Archive for Interview’ Category



Arrow of the Mist: An Interview With my Writing Partner Christina Mercer

ARROWoftheMIST-682x1024When an author publishes a book, she isn’t the only person behind the words. There is an entire community behind each word, phrase, scene, carefully placed comma and semi-colon. If you are smart, you’ve allowed several sets of eyes to scrupulously comb through your manuscript for flaws. Even still, some show up on the final print day. If you are blessed, you have a writing partner who has read the first word, the first draft, the second, the seventh, and is just as sick of your manuscript as you are, and yet, holds your hands, awaiting those special moments such as: pending reviews, ranks, contest results, and publishing contracts.

I consider myself the luckiest of writers, as I have a village of writers spanning across the world, thanks to the Internet, who collectively make up my support base. But, the one who started this journey with me, sipping tea in my living room, and trading pages of her beautiful, heroic, YA fantasy novel, Arrow of the Mist, is my writing partner Christina Mercer. And this week, a chorus of authors are singing out, “Hallelujah, girlfriend! You did it! And you rock!”

Christina’s YA novel, Arrow of the Mist, on day three of publication, already ranked at 53,000 on Amazon’s list of ALL books! When we looked up Arrow of the Mist’s rank on my iPhone in my backyard, we looked at each other, blinked, and screamed! These are the moments that make the hair-pulling, throwing-another-draft-in-the-garbage, cursing-at-one’s-computer, sweating-over-commas, and ditching-the-idea that one MUST have a Big Ten publishing house to be successful, all worthwhile and validating.

Self-published authors have a stronghold on the market of today’s publications. That said, I am proud to introduce my writing partner, Christina Mercer, and her gorgeous novel, Arrow of the Mist.

Welcome, Christina, as an interviewee! We’ve waited a long time for this day :) . You have an incredible imagination—please share how you crafted Arrow of the Mist.

Thank you, and thank you for hosting me!

The seed-thought for this book took root a little over seven years ago, though elements of the story have lived within me since childhood. It started out as a short story meant for a much younger audience, but kept on growing and developing into the novel for tweens and teens that it is today. A lifelong love for all things fantasy, my formal studies in herbal healing, and my informal studies in mythology inspired the world and facets of magic woven throughout the story.

Your main character, Lia, is not the typical heroine, meaning, she isn’t heavily laden with sexuality, darkness, and such. In fact, you broke the tradition of mainstream fantasy, writing a fantasy novel that is light, hopeful, and, dare I say, filled with a message of encouragement? Why did you choose to do this, rather than, write to the trend, which appears to be dark fantasy?

I do enjoy dark fantasy, but I’m a big fan of traditional “heroic” fantasy and anything to do with the natural world. In the spirit of that, I wanted to offer a story for tweens and teens where a girl finds strength in her ability to trust herself and her connection to nature. Though Lia faces plenty of “dark” adversaries, light is never truly lost.

I know so much about you, that I fear I’ll not showcase your many talents :) . Can you share with the readers some of your other interests and specialties? 

Like my hands, my interests are also very ambidextrous. Writing has been a lifelong passion and dream, and though I studied it some in college, my formal education landed me a degree in Accounting and a job as a CPA for many years. In my twenties and into my thirties, I also delved into alternative healing, earning such titles as Certified Herbalist, CMT and Reflexologist. Then, my love of all things honey turned me into a beekeeper.

What has been the biggest joy and the deepest challenge in watching Arrow of the Mist go from an idea, to being available for purchase on ALL E-Readers and in paperback?

The biggest joys are seeing it in “official” print, finding it on the store sites, and after only a few days, having people relay back to me how much they liked the story. The deepest challenge, aside from all the hard work that goes into being both author and publisher, has been my quest for courage—coming to terms with self-doubt and a painfully shy persona.

What advice can you offer new writers who might be second-guessing themselves, thinking that self-publishing is for sub-par writers or a runner-up idea if an agent doesn’t express interest? 

I can assure them that the talent I have come across in the indie community is phenomenal. I was a skeptic for many years, believing every rejection from an agent or editor meant that my story was unworthy of being on anyone’s shelf. In 2010 my book gained credibility as a semi-finalist (top 50 of 5,000) in the Amazon Breakout Novel Contest. It gave me hope, and as I continued to struggle with traditional publishing, I took careful notice of the indie writers around me. You, my dear friend and critique partner, became my first trail blazer to indie publish. I then joined with a multi-talented group of writers at Indie-Visible, ,where I found invaluable collaborative support—exactly what I needed to finally get my book out to the world.

Share with us the writing projects that are in the works, that you are getting ready to publish, and what’s brewing in that bright mind of yours!

I have two more Young Adult manuscripts which I hope to get out in the coming year, and I am also fiddling with a children’s chapter book. The first project is the sequel to Arrow of the Mist, titled Arms of Anu. The second project is an “older” Young Adult novel with elements of Magical Realism, titled Honey Queen, which earned Writer’s Best in Show at an SCBWI Regional Conference in 2012.

Thank you so much, Christina, for taking time in your hectic schedule to sit down with us at Of course, I wish you success and happiness, and look forward to your premiere at Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills, Ca on April 13th. It’s been an honor to be one of your readers, to encourage you through this process, often to blaze the trails of publication, but most of all, to be your friend. 

Thank You, Susan, for hosting me. It’s apropos that you use “blaze the trails” here, as I’ve included that it one of my answers above. It is so true, and I am oh-so grateful for all that we’ve shared on our journey to author-dome.



Web Site:
FB author page: /christinamercerwrites
Twitter: /cwritebuzz
Goodreads: /6980508.Christina_Mercer

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Grief Recovery: From the Valley to the Mountain

A large number of you, my readers, companioned me this past December when I was walking my father home in his dying days. You read my posts about his final words, the emotional toll it took on me, and I was blessed in the process. You comforted me with words and prayers, and I want you to know how moved I was to have such an outpouring of support…a great deal of it from total strangers. Thank you.

Birth and death are perhaps the two most transformative events that affect the living, causing us to reflect on our own mortality, quality of life, begging the question: am I living each day to the fullest?

I have been immersed in a great deal of soul searching since my father’s death, as I am now a child without parents, no siblings, and yet, oddly enough, no longer feeling untethered. In fact, after some sweet friends took the time to listen to my life story, one of the first decisions I made was to surrender my untouched 2nd manuscript that had become laborious. I used to tell my grief clients, “Journal! It’s so cleansing.” I listened to my own advice, and that journal turned itself into my new writing project—a fictionalized memoir of my life with my father, Dancing My Father Home.

A strong believer in serendipity, some of my writer friends shared some of their own “grief stories”, which drew us closer. They weren’t simply stories, though. Just like in my first novel, Out of Breath, which chronicles redemption, forgiveness, and new beginnings after the death of a child, these “grief stories” are also tales of heroic strength and transformation after tragedy.

Additionally, I had a reunion with a small group of high school classmates, one of which survived a spinal cord injury before my eyes when we were teens, and he has his own “grief story” and heroic journey as he grew from despondency to embracing life.

Finally, my colleague and friend, Barbara Rubel who is also a grief specialist with her own unique grief journey, summarizes the spirit of these three amazing individuals and their ability to thrive amidst great suffering.

The following are their stories. My wish is that these grief stories help you or someone you know make sense of the “Why?” and “How could this happen to me?” It’s not intended to minimize anyone’s pain…we all need to go through the valley to get back up to the mountain.

I look forward to your comments, and please pass this along to a bereft individual who can find comfort in these words.

Blessings…Susan Salluce

The Happening 
by Rachel Thompson
Got the call, I wish it never come; she said that you were gone. All the days of being in the sun, well I guess they’ve finally run. ~ Victims Of The Sky, Fisher (Water Album)

No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop the visits.

He’s no longer of this earth, but he comes to me in my dreams. He fills the empty space, if only for a fleeting blur of time.

An ex-lover killed himself one day in October 2009. A beautiful fall day about three years ago. Though no longer together for many years, he had connected with me three months prior on Facebook. We spoke online, via email, texts. No ‘in real life’ contact.

I’m married, happily. My guy had full knowledge of my discussions with ‘D,’ and is mature enough to know this reconnection had more to do with issue resolution than the start of anything. A closure, if you will.

More of an ending than I could have ever dreamed.

We spoke at lunch. By dinner, he had taken a gun to his heart.

But this essay isn’t really about me. It’s about being left behind. About the survivors who must deal with the fact that someone we love, or once loved with every ounce of our souls, takes their own life.

It’s about what happens next.

Death is part of life. We all know death will come, yet ignore it as much as possible. That is, until it picks us up and throws us about like human rag dolls in a tornado.

No death is easy. The atoms that occupied that person’s space vanish and we are left to deal with a hollow emptiness that pales as a replacement. This isn’t about how we die – we are all too well aware already.

But suicide is a different kind of death. It’s always shocking. Even if someone you know or love has tried before; the reality of the happening is well, unacceptable. Unbelievable. A sick, surreal twist of your gut that what happened could not have happened. 

There are no words to explain that jolt when someone tells you the person you once gave your heart to is gone by their own hand. My initial reaction was: this is a sick joke. He was so strong. He would never do something like this. He has a small son! No. Not possible. 

As a writer, I turned to words. I searched for answers in our conversations, our emails and texts about music and children, my old journals from our four years together. Ours was a messy, intense relationship, full of love, lust, and roiling emotions. His extreme jealousy and cheating are what ended us; he chose another green-eyed girl and that was it. I was done.

He was a good man. He went beyond for his friends, whom he knew most of his life. I never thought of him as bad, despite his flaws…despite my own pain. We all have them. The reality of his life was far different than he would have ever dreamed – this tough, scrappy kid who became a bull rider and then ultimately, a truck driver. Losing his job, his transportation, his marriage, and his son left a huge hole in his life that Facebook couldn’t fill.

It’s a known fact that men rarely ask for mental health help. He dealt with his depression by drinking. Alcoholics are more likely to commit suicide than non-alcoholics. He was also a risk-taker: bull riding, black diamond skiing, and sadly, alcohol. Risk-takers are typically, more often than not, those who choose this path.

I suppose he just reached a point where the burden – whether it was financial, emotional, imagined or real, became it.

The End.

And so we move on. After three years, I’m of the belief that he made the choice he felt best, yet his difficulties made him the victim. The only victims of suicide are the people themselves who leave us. We, the survivors, and here to forgive the unforgiven, to answer the unanswered, to close the impossibly gaping hole.

And we do. We fill it with life.

His visits fill me with longing that he still be here – there will always be a place for him in my heart. Or, as he told me during what would unknowingly become our last conversation, ‘Rach, you’ll always hold a piece of my heart in the palm of your hand.’

Maybe not in my hand, but certainly in my dreams.


broken-piecesFind Rachel at: 

Twitter: @RachelintheOC 
Facebook: /RachelThompsonauthor

Her three books, A Walk In The Snark, Mancode: Exposed, and Broken Pieces, are all Amazon Kindle bestsellers. Broken Pieces has received over 38 five-star reviews in less than six weeks, and recently earned a five-star review from one of Amazon’s top reviewers. She’s also the founder of BadRedheadMedia (her social media/author marketing consultancy), the #MondayBlogs blog meme on Twitter, writes a monthly column for the San Francisco Book Review (BadReadhead Says…), and loves Nutella.



Terri Giuliano Long: KK & Matty

TGLWebShotOn November 16, my youngest daughter lost her boyfriend. Matty was 29 years-old; KK was 30. They’d been together for two years. After his death, Matty’s best friend told KK he’d been planning to propose.

When they met, KK was in grad school and Matt was working for a small business, trying to get his footing; they both struggled financially. Originally from Iran, Matty’s first language was Farsi; for a few months, embarrassed by his occasional inability (when he was exhausted) to keep up with the language, concerned that Dave and I might not approve of him, an Iranian, he was hesitant to meet my husband and me. When he finally agreed to dinner, we loved him immediately. As soon as he spoke, you knew he had a brilliant mind, and he was good for our daughter—that, after all, was what we cared about most.

Matty taught KK to stand up for herself. In Iran, he’d witnessed hardship most Americans never see. Whenever KK would get down or complain about some trivial thing, he’d remind her that there were people all over the world with challenges far more difficult than hers. “Just turn on the TV,” he’d say. He encouraged her to work hard and taught her to deal with problems head on, and her confidence soared.

KK had moved to California to attend Pepperdine, in pursuit of her master’s degree in education; she loved teaching and graduated with honors, but there were no teaching jobs in California. The year she graduated, 35,000 teachers had been laid off. Complicating matters, by graduation her relationship with Matty was heating up and she was reluctant to leave the Los Angeles area. So she took a part-time job in a nursery school, the only teaching job she could find, and supplemented her meager income with a regular babysitting position. Even with two jobs, she could barely pay rent. In June, bolstered by Matty’s encouragement, she found a great new job with a growing, well-respected hedge fund in Santa Monica.

On November 16, she received a promotion and substantial increase in pay. When she texted the news, Matty texted back, “I’m so proud of you, Kimmie!” On her way home from work, she stopped by their favorite sushi restaurant and ordered takeout. While KK had been moving up the ladder at work, Matty had started a company. His business had finally turned the corner and they’d begun to save for a house. To grow her savings, KK had begun babysitting for a family she’d met through the nursery school. That night, she had time for only a quick celebratory dinner before she had to leave for her babysitting job.

Starting a business is always stressful and it had taken its toll. Matty was stressed out, exhausted, sleeping only a few hours a night. At 7:45 he texted KK to say goodnight, he was going to sleep. At 8:30, she received a frantic phone call from her roommate, telling her Matty had been rushed to the E.R.

By the time KK reached the hospital, Matty was gone. She tried to call us but it was midnight on the East Coast; we had fallen asleep and I didn’t hear my phone. KK finally reached my son-in-law, Chris, in DC, where he’d gone to interview for a medical residency, he called his wife, Natalie, and she woke us.

The next few days are a blur.

Dave booked a flight to LA the next morning; we arrived by mid-afternoon. To lower expenses, Matty and KK lived with a roommate. The roommate had arrived minutes before Matty’s seizure, didn’t realize he was home, heard a noise, called the police. The police called the EMTs and the first paramedic team called in a higher-level response team; with all those people, the apartment was a disaster. They’d moved the furniture to make room for the gurney and the carpet was tracked with mud. We found a bloody oxygen mask on the floor. Worse were the handprints on the bedroom wall—he must have tried mightily to pull himself up—the bloody prints on the floor, the undigested seizure meds in his vomit.

KK stayed in our hotel room that night. The next day, we began the gruesome task of cleaning the mess. We hired a carpet cleaner and the landlord arranged for a thorough cleaning. KK and I stripped the bed and we went through Matty’s things. She was his girlfriend, not his wife, so she had no legal stake, which meant getting his affairs in order and returning his belongings to his family. She wanted to keep all his clothes. Her sister, Natalie, and I convinced her to keep only enough things to fill a memory drawer.

Ironically, a few weeks before his death, Matty had told KK that if he died he wanted to be buried in his native Iran. Because she loved him, she felt compelled to carry out his wishes, though this meant he’d be buried thousands of miles away in a country she couldn’t visit because of diplomatic issues. Matty and his family are dual citizens, making it easier to leave the U.S. and enter Iran. Within days, KK had packed a suitcase, with a warm blanket for Matty’s casket—it’s cold in Iran—and the family was gone.

Around the same time, KK’s sister Natalie arrived. One after the other, so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed and to spread out the support, her sisters flew out. Although not one hesitated for an instant, this was a hardship. The last-minute flights were costly and it meant being away from their families—Jennifer has four children, Natalie one—and taking time from work. But their sister needed them and so they came.

In those early days, KK veered from shock to depression to anger. A friend who’d lost her husband told me to expect KK’s emotional state to go minute by minute, and then hour by hour, finally day by day. Once the apartment was clean, we moved back in. I slept in her bed; she lay awake clutching Matty’s tee-shirt. She cried a lot and the jags came unexpectedly; we never knew when she’d break down. His family and friends called from Iran and we learned about the washing of the body and the ceremonies that followed. Although the photos were proof, his death was surreal; so hard to believe he was gone.

We talked a lot in those first few weeks about Matty and his life, the life they’d been making together. Matty had had his first epileptic seizure at 15; despite seeing one specialist after the next, his seizures had been getting worse. He was exhausted, stressed out at work—neither good for someone with a seizure disorder. He spent hours, sometimes working into the wee hours of the morning, in front of his computer. Often it’s not until after the fact that you see all the warning signs of a catastrophic event. With Matty that was certainly true. In time, his death began to seem inevitable. Then, it just hurt.

KK couldn’t imagine ever being happy again, she often said. Occasionally, when she caught a breath, she’d ask how long this deep depression would last. Would she cry every day for the rest of her life? A friend of a friend had lost her boyfriend two years earlier and still hadn’t moved on. We all handle grief differently; there was no way to reassure her. One step at a time, I always said. That’s all we can do.

Less than two weeks after Matty’s death, KK went back to work. At first she lasted only an hour or two, but she went because her coworkers depended on her and because she needed to occupy her mind. She saw a grief counselor briefly. Her therapist wisely discouraged her from making major decisions for 6 months. In the meantime, she encouraged KK to make subtle changes, find hobbies that would help her create new routines—a life without Matty. When I left LA in mid-December, she was looking into all this.

She returned to MA the day after me, eight days before Christmas. She’d arranged ahead of time to work online and she set up two computer screens in Dave’s office. The holidays were tough. Matty had been gone for only 6 weeks. But she visited family and friends, went out a few times for an hour or so, and—for the rest of us, I’m sure—put on a game face. Once or twice, we saw a flash of the old KK smile.

On December 29, she flew back to LA alone. She’d met Matty at a New Year’s Eve party and I was worried that the memory would be too much to handle. Except for one day I’d been with her constantly and I was afraid that, alone, she’d sink into a serious depression. But she’s an adult and I had to let go.

Since her return to LA, she’s gone back to the gym, and she exercises regularly. She’s taken on new responsibilities at work, she’s investigated cooking classes, and she’s considering taking her Series 6 exam to learn more about the financial industry, so she can be more useful at work. Although she still misses Matty, sometimes desperately, she’s stopped referring to him in the present. She’s even gone on a few dates, none serious. It will be awhile before she’s ready for that. For now it’s enough to go out.

Today, two and a half months after losing her boyfriend, KK is stronger and more determined than ever. She’s always hated controversy; as a result, she sometimes let people walk all over her. Now she calmly and politely sets boundaries. She’s not looking for a man; when she does she’s already said she refuses to settle. She’s planning for the future, keeping her head down, doing her best to manage each day. It’s not easy. She has bad days, but they’re less frequent; now, when she’s sad she’s likely to go for a run.

Parents, we ache for our children. If I could have taken her pain, her heartache, I would have. Gladly. Sometimes all you can do is be present, which usually means stand back and watch. What I’ve seen has awed and amazed me. In her shoes, I’d have drawn the shades, curled up in bed, and pulled the covers over my head. She went to work, to the gym, and then out with her friends; tonight she’ll take a cooking class. Slowly, one step at a time, she pulled herself up, and with determination and grace, reentered life.

ILWcoverthumb (2)


Terri Giuliano Long has written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including Indie Reader, the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel. For more information, please visit her



Buy the Book: Kindle
Twitter: @tglong



Mike Leimbach

mike-headshotIntro by Susan Salluce:

Mike Leimbach is a dear friend of mine. We attended a private high school in Santa Cruz, Ca, with stunning ocean views, and where the football team had to play both offense and defense due to its small size. Mike was what we termed in the ‘80s as a “hottie”, leaving girls breathless with a head nod and a Beiber-like swish of his hair. He left our school his junior year to attend a larger, Division-I high school with hopes of excelling in football. My friends and I, who used to be “his cheerleaders”, still cheered for him in the season opener Jamboree where each team scrimmaged for 15-minutes. Mike took a hard hit, dropped, and we all sucked in a collective gasp. One of the cheerleaders, who’d known him since grade school, cried out, “He’s paralyzed!” I looked at her with mild disgust…a bit overdramatic, I thought. “I’m sure his shoulder’s hurt, and he’ll stand up in just a minute,” I reassured her. He didn’t…

Mike’s Interview:

After the accident I spent 6 months at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. I was experiencing a lot confusion, loss, and fear. Much of my time was about learning a “new” body and identity. I received a lot of attention for which I was grateful, but really I just wanted to disappear and isolate. I cycled through stages of grief and the loss of myself. I believed that going back home might change things, but instead they got worse because even home was different. I spent the next year just wanting “out”. Suicidal ideation was common, as if it was the only way to stop the emotional pain.

I was very fortunate to have an incredible family, friends, and community of support during this time, but often I felt unworthy and stuck in this sense of “what’s the point?” I felt like I was missing out on a lot of life, but didn’t want to engage. I struggled with thinking that if I adjusted and accepted my situation (it’s over…this is it…), it would be okay. Since I didn’t want that, I was in constant internal turmoil. I stayed out of sight as much as possible. I was never angry, just sad.

mike-skiUntil, a turning point happened a year and a half after my accident when a friend came to see me. I was quiet, cold, and not welcoming to her—common at that point and something I hated myself for. My friend “called me” on my behavior saying I wasn’t the Mike she’d always known. This struck me, so after she left I looked in mirror and didn’t like who I saw. I did a great deal of soul searching, and came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to look back on how I handled myself through this time. I was tired of being disappointed in myself. I had to wrap my head around idea that I could both accept my circumstances as they were and do what I could to promote treatment and emotional healing. I wanted to be proud of how I dealt with a challenging life. It was a long, gradual process of giving myself permission to start living again as well as finding my identity. I taught my friends how to move me around and take care of my needs, which led to participating in numerous activities with them. With support from friends I became involved in a disabled snow ski program, surfing, was certified to scuba dive, and went tandem skydiving. We traveled together to Hawaii and attended a number of events. What I found was that my identity was very similar to what it was before my accident: a friendly, fun guy that loved hanging out and doing things with his friends.

I attended UC, Santa Clara for an extended time. Near the end of my education, a friend of mine spoke of her brother who was a therapist, and it sounded like something I wanted to do. I had always been comfortable speaking with others intimately. It was an honor to be let into others’ lives. Additionally, I felt I had something to offer, especially after my struggles. When I asked people who knew me well if they agreed that pursuing counseling as a profession was a good idea, they said, “Yes!”  I was accepted into grad school and became a licensed marriage, family therapist.

I currently work with teenagers and abuse victims.


Forever Changed: A Grief Specialist’s Recap
Barbara Rubel

barbara-rubelThere are points in our lives where we are forever changed. They can be low points. They can be high points, and most importantly, they can be turning points. Many people can give you the date and time when they experienced a turning point in their life.

Mike Leimbach shares “a turning point that happened a year and a half after his life changing event.” It was during that point his resilience helped him triumph over tragedy. For Rachel Thompson, “it’s about what happens next.” For both Mike and Rachel, what happened next was a pivotal point that helped them cope with life’s challenges.

I created the FABULOUS Principle©: 8 Self-care strategies to cope with life changing events. This antonym stands for: (F)lexibility; (A)dapting; (B)oundaries; (U)nderstanding; (L)aughter; (O)ptimism; (U)nited; and (S)elf-compassion. What I saw woven through Mike Leimback, KK, and Rachel Thompson’s story are 8 no-fail strategies for coping.

Mike was a flexible thinker. He noted, “I had to wrap my head around the idea that I could both accept my circumstances as they were and do what I could to promote treatment and emotional healing.” He removed his critical inner voice and adapted to life’s challenges. Rachel also adapted and “moved on” and does not believe that she is “the victim.”

Boundaries are limits you set to keep you and those around you emotionally and physically safe. When you set limits, everyone around you knows how to behave, which can lessen stress during turning points. Mike, KK, and Rachel set their boundaries. As KK maintained, you become “stronger and more determined than ever” She set her boundaries and didn’t make major decisions for six months. She made subtle changes and found hobbies that would help her create new routines.

Mike, KK, and Rachel were insightful, thankful and placed value on their self-worth. They understood how to find meaning in what happened and found joy in life. They understood the meaning of their lives and interpreted their world in a positive and joyful way.

Mike, KK, and Rachel found joy in their lives and gave themselves permission to laugh. Laughter is a way to express an emotional state. Laughter engages you to others and reduces stress during low points and turning points. It increases alertness and encourages bonding and positive communication.

Optimists are positive. They establish their priorities and are confident in their abilities to cope. They remain upbeat while looking ahead. KK was optimistic about the future. She “pulled herself up, and with determination and grace, reentered life.” She and Mike were both united and connected with others. Mike had “an incredible family, friends, and community of support” and KK “visited family and friends.”

Lastly, KK and Rachel were self-compassionate and tried to be kind to themselves. Self-compassion is to acknowledge one’s personal distress. It is about self-love and kindness even in the most stressful situations. Rachel shared the last conversation she had with the deceased who told her, ‘Rach, you’ll always hold a piece of my heart in the palm of your hand.’ She notes, “Maybe not in my hand, but certainly in my dreams.” This kindness to herself allows Rachel and those who mourn to continue to the bond with their love ones.

It’s FABULOUS to know that there are resilient self-care strategies that help people like Mike, KK, and Rachel experience post traumatic growth, find meaning in what happened and maintain resilience and it is FABULOUS to know that there are people like Susan Salluce who truly cares about them.


Barbara Rubel, MA, BCETS, CBS, CPBC
Professional Speaker, Trainer, Consultant
Author, But I Didn’t Say Goodbye: Helping Children and Families After a Suicide;
the 30 hour continuing education course book for Nurses, Death, Dying, and Bereavement: Providing Compassion During a Time of Need
Co-author, Dept. of Justice Training Curriculum, Compassion Fatigue
Contributing writer, in Thin Threads: Grief & Renewal
Contributing Blogger, AnnieJennings
Blog Moderator, OpentoHope
Telephone: 732-422-0400



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Interview: Caroline Leavitt

PicturesofyouNYTAs most of you know, I’m a grief specialist, and in my first novel, Out of Breath, I dove into some heavy topics such as: parental bereavement, loss of a parent, addiction, and suicide. I’m also drawn to reading books that have those themes as well. Sometimes, I’m disappointed, and can see through the author’s prose, knowing that their well-meaning words are just that—words.

After the death of my father, God (and Amazon…no pun intended), directed me toward a couple of books on my Kindle. I wrapped myself in a quilt made up of squares from my grandmother’s clothing, drank cup after cup of tea, and wept over others’ fictional grief journeys. It was very cathartic.

One of these precious stories that flew into my heart was Caroline Leavitt’s, Pictures of You. However, I didn’t just get stuck in the rawness of loss, but rather, as my family will testify, audibly exhaled comments such as, “Yes,” and “Oh, I know.” Her ability to capture snapshots of complex love relationships between lovers, parent and child, and love lost was the equivalent of losing oneself in a scrapbook, replacing photographs with narrative, leaving me hungry for more with each page turn. This story was filling a void in me.

To say that Ms. Leavitt is a successful author is the equivalent of saying Pavarotti sang some lovely songs. She’s brilliant: Caroline Leavitt has published nine novels, received multiple awards, written screenplays & articles for major magazines, and teaches at UCLA’s on-line writing program (for a comprehensive list of her achievements, please see her bio below).

I reached out to Ms. Leavitt, human-to-human, writer-to-writer, complimenting her on Pictures of You in my time of grief, inviting her to be on To my delight, she responded almost immediately, saying that she’d enjoy being a guest on my blog! The following is my time with Caroline Leavitt. I hope you enjoy this personal look at this talented author

Thank you, Caroline, for taking time in your very busy schedule to spend time with me and my followers on

I’ve only read one of your novels, Pictures of You, and look forward to delving into more. What type of writing do you enjoy and from where do you draw your inspiration?

I tend to write about the things that haunt me, the questions I need to answer for myself. For Pictures of You, it was how do you really know the ones you love? How do you forgive yourself for something you think is unforgivable? And of course, like almost all my novel, it’s about grief, too. My newest novel, Is This Tomorrow, coming in May, came out of something that haunted me. Another question! How do you feel safe in a community where you are perceived as a dangerous outsider?
Great questions for us to ponder.

As I stated in my prequel to this interview, some novels that touch on grief are transparent, lacking that authenticity that can stir and move a bereft reader. This isn’t the case with yours. What gave your novel such depth?

I wish I could say I made it all up, but I’m no stranger to grief. Years ago, two weeks before my wedding, my fiancé got up and said he thought it was cold in the house and two minutes later, he was dying in my arms of a massive heart attack. I went into absolute shock and a maelstrom of grief for the next five years. I took all our money and went cross-country talking to priests, rabbis, psychics, mediums, grief groups, other young widows. I got involved way too early in another relationship, with a guy who wouldn’t let me eat. I learned first-hand that everything people tell you about grief is pretty much wrong. It doesn’t go away, but you do learn to live with it alongside you. The sharpness of it does lessen. But it’s always there. (When I married my now husband, I sobbed through our ceremony because I was so terrified he was going to die before we could get married! I didn’t relax until after we were pronounced man and wife.)

Then, when I was giving birth to my son, I found that it was myself who was dying—of a rare blood clotting disorder. I was in the hospital for two months and at home in bed for a year. I had five emergency operations and was put in a medical coma for two weeks and was given memory blockers so I wouldn’t remember the pain. No one in the hospital expected me to survive, but I did and it changed my life. Did I grieve for myself? Not as much as I did for my baby because I wasn’t allowed to hold or carry him or see him while I was so sick in the hospital. When I finally was able to, I was a stranger to him and he’d cry if I tried to hold him. It was devastating to me, losing those early, precious months. It took me another few months to get my son used to me, (we soon adored one another), but I mourned those months we never had together.
First, I want to thank you for letting us into such a personal and sacred place in your life. Second, I’m so sorry—those are tremendous, complicated losses, that you will always carry with you. And yes, we don’t “get over” our losses, as much as we incorporate them, healing with time, and allowing for new and different relationships if we can.

I labeled my Amazon review of Pictures of You as “A Snapshot of Love”. There are so many love relationships that you take on in this book—what a challenge! I want to scoop up Sam, Charlie’s son, pull him into a deep embrace, and bring him home for homemade cookies and a tall glass of milk. Please talk about this character who tugged at my heart. Did you borrow any of your child’s qualities for Sam’s character?

That question makes me smile. I never write directly about my son, but I’m always writing about him, about the mother-son bond. I never expected that being a mother would be so profoundly life-changing for me. My son is 16 now, and I still stare at him in absolute wonder. There’s never a moment when I don’t think, how did I get so lucky? And I remember all those little moments that go into raising a boy, and I tried to put them in the narrative. While Pictures of You was about young boys, Is This Tomorrow tackles the teen years, the way you have to learn to let go of the person you love, which can be very difficult.
Oh boy…I’m right there with you with two teenagers, and trying to learn the art of loosening my grip while loving and guiding!

You teach an on-line writing course for UCLA, I understand. How did you get this opportunity? Then, share with some of my “writing” fans how they might get plugged in to such a high-quality writing program.

I also teach at Stanford now! I got into it by luck. I had tried teaching in a real time class and I discovered I was not that good at it. You have to be able to switch on when you are in a real time class, and I was so exhausted. I saw an ad in Poets & Writers for a new program starting up at UCLA and I was hired and I found that I LOVED it. The students are so talented and they tend to me much less shy online than in a class. I don’t have to worry about whether I am switched on because the best thing about teaching online is you get to pick and choose your hours. You can teach in your pajamas! The best is that I’ve seen students get agents and book deals. I’ve met some of them in person and many have become friends. One former student has become the editor of my work—that’s how good she is.
Anyone can apply to these courses. And if you have a book published, you can get jobs teaching online, too. You make it sound appealing and appetizing .

I also read that you are a book critic for People and the Boston Globe. How often are you critiquing?

I am, and I also review for the San Francisco Chronicle. I review about three or 4 books a month and I really love it. First, it’s a chance to give writers I like attention (and if I am not wild about the book, I am always kind. I know no writer sets out to write a flawed book on purpose and I see no reason for nasty criticism.) It also really has helped my own work to be able to look at someone else’s and pick out what works and why and what doesn’t and why doesn’t it? And though I think I’m pretty hooked into the literary community, I love it when I’m sent a book I’ve never heard of!
It’s nice to see the human side of a literary critic, knowing that you are invested in building up a writer, as much as offering constructive criticism.

What are you currently writing? I understand that you have a new book to be released in April . Care to share?

Is This Tomorrow is coming out in May from Algonquin Books. It’s set in the 1950s, a time when the so-called paradise of suburbia clashed with Cold War paranoia and fear of Communism. Into this neighborhood come Jewish Divorcee Ava Lark and her 12-year-old son Lewis. Ava’s got the only rented house, plus she’s got lots of boyfriends, and she’s highly suspect in the neighborhood because she’s different. Lewis is friends with the only other fatherless kids on the block, Jimmy and Rose. But when Jimmy vanishes one day, the neighborhood targets Ava because she was friendly with the boy in a way that’s suspect, because she has lots of boyfriends. The book tracks how Jimmy’s disappearance affects Lewis, Rose and Ava, until ten years later, they discover what happened. Or do they?
I can’t wait to read it!

So…when you aren’t writing, researching, parenting, teaching, or critiquing (phew…), what else do you do for pleasure?

I’m addicted to movies. Every night, when we are done working, my husband and I watch films. We also go out to hear a lot of music or just prowl around Manhattan. I do knit, but not well!
Sounds lovely. I’m with you on the knitting. I can probably give everyone I know a scarf and a baby hat, but that’s the extent of my expertise.


Thank you again, Caroline, for spending time with me and my readers here at Please spend some time exploring her accomplishments, links, and book descriptions below.



carolineleavittCaroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of you and 9 other novels. Pictures of You was also a USA Today e-book bestseller, a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick, a Costco Pennie’s Pick, and was on the Best Books of 2011 Lists from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. Her 10th novel, Is This Tomorrow will be published by Algonquin Books on May 7, 2013. Her essays, stories, book reviews and articles have appeared in Salon, Psychology Today, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, People, Real Simple, New York Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Parenting,The Chicago Tribune, Parents, Redbook, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and numerous anthologies.

She won First Prize in Redbook Magazine’s Young Writers Contest for her short story, “Meeting Rozzy Halfway,” which grew into the novel. The recipient of a 1990 New York Foundation of the Arts Award for Fiction for Into Thin Air, she was also a National Magazine Award nominee for personal essay, and she was awarded a 2005 honorable mention, Goldenberg Prize for Fiction from the Bellevue Literary Review, for “Breathe,” a portion of Pictures of You. As a screenwriter, Caroline was a 2003 Nickelodeon Screenwriting Fellow Finalist, and is a recent first-round finalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab competition for her script of Is This Tomorrow.

Caroline has been a judge in both the Writers’ Voice Fiction Awards in New York City and the Midatlantic Arts Grants in Fiction. She teaches novel writing online at both Stanford University and UCLA, as well as working with writers privately.
Caroline has appeared on The Today Show, Diane Rehm, German and Canadian TV, and more, and she has been featured on The View From The Bay.

She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, New York City’s unofficial sixth borough, with her husband, the writer Jeff Tamarkin, and their teenage son Max.

Facebook: /carolineleavitt
Twitter: @leavittnovelist

PICTURES OF YOU asks how do we really know the ones we love? Two lives collide on a foggy highway. The survivor of the accident is left to pick up the pieces of her own life even as she tries to help the devastated husband and fragile son that the other woman left behind. As these lives thread together the book asks, how do we forgive the unforgivable?

IS THIS TOMORROW is about divorced working mom Ava Lark and her son Lewis, who move into a supposed suburban paradise and find themselves less than welcomed. When Lewis’ best friend Jimmy vanishes, the neighborhood, in an era of Cold War paranoia and bomb scares, seizes the opportunity to further ostracize Ava. Lewis never recovers from the disappearance of his friend and grows up a failure in love, estranged from his mother, and working as a male nurse, nurturing others in a way he refuses to be nurtured himself. Rose, Jimmy’s sister, is a teacher, sure her brother is still alive somewhere. But when the mystery of Jimmy’s disappearance is seemingly solved, all three must try to reclaim what they have lost.

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Interview: Sibel Hodge

Early in my career as an Indie author, I stumbled across the name Sibel Hodge. It’s quite possible that we were in a give-away or promotional event together. I downloaded one of her chic-lit books, enjoyed it, and her ear-to-ear smile, as well as her unique name stuck in my mind.

Roughly six months later, my novel, Out of Breath, and her novella, Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave, climbed to Amazon’s Top 100 list in Psychological Thrillers. I sent her a congratulations message on Facebook. To be honest, I avoided reading her novella for a bit…the topic frightened me. Human trafficking—how wide spread could it be? After my church brought the topic to the forefront, I bought the book, and was riveted! Turns out that the answer to my question was horrifying: human trafficking is VERY widespread.

I HAD to know more AND I wanted to interview Sibel! I contacted her again, thanked her for bravely writing this informative novella, and what follows is our interview.

Hello, Sibel. Thank you SO much for joining me on From reading your website, I know that you are not American. You are a lovely blend of British and Turkish, is that correct? Where do you currently reside?

Wow, thanks so much for that lovely introduction! Yep, I have dual British/Turkish Cypriot nationality, and I spend most of my time now in North Cyprus. It definitely beats the British weather!

I bet! No offense to my British fans. 

Outside of your novella Trafficking: The Diary of a Sex Slave, how would you characterize your writing genre?

Eclectic. I love reading different kinds of books so why not write different kinds, too? Plus, I like to challenge myself to stop me from getting bored or stale. I’ve written romantic comedies, comedy mysteries, Trafficked (which I consider a psychological thriller), a children’s book, and a gluten-free Turkish cookery book. The beauty of being an indie author is I can write exactly what genre I want, when I want.

It is liberating, isn’t it. I can’t wait to share your gluten-free cook book with my husband.

Are you formally trained as a writer, or did you have another career prior to writing?

Ever since I was old enough to scrawl my first word, which was Halibaaaaa, I knew I wanted to write books. OK, so the word didn’t actually make sense, and it might take a little longer for me to string a whole sentence together, but that didn’t put me off. I was going to write a novel and no one would stop me. After discovering the wonderful world of books, I thought I’d have a go myself, and remember scribbling down stories whenever I had a spare moment. Shame I was only six, and there was no way anyone would publish a book with “I Want Big Girls’ Knickers” in the title. Roll on quite a few years and I left school, going from one job to another because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and no one had suggested that writing was actually a proper career in itself. I worked for the police for 10 years, which I loved, but I was so wrapped up in working shifts and paying the mortgage that I didn’t have time to write. When I gave up work and moved to North Cyprus 6 years ago, I finally had the time and peace to devote to writing, and I haven’t stopped since.

I love your way with words: talk about “hearing” an author’s voice come through- brilliant!

Your other books seem quite light-hearted in contrast to Trafficking. What prompted you to delve into the subject of human trafficking?

About five years ago I watched a miniseries about girls from Eastern Europe who’d been trafficked. It haunted me for a long time, and then gradually it faded from my mind and I got on with my life. Then, a little while ago I was sitting in a doctor’s surgery waiting for an appointment and picked up a magazine. Inside was the story of one women who’d been trafficked. It made a chill run through me, and I realized that in those five years, I’d never heard anything in the media about it.

That got me thinking, and I started researching other victim’s stories online. They were horrific, heart breaking, gut wrenching, and I knew this was a subject that, despite being such a global problem, a lot of people are unaware goes on. I really wanted to do something to raise awareness into the subject and Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave was born.

Although the book is fictional, it’s inspired by these victim’s stories, and is a very sad global reality. In 2007 the US Department of State carried out a Trafficking in Persons report. The statistics shocked me to the core: 700,000-800,000 men, women and children trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80% of which are women and girls, and up to 50% are minors. The figures will be a lot higher four years on.

And one of the truly scary things is, most people think it only affects third world countries, but it’s going on right under your nose. The US Department of State estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States alone each year.

Thank you for following your heart and writing such an amazing book.

How did you go about researching such an intense subject? When I was reading your novella, I felt as though I was reading a true diary…you did an amazing job!

Thanks so much. I was worried about being able to do the subject justice because I’d only ever written quirky, fun chick lit before, and this was a million miles away from it. Instead of writing something that made me laugh when I was working on it, this brought tears to my eyes. I researched many victims’ stories while researching Trafficked, which was incredibly heart-breaking.

I wanted Trafficked to be gritty, hard-hitting, and tear-jerking. And I wanted it to make people really stop and think about this subject. I chose to write it in the form of a diary so the reader really feels every emotion – the fear, beatings, horror, desperation, hope, and faith. I wanted you to experience the ordeal through the eyes of all the Elenas out there.

You did an outstanding job. Yes, it was tough to read at times, but there is no way to “sugar-coat” sex trafficking. I’d shake my head when I’d get criticized for my grief novel being “too sad.” Death is sad, as is human trafficking. When authors take on tough, real-life issues, it comes with risk, but it is well worth it when we touch another’s life!

What kind of feedback did you receive from your readers when you broke away from your traditional genre? I would think you gained a level of respect.

I think they were surprised at first, and I was worried about not being able to pull off such a sensitive and serious book after my fun, quirky comedies, but after reading the book, I had some amazingly positive feedback.

That’s wonderful.

What is your current writing project?

I’ve just released my first children’s book, It’s a Catastrophe, and although the characters are cats, it relates to humans and how our actions have a knock-on effect in life. It deals with everyday things that children experience, such as bullying, jealousy, etc, but contains positive messages about how to treat each other.

And I’ve also just released a gluten-free Turkish cookery book, which has been really exciting. I’m going to have a bit of a break now until the new year – phew! – and then I want to do another psychological thriller, another children’s book, another cookery book, and whatever else pings into my head!

Some trivia about Sibel…

Your ideal day:

Start the day with yoga and meditation, shop with my girlfriends, a nice lunch, a few cheeky glasses of wine, lots of laughs.

A perfect Saturday night involves:

Nice food, wine, hubby, good friends, lots of laughs. Can you see a pattern emerging here?

You’re stuck somewhere for eight hours. You’d like it to be: (a) in the city with your best gals; (b) on a tropical island with a drink in hand; (c) climbing a mountain, getting in a workout, while taking in the scenery. Yes, you must pick one. 

Oooooh, that’s so hard! Can’t I be stuck in all three places for two hours? No? Hmmm…the tropical island’s sounding tempting. Especially if I just happened to get marooned with the actor Jason Statham!

The best part of being a writer is:

I can create anything I want. The only limits are the limits of my imagination. When you think about it like that, how could you ever get bored with writing?

In five years, you see yourself:

When I was about eleven, I vividly remember reading a book called Go Ask Alice, about a girl who ended up getting involved in drugs and became an addict. My mum made me read it to scare me, I think. It worked, and had a really profound effect on me. I still remember what that book was about. One of the big things that people mention when reading Trafficked is that they weren’t aware how widespread the problem is, or how easily someone could be trafficked against their will. So what I’d love to see happen in five years is that something I wrote stayed with the reader – perhaps they noticed a girl on a street corner, or a massage parlor in their neighborhood, or a girl who’s never allowed out of the house – and it meant that someone who’d been sold into slavery had a means of escape. If something I wrote had a profound effect on someone like that – really stayed with them, or made them want to get involved in raising awareness themselves, then that can only be a positive thing.

Amen to that!

Thank you, Sibel, for sharing the light-hearted, and serious sides of yourself with me and my readers. I commend you for taking on this heartbreaking topic of trafficking to enlighten us. I wish you much success in your writing career, and happiness in life. I know that in five years, I will remember this interview, and am thankful for our time together. Blessings!

If any of you missed my blog post about human trafficking , please look at my prior post for facts and details about human trafficking, particularly in the United States, and how you can report information if you suspect that trafficking is occurring in your area.


See the link below to visit Sibel Hodge’s website, and to pick up any of her books in paperback or eBook, and in particular, a copy of her novella, Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave.




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Interview: Juliette Fay

Sean Doran has spent twenty years as a nurse in Third World war zones and natural disaster areas, fully embracing what he’d always felt was his life’s mission. But when burnout sets in, Sean is reluctantly drawn home to Belham, Massachusetts, the setting of Fay’s bestselling first novel, SHELTER ME. There he discovers that his steely aunt, dramatic sister and quirky nephew are having a little natural disaster of their own … and that the bonds of love and loyalty might just rewrite what he once thought he knew about his purpose in life.

About three years ago, while I was writing my first novel, Out of Breath, I picked up a heart-felt novel, Shelter Me (once again, solely based on the beauty and emotional pull of its cover). Serendipitously, the themes of the book dealt with grief, redemption, family drama, and new beginnings. Like a lot of new authors, I was taking chances, and reaching out to established writers, sending e-mails, congratulating them on their lovely works, and introducing myself. Some chose to ignore my e-mails. Most responded. Juliette Fay is one of those authors who not only responded, but has also kept in touch over the years, and she is my featured author in this interview!

Since Shelter Me, which won the 2009 Massachusetts Book Award, Book of the Year, Juliette has written two other novels: Deep Down True, which was short-listed for the Women’s Fiction Award for the American Library Association, and The Shortest Way Home, premiering this month.

We tackle similar issues in our writing: family drama, loss, anger in adolescence, and burn out, but we place them in different contexts. Juliette’s new novel, The Shortest Way Home, is sure to touch many. The video trailer brought tears to my eyes. I have SO many questions!! But first…

Juliette, thank you again for your willingness to join me and my readers on www.sipnsharewithsusan, Facebook, and other links where this interview will be shared. I know that you are very busy with your book launch and schedule. What an exciting time!

Can you tell us a little about yourself—something we may not know from reading the book jacket.

Oh, there’s a whole lot you’ll never see on a book jacket! Here’s a little something: I love to make pizza using whatever leftovers are in the fridge for toppings. My family thinks it’s funny that I like my own pizza better than the commercially made kind.

Did you always envision yourself being a writer, or did you have another profession early in life? If so, what changed?

I never saw myself being a writer – it just never occurred to me, though I loved to read and was always thinking up stories in my head. I spent about 20 years in human services, with jobs ranging from emergency shelter worker to director of a parenting program. I was home taking care of four young children, and desperate for something to do that engaged my brain and didn’t involve wiping anything (spills, noses, bottoms …) I began a very simple story and fell in love with writing.

It feels as though you let the reader in to a very personal space in your writing. How much of your real life spills into your novels?

None of my novels are autobiographical in the least. However, writers do write about what interests them, and that’s often based on experiences they or someone they know have had. My new novel, The Shortest Way Home, was inspired by a dear friend who has Huntington’s Disease in her family. Huntington’s is a genetically inherited, incurable, terminal disease that most often surfaces in a person’s 30s or 40s. When we met, Sue had no idea if she had it, and it turns out she didn’t, but her brother did. I wanted to write a story about what happens when you live with that kind of Sword of Damocles hanging over your head, only to find it was never there at all.

I read in your bio that you have four children—WOW—what is your schedule for writing and how do you maintain the balance of writing while juggling their schedules and the life of a “mommy”?

Ha! Balance – the Holy Grail of parenthood. Now that my youngest is ten, it’s a lot easier. When they were little I was much less productive. I write while the kids are in school, and I think it’s like anything you love. If you really want to do it, you’ll find a way. I’m a working mother like any working mother. How do any of us do it?

You’ve written three books. I know that in the small amount of time that I’ve been a writer, I develop an attachment to my characters. Is/are there any one or two favorite characters who you’ve developed? If so, what about him/her do you appreciate?

I love Alder from Deep Down True. She’s a teenager with all the angst of adolescence, including a very hard secret she’s carrying. But she’s an old soul, too, and her presence in the household becomes a game changer. I also love Cormac the baker from Shelter Me – so much so that I put him in The Shortest Way Home, too. He’s the best friend of the main character, and he gets an even bigger role. It was fun to delve deeper into his story.

I know that this question gets asked a lot of writers, but I find it fascinating: do you plot out your stories, knowing the beginning, middle, and end before you begin to write, OR, do you find yourself surprised as you write…your characters developing and changing the plot through the course of the story?

For me it’s both. I like to have a general sense of the characters, themes, story arc and where everything will end up. But I leave room for new developments as I write. Being surprised by a character who starts doing things I didn’t anticipate is one of the most fun parts of writing for me.

Your new book, The Shortest Way Home, has some powerful, lovely, and universal themes: young love, death, aging/dementia, returning to one’s home town. I think that this is what makes great writing—tapping into the reader! Would you say that this is a skill you recognize in yourself?

It’s certainly something I strive for. Universal themes with an unusual twist or flavor to them is what I like to read, too.

We see some characters show up from your previous works. How did you come up with this idea? 

I’ve often been asked for sequels to Shelter Me and Deep Down True, and I never felt I had enough of a new story for those characters to do that. But I thought it would be fun if readers could see a little more of the characters peripherally and find out what the next phase of their lives would bring. So I took the story I wanted to write for The Shortest Way Home and located in the same town as Shelter Me, and used several of the same characters.

This idea of wondering if one will experience a premature death, in your story’s case, Huntington’s Disease, is a curious one. We now know that women who have mothers who have died from certain types of breast cancer are able to pre-screen for that cancer, knowing that their futures may or may not hold that. Was this in the back of your mind as you wrote The Shortest Way Home? I wonder what I would do if I was faced with the choice of knowing. Perhaps, it would cloud the rest of my days, riddling them with anxiety, rather than helping me to live them to the fullest. Your thoughts?

I’ve done a lot of research into the effects of potentially having a genetic disease, and it’s been fascinating. With Huntington’s, many people just don’t want to know. There is no cure, and it’s a long slow decline mentally and physically. Who wants to stare down the barrel of that? Personally, I think I would want to know, but I absolutely get why others would not. It would be a hard decision for anyone, I think.

The “teen crush” resurfacing in women’s mid-life is a popular theme in fiction. Why do you think that readers find this so appealing?

Young love, uncomplicated, ramped up on all those hormones, with no bills to argue over? Sounds good to me! Compared with all the complications of adult life, reconnecting with someone you loved or lusted after when things were simple has its appeal.

What are you currently writing, if you are willing to share?

I’m currently working on a story about a woman who’s been a longtime alcoholic who suddenly finds out she’s pregnant and tries to turn her life around so she can keep the baby.

If you could wave a magic wand, where would you be transported: the past, the future, present, but somewhere else, right here, but surrounded by palm trees?

I would visit any place, any time, for a day. That sounds like a fun way to do research for more stories! I just found out that Shelter Me is being translated to Italian, and I’d love to take my family to Italy and walk into a bookstore and see it.

The best part of my personality is that I’m…

Oh, gosh … I guess I think the best part of anyone’s personality is compassion. I strive to be compassionate, even when (especially when) it’s hard. Still working on it.

If I could talk to my twelve-year-old self I would tell her…

Don’t worry. It’s a mess right now, but it’s all going to turn out great.

My ideal day looks like:

Laughing and the beauty of nature and good food and happy kids.

The best thing about being a writer is:

Self entertainment.

The feeling I got when I saw my book in a bookstore was:


Thank you so much for your time, Juliette, and for letting us into your world! I learned so much about you, and wish you much success with your launch of  The Shortest Way Home.



Juliette Fay’s first novel, Shelter Me, was a 2009 Massachusetts Book Award “Book of the Year.” Her second novel, Deep Down True, was short-listed for the Women’s Fiction award by the American Library Association. Her third, The Shortest Way Home, is due out in October. Juliette received a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from Harvard University. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children.


Twitter: @juliettefay
Sample Chapter 1 – PDF
Video Trailer HERE

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Interview: Frederick Lee Brooke

Interview with Frederick Lee Brooke, author of Doing Max Vinyl, and Zombie Candy.

Thank you, Fred, for letting me interview you. Reading Doing Max Vinyl was so different for me! It opened my eyes to the world of crime suspense with purpose, though, as you weave in the issue of e-waste—a huge issue in the world. A fellow Indie author, the following is my interview of Frederick Lee Brooke:

Do you define your genre, or do you feel that your writing crosses a multitude of genres?

Susan, thank you for having me here on your blog! I feel closest to the mystery genre, but for me it’s important to weave humor into the story. The kind of humor that arises from absurd situations, like when Max Vinyl uses his ex-wife’s measurements for the combination to his office safe—and she guesses it! Or the nasty surprise that awaits Max when he tries to let himself into his ex-girlfriend’s house without ringing the doorbell. So there’s humor, there’s absurdity, but there are also elements of mystery. It makes my books more difficult to categorize, but it’s what I like to write.

What compelled you to delve into the subject of e-waste and how our environment is being threatened from improper recycling?

Recycling and dealing with e-waste is handled differently, depending on where you are in the United States. There are many companies out there doing exactly what Max Vinyl’s company does, only in a completely legal and legitimate way, in contrast to Max. The bad news is that the vast majority of old computers, monitors, laptops, TVs and other e-waste in the United States ends up in landfills. This equipment is laced with poisonous chemicals which will take centuries to break down, and the ground water is being poisoned.

In some countries in Western Europe, stores that sell this equipment are required to take it back for recycling. Every piece of equipment that is sold has the cost of its recycling added to the price at the point of purchase, so that the costs are covered at the outset and paid by the user. And it is illegal to throw electronic waste in the ordinary garbage; you pay a fine if they catch you. This has the consequence that most e-waste gets recycled, and the environment is spared.

The way that you wove a story complete with good guys, bad guys, a hero, and heroine was not only clever, but humorous. It’s truly a gift to create a villain who we have a love/hate relationship with. I felt you did this with Max Vinyl. Can you talk about your creation of this lovable villain.

Max Vinyl is a rat, but he has his redeeming qualities. He’s a charmer. He doesn’t play around, when it comes to women. Tris, the environmentalist girlfriend who discovers his dirty secret and leaves him, treats him so harshly we begin to sympathize with Max in spite of his money-grubbing tendencies.

I think there are a lot of people like Max in the world – people with good and bad in them but big blind spots. I’ve worked with people like him. I wanted to create a villain who was clearly a villain but not a cartoon figure, someone who would strike the reader as strangely real. Max is also a colossal liar, and I believe lies always get found out and always come back to haunt you. For me this story kind of wrote itself, once I got going.

The setting of your story is Chicago, and yet you live in Switzerland! Are you from the States, and if so, how did you make the transition to Switzerland?

I am from Chicago, born and raised there. My path took me to Europe in my twenties, and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve been an English teacher, a language school manager, and small business owner, and I’ve lived in Germany, France and Switzerland. I ended up in Switzerland because I married a Swiss, and then we started a family, and pretty soon the roots were getting pretty deep.

I set my books in Chicago because I love that city so much, and writing scenes in Chicago with characters who are distinctly Chicagoan is a way of returning there, if only virtually. I think we all probably hanker to go back to the place of our childhood, just to remember, and recapture the feelings we had then, maybe the innocence. These are strong impulses that can inspire books and stories.

You clearly know your cars. My writing partner’s husband is a collector. Are you a collector, or was the car collection something that you gave Max for dimension?

Car worship is kind of a common middle American thing, isn’t it? My Dad has always loved cars; my stepfather loved cars. My first car was a 1957 Chevy that I worked on restoring when I was 16 years old. Cars are a kind of language in itself, for men. With Max’s car collection, I saw this as a way for him to express his financial success, for example with his girlfriend. You can’t just wave fistfuls of money around. Max lets his girlfriend choose which of his $300,000 cars she wants, and he lets her drive. That gives him a total kick.

How has the experience of being an Indie writer been for you? What do you appreciate most about this experience?

I love being an indie writer, and the thing I appreciate most about it is that is has forced me to come in contact with other writers I had never heard of before, and read their books, and I’ve found it so easy to become friends with them. The community of writers out there is extraordinary. We support each other in so many ways, and as a writer you tend to be alone a lot of the time. So I love being in contact with you and so many other really nice fellow authors. Of course, I love hearing from readers as well, and as an indie author you purposely expose yourself to your readers. For me this is very enjoyable.

The big winners in the new publishing universe are the readers. Books have never been cheaper, for starters. But much more than that, there has never been more information available about new books than there is now. Goodreads counts over 9 million users. That means 9 million book lovers! I am thinking reading is alive and kicking. In addition to the huge increase in information, authors have so much more control over their own publication decisions than with traditional publishing. My books can remain available to anyone in the world as long as I choose, rather than ending up on some remainder table simply because the book sales were disappointing. This is a benefit for readers as well as authors. What if readers only “discover” little old me after my third or fourth book. They might then want to go back and read my first and second books. With traditional publishers, those books would be hard to find. Nowadays, it’s all part of the plan!

What writing project are you working on currently?

Thank you for asking … I am actually working on the third book in the Annie Ogden series. In the first two books Annie was finding herself while getting involved in some delicate and complicated investigative situations. In the third book, if all goes well, she will finally find herself. The third book reveals all the dirt about Annie. I’m enjoying writing it immensely.

I love the character Annie! Sorry if I overshadowed her. Thanks for sharing with us at, and I look forward to your returning to us in the future to discuss your next project.



I write books because I love playing with language, on the one hand, and creating characters and seeing what crazy things they will do if you set them free. I’ve spent more than 20 years living in different European countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland. I speak French, German and Italian, and I’ve been learning Turkish for the last five years just for fun.

My books are mysteries, for lack of a better word. Doing Max Vinyl is about a computer recycling con man, while Zombie Candy is about a serial adulterer who happens to love zombie movies. In both books, Annie Ogden, a recently returned Iraq War vet who is having trouble adjusting to civilian life, gets personally involved in taking down these world-class jerks. I like a book with a good dose of humor, and the humor can come from the absurd situations people find themselves in. The world we live in is an absurd place, and you can either laugh or cry about it.

When I’m not writing I’m usually reading. I like to write book reviews. Of course I love it when people review my books, too. I like to cook and sometimes post recipes on my blog. Zombie Candy contains most of the recipes in the book in an annex at the end. I also like to hike and travel and learn about other cultures.


Zombie Candy Amazon US
Zombie Candy Amazon UK

Doing Max Vinyl Amazon US
Doing Max Vinyl Amazon UK




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Interview: Tracey Garvis-Graves…a second look!

In May, 2012, I had the pleasure of interviewing, then, Indie author Tracey Garvis-Graves, author of On the Island. Captivated by its stunning cover image of a woman on a sandy beach, I uploaded it to my Kindle, was swept away by the story, then reached out, via email, to Tracey. As Indie authors, a number of us support one another, offering encouragement, interviews, and mutual promotion of our books.

Since that interview in May, Tracey’s career has soared, and I am so proud of her, her integrity, and the way that she continues to reach out to fellow authors.

Due to her incredible independent sales of 375,000 copies, she was offered a contract from Penguin Publishing. On July 10, 2012, On The Island was released in bookstores nationwide. Just check out her Facebook page, and you’ll grin along with her.

I’m re-posting my interview with Tracey, along with some updated questions. On The Island is available on all e-readers, paperback, and in audio version, see the links below. Thanks, again, Tracey- you are living proof that Indie authors can realize their dreams!


When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

On the Island is a full-length adult romance novel. It explores the human need for more than mere survival, the meaning of bonds formed in isolation, and the ways those bonds are bound to change.


Writing Questions

Can you tell us about “that day”…when you were offered your book deal?
It was quite surreal. I actually had offers from Harper Collins, Amazon, and Penguin so I was trying to decide which publisher would be the best fit; they all had wonderful things to offer. My agent was very helpful in presenting me with all the information I needed to make my decision. In the end, I chose Penguin. The UK rights to On the Island had already been sold to Michael Joseph, a Penguin imprint, so going with Penguin US seemed like a natural fit.

How has life changed for you? Is it quite different being represented vs. being an independent writer?
Yes and no. I was able to leave my day job at the end of April but that had less to do with representation and everything to do with workload. Conversely, my foreign rights agent has sold the rights to On the Island in twenty different countries and this is something that would have been very difficult as an independent writer. My other agent focuses on the traditional publishing side of things and she has been very instrumental in making sure that the transition from self-publishing to traditional publishing went smoothly and that my suggestions for On the Island’s promotion were heard. I also have several publicists now (one in Canada, the UK, and the US) and they take care of all the media requests, blog tours, book clubs, and other promotional opportunities. It’s very nice being able to forward these request on to them.

Were there any changes that you had to make to your novel?
No, and that was one of the questions I asked before signing as I was not willing to make any changes to the story. But all of the publishers whose offers I considered stated that they put their acquired titles through an additional copyedit before publication, which is understandable.

How did you come up with the idea for On the Island?
I love, love, love the desert island premise and I wanted to write a book that put a fresh spin on it. I thought it would be a challenge to put two people on an island who really shouldn’t be together and then see what happened.

Were you influenced by the movie Castaway?
Yes, definitely. I loved the movie, but I really felt the premise was underutilized by putting Tom Hanks on that island all alone. I’m not sure I ever totally bought the relationship between Chuck and the volleyball

During the story, I could feel the romantic tension between Anna and T.J. and yet, I was keenly aware of their age difference. While it didn’t bother me, did you receive any flack from readers?
No, at least not directly. A lot of readers did tell me they bypassed the book several times due to the age difference. Ultimately they said they were glad they took a chance on it and were happy to discover that T.J. was of age before anything happened between the main characters.

How long did it take you to write On the Island from your first word to the final draft?
18 months.

Are you a story plotter, mapping out the structure or do you find writing to be more of an organic process, changing the plot as time goes on?
I’m definitely a planner. I like to have a good idea of the beginning, middle, and end of a story, but I also change things as new ideas come to me.

What was the biggest challenge in writing On the Island?
The research! I had never been to the Maldives so I had to learn all I could about the area. There were also lots of survival issues to deal with, and I wanted to write them as realistically as I could.

Did you visit Indonesia or any of the islands that you mention in your story?
No. Thank goodness for the Internet!

Did you have any formal training as a writer? Degrees? Conferences? Critique groups? Writing partner?
I took a couple of fiction writing classes in college, but my degree is in business. I have a critique partner who is absolutely wonderful; I dedicated On the Island to her.

What do you like to read? Genre? Fiction or non?
Contemporary romance and women’s fiction. I’m a genre fiction girl all the way.

Are you writing full-time or do you balance other work?
I’ve just recently left my job to write full-time. I’m looking forward to writing in a quiet house while my husband is at work and my kids are at school.

How do you deal with feedback from readers, whether it be positive, constructive, or critical? Have you developed a thicker skin over the months?
I thank everyone who reaches out to me with positive feedback, but I’d never write a rebuttal to anyone who is negative. I’m fully aware that not everyone will connect with my work, and I’ve developed a pretty thick skin. I’ve received such an outpouring of support that to dwell on the negative would be counter-productive.


Some Trivia About You

If you could be stranded on an island (perhaps a bit less rustic ) with whom would you like to be stranded?
My husband, children, and dog.

Favorite way to treat yourself: pampering with a mani/pedi? A hike? Shopping? A long stroll on the beach? Or something I’ve not listed…
I’m a mani/pedi girl all the way! Shopping is fun, too.

Your idea of a perfect meal:
Avocado, pineapple and strawberries, and grilled shrimp. A chilled glass of white wine would be a welcome addition to the meal.

In an ideal world, a dream vacation would be:
I’m a complete homebody so a staycation would be my favorite way to unwind. But if I had to jump on a plane it would be to someplace tropical. I’d love to visit the Maldives someday (for obvious reasons!).

If you could have three homes with three offices to write, where would you locate them?
Colorado, Hawaii, and Australia.



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Interview: Rodney Walther

Synopsis of Broken Laces:

Everyone deserves a second chance.

Jack “The Cannon” Kennedy thinks he’s living the American Dream. A fancy house in the Houston suburbs. A promising career. And a loving wife who tolerates his long hours and selfish ways.

In one horrific instant, he loses his wife. Then his job. Then his hope. And that just leaves Kellen, the young son Jack hardly knows or understands.

Jack realizes he must reconnect with Kellen or they’ll never get past their shared grief. But Jack’s biggest obstacle is staring back from the mirror.

Desperate to reach Kellen, he turns to baseball, the game he once loved. With Jack, a win-at-all-costs former star pitcher, coaching his son’s Little League team, what could possibly go wrong?

This month, I am featuring author Rodney Walther on my blog, sipnsharewithsusan, to talk with me about his first novel, Broken Laces, his success as an Indie author, and other interesting tid-bits to get to know him.

Thank you, Rodney, for taking time to sip ’n share with me. I recall what drew me to your novel, Broken Laces, last year. I had just received my Kindle as a birthday gift and wanted to load it up with books before leaving for Maui. Broken Laces placed in the quarter finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2011, and one of the main characters in your story is named Kellen; also the name of my son! Given that your book is about grief, placed in such a prestigious contest, that your character and my child share the same name, I had to read it. I was not disappointed!

Thanks, Susan, for the opportunity to sip ‘n share with you. I feel we must be related, as both of our novels have themes of grief and fragile family relationships. It’s neat that your son is named Kellen. My wife is also named Susan!

Tell me how a father, Little League coach, and business analyst from Sugar Land, Texas becomes a writer of a novel that warms the hearts of so many.

I have always enjoyed writing, so when I decided to broach novel-length fiction, I decided to follow the advice of many: write what you know. As a long-time baseball manager, I knew that sports (and especially baseball) was a great way to reveal a character’s flaws and to offer that person an opportunity for redemption.  And as an involved father, I keenly felt that unique perspective and wanted it to come out in my writing.

I take the craft of writing very seriously. BROKEN LACES took 5 1/2 years to write, edit, re-write, edit, etc. I’m gratified by the book’s success (I’ve won 6 novel-length fiction contests across the country; BROKEN LACES has been in Amazon’s Top-1000 consistently since Christmas 2011 and is currently #1 in Baseball, #1 in Death and Grief, and #3 in Sports Fiction), but I get an even greater charge when I read a review or hear from a reader that the story touched them.

Those are impressive stats! Congratulations and yes, it is a touching story.

What inspired you to write Broken Laces? Was there a loss in your own life that challenged you to share this with others?  I had seen the nutballs who prowled the dugouts and coaching boxes of Little League fields, and I wondered what made them tick (something beyond the stereotypical “living out their failed dreams through their children”). As I pondered that, the story of my main character pushed its way forward in my brain, and I couldn’t help but write it. When I originally wrote the scene of the wife’s death, I quickly realized this story was about a family’s reaction to grief. Unfortunately, I couldn’t draw on personal experience. Okay, that sounds weird. FORTUNATELY, I couldn’t draw on personal  experience. But I tried to honor those feelings by exploring them myself. I feel encouraged when I hear from those who mourn a loved one (or grief therapists such as you and Barbara Rubel), folks that tell me that I captured things well or that the story helped them understand their own grief journey.

It does have a very authentic feel, particularly the anger expressed by Jack when he cannot reach Kellen.

We hear so many grief stories written by and about women. However, you and I both wrote grief stories that profile men in their grief. Was this intentional or did you write from what you knew?  Again, I haven’t experienced the grief of losing someone close to me, but I do care deeply for those in my life and tried to tap into the what-if of losing any of them. BROKEN LACES seems to reach readers because the widowed hero is the first-person narrator. I think his male point of view is unique among similar stories that deal with grief from a woman’s point of view.

And I think that was smart and wise. Too often men are the lost grievers, both in life and in fiction.

You chose to use baseball as the healing force in your novel. Describe this process for us.  Baseball is about second chances. A guy can strike out three times in a game, yet have the opportunity to win the game with a hit in the bottom of the last inning. It happens all the time! A line from the book is “Part of the answer lay in the regenerative power of baseball. The game which doled out setback and taught humility also offered opportunities for redemption.” I see baseball as the crucible where this story plays out, where the hero’s character is tested. When he screws up, it’s public and painful. When he faces long odds and still succeeds—well, that’s a great feeling.

I love this analogy. There is nothing straightforward about grief. I can remember crying in a grocery store line, leaving my cart behind, and walking out. The bereaved connect to stories that give them permission to have those “bumps in the road.”

Where in your busy schedule do you carve out time to write? Is it a challenge to make this a regular habit?  It is a challenge to write regularly, since I maintain a full-time job. I participate in weekly critique sessions with a number of excellent writers, so that gives me motivation to continually prepare a scene/chapter for review.

This is my goal for my next book. Any great critique groups in El Dorado County, please contact me! However, I love my writing partner :)

What are you currently writing?  I am excited about my new novel, which is at least three-fourths done, with the finish line in sight. The new story, tentatively titled SPACE IN THE HEART (and subject to change), features a former astronaut whose dreams of exploring the stars were dashed when his wife was murdered a decade ago. For eleven years, Garrison Sterling has built his life around taking care of his wheelchair-bound teenage daughter Zoey, who yearns for independence from her overprotective father. Garrison finds it difficult to let go, both of his daughter and of his deep regret for past failings. Into the mix comes a popular TV newswoman, who intersects with Garrison and Zoey’s lives in beautiful and terrible ways. SPACE IN THE HEART centers on the close-but-strained father-daughter dynamic as well as the budding romance. I tend to pitch the new story as a mix of FINDING NEMO and THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST!

I love that you throw in some romance mixed with the family dynamics. It has a touch of Nicholas Sparks, too!

Tell us something about you that we might not know from your website, Facebook, or book jacket, such as…  I own a ranch in Central Texas. I love to ride my tractor, feed ducks, drive ATVs, and walk along the trails with my wife of 26 years. Yes, I’m happily married (I just kill the wives in my books :-)).

Tell Susan I’m sending her a virtual hug- :)

Which writers influenced you the most?  This is a tough one. Although I don’t write in the same genre, Stephen King is a wonderful storyteller. He has mastered the art of weaving the fictive dream, where a reader disappears into his world and forgets that he’s in a book. Other than King’s propensity to end books poorly (no real character arcs, indiscriminate use of giant spiders or aliens to explain things), he’s a helluva writer. I work hard to build and maintain the fictive dream for my readers.

I would not have guessed that one, Rodney.

What genre/what authors do you read?  I’ve been trying to read more books in my genre (Jodi Picoult, Juliette Fay). Juliette’s book SHELTER ME is eerily similar to BROKEN LACES, but from the viewpoint of a widowed mother. On Amazon, their magic algorithms have pretty much decided that readers of Jodi Picoult will like BROKEN LACES, and I think that’s an apt comparison.

Love them both. In fact, I’ll be interviewing Juliette Fay on my blog in October.

Are you a homebody or do you like to travel?  Oh yeah. This is the part of the interview where you ask me to lie down on your virtual couch and answer some questions. :-) The answer is, I am a homebody but do like to travel. I’ve shared fantastic trips with my wife and kids (now in college) and wouldn’t have missed those experiences for the world. But on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, I’m pretty much a homebody.

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?  Probably become an astronaut. I have close ties to the space program and sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and pursue that. Maybe that’s why the hero of my new novel is a former astronaut who lost his chance to fly.

It’s movie night and you get to choose: Action and Adventure, Romance, or Dystopian-Futuristic Fantasy?  I’ve seen great movies in all genres, some that stick in the memory and some that quickly fade. But give me a choice, and I’ll pick the frenetic rollercoaster ride of an action-adventure. I’m a man. Sue me.

You are a: steak and potatoes man, the new upscale Chinese restaurant with the decorative palms and golden Buddha, stay in and order pizza?  I’m a man. I’m from Texas. Bring on the steak and potatoes for dinner. (and maybe pizza for breakfast)

Your ideal vacation is: a stay-cation, a trip to the mountains, tropical beach, the desert, Europe, somewhere else? (Please describe)  I’ve really enjoyed the family vacations we’ve taken to beautiful natural places (Yellowstone, Puget Sound, Great Smoky Mountains) and to culturally/historically interesting places (UK, France, Italy), but I’ll lean toward nature. I’ve never seen a baby moose in Paris!

Thanks again, Susan, for the opportunity to sip ‘n share with you. It’s been a blast!

Rodney, this has been informative and fun to get to know you. Thank you for sharing with me and all readers out there and for your support as a fellow author over the past year! Blessings…




Amazon Kindle

Amazon paperback

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Chapter 1: (Download PDF)

I never could hit the curveball. A scrawny teenager named Tate Gillum once ruined my life with that lousy pitch. Twenty years later, as I watched my kid’s Little League game, I had no idea God was lacing up his spikes and preparing to deliver another devastating, knee-buckling curve. The hook. The deuce. Uncle Charlie.

“Jack, get off the phone,” Melanie said, lightly punching me on the arm. “It’s Kellen’s last game.”

I covered the mouthpiece. “Just talking to Scott,” I said. “He’s going all Chicken Little on me. Back in a minute.” I scooted off the shiny, aluminum bleachers filled with doting parents and found quiet behind the third base dugout.

“I’m back,” I said into the phone. “Now explain again why our proposal needs work.”

Scott’s voice was drowned out by the crowd, and I looked toward the field, where clueless Little Leaguers engaged in an animated rendition of Where do I throw this? My view of the action was partially obscured by dugout clutter—metal bats leaning haphazardly and a half-dozen helmets hanging from pegs—and by the flailing arms of Kellen’s coach. I watched our pitcher lob a throw over the third baseman, then shook my head as two runners from the opposing team scored.

Scott’s voice cleared through the noise, and I replied, “Yeah, I’ll help you work on the document. But you owe me.”

A chant of “Dee-fense” rose from our stands, and I turned to see Melanie sitting cross-armed, staring at me. She mouthed the word Now. I nodded and waved apologetically. “Gotta go,” I told Scott. “Mel’s giving me the evil eye.”

I clambered along the top row of bleacher seats, my shoes crunching the broken shells of roasted peanuts and the empty hulls of sunflower seeds. “See you at three,” I said into the cell phone, flipped it closed, and stuffed it in my pocket. Sliding on my finest salesman smile and hoping my eyes said Trust me, I won’t disappoint you, I turned to face my better half.

Melanie’s bottle-blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and a visor shaded her eyes from the June sun. Understated makeup and gold earrings highlighted her flawless face. She could have pursued a career in modeling or acting; instead, Melanie elected to remain a kid-cheering, school-volunteering, bunco-playing stay-at-home mom in our upscale Houston suburb. Sugar Land, “the sweetest city in Texas” as the motto went, was a world apart from the central Texas farm I once called home.

A batter blooped a hit over the second baseman’s head and then tripped over first base. Melanie chuckled when the kid stood and turned, revealing a chalk line that ran from his chest to the bill of his cap and dotted his nose white. When the laughter subsided, her head whipped around. “Don’t tell me you have to work again. It’s not enough that you stay late every night, now you have to ruin our weekend? Thanks a lot, Jack.”

“Sorry, babe. Scott needs the help. You know I do this for our family.”

Melanie stiffened. “I want you to spend time with your family.”

“I know. But I won’t be gone long.” I inched closer and wrapped my arm around her waist. “Forgive me?”

She glared at me and I screwed up my face into a cheesy grin. Her eyes softened and she sighed, “I always do.” Then she reached out and tousled my thinning brown hair with both hands. I lifted my arms to block her, and she moved lower, poking me in the ribs. “Sorry,” she teased. “Forgive me?”

“I get it,” I said, smiling broadly. “I’m a thoughtless goofball.”


My seven-year-old son sat cross-legged in the outfield, filling his glove with blades of grass and tossing the contents above his head, where they settled on his Yankees uniform like green dandruff. Kellen’s manager, Coach Bob according to the oversized letters on his extra-extra-large jersey, didn’t bother to correct him.

“Wake up, Kellen!” I hollered. “Get in the game!”

Melanie shushed me. “Don’t embarrass him. He’s having fun.”

My wife was a smart woman—I absolutely adored her—but she didn’t understand the first thing about sports. Baseball wasn’t about fun. She couldn’t appreciate that hard work and overcoming disappointment built character, that coddling a boy didn’t grow him into a man.

Suddenly Kellen stood and threw his cap in the air; his teammates did likewise.

“The game’s over?” I said in disbelief. “Only four innings? At least we won.”

Melanie shook her head. “Nobody won. Honestly, Jack. It’s Rookie ball. We’re not supposed to keep score.”

The rules in Kellen’s Little League were nothing like the ones I had growing up. These days, teams didn’t keep score until the players turned eight years old. What kind of wimps dreamed up these rules? Soon all the boys would play baseball in dresses. For the record, Kellen’s team won by five runs.

The Yankees stood at third base, and the White Sox lined up at first. Both teams shook hands. The kids picked up their gloves and hurried to the shade of a water oak outside the dugout. A plump woman with wisps of grey in her brown hair wheeled an ice chest full of juice boxes and Cokes to the waiting crowd. Behind her stood a Sugar Land clone, some trophy wife with short shorts and big boobs, who handed out packs of Oreos. Apparently another Little League rule was that each player must experience a post-game sugar high.

“Great game, kids,” Coach Bob said to a round of parental applause. “Everybody ready for our team party? Let’s do our cheer one more time.”

The players circled Coach Bob, stacked hands with their teammates, and chanted, “One-two-three. Yankee Pride!”

It was all I could do to not roll my eyes.

The last kid to exit the dugout was my son, a freckled-face boy with blonde hair that curled under his cap. Kellen flung a red Louisville Slugger bag across his shoulder and slumped under its weight. No wonder. It was stuffed with two bats, including the blue and silver twenty-seven-inch Easton with a negative-eleven drop that had set us back more than a hundred bucks last Christmas. The bag also contained his fielding glove, batting gloves that were merely decorative, and a helmet with protective faceguard.

He lifted the snack bag to his face and extracted a cookie, anteater-like, with his tongue. “Did you shee me hit, Dad? Did you shee me shcore?”

“Don’t stuff your mouth. And yes, I saw your hits and scores. Good job, buddy.”

I lied because I understood the cardinal rule of baseball parenting: you always saw your son hit the ball, make the catch, or score the run. At least that’s what you told him.

“I slid twice!” Kellen beamed.

“Proud of you, son.” I patted him on the head and brushed blades of grass from his shoulders.

Kellen may have enjoyed his first year of baseball, but he was no ballplayer, as his athletic genes had passed maternally. My kid had a rag arm, average glove, and weak stick.

Ever since the ultrasound revealed a penis, I had expected my son to follow in my footsteps. He was destined to become a star athlete like his old man, Jack “The Cannon” Kennedy, the golden boy with the ninety-plus heater, the most heavily recruited high school pitcher in Texas.

I wanted another Cannon, but I got a cap gun. Of course I loved my son, but I accepted the common truth: boys disappoint their fathers.

Just ask my dad.

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Interview: Tracey Garvis-Graves

I had the opportunity to sit down with Tracey Garvis-Graves, author of On The Island, and talk with her about her life, her novel, writing, and upcoming projects. Thank you for letting me interview you, Tracey. I saw your book on the Kindle’s top 100 list and loved the cover. I’m a beach girl, from Santa Cruz, California, and so, I had to see what On The Island was all about. Wow, what a surprise! I have so many questions regarding your story idea! Before going on, I’ll share the summary of On The Island for our readers, taken from your Amazon page:

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

On the Island is a full-length adult romance novel. It explores the human need for more than mere survival, the meaning of bonds formed in isolation, and the ways those bonds are bound to change.


Background & Trivia

Who are  you? Wish to share anything about married life, single, children, family, pets, another job besides writing, etc…  I live in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa with my husband and two children. I also have an adorable Cairn Terrier named Chloe; I spend a lot of time letting her in and out!

Sounds a lot like my life!

If you could be stranded on an island (perhaps a bit less rustic ) with whom would you like to be stranded? My husband, children, and dog

Favorite way to treat yourself: pampering with a mani/pedi? A hike? Shopping? A long stroll on the beach? Or something I’ve not listed… I’m a mani/pedi girl all the way! Shopping is fun, too

Your idea of a perfect meal: Avocado, pineapple and strawberries, and grilled shrimp. A chilled glass of white wine would be a welcome addition to the meal.

In an ideal world, a dream vacation would be: I’m a complete homebody so a staycation would be my favorite way to unwind. But if I had to jump on a plane it would be to someplace tropical. I’d love to visit the Maldives someday (for obvious reasons!).

If you could have three homes with three offices to write, where would you locate them? Colorado, Hawaii, and Australia.


Writing Questions

How did you come up with the idea for On the Island?  I love, love, love the desert island premise and I wanted to write a book that put a fresh spin on it. I thought it would be a challenge to put two people on an island who really shouldn’t be together and then see what happened.

You did a wonderful job.

Were you influenced by the movie Castaway?  Yes, definitely. I loved the movie, but I really felt the premise was underutilized by putting Tom Hanks on that island all alone. I’m not sure I ever totally bought the relationship between Chuck and the volleyball.

I think adding the relationship dynamic was brilliant!

During the story, I could feel the romantic tension between Anna and T.J. and yet, I was keenly aware of their age difference. While it didn’t bother me, did you receive any flack from readers?  No, at least not directly. A lot of readers did tell me they bypassed the book several times due to the age difference. Ultimately they said they were glad they took a chance on it and were happy to discover that T.J. was of age before anything happened between the main characters.

I would have to agree.

How long did it take you to write On the Island from your first word to the final draft?  18 months.

You’re quick…trying not to be jealous :)

Are you a story plotter, mapping out the structure or do you find writing to be more of an organic process, changing the plot as time goes on?  I’m definitely a planner. I like to have a good idea of the beginning, middle, and end of a story, but I also change things as new ideas come to me.

Isn’t it amazing how we can plot it out, but a story really does take on a life of its own?

What was the biggest challenge in writing On the Island?  The research! I had never been to the Maldives so I had to learn all I could about the area. There were also lots of survival issues to deal with, and I wanted to write them as realistically as I could.

I think this is amazing. You had me believing that you’d been to the Maldives.

Did you visit Indonesia or any of the islands that you mention in your story?  No. Thank goodness for the Internet!

Again, well done.

Did you have any formal training as a writer? Degrees? Conferences? Critique groups? Writing partner?  I took a couple of fiction writing classes in college, but my degree is in business. I have a critique partner who is absolutely wonderful; I dedicated On the Island to her.

What would we do without our critique partners?

What do you like to read? Genre? Fiction or non?  Contemporary romance and women’s fiction. I’m a genre fiction girl all the way.

Are you writing full-time or do you balance other work?  I’ve just recently left my job to write full-time. I’m looking forward to writing in a quiet house while my husband is at work and my kids are at school. Well, until summer vacation that is. When school lets out I’ll have to find someplace in my house to hide!

I wish you well and as a mom who wrote her first novel with two younger children…good luck with that one!

Are you part of the Indie writing community or are you represented by an agent and publisher. Has this changed since making the Top 100 list on the Kindle. Has or hasn’t this changed your life as a writer..can you talk about it if it has, please.  I’m definitely part of the indie writing community. I belong to a few writer’s groups and I’ve participated in discussions on the kindle message boards ( Although I was unable to obtain representation when I was querying a year ago, I’m now represented for subsidiary and film rights by Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. The agency has handled the sale of foreign rights in France and the UK, and the film rights to MGM.

I had no idea- congratulations! I can say that I knew you when…

How do you deal with feedback from readers, whether it be positive, constructive, or critical? Have you developed a thicker skin over the months?  I thank everyone who reaches out to me with positive feedback, but I’d never write a rebuttal to anyone who is negative. I’m fully aware that not everyone will connect with my work, and I’ve developed a pretty thick skin. I’ve received such an outpouring of support that to dwell on the negative would be counter-productive.

Good advice for new authors. Developing that thick skin is no easy task.


Tracey Garvis-Graves lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, two children, and hyper dog Chloe. This is her first novel. She blogs at using colorful language and a snarky sense of humor to write about pop culture, silly television shows, and her suburban neighborhood. She is hard at work on her next book. You can e-mail her at She’d love to hear from you.


Twitter: @tgarvisgraves



I was thirty years old when the seaplane T.J. Callahan and I were traveling on crash-landed in the Indian Ocean. T.J. was sixteen, and three months into remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The pilot’s name was Mick, but he died before we hit the water.

My boyfriend, John, drove me to the airport even though he was third on my list, below my mom and my sister Sarah, of the people I wanted to take me. We fought the crowd, each of us pulling a large, wheeled suitcase, and I wondered if everyone in Chicago had decided to fly somewhere that day. When we finally reached the US Airways counter, the ticket agent smiled, tagged my luggage, and handed me a boarding pass.

“Thank you, Miss Emerson. I’ve checked you all the way through to Malé. Have a safe trip.”

I slipped the boarding pass into my purse and turned to say goodbye to John. “Thanks for driving me.”

“I’ll walk with you, Anna.”

“You don’t have to,” I said, shaking my head.

He flinched. “I want to.”

We shuffled along in silence, following the throng of slow-moving passengers. At the gate John asked, “What’s he look like?”

“Skinny and bald.”

I scanned the crowd and smiled when I spotted T.J because short brown hair now covered his head. I waved, and he acknowledged me with a nod while the boy sitting next to him elbowed him in the ribs.

“Who’s the other kid?” John asked.

“I think it’s his friend, Ben.”

Slouched in their seats, they were dressed in the style favored by most sixteen-year-old boys: long, baggy athletic shorts, T-shirts, and untied tennis shoes. A navy blue backpack sat on the floor at T.J.’s feet.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?” John asked. He shoved his hands in his back pockets and stared down at the worn airport carpeting.

Well, one of us has to do something. “Yes.”

“Please don’t make any final decisions until you get back.”

I didn’t point out the irony in his request. “I said I wouldn’t.”

There was really only one option, though. I just chose to postpone it until the end of the summer.

John put his arms around my waist and kissed me, several seconds longer than he should have in such a public place. Embarrassed, I pulled away. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed T.J. and Ben watching it all.

“I love you,” he said.

I nodded. “I know.”

Resigned, he picked up my carry-on bag and placed the strap on my shoulder. “Have a safe flight. Call me when you get there.”


John left and I watched until the crowd enveloped him, then smoothed the front of my skirt and walked over to the boys. They looked down as I approached.

“Hi, T.J. You look great. Are you ready to go?”

His brown eyes briefly met mine. “Yeah, sure.” He had gained weight and his face wasn’t as pale. He had braces on his teeth, which I hadn’t noticed before, and a small scar on his chin.

“Hi. I’m Anna,” I said to the boy sitting next to T.J. “You must be Ben. How was your party?”

He glanced at T.J., confused. “Uh, it was okay.”

I pulled out my cell phone and looked at the time. “I’ll be right back, T.J. I want to check on our flight.”

As I walked away I heard Ben say, “Dude, your babysitter is smokin’ hot.”

“She’s my tutor, asshole.”

The words rolled off me. I taught at a high school and considered occasional comments from hormone-riddled boys a fairly benign occupational hazard.

After confirming we were still on schedule, I returned and sat in the empty chair next to T.J. “Did Ben leave?”

“Yeah. His mom got tired of circling the airport. He wouldn’t let her come in with us.”

“Do you want to get something to eat?”

He shook his head. “I’m not hungry.”

We sat in awkward silence until it was time to board the plane. T.J. followed me down the narrow aisle to our first class seats. “Do you want the window?” I asked.

T.J. shrugged. “Sure. Thanks.”

I stepped to the side and waited until he sat down, then buckled in next to him. He took a portable CD player out of his backpack and put the headphones on, his subtle way of letting me know he wasn’t interested in having a conversation. I pulled a book out of my carry-on bag, the pilot lifted off, and we left Chicago behind.


Things started to go wrong in Germany. It should have taken a little over eighteen hours to fly from Chicago to Malé – the capital city of the Maldives – but we’d fallen behind schedule after spending the entire day and half the night at the Frankfurt International Airport waiting for the airline to re-route us after mechanical problems and weather delays rendered our original itinerary obsolete. T.J. and I sat on hard plastic chairs at 3:00 a.m. after finally being confirmed on the next flight out. He rubbed his eyes.

I pointed to a row of empty seats. “Lie down if you want.”

“I’m okay,” he said, stifling a yawn.

“We aren’t leaving for several hours. You should try to sleep.”

“Aren’t you tired?”

I was exhausted, but T.J. probably needed the rest more than I did. “I’m fine. You go ahead.”

“Are you sure?”


“Okay.” He smiled faintly. “Thanks.” He stretched out on the chairs and fell asleep immediately.

I stared out the window and watched the planes land and take off again, their red lights blinking in the night sky. The frigid air conditioning raised goose bumps on my arms, and I shivered in my skirt and sleeveless blouse. In a nearby restroom, I changed into the jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt I’d packed in my carry-on bag, then bought a cup of coffee. When I sat back down next to T.J., I opened my book and read, waking him three hours later when they called our flight.


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Interview: Terri Giuliano Long

Terri, thank you for allowing me to interview you! I so appreciate what you have done for me as a writer. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that if it were not for you introducing me to the Indie community of writers, I would not have the success with Out of Breath that I have today. You are an encourager and a blessing! Plus, I love your book, In Leah’s Wake

I read In Leah’s Wake because I was drawn to the cover. I saw it on Kindle’s Top 100, and something grabbed me. I read the book’s description about pre-teen angst, rebellion, parental conflict, and well, I was hooked. As a trained therapist, prior to becoming a writer, I was highly impressed with your insights.

Thank you so very much, Susan! It’s such an honor to be here! You give me too much credit, though. You are an absolutely wonderful writer and Out of Breath is an amazing novel! I am so thrilled for you!! You deserve every success and accolade you have received and then some!!

Given that your background is in writing and not psychology, how did you prepare so well for the psychological aspects of your novel?

My undergraduate degree is in philosophy, which, as of course you know, is very similar to psychology in that both disciplines concern human behavior. I’m very interested in why we behave as we do. As a writer, most of my work involves decent, well-intentioned people behaving badly. I want to know what drives their actions and how their behavior affects them and others around them. As for process, I try to inhabit my characters, imagine how I would feel walking in their shoes. Parents place tremendous pressure on themselves – and each other – to raise perfect kids. These expectations and judgments affect everyone, parents and children. Add the pressures of teen rebellion, financial burdens, drug abuse – and common situations become harder, edgier. It was really a matter putting the characters in these situations, giving them strong motivations, suspending judgment, and allowing their interactions to play out.

In Leah’s Wake, you delve into a common dilemma that parents face while raising adolescents: holding on too tight versus giving a bit of slack. Can you talk about why you chose to tackle such a tough issue?

When I wrote the early drafts of the novel, our children were teenagers, so the issue was close to my heart. In the film Finding Nemo there’s a wonderful scene in which Dory tells Marlin, “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”  This is so true. As parents we want to hold onto our children; we feel that it’s our responsibility to protect them from all the challenges the world might throw in their path. If we hold too tightly, though, we stifle them. Becoming independent—learning to fall, dust off, and pick yourself up—is part of the maturation process. Parenting is tough. It’s painful—and, because we can’t predict the future, sometimes terrifying—to watch our kids stumble. Yet, for their sake, it’s necessary. The key is figuring out when to pull the reigns and when to loosen up. Zoe and Will struggle with this. Yes, they sometimes behave selfishly, but they want to be good parents. Sometimes they fail.

Another issue that you and I both circle around in our books is the presence of God and how our characters wrestle with this. Why did you choose to integrate this into In Leah’s Wake?

Over the last sixty or eighty years, many people have moved away from religion. This loss of faith, I feel, has left us unmoored. As humans, we’re driven to find meaning. Without some sort of transcendent arch, an end to strive for, life feels meaningless. My characters wrestle with these questions of faith.

The Christian Existentialist thinker Gabriel Marcel said, “There can be no hope that does not constitute itself through a we and for a we. I would be tempted to say that all hope is at the bottom choral.”  Marcel believed humans derive hope through the possibility of despair – through communion with others. Pain and affliction – our very brokenness – connect us and make us human. This need to connect, the idea that we’re all in this together, is central to who I am and all I believe in. The theme plays out largely through the struggles of the younger daughter, Justine—at its core, it’s what the book is about.

There is a theory in writing that there is a part of us in all of our characters. Do you see yourself standing out in one of your characters more than another? 

Not really. While there is definitely a part of me in all my characters, they are all very different from me.

You are working on or have completed a book club edition of In Leah’s Wake. Can you tell us what is different about this new version, please.

Thank you so much for asking, Susan! I worked with Sara-Jayne Slack, founder and editor of Inspired Quill Press, on the edits for this new edition. While the story is the same, I cut 60 pages, revised many scenes, and added a new chapter. By doing this, I hoped to clarify existing and forge new connections. In response to reader questions, I also tried—without wrapping things up too neatly—to show how the characters have initiated change and where they’re headed now that this part of their story is over.

What is was/is your writing schedule like? Are you currently at work on a new novel?

Ideally, I work on my novel-in-progress for four or five hours in the morning and blog, work on an article or edit from mid-afternoon until dinnertime. Of course, life gets in the way. I used to insist that students write every day. I now see rules as counterproductive. The right way to do anything is the way that works best for you. Life interferes with the best-laid plans. You can fight it or go with it. I try to go with it. That’s not to say I always succeed.

I’m currently at work on a psychological thriller with a historical twist.

Nowhere to Run takes place in the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire. A year after the brutal murder of her six-year-old daughter, Abby Minot, formerly an award-winning writer, accepts her first assignment—a profile of the philanthropic Chase family, kin of the popular New Hampshire senator and presidential hopeful, Matthias Chase.

In her initial research, Abby glimpses darkness under the Chase family’s shiny veneer. Digging deeper, she uncovers a shocking web of lies and betrayal, dating back to the nineteenth century. Abby soon finds herself trapped—between an editor obsessed with uncovering the truth and the town and family who will stop at nothing to ensure it stays hidden.

I plan to launch the new novel this fall (2012).

How do you make time for your blog, new projects, and family life? I’m impressed when I balance laundry and a Facebook post :)

Honestly, I struggle to find balance. Occasionally, if I’m clicking, I accomplish a lot. Most days, I muddle through. I’m very a slow writer, so a blog post can take me hours. When anyone contacts me, I like to respond thoughtfully, so I also spend a lot of time answering messages. As a result, I’m almost always behind. I think it’s a matter of knowing what and when to let go. I constantly struggle with this.

For those who are hesitant about the Indie (independent) publishing world, what advice would you offer? Critique partner? Hired editor? Secluded office with low lighting and a bottle of scotch?

Publishing your book, putting it in the hands of readers, is an amazing experience! As the industry evolves, more opportunities are opening for indie authors and old stigmas are falling away. To maintain stride, we need to put out quality books. This means taking our time, waiting until our books are polished—properly edited, proofed, and formatted—to publish. When we’re writing we get close to the work, making it difficult to spot problems or inconsistencies, so critique partners and professional editors are tremendously helpful.

Indie publishing is exciting, but it’s also hard work. Cherish your friendships. A community of supportive writer friends can encourage and sustain you when your confidence flags.

Above all, believe in yourself. Don’t ever give up. You can make your dreams happen!

If you could wave a magic wand and see In Leah’s Wake on the big screen, who would you cast as the main characters?

Will Tyler – Matt Damon. Mr. Damon exudes fatherly love and protectiveness and he’s very intense. If his daughter were in trouble, I can picture him going into overdrive, like Will, and doing whatever it takes to pull her back.

Zoe Tyler – Sandra Bullock. I see her as loving, driven and ditzy, a less strident version of Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mom she played in The Blind Side.

Leah Tyler – For the role of Leah, I’d search for new talent. Caroline Wakefield, as played by Erika Christensen in the film Traffic, reminded me of Leah, in her all-American beauty and stunning transformation from preppy to drug-addicted prostitute. Ms. Christensen is too old for this role, but she’d be the prototype.

Justine Tyler – Abigail Breslin. Like Justine, she’s sweet and dorky and cute. She’s also precocious and strong.

Jerry Johnson – Vince Vaughn. He’s not the guy who walks into a room and gets the girl, but he’s centered and responsible, the rock for the others to lean on.

Todd Corbett (Leah’s boyfriend) – Jordan Masek. Jordan plays the role of Todd in my trailer. In real life, Jordan is actually a very sweet guy. But he knows how to channel his inner bad boy. I can’t imagine a more appropriately cast Todd.

Who is your ideal reader? I’ve been surprised by the people who’ve enjoyed the novel. I certainly wouldn’t say men are my target audience, for instance, but I’ve received some wonderful reviews from men. In general, people who have dealt with or understand teen rebellion—parents, siblings, teachers, counselors, friends—and people who’ve been rebellious teens seem to connect most with the book.

How would someone describe your blogging style? Eclectic—I’m a teacher, so I began by posting pieces on the craft of writing. I enjoy writing about craft, but it’s extremely time-consuming, so I haven’t done it in a while. I hope to get back to that soon. I also enjoy writing inspirational pieces. I keep promising myself that I’ll get organized and write regular posts on specific days. Maybe I will someday, though I have a feeling it won’t be in the near future.

What’s your favorite blog post? Over Valentine’s Day, as you know, I hosted a 9-day event called “For Love of Love.” Over 50 bloggers wrote short pieces on various aspects of love. What an amazingly talented group of writers! I got teary-eyed reading all the posts. Thank you so much for participating! :)

What do you read in your leisure time? For most of 2011, we alternated between the Boston area and Orange County, so the last year has been crazy. I’m now trying to catch up on the wonderful books written by my indie friends.

Some random things about you: Although on the outside, I may seem relaxed, I’m really quite shy. Before a public appearance, I’m anxious for days; afterward, I question myself. I want people to feel comfortable, at ease around me, so I do my best to hide my insecurities. I’m also a choc-o-holic and a shoe whore.

Favorite vacation spot: Currently, our children live in four different states—Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland and California; they’re living their own adventures, fulfilling their own journeys. I love going anyplace where the entire family can be together, relaxed and having fun.

Something to see before you go: I love to travel; of the many places I hope to visit one day, these are at the top of my list: Chile, Argentina, Greece, Russia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines. Otherwise, I’m satisfied with my life and happy being where I am, living each day as it comes.

Your favorite indulgence: For food, champagne and dark chocolate with nuts. As I said, I’m a shoe whore. If you gave me $ 50 and forced me to choose dinner or shoes, I’d probably go with the shoes.

Something your reader is just dying to know about you: This is a hard question, because I’m very ordinary. I’m a family person, a wife and mom ahead of everything else. I’m passionate about writing. I’ve been writing since I was a child and I’ve always worked in the field. If I didn’t write, I don’t know what I would do.

What you do on a lazy Sunday afternoon: In good weather, I’d go for a long walk with my husband. If it was rainy or cold, I’d sit by the fire and read or – guilty indulgence – watch a Criminal Minds marathon.

Pizza, steak, or tofu: I like steak and enjoy it on occasion, but definitely pizza. It has so many possibilities! 

An upside-down rollercoaster or “It’s a Small World”: I’m not a risk taker, so I’d have to go with “It’s a Small World.”

Thank you again for hosting me, Susan! It really is an enormous honor to be here today. Thank you, readers, for the invaluable gift of your time!


Terri Giuliano Long has written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including Indie Reader, the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel. For more information, please visit her website:


Buy the Book: Kindle
Twitter: @tglong


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