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Featured Selections for This Month
7 Questions With Diane C. McPhail
Not long ago, I clicked on my daily LitHub post and began my usual scroll down the rich offerings there. Among them I found a link to Seven Questions asked of five vibrant writers. For the first six questions the answers had to be given in a word or two, at most a simple phrase. Only the seventh allowed for complete sentences. I was intrigued by these writers’ answers.
I wondered how I might answer these questions that go straight to the core of what we as writers are doing. I took on the exercise. Some of my answers surprised me. Some elicited precision in my view of my writing. So I decided to share this with you, with due acknowledgement to LitHub.
7 Questions: no wrong answers. Incomplete except for #7 (aren’t all answers incomplete?)
- Without summarizing it in any way, what would you say your book is about? Misjudgment, injustice, trauma, recovery, freedom, courage
- Without explaining why and without naming other authors or books, can you discuss the various influences on your book? My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandfather, my own life, my experience and knowledge as a therapist
- Without using complete sentences, can you describe what was going on in your life as you wrote this book? Social and political upheaval, climate change, racial discord, figuring out what to cook for supper and how to keep my feet warm, cleaning out closets and drawers to inspire revision
- What are some words you despise that have been used to describe your writing by readers and/or reviewers? Despise? No, but wonder what book they read, yes: Flat character, immoral, bland, purposeless
- If you could choose a career besides writing (irrespective of schooling requirements and/or talent) what would it be? An astronaut musician OR a musician astronaut, piano and guitar
- What craft elements do you think are your strong suit, and what would you like to be better at? Atmosphere, voice, inner depths of fully rounded characters. Want to be better: concise, structure, immediate action
- How do you contend with thinking anyone has or should have any interest in what you have to say about anything? Though I began writing for myself, the process connected so directly and deeply to crucial issues of immediacy to today’s extended crises, and they are both critical and extended, that I want to communicate in whatever way possible to open awareness of our inheritance of longstanding issues. This is not just a story. These are issues that affect all of us.
Well, there you have it. When I get a chance for more than a word or phrase, I can get long-winded! Right back to the second part of Question #6.
Books We Can’t Wait to Share – Staff Picks
Reviewed by Liz
Tales of women on the frontier have too often taken a backseat to more traditional tales of cowboys and frontiersman, but there were plenty of women who made the Wild West their home, and Easy Jackson’s A Season in Hell is inspired by one of them.
The character of Tennessee Smith is loosely based on the real historical figure Elizabeth Berry, who at age twenty-two became a mail order bride, but ended up only married to her husband for one hour before he dropped dead. In this variation, the new widow Tennessee Smith, is responsible for all of her late husband’s unfinished business, which includes of houseful and unwieldy children and a taking on the role of Sheriff in the tiny town of Ring Bit, Texas.
Easy Jackson is an open pseudonym for Vicky Rose, a Spur-Award Winning writer who was recently named Best New Western Author by True West Magazine. She has a fresh and engaging take on the Western genre. Readers interested in a frontier adventure with unique characters, and historical flair are sure to enjoy the Tennessee Smith Western series.
Reviewed by Alex
When you work on over 600 books every year, it’s hard to decide exactly what you want to read. And sometimes you know what you want to read, but there still aren’t enough hours in the day to actually get through all those pages. That was the story of me and Charlie Donlea’s books SUMMIT LAKE and THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN. I had heard from almost everyone I work with how absolutely fantastic Charlie’s writing is and how excellent his books are. So, finally, when the ARCs of DON’T BELIEVE IT arrived in my office, I knew it was the time to jump in. And once I jumped in, there was no stopping me…
Every day on the train, I would tear through as many pages as I could so that I could see what happened next, find out the true identity of the killer, see if justice would prevail. The writing was so lyrical, the imagery so expertly depicted—I knew why everyone had been recommending Charlie’s books for so long. I could see why they’d received so many wonderful reviews. Not only is the mystery expertly crafted, but the language is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying—taking you into the heart of a twisted killer.
DON’T BELIEVE IT is real edge-of-your-seat suspense, with a truly shocking ending that will stay with you…and if you’re anything like me, it will leave you angry, questioning everything, and so happy that you picked up a book by an author who would take a chance, turning thriller tropes and expectations on their heads. I love a book that doesn’t give you what you expect as a reader—an author who will leave you in disbelief. Charlie Donlea has done that with DON’T BELIEVE IT. Pick up your copy…don’t waste time waiting like I did!
Reviewed by Lulu
Like millions of people all across America I binge watch crime docudramas. I watched them all with obsession and curiosity, I stayed up late at night listening to the latest podcast about someone falsely accused of a crime, I’ve been late to appointments because I needed to watch just one more episode.
So when I heard that Charlie Donlea’s new book was a thriller that explores the dark side of docudramas I was hooked. I got my hands on the manuscript and read it in one weekend, and trust me, I didn’t see the end coming.
In Don’t Believe It we follow Sydney Ryan, a crime series TV producer, as she investigates the case of a young med student convicted of murdering her boyfriend while on vacation in Saint Lucia ten years earlier. Sydney’s TV show airs weekly, and she’s rushing to keep up with it, flying from New York to the scene of the murder on the island resort. But America is watching her documentary and public outcry leads officials to reopen the case. And as the show reaches its final episode Sydney receives a letter saying that she got it terrible wrong. Is Sydney working to free an innocent woman, or has she been drawn into a sinister game?
Now you see why I couldn’t put down the book. And if you are fan of shows likeEvil Genius and The Keepers, or podcasts like In The Dark and Up & Vanished, you will love this book. Because Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea is filled with breathtaking twists and high tension – the perfect summer suspense.
Reviewed by Michaela
If you’re a true-crime fan like me, you’re probably already aware that love triangles can be fatal, right? But some love triangles are deadlier than others. In WHERE MONSTERS HIDE, New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps reveals the true story of a love triangle in which two of the three parties were killed by the third. At the heart of the story is a heartless woman, Kelly Cochran, who has been convicted of killing both her husband and her lover. Ruthless and manipulative, Kelly played a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with authorities, until dedicated law enforcement experts brought her to justice. Women who kill have always fascinated me, and in this case M. William Phelps has identified the ultimate female predator. Get ready to be shocked by what you’ll learn in this mesmerizing book.