The Young Adult Scavenger Hunt (YASH) starts tomorrow. Are you ready? This year 120 of your favorite YA authors will be offering copies of their books as prizes, along with top secret bonus material, such as deleted scenes, related short stories, cover reveals, and more.
I’m on the GOLD Team, where I’ll be giving away copies of The Smallest Thing and offering up the very first look at the cover and first chapter of my forthcoming book, Thicker Than Water. You definitely won’t want to miss this.
If you’ve never hunted before, you can find out more about it on the YASH website, or check back here October 2nd at 12pm for all the details and the first clue in the GOLD team hunt.
See you then!
It takes a village to get a book out into the world and I am very glad to have Julie Mayerson Brown in my village.
I first met Julie when my writers group read an early draft of her second novel. Julie handled the tough topic of sexual abuse with a sensitive touch, as she tackled family dynamics and the implications of the choices we make—themes I love to read and write about.
Since then, I’ve got to know Julie on a personal level. (We both like to talk and eat, so we’re a great match.) So, when she asked me to review an advanced copy of her new novel Long Dance Home, I jumped at the chance. That book comes out today, so I talked to Julie about her inspiration, the circuitous route to publication, and a philanthropic project that is dear to her heart.
What first inspired you to write Long Dance Home?
I’ve always loved ballet, although I was NOT a good dancer. A few years ago, I read an article about a former ballerina, and my imagination went from there. Why did she quit? What did she do after that? How did quitting ballet affect her life? The story didn’t go anywhere, so I set it aside. Then, one day I pulled it from the bottom drawer (actually, a hidden file somewhere in my computer) and started again. But this time I made it a holiday story. Once I had Christmas and a small town and a loving, crazy family to work with, the story really came together for me.
The story centers around a production of The Nutcracker. Why did you choose that ballet?
It’s my favorite ballet. And the book takes place takes place during the holidays—small town productions of The Nutcracker are happening everywhere. It’s a Christmas tradition!
In the story, CeCe has a lot of regrets. If you could go back and talk to your 20-something self, what’s one regret you’d warn yourself about?
Oh, we do gain wisdom as we get older, don’t we? I think I would tell myself that I’m stronger than I thought I was. My younger self took bumps in the road very seriously—I stressed myself out a lot. I had to learn resilience. Life is full of disappointments for almost everyone, and my life has been no exception. Bottom line: I’d tell my 20-something self, “Buck up, girl. You’ll get through it!”
You recently created a wonderful philanthropic project called Write to Give. Can you tell us about it?
I’m developing ways to use my writing as a way to give. The WTG mission is to “distribute books that comfort, uplift, or inspire people going through difficult times.” My first project is to donate copies of Long Dance Home to women battling breast cancer, a gift from one survivor to another, for no reason other than to connect and let them know I understand what they are going through. I provide books to non-profit organizations for them to sell, and they keep 100% of the proceeds.
What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Authors love to hear from readers, and I’d love to hear from you! Best way to get in touch with me is through my website: juliemayersonbrown.com. Please follow my blog – you will not be inundated with email, I promise. Most of all, please post a review of Long Dance Home on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and anywhere else you connect with friends and readers. If you enjoy my book, and I truly hope you do, please tell your friends about it. Finally, THANK YOU! Readers are writers’ best friends!
JULIE MAYERSON BROWN lives on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a rural suburb of Los Angeles, with her husband, and a pack of three lovable boxers. Her work has appeared in the Daily Breeze, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and Parenting Magazine. When not writing, Julie is cooking (homemade chicken soup is her boys’ favorite), gardening without much success, mentoring young writers, and of course – reading!
LONG DANCE HOME
What is a steadfast perfectionist to do when her life spins out of control?
Cece Camden has a plan—for work, for love, for life—and she believes she is right on track. But on her 29th birthday, her grand plan begins to unravel, and the disciplined, former ballerina’s life is turned upside down.
Newly unemployed and devastated to learn she and her boyfriend are not on the same page, Cece returns to Clearwater, her hometown in Northern California wine country, hoping to find comfort for her broken heart with her family. Being back in Clearwater only adds to her stress, however, when she reluctantly agrees to help rescue a small-town production of The Nutcracker.
Having once been the ballerina that would make Clearwater famous, Cece’s return attracts attention, inspires gossip, and forces her to examine a decision she made years before at the most vulnerable time of her life. As old wounds are opened and secrets revealed, long-held beliefs about Cece’s childhood are challenged, leading her to question everything she thought she knew about family, love, and herself.
As Cece struggles to accept the truth, she lets go of one dream and discovers a new one, opening her heart to a purpose and a future she had never imagined.
Long Dance Home is out today!
There are so many exciting things going on in publishing right now, and so many new ways to discover authors and their stories.
Just recently I learned about Kindle Worlds, a series of stories written in the worlds of other books. It’s like fan fiction taken to a whole new level, with authors writing spin-off stories of other authors’ books. For example, a story about how Aiden became a relief worker, or the story of what happened next in Kat and Owen’s relationship would be perfect Kindle Worlds stories.
I learned about Kindle Worlds when I sat down to talk with author Heather Sunseri about her latest project. After launching her own In Darkness series of romantic suspense novels, readers wanted to know what became of one of the more minor characters in the story. Heather had no plans to write about Charley, until she was invited to write a Kindle Worlds story. The result, Protected in Darkness is out today.
I talked to Heather about her genre-bending work, her passion for travel, and her love of pizza.
In your books, you blend genres, but romance, suspense, and science always predominate. If you’ll pardon the pun, what’s the attraction?
Yes, I pretty much write romantic suspense. Sometimes that comes in the form of science fiction as in the Mindspeak Series, dystopian fiction as in the Emerge series, and, of course, straight romantic suspense as in the In Darkness series. But even in the In Darkness series, I started the series with a bioterrorism case in which I made up the lethal poison that was used to contaminate bourbon in order to poison a lot of people. I’m definitely attracted to science for two reasons: 1) I grew up on such things as Star Wars and Battle Star Galactica; and 2) I think that’s the world we live in. Science is constantly changing how we live our lives. Whether it’s in the medical world (which I’m especially attracted to) or technology (both the gadgets we use and in the cyber world). In both those areas, there is a lot of good happening, but there’s also a lot of room for potential crime and misuse of the technology. And when good and crime converge, there’s opportunity for compelling fiction.
Your third and fourth books in the In Darkness series came out in August, which means more terrifying adventures for Brooke. I’m curious if you have a background in bioterrorism and cyber terrorism, or if you write about topics you want to learn about.
My husband works for the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, and, of course, I pay attention to the news. And when my husband and I take long walks with Jenny, our Golden Retriever, we use that time as sort of a think tank. We analyze what’s going on in the world, what could potentially go wrong, and what criminals and terrorists might try next. And then I research if the ideas are plausible, and if I can gather enough material to actually make a plot out of it. (Yes, I’m nearly positive that I’m on several watch lists based on my internet search history.)
So, to answer your question, I don’t have a background in bioterrorism or cyber terrorism. And I don’t necessarily write about topics I “want” to learn about, but about topics that I find interesting, are scary as hell, and could be possible threats to people around the world.
Do you have a topic you’d love to explore, but which you haven’t written about yet?
TONS! Stay tuned to future books. 🙂
You and I have much in common, including “recovering” from left-brained first careers. When did you realize you were meant to write and how did you make that transition from CPA to author?
I think I was always meant to be creative in some way. I’m not artistic at all, but I love art. I love beautiful design and the act of doing something creative—anything. And I was dying a slow, miserable death in the corporate world where anytime you had a creative idea, you were handed another boring assignment that required hours and hours of just sitting at the computer and crunching numbers. I started writing as a way to escape. I began writing any time I had time off, but mostly in the summers when I actually took off three months. I continued working after I released books one and two of the Mindspeak series. But by the time I released book three, I was pretty sure that if I quit my job I could work faster and release books fast enough to make a living. And I had been saving every bit of the money I was making from book sales. So I had built up a nice savings before I took the giant leap.
Last we chatted, you asked me about my travels, so now I get to turn the question back on you. What’s your favorite country that you’ve visited? Favorite city? Best travel experience?
Favorite country? At this moment… England, though I very much enjoyed Costa Rica, as well.
Favorite City? This is just so hard! I like different places for different reasons. But I’ll choose London for now. But I also love San Francisco. Ask me next year, and you might get a different answer.
And best travel experience? There are too many. I loved biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, kayaking to the Blue Room in Curacao, zip lining in Costa Rica, and everything about the trip I just got back from with my daughter to Paris and London. We simply had so much fun and experiences we’ll talk about for a long time! Travel is just the best gift you can give someone.
On your website, you mention home-made pizza. Of course, that piqued my interest. Is cooking another creative outlet, a meditative pastime, or something you have to do so your family doesn’t rebel?
I wish I loved cooking. And I definitely do love it when I have the time to do it “right”. But for the most part, I cook so that my family won’t rebel, and as a necessity because we live in a small town with very few restaurants who serve vegan options and both of my kids are 100% vegan.
The home-made pizza is a recipe my mom made every Saturday night when I was growing up. So, this is something my family and I do almost ever Friday night. I have my mom’s version and my kids’ new vegan version. I make one of each on Friday nights.
Thanks, Heather. It’s always great to chat with you.
Thank you so much, Lisa for inviting me to your little space on the internet!! I truly love our little chats. We should make this a regular thing!! There’s nothing I love more than to talk books, art, and travel over pizza.
Heather’s Kindle World novella, Protected in Darkness is out today.
Four years ago, Charley Packstone was hopelessly stuck in a miserable life as the daughter of the thug running Kentucky’s deadliest outlaw motorcycle gang and the twin sister to the gang’s future leader.
As Kate Ward, she’s built a simple but lonely life for herself and her four-year-old daughter inside the Witness Protection Program.
Kate has rules—rules to keep her and her daughter hidden from the wrath of the motorcycle club that wants her dead. But one fateful night, she lets her guard down after meeting a handsome stranger—Navy Seal Colt Callaway—at a bar along the Virginia Beach boardwalk. And after a sexy one-night-stand, Colt resolves to penetrate the steep walls that protect Kate’s heart.
A dead rat left on Kate’s front porch the next morning sends a clear message: the biker gang she ratted out years ago has finally found her.
No matter how badly Colt believes he can save the troubled and beautiful woman he just met, Kate’s only choice is to grab her daughter and vanish under a fresh identity. But can she do it before someone close to her is killed? And can she truly say goodbye to Colt forever?
About Heather Sunseri:
Heather Sunseri is a recovering CPA who began writing novels in order to escape the mundane life as a muggle. After twenty years in the corporate world, Heather decided to use her business savvy and curious mind to start a publishing business anchored by fictional stories. She is proof that one can be a numbers person and a creative… And that it’s never too late (or too early) to get a do over. She’s married to the love of her life, mom to two amazing kids, and caregiver to the best golden retriever and one very, needy cat. When she’s not writing, she’s making homemade pizza and drinking Kentucky bourbon.
Every writer needs a village to help raise her books. I feel very fortunate that my “village” includes Brian Peyton Joyner.
I met Brian in an online creative mastermind group last year, when he was preparing to publish his debut novel, The Wisdom of Stones. Aside from offering writerly expertise and encouragement, Brian made me laugh and dished up some fabulous recipes. He also gave me a treasured author moment when, after he and his husband had read an advanced copy of The Smallest Thing, he asked if I would call them and read the final chapter over the phone. We writers seldom get to witness the instant reactions of our readers, so that experience of hearing them gasp, ooh, and ultimately aah, will stay with me forever.
I got to read The Wisdom of Stones when it came out earlier this year. It’s a wonderful story about identity, tolerance, and being true to who you really are. Ben, the main character, has promised his dying grandmother that he’ll become a Baptist preacher, but in his heart, he knows his feelings for other men don’t match the teachings of the bible. Under the guidance of the well-meaning, but sorely misguided Pastor Hardy, Ben is thrust into a program designed to cure him of his “same-sex addiction.” Fortunately, Ben has another mentor, his Grandpa, who trades Ben stories of his own life in exchange for stones. But Grandpa has his own secret about the choices he made many years ago.
Brian is one of those courageous writers who isn’t afraid to take on topics of prejudice, sexuality, and religion, all in the same book! His special talent lies in showing us both sides of a story, so that, even though we might not always agree with a character or his beliefs, we understand where they are coming from.
In a time when we seem to struggle to acknowledge the other side of an argument, The Wisdom of Stones shines a glowing spotlight on both sides of the fence. I’m very pleased to be able to introduce you to Brian Peyton Joyner and share our conversation.
1. Where did the inspiration for The Wisdom of Stones come from?
One thing I encourage novice writers to do is to join their local writing group. When I first started writing, I joined San Diego Writer’s Ink. At a writing workshop in 2010, we were asked to write about a collection. This image popped into my head of a six-year-old boy searching for stones in the creek on his grandparents’ property. The boy would find a stone and give it to Grandpa in exchange for a story. This stone-for-a-story became the plot device of the novel. The main story line is based on my own experience coming out in my senior year of college, but I amped up the conflict so it’s not a memoir.
2. Ben’s grandpa is a wonderful character. He’s such an important figure in Ben’s life, but at the same time, he is far from perfect. Why was it important for you to tell Grandpa and Ruby J.’s story alongside Ben’s?
We are replaying history in our approach to same-sex relationships. The attitude towards interracial relationships in the 1930s mirrors that of same-sex relationships in our current time. People have tried to argue that in essays and articles, but I think messages are more powerful when they are subtle and not in your face. I thought that this beautiful love and redemption story for Grandpa would be a nice mirror that would help Ben look at his own life and his struggle in accepting his attractions to men.
3. The Wisdom of Stones is a work of fiction, however, as a gay man who struggled to reconcile sexual orientation and faith, you mentioned that some of Ben’s experiences are based on your own or those of people you’ve known. Can you tell us a little bit about your own struggle to reconcile who you are and who you were taught you’re supposed to be?
Many of the things that happened to the main character in the book happened to me. I didn’t have a formal plan to rid myself of homosexuality, but I did try to change behaviors and fix all of the things that I was told made me gay.
I listened to different music. I tried to have “healthy” relationships with other guys. I tried to get into sports. I threw myself into my relationship with my girlfriend, even going to the point where I asked her to marry me. But in the end, nothing that I tried cured me.
4. What would you say to young men and women struggling with their own identities? What words of encouragement can you offer?
Your sexual identity is an important part of who are you, but it’s not the only part. And don’t think that you have to “figure out” everything. I think that too many times, we feel like we need to have this perfect understanding of our identity before talking about it with other people. I would have liked to have been able to discuss my attractions to guys with someone when I first started having them, but I couldn’t. I could have saved myself all sorts of problems if I’d had a mentor or role model. Find someone that you trust to talk to about your feelings. Don’t label yourself. Just explore how you feel and what you feel. Go from there. And know that people’s first response isn’t where they’ll end up. I struggled with my sexual orientation for ten years before telling my parents. Of course, they weren’t going to be okay with it the first time I told them. But over time, they have become accepting and even embracing of the person I have become and my relationship with my husband.
5. You’re from the South, so we have to talk about food. What kind of food do you love to cook? And, living in health-conscious Southern California, what are the Southern comfort foods you miss the most?
My momma cooks simple food, but she has a perfect palette and always balances the flavors of salty, sweet, bitter, sour, fat and umami. She’s not conscious of this skill, but it’s what makes her the best cook I know. I love to cook with fresh ingredients, and even though we live in Palm Springs, I’m not afraid to fry or use butter. I’m more about portion control than adhering to any specific notions on how to prepare or season food. I love fresh buttermilk biscuits and cornbread. My husband and I were recently in South Carolina, and I think we gained a pound each day we were there because we had biscuits every morning. In my hometown, we had a mill that would grind local white corn. Their cornmeal was just corn and leavening ingredients. I’m not a fan of the cornmeal mixes you can buy in SoCal because the main ingredients are usually wheat and sugar.
6. What can readers look forward to reading next from you?
Danh, an Amerasian preacher, travels to Vietnam with his gay half-brother and their father to find Danh’s birth mother. Secrets are revealed, lies are exposed and addictions take over, but along the journey, they each discover the importance of family.
I can’t wait to read it.
The Wisdom of Stones
Abandoned by his father at age seven, Ben loses his mother to a car accident that same year and becomes his grandparents responsibility and their joy.
Handing his grandfather an arrowhead he finds at his mother s funeral, Ben sets in motion an agreement between them: Ben gifts his grandfather a stone and his grandfather gifts him a story. Months later when Mee Maw falls ill, Ben makes yet another deal this time with God that if Mee Maw recovers, Ben will dedicate himself to the church.These commitments inform the man he will become.
About the Author
Brian Peyton Joyner was an attorney for twenty years, until August 2016, when he quit the corporate world to become a full-time author, speaker and vlogger. He advocates for “agreeable disagreement” as the path for bridging the religious and LGBTQ+ communities. Although born and raised in Upstate South Carolina, Brian now lives in Palm Springs, California, with his saint of a husband and two ill-behaved dogs. Find out more about Brian at https://brianpeytonjoyner.com