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Win a trip to Willow Lake! I’m not kidding. Check it out here:

Win a trip to Willow Lake!

In stores now!Today is the official release of Snowfall at Willow Lake. Enjoy!

Aaaand…First-time author Patry Francis also has a new book out today. It’s on my TBR. Check it out:

“The new questions and revelations just keep coming…Readers will be heartily rewarded.”—Ladies’ Home Journal

When new music teacher Ali Mather enters Jeanne Cross’s quiet suburban life, she brings a jolt of energy that Jeanne never expected. Ali has a magnetic personality and looks to match, drawing attention from all quarters. Nonetheless, Jeanne and Ali develop a friendship based on their mutual vulnerabilities THE LIAR’S DIARY (Plume / February 2008 / ISBN 978-0-452-28915-4 / $14.00) is the story of Ali and Jeanne’s friendship, and the secrets they both keep.

Jeanne’s secrets are kept to herself; like her son’s poor report card and husband’s lack of interest in their marriage. Ali’s secrets are kept in her diary, which holds the key to something dark: her fear that someone has been entering her house when she is not at home. While their secrets bring Jeanne and Ali together, it is this secret that will drive them apart. Jeanne finds herself torn between her family and her dear friend in order to protect the people she loves.

A chilling tour of troubled minds, THE LIAR’S DIARY questions just how far you’ll go for your family and what dark truths you’d be willing to admit—even to yourself.

Patry Francis is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize whose work has appeared in the Tampa Review, Colorado Review, Ontario Review, and the American Poetry Review. She is also the author of the popular blogs, and This is her first novel. Please visit her website at

By Patry Francis
Plume Paperbacks / February 2008 / $14.00
ISBN: 978-0-452-28915-4
Readers Guide available at
For more information or to schedule an interview with Patry Francis, please contact Laurie Connors, Plume Publicity
212-366-2222 /

talk talk talkTalk talk talk. I can’t believe I said that (“seriously big stuff”), but I did, among other things, on the Amazon podcast. Chatting on the phone with Anne Bartholomew, of, was way too fun. Have a listen as we discuss series books, lazy writers, the Betsy-Tacy books, hate mail, stealing your sister’s boyfriend and other Seriously Big Stuff here: Thanks to Amazon for this opportunity!

Snowfall audio coverSnowfall at Willow Lake is available in unabridged and abridged audio format from Brilliance. You can even download a copy here. Where do you listen to books on audio? In the car? On the treadmills? While walking the dog? Gardening? Shoveling snow?

The abridged edition doesn’t have the recipes, so here’s a quick peek at one:


These delicate puff pastries originated in France, and are traditionally served this time of year, with champagne–dry, not brut.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the water, butter and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to moderate. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from side of pan.

Transfer mixture–known as pate a choux–to a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs, one at a time. If the batter is too stiff, add another egg.

Stir the Gruyere into the pate a choux and drop by tablespoons about one inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for about twenty-five minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Snowfall At Willow Lake Cover[zoom] SNOWFALL AT WILLOW LAKE
by Susan Wiggs
RT Rating: ****½
Publisher: Mira
Published: February 2008
Type: Mainstream Fiction


Wiggs is at the top of her game here, combining a charming setting with subtly shaded characters and more than a touch of humor. This is the kind of book a reader doesn’t want to see end but can’t help devouring as quickly as possible.

Summary: Attorney Sophie Bellamy has made a difference while climbing to the top of her profession — but she’s also sacrificed her marriage and her relationships with her children, Max and Daisy.A brush with death makes Sophie determined to change what she can — which means moving to Avalon, making an effort to get along with her ex-husband and his new wife and mending fences with Max and Daisy. Avalon does have its compensations, including an attractive veterinarian, Noah Shepherd. Sophie’s not looking for romance, but that’s just what she finds — and much, much more. (MIRA, Feb., 432 pp., $7.99)

—Catherine Witmer

[This reviewer “gets” me and she always has. Makes me proud to have a new book out. Catherine, if we ever meet, I will buy you a kir royale!]

Oh, yay, an excerpt! You can read the first few pages of Snowfall at Willow Lake here.  


Field’s End Writers’ Conference 2008Photo by s.j. luke, onsetimagery

WHO: This year’s line-up of authors and speakers includes: Roy Blount, Jr. (keynote speaker), Stephanie Kallos (opening speaker), Knute Berger, Alice Acheson, Lyall Bush, Laura Kalpakian, Thomas Kohnstamm, Rosina Lippi aka Sara Donati, Jennifer Louden, Nancy Pagh, George Shannon, Charley Pavlosky, Sheila Rabe aka Sheila Roberts, Suzanne Selfors, David Wagoner, and Timothy Egan (closing speaker). Professional actor Ron Milton will be on hand for the Page One sessions.

WHAT: Third annual Field’s End Writers’ Conference, “Writing in the Garden of the Gods.”

WHEN: Saturday, April 26, 2008
9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE: Kiana Lodge
14976 Sandy Hook Rd. NE
Poulsbo, WA 98370

DETAILS: This one-day conference, held at the spectacularly beautiful Kiana Lodge near Bainbridge Island, is a combination of lectures and breakout sessions presented by an eclectic group of people in the literary world.

The day offers three groupings of breakout sessions. Guests will select three workshops to attend according to their interest (literary fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screen writing, dialogue, genre, travel writing, editing, journalism, historical fiction, and commercial fiction). Each breakout session will also offer a Page One workshop, where conference guests can anonymously submit the first page of something they’ve written for possible live reading and critique by the guest authors.

Lunch is provided and there will be an early evening wine and cheese reception and book signing providing conference guests, authors, and speakers a chance to mingle. Shuttle buses will be available to carry walk-on ferry passengers to and from Kiana Lodge.

Registration begins February 1, 2008. Early registration is recommended as the conference is limited to 250 guests and has sold out in the past. Cost to attend is $135 if you register before February 28, 2008 and $150 after March 1, 2008. Groups of 5 or more can register for $130/person. To register for the 2008 Field’s End Writers’ Conference, visit

Founded in 2002, Field’s End is a writers’ community whose mission is to inspire writers and nurture the written word through lectures, workshops, and instruction in the art and craft of writing. Located across the Puget Sound from Seattle on beautiful Bainbridge Island, Field’s End is an affiliate of the nonprofit Bainbridge Public Library, which is located at 1270 Madison Avenue on Bainbridge Island. For more information, call (206) 842-4162 or visit


Kirsten Graham
Concept 2 Launch
(206) 890-3435

kirsten graham
c o n c e p t 2 l a u n c h, LLC
creative consultants

my beach in the snowFarewell to beloved poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue. This loss feels so big and so sad, yet his spirit shines from the pages he left behind. He was just 53 when he died unexpectedly–peacefully, in his sleep–while in France. He lived in Connemara in the west of Ireland, he spoke Irish and wrote with clarity, from the heart. Here’s the Irish Times obit, and a nice tribute on God Is Not Elsewhere. Further info can be found on his web site. I wonder if, in writing this poem, he knew it would bring comfort to those he left behind. Slainte!

On the death of the Beloved

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or might or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

— John O’Donohue


NoveList logoNoveList logoNoveList is a service you can find at your local library. It’s a reading recommendation database most libraries subscribe to. You can enter the name of an author you like, and NoveList will recommend similar authors. It’s called a “Read-alike” page. You can access it from your library’s web site. Here’s the entry for yrs truly. I really like Lynne Welch’s insightful analysis. Thank you, Lynne, wherever you are!  NoveList logo

Susan Wiggs
by Lynne Welch

Genre: Contemporary Romances
Historical Romances
Women’s Lives and Relationships

Susan Wiggs tackles the tough issues, and she has the awards to prove it. Wiggs, winner of both the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award and the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, lives on an island in Puget Sound (Washington) settled by hardy immigrants who lived close to the land and appreciated its value, and many of her stories reflect that nature-centric culture in some way. Her special focus is a woman’s journey to self-awareness, usually within the context of a romance or at the very least, with a romantic subplot. Poignant and tender, her stories focus more on the sexual tension between characters than on its explicit physical resolution, and she describes any personality quirks sympathetically, inviting the reader to join her in gently laughing at the characters’ foibles and follies.

Her protagonists are invariably intelligent, socially awkward, emotionally vulnerable women with a strong core, self-reliant to a fault because they have never been able to depend on anyone else for their security, whether financial, physical, or emotional. By contrast, their male foils — and often nemeses, at least in the beginning — may be bad boys or pillars of the community, but all have generally grown up to be strong, self-confident men who enjoy the women in their lives even while they expect them to fall in line with their plans and their timetables. Wiggs employs character to good effect in building high-stakes conflict within the confines of these relationship dramas. Her readers care deeply about her characters, and Wiggs takes both readers and characters on an emotional roller-coaster ride as the novel develops. Although the storyline centers on the woman’s journey to growth and personal fulfillment, Wiggs enriches the experience by chronicling the perspectives of other male and female characters during pivotal scenes as well.

Setting varies across time and place as well as genre, but is generally limited to the United States in her more recent work. Her Contemporary Romance Lakeshore Chronicles series is set in a fictional small town of the New York Catskills region, while the Historical Romances which form the Calhoun Chronicles and the Chicago Fire series are set in pre-Civil War Virginia and late nineteenth-century Chicago, respectively. Others, such as her contemporary fiction stand-alone title The Ocean Between Us, are focused on Women’s Lives and Relationships and set in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever the location, setting plays an important role and is evocatively described in lush, vivid terminology, creating a world of color, sensation, smell and taste for the reader’s enjoyment.

Pacing is leisurely, as befits these explorations of self-awareness by the protagonists. In many cases, the issue they face is one of having been carried along unresisting on a tide of family and career obligations for too long without stopping to draw breath, and now they are faced with a turning point which offers them a choice. Then the conflict arises because they are not in the habit of examining their own motivations and expectations: Wiggs’s heroines are caught without a plan and must pause to re-group. Description of the interior landscape while the characters mentally thrash out their dilemmas is vivid as well, adding depth and extra dimension to these tales.

The Lakeshore Chronicles, starting with Summer at Willow Lake, are a good introduction to Wiggs’s work for any reader. Avalon, NY, is a former resort for the rich, and the Bellamy family’s long-vacant summer home is now being readied for a Golden Anniversary party. During the course of renovations, daughter Olivia and former bad boy Connor, now the contractor in charge of the project, meet again for the first time in years and, of course, immediately clash. This series has several older heroines struggling with their place in the world to interest readers who enjoy relationship dramas centered around Women’s Lives and Relationships, and the skillful melding of past and present may also intrigue readers of both Contemporary and Historical Romances.


Debbie Macomber is another author who writes Contemporary Romances and relationship dramas focused on women’s issues, with a very strong appreciation for the world around her as one of life’s blessings. Her long-running, immensely popular Cedar Cove Contemporary Romance series is set in a fictional small coastal town in Washington State, and each title in the series builds on previous installments but focuses on the lives and loves of mature residents. Start with 16 Lighthouse Road to read them in order. Readers who prefer more emphasis on Women’s Lives and Relationships may want to consider her Blosssom Street series, starting with The Shop on Blossom Street, in which Lydia Hoffman opens her yarn shop in Seattle and starts by teaching a class on How To Knit A Baby Blanket to three women.

Sherryl Woods writes stories of Women’s Lives and Relationships as well as Contemporary Romances centered on family life. She has a gift for capturing the ambiance of Southern living through her multi-faceted characters and her multi-dimensional storylines, all couched in a leisurely, evocative narration deeply appreciative of the loveliness afforded by the culture and landscape of the South. Suggest the Sweet Magnolias series for a heart-warming peek at the lives of three friends, all of whom have grown up together in the same small South Carolina town and now, as they approach 40, are blindsided by changes which will affect not only their own but their families’ and friends’ lives as well. In Stealing Home, the first in the trilogy, Maddie Townsend discovers that her husband has been cheating on her for years, and she’s the last to know. But kicking him out results in her children exhibiting behavioral problems, and when her oldest son starts skipping baseball practice and failing his classes, she finds herself turning to his coach for more than one reason.

Award winning author Deborah Smith is another author who writes Southern-set romantic novels of Women’s Lives and Relationships, but her stories focus on the proud people of Appalachia, their history-rich culture, and the mountains shaping their characters. Both Sweet Hush and The Crossroads Cafe would make good suggestions for fans of Wiggs. In the humorous, easygoing story of Sweet Hush, Hush McGillan lost her husband a long time ago, and now with her children grown she is ready for a second love. By contrast, the emotionally riveting Crossroads Cafe introduces Cathryn and Thomas, both grieving recent losses. Cathryn’s cousin Delta, along with various other supporting characters, uses tactics ranging from the pathetic (requiring their support), to the strident (annoying them into making an effort) to prod them into living and loving again.

JoAnn Ross is well known for her Romantic Suspense, but she also writes emotional tales of Women’s Lives and Relationships. Homeplace and its sequel, Far Harbor, are set in the picturesque, unspoiled small town of Coldwater Cove, Washington. Sheriff Jack O’Halloran and corporate attorney Raine Cantrell tangle for the first time over the fate of her grandmother Ida’s three foster children when Ida ends up in the hospital with dizzy spells. Together with her free-spirited New Age mother Lilith and half-sister Savannah Townsend, Raine must propitiate the judge and welfare worker, while riding herd on three teenagers not predisposed to trust any adult, and dealing with Jack’s unsubtle attempts to involve her in a relationship. A romantic subplot featuring Lilith and Cooper Ryan, the forester who arrests her for indecent exposure when she and her coven celebrate Beltane by dancing around a fire in an old-forest area of the Olympic National Park, adds another layer of complexity to the storyline.

Jerri Corgiat‘s O’Malley sisters series provide another good match for readers who enjoy the women’s emotional journeys in which Wiggs specializes. From the first pages of Sing Me Home, when Corgiat introduces the entertaining, exasperating antics of the O’Malley family and the small town laid-back atmosphere of Cordelia, nestled in the picturesque Missouri Ozarks, the reader is steeped in the mystique of the country-rock music scene, contrasted with the down home practicality of a family trying hard just to make ends meet. Jonathan Van Castle is used to being recognized, admired, and pursued, and it’s a real let-down when Lily isn’t at all impressed. But between his estranged children and her meddling family — not to mention his best friend Zeke, the bass player in his band — he soon realizes that Lily has what he wants most: true love, a home, and a family. Lily, on the other hand, is not yet ready to re-enter life, preferring to sequester herself in her late husband’s bookstore in an attempt to carry on his dream, and this story details her journey to self-awareness and a new level of maturity.

Lynne Welch is an Ohio librarian specializing in Readers’ Advisory and Electronic Reference Services.

January 2009 Indie Next List
Beat the Reaper: A Novel by Josh Bazell
Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County: A Novel by Tiffany Baker
Two Rivers: A Novel by T. Greenwood
Still Alice: A Novel by Lisa Genova
The Book of Unholy Mischief: A Novel by Elle Newmark
A Day and a Night and a Day: A Novel by Glen Duncan
Bone by Bone by Carol O’Connell
Shelter Me by Juliette Fay
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Couch by Benjamin Parzybok
Never Tell a Lie: A Novel of Suspense by Hallie Ephron
The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Y.K. Lee
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
Miles From Nowhere by Nami Mun
Going to See the Elephant: A Novel by Rodes Fishburne
Lucky Billy: A Novel About Billy the Kid by John Vernon
Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love by Julie Moir Messervy

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January 2008