personal place, a space where I will relate what the various books have meant to me and how they relate to my own journey as an author, a woman, a Christian, a human-being on this planet. 

I'm planning to put my I Like It recommends will most likely go up every other Thursday. If you would like to subscribe to this blog, please add your email to the box provided on the right.

In a few days I’ll be putting up my first I Like It. It will be for Ordinary Grace, an extraordinary coming go age mystery by William Kent Krueger.

Now for the nitty gritty - My Review Policy: 

I only recommend books I have bought and paid for. What I watch and listen to are not downloaded from any torrents sites, but what I stream legally through Netflix, or have rented or purchased on sites such as iTunes or Google.

I think it needs to be said right here at the outset—I’m not a fan of free books. My reason? Authors should be paid for their work. It's something I feel so strongly about that if a book is free, I probably won’t even read it. 

I thank you for reading this far. I trust you will enjoy my endorsements. Agree? Disagree? You are always welcome to comment below. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Summer on the Water - Carolyn Rose, Season 2, Episode 19

As summer begins to wind down I'm pleased to welcome mystery author Carolyn Rose to my blog. 
Welcome Carolyn to my Summer on the Water blog - and your dogs look so lovely there with you!

Tell us about your newest mystery.

The Devil’s Tombstone follows the previously published mysteries Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. It’s set in the Catskill Mountains of New York, mountains rich in folklore, legends, and ghost stories. A tale I created for the book involves a rock near the shores of Hemlock Lake. Known as the Devil’s Tombstone, it marks the spot where, two centuries earlier, a man murdered his young wife and then vanished in a storm.

As a part-time investigator assigned to cold cases, Dan Stone, the protagonist of the trilogy, is troubled by far more recent deaths and disappearances. Reviewing files dating back two decades, he sets out to discover new leads. But it’s slow going. A massive snowstorm socks the mountains. Dan’s infant son disrupts his sleep. And dynamic preacher Wesley Falton pitches his revival tent, challenging Hemlock Lake traditions and the spiritual leadership of Reverend James Balforth.

As Dan digs deeper into the past, he suspects his cold cases are linked to a fresh murder. When hard evidence eludes him, he appeals for help from beyond the grave. As he does, he wonders whether ghosts make their presence felt because we believe in them, or because they believe in us.

Tell us how water figures into your story, Carolyn.

There is at least one Hemlock Lake in New York, but “my” lake, set deep in the Catskills, is fictional. (By the way, there is also a rock called Devil’s Tombstone in the Catskills, not far from where I grew up. The rock created for the book, however, is far larger.) I chose the name Hemlock Lake for two reasons. First, I wanted a symbolic link to the story of Socrates who was sentenced to drink poison hemlock for corrupting youth and failing to acknowledge the gods. Second, hemlock trees crowd the slopes of the Catskills. The bark was used for tanning leather by early settlers and the trees create dense shade.Dan Stone faced a dark future when he returned to Hemlock Lake a year after his wife drowned in the lake and his brother committed suicide. And he faced the poisonous attitude of some of the town’s residents because he moved away when he was younger, leading some to claim he thought he was above them.

The lake becomes a character in its own right as the stories unfold. Each book begins in the early spring when Hemlock Lake is cold, dark, and, in The Devil’s Tombstone, choked with ice. The stories progress into summer when the lake is more welcoming. And they conclude in the fall when the water level drops and some of what lies beneath the surface (of the lake and the mystery) is revealed.

Why set a book near water? What significance does water have for you?

I grew up leaping across a brook on the path that led to the school bus stop, splashing in the Sawkill Creek in the summer, riding my bicycle around Cooper Lake, and fishing at Yankeetown Pond on humid evenings thick with mosquitoes. I loved the gush of snowmelt and heavy spring rains that made the Sawkill run high and fast and red with clay ripped from its banks. I loved that glimpse of water through the trees at the end of a hike. I loved the sound of bullfrogs and peepers and loons.

Tell the readers about your journey as a writer. 

In 2010, I took stock of myself as an author and decided it was time to stop asking publishers to like me and go straight to readers. I’d had some experience with e-books because my contract for Hemlock Lake hadn’t included digital rights so I’d put it up in that format on my own. I had no budget for advertising and promotion and none for travel and conferences. My strategy, therefore, was to “open the door” by pricing some of my books at 99 cents and hoping that would attract readers to the rest of them.

The first two years went well. No Substitute for Murder even became a Nook Pick of the Week. But the market has expanded, competition is fierce, and many independent authors I know are feeling a pinch. I haven’t made my books free in the hope of increased sell-through sales. And I haven’t taken advantage of exclusive programs because I have strong Kobo sales in Canada and Australia and don’t want to disappoint potential readers in those countries.

Will I keep on? Sure. There’s nothing I’d rather do than write stories and connect with readers.

I so agree with you Carolyn! What is your best writing advice?

Write the best story you can and think less about making money and more about connecting with readers. Promotion and advertising can move a lot of books, but word of mouth gives a book “legs” and keeps those ripples spreading once you’ve blown your budget

Okay, now to my fun question. If someone asked you to give a TED talk, what would it be about?

Hmmm. I guess my theme would be “it’s almost never too late to dust off that dream and run with it—after making a few modifications.”

I longed to write when I was young, and I did. I wrote anguished journal entries detailing the “crimes” against me by parents, teachers, classmates, and life in general. I read those entries journal now and I squirm. I thought I had “something deep and meaningful to say,” but all I had was a collection of whinings and wishings.

Then, thank goodness, my life expanded. I went to college, joined VISTA, and found my way to a series of TV newsrooms as a writer, a producer, and an assignment editor. I got a lesson in the insignificance of my problems when compared to events around the world. I learned a lot about human nature and the many foibles and flaws that are part of the human condition. I saw the dark side of life. And I experienced many lighter and warmer moments.

Along the way I realized that what I wanted to write wasn’t deep and serious and message-heavy, but rather what I enjoyed reading—mysteries. And so, when I could finally cut back on the hours spent at work, I did. And I wrote. I’ve been a happier person ever since.

Where can readers find you and your books?





Friday, September 4, 2015

Summer on the Water - Louise Gouge, Season 2, episode 18

Welcome to the first summer blog of September. Yes, summer is indeed winding down and there are just a few more 'episodes' of Summer on the Water until fall arrives. On this blog, I want to introduce you to historical romance author. Louise Gouge.

Tell us about your book, Louise.

Daughter of Destiny takes place in the South Pacific Ocean. This is a very special book to me, and I hope everyone will find my characters and subject matter interesting and entertaining.

My “tagline” for the story is “Rejected by man, accepted by God.” Do you find that intriguing? Let me tell you a little more about it.

I wrote this story as an “answer” to James A. Michener’s great novel, Hawaii. As much as I enjoyed Michener’s epic tale, I was dismayed by the way he disparaged the brave missionaries who risked their lives—and often lost them—to carry the story of God’s love to the indigenous people of the Sandwich Islands and many other islands of the South Pacific. Because I personally know many missionaries and understand their kind and generous hearts, I wanted to tell a true-to-life story based on the many missionary stories I’ve read and heard. Obviously, since my setting is on an island in the middle of the ocean, and my characters must sail halfway around the world to get there, a water setting was inevitable. With a crazy problem with seasickness, I am definitely not a sailor, but oddly, I like stories set on the water.

In 1822, Jonah Adams plans to be a missionary on the island of Fénua in the South Pacific, but when the woman he loves rejects his proposal, he impulsively asks his mother’s young companion to be his bride. Leah Smith knows she is Jonah’s second choice, but she loves both him and the people of Fénua, the island where she was born to a whaler father and his loving wife who sailed with him. First separated by miscommunication and then by disaster, both Jonah and Leah seek to find God’s will for their lives in fierce, unforgiving worlds

Second choice. These words haunt Leah Smith as she agrees to marry Reverend Jonah Adams, the man she has loved since childhood, the man who first proposed to another woman. Placing God’s will above her own heart’s longing to be loved by Jonah, she accepts his businesslike proposal and sails with him to the distant South Pacific Island of her birth. Rejected. The word buffets Jonah Adams’s mind like the violent wave that surround him. Why has God rejected his well-designed plan of missionary service?

Is your appetite whetted yet? I hope you’ll visit my Amazon page where you can find Daughter of Destiny for sale for on $.99. I chose to self-publish this story because it’s a little difficult to find a publisher for a stand-alone novella. To publish this book, I had a lot of help from many people, including my beautiful granddaughter who posed as my cover model.

If you would like to purchase my novella for your Kindle or other e-book reader, please click on this hot link: Daughter of Destiny. If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my Website.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer on the Water - Carol Sojka, Season 2, Episode 17

Today, this last August summer day, I'm pleased to welcome mystery author  Carol Sojka to my blog. Welcome Carol, tell us about yourself and your newest novel. 

A Reason to Kill is a mystery novel. Nine strangers meet on a Florida beach to observe and protect endangered loggerhead turtles laying their eggs. One of the observers dies of poison and another is killed soon after. It's up to Andi Battaglia, a rookie detective in a small Florida town, to find out who among the remaining observers has a reason to kill.

That sounds extremely intriguing, Carol! Since this is the Summer on the Water blog, how does water fit into the story?

I visit the Treasure Coast, Florida's Atlantic coast north of West Palm Beach, at least once a year. I became interested in the area, and several points of interest are in my book. The group observing and protecting loggerhead turtles meets at Hobe Sound, a beach where such excursions take place. The Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge is the last remaining one of the refuges established by the U.S. government in the nineteenth century to provide havens for shipwrecked sailors on the barrier islands, which had no inhabitants, no food and no fresh water. Bathtub Beach is where I set the final confrontation between the murderer and Andi during a violent thunderstorm, although the novel's beach configuration is different from the real beach. Still, I love the name.

I love the water: oceans, lakes, and pools. When I was younger, I was a great swimmer, both in the Atlantic Ocean and in lakes. I grew up on the east coast and spent summers at the beaches near New York and at a lake in a rural area north of the city. In my twenties, my husband and I moved to Southern California where we spent time at the beaches of the Pacific and in our pool. My husband was a diver, and although I never did very much of that, I did dive in Baja California and Hawaii as well as in the Indian Ocean when we were Peace Corps volunteers.

How has being an Indie author worked for you, Carol?

After I had written three novels, I found that my efforts to find an agent didn't have much success and an interested publisher ultimately didn't work out. I am on the board of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles, and several members are self-published. I talked with one who had self-published her books with Create Space and was happy with the result. I decided to try it. I'm pleased with the books. They are professional looking, the process was simple and the Create Space team was helpful. I have had to learn--and am still learning--about marketing, but I don't think there there is much advantage in having a publisher, for all the authors I know, with publishers and self-published, do most of the marketing work themselves through Facebook, GoodReads, Amazon and a variety of other social networks.

Now for the fun question. You are asked to give a Ted Talk, what would you talk about?
My Ted Talk would be aimed at those who say they want to write but don't seem to be able to find the time or the energy or the ideas. Even fifiteen minutes a day is a start. When I read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, I got up at 4:30 a.m. to write three pages every day for years. Ultimately, they weren't worth much, but they freed me to sit down and start writing.

Yes, a long time ago, The Artist's Way was my bible as well! Thanks for reminding us of that great and motivational book. Where can readers find you and your books?




Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer on the Water, Will Overby - Season 2, Episode 16

Today, in these Dog Days of Summer, I welcome thriller author Will Overby who has a very special guest post. Not only does  he tell us all about his new book, Moon Shadow, he also tells us all about his adventures in Indie publishing. Thanks Will, for joining us today.

My horror novel Moon Shadow follows three high school friends who accidentally kill a drunk man during Christmas break and proceed to hide the crime. The victim returns once each decade on the anniversary of the murder for supernatural vengeance against each of the conspirators until only one remains.

Moon Shadow is set in the fictional resort village of Harper’s Lake during the winter off-season. Although the setting is imaginary, I based it on the real area of Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. I visited the resort during my senior year of high school in late 1983 and was immediately struck by the eeriness of the lake and surrounding town without the summer bustle of tourists. I could only imagine how the sense of isolation would grow during the snows of winter, but I knew I had to write about it and began the story immediately when I returned home to Kentucky. Thirty years later I dusted off the novel and proceeded to rewrite it, this time from a more mature point of view and with the added asset of three decades of history to enhance the story.

I admit to having a bit of a water phobia, and lakes, rivers and oceans have always felt ominous to me, so as a horror writer they have often made the best settings for my stories. One thing I have definitely observed is the way the mood of a place can change with the seasons, or even the time of day, and I’ve tried to use that to my advantage in the settings of my fiction. The fictional Harper’s Lake has made appearances in several subsequent novels, and I expect it to be a staple of my literary landscape as all of my work is interconnected.

I began self-publishing for Kindle back in 2008 while still trying to land an agent for my children’s book series, Brock Ford Adventures. After several nibbles but no bites I decided to completely chuck the traditional route in 2012 and go all in on indie publishing. I haven’t looked back. Indie publishing has given me complete control of the finished product and allowed me to make my own marketing and artistic decisions. Plus, I don’t have to share any of my hard-earned money with agents or publishers. If you are thinking of taking the plunge into self-publishing, be sure to learn all you can about the process. There are many blogs and websites to guide you, but take them all with a grain of salt. No one source has all the answers, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every writer. Arm yourself with knowledge and become educated on copyright, printing, distribution, taxes, and accounting. It can sound like a daunting task, but the rewards are well worth the effort. In the end, however, you are the only person who can make the decision on whether to go indie or pursue the traditional route.

Finally, if I were asked to give a TED talk, it would have to be on independent publishing – both its rewards and disadvantages. After seven years I’ve become well-versed on the various aspects of the journey, and I enjoy passing along to others the knowledge I’ve gained through the process. It’s been a wild ride.

This is fascinating, Will. How can readers find you?

Twitter:  @will_overby

 And one more question, where can readers purchase a copy of Moon Shadow?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer on the Water, Josa Young - Season 2, Episode 15

It give me great pleasure on this mid-point of summer to welcome Josa Young to my blog. I'm anxious for you to meet her and read her great and well-written book, Sail Upon the Land.

Now, let's meet Josa.

Josa, what is your novel about? Give the readers a brief elevator pitch.

The mysterious death of a new mother damages the protective bonds of family love.

Since this is a ‘Summer on the Water blog’, I want to know why did you choose the theme of water for your story? Is your body of water real or fictitious?  

‘Sail Upon the Land’ is a quotation from Titania’s speech in Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which she talks about her status as a goddess in India (she is a mere fairy in England). There she sits in the most beautifully informal way with a ‘votaress of my order’ (priestess), gossiping by the sea and watching the ships. As women friends do, they joke about sex. The priestess is pregnant with the little Indian boy who unwittingly acts as catalyst for the play’s plot:

‘… we have laughed to see the sails conceive

And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;

Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait

Following—her womb then rich with my young squire—

Would imitate, and sail upon the land

To fetch me trifles and return again

As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.

But she, being mortal, of that boy did die.

And for her sake do I rear up her boy,

And for her sake I will not part with him.’

Suffused with water imagery, this speech is one of my favourite in the whole of Shakespeare. The phrase Sail Upon the Land – a poignant metaphor for pregnancy – stayed in my mind, while the story I wanted to tell grew up around it like barnacles. The paradoxical fragility and strength of childbearing women is the underlying theme. And water, both real and metaphorical, runs through the whole novel, symbolic of risk as well as actively dangerous to the whole fragile structure of the Heyes family. It may be safer to ‘sail upon the land’ – do something paradoxical to get the best results – as well as to have the courage to change your life – be an altered person at different times and in different places.

Does water, and specifically the body of water you set your story beside, have any special meaning for you personally? What is it?

I am fascinated by archaeology, and that ancient human ways of living and being are still writ large on our English landscape. I know houses where an old pond or small lake is the last remaining part of what was once a defensive moat, the need for it left behind in distant history. The lake at Castle Hey is one such body of water.

Why are you choosing to self-publish?  What is one piece of advice would you give to authors who are thinking of self-publishing for the first time?

I chose to self-publish after the novel was turned down by the major publishers in the UK, even though it had attracted the attention of a top agent and I had a previously trad published novel (One Apple Tasted) that did reasonably well in 2009. I was encouraged to do so by other authors who read Sail Upon the Land and were baffled by its non-acceptance, including Rachel Hore, who very generously and unexpectedly offered a cover quote. I was also recently offered a cover quote by bestseller Katie Fforde too.

I was very frightened to begin with that I was exposing work that was substandard, and that the big publishers knew best what the public wanted and I was wrong. I thought there was some glaring flaw that hubris was blinding me to, even that I was deluded in thinking that anyone would be interested in my writing. Publication day was fraught with emotion as a result.

That evening I went to a women’s literary salon, stuffed with ‘real’ authors of all types, and when they heard it was my publication day they all clapped and cheered. I nearly cried as there is still a stigma around self-publishing, that it is a ‘vanity’. The leader of the salon is acclaimed novelist and critic Amanda Craig, who read and reviewed Sail very positively on Amazon shortly afterwards as ‘unusually well written’.

She compared me to novelists I have always been inspired by too: ‘In many ways, Sail Upon the Land resembles a Mary Wesley novel (and perhaps also an Elizabeth Goudge one) both in its upper class social setting, its understanding of and dislike for snobbery, and its sympathetic yet flawed characters. The period feeling … is excellent, with many little jokes about caste.’

But please don’t think that because I knew a lot of people in publishing from my days as an journalist that I got anything like any easy ride. Amanda was in touch because she had reviewed my first novel, which also suffered years and years of painful rejection that left me with writer’s block. My experience with One Apple Tasted was that people I already knew were even more determined to reject and discourage me than strangers. After it was published I made many writing friends through Twitter, people I had admired for years and been inspired by like Marika Cobbold and Elizabeth Buchan, and learned that there is a whole world out there of mutually supportive writers – so different from my earlier experiences!

I had believed my copy editor (you will need one of these) had disliked Sail as he had made no comments other than professional ones throughout the process. After it was published, he emailed me to say: ‘The trouble with enjoying a book during the copy-edit is that one can be distracted from the nuts and bolts of editing and start reading it for its own sake, which is one reason why I try to retain a certain detachment….I'm sure that review will be the first of many, and well deserved. I did thoroughly enjoy the book.’

The wider reception of Sail Upon the Land, both in the UK and in the US has convinced me I did the right thing in getting it out into the world. There have been over 100 positive reviews in the first four months – only one negative one which went into no detail, but does add spice to the mix!

My self-publishing advice is: Join the Alliance of Independent Authors for all kinds of technical hints and tips, both on avoiding wasting money and on getting it out there to be reviewed, that I found invaluable to my publication experience. A very supportive, various and interesting group of people. And edit, edit, edit, edit – get beta readers to help too, and professionals for both content and cover. The self-publishing game is very different from when I first wrote about it in 2005, when the sharks were already circling, smelling the blood of writers desperate to be published and profiting from their thwarted desires.

I totally agree with you. I love The Alliance of Independent Authors. I've received such good advice and help there, plus I think that's where I met you. Okay, final question:
You are asked to give a Ted Talk. What will it be about?

How biology and evolution shaped women’s position in the world in relation to men’s – that our large brains, which have so many advantages, mean that giving birth to human babies is fraught with danger and has to take place in the foetal stage of pregnancy. The resulting baby needs its mother’s loving care for years to grow up healthy and strong emotionally and physically. And without contraception that cycle was and is repeated over and over again, to the detriment both of women’s health and that of their offspring, effectively leaving women no time or creative energy for anything else.

This has led to women, of course equally as intelligent and able as men, moving out of public spaces and power over millennia – where success was for most of human history judged by battles won. A woman with children was not really available for sword-wielding except in a few remarkable cases such as the virgin Joan of Arc. It is notable that childless women, or women with few children like Margaret of Beaufort (one birth at 13 damaged her so badly she never had another, but that child was Henry VII) became hugely powerful.

Only recently, with advanced healthcare and contraception, are we stepping up into the world beside men, and only really in the Western world. There is a backlash to be endured, no animal likes its long-held territory to be invaded. But with accelerating communication, and different measures of success that don’t involve weapons, I see a healthier future for the planet where women and men have equal choice as to how they live their lives as responsible independent adults. Obviously some people long for a simpler past where gender roles were clear-cut and male dominance was a given, and some fight for that in deeply unpleasant ways. Educating women is the best contraceptive too.

I will continue to use fiction to express these ideas which deeply interest me but I will never bang a polemical drum – that bores me and I imagine readers too. To tell stories about women’s lives does all the work for me. It has taken me until recently to understand why I felt so uncomfortable growing up, and it was this: the assumption that I was inferior solely because of my gender when I didn’t feel inferior at all!

Where can people find you and purchase Sail Upon the Land?


Twitter: @JosaYoung

Instagram:  @youngjosa


To purchase Sail Upon the Land:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer on the Water, Janis Cox - Season 2, Episode 14

Today I welcome a friend of mine to my blog,  Janis Cox who has written a fascinating children's book entitled Tadeo Turtle! 

Thank you, Janis, for joining me here, can you tell me what is your story about? 

Tadeo Turtle is a watercolour picture book for children aged 2-7. It is written in rhyme and can be easily memorized. The words are challenging enough for children in grade two to read on their own but the story is easy to understand for a two year old. There are full colour illustrations throughout the story to help give visual clues to the reader. 

At the back of the book, there is a selection of art activities and research questions to further enhance the experience.

The story involves a turtle named Tadeo who feels left out when he can’t run and play like the squirrels. Through an exciting adventure he learns to accept himself how God has made him. 

 Thanks Janis! Since this is a ‘Summer on the Water blog’,  What body of water you set your story near? 

The story brings Tadeo to the body of water. He leaves his shell by the river and finds it difficult to find when he needs it because it is camouflaged with the rocks. Water was a perfect example of how animals can use camouflage as protection. My river is purely fictitious but we know that many turtles are found around rivers and waterways. 

Does water have any special meaning for you personally? What is it?

I love watching turtles in the water, the way they sunbathe together. We live in a wonderful spot in Haliburton, Ontario that is filled with many lakes and rivers. I find it God’s blessing to be near water. So much so that when we winter in Arizona we are very close to 2 man-made ponds which house fish, cormorants, egrets, cranes, ducks, geese (yes Canada geese) and night herons.

Janis, Why are you choosing to self-publish?  What is one piece of advice would you give to authors who are thinking of self-publishing for the first time?

My self-publishing experience leaves me with mixed emotions. Even though I self-published I don’t have as much control in dealing with Amazon as I would like. What I did like about my publishing experience with Word Alive Press is the beautiful printing that was done with Tadeo Turtle. The watercolour pictures turned out extremely well. I can’t seem to break into the online marketing. Most of my selling comes from fairs, and groups.

One piece of advice I would give first time indie authors is to check around and make sure people are extremely happy with the publisher before you make the plunge. Also work on your platform – ie website, blog, social media presence – before you are ready to roll. I didn’t and have spent the last two years making my presence known online.

Okay, now for the fun question - You are asked to give a Ted Talk. What will you speak about?

A very interesting question as my experiences are varied. However, what I am learning very strongly is to stay in God’s Word. I would talk about how I grew through using the Bible – studying it, talking about it, writing about it. The words of God are changing me. Prayer and studying the Bible should go hand in hand. For that reason I developed the SIMPLE method of Bible study which I explain in my blog post. Here is the PDF of the S.I.M.P.L.E. Bible Study.

I am also on a weekly radio broadcast (Tuesdays) for HopeStreamRadio speaking about Growing Through God’s Word.

Where can readers find you?

Linked In
Google Plus

Where can readers purchase Tadeo Turtle?

Directly from the author

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer on the Water, Katherine Smith - Season 2, Episode 12

Today I am pleased to welcome author Katherine Smith to my Summer on the Water blog. Not only does Katherine write, but she also manages Heddon Publishing, a publishing place for Indie authors. I'm looking forward to hearing her story as well as her Indie publishing venture.

Katherine, what is Writing the Town Read about? Give readers a brief elevator pitch.

Writing the Town Read is a modern story set in July 2005 when there were terrorist attacks on the London transport system.

The story is set in Cornwall, a good way from London and follows the story of opinionated yet slightly naïve local journalist Jamie, whose boyfriend Dave goes missing in London at the time of the attacks. It’s her story, not his, and follows her search for him as well as facing up to a number of other challenges. There are elements of mystery and humour which I hope combine to make an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

I love thrillers, and this sounds fascinating! Since this is a ‘Summer on the Water blog’, I want to know what body of water you set your story near. 

Writing the Town Read is set in an unnamed Cornish town which was largely inspired by St Ives, a town surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise sea – unexpectedly exotic for Britain.

Jamie has been drawn back to life in the town she grew up in, seduced by the sea and the different pace of life it inspires.

I chose to set the story by the sea because I suppose I am partially living vicariously through my novel – I have never lived by the sea but I fully intend to one day. For the meantime I just have to content myself with writing about it.

I am also intrigued by the contrast between life in small, remote places – and you don’t get much more remote than the tip of Cornwall, in the UK at least – and large cities. I do live in a rural town at the moment but it is land-locked. The sea adds another, vital, element to rural life.

I think we all to an extent, live vicariously through our stories! Thanks for this. Do you live near the water yourself, Katherine?
I am determined I will live by the sea one day. St Ives, though not named specifically, was a major inspiration for Writing the Town Read and a good portion of the book was written there. We used to have family holidays in Cornwall when I was a child and I love the county as a whole but I discovered St Ives when I was about 21 and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. To risk sounding like a hippy, I feel my energy increases when I am there, and I just feel absolutely at home. 
You don't sound like a hippie at all! (If you are, then I am, too.) Okay, Katherine, why are you choosing to self-publish? Tell us about this thing called 'Independent Publishing."

I set out trying to find an agent and traditional publisher and I received encouraging feedback but the more I found out about self-publishing, the more it seemed to make sense. This tied in with being approached by another author, Michael Clutterbuck, to publish on his behalf (I was already working as a freelance editor, proofreader and copywriter).

From there, Heddon Publishing grew and by the time this interview goes out I hope to have published 20 books, two of which are my own.

Although I am assuming most writers dream of huge advances and a bestselling novel, I really think that the world of independent publishing is inspiring. It constantly reminds me of why I write – I love it – and is full of individuals who help each other out, which really appeals to me.

Having said that, yes, if I was offered a huge sume of money by a traditional publisher, I would probably sell out!

My advice to another author thinking of self-publishing for the first time is to make sure your book is edited, proofread and presented brilliantly Also get a good cover! The story may be absolutely amazing but without these key factors it will sink like a stone and possibly be ripped apart by readers.

Katherine, you are asked to give a Ted Talk. What will it be about?

Possibly about not letting parenthood limit your possibilities. I’m speaking as the mother of two young children (three and five years old). My first pregnancy was the catalyst for setting up my freelance business and since then I have self-published two novels as well as setting up Heddon Publishing and working with a range of clients in the publishing, education and business worlds.

Also, more importantly – though I’m not sure this is what TED talks are for! - not letting business compromise your parental ideals. My priority is being a parent but it doesn’t stop me achieving my goals. It just means they take a bit longer…

That sounds very self-righteous; it’s not meant to.

Thanks Katherine. Where can readers find you?


Heddon Publishing

Heddon Publishing/Facebook

To purchase:  

Writing the Town Read UK

Writing the Town Read US

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer on the Water, Anne Allen- Season 2, Episode 9

As we head into the heady, hot days of summer, I welcome British historical novelist Anne Allen to my Summer on the Water blog. Welcome Anne! Tell us what your brand new novel is about. 

My latest book, The Family Divided, is the fourth in The Guernsey Novels series and focuses on the Batiste family in Guernsey. During the German Occupation the then heir to the family farm, Edmund, was denounced as a traitor by, amongst others, his younger brother, shortly before being murdered. His killer was never found and his young widow, after being ostracised by both the family and neighbours, fled to relatives in France after the end of the war, weeks later. It was only then she realised she was pregnant and gave birth to Jim later in 1945. More than 60 years later Andy, Jim's son, sets out to discover why his father was denied his rightful inheritance when he moved to Guernsey in the 60s, not even being acknowledged as a member of the by now wealthy Batiste family.

Andy is joined in his search for the truth by Charlotte, who is staying at an upmarket natural health centre and looking for answers to her own problems.

Since this is a 'Summer on the Water blog', I want to know why did you choose the theme of water for your story? What body of water you set your story near? 

I lived in Guernsey for nearly fourteen happy years and left part of my soul behind, as well as my elder son! A few years after returning, reluctantly, to England, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel. The natural setting for me was Guernsey and my first book, Dangerous Waters, was written as my homage to this beautiful island in the English Channel. It, and the other Channel Islands are only about twelve miles from France, resulting in a significant French influence, but they are actually British.

Does the sea have any special meaning for you personally? What is it?

Yes. I was born in the middle of England, as far from the sea as you could get, but my father came from the Welsh island of Anglesey and I spent many holidays there as a child. I fell in love with the sea and have been drawn to live by it ever since. At one time I even had a house, set on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, which led onto a beach. At present I live in Devon and a matter of minutes away from the sea, again the English Channel.

I see that you are self-publishing The Family Divided. Why are you going this route? Do you plan to continue as an Indie author? What is one piece of advice you would give to authors who are thinking of self-publishing for the first time?

My initial idea when I wrote Dangerous Waters was to become traditionally published and approached agents with my manuscript. Some were encouraging but most sent the standard rejection letter. This was about nine years ago and self-publishing was not as it is now. Then, in 2012, it became more respectable and worthwhile and I used a service provider to publish my book. I was completely naïve as to the process, particularly with regard to promotion and marketing, and it's been a steep learning curve. I published my second book, Finding Mother, and subsequent books, under my own imprint and am beginning to see the results of all my hard work. It's unlikely I'll stop being an Indie as I love being in control of what happens to my books. For new authors I would say that the writing is the easy part and it's important to spend a chunk of your time building up good relationships with bloggers, reviewers and fellow authors if you want to succeed as an indie author.

Now to my fun question of the season. You are asked to give a TED talk. What will it be about?

Ahh! Interesting question. I think it would focus on the many roles that women today feel the need to undertake in order to be 'successful'. It's no longer enough to focus on being a wife and mother: we need to find the path that offers us fulfilment as a unique individual – and as a woman in what is still a man's world.

Thanks Anne! One last question. Where can readers find you and your books?


The Family Divided on Amazon International link

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer on the Water, Suzanne Adair, Season 2, Episode 8

Welcome Suzanne to this very special edition of Summer on the Water. Today is July 4, when our American friends celebrate their country. And since Suzanne's novel Regulated for Murder fits this theme, I am pleased to welcome her on her country's special day!

Award-winning novelist Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in a two hundred-year-old city at the edge of the North Carolina Piedmont named for an English explorer who was beheaded. Her suspense and thrillers transport readers to the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War, where she brings historic towns, battles, and people to life. She fuels her creativity with Revolutionary War reenacting and visits to historic sites. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking, dancing, hiking, and spending time with her family. October 2015, look for the release of her next Michael Stoddard American Revolution Thriller, Deadly Occupation.

Suzanne, what is Regulated for Murder about? Give readers a brief elevator pitch.

The series is set during the occupation of the Atlantic coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina by the Eighty-Second Regiment (British) during most of the year 1781. While closely following the framework of actual historical events, each title follows Michael Stoddard, a fictitious young officer, in a personal and professional adventure as a criminal investigator for the regiment’s real, historical commander, Major James Henry Craig. Of the six-book series, two books—Regulated for Murder and A Hostage to Heritage—are already available, with another book, Deadly Occupation, scheduled for an October 2015 release.

For ten years, an execution hid murder. Then Michael Stoddard came to town.

Bearing a dispatch from his commander in coastal Wilmington, North Carolina, redcoat Lieutenant Michael Stoddard arrives in Hillsborough in February 1781 in civilian garb. He expects to hand a letter to a courier working for Lord Cornwallis, then ride back to Wilmington the next day. Instead, Michael is greeted by the courier's freshly murdered corpse, a chilling trail of clues leading back to an execution ten years earlier, and a sheriff with a fondness for framing innocents—and plans to deliver Michael up to his nemesis, a psychopathic British officer.

Since this is a ‘Summer on the Water blog’, I want to know why did you choose the theme of water for your story? What body of water you set your story near? Is this a real place or is it fictitious?

Historically in late January 1781, the Eighty-Second Regiment sailed from Charleston, South Carolina. Its mission was to establish a supply depot in North Carolina for Cornwallis so the general could march his army around the colony’s interior and subdue patriots.

Occupying Wilmington, a port town on the Cape Fear River, was a crucial part of this military strategy. From a base in Wilmington, the redcoats could move troops and supplies along the Cape Fear River, which opened into the Atlantic, without risking ambush during land travel.

Late in 1781, after Cornwallis surrendered in Virginia, the redcoats became outnumbered and trapped in Wilmington by patriots. However, the regiment’s naval strategy allowed the soldiers and their allies to abandon Wilmington and sail back to Charleston without loss of life.

Regulated for Murder starts and ends in Wilmington. However most of the book’s action is in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where the main body of water is the Eno River. The Eno plays a role in the solving of a murder.

Does water, and specifically the body of water you set your story beside, have any special meaning for you personally?

I was born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. It’s difficult for me to conceive of writing fiction about the southern theater of the American Revolution without including the tremendous influence of the ocean.
Why are you choosing to self-publish? What is one piece of advice would you give to authors who are thinking of self-publishing for the first time?

My first three books about the southern theater of the American Revolution—Paper Woman, The Blacksmith’s Daughter, and Camp Follower—were published by a traditional, regional press. The books were all stand-alone but connected reads. The character of Michael Stoddard played a small role in each book, and when I spun off his series with Deadly Occupation, the origin story of the Eighty-Second’s occupation, I offered it to my publisher. He hedged for over a year, and in early 2011, the press folded. After I got the rights back to the first three books and re-issued them with different covers, I offered Deadly Occupation to several other presses.

The editor at one mid-sized press rejected the book with a claim that civilians in Wilmington wouldn’t have surrendered peacefully to redcoats—that surely they would have fought a la “Red Dawn”—never mind that I had plenty of primary documentation showing that the civilians did surrender peacefully. Here’s an article about why they didn’t fight. I had Regulated for Murder ready for publication and, thinking it might fare better because it didn’t deal directly with the occupation, offered it to the editor. However the editor didn’t want to see any more of my “controversial” history.

By that time (2011), it had been three years since I’d had a book released. Another mid-sized press did exhibit interest in Deadly Occupation, but they let me know that it would be at least 2013 before they could publish it. I still did want a publisher, but five years was way too long between books. I was sure I’d lost readers during the three-year wait. So I set Deadly Occupation aside and tweaked Regulated for Murder to make it book #1 in the series. Then I self-published it. Regulated for Murder got put on Suspense Magazine’s “Best of 2011” list. I followed that with Michael Stoddard #2, A Hostage to Heritage, which went on to win the Indie Book of the Day award.

Because people who’d read Deadly Occupation insisted that it was too good to not be published, I’m releasing it this year as book #0. All of Michael’s books are stand-alone stories, so my readers won’t be confused. A number of them have indicated that they’re eager to learn about the occupation and how several regular characters entered the series.
If you’re going to self-publish your book, my advice is to not personally do every task associated with the process, or your end result will most likely look self-published. There’s so much to do to release and maintain a book. Your best way to sell that book will be by writing the next book. You cannot do that while juggling all the tasks yourself. So obtain the following types of outside help, at least:
 - Five or more readers to comment on your manuscript
 - A professional editor to help you polish your manuscript until publishable
 - A professional cover artist (ebook and trade paperback)
 - A professional book layout designer for the interior (ebook and paperback)

If you have the money, hire someone to help you with promotion and setting up splashy release-week events months in advance of the actual book release. Hire a virtual office assistant to help you manage social media.

That certainly is impressive Suzanne! Where can readers find you?

Where can readers purchase Regulated for Murder, Suzanne?