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Write because you love it. Because to stop is not an option. Keep writing because even if you never make a dime off your work, the journey was well worth the effort.

Julie N FordJulie Ford was born number four of six children on March Air Force Base in Riverside, California.  After spending the first ten years of her life as an air force brat, her family settled in San Diego, CA, where she spent the rest of her youth contemplating boys and every possible way to get to the beach . . . then, how long she could realistically stay.

At the ripe old age of twenty-seven, she finally graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in Political Science and a minor in English Literature.  During her time at SDSU she met a tenacious young man, two years her junior, who refused to take no for an answer when she repeatedly told him that he was too young for her—Tracy Ford. Promptly after graduation, they were married.

Throughout their marriage they braved hurricanes, tornados, eight years of a republican presidency and moves from San Diego to San Antonio, back to California, to Birmingham, Palm Beach and finally Nashville, TN where they had hoped to live out their days . . . down the street from her in-laws. However, after twenty-five years of residing below the Mason-Dixon line, she now (a bit begrudgingly) calls the chaparral of Southern Utah her home.

While living in Birmingham, she attended the University of Alabama where she received a Masters Degree in Social Work.  With an MSW, she had hopes of working as a family therapist.  However, this ambition had to be put on hold when she was diagnosed with Lymphoma during her third semester of graduate school.

After enduring chemotherapy, she somehow escaped with her life and an unrelenting desire to tell Josie’s (The Woman He Married) story. The only thing she can surmise is that somehow the chemo had an effect on her creativity, kind of how a superhero will receive her/his powers after falling into a vat of toxic waste.  Besides more precious time with her husband and children, she would like to think that she got more out of four months of having chemicals pumped into her veins besides six months of impersonating the Buddha and premature menopause.

In addition to her primary job as a stay-at-home-mom and floundering author, she has worked as a substitute high school teacher, Lamaze Certified Childbirth and Infant CPR instructor, family therapist and don’t forget, Parisian’s sales associate.

In her spare time, she loves to ride her mountain bike, practice yoga, and of course read.  Some of her favorite authors include, Daphne Du Maurier, Bronte, P.D. James, Michael Crichton, Linda Davies, Sophie Kinsella, Linda Castello, and Karen White.

Throughout my tenure as a novelist, I’ve often described my love affair with writing as co-dependent.

With the exception that as an author I committed my unconditional love and devotion to a craft and not a person, the decision to become a novelist often felt like I’d unwittingly entered into a dysfunctional relationship. A love affair with creativity that swung from the extreme highs of an encompassing sense of wellbeing, to lows that often felt quite pointed and, for lack of a better word, abusive. The confusion of it all consistently left me feeling as though indulging in my passion kept me trapped on a never-ending roller coaster of warring emotions.

At various points along the way I would exclaim that I was tired of it all and would never write another novel! Only under all that disillusionment, whisperings of the excitement accompanying the development of a story would grow to a deafening roar, and a false hope of sorts would settle in. Then I’d start to believe that things would be different—better somehow—the next time around.

Ultimately, and as if I didn’t have a say in the matter, the drafting process would begin again.

Needless to say, the extreme highs and lows that accompany an addiction to writing can be rather emotionally and physically, not to mention financially, taxing.

For this reason and those listed below, I have decided it’s time to put an end to this unhealthy cycle of elation-to-misery and move on to a life’s pursuit that will theoretically provide me   more emotional and financial stability. But in order to close this metaphoric chapter on my life, I feel the need to complete one last writing project, one that spells out the how and why I came to this most difficult and heartrending decision.

In this final group of five blog installments you’ll find a compilation of my opinions and experiences. The opinions and experiences of other authors may, and likely will, differ considerably. For argument’s sake, let’s stipulate that all authors travel unique and independent journeys.

This is mine.

Reason Number One: I didn’t manage my career correctly.

Mistake One: Neglecting to heed advice.

When I first began writing, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that the story I had written was the most amazing creation I’d ever endeavored. I had it professionally edited, submitted it to contests, and solicited poor unassuming family and friends to read it. I revised it dozens and dozens of times. Though in my mind there was no way my novel could be anything short of sheer brilliance, after twenty or so rejections from agents and publishers, I decided to take a break and start working on a second novel. All the while, I never gave up on seeing the first published.

Along the way I continually received and then promptly ignored the same advice.


“Why shouldn’t I?” I would ask, then silently add, when it is such an awe-inspiring work of art?


When the second novel was completed and edited, I was able to find a publisher who accepted it. And then, because the first was a prequel to the second, this publisher went ahead and agreed to publish book one as well.

Ah-hah! I had proven everyone wrong. There WAS nothing wrong with publishing your first novel!

Or was there?

Looking back, I’m more than mortified by the discombobulated mess running rampant between the covers of that first novel. Years later, and with five full-length novels under my belt, it’s unfathomable—even to me—to consider that the same person who wrote the fifth also wrote that first abomination. That’s how much I can see I’ve improved. It horrifies me to this day that anyone—and I mean anyone at all—may have read my initial work and vowed never to pick up another of my “crappy” books.

(Don’t read these!)

And what’s worse, the second wasn’t much better.

If I could do it all again, I would take the advice of more seasoned authors and then some. I would put the first two novels on the shelf. Then after getting a few more books under my proverbial belt, go back and take another look at them with new, more experienced eyes.

In the end, I suppose I was lucky. My contract on the first two was only for three years. Once I received my rights back, I was able to rewrite the stories, make them more presentable, and publish them myself. Yet still, the first editions are out there, and the fact that I can’t round them all up and have them destroyed is an unfortunate reality I will forever have to live with.

(Read these!)

Career Mistake Two: Switching genres.

At first I didn’t know exactly what genre I wanted to focus on. I loved women’s fiction, romantic comedy, and romantic suspense, among others. So I did what any indecisive person does: I wrote one of each. My romantic comedy ended up as a Whitney Award Finalist, prompting an author friend of mine to advise me against switching genres again. She said I should stay with rom/com and build a fan base before branching out.

Of course I didn’t listen and went on to write another novel that was sort of a paranormal suspense, which did exactly what my friend had warned me it would—alienated many of the fans I’d gained with my rom/com. Then I wrote another women’s fiction and disaffected any fans I’d gained with the paranormal suspense.

In my defense, and as a budding author brimming with “brilliant” plot ideas, how was I expected to tap down my enthusiasm to experiment with EVERY genre? After all, patience had never been a virtue to which I’d excelled. But take it from someone who does possess a keen sense of hindsight: I can see now that I should have stuck with the genre (rom/com) that worked best for me and built a strong base of fans before exploring others.

That decision alone would have made the world of difference.

Career Mistake Three: Changing publishers.

With the exception of the first two, I switched publishers with each additional novel. Changing publishers means a change in cover design and editing and thus over-all style, which leads to a change in audience, which more or less equates to my starting from square one—five times over.

No wonder my book sales never gained much traction.

Career Mistake Four: Undervaluing my potential

Chronically terrified of failure, I never really aimed all that high.

Instead, I consistently told myself that I was happy publishing with small presses. Why? Because it didn’t matter if I ever made it big; what mattered was telling my stories—something I honestly continue to believe is true. Only what would have happened if I’d actually sat down and asked myself what I wanted from my writing career? Set some goals? Really thought about what I needed in order to keep going? Seriously pondered on my potential?

Put more effort into mustering a little of that patience?

From the very beginning I should have decided what I wanted, and then followed that dream—full-steam ahead, no-holds-bar, take-no-prisoners, and any other adage that denotes unfettered tenacity. Unfortunately, I did none of the above, and thus must accept the consequences.

Having said all this, I’m not one to shoulder mountains of regret. Life marches forward and in order to live that life to the fullest, I work hard to stay in the present.

My hope in listing these regrets is twofold. First, I wish to help other authors sidestep these possible pitfalls. Second, I feel that in order to truly shake these sarsens of regret from my back, I must voice them before I can knock them off forever and move on.

Reason Number Two: Character Development 

For me, developing characters was the most fun! (Second only to plotting, which was also super fun!) Deciding who each character will be and where these fictitious individuals came from, what made them who they are, and how the characters will play off one another, then watching them grow and change along the way was the best part of the conception and writing process.

And the more flawed the character, the better. The more a character could change and grow, the more interesting the story was to write.

However, the average reader doesn’t like truly, realistically flawed characters, or so I found out. If an author deigns to make her or his characters a bit too real or flawed then editors, readers, and critics alike will hate said characters, and by extension the story. Consequently, in order to compete in the market, I was constantly attempting to tap down the personal obstacles my characters had to hurtle. Except no matter how hard I tried to tow that line of acceptability, it never seemed to be enough. No matter how much I softened my characters’ flaws, I got complaints.

But writing only marginally dysfunctional characters was . . . well, a real yawn-fest. I didn’t want to write stories about folks who merely had plot-driven obstacles to overcome. I wanted to create and write about people with actual faults, individuals who not only had their circumstances to overcome but themselves as well.

As a social worker and therapist, I’ve learned that there is darkness and dysfunction lurking inside of every person occupying this planet. Real live people are very unpredictable, each individual a walking contradiction—a hypocrite if you will—when the occasion suits them. To deny this assertion is the same as denying the essence of humanity itself. We are ALL flawed, deeply and at times disturbingly so. Does this bother me? Not in the least. I love flawed individuals. The internally challenged are often the most interesting and noteworthy people and the most fun to write about.

I guess what readers want is a fantasy, an escape from the reality of their own malicious imperfections. To believe that it is possible to spend a lifetime fighting only benevolent demons. Or maybe they are so determined to deny the dysfunction festering inside them that they refuse to tolerate the existence of those imperfections in others? Maybe they are so deep in denial that they believe people who struggle with tangible flaws bring those struggles upon themselves, that they must be weak or even sinful and that level of inadequacy is not to be tolerated, even when it comes to book characters who are not even real?

Regardless of the psychology behind it, when all was said and done, I was unable, or more likely unwilling, to write those watered-down, fairytale-esque, uninspired characters, the likes of which one can find in most every other mainstream fiction novel. And because of this, writing just seemed to become more and more frustrating and less and less fun.

Reason Number Three: The Book Market is Saturated

First: Read my book!

Once a novel is published, this is the plea that all authors must shout from the online rooftops. And all while literally hundreds of thousands of other authors are doing the same. So how is one to be heard above all the rest? Good question. Blog tours, Facebook ads, Twitter posts, book signings, Amazon promotions, and the list go on, and on, and on . . . But do hours and hours of online promotion, plus presenting along an endless stream of writing conferences, and/or sitting at bookstore signing tables really work? For some, yes, it can, at least a little better than for others like me.

Regardless of the promotional successes or failures, a constant for the vast majority of modern authors is the significant time and monetary costs incurred as a result of pursuing their passion. With the exception of the top maybe 5% of novelists, gone are the days of publisher-sponsored book tours and signings. These days, even New York Times Best Selling authors have to set-up and pay for most of their own promotions.

And the book signings are the very worst. Sitting at a bookstore table while patrons walk right past, pretending not see you is absolute agony. On the flip side, for someone like me, even having an event where lots of adoring fans turn out to show support, is equally as uncomfortable. For the introvert, this part of writing is a catch-22. The introvert in me shrinks from the attention while the author in me shrieks for the masses take notice. Signings were an excruciating two-hearts-one-body experience, a self-imposed agony I plan never to inflict upon myself again.

(I discuss my struggles with social media promotions in Reason Four)

Needless to say, the promo part of getting published was always the most painful part for me. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it was more disheartening and torturous than receiving that gut-wrenching rejection letter/email or even the scathing, brutally honest, admittedly valid, one-star review.

Second: Self-publishing or Self-sabotaging

In MY opinion, the ease and prevalence of self-publishing plus the Kindle Unlimited program may well bankrupt the traditional fiction book market while degrading the profession as a whole.

Here’s why:

First, put together the large majority of Americans who report dreams of becoming a published author to the ease of computer word processing and what you get is a whole lot of publishers and agents who are overwhelmed by the sheer number of submissions they receive daily. The result is an ever increasingly improbability of getting a manuscript noticed, much less traditionally published. And what’s worse, the traditional market has become so saturated that many authors are waiting up to two years to see their contracted manuscripts become a published work.

Then Amazon Prime and its Kindle Unlimited program (which allows Prime readers access to books for “free” and pays royalties based on pages read, not units sold) has resulted in a sharp drop in ebook and pbook sales, profits on which the traditional market relies to remain afloat. Additionally, in order for an author or publisher to enroll a book in the KU program, Amazon requires the book be listed exclusively on its site. The result: authors and publishers who chose not to limit their book listings to Amazon are feebly grabbing for what dwindling profits and royalties not already sucked into the KU vortex.

Enter Amazon KDP who has made it incredibly simple for literally anyone to become an “author.” Put together 60,000+ words, slap even a half-baked cover on it, find approximately two-dozen (or a hundred) generous friends who are willing to pen a favorable review, and BAM! instant author.

Aspiring authors no longer have to wait for an agent or publisher to take notice of their work. With a few swift clicks of a mouse she or he can take fate by the reigns and publish themselves. The worst part is that KDP doesn’t require authors to have the content edited properly, nor do they care if the writing possess any amount of literary value, or whether the plot follows a basic story-telling structure, or that it even makes sense. Therefore, the privilege of claiming the title of Author is slowly losing its prestige.

(Not to say that there aren’t many legitimate self-published authors out there. In fact, there are, many of whom have risen to the ranks of the New York Times Best Seller list. As stated above, I, myself have even self-published.)

Add all of the above together and what you get is a fiction book market that is drowning in a pool filled to the brim with an over abundance of choices that are steadily rising and no foreseeable strategy for ebbing the flow. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Because of KDP there just are not enough readers out there for the number of books flooding the fiction market. Every. Single. Day. And with that constant influx of new books comes a thinner and thinner disbursement of KU royalties to struggling authors and publishers, making it harder and harder to turn a profit in the fiction book market.

Small presses and literary agencies are feeling the biggest pinch of KU and KDP. After decades of prosperity, many have decided to close their doors. Those that continue to thrive have become SO selective that they  won’t take a chance on a manuscript unless they can deem it a “sure thing.”

Given the current state of the market and the backlog clogging the works of traditional publishers, authors have to sprint to keep up, continuously publishing any way they can in order to remain relevant. Therefore, hybrid authors (traditionally published who also self-pub) and solely self-published authors alike are sabotaging themselves and the market as a whole with excessive self-publishing.

And this over abundance of reading options has created a snowball effect of sorts.

Snowball Cycle: Release a novel: sales spike: thousands of other novels hit the market: the work quickly becomes irreverent: the author rushes to publish again: sales spike: thousands more books join the fray: infinity . . .

Publishing in this modern age has become the most vicious treadmill ever conceived.

That’s not to say that authors who publish and self-publish in niche markets aren’t able to do well—some in fact are doing quite well—but those publishers and authors who aren’t so lucky are feeling the financial strains brought on by the ubiquity and simplicity of self-publishing.

I’m getting out of the writing-rat-race but to those of you who are staying in, I would caution against maintaining the status quo for much longer. To preserve the integrity of the fiction writing profession, I would suggest pressuring Amazon to impose a few regulations on self-publishing. Limiting the number of titles a single author (including all pen-names and genres) can self-pub in a year and requiring proof of professional content and line edits are two good places to start.

Reason Number Four: Social Media

I don’t mean to hate on SM. I really do enjoy keeping track of the folks I’m not able to see on a regular bases. But with time I’ve discovered that I’m more of an observer than a participator.

Here’s why:

Disregarding the contrived realities that often cause one’s online friends to feel envious of these falsities, often resulting in depression, plus the nastiness that thunders up and down news feeds everywhere, generally speaking, I’m not a fan of social media. It’s not that I don’t ever have “clever” or compelling thoughts to Tweet, or funny pictures or videos to post, it’s just that I don’t want to spend my time doing so.

Why would I waste my precious life hours cultivating a cyber world when the real world is all around me? Birds and flowers and sunshine, all things I can see, touch, and feel, not to mention the real live people who occupy my space. Call me old-fashioned, but other than while reading a book or watching a flick, this is where I want to spend my time, where I can physically feel and connect with the environment around me.

For promotional reasons, I can see posting reviews or special prices. But for an author to be successful in this modern cyber-age, creating and then maintaining a constant and compelling online persona is an absolute must. In order to sell books, an author has to be willing and able to not only navigate all social media platforms but also to commit a significant amount of time promoting themselves to folks who the author will likely never meet face to face.

The disconnectedness of it all bothers me, and I was never able to gain the comfort with social media necessary to rocket my work to any level of measurable success.

Actively engaging on SM just isn’t something I enjoyed and likely never will.

 Reason Number Five: Hard Work With Little Reward

As previously stated, I’m an introvert. With introvertedness also comes many personality traits that extroverts don’t have the privilege of hassling with. The least of which makes for a more intuitive writer while the compulsion to overthink literally every detail results in a longer, more laborious creative process. In other words, it takes an introvert more than twice the time to create a story than it does the extrovert.

Does this mean that introverts are better, more comprehensive writers? Not necessarily. I think whether a reader enjoys a story or not depends more on individual tastes and preferences than anything else.

What being an introvert means for a writer (at least for me) is that it takes a painstakingly long time to write . . . pretty much anything at all. Not one single sentence I have ever written has only been typed once, or even five times. I write, revise, rethink, rewrite, revise, rethink even the most basic of sentences. Then I walk away, and an even more inspired way to state what I’ve just worked hours on will come to me, and I’ll start the process all over again.

It’s almost inconceivable, the ridiculous amount of time I’ve spent working and perfecting each and every novel I’ve written. And it would be one thing if all that creative energy had resulted in stories that readers loved and cherished and told all their friends and family they must run out and purchase.

But alas, it did not.

For the most part, my overall reviews are not horrible, but as stated above, I’m sad to say that none of my books have ever gained any real or even slight notoriety. I have spent years of my life working on books incapable of creating even the mere beginnings of a tiny ripple in the ever-expanding pond of fiction.

Long demoralized sigh . . .

Honestly, if I added up all my royalties, then subtracted the money spent on promotions and then the time consumed at the computer promoting, not to mention writing, I’m running a deficit comparable to that of our nation’s government. No exaggeration.

For years I told myself that writing wasn’t about the money. That I didn’t care about all the nasty reviews because the good outweighed the bad. That I kept writing because I enjoyed it—and honestly for the majority of my tenure as an author I did immensely love what I was doing. But there comes a time when one must consider the sunk cost of doing what they love and seriously determine whether or not their time might be better spent elsewhere.

And time and financial considerations are not the only costs ensued by writers. The interpersonal costs are high as well. Living one’s life half in the real world and half in a fictitious world takes its toll on relationships. Husbands, children, friends, and extended family, along with everyday responsibilities, are often thrown to the backseat and told to keep quiet in order for the author to focus solely on the world of her or his own making. Often times I experienced actual physical pain when my focus was unexpectedly interrupted and forced from my work. Even when I wasn’t at the computer I was writing in my head, at least half of my consciousness exploring my current plot line at all times. Thus, all too often I felt resentful of not only my family but pretty much any obligation that took me out of the world I was devising.

An author doesn’t only need to possess skill, experience, and creativity. Oh, no, that’s only a small part of writing a novel. What makes a person a true author is her or his commitment and willingness to sacrifice whatever necessary to get the job done.






Sadly, I fear that I missed some important moments with my children and husband and neglected friends I could have better connected with.

All abandoned in a past I will never get back, and for a reward that never came.


After much soul searching along with taking a year to consider what I wanted from life, I have concluded that the emotional, fiscal, and interpersonal price of continuing as an author is too high. I have a master’s degree and live in a whole big world of actual living, breathing people in need of help, leaps and bounds above needing another novel from me, one the majority of them will likely never hear about, much less read.

Am I sad about leaving authordom behind? At first, yes, the thought was beyond heartbreaking. But now that I’ve taken a genuine step back, considered all the pros and cons, I feel confident in my decision. Plus, whenever I see other authors on social media peddling their wares and think, thank The Lord that’s not me, along with an overwhelming sense of relief, I have no lingering doubts about my decision.

It’s truly time to move on.

Writing has been a fun, awe-inspiring rollercoaster of co-dependency that has left me both elated and in tears, and at times fraught with regrets. Yet I continue to feel blessed to have experienced every moment.

But it’s time to seriously consider the sunk cost sustained while writing, turn the page on my life’s pursuits, and begin a whole new chapter.

And when all is said and done, I have five novels, one novella, and an award that I am immensely proud of.

Six arguably beautiful and inspired works that will outlive me, whether anyone condescends to read them again or not.

And so as Tigger profoundly exclaimed: “Ta-ta for now!” and most likely forever.

While I won’t commit to never again. 😉


Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

My Rating: 4-Stars

 As a Reader:

For me, this novel was smart, clever, and poignant.

Smart: Reading this book was like hanging out with that quick-witted friend you go out of your way to socialize with because doing so makes you feel more intelligent     by association. And if I’m being totally honest, maybe even a little bit jealous of said person as well.

Clever: All right, can I just say that Finch is, hands down, one of my most favorite book characters EVER. His thoughts and speech are both quirky and oh so clever. I  found myself giggling and re-reading and even quoting him out loud to my poor, indulgent daughters. Yes, he is a tragic character, but I think we can all learn from the part of him that was able to accept himself for who he really was no matter the social consequences. He was authentic and raw. He was someone we’ve all known and possibly avoided.

 Disclaimer: Spoilers lie (or is it lay?) ahead.

Poignant: Many parts of this story were so heartrending that I felt a physical prick in my chest as I read. Violet’s survivor’s guilt and subsequent fear of cars, and living in general, was painful to read. Even still, I appreciated the way the author paralleled her slow ascent from despair to Finch’s decent into darkness, and how each was able to help the other transition to where they each needed to go. Of course, I wished for Finch to find a way out of the darkness, but in the end he made his choice; and I try not to judge book characters too harshly.

As a Writer:

Even though a novel is a work of fiction, the content shouldn’t suspend the reader’s imagination. In other words, everything that happens within the pages of a novel should be believable to the reader in the real world. There were many places in this book where as an adult I thought: That’s a stretch. For example: Finch decides to paint his red bedroom walls blue so he buys thirteen cans of paint. THIRTEEN! A couple of weeks ago I bought a gallon of touch-up paint. It cost me forty-one dollars. $41×13=$533. What seventeen year-old has that kind of cash lying around to blow on paint?

Disclaimer: The following is strictly my opinion.

Removing a key character too soon may cause readers to lose interest. The final chapters of this book reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars and I found myself equally frustrated, and thus skimming to the end. Sure, sometimes a main character dies or leaves, forcing the remaining character to pick up the broken pieces of that absence and rebuild a new normal. And I get that this process is all a part of the remaining character’s journey to growth and/or healing. But when two main characters have been closely tied to one other throughout the story—as in not loosely connected while traveling individual paths with alternate plots of their own—removing one too early leaves a big ‘ol hole in what remains of the novel.

I think I would have stayed more engrossed in Violet’s healing process had the author either summed up her grieving more quickly. Or, if the author had shown Violet following Finch’s final days through the clues he dropped in more of a one-step-behind manner, this would have allowed her to slowly heal while keeping him in the story until nearer the end. Thus eliminating the void his disappearance opened.

Final thoughts: All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who is either a young adult or an adult who enjoys the occasional YA read. Up until the final chapters, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent reading.


Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.

That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.

Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one—about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.

My Rating: 5-Stars

A Reader’s Take:

As an adult closely associated with a teen who is struggling to find confidence and direction, I deeply appreciated the insight this story offered. Watching while Vicky went from feeling as though literally nothing in life—including her—mattered, to finding even the tiniest of reasons to stay on earth a little longer, was both heartbreaking and eye opening. And not to sound overly dramatic, but this story was a mite life altering as well. Gaining insight into how a family can make or break a person’s recovery and the importance of making sure each family member feels valued, loved, accepted, seen and heard, is something I think every parent can benefit from. The lesson that one’s best efforts can often be misguided is a difficult pill to swallow. It was hard to watch Vicky and the others battle their inner demons, and in the end I was left saddened but somehow hopeful too.

All in all, this novel was gritty without being brash or dismal. Raw, but not offensive or off-putting. A must read for anyone living with teens and/or young adults who are trying to navigate a modern culture where self-destruction is not only glamorized, but at times feels like the only choice.

A Writer’s Take:

Authors should read novels written by other authors with similar writing styles. Because I want my writing to possess a touch of literary value, I mostly read books with beautifully crafted narratives that incorporate colorful metaphors and creative imageries. This book, however, did not. It was, for lack of a better description, simply crafted with a straight to the point, no-fuss-no-muss, style of writing. Generally, I find this “simplistic” writing style flat and uninteresting. For me, the words the author chooses are almost as important as the story those words are telling. Nevertheless, there was a gentle elegance in the simplicity of this writing. Also, because I wasn’t wading through superfluous verbiage, I found I was better able to connect to the theme of the story.

Poignant plot, plus great writing, equals five-stars.

Review Policy


Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

My Rating: 4-Stars

A Reader’s Take:

I’ve been a longtime fan of Sophie Kinsella. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve read every one of her novels. And though I enjoyed this book, as with much of her latest work, I felt like this one could have had a little more of what I call the “giggle factor.” In other words, the same level of amusement I came to expect from her earlier work. Even after all these years, I can still pick up one of her first novels—say, “The Undomestic Goddess”—and laugh out loud while reading. Even so, I really liked this story. It was light, but well thought out and with a much-needed message regarding social media that hummed along to the tune of “A-person’s-life-doesn’t-have-to-be-perfect-to-be-good.” A must-read for all those who often find themselves scanning through Facebook or Instagram and thinking: “Compared to others, my life sucks!

A Writer’s Take:

Characterization: A book character’s motivations and personality traits should always line up with her or his actions. People don’t do things “just because”.

Katie-Cat was a fun and evolving character, one I rooted for wholeheartedly throughout the story. Her actions lined up perfectly with her age and insecurities as a country-girl-come-to-the-big-city. But she also kept me guessing. I wasn’t sure up until the very end whether she would choose to go back to the city or stay in the country.

Alex too was an interesting character, a successful man who had been raised with privilege and what appeared to be every advantage, yet his upbringing turned out to be more of a hindrance than a leg-up. He was smart and sexy, with a touch of vulnerability that made him entirely endearing.

Instead of simply describing the physical attraction between these two characters, Kinsella did a great job of slowly developing their romance and showing the reader how and why their differing pasts actually gave them a lot in common and allowed them to fall in love.

Then there was Demeter. With her perfect career, family, hair and clothes, she was essentially everything Katie had always dreamed of becoming. I loved her and how her scattered creativity caused her futile efforts at being in charge to backfire on her. (Full disclosure: I think she’s my spirit animal.) I also liked the way Kinsella made us hate her at first before turning the table by making her our ally.

And we can’t forget about Mick and Biddy. They were quirky and lovable, the glue that held this story together and made it work.

Pacing: As writers, we often have so many great ideas for our stories that we have a hard time deciding what to keep and what to cut. And who could blame us? Once we’ve worked hard on a scene and it’s brilliant, it’s much too disheartening to let it go. Nevertheless, we should be careful to include only the material that is vital to the plot. Otherwise, the story will drag as readers ask themselves: “Is this scene necessary to the story?”, which may well lead them to start skimming.

Parts of this story dragged for me. Because some of the scenes seemed to be conveying similar information, it felt to me as though they could have been combined and/or deleted. Especially toward the end, where the author took a few too many chapters to sum up the story and let the reader know what would become of Katie and Alex.

Punctuation: Exclamation points are a great way to show excitement or anger, but they should be used sparingly. I’ve even heard editors caution to use only one exclamation point per chapter, certainly only one per page. Otherwise, it appears as though the characters are at a constant state of heightened emotion, which either becomes exhausting to the reader and/or causes the exclamation point to lose its oomph.

In this novel, Kinsella went a little crazy with the exclamation points, sometimes using up to five on a single page.

Descriptives: Authors should take care not to repeat descriptive words or phrases over and over again. The longer the book, the harder it gets to come up with ways of showing similar expressions and physical displays of emotion. But paying attention to how often we recycle the same descriptions is essential to crafting a creative and well-written novel.

Here, the author reused many words, like wry and twinkle, throughout the entire book and sometimes within pages of each other.

Overall, this novel may not have been as funny as some of Kinsella’s others, but it was an extremely entertaining read.


Review Edited by Donna Kenney

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After sixty years of marriage and five daughters, Lynn “Lovey” White knows that all of us, from time to time, need to use our little white lies.

Her granddaughter, Annabelle, on the other hand, is as truthful as they come. She always does the right thing—that is, until she dumps her hedge fund manager fiancé and marries a musician she has known for three days. After all, her grandparents, who fell in love at first sight, have shared a lifetime of happiness, even through her grandfather’s declining health.

But when Annabelle’s world starts to collapse around her, she discovers that nothing about her picture-perfect family is as it seems. And Lovey has to decide whether one more lie will make or break the ones she loves . . .

My rating: 3-stars

A Reader’s Take:

If you’re a fan of Southern fiction and you relish novels dripping in southern isms, with characters who bring proper southern living to life, while highlighting the importance of forgiveness and strong family ties, you’ll probably love this book. The writing style was good. The voice was fine. The characters were vivid and well drawn. And while I also appreciated the way the author began each chapter with a piece of advice from a former generation, I only moderately enjoyed this story. Why? I guess it was because the plot was too predicable and could have been a smidge more compelling as well. Plus, a few technical issues kept pulling me from the story. There was an unexpected twist about three-quarters of the way through but it didn’t add enough intrigue to have me anxiously turning pages.

Nevertheless, when all was said and done, this story was sweet and romantic and fun.

A Writer’s Take:

Plot: Writers need to be careful when structuring a story to ensure that the plot will consistently move forward a good pace. Because both Annabelle and Lovey’s stories were mostly told in flashback mode, the plot inked along as if struggling against a stiff breeze. For most of the book it felt like I was stuck in a strange sort of limbo, where things were happening but there was no forward motion. I get that Lovey and Annabelle’s lives were being somewhat paralleled, and that Lovey must look back on her life to do so, but with so much of Annabelle’s present-day life being told in flashbacks as well, the combination caused the story to drag along.

Then there were also many places where I stopped and thought: wait, what just happened? It was like certain links in the plot chain had simply been removed. Like once the book was finished and edited there were too many words, and so someone—a senior editor most likely—went through and trimmed a bit. As with a person addicted to plastic surgery, so goes book editing. Too many nips here and tucks there, and suddenly things don’t quite line up anymore, don’t flow naturally.

Character Development: Though book characters are fictional they MUST have clear, believable, and real-life motivations. The men in this book were way to whooped for my taste and fawning all over Annabelle like pack of male dogs circling the only female on earth currently in heat. Don’t we women want a man with a little mystery? The hint of a chase in the very least?

Ben, in particular was a LOT too sappy. I know some women dream of hearing that kind of flattery, of having such an amorous man narrow his sights on her. But do we really, truly want that? REALLY? In my experience, any man who professes his love so freely and nauseatingly often is definitely up to something nefarious. Ahem!

Additionally, the lengths to which Holden was willing to go in order to win back Annabelle’s heart suspended the imagination. No man with any ounce of breeding and/or self-respect would ever make such a fool of himself, public or otherwise.

Then there was Priest Charming. He was okay but his general lack of character flaws made me suspicious. In fact, if I were to write a sequel to this book, I would reveal that Priest Charming is not Mister Perfect at all but a sociopathic serial killer. How’s that for a plot twist?

And what about Annabelle herself? Besides the fact that she was blonde and thin and a stylish dresser, I don’t understand why all three of these men were so enamored with her. She didn’t possess any quirky or redeeming personality traits, wasn’t particularly clever or amusing, nor did she commit any acts of heroism, like saving a family of baby ducks from a storm drain or any such thing. So what was her over reaching appeal? Are we to believe that all three of these men were really that shallow? And if so, that lack of depth should have made them all the less appealing to readers.

Grammar: The unnecessary use of adverbs can be a problem for many writers. Now, I’m not an adverb Nazi. On the contrary, I find adverbs vital to a well-written novel. When used properly, adverbs add beauty and flow. However, with regards to adverb use, writers need beware.

Warning: When constructing dialogue tags, authors should exercise extreme caution before inserting an adverb. Doing so needlessly might suggest laziness and/or a lack of ability on the part of the author.

Setting: Don’t hit the reader over the head with setting. The reader should feel as though she or he is immersed in the story, not sitting back as silent observer. I realize that southern fiction is a popular trend—I’ve even written a few myself—but I prefer to see the culture subtly woven into the story, speech and mannerisms of the characters rather than standing out from the story as it did in this book. At times it almost felt like I was reading a how-to manual on living in the south.

Personally, I don’t get the obsession with romanticizing the south at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived below the Mason Dixon Line for more than twenty-five years and I absolutely love it down here. But what most people don’t understand is that living in the southeast isn’t all garden parties and mimosas. There’s another side, a more prominent, less glamorous side, to living down here, which includes but is not limited to:

#misquotes #wasps #ticks #chiggers #snakes #hotsweatymess #noseyneighbors #pollen #wafflehouse #rednecks

But then I suppose no one wants to read about any of that.

Review Policy


I finally completed my rewrite of the Holly book and it’s FINALLY for sale on Amazon!

The story about how fate will carry us where we need to go whether we are willing passengers or not.

A year and a half after being jilted not once, but twice by the only woman he’s ever truly loved, Brian McAlister has all but given up on relationships. Then, on special assignment for the DA’s office, he steps into the middle of a politically sensitive murder case where he crosses paths with a beautiful ex-socialite-turned-social-worker, Holly Cavanaugh Winter.

Widowed, practically penniless, and reduced to shopping at Walmart, Holly is dreading the approaching holiday season. However, her angst isn’t due to her husband’s untimely death the previous December 25th, but to a secret that could reveal itself unless she can find a way to avoid the coming Christmas. To make matters worse, she unwittingly stumbles into the throes of Brian’s case and the manhunt for a killer who now has his sights set on her.

His case unraveling, Brian finds himself tasked with keeping Holly and her two daughters safe while bringing an assassin and the powerful man who hired him to justice.