1. The Last Best Thing

 

 

NOTE: PLEASE VISIT OUR OTHER CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOK, “HANNAH DELIVERED,” BY ELIZABETH JARRETT ANDREW, BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

BOOK: “The Last Best Thing.”

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR: Kate Sebeny

THE EDITOR: Kate Sebeny

THE PUBLISHER: Kellen Publishing

SUMMARY: 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 a recent retiree. Married nearly 50 years, Sam is a former lawyer suffering from congestive heart failure. But he knows there’s nothing wrong with his wife’s heart. Sarah is an ex-English teacher and a resourceful farm wife who flinches at nothing in the service of those she loves. She’s also a “murderer.”

Sarah’s “victim” is a lifelong friend more full of mischief than life. He comes to spend his remaining days with Sam and Sarah when it’s clear those days are numbered by a painful degenerative bone disease. Determined to commit suicide while still physically capable of it, he bargains with Sarah to postpone his plan by extracting from her a promise to “help” him when the time comes. He argues that her assistance would constitute an act of mercy similar to that she performed for her cancer-riddled old dog; it would be “the last best thing” she could do for her friend.

Betty is another member of this “home away from the old folks’ home” who ultimately becomes involved in the logistical and moral complications of Joe’s death. Willfully blind, eternally optimistic, and afflicted with a host of endearing quirks, this breast-cancer survivor and former nurse moves in with her neighbors Sam and Sarah when she loses her own farm paying for her husband’s Alzheimer’s-related nursing home expenses. Along with Betty comes her daughter, Libby, who leaves a job and husband she dislikes to help care for a father she despises.

As the realization of a longtime, commonsense-defying goal, Henry, a successful artist, moves from Amsterdam to join his old college friends – and Betty, for whom he cherishes a special fondness.

Together, this group of old friends and new lovers confronts the hardships and disappointments of old age and infirmity with courage, humanity and humor. Until a threat to their close-knit community arrives in the form of a home healthcare nurse sent to check up on Joe. Miserable in her personal and professional life, Renee is at first charmed out of her bitterness by inclusion in the old folks’ loving fun. So much so that, even when she accidentally discovers Joe’s fate, Renee’s initial reaction is one of envy for the grace she imagines Joe’s life to have been blessed with.

But later, the increasingly heavy burden of “her senile uncle, her loser son, menopause, car problems, and her alternately charming and vile ex-husband” gets on Renee’s last nerve. In desperation, she appeals to the aging community of friends and bribes them to take her demented uncle into their household. When that doesn’t work, Renee threatens to reveal her knowledge of Joe’s death. Through blackmail, she demands that the old folks “take care of” her uncle – one way or another.

As soon as Sarah accepts sole responsibility as Joe’s “killer,” everyone – Libby, Sam, Betty and Henry (who wasn’t even physically in the state of Iowa at the time of Joe’s death) – defuse Sarah’s admission with their own contradictory “confessions.” In the process of deciding how far to go for a friend, the characters of this “geriatric Big Chill” discover their own truest selves.

THKate SebenyE BACK STORY: I moved next door to my best friends, so there was no longer any separation of households; it was all one big happy family. One evening over gin-tonics on one front porch or another, we kicked around the scenario of a “deaf haven,” a play of words on the title of a book I’d written, Deaf Heaven. This deaf haven would be populated by us as geezers decades hence, future debilities leaving us hard of hearing or otherwise, still living cooperatively, still drinking gin-tonics on the porch.

WHY THIS TITLE? I had recently had to put my cancer-riddled old dog down, knowing it was the last best thing I could do for my old friend. This question also speaks to the back story in that I reflected long and hard on what a shame it is humans aren’t legally accorded the same mercy at the end of our lives. It wasn’t long after the writing of this story that my significant other, who was dying of congestive heart failure, chose to be proactive and meet death on his own terms.

WHY YOU WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Naturally, I write books I’d want to read myself. (The irony here is that authors are the only people who can’t read their books for the first time.) I subscribe to Toni Morrison’s philosophy: “If there’s a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

The elements this book contains are those that appeal most to me as a reader. Dark as the subject matter might be at times, it’s very funny in places. The story is just like life, only more meaningful. The characters—even the “villain”—are engaging and easy to relate to. And I’m always a sucker for evocative description.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Grady Harp, for Amazon: “This is one surprisingly fine debut!… [Kate’s] way with dialogue is unpretentious, at times hilarious while at other times desperately sensitive that the mouths and minds of her characters speak in a fashion that makes them and their status wholly credible…. Treat yourself to one of the more refreshing new authors to be published this year. Think AM Holmes, Alice Hoffman, Sue Monk Kidd, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx. And now remember to read Kate Sebeny.”

Trudi LoPreto, for Readers’ Favorite: “The Last Best Thing is not like any other book I have ever read. It touched things in my own life that are a natural part of growing old with humor, wisdom and love. Kate Sebeny has written a story that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you say what if. I highly recommend this book to all… you will not want to put it down until the very last page.”

Sophia Carleton, UK reviewer: “Quirky. Heartwarming. Uplifting. Not normally words you’d associate with a story about euthanasia, the ravages of age and terminal illness. Yet that’s exactly what I was left with after reading The Last Best Thing…. There’s real potential here for this novella to become a full blown novel. However, it is damn near perfect as it is: a bite-size treat of thought provoking escapism to the American Midwest.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I earned my bachelor’s degree at the University of Iowa and my master’s at Iowa State University. I’ve taught undergraduate writing at two universities, and been editor of a local newspaper and at a national magazine. I’m the recipient of several grants and awards for my writing. I’ve also renovated every place I’ve lived, including the historical Madison County jailhouse in Winterset, Iowa. Along with three dogs and three cats, I call my current rehab project on the Des Moines River home.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: As I mentioned earlier, The Last Best Thing is an issue-driven story about end-of-life decisions. The news is full of right-to-die items, but I wanted to give the debate a personal face. At some point(s), everyone’s life is bound to be touched to some extent by this dilemma. The book’s characters show us one way to confront such inevitable circumstances with humanity, grace and humor. And that is together, helping one another through times of trouble.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (LINK) http://www.amazon.com/Last-Best-Thing-Kate-Sebeny-ebook/dp/B00WQ4OT2S/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436036807&sr=1-1&keywords=sebeny

WHERE TO BUY IT: Kellan Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

PRICE: $3 – $7 for digital edition, $10 – $16 for print edition

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Website: http://www.KateSebeny.com Email: katesebeny@gmail.com

Instagram: katesebeny

Twitter: KateSebeny

LinkedIn: Kate Sebeny

Publisher’s website: http://kellanpublishing.com/index.php/authors/kate-sebeny/

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2. Hannah, Delivered

PUBLISHElizabeth Jarrett AndrewED IN: 2014.

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

THE EDITOR: Joe Coccaro.

THE PUBLISHER: Koehler Books.

SUMMARY:  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 gets 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: homebirth 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 deliver one woman from fear into a rich and risk-filled life.

THE BACK STHannah, DeliveredORY: My sister is a homebirth midwife in New Mexico.  I admire her and her colleagues tremendously.  They get to kneel at the entrance to life, which is a mysterious and wondrous place.  They also have to face the possibility of death, witness tremendous pain, and open their hearts to the breadth of human relationships.  Midwives tend to be earthy and wise in ways few people are anymore.  They must have profound faith in women’s bodies. It was this last fact that hooked me.  I’m interested in faith in all its forms, and midwives work with an intriguing, countercultural form of faith.  I wanted to explore how this faith might work and set it next to traditional, Christian faith to see what the differences are.  Maybe I also secretly want to become a midwife but know that’s completely impossible.  So I lived out that fantasy by writing Hannah’s story!

WHY THIS TITLE?:  Even though the novel contains lots of birth stories, the most important are Hannah’s literal birth and her birth into life as a midwife, faithful to women’s wisdom.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Lots of people like this book because they love reading birth stories.  What I think makes this book unique, though, is its exploration of faith outside the boundaries of traditional religion.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Nothing is more important than how we are born. And this engrossing novel takes you right into the heart and soul of this primal experience.” –Christiane Northrup, M.D., ob/gyn physician and author of the New York Times bestseller, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

“Unflinchingly honest, a gripping novel that explores the emotional and spiritual dimensions of natural birth.” — Jennifer Margulis, author of The Business of Baby

“Hannah, Delivered delivers the goods. Compelling, controversial, thought provoking and beautifully written, I could not put it down.” –Patricia Harman, author of The Midwife of Hope RiverThe Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife’s Memoir, and Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey

“Hannah, Delivered documents Hannah’s trajectory from midwife wanna-be to solo practitioner with grace, veracity, heart, and passion.” –Peggy Vincent, author of Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife
AUTHOR PROFILE: Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew writes, loves, teaches, and urban homesteads in South Minneapolis.  When she’s not chasing her gregarious daughter around the neighborhood or dancing with her partner, she’s doing her best to support the spiritual life of writers.  Her books are Swinging on the Garden Gate:  A Spiritual Memoir (Skinner House Books), Writing the Sacred Journey:  The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir (Skinner House Books), On the Threshold:  Home, Hardwood, and Holiness (Westview Press), and the novel, Hannah, Delivered (Koehler Books).  You can connect with Elizabeth at www.spiritualmemoir.com and www.elizabethjarrettandrew.com.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “On the one hand, I feel like I haven’t strayed at all from spiritual memoir.  Hannah is really a fictionalized spiritual memoir.  I wanted to explore spiritual terrain that was beyond my personal experience. On the other hand, I am floored by how difficult it was to write and publish this book.  From conception to print, Hannah took me twelve years.  I traveled a steep learning curve.  And now that it’s out in the world, I feel far more exposed than I ever did with my memoirs or essays—which says a lot, since Swinging on the Garden Gate is about coming out bisexual.  Hannah feels like I’m dreaming out loud.  The whole public can analyze my psyche!”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: On Amazon.

LOCAL OUTLETS: 

Hannah, Delivered can be ordered at your local bookstore or online.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc.

PRICE: Varies.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR. Find Contact information at www.spiritualmemoir.com
or www.elizabethjarrettandrew.com

1. Clog!


PUBLISHED IDan Smith head shotN
: 2014.

THE AUTHOR:  Dan Smith.

THE EDITOR: Several

THE PUBLISHER: Square D (self-pub).

SUMMARY: Coming of age story of a high school senior whose family has fractured and he finds himself at a new school in the isolated mountains of North Carolina. He is a good athlete, so fitting in is not a major problem. He is recruited for the nationally-prominent square dance team (winner of three national championships) because mononucleosis has decimated the squad and he adjusts well, loving the sport.

The book concentrates on Eb McCourry’s adjustment and growth in light of a number of challenges. He faces violence, pedophilia, uncertainty about his future, his first love, the poverty of his past and finds inspiration in a crusty old coach who takes him under his wing.

It is a book with strong women characters (the square dance coach is based on the legendary Kay Wilkins, who died recently) and pits country vs. city, wealth vs. poverty, heritage vs. ambition.

THE BACK STORY: CLOG! is based on a true story, one I witnessed as a senior in high school. I researched it through newspaper and school files, talking to coaches and former dancers and the first draft required 28 days to write and a year to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

WHY THIS TITLE?: My young grandgirl told her friend Gracie when CLOG! came out, “My pampa has a new book called CLOG! And it’s not about what happens to the toilet.”

WHY YOU WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Heavy action (football and square dance, a violent father and one of the football players), good love story, politics of the times, feminist angle, good feel for 1963 and for the people and “place” of the mountains of North Carolina.


Clog  2!COMMENTS: 
Author Joe Hill, recently tweeted, ‘Coming up with fresh story ideas is an overvalued skill. Coming up with fresh ways to telling them is an undervalued skill.’ In CLOG! author Dan Smith has managed to achieve both.” William Wallace.

CLOG! does what great fiction should do: take you away from your life for a while. In this case, you’re in for a fun ride! ” Janeson Keeley.

“Dan Smith captures time and place through details and action. It was a nice trip back to that era. … CLOG! is a moving, inspiring and entertaining story.” Judy Ayyildiz (40 Thorns)

This is a great read. The author brings to life the rare and precious world of competitive dancing in the mountains of North Carolina a half century ago.” Roland Lazenby (Michael Jordan: The Life)

“Loved the story and every page of this book. It is a must read for anyone who grew up in the 60s, as well as anyone curious about that time. I should be embarrassed to say that one of my criteria for a good book is, would this make a great movie! And yes, yes, yes, this would! Eb is an unforgettable character.” Daph (internet reviewer)

AUTHOR PROFILE: This was my first novel and, after 50 years as a journalist, it was a college education. I wrote the first draft in a heartbeat (the story’s been hanging there since I was a teenager), then found out what writing a novel means. I have never worked so hard, nor been so thoroughly gratified by a project before and I still have a great deal to learn about the genre. A great deal. But I’m happy with CLOG! because, first, it was the story I wanted to tell about the people I love and respect. It is a story about my heritage, about a culture that is struggling to survive and about the dignity of the mountain people of North Carolina.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: As I mentioned, this is a story about greed vs. culture; rich vs. poor; city vs. country; ambition vs. heritage. It is about young women and young men learning who they are at a time (1963) of great transition in our country. It is a story of preservation and struggle and ultimate triumph.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: On Amazon page.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Clog-Novel-Dan-Smith/dp/149377218X/ref=sr_1_5_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418596500&sr=1-5&keywords=clog!+paperback Createspace: https://www.createspace.com/4526454

PRICE: Free Kindle download for AmazonPrime subscribers; otherwise $3.99 Kindle, $15 paperback.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: pampadansmith@gmail.com

2. Refuge

Refuge

THE BOOK: Refuge

PUBLISHED IN: 2014

THE AUTHOR:  Melinda Viergever Inman

THE EDITOR: Joe Coccaro

THE PUBLISHER: Koehler Books, John Koehler owner and publisher

SUMMARY: Refuge is the story of Cain, Abel, Lilith—the sister Cain desires to marry, and what happens next. It deals with sibling conflict, a relationship we would consider to be incest, fratricide, immorality, cutting, attempted suicide, revenge, and redemption. It’s gritty. Back-cover Blurb: Intent on total destruction, Satan notices Cain’s obsessive lust for Lilith and the dark roots of jealousy growing deep in his soul toward his do-gooding brother Abel. Satan goads Cain to the point of madness, barraging his mind with thoughts of hatred, lust, and futility. In a blinding rage, Cain wrecks everything. Wracked with shame, he flees into the vast wilderness, unable to possess the one thing he truly desires – Lilith. His life is destroyed. Will he ever find his way back? He longs for refuge. Can he ever find God again?

THE BACK STORY: I drafted Fallen, the prequel to Refuge, first. At one point I had to lay aside Fallen to process all I was learning about myself. I needed distance. As I reflected, I dug more deeply into background information and let the manuscript sit.Simultaneously, the next story within this first family began to press on my heart – the story of Cain, Abel, and their sister. I knew that writing about the children of Adam and Eve would help me uncover more of their character for Fallen, so I let Fallen sit for a few years and went ahead with Refuge. I named Cain and Abel’s sister Lilith, the name of legend, since Cain’s wife’s name is not given in the bible. I spent several years writing, editing, and researching Lilith, Hebrew and Akkadian myth, Sumerian history and storytelling, and demonology – something I never thought I’d study.

For the framework of Refuge, I adhered very closely to the biblical record in Genesis. But Lilith’s name is from ancientSumerian and Akkadian campfire storytelling and Jewish legends. In Hebrew, in the book of Isaiah, the name is used for a desert demon—a screech owl type entity, not a woman at all. Around the campfire this name of an evil spirit somehow morphed into a woman. The name still fuels stories today. I attempted to craft a woman whose real-life actions could have sparked myth and legend. I believe at the root of myth, there are real events that have been enlarged, misconstrued, and turned into fable. In the bible a type of demon is given this name. In ancient times, strong and passionate women were often demonized. Maybe we still are. With Lilith’s character, I crafted a woman whose actions could have been retold by her enemies in an evil light. Researching Lilith and discovering the demonization of this ancient woman was another piece to my growth as a woman as I researched both of these first two novels.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Cain is the protagonist. At first he seeks refuge in Lilith, thinking she is all he needs. But then he wrecks everything and must leave her and the family. He wonders if he’ll ever have Lilith again or any refuge at all. He wanders homeless and alone, but this journey shows him something about refuge and shelter that he never understood before. When I researched the Hebrew understanding of this passage in Genesis, Refuge became the obvious title.

WHY SMelinda InmanOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT My stories deal have protagonists who are wounded or who suffer within the story. My lead characters make tragic mistakes. They have an ax to grind with God. Most of us can relate to this, and so the story feels deeply personal and restorative. Additionally, because these first two novels are about biblical narratives we’re all somewhat familiar with – Cain and Abel, The Garden of Eden, we’re always curious about the reality. Plays, novels, movies, short stories, and music still revisit these themes. We wonder: What don’t I know about this that might be uncovered? What would these people be like with skin on and real emotions? In bringing these people to life, we discover they’re not so very different from us.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Review #1: “Cover to cover a great read! Refuge is not only historically enlightening but a fascinating and poignant depiction of human nature. Real struggles with guilt, lust, anger, frustration, jealousy and insecurity are depicted with honest, raw and truly captivating candor. The characters are diverse, the setting is engrossing; the story feels very real.” by Erin Holcomb, Classical Educator

Review #2: “From the moment of his own fiery fall to earth, Satan has sought to thwart God’s plan. He enflames our desires to have what is not rightfully ours to lead us from God’s chosen path. David, driven by murderous passion, was willing give his entire kingdom to have Uriah’s wife. Surely God couldn’t use, let alone redeem, David after this. Or could He? Melinda Viergever Inman’s story of Cain and Lilith, Refuge, draws us in to a story of rage, pain, passion and despair where we, too, wonder how God could possibly take this mess and make it right, let alone beautiful. A magnificent story that restores hope for our brokenness and leaves God firmly enthroned and in control of His creation!” Author Bruce VanHorn

Review #3: “Melinda Viergever Inman takes Cain’s act of killing Abel after God’s rejection of his own sacrifice, and weaves it into a cosmic battle between God and Satan, reminiscent of Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. She creates a poignant love story between Cain and his sister Lilith and then turns Cain’s failure into a story of God’s love and redemption. Inman inhabits Adam’s and Cain’s world with believable characters and supplies delightful details along the way so that the reader can visualize that world. The book is a real page turner as Inman creates suspense motivating the reader to persist till the last page and then beyond into the reader’s guide.” by Jo Ann Pevoto, Professor Emeritus, College of the Mainland, Former Co-Editor Poetry Texas, The Sidewinder, and Hurakan.

Review #4: “Refuge plunges readers into the time of Adam and Eve, filling the white space between sentences in the story from Genesis we know so well with ingenuity. The fallen world in which Adam, Eve, and their children find themselves is one you and I can relate to, after all it is our own. Yet the landscape of Refuge manages to maintain the exotic ether of its former glory, the vapors of perfection having only just begun to dissipate. There is intrigue in this young earth where Cain, Abel and their siblings are beginning to experience the effects of their parent’s sin, and commit new sins of their own. In this place, visible angels stand guard at the entrance of Eden, an ever present reminder there’s no going back.” by Jen Sloniger, Writer

AUTHOR PROFILE: My roots were sunk in a storytelling Oklahoma family. During years of relocation, tragedy struck. Wounded and heartbroken, I forsook my roots and ran from myself and from God. A journey of trial and heartache brought me home again. A prodigal now returned to my secure foundation, I write with passion to illustrate God’s love for wounded people as he makes beauty from ashes. I serve and teach women in prison through a 12-step program. With my husband and family I’m involved with Mission India, rescuing orphans and providing theological and job training for impoverished students. More of my story can be found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnAMzuJGPlE

AUTHOR COMMENTSThe year I wrote Refuge one of my sons was running from God. I’ve done that, too, and I wanted my son to know that God loves him so much that he’s willing to forgive any sin, no matter what it is. I know this firsthand. I wrote with the passionate intensity of a mother, seeking to portray a message of love from a merciful and compassionate God. This son of mine has now been restored. I have his permission to share this part of the story.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: This Amazon link contains a sample chapter: http://www.amazon.com/Refuge-Melinda-Inman/dp/1938467884/

WHERE TO BUY IT:

Amazon: paperback $17.87; ebook $3.49 http://www.amazon.com/Refuge-Melinda-Inman/dp/1938467884/

Barnes  & Noble: paperback $17.87; ebook $3.49 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/refuge-melinda-inman/1115527653?ean=9781938467882&itm=1&usri=9781938467882

Apple iBook: ebook $3.99 https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/refuge/id827040351?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

ChristianBook.com: paperback $17.96 http://www.christianbook.com/refuge-melinda-inman/9781938467882/pd/467882?item_code=WW&netp_id=1239876&event=ESRCG&view=details/
CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Website: http://melinainman.com 

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Melinda-V-Inman/189731601076470?fref=ts

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/melindavinman/

Twitter:https://twitter.com/MelindaVInman 

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MelindaViergeverInman/posts/p/pub

 

Weather Report, July 27

THE CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS ARE “MERCEDES WORE BLACK,” BY ANDREA BRUNAIS AND “HOMECOMING,” BY KATE HASBROUCK. YOU CAN FIND THEM BY SCROLLING DOWN DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH THIS POST.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD …

Dan Smith 2JULY 28-30: “CLOG!” BY DAN SMITH AND “REFUGE” BY MELINDA INMAN.

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.

JULY 31-AUGUST 4: “HANNAH, DELIVERED,” BY ELIZABETH JARRETT ANDREW AND “THE LAST BEST THING,” BY KATE SEBENY.

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 http://www.spiritualmemoir.com and http://www.elizabethjarrettandrew.com.

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?

NEWS AND VIEWS

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.

1. Mercedes Wore Black

Mercedes Wore BlackPUBLISHED IN: 2014.

THE AUTHOR: Andrea Brunais.

THE EDITOR: Saundra Kelley (content editing).

THE PUBLISHER: Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, an independent publisher in North Florida.

SUMMARY: After a news reporter falls victim to her daily’s downsizing, Janis Pearl Hawk becomes a “backpack journalist” supported by an environmentally oriented foundation. Her mandate is to cover the “green” candidate running for Florida governor, but her path takes a twist when the murder of a campaign worker stymies law enforcement. Investigating the murder prompts threats to her well-being and possibly her life – or has she angered other powerful people with her reporting on the gaming industry, Big Pharma and a ship-channel dredging project at Port Manatee?

THE BACK STORY: As a reporter, columnist and editorial writer in Florida, I saw up close the unconscionable power of lobbyists and the often-subversive tactics of special interests. Meantime, Florida’s fragile environment continues to pay the price as money, power and politics are given more weight in the balance. Another motive for writing the book was to play out an idea of mine that a maverick candidate could win Florida’s governorship by stirring up a populist, rag-tag caravan of vehicles moving northward through the state to the capital, Tallahassee – a scene that could draw CNN news helicopters.

WAndrea BrunaisHY THIS TITLE? I love a teaser, and it tells something about a character while hinting at intrigue.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Readers have told me that they love the page-turning quality, they learn a lot – and it gives them laughs as well!

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“‘Mercedes Wore Black’ vividly depicts the underbelly of the newspaper industry and the all-too-real shenanigans of those who are ever willing to sacrifice Florida’s natural treasures.” – Joe Guidry, The Tampa Tribune.

“Brunais’s novel is light yet filled with substance, the action provided by a colorful and humorous cast. With an upcoming governor election, a lottery power-grab by JackPot, and an environmental cover-up at Port Manatee to pursue, Janis moves quickly, and the pace of the narrative matches her zeal. In the hands of a lesser writer, the sheer number of storylines might overwhelm the narrative. Yet Brunais deftly weaves them together, allowing each headliner due time for investigation. To those concerned about how voters are informed in today’s media, “Mercedes Wore Black” provides a multifaceted perspective of modern reporting: there is the good, the bad, and the downright frustrating. At its heart, though, “Mercedes Wore Black” is a mystery novel that keeps you wondering, as any good novel should.” – Stephanie Selander, Florida Book Review

“My favorite so far this summer has been Blacksburg’s Andrea Brunais’ “Mercedes Wore Black,” a mystery that involves ‘backpack journalism,'” politics and Florida, a great combo for a novel. – Dan Smith in his blog post “Gratitude: The state of books in this region”

“Whether a reader finds ‘Mercedes Wore Black’ a romantic political thriller or political thriller romance, it’s one of those books that does what the best examples of genre literature do – it teaches you a lot without your even knowing it. For that reason alone, it’s worth your time.” – Scholars & Rogues.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I am what’s laughingly termed a “recovering journalist,” currently working as a director of communications at a university and, ironically, employing all the tools of a backpack journalist. I’ve won many writing awards including from the Florida Press Club and Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and a Robert Kennedy Award for investigative journalism.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: With “Mercedes Wore Black,” I hoped to bring Florida journalism, politics and the environment to life in an entertaining way. Sadly, it came to pass that the dredging project in Port Manatee actually took place, and all damage environmentalists warned about actually occurred – and more. But it’s not a dreary book … there’s also a love interest, of course!

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://www.amazon.com/Mercedes-Wore-Black-Andrea-Brunais/dp/1940869102/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434205330&sr=1-1&keywords=mercedes+wore+black.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing PRICE: $15.95 or, on Kindle, $4.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: bookeditor@gmx.com or send message through https://www.facebook.com/MercedesWoreBlack

2. Homecoming

HomecomingAUTHOR: Kate Hasbrouck.

PUBLISHED: July, 2014.

PUBLISHER: Koehler books, Virginia Beach, VA. Writes Kate: “They took a chance on me as a new author and I couldn’t be more excited about the work they did! I love the cover design, everyone I worked with was really encouraging and patient with someone like me who was totally new to this whole publishing world!”

EDITOR: Joe Coccaro, Koehler Books.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Kerana is from a world without sin, and her people are a perfect people. Eli is a Fallen human who is trying to escape the darkness of his past. Her job is to protect the humans, and when he discovers her secret, nothing in Eden will ever be the same.

THE BACK STORY: “Writing has always been my greatest passion in life. I have written many stories growing up, and Homecoming was a response to my sister’s love of the supernatural stories. It also has a message about forgiveness, and I think that so many people struggle with things that have happened in their life or people who have wronged them, and among other things, this story was written to show people that you can find forgiveness, and that it will set you free.”

 Kate Hasbrouck

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: “I am 25 years old, happily married for 3 years this August to a wonderful man named David who is a pastor. We live in Florida and have two Ragdoll cats l, Rocky and Sophie, who entertain us more than TV does! I’m a big nerd at heart, absolutely love all things pasta (except with seafood), and am in the beginning stages of editing my second novel, the sequel to “Homecoming,” currently titled “Becoming”!

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: “Homecoming” is an interesting mix of the Christian and sci/fi genres that should appeal to both sets of readers.

READER COMMENTS:

By Emily Anne K on April 8, 2015

“In Homecoming, by Kate Hasbrouck, Kerana has finally entered adulthood, which means she has to spend a year in the human world. Going to college on Earth and trying to blend in with the humans is harder than she first anticipated. She draws the attention of nearly everyone around her, including Eli. Kerana’s encounters with Eli might just spill the secret of her home planet of Eden.

“Homecoming was different than I expected. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but it was certainly unlike any other book I have read. In a good way, of course. I confess, I could barely put the book down. The characters were sweet and had depth. Seeing Kerana experience earth and both the dangers and joys of it was entertaining. Both of the main characters grew in many ways.”


on April 16, 2015

“Homecoming,” by Kate Hasbrouck, is a unique fantasy/Christian allegory sort of novel. It almost reminded me of the few YA angel fiction stories I’ve read. Yet it was different.

Kerana is an Eldurian, sent to earth to protect and help the humans. Eli is a broken young man, just trying to get through day-to-day college life. Theirs is an unlikely story. Incredible things are bound to happen as the worlds of Earth and Eden collide.

I enjoyed the beginning and middle parts of this story well enough. The story concept was intriguing and I liked Kerana. Eli was a little bit harder to like, but as his story progressed, he grew dear as well. The end-ish of Homecoming was especially interesting and made me come to really like the story. I’m quite excited for the sequel now!! 🙂

The allegory/spiritual parts of this novel were incredible. Though I’m not sure how I felt about every little detail; overall, it was amazing. The Trinity. Meeting Adonai. Glimpsing His home. Feeling His love for Kerana and Eli. Seeing their child to Father relationships with Him. Some of it was simply mind-blowing. For the most part, I loved this allegory of God and His boundless love, and my soul has been truly touched.

Also, the theme of surrendering one’s destiny, relinquishing control of one’s life to your Creator… Simply powerful. I love a novel that teaches something, stirs your soul, reminds you, helps you in your walk with God. And Homecoming did that.

Oh…Kate Hasbrouck has a lovely imagination! 🙂 I really enjoyed some of the parts and things of Eden. Would love to elaborate, but I suppose you should read them for yourself! 🙂


I absolutely love love loved Homecoming!  The author has created a reality in fiction that is both intriguing and mesmerizing. I love supernatural inspirational fiction and this story is top notch! I love that the characters were opposites in a lot of ways and the story touches on some sensitive issues…such as brokenness and one character’s unwillingness to accept God’s plan for his life. I loved seeing the world through Kerana’s eyes and the chemistry with Eli. This story pulled me in on page one and did not let go. I’m thrilled that this is the beginning of what will be a series, because I need more….now!

WHERE TO BUY IT: “Homecoming” is available on amazon.com ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1940192218/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1424882652&sr=8-1&keywords=kate+hasbrouck&dpPl=1&dpID=51fD0hoakFL&ref=plSrch),
through Books-a-Million ( http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Homecoming/Kate-Hasbrouck/9781940192215?id=6248784645457)
and through Barnes and Noble ( http://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/homecoming-kate-hasbrouck/1117220008?ean=9781940192215

SAMPLE CHAPTER: On Amazon.