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 White Lies by Susan BarrettWhite Lies by Susan Barrett

Publisher:  Create Space (August 30, 2016)
Category: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction; Contemporary Fiction; Family Saga
Tour Date: April/May, 2017
ISBN: 978-1536806847
Available in: Print & ebook,  164 Pages

White Lies

The story is told from three perspectives: that of Beth, the natural mother of Tess, Liz, the adoptive mother, and Tess herself.  The reader’s sympathy is engaged with each woman in turn, as the intricacies of the plot demonstrate how nature and nurture interplay in the formation of personality.

Beth is a guest at a wedding. The bride is Tess, her natural daughter, who’d been adopted as a baby. During the moments leading up to the marriage ceremony, Beth remembers the lifetime events that have led to her present state of sick fear. Recent revelations have made her suspect that the bridegroom is the first child she’d given up for adoption, and therefore Tess’s half-brother. Will she speak of this impediment to matrimony, as invited by the priest, or forever hold her peace?

White Lies gives the answer in a way that reveals the complexities of truth-telling in the context of parenthood and adoption.  An entertaining page-turner, the novel also traces the social changes in family life over the last fifty years.

Praise for White Lies by Susan Barrett

“A beautifully written study of motherhood, loss and what makes us who we are. The characters are deftly drawn and the writer clearly knows her subject. The narrative is expertly woven and fast-paced, delivering pain and joy blow by blow. Sharp and incisive, heartbreaking and so relevant to today.”-Vanessa de Haan

“A beautifully written, sensitive, yet amusing, and intriguing, tale around a subject that is rarely covered in literature. A delight to read.”- Amazon Customer

“This is a gripping read. It is not only relevant to those who have been involved in adoption but to all of us. It raises questions about families, about the fragility and power of maternal bonds, about love and disappointment. It charts with particular accuracy the difficulties of the tangled web of secrecy and complication that was characteristic of adoption in the mid-twentieth century. It keeps you guessing to the very end!”-Sally Woods

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the book group I belong to find this.   I was quickly gripped by it, feeling for the central characters, all of them very real. I partly wanted to read slowly to enjoy it, confident there would be a satisfying, un-folding, but partly wanted to race to find out what happened. Will enjoy reading it again.”-Amazon Customer

Interview With Susan Barrett

How much time and effort went into your research for the book?

I’m not one of those writers who spend a great deal of time and effort on research.  I don’t write the sort of books that need to be firmly rooted in a historical period or a particular environment, outside and beyond the author’s immediate knowledge and experience.  My material comes from my own lifetime’s experiences.  That doesn’t mean my writing is autobiographical.  Rather, what I’ve learnt, where I’ve been, who I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had – all raw material goes into the pot, gets cooked and forgotten, only to emerge, maybe years later, transformed to suit the fiction.

 White Lies, in particular, is drawn from the first-hand experience of being an adoptive parent.  My interest has always been in the interplay of nature and nurture in the development of personality. Also, I wanted to show the different perspectives of the triad, those of the natural and adoptive mothers and the adoptee.  Another aspect I wanted to describe was the different attitudes to adoption, and the circumstances which lead to it, over the last fifty years. 

What are you currently working on?

Before Christmas I began a new novel which I call “Greek Gold”.   So far I have written the first three chapters, about 11,000 words of what is likely to be an 80,000 word novel.  The previous novels I have written have all been around this length.  The plot of “Greek Gold” is fairly well outlined in my mind but I know it will develop and change as I write.  I find the fiction I write takes shape much in the way a river takes shape from the rivulets that appear at its source before they all come together in the main body of water.  Unfortunately, the flow of this present novel had to stop in February with a visit to our son in New Zealand, followed by an emergency admission to hospital for me.  Now I’ll be getting back to it, and I’m looking forward to that, in an apprehensive sort of way.  Will the streams have dried up in the interim?

 What is your favourite scene in the book?  Why?

Using my memory as a prompt, I might have chosen a scene when Tess, now adult, remembers gathering greens with a local friend on the Greek island where she lived as a child with her adoptive parents.  I like to recapture snippets from our own past to fictionalise as they need to be for the novel.  However, riffling through the book, I came upon a more substantial scene, conjured entirely from my imagination.  In this, Tess, the adopted daughter of Liz, meets her natural mother Beth in a café in London.  This was a challenge to write.  It’s hard to imagine what it must feel like to be adopted, as Tess was, or to have to give your baby up for adoption, as Beth had to.  

I’d written the first section of the book from the point of view of Beth, so I felt I knew her well.  Tess was more difficult.  The scene lies near the beginning of her section, which is the final one.  Still, she’d begun to gather substance in Liz’s section, and she was ready for the page.  Now, looking back at the novel, I consider the three characters are drawn vividly and credibly enough to convince a reader of their fictional reality. 

 How do you create names for your characters?

 Usually the names come easily when I conjure up the character.  The factors that I take into account are their age, their background, the context of the time, and their parents.  I ask myself – what would the parents of this character have wanted to call their child?  That raises the question: do people become the sort of people who are called by that name?  Another question to consider is: would this character have changed his name?  A girl called Willow by her alternative life style-leaning parents might want to become much more ordinary as a schoolgirl by calling herself Ann.  Vice versa, too. 

 A writer can convey a great deal about a character through their name and their attitude to it.  The name Clyde comes to me now, as in this example of how a name can inspire an image:

 Clyde is obviously an insurance salesman living in Columbus, Ohio.  His hair is thinning but he can train a handful from low down on the right hand side of his scalp to the left.  In the mirror this does the job.  However, by peering at his reflection, he’s made two deep lines pucker between his eyebrows and the worry of that makes him worry even more.  Yesterday, his boss, back at main office, made a remark about age in Clyde’s hearing.

 Writing this answer, I’m reminded that I don’t always find names easy.  In my present novel, “Greek Gold”, I’ve changed the main character’s name several times, and I’m still not entirely happy with it.   He started as Denys, and then became Steve.  Now he’s Alex.  He’ll stay Alex for the next chapter and he may persuade me that he is an Alex.

 Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from “White Lies”

There’s an actress who appears in television dramas over here, Olivia Colman, who would make a good adult Beth.  She wouldn’t be able to play the teenage Beth, though.   A more widely known American actress who could play the part would be Renee Zellweger. 

 If you could meet 3 people living, dead, or fictional, who would they be?

 Barack Obama, for his gift for speaking and writing.  I read his autobiography as soon as he became president.

Jane Austen, for her quiet modesty, wit, gentle satire, character descriptions, understanding of human nature and her writing style.  Visiting her home in Chawton, you can feel her presence.  I would love to have been a friend of hers, living round the corner.

My last person is Tess of “White Lies”.  In my imagination, she is not a bit like my own daughter (by adoption).  I had to forget Sophie when I thought up Tess.   If I met her, I’d be able to ask her if I got her right.   A strange idea, to ask a fictional character how real I’d made them!

Susan Barrett, March 15th 2017

About Susan Barrett White Lies by Susan Barrett

Born in Plymouth, Devon in 1938, Susan Barrett began writing fiction in the 1960s while living on a Greek island.  Her first novel was published by Michael Joseph in 1969.  Film rights were sold and renewed over several years. She went on to write six more novels which were published with mainstream publishers in hardback and paperback in UK and USA.   A book on Greece’s landscapes, flora and fauna, illustrated in watercolours by her artist husband Peter Barrett, was published by Harrap Columbus in 1986.  They have also produced many children’s books together, published in the US.  In the 1990s she trained in humanistic counselling and gestalt psychotherapy and has practised as a counsellor for the last twenty years.  Her latest two novels and a work of non-fiction are available as ebooks and in paperback editions.

Website http://www.aliveinww2.com
Twitter @SusanBarrett192
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/writersreadersdirect
Google+ https://plus.google.com/107631556274786388597

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Giveaway White Lies by Susan Barrett

This giveaway is for 2 print copies and 6 ebook copies of ‘White Lies’, for a total of 8 winners. Print is open to Canada, UK, and the U.S. only however, ebook is open worldwide. This giveaway ends on June 1, 2017 at midnight pacific time. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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Healing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart HarrisonHealing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison

Publisher:  Create Space (August 16, 2016)
Category: Literary Fiction; Contemporary Fiction; Family Saga
Tour Date: January & February, 2017
ISBN: 978-1530900282
Available in: Print & ebook,  336 Pages

“This is your last chance to do something right, son. Don’t screw it up.”

With these words ringing in his 60-year old ears, Howard Brown, Jr., sets out from Kentfield, California to find his wayward and possibly psychotic sister and return her to their dying father’s bedside. The search leads him to the Brown family’s ancestral home near St. Francisville, Louisiana, where his Southern cousins have apparently conspired with his sister to bilk him out his inherited, potentially oil-rich property. At the same time, he discovers that a long dormant birthmark in his sternum is a portal to the land of the dead. His consciousness is suddenly inundated with terrifying visitations from a rogue’s gallery of twisted ancestors, until he fears that he is just as crazy as his sister and everybody else in their labyrinthine family. Wounded to his core, doped up and strung out, Howard discovers that his salvation is beating loud and clear, within his own weary heart, and that all he has to do is listen.

The Healing of Howard Brown is a capacious and energetic narrative of self-discovery, delivered with an authentic voice that is supple, smart, somber, witty, ironic, self-revealing, self-doubting, and wonderfully lyrical. Themes of family, trust and responsibility to others, the national as well as personal past, and the life of the spirit resound throughout, with a cultural resonance involving class and race, the North and the South, the definition of masculine identity, and, centrally, the nature of mature love in a multitude of relationships-husband-wife, brother-sister, father-son- in the face of a debilitating mental illness that runs like a poison vein through the family tree.

 My Thoughts Healing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison

This novel opens with the patriarch of the family on his death bed.  The family is around him but his daughter just ups and leaves, actually disappears.  As the man dying seems to have taken his last breath, he all of a sudden sits up and tells his son, Howard to go find his sister, Sisi,  Thus begins Howard’s journey of self discovery and family secrets.  

Howard starts out from California and goes to his cousin’s in Louisiana where he had heard Sisi had been. While there, Howard makes many discoveries including that his cousins were conspiring with Sisi to scam Howard out of his inheritance. There are many complex issues at play in this family drama, treated expertly by Jeb Stewart Harrison!

The Healing of Howard Brown is very unique in literary quality and humor.  I loved the writing, vivid descriptions, the quirky characters, and the laugh out loud moments!  I also enjoyed the pop culture tidbids, like the mention of ‘Lost In Space’. This is a moving meditation on life, self-discovery, and family.  I recommend it highly! I can’t wait to read more by Jeb Stewart Harrison!


I received the ebook version for my honest review.

About Jeb Stewart HarrisonHealing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison

Jeb Stewart Harrison is a freelance writer, songwriter, musician and painter in Stinson Beach, California. After many years as an ad agency copywriter, writer/producer, creative director, and director of marketing communications, Jeb now writes fiction and creative non-fiction, along with commercial works for hire.

Jeb’s debut novel, Hack, was published by Harper Davis Publishers in August 2012. In 2015 he received his MFA from Pacific Lutheran University at the tender age of 60, and followed up with the publication of “The Healing of Howard Brown” in August, 2016. He also records and plays electric bass guitar with the popular instrumental combo The Treble Makers, as well as Bay Area favorites Call Me Bwana.

Jeb was born and raised in Kentfield, California, and has lived in Boulder, CO; Missoula, MT; Hollywood, CA; Scottsdale, AZ; Indianapolis, IN and Ridgefield, CT.

Website: http://www.jebsharrison.com/
Blog: http://adventuresinlimboland.blogspot.ca/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/babybingusbooks/
Twitter: @JebdeLimboman
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JebHarrisonVI
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jebhop/

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Giveaway of Healing Of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison

There is still time to enter my giveaway to win a copy of this fantastic book for yourself!  This giveaway is for the choice of one print or ebook copy.  Sorry, print is open to the U.S. only however, ebook is open worldwide.  This giveaway ends on February 28. 2017 at midnight, Pacific time.  Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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Healing of Howard Brown by Jeb Stewart Harrison

Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly RingMunich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Publisher: Whole Sky Books (November 14, 2015)
Category: Historical Fiction,  WWII, Germany, Family Saga
Tour date: Feb 1-Mar 31, 2017
ISBN: 978-0996546980
Available in Print & ebook, 356 pages

The Munich Girl

Description of Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

The Munich Girl: A novel of the legacies that outlast war.

The past may not be done with us. What secrets is a portrait of Eva Braun hiding?

Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends.

Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart, to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war.

Fiction Finalist in 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards

Praise for Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

“I was drawn in by Phyllis Ring’s economical and expressive language. Then the story took over! Protagonist Anna Dahlberg must face the emotional fallout from a traumatic plane crash, while simultaneously uncovering the first clues in a shocking generational mystery involving key players in the Third Reich. Everything’s complicated by a new romance that may help her overcome the past and find her true inner strength. But is it real? Love can manifest itself in enigmatic–and unexpected–ways.”- Elizabeth Sims, author and contributing editor at Writer’s Digestmagazine

“… fresh perspective of German women at opposing ends of the warring spectrum … a beautiful story of enduring friendship and the lengths people will go to for love.”- The Stellar Review

“So persuasive is this novel that, before I could believe it was in fact a piece of fiction, I contacted the author and asked where she did her research and where she came up with the idea.”-Leslie Handler, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“This book weaves real life with fiction beautifully and makes you want to know more about the cast of characters. This is a book that you may have a hard time remembering it is fiction as you turn the pages. That’s how well the author brings her characters to life. This book was stunning. I highly recommend it to anyone that loves this time period.”-A Chick Who Reads

“The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring is an elegant historical fiction novel of Eva Braun. Besides being Adolph Hitler’s mistress (and short-lived wife) little is known about this woman in history.  Peggy’s diary entries were applied seamlessly blending past with the present. I yearned to enter the streets of 1940s Germany and discover the meaning behind a simple portrait and view the forging of an unlikely friendship. Phyllis Edgerly Ring has written a superbly researched novel of a historical figure whose’ story is impeccably told.”-Whitney, First Impression Reviews

Interview With Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Thanks so much for this opportunity, Teddy.

Which character do you love to hate?

Hitler’s not actually a character in the novel, though he’s a part of the story, of course, and is the most-likely-to-be-hated. A rather detestable character is the protagonist’s (Anna’s) husband, Lowell. I was told at one point that perhaps I needed to give him more “human” aspects. For me, however, he represents that kind of blindly insistent narcissism that actually is more inclined to reject such redeeming qualities in itself. Yup, Lowell is reprehensible, one reader’s word for his maddening arrogance.

Please tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.

Beyond being a story in which Hitler’s mistress (later wife) is a character, this story revolves around the inner bargains women make with themselves in order to help others achieve happiness or satisfaction — often by denying themselves those very things. Another theme is the secrets we keep, and what we hope to gain by doing so, and the degree of control we believe we have in life, and what sort of price we’re willing to pay for it. A paradox that the story underscores is that often, while others (in this case, men) appear to have overt control, people – the women in this story — often make use of what looks like compliance in order to employ more secretive kinds of control, behind the scenes.

How much time and effort went into your research for the book?

I read more than 100 books about the time period in Germany and about Eva Braun’s life. I watched the films she had made, and spent many hours reviewing hundreds of her photographs. Eventually, I made two trips to the U.S. National Archives to see photo albums of hers that were confiscated by the Allies after the war. I also spent time in various locales in Germany that are a part of the story. In all that time I spent looking at Braun’s photographs and films, I became familiar with the interiors and exteriors of many of the novel’s settings as they would have appeared during the 1930s and ’40s. One fun element of research for me is a growing collection of vintage postcards I’ve found that show such scenes from the story as they appeared during that era.

Tell us about your cover. Did you design it yourself?

I’m forever grateful to designer Marina Kirsch for the cover of The Munich Girl. The image of Eva Braun there echoes that of the portrait of Braun that is a key part of the novel’s story. The image is from the very first photo of herself that Braun gave (at age 17) to her much-older, now-infamous lover. The background behind her on the book’s cover is one of my favourite places in Germany. While it doesn’t happen to be Munich, it evokes the atmosphere of many of the settings in the story.

What are you currently working on?

My current project is a memoir-style reflection about where this novel has led me. Nothing about it is what I would ever have imagined or predicted on my writing path, and there are experiences I’ve had in the course of this book’s coming together that I’m probably never going to be able to understand, let alone explain. One of the most personally stunning was a phone call I received while I was doing research in Germany that neither the person on the other end nor I had initiated – twice in a row! She was someone with whom I was glad to connect in relation to my research, and she had a delightfully philosophical view about “connections” being made in such a way. She told me: “Well, isn’t this interesting? I always pay extra attention when the unexpected like this happens. I think it’s much more than coincidence.” The process of how this novel came together would prove her right over and over again.

I’m also working on historical fiction set in late 19th-century New England.

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?

I must admit that it’s hard for me to choose one. In this story based on a woman’s secret friendship with Hitler’s mistress, I suppose it’s the scene in which the character, Peggy, finds out that the mystery woman who died alongside Hitler was her friend, Eva Braun. And she never knew that Hitler was the man Eva loved. (In part because Braun had to keep this role in his life an invisible secret.) This scene of Peggy’s discoveries about Eva after her death called for a potent yet unusual mixture of heartbreak and outrage. The scene is set in a church, and I was pulled irresistibly into a big, empty one in Germany the day before I wrote it. I’ve sometimes felt that the scene was sown for me, right there in that cold, echoing space, because it was like a memory as I drafted it down early the next morning.

I always enjoy looking at the names that authors choose to give their characters. How do you create names for your characters?

In a way that’s still hard to explain, characters always assert their own names. It’s as if I’m listening, eavesdropping, and overhear their names

Coincidentally (or not) the three most domineering men in the story turn out to have different names that mean the same thing: “wolf.” Hitler (Adolf), Anna’s husband, Lowell, and her father, Rod. This completely surprised me, as “wolf” was an alter-ego name Hitler often used, with a rather sinister edge. I had no idea until all three of these characters already had these names that this was the case. It was a rather startling discovery. The character of Peggy, who befriends Eva Braun, shares my mother’s name, plus a few elements of my mother’s British wartime experience. And the protagonist Anna, Peggy’s daughter, though she has a simple, common-sounding name, actually has a key to her mother’s relationship with Eva hidden in her name, something that is eventually revealed in the story.

Is there a question that you would have liked me or another blogger to ask but didn’t?

I just want to mention that one of my greatest privileges is hearing from readers with their thoughts and reflections about The Munich Girl. They can contact me at info[at]phyllisring[dot]com. Thanks very much again for this interview, Teddy.

About Phyllis Edgerly RingMunich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Author Phyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New England and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. Her years there left her with a deep desire to understand the experience of Germans during the Second World War. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and served as program director at a Baha’i conference center in Maine.

She is also author of the novel, Snow Fence Road, and the inspirational nonfiction, Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details. Her book for children, Jamila Does Not Want a Bat in Her House, is scheduled for release by Bellwood Press in early 2017.

Blog: http://phyllisedgerlyring.wordpress.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhyllisEdgerlyRing?ref=hl
Twitter: http:// www.twitter.com/phyllisring

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Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring Giveaway

This giveaway is for the choice of one Print or ebook.  Print is open to Canada & the U.S. only however, ebook is open worldwide.  This giveaway ends on March 31, 2017 at midnight pacific. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.
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Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring