Weather Report, July 27




1. If you’re a writer somewhere in the southern Appalachians and haven’t heard of Dan Smith, you must not have been paying attention. Over the years, Dan has established himself as something of a brand name in western Virginia and North Carolina — first as an award-winning sportswriter for the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, later as a writer/columnist for the Roanoke Times & World News. His 2006 memoir “Burning the Furniture” is an upfront, no-holds-barred look at a tumultuous early life, and the annual Roanoke Valley Writers’ Conference at Hollins College that he started and still organizes invariably sells out. Also a founding editor of FRONT business magazine, Dan was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in 2010.

What’s left? How about a first novel? The Amazon blurb that goes with “Clog!” offers some hints of how Dan Smith — like most good fiction writers — has woven parts of his personal story into that of his main character, Eb McCourry: “Living in a children’s home in a tiny Appalachian town and struggling for an identity at his new school, Eb finds it with the football and square dance teams and with an English teacher who forces him to write better than he thought he could. As the book unfolds, Eb faces a gun, two pedophiles, a sociopathic teammate, growing pressure to win and a budding love affair with the lovely and brilliant Lizetta. His college football scholarship, and the doors it can open, are at stake and he must grow up quickly.”

2. This book profile represents a bit of a switch. Melinda Inman’s second novel, “Fallen,” was supposed to be featured on July 3, but we couldn’t quite get it together in time (although Melinda did manage to raise the funds for a hybrid publishing deal through Kickstarter, collecting nearly 20 percent of her needed $5,000 on the final day of the allotted month). So, as they say, first things first. This week, we’ll take a look at the opening book in the series, “Refuge,” a “novelized” version of the story of Cain, Abel and Lilith — literature’s first love triangle.

The beauty of it is, that story offers a lot of room for a writer to operate. Written primarily in a narrative style, the Bible — for all its eloquence — doesn’t spend a lot of time with character development or physical descriptions, both of which Inman supplies. If you are a Bible literalist, you will enjoy seeing these people come to life. If you see the Cain and Abel story as allegorical, you can enjoy it as a riveting novel.


1. Like Dan Smith, Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew is branching out. The author of “Swinging on the Garden Gate”, “Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir”, and “On the Threshold: Home, Hardwood, and Holiness,” she is now grafting her philosophical and spiritual insights onto an entertaining fictional story.

As Elizabeth explains her plot: “Late one night in a busy St. Paul hospital, a nurse-midwife drags Hannah Larson out from behind her reception desk to assist with a birth. When Hannah witnesses that baby tumble into the world, her secure, conventional life is upended by a fierce desire to deliver babies. So begins Hannah’s journey away from her comfort zone. In a midwifery apprenticeship in New Mexico, she befriends a male midwife, defends a teenage mom, and learns to trust women’s bodies, then moves back to Minnesota to start her own illicit birth practice. Hannah’s need to stay safe proves both an asset and a liability; home birth isn’t legal in Minnesota in the 1990’s. To deliver healthy babies, Hannah risks jail time, her community’s respect, and her career. The key to unlocking her fear rests in one birth—her own. “Hannah, Delivered” tells the story of how inexplicable passion, buried strength, and professional skill delivers one woman from fear into a rich and risk-filled life.”

Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew is a writing instructor and spiritual director and is a recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board artists’ fellowship, the Loft Career Initiative Grant. Sne has also been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. Learn more about her work at and

2. Besides offering the first presidential primary of the election season, Iowa is also known for writing and writers, and Kate Sebeny is very much a part of that scene. She graduated from the University of iowa’s writing program — considered one of the top five in the nation — and has since edited a weekly newspaper and a national magazine. At one point, she lived in a renovated former county jail in in Winterset, IA, the setting for Robert James Waller’s best-selling “The Bridges of Madison County.” She has also taught writing at two Iowa colleges.

Kate calls her latest novel “a sort of geriatric big chill.”

“”What started out 50 years ago as an annual party evolved into a yearly reunion. Sam and Sarah are the elderly owners of a farm in central Iowa that turns into a private retirement community when it also becomes home to a disabled friend, a destitute neighbor and her daughter, and an expatriate artist. Together, this close-knit group confronts the hardships and disappointments of age and infirmity with courage, humanity and humor.

But beneath the surface, this rustic “home away from the old folks’ home” is not everything it seems. One of its inhabitants is a killer. Another is her victim.”

How far will these lifelong friends go to help each other when their way of life is threatened?


1. Yesterday marked the two-month anniversary of Snowflakes in a Blizzard. Just to refresh your memory, here are the books we’ve featured so far, in order of appearance.
“Island Dogs,” by Brian Simpson. Tuesday, May 26.
“Waiting for Westmoreland,” by John Maberry. Friday, May 29.
“Death of a Cabman,” by Nina Boyd. Tuesday, June 2.
“The River Caught Sunlight,” by Katie Andraski. Friday, June 5.
“What To Do About Mama?” by Barbara Trainin Blank. Tuesday, June 9.
“Turnstiles,”by Andrea Raine. Friday, June 12.
“Betrayal,” by Sharon Brownlie. Tuesday, June 16.
“How Not to Avoid Jet Lag,” by Joshua Brown. Friday, June 19.
“Caught,” by Deirdre Thurston. Tuesday, June 23.
“Thirty Perfect Days” by Claudia Taller. Friday, June 26.
“Downfall,” by Deborah Teller Scott and “Boiling Point,” by Karen Dionne, Tuesday, June 30.
“The Secret Corps,” by Peter Telep, Friday, July 3.
“When Clouds Gather,” by Ryan Jo Summers and “Did Ancient Chinese Discover America?”  by Charlotte Rees, Tuesday, July 7.
“Beneath the Stones,” by Susan Coryell and “Black Tide Rising,” by Kelvin Singleton,  Friday, July 10.
“Collision Course,” by Joe Broadmeadow and “Consciously Connecting,” by Holland Haiis, Tuesday, July 14.
 “Things Unsaid,” by Diana V. Paul and “Think Like a Writer,” by Tom Bentley, Friday, July 17.
“The Skeleton Crew,” by Deborah Halber and “The Solarbus Legacy,’ by Nicki Brandon, Tuesday, July 21.
“Mercedes Wore Black,” by Andrea Brunais and “Homecoming,” by Kate Hasbrouck, Friday, July 24.
2. Why is Dan Smith wearing a winter coat in July in our photo above? Maybe because he’s getting ready to go out into a blizzard. Note, also, the “Superman” cap.
3. On the Authors page, four of the names — Deborah Teller Scott,. Charlotte Rees, Karen Dionne and Kelvin Singleton — currently do not connect to the appropriate blog post. We’re working on fixing that.

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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