Stephanie Wells Mason

Romance Author

Archive of ‘Books/Reading’ category

Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek at Between Fire and Flame

between fire and flame cover-page-001If you enjoyed On the Way Home keep reading for a sneak peek at my new novel

Between Fire and Flame.  Find out what happens with Brad and London, May 2015.

 

 

Chapter 1

July 2004

Traffic in the park was not unusually heavy. It was always crowded in July as tourists flocked to northwest Montana to take in the incredible beauty of Glacier National Park, but that didn’t stop Brad from feeling annoyed.  He was hot, tired, as hungry as one of the bears he’d passed on the trail that day, and anxious for a shower.  The hike he’d chosen for the day was one he hadn’t done since he was a boy.  He remembered it was difficult and his dad had pushed him to the summit with words of encouragement and praise.  Time hadn’t changed the layout, and he found it was just as difficult today, only there was no one urging him onward, just his owndesire to push himself harder, faster, and longer until his physical exhaustion overtook all other feelings.  He’d beat out most of the crowds by getting an early start, but the Going-to-the-Sun Road was now littered with cars and people slowly inching their way along the narrow winding road that would lead them back to their campsites.

He noted as he passed that no one was alone.  There were the famous red touring cars full of passengers stopped along the turn-outs so that those inside could capture the breathtaking views with their cameras.  There were couples posing for pictures, the numerous waterfalls their background, parents with children, groups of motorcyclists, families, friends, old, young; and not one of them alone.  Not like him.

A part of him—the part he tried to listen to most often—liked being alone.  There was nothing quite like hiking through wildflowers and waterfalls with no one to disturb the sights and sounds.  Alone was peaceful.  Alone was a time for reflection. Then there was that other part of him that he couldn’t seem to push aside completely.  The part that reminded him all too often that being alone was lonely.

Only last year he had driven this road with London and her kids.  He hadn’t minded listening to the incessant banter between Corkie and Marty.  He’d enjoyed joking and laughing with them.  Seeing the wildlife had been all that much more exciting when there had been someone there with whom to share it.  They’d never been able to hike as far as he could alone, but he never regretted it.  He’d seen more through Corkie’s six year old eyes in one afternoon than he’d seen in years of hiking on his own; every rock was unique, every cloud was a cartoon character, every waterfall made a rainbow.

Stop!  He told himself.  Those were exactly the kinds of thoughts he was trying to clear his mind of when he’d pushed himself to the summit earlier.  She was another man’s wife for cryin’ out loud.  He had no right to keep thinking about the past.  It was time to move on.

He was happy for her.  Really he was.  She practically glowed since the wedding.  And it’s not like he could fault Ammon.  It wasn’t his fault things hadn’t worked out between them.  Brad could admit Ammon was a pretty decent guy.  He treated London well, loved the kids, and provided well for them.

It still irked him that religion seemed to have pushed a big wedge into the friendship he’d once shared with London.  It was fine if she wanted to go join some strange church and drag her kids into it, but he’d be hanged if she was going to push him into it.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t Christian, but ever since she’d returned from New York last fall she couldn’t stop talking about God and Jesus Christ like they’d personally come down from heaven and changed her life.  Yeah, like that could really happen.  And wasn’t it convenient that Ammon belonged to her new church.

London had asked him to come to her and Marty’s baptism, but he hadn’t gone.  He’d used work as an excuse.  In truth, he was somewhat curious about it, but not enough to give up his hurt feelings over the whole situation.  When she had first told him about her trip, about reading that book, and about meeting Ammon, he was angry.  More than that, he was downright red with rage.  He felt betrayed and the hurt was deep.  After all, he had helped her out by doing her paper route while she was away, he’d kept up her yard and took care of things, all with the hope that the time away would help her see that they should be together.  Instead, she found someone else, became someone else.

It took some time, but he realized she hadn’t really changed, at least not in a bad way.  She was happier.  She was more confident.  She was more independent.  And all of that translated into her needing him less.  Ouch!  It wasn’t easy to admit that his ego had been bruised.  Once he did admit it, however, he realized he had changed.  He’d quit being her friend.  He hadn’t helped her nearly as much as he should have when she was trying to move to her new house.  Ammon had still been in New York, coming to visit once a month and here she was, trying to go to school, work part time, take care of two busy kids, and keep a long distance relationship going.  It took a few months for the pain to dull, but finally he’d swallowed his pride and tried to be the friend he had once been.

It wouldn’t be so bad even now, he thought, if it weren’t for the fact that every time he watched her with her new husband and their seemingly perfect life, it was a stark reminder that he was still alone.

Brad exited the park gates and headed towards the small town of West Glacier. The cell phone he kept tucked in his pocket started vibrating followed by the muffled singing of Bruce Springsteen.  Pulling into a parking lot, he flipped it open, “Hello?”

“Hi, Brad,” Corkie said enthusiastically.

“Hey there Buddy.  What’s up?”

“You’re still coming aren’t you?” the seven-year old asked.  “Mom wanted me to call and remind you in case you forgot.”

“Um…” Brad hesitated.  He had forgotten.  On purpose?  Maybe.

“I’ve been calling all day,” Corkie continued, “And I’ve left you lots of messages.  How come you never called back?”

“Sorry, I’ve been up hiking all day and there’s no cell phone service on the mountain.  I’m just heading back to town now,” Brad informed him.

“Good, then you can still come.  Dad’s making homemade ice cream.”

It stabbed at his heart to hear Corkie calling Ammon “Dad,” a title he wished belonged to him.  “Corkie, I’m kind of tired—“

“You have to come!”  Corkie insisted, “You promised!”

How many times had those words come back to haunt him lately?  He was going to have to be more careful about making promises.  Keeping them was turning his hair gray.

“Why don’t you put your mom on, let me talk to her a minute.”  It would be easier to offer his excuses to London than to this little boy to whom he couldn’t seem to refuse anything.

“Okay, but you’re coming!”  Corkie insisted before Brad could say another word.  He heard Corkie shouting for London and laughed at the commotion in his ear just as London came on the line.

She started right in where Corkie left off, “Brad, you have to come.  You haven’t been over all summer.  I feel like I’ve hardly seen you since the wedding, and besides, it’s the Fourth of July.  If I didn’t know better I’d think you were avoiding me?”  She raised her voice just enough to make it a question.

“I’m not—it’s just that I’ve been hiking all day, and—”

“No excuses this time!” she said emphatically.  He sighed on the other end, so she tried another tactic, “Please, Brad.  We really want you to come.  It would mean a lot to me.”

He could already see it in his mind, just how the evening would be.  He’d wrestle with Corkie for a while, spend a few minutes teasing Marty.  Ammon would probably be manning the grill and he’d have to talk business or horses with him, pretend he didn’t envy everything the guy had.  He’d watch London preparing the table, getting after the kids, sending glances towards her new husband.  They’d all sit down to pray and eat, all the while him feeling like a fifth wheel.  Added to the fact that he was tired, both physically and mentally, he just didn’t think he could do it.

“London,” he started to offer his excuses.

“Please?”

How was a guy to hold out when the woman he loved was begging him?

“What time?” There was obvious defeat in his voice.

“Seven,” she said triumphantly.  The phone disconnected before he could change his mind.

 

 

Author Interview with Sarah Dunster

Mile 21I recently had the privilege of reading Sarah Dunster’s newest novel, Mile 21.  It’s a novel about a young woman trying to pick up the pieces of her life after the death of her spouse.  The main character, Abish Miller has to figure out if there is life after death.  And if there is, is there any happiness after death?   In this rich and beautifully written story, life deals the 21 year old BYU-I nursing student a lot of tough cards. When things get just too much to handle, she takes to the road, running. But there are some things you just can’t outrun.  It made me laugh.  It made me cry.  It made me want to keep reading when I should have been working.

Sarah’s first book, Lightning Tree, was released in April 2012.  It’s the story of a young girl struggling to find her place among her foster family  Lightning Treein a Mormon pioneer town on the edge of religious and civil conflict.  At the tender age of 15 she has left behind her country, her parents, and her brother with only her young sister and herself to care for. What Maggie comes to realize is that “family” exists all around her in the form of caring people who are all willing to help her grow into the person God would have her be, if only she will let them.

With two successful novels under her belt–and a recent Whitney Finalist for 2013–I thought it would be interesting to find out more about this author.  I asked Sarah a few questions.  Here’s what she had to say.

1. First tell us about yourself.  Where are you from?  Where did you go to school?  What did you study?  What spurned your interest in writing?

 

I am from a small town in Northern California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I’m an eight-generation resident to the area. My ancestors settled there in the mid 1800’s. Some of them were gold miners.

 

I went to school at Nevada Union High school! My favorite subject was choir. I had the opportunity to tour Italy with the choir my Junior year–one of the most memorable experiences of my life so far. I always wanted to go to BYU for college, from the time I knew what it was. I did not get very good grades in high school and so it took a year of community college and a year at Ricks (back when it was RIcks) to get me there. I started out as a music major–I wanted to be a choir teacher, but when I discovered I did not have the classical training I needed to keep up with the program, I switched to Psychology and made music my minor. And now I”m a writer! I think my education has really helped me with writing, however. And my last year of college, I took several classes just for fun–two of them were writing classes.  I have always been a writer, however.

 

  2. Your first novel, The Lightning Tree, is historical in nature, about some of the early pioneers in the church.  Was this story inspired by your own family history?

 

The event in the story, that sort of promulgates the whole mystery that leads my main character to search and worry about her past, was directly lifted from my own family history.

 

  3. Your newest novel, Mile 21, is a contemporary drama. Why the change?  With two very different novels, which do you prefer, the history or something more modern?

 

I have always been an eclectic reader. I love everything from classics to silly, 60’s era (clean) harlequin romances. I just love stories and characters and the art of storytelling in every form. My favorite genres are Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary Womens’ Fiction, and serial mysteries. I plan on writing in each of these fields at some point. And I don’t know if you know that I also write poetry. I love reading creative nonfiction and nature writing (but haven’t really tried my hand at that too much… I find that a bit more intimidating, for some reason.)

 

  4.  In Mile 21, Abish Miller must learn to cope with grief.  You do a very good job of describing what it is like.  Have you had to deal with grief in your own life?  How much of Abish is autobiographical?

The character herself is mildly autobiographical. She’s autobiographical in the sense of, “if I ever did go completely off the deep end in a spiral of self-destruction, what might it look like?” I think most main characters have a bit of autobiography to them. The part that is most “real” about Abish is feelings. I have experienced difficulty and tragedy in my own life, so I was able to write what it feels like to have that sort of upset and coping and grieving in the wake of a life-changing, difficult series of events.

 

5. I really enjoyed the first person present that is the writing style for Mile 21.  You don’t find this in very many novels.  Would you say it was easier or more difficult than writing in the traditional third person?  What made you decide to use it?

 

It is very difficult! First person present is, I think, the most limited viewpoint as far as what a reader can see–because you can only think or see what your main character would think or see. But I also feel it is the most intimate viewpoint; you get fully immersed in the character; their psyche, their story. You get very close to them.

 

6.  Mile 21 was recently nominated and selected as a finalist for a Whitney Award.  With this kind of success, can you share what we may expect next from you?

 

I’m not sure about “success,” but I am very grateful people have liked the book. That is the reason why I write. I like to give people a story that moves them, and that helps them escape or develop a viewpoint or a new perspective.  I just submitted another historical manuscript to my publisher, and I am currently working on two–another contemporary LDS story, and a fantasy novel.

Thanks so much Sarah!  I wish you the best of luck and look forward to your next book!

Great Reading at a Great Price

breathtaking Correct copyBreathtaking: Seven Bestselling Novels of Love and Suspense.  Boxed set is only $.99 March 24th through March 29th.  I’ve posted below a synopsis of each so you can read what’s included in this incredible deal! Click here to order from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Breathtaking-Boxed-Bestselling-Novels-Suspense-ebook/dp/B00IOQ4U4E/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1393560863&sr=1-2&keywords=breathtaking

 

 

 

 

imagesDeliah Dreser’s in town to take care of family business. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but there’s more to Lilah than meets the eye. Cole’s in danger of losing his heart when this firestorm throws sparks his way. Is she simply playing him for the fool in order to exact revenge for her brother’s murders? Bestselling author Sherry Gammon’s reviewers exclaim; “She has a gift for touching her readers with beautiful, gripping stories that you can’t put down.

 

 

 

ChristyBarritt_HomeBeforeDarkNothing good ever happens after dark. Those were the words country singer Daleigh McDermott’s father always repeated. Now her father is dead, and Daleigh finds a hidden journal hinting that his death was no accident. Small town mechanic Ryan Shields is the only one who seems to believe Daleigh. As the two work to unravel the mystery, it becomes obvious that someone wants them dead. They must rely on each other—and on God—if they hope to make it home before the darkness swallows them whole. Award-Winning Suspense Novelist and Bestselling Amazon Author, touted as “scary, funny, passionate, and quirky” by USA Today.

 

 

 

baggage claimRachel Saunders is looking forward to her all-expense paid weekend trip to New York. But, when her luggage is lost and she is accosted by an infuriating Homeland Security agent, events take a dangerous turn. Amanda Tru, Bestselling Amazon Author of Romance and Suspense. Discover the author who, as an Amazon reviewer raves, “continues to impress me and dominate my time with a book I can’t put down even after it’s ended.”

 

 

 

 

s Cowboy Crave - Front Cover (for Amazon and Smashwords)In a moment of weakness, Shane steals a kiss. In return, Cassie steals his heart…hen Cassie is forced to join the witness protection program, she fears her life is over… but then she meets Shane Emerson — the hunky cowboy posing as her husband. Will this sham marriage turn into the real thing, or will a hidden danger put it all at risk? Kimberly Krey writes romance that’s clean without losing the steam. What’s Beyond Forks calls this Best-selling Western Romance author “the master of romantic tension.”

 

 

 

 

images2Cami DiCarlo is not happy when her father forces her into heading up guest services at his newest five-star hotel and unveils the existence of four half-sisters at the same time, insisting they live together while they launch the new resort. When she meets Vince, the sweet, sexy landscaper her father would never have approved of, Cami can’t say no. If only she could be sure she is on the right track—and that they will be able to stop the person who is trying to destroy everything.

 

 

 

YBWM_667x1000Layla Kendall is a burned out social worker one step away from a major depression. When she and her sisters inherit their grandmother’s bakery, she doesn’t know if she can trust her good fortune or not. But the chance to be with her sisters and get away from the heartache and pain she’s faced day in and day out is a chance she’s going to take. With Layla’s new life, come new friendships, including Michael Bender, a single dad. She doesn’t trust men but Michael’s little girl grabs her by the heart and won’t let go. Shannon Guymon is an Amazon Bestselling Author of lighthearted and clean romance who according to her many fans, has the ability to paint pictures of her characters so real that readers would know them if they saw them walking down the street.

 

 

 

Cover 4 brighter copyDevastated by the loss of her brother, Natasha Senecot exposes the dangers of Matthew Chrysler’s violent video games, bankrupting and humiliating him. Chrysler sends a hit man after her. In a race against time, can Natasha expose Chrysler before his assassin murders her family and shatters her world? Bestselling author Cami Checketts has been touted as, “A genius! She writes about topics that aren’t widely discussed, and she does such a brilliant job of crafting these things into wonderful stories that touch your heart and remain with you for days afterwards.”

 

Literacy Awareness and Montana State Speech Tournament

Mallorie (far left) with fellow classmates at the 2014 MHSA State Tournament

Mallorie (far left) with fellow classmates at the 2014 MHSA State Tournament

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending the day at the Montana AA High school State Speech and Debate Tournament both as a judge and a parent.  It was rewarding to watch the diverse collection of students compete in various venues from serious and humorous interpretations of literature to extemporaneous speaking about current events.  My daughter, a Junior, competed for the second year in a row in memorized public address.  This venue requires students to memorize a speech given by someone else in a public forum.  Their speech must include some kind of background regarding the date and place of the original speech as well as an analysis of the significance of the speech.  Students (with some help from their coaches) choose from a wide range of topics–it can be anything from Abe Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address to Steve Jobs and Ted Talks.

My daughter took her speech from an address given by Alice Ozma at the 2011 American Library Association.  Ozma is a young author of The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Read.  You can watch her impassioned speech here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJMCuEhA4_s.  It’s a wonderful speech about the importance of literature and reading in our lives.  She discusses how books connect us and that sharing books is not just about the book itself, it’s about the relationships we develop as we share books.

I listened to my daughter deliver this speech with finesse and poise.  It was beautiful. She has used this speech for the entire season–October through January–with varying degrees of success depending on the city in which they were competing.  Sometimes she would place as high as sixth overall and other times she wouldn’t even make it to the semi-final round.  When being judged by amateurs who are just community volunteers, I think who wins has a lot more to do with the values of the community and less to do with the way the speech is delivered. Yesterday I watched the faces of the judges as she spoke in the final round of competition nod in agreement at the words she delivered.  I saw them return her smile as she stood before them and asked them to make the reading promise.  With her sweet, compelling voice she had the room captivated.  It seemed we were all under a spell.

Later that night she stood among the other eight contestants on the high school stage waiting for the results to be called.  I was sure she would win.  She had gone into the semi-final round having won the previous five rounds.  By the time the students get to the finals round, the competition is incredibly stiff.  These students are all polished.  They know how to speak, and speak well.  They aren’t fidgeting or mumbling.  They are the best eight students in the state.  So how are they judged?  How do three random judges decide who is best?  I think it has to come down to the speech’s content.  Will it be choosing your future from the woman who swam across the ocean from Cuba to Florida?  How about protecting our children by John Walsh, or stricter gun control by the father of a boy killed in the Sandy Hook elementary shooting–both speeches addressed to Congress.  Or will it be Malala and her address to the United Nations?    Just where does a call for increased literacy fall among important topics in today’s world?

I listened as the first name was read–eighth place–and my heart sank…Mallorie Mason from Flathead High School.  I was so proud and disappointed at the same time.  I knew what she had accomplished.  I had heard it, felt it.  But this wasn’t just about her. It was about what she had said.  Apparently,  gun restriction is of greater importance than building relationships through books–the winning speech delivered by the father of Jessie Lewis from Sandy Hook Elementary to Congress.  Didn’t they hear?  She told them in her speech that 65% of prison inmates can’t read.  Maybe if we were reading to our kids more, less of them would be prone to go out and shoot people.  Maybe if we developed a relationship with our kids that included a love of history, fantasy, and science fiction we wouldn’t need to talk to Congress about guns.

Perhaps I’m biased, but I still feel hers was the winning speech.  I’m thankful to people like Alice Ozma for her uplifting and compelling words, encouraging everyone to stand up for reading.  And I’m thankful for my daughter who stood up before her classmates and the community to echo the same thoughts.  I know it was much more than a speech to her.  It is part of her core belief.  I’m thankful for the time she and I have spent reading books together–some of which have become our own inside jokes, a language that only she and I speak.  It is my hope, that you will be able to do the same with the ones you love.  So get off the computer, make Ozma’s “Reading Promise,”  and go read a good book!

I’ve included my daughter’s speech–Alice’s speech– below for those interested and so that you can make that promise.  Your kids will thank you!

Alice Ozma ALA Speech 2011

In January of 2011, Alice Ozma addressed the American Library Association.  This twenty-two year old author of the best-selling book The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Read, shared an impassioned speech about the importance of reading.  The world we live in, she argued before hundreds of the country’s librarians,with our computers, our tablets, iPads, smartphones, and our busy lives, has devalued the significance of reading.  To change that, she concludes, families need to work together to share a love of literacy.

Illiteracy has long been a problem throughout the industrialized world.  It’s a trend we don’t hear a lot about, but as more and more emphasis is placed on technology, it’s a problem that is not soon to be resolved.  Experts estimate that as of April 28th, 2013, there were 774 million people worldwide who could not read, 32 million of whom live in the United States.  Furthermore, statistics show that 63% of prison inmates are illiterate.

This poses the question: how many could have avoided the path of crime that led to their confinement if they had been taught to embrace a love of reading?

Too many children are missing out on not only the wonderful stories and historical significance of books, but, as Alice shares in her address, they are also losing the connection and relationships built through reading.  Emilie Buchwald once said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”  We cannot underestimate the vital need for reading and its impact on future generations.  Alice shares with the ALA the reason for her love of reading.  She then challenges them, and all of us, to commit ourselves to reading.  As we accept her challenge, we become advocates for literacy and will improve the world one page, one book, one child at a time.   

Before I begin, I want to let you know that this is my absolute first appearance to do with a book so I’m really excited.  I’m not going to try to be professional or cool because I am twenty-two and there’s really no need for that, so let’s be honest, when I found out I was coming here, I screamed and jumped up and down for forty minutes. 

In a room full of strangers, we all have so much in common.  We’re all readers to the highest degree.  Bookworms, eggheads, whatever terms we use, I take great comfort in that.  I feel as though I am among old friends.  In fact, we probably have quite a few mutual friends.  Aren’t we all rather close to Pip and Huck and Ramona?  We may not have anything else in common but the moment I say those names, we all suddenly feel at ease.  We conjure up similar images.  We smile a little to ourselves.  Books can be such insular experiences, and yet they connect us.  They forge bonds among strangers. If you have read the same book as someone, you both have, however briefly, lived in the same world, breathed the same air, watched the same sunsets. 

My book, The Reading Promise, is about this sort of a bond.  When my father and I began what we call the streak, I was only nine years old and we made it our goal to read every night for 100 days.  What we never realized is how hard it would be to stop.  3218 nights later, we had read for almost nine years, never missing a night.

In this day and age, this sort of bond is so vital.  Twitter and Facebook, although good for some purposes, tend to give us a meaningless stream of facts about people we love.  But these facts are hollow.  Reading together is raw, perhaps even brave.  Emoting sincerely and honestly together no matter what the cause seems infinitely more valuable to me than bombarding each other with status updates and whatever information you can fit into 140 characters.  Even fiction is more sincere.

It seems a little dubious, the role computers play in our everyday lives. I want to be clear that I think technology serves many wonderful purposes, but there are some things computers simply cannot replace.  Those of you that aren’t aware, I will tell you that my father, a former children’s librarian, who devoted forty years of his life to forging a bond between children and literature, ultimately lost his job because of computers.  His passion for reading aloud was painfully beaten out of him as his school district decided that computers, not books, should be the focus of a library class.  His reading time with each class was limited to five minutes per period and then cut all together.  In the last weeks before his forced retirement my father huddled his children in a corner of the library, turned off all the lights, and read to them in a whisper.  He was caught and reprimanded.  This all took place, my dad said, in a school with 90 percent poverty rate that has not passed a state reading test in years.

It is wonderful to be in a room full of people who are fighting this kind of darkness; committed torchbearers in a dark and rather bleak time in the literary world.  I would love to know how many American children are missing out on copies of Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, and Dracula.  I’m afraid the Pickwick files are becoming an endangered species.  But I don’t mean to be grim.  I hope that in my own small way to be part of the solution, to bring us back to those, whether they’re tattered old editions or e-books on our kindles.  The books we read shape our society.  So what happens to a society that doesn’t read?

People often ask me, if myfather and I called it the reading streak, why is my book called The Reading Promise?  Well, there are two reasons for that, one is that my publisher thought the word “streak” sounded a little too PG-13, and the other, is a bit more difficult to describe.  The reading promise is what my father made to me.  It’s what He made to His students, what I made to Him, and what we made to ourselves.  It’s why I stand here today.  I worked for quite some time on one particular page in my book.  It’s the last one wherein I ask the reader to make a commitment to literature. This page is the most important to me.  I’d like to share it with you now. 

The reading promise:  I, you can fill in your own name here, promise to read.  I promise to read on my own, on print or on a screen, wherever books appear.  I promise to visit fictional worlds and gain new perspectives, to keep an open mind about books even though the cover is unappealing and the author is unfamiliar.  I promise to laugh out loud, especially in public when a chapter amuses me and to sob uncontrollably on my bed for hours at a time when my favorite character dies.  I promise to look up words I don’t know and cities I can’t locate and people I can’t remember.  I promise to lose track of time.  I promise to read with the people I love, if not every night then whenever I can.  I promise to remember that this person is more than my son, daughter, father, mother, aunt, uncle, cousin, or dog walker.  He or she has a mind that like mine loves to be used and challenged.  I promise to appreciate the time we spend together and the literature we read even when I am stressed or tired or sunburned, or an awful combination of the three.  I promise never to give up on reading.  I promise to support reading in my community however I can and anywhere else for that matter.  I promise to spread the word about words whether it’s volunteering at my local library or just recommending good books to friends.  I promise to speak out when reading is cut from the school curriculum and fight for them whenever their value is challenged.  I promise to tell everyone I know how reading calms me down, riles me up, makes me think or helps me get to sleep at night.  I promise to read as long as human thought is still valued and there are words to be shared.  I promise to be there for books because I know they will always be there for me.

An interview with Auburn Seal, author of Roanoke Vanishing

1474866_10202744169350425_1935913923_nWhen Avery Lane sets out to discover what really happened to the 117 settlers at Roanoke for her masters thesis she gets far more than she bargained for.  For years historians have blamed their disappearance on the American Indians, but Avery is determined to prove that their vanishing was part of a treasonous plot perpetrated by the Spaniards.  But what she finds, could cost her her life.  Full of unexpected twists and turns, this exciting novel keeps you on the edge as it jumps back in time and gives you the unfolding story of the 117 settlers that left their homeland for a new beginning as well as the mystery that surrounds their disappearance.  A great read for anyone and everyone!

This past June, I had the privilege of meeting Auburn Seal during my travels.  We had tons of fun eating and talking books over fantastic Mexican fare in Vancouver, Washington.  Not only is Auburn spunky and full of life, but she’s a real go-getter, turning her dreams of becoming an author into reality by launching her first novel, Roanoke Vanishing, just two months ago.

After reading her book I was filled with questions for Auburn.  Here’s what she had to say…

Me: First, tell me a little about yourself; background, family, etc.

Auburn:  I live in Vancouver, Washington with my husband and three kids. My husband and I were married in 1998 and will celebrate our 16th anniversary in just a few months. My kids are 15, 8 and 7. I have a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State in Justice Studies. I worked in juvenile detention out of college and really loved working with the kids. I homeschool my younger kids, which is great and terrible at the same time.

Me: The main character of your novel is headstrong and moves with her instincts.  Would you say she is like you?

Auburn: That’s a good question, Stephanie. I’m definitely determined and focused on mygoals. I tend to act first and think second. I asked some of my friends what they thought and most of them said that yes, I am headstrong and yet also a peacemaker.   So, go figure.

Me: What five words would you use to describe yourself?

Auburn: Fun, silly, headstrong, alluring and passionate.  For five words, I took a poll of my writing group and they came up with a small list.  Some of the folks in my local writing group did a personality test based on the Meyers-Briggs test and some of the words that come from that description of my personality and mine is ENFP. You can see a full description of what that is here:  http://www.personalitypage.com/ENFP.html   In a nutshell, it says that I don’t like doing laundry.

Me: After meeting you, Auburn, I think those words are perfect!    What first got you interested in writing about Roanoke.

Auburn: I first learned about the lost colony in junior high and have always loved history. In2011, after I finished my first National Novel Writing Month, I started thinking about what I wanted to write the next year and I began doing some in-depth research on prevailing theories for what had happened to the colonists. I have experienced a lotof death in my life, friends and family, and so because of that I have a particular fascination with the paranormal. I seem to mix a lot of historical and paranormal. But also, adventure and mystery. I sort of broke a bunch of rules writing Roanoke Vanishing. I crossed several genres. Makes it a little difficult to categorize it, but I suppose part of that is the rebel in me coming out.

Me: How long did you research?  What were your sources?

Auburn:I researched on and off throughout the next couple of months and just saved all the info in my Scrivener file. When I actually decided to write Roanoke Vanishing, I justpulled up all the information and started writing. I think my sub-conscious worked onthe story in the background of my life for a year!

Roanoke by Lee Miller was one of the main sources that I used for factual information as well as actual writings from John White. The internet makes it very easy to find primary sources for research. And I prefer primary to secondary whenever I can get them. (Maybe you can overlook the nerd in me that just said that out loud!)

Me: You’re obviously a fan of historical fiction.  What time periods interest you most and why?

Auburn: I LOVE historical fiction. Little House on the Prairie was probably my first lasting exposure to the genre and of course I love reading Gerald Lund. I don’t have any favorite time periods, necessarily, because I love all history, but I’m drawn to early American all the way up to the industrial revolution. I think my love of history goes hand in hand with my love of doing genealogy, which I’ve been passionate about sinceI was a teenager. Who knows which came first. The chicken or the egg, you know?

Me: Any sneak peeks at your next novel?

Auburn: I can tell you that things get worse for Avery. She will find out a little more about the Descendants,which helps satisfy her but that comes at a price. It also brings up more questions. Avery’s love life tends to be a mess and it takes some interesting twists and turns. We also meet some new characters in book two who will greatly impact Avery.

Me: Wow, thanks Auburn!  I can’t wait to read it!  Good luck!

You can find out more by visiting Auburn’s website at  http://www.auburnseal.com.

You can purchase Roanoke Vanishing at http://www.amazon.com/Roanoke-Vanishing-Auburn-Seal

 

 

The library card

If this were an addiction recovery meeting, I would stand up and say…I’m Stephanie Mason and I’m addicted to reading.  I don’t just love to read, I need to read.  When I’ve had a stressful day, I look for a good book.  When I’m tired and need a boost, I read about something new.  When life gets too busy and I am rushing from one thing to the next, I don’t crave sleep, or food, or time with people, I crave the solitude and peace that comes from losing myself in the pages of a book.

I grew up in a library.  One of my first memories is my dad constructing a huge wall-size bookshelf for our family room.  He had it laying on the floor, taking up the entire room, and I recall stepping over the shelves like it was a maze.  Those shelves were soon filled with books from romance and thrillers to biographies and atlases.  As I grew, our house continued to fill with shelves and books.  To this day there is a book shelf filled to over flowing in every room in my parents’ house, and I’m happy to say I’ve carried on the tradition in my own home.  I can’t sit down without being surrounded by my books.  Perhaps that’s why I’m not anxious for the digital revolution.  I see the convenience of e-books; the ability to take as many books as you want in the space of a cell phone, but I miss seeing them, browsing through the titles on the spines as I sit in a room, remembering or anticipating my connection with them.

I am so grateful for the love of reading that my parents helped instill in me.  They had/have one philosophy about books:  You can give one away, but you can never throw one away.  I gather books like a kid in a candy store gathers jelly beans–always wanting more.  I have stacks of books in the process of being read, stacks to be read, stacks I’ve already read, stacks to return to their owners, stacks boxed up and stored for the future…I think Dr Seuss could have made something out of that:  One stack, two stack, old stack, new stack.

I work in an elementary school helping kids learn to read.  I love to see their excitement when things finally click and they get excited about a story or book.  I just wish it would happen more often.   One of the books my fifth graders and I have been reading this month is called The Library Card by Jerri Spinelli.  It’s four very different stories with a magical twist about how a library card impacts the lives of four young kids.  Though none of the stories are close to my own experience, I can relate to the life changing aspect of having the world at your fingertips in the form of a library card.  I think I checked out every Amelia Bedelia book there was when I was six before moving on to great works like The Secret Garden and my all time favorite, Mandy.  They’re still some of my best friends.

Some say life is to be lived.  I say life is to be read!