*GIVEAWAY ALERT!* My Favorite Christmassy Things!

********Giveaway of GLORY ROAD advance copy is CLOSED—the WINNER is Erin, who was the very last to comment! Erin, please send your mailing address to Lauren(at)LaurenKDenton.com. Congrats!! And thank you to all those who left comments—boy, some of you have had some wild Christmas experiences! Thank you for sharing such sweet and funny stories. Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Love,

Lauren

Hi Friends! Welcome to My Christmassy Things, where twelve authors share our favorite Christmas memories and stories and YOU, dear reader, have a chance to win one of several gift cards or the *grand prize* of 12 print books—one from each of us! (And pssssst…at the very end of this post, you’ll find a separate giveaway for an advance copy of my novel GLORY ROAD that releases March 19!!)

Today is my day to share…

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Disaster isn’t exactly synonymous with the word “favorite,” is it? It’s hard to call a disaster your favorite anything (favorite terrible moment, maybe?) but in the spirit of My Favorite Christmasy Things, I’m going to tell you about my most memorable, if not favorite, Christmas disaster.

Decorating my own Christmas tree was something I was always really excited to do once I got married and had my own home. I imagined warm twinkle lights, hot chocolate, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire coming from the speakers. Maybe some snow drifting down outside. (Ha! We live in Alabama!) My husband and I lovingly hanging ornaments side by side.

And it was that way for a few (childless) years.

Well, not exactly that way. There were twinkle lights, and ornaments, and my husband was usually around somewhere. But mostly it was me hanging ornaments on the tree while watching Christmas Vacation. But still, there was always the moment when the tree and mantel were all decorated, everything sparkling and colorful. I loved seeing the ornaments we’d both accumulated over the years—crafty things we made in preschool, ornaments picked up on vacations over the years, a yellow tennis ball my childhood best friend gave me when I was ten or so, the key that Matt’s parents gave him when he bought his first home after college. Everything hanging on our tree was somehow a part of who we’d been and who were were going forward.

Once we had kids, the decorating of the Christmas tree changed. Our first child, Kate, was born in November, so that first Christmas with her remained pretty much the same as it always had been. She slept in her rocker while we/I decorated. Going forward though, and especially after her sister Sela came, decorating became a game of keep-away. Let the girls have fun and experience the joy of Christmas, but for the love, keep them away from all things breakable and covered in glitter.

Several years ago, when Sela was about two and Kate was five, I attempted to decorate the whole tree while Sela was napping and Kate was having quiet time in her room. Matt helped me wrap the tree in lights then I started in on the decorating. Box after box of childhood ornaments and a host of paper/popsicle stick/cotton ball/candy cane ornaments the girls had made. All of it out of hiding and hanging on our tree. When I was putting on the finishing touches—hanging those last awkward ornaments that didn’t have a hanger, looking for a sturdy branch for the heavy jingle bell—the tree fell over.

That’s right. Fell. Over. On the floor. Needles and sap and ornaments everywhere. I did what most people would do in that situation—I cried. Yelled. My husband came running down the stairs, wondering what in the world had happened. He lifted the tree and got it standing again and I began to assess the damage. Somehow, the painted sand dollar ornament Matt’s grandparents gave him in 1981 survived but his tiny two-year-old handprint in pottery didn’t. I think we still have that little broken hand in a drawer somewhere. I lost several ornaments I’d gotten at an annual ornament-swap party I used to go to, along with a gold star I’d always loved for no particular reason.

Once I picked up the broken pieces and attempted to hide the bent and twisted branches, I realized what had happened. As I’d been hanging ornaments, I only hung them on the three sides facing out into the room, because why put ornaments where no one will see them? It’s easy to think ornaments don’t weigh very much until you hang a tree’s worth of them on basically one half of the tree. Do that and you’ll soon have a big mess on your hands.

It’s been several years since that debacle and we’ve accumulated many more of those paper/popsicle stick/cotton ball/candy cane ornaments, as well as several more I’ve bought for the girls’ collection and a few I’ve picked up just for fun. We have plenty. But I still think about Matt’s little hand print and those fragile snowflakes that lost their arms.

Oh and we now secure the tree to the wall behind it. Pull on it and it won’t come down. No more toppling trees for us.

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Now, back to the MY FAVORITE CHRISTMASY THINGS GIVEAWAY

Be sure to visit each stop so you don’t miss the fabulous daily giveaways!

Dec 13: Ronie Kendig – My Favorite Christmas Movie

Dec 14: Jody Hedlund – My Favorite Christmas Food

Dec 15: Elizabeth Byler Younts – My Favorite Christmas Ornament

Dec 16: Beth K. Vogt – My Favorite Christmas Decoration

Dec 17: Rachel Linden – My Favorite Christmas Service

Dec 18: Courtney Walsh – My Favorite Christmas Memory

Dec 19: Rachel Hauck – My Favorite Christmas Book

Dec 20: Susan Meissner – My Favorite Christmas Vacation

Dec 21: Catherine J. West – My Favorite Christmas Gift

Enter by midnight on 12/21/18 USA Eastern time! Winners will be drawn on 12/22/18 and posted on Catherine West’s site.

Draw open to US addresses ONLY, with apologies to our international readers.

Major Prizes:

1st: All 12 Print Novels
2nd: $50 Amazon gift card and $20 Starbucks Gift Card
3rd: $50 Amazon gift card

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Now, for the GLORY ROAD ADVANCE COPY GIVEAWAY!!



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To be entered to win an ARC of GLORY ROAD, just leave a comment here on the blog and tell me YOUR favorite Christmas (or Hanukkah!) disaster. Or if you’re lucky enough to have not had any kind of holiday disaster, tell me your favorite holiday tradition. This contest ends at midnight EST on 12/23/18. (US residents only.) I’ll post the winner here!

Good luck on both contests!

Love,

Lauren

SUMMER IS HERE!

Hi all!

It's been a while since I've updated my blog! The reasons are many and varied, but the main hold-up has been spring/end-of-school madness coupled with first-round edits on book three, which now has an official title of GLORY ROAD. (I'm tickled to say it's MY title! I'm three for three on choosing titles!)

How about a little photographic recap of the last several months....

Our Birmingham launch party for HURRICANE SEASON was a blast, and again I was amazed by the sweet support of our family and friends who came to celebrate with us. 

Our launch party for HURRICANE SEASON was a blast, and again I was amazed by the sweet support of our family and friends who came to celebrate with us. 

Our launch party for HURRICANE SEASON was a blast, and again I was amazed by the sweet support of our family and friends who came to celebrate with us. 

My brother and sister-in-law on the left and my adorable editor extraordinaire on the right.

My brother and sister-in-law on the left and my adorable editor extraordinaire on the right.

My sweet parents and my partner-in-crime and travel companion Anna on the left.

My sweet parents and my partner-in-crime and travel companion Anna on the left.

My daughters' sweet teachers came to the party!

My daughters' sweet teachers came to the party!

My sweet and proud husband.

My sweet and proud husband.

I've had a few book signings too. I chatted with author Kristy Woodson Harvey at Foxtale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA, and with author Emily Carpenter at The Book Exchange in Marietta, GA. 

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We've had some kid stuff going on too...

Sela the sassy narwhal. (The narwhal is the unicorn of the sea.)

Sela the sassy narwhal. (The narwhal is the unicorn of the sea.)

Sela's dance recital. 

Sela's dance recital. 

After Kate's end-of-the-year jazz performance. 

After Kate's end-of-the-year jazz performance. 

Lastly, we had a second launch party for HURRICANE SEASON in Mobile. Lots of friends and family there to help of celebrate! 

Kate loved helping the booksellers! She handed out bookmarks and added lots of cuteness.

Kate loved helping the booksellers! She handed out bookmarks and added lots of cuteness.

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I've also met with some amazing book clubs! 

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Whew. So, you know, not much going on at all ;) It's been a lot of fun though. I love meeting with book clubs and book groups--book people are definitely my people! And it's been a fun season of life with our girls too. They're getting older, which brings with it a measure of sadness because of the passage of time, but it's wonderful too--we can do more with them and they're enjoying each other a lot too. (As soon as I say that, sibling rivalry will kick back into high gear, I'm sure, but for now we're enjoying the laughter and friendship!)

WHAT I'M READING
I always like to tell you what I'm reading, and right now I'm reading this book that's totally obscure and I'm sure none of you have heard of it.....

Just kidding--it's Anne of Green Gables! I've never read it and I'm LOVING it! What a spunky and clever and hilarious girl. 

WHAT I'M WRITING
Nothing! And I admit, it's kind of nice. I'm currently working on first round edits for GLORY ROAD. I'd planned to have them finished by tomorrow when the kids get out of school, but I don't think I'm going to quite make it. I'm very close though. And as usual, I'm enjoying the editing process. Having a fresh set of eyes on my words (those of my wonderful editor Kim) has made the story even sharper and more alive. I can't wait for this one to release! It comes out in February. 

I'm thinking about my next book, of course, but I probably won't give it serious thought until a little later in the summer. The short 10 or so weeks of summer flies by and I want to enjoy it with my kids and catch up on as much reading as possible. (I do have a couple of ideas I'm batting around...)

I hope you all have a nice start to the summer--even if it's not official summer, it's the start of the school summer, and that counts for me!

Love,
Lauren

USA Today Bestseller!

So, THE HIDEAWAY had a bit of a good week last week! Wednesday I learned that the book made it on to the Top 20 Most Sold list on Amazon, coming in at #17. This on its own was exciting enough. 

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THEN, oh but then, on Thursday, I returned home from dropping my kids off at school, started scrambling eggs for breakfast, and saw an email from my friends at Thomas Nelson informing me that THE HIDEAWAY debuted at #39 on the USA Today bestseller list!

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I'm not exaggerating when I tell you I sobbed over my plate of scrambled eggs. My brain was total mush for the rest of the day. It's crazy that we keep getting good news about the book--making it onto these lists, seeing numbers continue to rise, etc. But honestly, the best part of it is that daily, I'm receiving email messages from readers telling me how much they enjoyed the book. Those messages are so precious, and I've saved every single one in an email folder. I plan to pull them back out and read them on difficult writing days or when a particularly stinging negative review comes in. So THANK YOU to all of you who've read the book and THANK YOU for spreading the word to your friends and family. I love knowing Mags and Sara (William and Crawford, Dot and Bert, Glory and Major, and of course Allyn) are having such an effect on readers. 

**Sidenote: The eBook was on sale for $1.99 for all of August, BUT in case you missed out or know of someone else who did, the sale has been extended for all of September! Please spread the word to your book-loving friends. Here's a link to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks.

READING:

I just finished reading an advance copy of Billy Coffey's STEAL AWAY HOME. 

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I loved this book. Here's my review of it: During the course of one fateful night--his first game in the Major League--Billy Coffey's main character, Paul Cross, is confronted by his childhood love, aspirations, and regrets. Baseball fans will love the behind-the-scenes peek into a night game in the Major Leagues, but even non-baseball fans will be pulled into the beauty and tension of Coffey's writing, the lovely and tragic Blue Ridge Mountain settings, and his compelling characters who make both selfless and heartbreaking choices. This is a powerful story of grief, love, forgiveness, and holy mystery, and I loved it. Billy Coffey is a master storyteller. 

Next, I'm reading Patti Callahan Henry's THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END, Emily Beck Cogburn's AVA'S PLACE, and Johnnie Bernhard's A GOOD GIRL. The four of us are going to be on a panel at the Louisiana Book Festival at the end of October. 

WRITING:

I've started going through my rough draft of book 3 (which I'm tentatively calling Glory Road). I'm about 5 chapters in and relieved that I still like the story! I think the three women in this story will resonate with readers and fans of Sara and Mags, as well as fans of Betsy and Jenna, the main characters in next April's HURRICANE SEASON. Right now, I'm trying to parcel out my day to include a decent chunk of writing/revising, reading, and "adulting" i.e., keeping the laundry from overtaking the house, making sure dinner gets on the table, making sure Kate does her 20 minutes of reading a day and keeping Sela from bringing cicadas inside the house. 

Speaking of HURRICANE SEASON, I just received the designed pages of the book and I have my last chance to read through and catch any last hiccups before production begins! So exciting. I can't wait to get this book out to everyone. I love it. 

Hope y'all are well and finding time to do things you enjoy. And if any of you are in Florida, please be safe and careful. 

Lauren

Back to School (aka the most bittersweet day of the year)

Hi friends! It's been a while. First, a little housekeeping:

It feels pretty self-serving to direct you to my Facebook page, but since you're here to see what's going on in my world, I guess it's not too much of a stretch to think you might be interested to know I post more frequently (but hopefully not enough to be annoying ;) on my author Facebook page. If you haven't stopped by there, feel free--find it here.  You can also find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, if you're so inclined. 

What's going on with me:

My babies went back to school today!

 

As expected, I feel both relief and sorrow in equal measures. I loooove summer and really enjoyed the freedom of this summer--not having to get up and get going any any certain time, letting the kids stay up late, loose schedules, etc. But there was also the bickering. And the "I'm bored"s. So going back to school is a relief because my kids (especially my 7 year old Kate who LOVES to know the EXACT plan for the day) will have a schedule for their days and I will have time on my own. . . but I really will miss them. And my baby Sela (just turned 5 in July) is in kindergarten now, sniff sniff. I could go on and on about this, but suffice it to say, I'm a little heartbroken. 

However, my time opens up so much now--from 8 until 2:45 I am on my own, which feels like a ridiculously long amount of time, though I fear I could waste a bunch of that time if I'm not careful. I had to be so careful with my four hours a day of preschool last year, and I know i need to be on my guard to not think, "Oh, I have pleeeeenty of time for writing. I can do that later". . . and find myself at 2:45 picking the kids up with nothing to show for it. I want to make the most of my time and do the things I need/want to do, so that when I pick the kids up, I'm not still thinking of all the things I didn't do. I feel like that happened a lot last year and I was always operating with a tiny bit of frustration in the afternoons because my writing/alone time for the day was over and I left things unfinished. Sending *both* my kiddos off to big school makes me more than ever think I don't want to waste time with them feeling frustrated by things I need to do. As everyone says, kids won't notice a dirty floor or unfolded laundry (or an unfinished chapter), but they will notice a totally distracted mama. 

Speaking of writing:

Hurricane Season is mostly wrapped up and edited. Soon, I will receive page proofs--essentially the book all laid out nice and pretty for one more read-through before it goes into production. It's crazy to think I'll be doing this whole shebang again next April! (April 3, 2018! And shameless plug, you can preorder it anywhere you buy books! Here's the link to Amazon.)

After I get over the shock of this quiet house and my brain settles down, I will be hitting book 3 hard! I have a very rough draft of it already written, but it needs a lot of work. I'm excited about it but also slightly terrified. There's this feeling of, "I know I've done this before (twice now) but what if I just can't make it happen again?!" But I trust that I can. 

Events coming up:

I am meeting with various book clubs this fall--some in person, some over Skype--to discuss The Hideaway. I'll also be in Greenville, SC, on August 28 at M. Judson Booksellers. I'm part of their event called Page Pairings, which pairs books with wine--not sure how they do that, but I'm all for it! I know of one author who's going to be there, Joy Callaway, and I'm so excited to finally meet her in person. 

I'll also be in Baton Rouge, LA, October 28 for the Louisiana Book Festival. There are a ton of awesome authors coming, so if you're anywhere near Baton Rouge, come check it out. 

What I'm reading:

First Frost is the sequel to Sarah Addison Allen's first novel, Garden Spells. If you've never read anything in the magical realism genre, this is it. It's not super magical, a la Harry Potter, but it's our normal, everyday world with small touches of magic/mystery thrown in. I love it. And I'm loving this book. It's delicious. 

On my list to read next (ish):

Ann Kidd Taylor is the daughter of Sue Monk Kidd, also known as the author of one of my very favorite books, The Secret Life of Bees, which was the book that made me think, "Maybe I want to try my hand at this fiction writing thing." I admit I checked the book out just because of who her mom is, but the story is really intriguing and I'm hearing good things about it. 

This is another WWII novel, but different in that it's not set in Europe. A woman learns her Jewish father was a sergeant in charge of a platoon of black soldiers in 1940s Alabama. 

 

That's about it from me. I'm going to keep myself busy for the next hour before I run out the door and dash down the street to meet my kiddos at school pick-up. Never have I wanted 3:00 to get here more than today! After today, I probably won't feel as out of sorts (and that fresh new Word document will start calling my name) but today I can't wait to see their faces!

Good luck with school if that's your thing. If not, enjoy the rest of your summer!

Lauren

Review of Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty--and a giveaway!

[Update: Giveaway closed. Winner: Tonya!]

I read BREAKING AND HOLDING by Judy Fogarty for a blog tour. A blog tour is essentially a virtual book tour where an author is featured on a bunch book blogs over a short period of time. (Incidentally, THE HIDEAWAY will be featured in a future blog tour with this group, TLC Blog Tours. I'll let you know when that starts!)

 

Here's a summary of BREAKING AND HOLDING:

For Patricia Curren, the summer of 1978 begins with a devastating discovery: an unfamiliar black pearl button in the bed she shares with her controlling husband, Jack. Seeking the courage to end her desolate marriage, Patricia spends a quiet summer alone on beautiful Kiawah Island. But when she meets Terry Sloan, a collegiate tennis player trying to go pro, their physical attraction sparks a slow burn toward obsession.

Once Patricia and Terry share closely guarded secrets from their pasts, they want more than a summer together. But their love soon fractures, as a potential sponsor takes an unusually keen interest in Terry—both on court and off. And when single, career-driven Lynn Hewitt arrives, other secrets must surface, including the one Patricia has kept from Terry all summer.

An intimate portrait of the folly of the human heart, Breaking and Holding explores buried truths that are startlingly unveiled. What’s left in their wake has the power not only to shatter lives…but to redeem them.

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it. It is heartbreaking and tragic and steamy and sweet. The author spun an incredible web for these characters. Every time I thought I knew what would happen, she took them (and us) down yet another dark and twisting path. Other reviewers have said this a great beach read, and I suppose to the extent that much of it occurs over one summer at the beach (Kiawah Island, SC, in 1978), that’s true. But this wasn’t a light and easy-breezy read for me. With a dysfunctional marriage, addiction, secrets, and abuse plus a tender and sweet romance, friendship, longing, and hope, the author made me care about the main characters, as flawed and damaged and unreliable as they were, and hope for good endings for them, though for much of the book, that seemed a total pipe dream. It was so unpredictable! Right up until the very last pages, I had no idea how things would turn out for them, which to me, is a hallmark of great suspense. 

I also really enjoyed her style of writing. It was whip-smart, at times funny, and for a book with so much romance, it never veered into cheesy or saccharine for me. And bonus if you are a tennis fan, as I am. I loved hearing about the Connors/Borg/McEnroe rivalries, and she used tennis analogies that made my jaw drop. I will be looking with great anticipation for her next book. 

**This is not a knock on the book, but for more sensitive readers, I feel like I need to say this—if you’re looking for clean, PG-rated fun, this may not be the book for you. It has a great deal of "adult situations" and coarse language. If you'd rather not have that in your books, I'd suggest trying something else. 

I have one copy of BREAKING AND HOLDING to give away! Just leave a comment here and tell me your favorite tennis rivalry...or if you know nothing about tennis, tell me your favorite book. I'll pick a winner on Wednesday!

Find Judy on her website, Facebook, or Twitter. Purchase the book here.

Bookish People: Joy Callaway

I'm so excited to be back with my next installment of the Bookish People interviews! This month, it's Joy Callaway, author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society (available here!). The story follows a family of sisters during the Gilded Age of New York City. It's a love story combined with tragedy and heartbreak, and the period details (clothes, street scenes, etc) are enthralling. (Bonus--on Instagram, she often posts photos of period dress and homes from that period of time.)



1.     Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society
This is a story of secrets and family and history, but principally it’s about love, based on my great-great grandmother and her artistic siblings on the outskirts of Gilded Age New York high society. Pitched by its publisher as Edith Wharton-meets-Little Women, my main character, Ginny Loftin, is an aspiring novelist caught between the boy next door and a mysterious author who inducts her into Manhattan’s most elite artistic salon. Glitter and glamour aside, the story is really about what it means to be both a woman and an artist, and sounds the emotional depths Ginny is willing explore to protect her art, her family, and her chance at love.

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Secret Sisters (Harper, 7.11.17)
This story is based on the founding of the country’s first sororities! 

Illinois, 1881: Whitsitt College sophomore Beth Carrington has two goals to fulfill by the time she graduates: obtain a medical degree, and establish a women’s fraternity, Beta Xi Beta, that will help young women like herself to connect with and support one another while attending the male-dominated Whitsitt.

Neither is an easy task. The sole female student in the physicians’ program, Beth is constantly called out by her professors and peers for having the audacity not to concentrate on a more “fitting” subject like secretarial studies. Meanwhile, secret organizations are off-limits, and simply by crowding together in a dank basement room and creating a sense of camaraderie, she and her small group of fraternity sisters risk expulsion.

In order to have the fraternity recognized, she knows she needs help. She turns to the most powerful student on campus: senior Grant Richardson, Iota Gamma fraternity president and the scion of a Whitsitt family—a man she’s only acquainted with because of her longstanding friendship with his fraternity brother Will Buchannan. Staunchly traditional, Grant doesn’t see the purpose of this women’s organization, but captivated by Beth, he agrees to give her a helping hand. What she doesn’t know is how many will stop at nothing to keep her burgeoning organization out of the record books—and who she can actually trust along the way.

As Beth fights for her beloved Beta Xi Beta to be recognized, she will uncover deep secrets about the college and those who surround her, and will have to put both love and friendship on the line so that history can be made.

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2.     What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback.

I’ll lead off here by saying that I actually love criticism so long as it’s productive. I have a great group of critique partners who have read my work since my attempts at books that will never ever become real books and their advice is invaluable. I remember sending Fifth Avenue to my friend Renee and she immediately told me that this was “the one”. I trust them immensely and they never hold back if things need to be reworked or changed. I also have a ridiculously smart agent, Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, whose eye is always spot-on, and an editor, Emily Griffin, whose comments always challenge me.

Worst criticism=Goodreads. If you’re an author, resist the urge to look!

3.     Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?

My Costco signings were always so fun and often hilarious. I think it’s just a consequence of the variety of shoppers, but I had people stopping by my signing table telling me that they can vouch for the fact that UFOs and mermaids exist, that I should write about their grandma’s great-uncle’s cousin who was in the CIA, etc.

4.     Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?

It used to be orderly…sort of. I would put my two kids down for an afternoon nap, rush downstairs and write for an hour in the midst of Minnie Mouse stuffed animals, race cars, and puzzles, but now my three-year-old has quit napping, so I’m still trying to figure out a new routine. Right now it’s pretty erratic.

5.     Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?

I’m interested in everything. Honestly. It’s sort of a downfall. I spend hours looking up historical tidbits that I never actually write about. But, generally speaking, I’m always most interested in American history from the Revolution through World War II. And, I don’t really get very excited about writing well-known historical events. I like taking little-known but remarkable occurrences and giving them a stage. 

6.     What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)

I’ve brought books about everywhere you can imagine, but maybe my most frequent inappropriate place is the bathroom when I’m trying to sneak in one more chapter and hiding from my kids. 

7.     Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright—Even if you’re not an Elvis fan, this book is amazing. Kim always writes such compelling stories and Last Ride to Graceland is Southern voice at its finest. I also just had a dream that I was Honey (one of the characters in this book) and I rarely dream. It’s that good.

Fates and Traitors by Jennifer Chiaverini—I love the depth of Jennifer’s research and this book is just phenomenal. It follows the women involved in John Wilkes Booth’s life and it’s harrowing and gripping and fascinating.

Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson—This book isn’t out until May, but everyone should pre-order it immediately. Jennifer’s books are always so rich and this one is no different. It’s based in World War II London, and the main character, Ruby Sutton, is an inspiring, strong reporter whose unrelenting passion for her work and those she loves is a wonderful tribute to the real heroines of the press during the war.

8.     Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.

To be honest, I’m sort of a reading wimp. I generally stick to women’s fiction or historical fiction, but, interestingly enough, some of my critique partners write thrillers and fantasy and I LOVE reading what they write.

9.     What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?

I REALLY dislike accents that aren’t done realistically. It just zaps you out of the narrative.

10.  Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?

Paper all the way! I actually don’t have an e-reader or an electronic calendar.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?

Both!

12.  Coffee or tea? Or something else?

Coffee with coconut cream.

13.  Tell us what you’re working on now.

I’ve just started working on a really really fun project—my first attempt at dual POV. It’s set in West Virginia in the 1830s.

You can find Joy on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and

Thanks Joy, and thank you for reading!

Bookish People--Emily Carpenter

It's been a while, guys! I'll update on life and books very soon, but today is the next installment of the Bookish People interviews. I'm excited to feature Emily Carpenter, author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls (available here!), a Southern Gothic romp full of suspense, secrets, and mysteries. Much of the book takes place in the Mobile area and Birmingham, my two homes, so it was especially fun for me!

1.     Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls is a southern gothic suspense novel set in Alabama and The Weight of Lies is…a southern gothic suspense novel set in Georgia. They don’t sound different but I promise they actually are!

2.     What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback.
Somebody called Honeysuckle Girls misogynistic and said I must hate men, because the villains happened to be men. That stung because I was trying to tell a very particular story that did involve abuse—and trying to be unflinching about it. I never thought someone would think I approved of the abuse, so that was disappointing. But it’s part of being an author. Sometimes you’re misunderstood.

3.     Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?
This isn’t funny really, but it is the best. For my launch party, my sister made all the food. And she did this incredible centerpiece modeled after something from the book—an old cigar box with all these clues passed down from generations that Althea uses to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. It was fabulous. Made me cry.

4.     Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?
It’s generally pretty orderly. I’m a creature of routine, and I typically like to write while my kids are in school, after I’ve done some sort of exercise. But I do love those moments at home, over the weekend, when I happen to have some time and everybody is otherwise occupied, and I can just hang out on the sofa and pound out some words. Those have ended up being some of my most productive times.

5.     Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?
I’d really love to do a ghost story one day. Really, really, really. Set in a spooky house. I’m obsessed with spooky houses.

6.     What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)
I think I probably smuggled a book into church a time or two when I was a kid.

7.     Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.
Kate Moretti’s The Vanishing Year and Becky Albertalli’s forthcoming The Upside of Unrequited. Two books that are vastly different but both fantastic.

8.     Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.
I had no idea I was going to love the Twilight books the way I did. I mean, I don’t consider myself a literary snob or anything, but a YA vampire book? I thought I was going to be hate-reading it or something, you know, like oh, this silly book that everybody likes…. As it turned out, I was ridiculously into every one of them. I cried on a plane reading one of them because apparently obsessive love really speaks to me. Also, gorgeous, self-sacrificing vampires.

9.     What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?
In his craft book Thrill Me, Benjamin Percy calls it “feckless pondering.” In his words, “momentum killing emotional fuss.” Readers absolutely need to understand adequate backstory and some of the main character’s inner thoughts, but it has to be employed strategically. If there’s too much stopping so the main character can ponder, I can’t get into the swing of the story, and I’ll put the book down. I’m getting more conscious of it in my own writing too. I think it takes a lot of skill to boil down the necessary information that a reader needs to just the right amount. It’s much easier to go on for paragraphs, explaining how everybody thinks and feels. But it’s deadly.

10.  Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
I prefer print book, but I do read a lot of e-books. They’re just so convenient, easy to access in a pinch. I’m back to a paper calendar and I love it.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate all the way.

12.  Coffee or tea? Or something else?
Grande two-pump mocha no-whip from Starbucks. Dark roast Community coffee on my Keurig at home.

13.  Tell us what you’re working on now.
Another southern gothic suspense novel, this one set at a couples’ therapy retreat up in the north Georgia mountains where nothing is as it seems. 

You can find Emily on all the usual social media spots and on her website here

Thanks Emily for playing and thank YOU for reading!

Bookish People--Ella Joy Olsen

It's the second edition of the Bookish People interviews, and today I'm featuring author Ella Joy Olsen. Ella and I were matched as critique partners through WFWA (Women's Fiction Writers Association). She read The Hideaway for me and I had the privilege of reading her second book that will be published next year. Her debut, Root, Petal, Thorn, is out now (and available here!) Check it out if you love a blend of contemporary and historical fiction and old houses filled with heaps of history. 

 

1.     Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.
A quick summary of my debut, Root, Petal, Thorn is: The braided stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same historic home over the course of a century –love, heartbreak, and courage entwine each woman, and each generation, to the next.

My sophomore book Where the Sweet Bird Sings will be published in September 2017. The teaser is: Though she has a loving husband, Emma Hazelton is adrift, struggling to rebuild her life after a tragedy. But one day, a simple question and an old black-and-white photograph prompt Emma to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Is it blood? Or is it love?

2.     What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback.
After processing the thoughtful feedback from a critique partner, I realized I have to keep my characters out of their own heads. Sometimes they (meaning I) spend too much time explaining why they are upset, sad, happy (and so on). The reader should be able to figure these things out if the rest of the story is told well.

3.     Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?
I have a stalker who shows up to all of my events. He’s actually a nice old-ish guy and has a fair amount of time on his hands, apparently, because he goes to the readings of many local authors. The creepy thing is that he tags himself in all of my event photos on Facebook. I’ve had to change my settings.

4.     Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?
When I’m actively creating a story I write my best stuff between about 6:00am and 10:00am. After those frenzied hours I can still work on editing, playing with language, and social media because it doesn’t require so much brainpower. I plan the days I’m going to write based on a weekly schedule and try to stick with it.

5.     Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?
Dreaming of new book ideas is one of my favorite things! Every idea at conception is so perfect and lovely. A new one I’m toying with is set in the Gilded Age in NYC when scientific exploration was occurring at a rapid clip via the American Museum of Natural History. Science and conspicuous consumption all in one story.

6.     What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)
Until I had a Kindle (with backlight) I spent many pre-dawn hours in hotel bathrooms reading. I’m not a great sleeper so on family vacations I’d sneak into the bathroom, flip on the light, and read propped against the bathtub for hours.

7.     Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.
I’m trying to read as many books as I can by my writing buddies. Last month I finished The Memory of Us by Camille DiMaio, Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White, Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner, Sweet Carolina Morning by Susan Schild, Thought I Knew You by Kate Moretti. I am surrounded by talent. I loved them all!

8.     Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.
My book club read In Love and War, a memoir written by Admiral James Stockdale about his time as a POW during Vietnam. It was long, detail jammed, and written in the 1980s, so the style of writing was a little antiquated…but after getting into the story, it was fantastic and illustrated a time/political climate I knew little about. I’d read about the protests during the Vietnam War, of course, but this was written by one of the soldiers who believed solidly in country and duty.

9.     What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?
I’m a pretty forgiving reader and look to find something I love in every book that I read. I guess I’ll give up on a book if the characters act too often in ways that defy logic, meaning their responses are too extreme, or not justified. I also don’t love a bunch of preaching/religion in a book.

10.  Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
I always have both a print book and an e-reader and an audio book going at the same time. I love the feel of print, the backlighting of an e-reader, the multitasking option of audio. Calendar: paper. Hands down.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?
I feel like I’m not an either/or kind of girl. Both.

12.  Coffee or tea? Or something else?
Again, both. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

13.  Tell us what you’re working on now.
Currently I am taking time to “fill the well”. My debut published at the beginning of September and right after that I worked long hours on content edits for Sweet Bird. I need a little time to cross a few things off my real-life list, including Christmas prep and planning a family vacation. I’m also taking time to read like crazy. However, my brain is constantly churning through new story ideas. I’ll be eager to write fresh words after the New Year.

You can find Ella on all the major social media hangouts and at her website

Thanks to Ella and to you for reading!

My first Bookish People interview!

I told you I wanted to try something new, and today's the day! This will be a series of interviews, hopefully coming about once a month. I've come up with a list of questions I think are interesting, but if you have an idea of something you'd like to ask the featured writers and readers, feel free to let me know in the comments. (Which are turned on now, by the way. Just in case you've tried to comment in the past and haven't been able to.) I'm calling the series "Bookish People" because they won't all be writers, but likely all will be readers, and I think "bookish" covers everyone pretty nicely!

So, without further explanation, please meet my first featured guest, author *and* reader Carla Jean Whitley! 

1. Give us a quick overview of the books you've written.
I'm the author of "Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City" and "Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music." In other words, I'm interested in history unlike that you've seen in your textbooks! 

2. What's the hardest or best criticism you've received, either after your books were published or as you were editing, revising, and getting feedback.
Even a very good editor needs an editor. A reader noticed I wrote "Buffalo Springsteen" instead of "Buffalo Springfield" in my first book. Oops. Don't worry, I requested a correction in subsequent printings.

3. Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night gimme-a-piece-of-paper-now? Or something in between?
When I'm in the midst of a book project, I have to set aside daily time or else I won't meet my deadline. I typically wrote an hour or two each evening and seven hours a day on weekends. I work a full-time and several part-time jobs, as well, so this meant lots of planning! Typically, I would take an hour away from any screens or work obligations when I got home from the day's activities. That would leave me at least partly refreshed and ready to write.

4. From what I understand, your publisher came to you and asked you to write your first two books. If you could choose the topic of your next book, what would you most like to write about?
That's true, but I had some say in both cases. Beer and music are both topics I've written about a lot in the past, and so it was fun to delve into them more deeply through these projects.
However, you're also right to think I might do something a little different next time. My passion is telling people's stories. Both of these histories touched on that, but each individual's role was portrayed in necessarily short glimpses. I'd like to dive deeply into a single person's compelling narrative.

5. Because I know you are a *major* reader, what's the strangest/most inappropriate place you've ever brought a book? (For example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc)
Are there inappropriate places to read? Really?! Growing up, my sisters and I were often allowed to bring books to restaurants. I am all too acquainted with the act of reading in the bathroom. But perhaps the incident most people found surprising was when I read John Green's "Paper Towns" during a Stevie Wonder concert. (You can find the full story at carlajeanwhitley.com.)

6. Tell me a few recent books you've read that you really liked.
Have you read any of Brad Meltzer's Ordinary People Change the World series? I encountered these while researching children's books that deal with Alabama history, and I adore them. Meltzer, who also writes adult thrillers, profiles historical characters and emphasizes how we all can make a difference. The books are easy to read, accessible and include resources for additional learning. I want them all! 

7. Can you name a book you liked that you didn't think you would--maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn't think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren't used to reading.
Short story collections rarely resonate with me, but I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Ellis' "American Housewife." The collection started with a series of tweets, and the resulting stories are hilarious.

8. What are your pet peeve as a reader--something you read in books that really bugs you? (For example, one of my reading pet peeves is when someone misspells y'all. Especially if it's a southern author!)
I'm with you on the incorrect punctuation of y'all--it leaves me batty! I have put down books before when author misused semicolons. I'm not kidding; I feel strongly about this punctuation mark, and I recently got it tattooed on my right wrist. There are several layers of meaning, but for me, it started with this pet peeve.
My latest pet peeve, though, is an overuse of -ing words. My students and I have discussed this at length this semester, and I'm guilty. Now I can't help but see the same in others' writing!

9. Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
Today I updated my e-reader with a couple of library books. But truly, I'm a print person; today I also bought seven books at my favorite used bookstore, McKay in Nashville. As a professional, I'm platform agnostic, but personally, print please. The same goes for calendars. I tried going digital for a few years, but it never felt right.

10. Chocolate or vanilla? 
Vanilla. 100 percent.

11. Coffee or tea? Or something else?
I'm a coffee addict! But many people are surprised that I average a cup-and-a-half a day. I guess I express my feelings so strongly that people expect I drink pots at a time. I also love herbal tea, though, and could go for a cup right now.

12. Tell me what you're working on now. 
Besides the aforementioned cup of tea? I'm not in the midst of a big writing project. Rather, I'm trying to create wider margins so I might be better attuned when the next big story comes along. Because I keep so many balls in the air and I'm a people pleaser, I'm prone to focusing on obligations rather than my dreams. I want to not only dream more, but also chase those pursuits.

You can find Carla Jean on all of the major social media hangouts and her website

Thanks Carla Jean and thank you for reading!